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Posts For: July 25, 2013

A Brick in the Wall of Anti-Semitism

Three years ago I wrote about the way rock icon Roger Waters had incorporated his anti-Israel beliefs into his act by using a Jewish symbol—the Star of David—interchangeably with those of oil companies and dollar signs in the course of a video display about oppression. At the time, I thought the Anti-Defamation League’s evaluation of the content of Waters’s act was correct. His rants seeking to delegitimize Israel’s security fence and the “Israel lobby” were discriminatory in nature and manifested a clear prejudice against the Jewish state and Jews. But I wondered whether the ADL had actually done Waters and his Israel-hating fans a service by calling him out about his beliefs since I doubted that anyone who didn’t already know his position could have really made much sense of the display, let alone connect Israel with his criticisms in what appeared to me a confusing video show. But judging by Waters’s behavior since then, perhaps the ADL was smarter about this than I thought.

Since then, Waters has become an even more outspoken supporter of the BDS movement, which seeks to impose a boycott of the State of Israel and which, because it singles out the Jewish state for treatment not accorded to other groups, is inherently prejudicial. He has also made the use of Jewish symbols in his act even more explicitly insulting. As Fox News reports, rather than simply rely on a video that, as I noted, was difficult to interpret correctly as an attack on Israel, he’s taken to using more old-school methods along with an even more primitive message:

Some concert goers were left feeling uncomfortably numb at a Roger Waters performance in Belgium last week when a black balloon in the shape of a wild pig – bearing a Jewish Star of David as well as symbols of dictatorial regimes from around the world – floated above the audience.

“I came to the concert because I really like his music, without any connection to his political stance toward Israel,” Alon Onfus Asif, an Israeli living in Belgium, told YNetNews.com. “And I had a lot of fun, until I noticed the Star of David, on the inflatable pig. That was the only religious-national symbol which appeared among other symbols for fascism, dictatorships and oppression of people. Waters crossed the line and gave expression to an anti-Semitic message, beyond all his messages of anti-militancy.”

The video, which can be seen here at the Elder of Ziyon website, shows that you don’t have to be looking for proof of anti-Semitism to find it at Waters’s show.

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Three years ago I wrote about the way rock icon Roger Waters had incorporated his anti-Israel beliefs into his act by using a Jewish symbol—the Star of David—interchangeably with those of oil companies and dollar signs in the course of a video display about oppression. At the time, I thought the Anti-Defamation League’s evaluation of the content of Waters’s act was correct. His rants seeking to delegitimize Israel’s security fence and the “Israel lobby” were discriminatory in nature and manifested a clear prejudice against the Jewish state and Jews. But I wondered whether the ADL had actually done Waters and his Israel-hating fans a service by calling him out about his beliefs since I doubted that anyone who didn’t already know his position could have really made much sense of the display, let alone connect Israel with his criticisms in what appeared to me a confusing video show. But judging by Waters’s behavior since then, perhaps the ADL was smarter about this than I thought.

Since then, Waters has become an even more outspoken supporter of the BDS movement, which seeks to impose a boycott of the State of Israel and which, because it singles out the Jewish state for treatment not accorded to other groups, is inherently prejudicial. He has also made the use of Jewish symbols in his act even more explicitly insulting. As Fox News reports, rather than simply rely on a video that, as I noted, was difficult to interpret correctly as an attack on Israel, he’s taken to using more old-school methods along with an even more primitive message:

Some concert goers were left feeling uncomfortably numb at a Roger Waters performance in Belgium last week when a black balloon in the shape of a wild pig – bearing a Jewish Star of David as well as symbols of dictatorial regimes from around the world – floated above the audience.

“I came to the concert because I really like his music, without any connection to his political stance toward Israel,” Alon Onfus Asif, an Israeli living in Belgium, told YNetNews.com. “And I had a lot of fun, until I noticed the Star of David, on the inflatable pig. That was the only religious-national symbol which appeared among other symbols for fascism, dictatorships and oppression of people. Waters crossed the line and gave expression to an anti-Semitic message, beyond all his messages of anti-militancy.”

The video, which can be seen here at the Elder of Ziyon website, shows that you don’t have to be looking for proof of anti-Semitism to find it at Waters’s show.

In the past, Waters has insisted that his displays as well as his opinions are not anti-Jewish but just a criticism of Israeli policies. But the use of a Star of David interchangeably with recognizable symbols of tyrannies can’t be reasonably interpreted as anything but an attempt to portray Israel as the moral equivalent of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. To associate it with symbols of greed is to play on traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes that were freely used by the Soviets and the Nazis and undermines any idea that what Waters is doing is in support of human rights. To display a Jewish symbol on the side of a large pig balloon adds insult to injury.

Even if we were to leave aside the obvious evidence of anti-Semitism in Waters’s use of these symbols, his basic argument that Israel’s security fence is a violation of human rights is itself not merely wrong but a demonstration of his lack of interest in the survival of Jews. The fence was built, after all, not to fence in the Palestinians but to keep terrorist suicide bombers who were sent into Israel to indiscriminately slaughter men, women, and children out. To demand the fence be torn down is an implicit call for Jewish blood to begin to flow again.

This latest evidence of Waters’s anti-Semitic behavior ought to disillusion those of his fans who still cling to the notion that his art is a cry for liberty. But it also ought to chasten those liberals and Jewish institutions that have continued to make common cause with him. In the last year, Waters was scheduled to appear at New York City’s venerable 92ndStreet Y but canceled at the last minute due, he said, to a schedule conflict. Fortunately, the Y never re-scheduled Waters, but subsequently did host the equally anti-Semitic Alice Walker. Let’s hope this latest incident ensures that Waters never again is welcomed into any Jewish community or any place where people of good will have any say.

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Trayvon, Texas, and Voter ID

Attorney General Eric Holder never uttered the words “Trayvon Martin” or “George Zimmerman” in his remarks today at the convention of the Urban League in Philadelphia. But his address, in which he vowed to impose “preclearance” procedures on the state of Texas in order to prevent it from making any changes in voting procedures without the express permission of the Department of Justice, must be viewed in the context of a liberal drive to take advantage of the “conversation” on race that so many on the left have urged upon the country in the aftermath of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Holder’s actions are primarily a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act while mandating that Congress redraw the map that determines which jurisdictions must get advance permission from the DOJ without the latter having to go to court first, rather than merely going by the outdated one drawn up in 1965. But there’s little doubt that Holder and the left are hoping the hysteria that race merchants like Al Sharpton have helped stir up in the last two weeks will help them turn public opinion on the question of voter ID laws that are at the heart of the federal attack on Texas.

The Martin case has been cited by many liberals who have sought to argue that the Court’s majority was somehow wrong to rule that the America of 2013 is nothing like the one that existed in 1965. The tone of much of the commentary from the left, including that of President Obama on the Zimmerman case, has been to insist that for all of the obvious progress made, the death of Martin proves we are essentially no better off in terms of racism that we were in the pre-Voting Rights Act era. But like the post-trial discussion that ignored the actual facts of the trial, Holder’s assertion that voter ID laws are, by definition, proof of discrimination is not only disingenuous; it’s flat out false.

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Attorney General Eric Holder never uttered the words “Trayvon Martin” or “George Zimmerman” in his remarks today at the convention of the Urban League in Philadelphia. But his address, in which he vowed to impose “preclearance” procedures on the state of Texas in order to prevent it from making any changes in voting procedures without the express permission of the Department of Justice, must be viewed in the context of a liberal drive to take advantage of the “conversation” on race that so many on the left have urged upon the country in the aftermath of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Holder’s actions are primarily a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act while mandating that Congress redraw the map that determines which jurisdictions must get advance permission from the DOJ without the latter having to go to court first, rather than merely going by the outdated one drawn up in 1965. But there’s little doubt that Holder and the left are hoping the hysteria that race merchants like Al Sharpton have helped stir up in the last two weeks will help them turn public opinion on the question of voter ID laws that are at the heart of the federal attack on Texas.

The Martin case has been cited by many liberals who have sought to argue that the Court’s majority was somehow wrong to rule that the America of 2013 is nothing like the one that existed in 1965. The tone of much of the commentary from the left, including that of President Obama on the Zimmerman case, has been to insist that for all of the obvious progress made, the death of Martin proves we are essentially no better off in terms of racism that we were in the pre-Voting Rights Act era. But like the post-trial discussion that ignored the actual facts of the trial, Holder’s assertion that voter ID laws are, by definition, proof of discrimination is not only disingenuous; it’s flat out false.

The attorney general’s decision to go to court against Texas gives the lie to much of the fulminations from the administration about the decision in Shelby v. Holder. Far from easing the way toward a new era of Jim Crow, the court reaffirmed the Voting Rights Act’s safeguards against discrimination but merely said that the DOJ could not preempt the judicial process without a necessary re-write of the act based on the realities of contemporary America rather than one based on the situation in 1965. Thus, Holder is perfectly free to sue in federal court to stop Texas from doing anything he deems discriminatory.

But, like the incendiary rhetoric that sought to indict “Stand Your Ground” laws after Zimmerman’s acquittal as being a license for shooting down innocent young black men, Holder’s claim that Texas’s drawing of voter districts discriminates against Hispanics is unfounded. But the big prize here is his bid to prevent any state from requiring voters to identify themselves at the polls.

In an era when it has become easier to register, including at the polls on election days and where mail-in and absentee ballots have become commonplace, voter fraud has become easier, necessitating measures to ensure the integrity of results. The vast majority of Americans, including African-Americans, believe there is nothing wrong, let alone discriminatory, about asking voters to identify themselves in the same manner that they must to conduct virtually any other transaction with the government or business. Voter ID laws are a commonsense measure that are as easy to comply with as it is to register to vote. But liberals and race baiters have sought to make them the lever by which they can convince the country that racism is alive and well.

Like the Martin case, the discussion about voting rights is about assumptions about race that have little to do with facts. Trayvon Martin has been transformed from a troubled youth who died in a confusing fight to a martyr because civil rights groups and others that seek to profit from the focus on race need him to symbolize their effort to persuade America that nothing has changed since 1965. The same is true of Holder’s rant about Texas and voter ID. The courts should dismiss this claim just as decisively as the Zimmerman jury rejected a murder charge.

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“Empty”: Eliot Spitzer’s Creepy New Ad

The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

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The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

    

Turning the city’s financial district into a ghost town is the kind of dystopian fantasy that may–may–run through the minds of Occupy Wall Street-style Chomskyite pseudoanarchists. But Spitzer wants to be elected to a vital position of power over the city’s finances. He is not a college freshman, when this sort of thing would have a certain idealistic charm only because of the near-certainty that the kid would grow out of it. That Spitzer’s admiration for bringing financial ruin to the private sector has only increased as he has aged tells you all you need to know about him.

But this should be no laughing matter to New Yorkers. In October 2011, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report detailing how the ongoing Wall Street sluggishness was hurting the city. DiNapoli is the comptroller for the state, not the city, but he made clear the damage being done to both. As the New York Times explained at the time:

Wall Street’s struggles will most likely be reflected in New York City’s tax revenue, as well as in the revenues of nonfinancial businesses, like high-end real estate firms and expensive restaurants, which depend on a steady flow of well-off customers. The comptroller’s report estimates that for every job lost on Wall Street, two are lost in the city in other industries, and one additional job is lost elsewhere in the state.

“These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact state and city tax collections,” Mr. DiNapoli said in the statement. “As we know, when Wall Street slows, New York City and New York State’s budgets feel the impact and that is a concern.”

Again: for every job lost on Wall Street, the city loses two more and the state an additional job. At the time, DiNapoli was warning that the securities industry could shed 10,000 more jobs over the following year. Tax revenue plummets, which for those who lost a job because of the city’s struggles and now rely more on city services is a perfect storm of financial crisis.

DiNapoli had been interviewed by WNYC radio about the report, and said that to put the numbers in perspective, the prior year Wall Street had been the source of 14 percent of the state’s tax revenue and 7 percent of the city revenue. DiNapoli was asked about the Occupy protests and how the protesters were calling for policies that could impoverish those they were claiming to represent. He responded, diplomatically:

When employment contracts, that’s personal income tax revenue, and money that’s spent in neighborhoods on goods and services, so that’s where that ripple effect happens.

That’s how a responsible comptroller speaks about basic economics. It’s also the opposite of how Spitzer sees the world. An empty financial district and taxpayers fleeing the city is a scene that leaves Spitzer grinning like a madman. It is disturbing both that Spitzer finds this so amusing and also that he thinks voters would too, hence the ad. As CNN reports:

The new ad is part of a $450,000 buy premiering this week and will be featured primarily on major news websites. Its twin came out Monday, a less triumphant spot that instead featured Spitzer’s admission of the personal failing that lead to his resignation as New York governor in 2008.

Making creepy, “triumphant” videos about New York City as a ghost town is how Spitzer spends his own money. New Yorkers can be forgiven for wondering just what he’ll do when he has access to theirs.

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Crocker Pans the “Zero Option”

Leave it to Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador in Kabul, Islamabad, and Baghdad, among other capitals, and the greatest diplomat of his generation, to offer the definitive verdict on the “zero option”–the zany plan being floated by the White House to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan after 2014. This is what Crocker told foreign policy columnist Trudy Rubin:

If it’s a tactic, it is mindless; if it is a strategy, it is criminal.

Nothing could encourage the Taliban more. The Pakistanis [who are helping the Taliban] will dig in harder. It will send Karzai in completely the wrong direction.

It invokes memories of the early 1990s. It’s as if we’re telling the Afghans, ‘We’re tired, we’re going home, screw you.’

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Leave it to Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador in Kabul, Islamabad, and Baghdad, among other capitals, and the greatest diplomat of his generation, to offer the definitive verdict on the “zero option”–the zany plan being floated by the White House to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan after 2014. This is what Crocker told foreign policy columnist Trudy Rubin:

If it’s a tactic, it is mindless; if it is a strategy, it is criminal.

Nothing could encourage the Taliban more. The Pakistanis [who are helping the Taliban] will dig in harder. It will send Karzai in completely the wrong direction.

It invokes memories of the early 1990s. It’s as if we’re telling the Afghans, ‘We’re tired, we’re going home, screw you.’

The only thing one can add to this cogent and pithy summary is that it is not only the Afghans who will be “screwed” by American withdrawal–we would be screwing ourselves. The primary reason why are in Afghanistan, after all, is not as a service to Hamid Karzai or even to promote human rights but, rather, to allow us to effectively target the terrorist groups responsible for 9/11 and many smaller outrages.

Few would disagree with our need to maintain intelligence assets and drones in Afghanistan that allow us to strike our most vicious enemies–most famously in the case of the raid on Osama bin Laden which took off from Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. But our ability to maintain those intelligence assets in Afghanistan is contingent on our ability to maintain the support of the Afghan government for this continuing deployment and on the ability of that government to maintain a modicum of security to allow CIA spooks and military special operators to function. That is now being cast into doubt by the drawdown.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Miller reports that “the CIA has begun closing clandestine bases in Afghanistan.” Current plans are to reduce the number of CIA bases from a total of a dozen to six or so by the end of 2014. But even the ability to maintain those six is contingent on military support since most of the CIA installations are in close proximity to U.S. military bases and depend on U.S. military support for logistics, security, and other requirements to augment the CIA’s limited capabilities in those regards.

The Post notes: “A full withdrawal of U.S. troops would probably trigger a deeper retrenchment by the CIA, which has relied on U.S. and allied military installations across the country to serve as bases for agency operatives and cover for their spying operations. The CIA’s armed drones are flown from a heavily fortified airstrip near the Pakistan border in Jalalabad.”

In all likelihood, if the U.S. refuses to support and train the Afghan military, the government of Afghanistan will tell the CIA and Special Operations Command to get lost–Afghanistan is not going to act as a platform for American strikes on America’s enemies if we are not providing a valuable service to Kabul in return.

In short, a zero option would amount to not only no conventional troops but few if any spies and commandos. That is an utterly unwarranted gift to the Taliban, Haqqanis, al-Qaeda, the Pakistan Taliban, and other dangerous extremist groups.

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On Abortion, It’s Liberals vs. Public Opinion

If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

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If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

More broadly, overall support for legal abortion remains stable, with 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. That finding is similar to a 2012 Post-ABC poll and surveys in recent years.

Pro-abortion activists may see that as a silver lining, but it’s not much out of step with the rest of the poll. Most abortions take place before the 20-week mark, which means a bill restricting abortion after that point would still mean abortion in most cases would be left in place. An additional ten percent of respondents didn’t think the 20-week restrictions would go far enough, making the Wendy Davis Democrats true outliers in public opinion.

The real silver lining for the left, if there is one, would be this part of the poll:

By more than a 2 to 1 margin — 66 to 30 percent — Americans say they prefer that abortion laws be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, rather than a state-by-state approach. This applies to both hardcore abortion rights supporters and opponents: 73 percent of those who say abortion should always be legal want a national rule, as do 72 percent of those who say it should be illegal in all cases.

A majority of Americans want a national abortion standard subject to Supreme Court approval of its constitutionality. This is where the left has some success. When American voters disapprove of liberal culture-war stands, the courts can often be counted on to legislate from the bench, especially when pressured by the administration and the media to get in line. The high court has already established precedent inventing a right to abort children in the Constitution, so getting national law to conform with popular opinion would be an uphill slog.

The other interesting aspect of the poll is the support for abortion, or opposition to the abortion facility regulations, that didn’t come from the self-identified liberal end of the spectrum:

Meanwhile a Columbus, Ohio, resident who asked that he only be identified by his first name, Robert, and described himself as “a conservative Republican” who backs abortion rights, said he did not understand why politicians were seeking to rewrite the nation’s abortion laws.

“I would really prefer that government focus on fiscal issues, and stay out of the social issues,” he said.

And Milo Shield, a professor at Augsburg College who lives in Prescott, Wis., said he also supports abortion access without restrictions until the 24th week of pregnancy. He questioned Wisconsin’s new law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, which Planned Parenthood said could shutter two of its four clinics in the state.

“There doesn’t seem to be data about whether it makes a difference to have a doctor present or hospital admitting privileges,” said Shield, who considers himself a libertarian and does not affiliate with either party. “I don’t know what Wisconsin’s rationale was. It’s like creationism — it’s shrouded in science, but not science-based.”

The second commenter here identifies as a libertarian, and the earlier comment was from a “conservative Republican” who expressed a fairly libertarian attitude by telling the government to focus on fiscal issues “and stay out of the social issues.” The libertarian approval of unrestricted abortion is something I find baffling. The science is pretty clear: the unborn child is the same human person before and after birth. Any policy approach that gives some people less value and fewer rights than others doesn’t strike me as particularly “libertarian.”

But it does get at a point encountered often in political discussions: people just aren’t that comfortable talking about abortion, at least to the extent they are usually comfortable talking about, say, taxes. The media plays a role in this, casting opposition to abortion as part of a “war on women,” a shameful smear that is simply not supported by the polling but which is intended to foreclose debate precisely because Americans side with conservatives on this issue more than Democrats, and certainly more than abortion absolutists on the left.

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Rule of Law Fades Further in Egypt

Given the birth pangs of democracy in the West–ranging from Cromwell’s dictatorship in Britain and the terror of the French Revolution to the bloodletting of the U.S. Civil War and two world wars–it is no surprise that the path of political progress in the Middle East is neither smooth nor easy. It is, nevertheless, dismaying to see Iraq growing increasingly unstable, Syria still in the throes of civil war with the Assad regime gradually gaining ground, and, in the largest Arab country of all, increasing chaos in Egypt.

Twelve more people died in various clashes across Egypt on Tuesday. Especially ominous was the bombing of a police headquarters in the city of Mansoura: Although only one person died and 19 others were injured, this could well be a sign that Islamist opponents of the new military-dominated regime are not going to go away quietly and will instead resort to terrorism to try to win back power.

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Given the birth pangs of democracy in the West–ranging from Cromwell’s dictatorship in Britain and the terror of the French Revolution to the bloodletting of the U.S. Civil War and two world wars–it is no surprise that the path of political progress in the Middle East is neither smooth nor easy. It is, nevertheless, dismaying to see Iraq growing increasingly unstable, Syria still in the throes of civil war with the Assad regime gradually gaining ground, and, in the largest Arab country of all, increasing chaos in Egypt.

Twelve more people died in various clashes across Egypt on Tuesday. Especially ominous was the bombing of a police headquarters in the city of Mansoura: Although only one person died and 19 others were injured, this could well be a sign that Islamist opponents of the new military-dominated regime are not going to go away quietly and will instead resort to terrorism to try to win back power.

It is an ominous sign when government spokesmen are forced to deny that Egypt will be “another Syria,” but unfortunately the military’s hardline policies are making such a result more, not less, likely. Rather than trying to reach accommodation with the Islamists, who for all their faults did win a free election, the army is demonizing them as “traitors” who must be rooted out. Dispensing with the facade of civilian rule, the military commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, is calling for mass protests to give the military a mandate to crack down on “terrorism” and “violence,” which, if delivered, no doubt will be interpreted as a mandate to crack down on all opposition, period.

Egypt is seeing not the rule of law but the rule of the mob and the military. Alas, history teaches that when well-organized movements with mass support are pushed out of the political process, they are likely to resort to violence. See the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, or Egypt’s own bloodletting during that decade during a war against radical jihadists.

The U.S., beating a hasty and unwise retreat from the Middle East, is not a significant factor in these developments. President Obama is trying to be as balanced as possible, refusing to curtail the $1.3 billion in military aid while stopping the shipment of four F-16s that the military wants but does not really need. Such a gesture is not likely to achieve any results beyond highlighting our ineffectuality.

It would be a supreme and dismal irony if Obama, having campaigned on a pledge that the tide of war is “receding,” presides over growing conflict not only in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan (following the post-2014 U.S. drawdown) but in Egypt as well. Instead of appointing a special envoy to broker Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which are going nowhere, the president and his secretary of state would be well advised to focus their resources on Egypt, which will be of far greater importance to the region’s future than the tiny Palestinian lands.

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Vital NSA Program Survives House Vote

Al-Qaeda chieftain Ayman al-Zawahiri can put away his celebratory fruit juice, but he should keep it on ice. The House only narrowly defeated, on a bipartisan 205 to 217 vote, a resolution that would have stopped the NSA from collecting “metadata” on phone calls. Opponents of the NSA’s data collection efforts are vowing that the authority for the program will be allowed to expire in 2015.

If this is indeed what happens, it will make the job of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups seeking to attack the U.S. appreciably easier. This would amount to unilateral disarmament in the war on terror by taking away one of the most valuable tools that the U.S. government has to detect terrorist plots. Privacy concerns have been raised, understandably, about the NSA maintaining a log of all phone calls even if it doesn’t have access to the contents of those conversations without a court order. But there is not a single documented instance of that authority being misused and a number of public examples of how those efforts have thwarted terrorist plots.

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Al-Qaeda chieftain Ayman al-Zawahiri can put away his celebratory fruit juice, but he should keep it on ice. The House only narrowly defeated, on a bipartisan 205 to 217 vote, a resolution that would have stopped the NSA from collecting “metadata” on phone calls. Opponents of the NSA’s data collection efforts are vowing that the authority for the program will be allowed to expire in 2015.

If this is indeed what happens, it will make the job of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups seeking to attack the U.S. appreciably easier. This would amount to unilateral disarmament in the war on terror by taking away one of the most valuable tools that the U.S. government has to detect terrorist plots. Privacy concerns have been raised, understandably, about the NSA maintaining a log of all phone calls even if it doesn’t have access to the contents of those conversations without a court order. But there is not a single documented instance of that authority being misused and a number of public examples of how those efforts have thwarted terrorist plots.

That is why a bipartisan group of former intelligence and security officials–including former Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzalez, former CIA directors Michael Hayden and Porter Goss, and former National Security Adviser James Jones–have issued a public letter calling on Congress to support not only the phone call metadata-collection program but the other program exposed by Edward Snowden, the one that keeps tabs on foreigners’ Internet activity.

“We are convinced that both programs are vitally important to our national security,” they write, adding: “We firmly believe that there is no need to make dramatic changes in existing law or to require fundamental alterations in these programs or in the FISA process. We all know that new international dangers arise continuously, and the evolving threat environment confronting the United States requires the firm maintenance of these capabilities into the future.”

Many members of the House, it seems, disagree–but then they don’t have the actual responsibility of stopping terrorist attacks. That is someone else’s job. House members are free to grandstand about civil liberties, confident that if an attack does occur, they will not be blamed for it.

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