Commentary Magazine


Topic: Andrew McCarthy

Some Unfashionable Thoughts About Egypt

Few moments in recent history have put political conservatism to the test like the ongoing uprising taking place in Egypt today. There are, after all, two different approaches to foreign policy that can be called “conservative”: one points to the spread of democracy as an expression of American greatness and seeks to sweep aside dictatorial rulers in order to promote democratic values, institutions, and elections wherever possible. The other is more strictly power-based: if America’s the good guy, then first we have to make sure that America’s allies are strong and its enemies are weak. Both approaches will point to Ronald Reagan as the ultimate example: the former for his unflinching fight against Soviet totalitarianism; the latter for his willingness to sometimes support less-than-democratic allies when the alternative was the further expansion of Soviet political and military dominance.

So what are we to make of Egypt? On the one hand, if the U.S. abandons Mubarak, it embraces democracy but loses heavily in the power calculus. By showing itself to be a fickle friend in times of need, America further erodes the confidence of all the other authoritarian allies in the Arab world who are forever fearful of the Iranian threat and who need to believe that the U.S. will really stand behind them.

At the same time, if America stands with Mubarak until the end, it risks (a) looking hypocritical in the face of what looks like a genuinely democratic (i.e., popular, spontaneous) uprising, and (b) repeating the mistakes made during the Iranian revolution, when the U.S. bet on the wrong horse, alienating the Iranian people by supporting the Shah, thus setting the stage for a whole generation of militant anti-American hostility in the Islamic Republic that emerged. Americans don’t want to make that mistake again.

Here in Israel, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm about the potential overthrow of Mubarak. Nobody has any illusions about his regime. And yet, the alternatives appear far worse. It’s true that there’s no single organized leadership behind the revolt. Both the more liberal and the Islamist oppositions were taken totally by surprise. The revolution is first of all about bread and jobs, much less about democratic ideals. In terms of ideas guiding it, there are very few other than “throw the bums out.” And this is exactly the problem. Read More

Few moments in recent history have put political conservatism to the test like the ongoing uprising taking place in Egypt today. There are, after all, two different approaches to foreign policy that can be called “conservative”: one points to the spread of democracy as an expression of American greatness and seeks to sweep aside dictatorial rulers in order to promote democratic values, institutions, and elections wherever possible. The other is more strictly power-based: if America’s the good guy, then first we have to make sure that America’s allies are strong and its enemies are weak. Both approaches will point to Ronald Reagan as the ultimate example: the former for his unflinching fight against Soviet totalitarianism; the latter for his willingness to sometimes support less-than-democratic allies when the alternative was the further expansion of Soviet political and military dominance.

So what are we to make of Egypt? On the one hand, if the U.S. abandons Mubarak, it embraces democracy but loses heavily in the power calculus. By showing itself to be a fickle friend in times of need, America further erodes the confidence of all the other authoritarian allies in the Arab world who are forever fearful of the Iranian threat and who need to believe that the U.S. will really stand behind them.

At the same time, if America stands with Mubarak until the end, it risks (a) looking hypocritical in the face of what looks like a genuinely democratic (i.e., popular, spontaneous) uprising, and (b) repeating the mistakes made during the Iranian revolution, when the U.S. bet on the wrong horse, alienating the Iranian people by supporting the Shah, thus setting the stage for a whole generation of militant anti-American hostility in the Islamic Republic that emerged. Americans don’t want to make that mistake again.

Here in Israel, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm about the potential overthrow of Mubarak. Nobody has any illusions about his regime. And yet, the alternatives appear far worse. It’s true that there’s no single organized leadership behind the revolt. Both the more liberal and the Islamist oppositions were taken totally by surprise. The revolution is first of all about bread and jobs, much less about democratic ideals. In terms of ideas guiding it, there are very few other than “throw the bums out.” And this is exactly the problem.

Leadership abhors a vacuum, and in the past 24 hours, we’ve seen that vacuum filled by Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize–winning former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who’s taken to the streets insisting that Mubarak pack up before he’s ridden through Cairo on a rail. He’s recently allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist militant organization closely allied with Hamas and up till now the leading opposition party to Mubarak. ElBaradei has repeatedly referred to Israel as the “number one threat to the Middle East” and has supported Hamas violence against Israel, saying that “the Israeli occupation only understands the language of violence.” As head of the IAEA, he’s been accused of doing more than anyone else to facilitate Iran’s nuclear efforts. And as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, in the grand battle between American and Iranian influence in the region, a coalition of ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood looks grim indeed.

It’s impossible to predict the future, not just what will happen a year from now, when Egypt could well go through a second revolution (as did Iran, indeed as did Russia way back when), but even whether Mubarak’s regime is in fact over. For now, the army is holding tight. Mubarak’s appointment of Omar Suleiman as the country’s first-ever vice president, and heir-apparent, was tailored to maintain support of the military for the regime. Nobody should be counting Mubarak out just yet.

Both the strength and weakness of political ideals is that they push heavily toward optimism. They allow us to see possibilities when everything looks grim. But they can also lead us to delusions about what can happen in the face of all evidence to the contrary. The fact is that Egypt doesn’t have much of a democratic tradition. Less so even than Lebanon, postwar Iraq, or the Palestinian Authority. If I had to make a guess about what will happen if Mubarak falls, I think it’s foolish to assume that a real democratic regime will emerge there, as opposed to a new dictatorship that is far less amenable to American interests. And if he doesn’t fall, the U.S. will have egg on its face for not backing him. That, too, will strengthen Iran.

None of the options looks terribly pleasing to Western eyes. But then again, Egypt isn’t a Western country, is it?

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Shut Up, the Islamists Explained

You may not have heard of Rachel Ehrenfeld or the SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act), the one truly bipartisan piece of legislation passed unanimously during the Obama presidency. Ehrenfeld, the SPEECH Act, and the relative unenthusiasm that greeted the passage of legislation that concerns both the First Amendment and jihadism tell us a lot about “law-ware” being waged by Islamists.

Ehrenfeld has worked as an investigative journalist and researcher since the early 1990s. She is Israeli by birth and now an American citizen. In 2004 she was sued in the UK by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz. In her book Funding Evil, she documented his and other Saudis’ connection to and support for radical Muslim groups. Although her book was not distributed there and she is not a citizen or resident of the UK, British libel laws allowed the suit to proceed. (The case was described in detail in Andrew McCarthy’s COMMENTARY article, “Can Libel Tourism Be Stopped?” in September 2008.)  Bin Mahfouz was the only figure to sue her, although two others named in the book sued other publications. She explained to me in a phone interview that before his death the Saudi billionarie had in essence created a cottage industry suing or threatening to sue more than 40 journalists and publications in England, thereby intimidating Western journalists. Why sue her? “I had a very small publisher,” she tells me. And as an Israeli, she was an attractive target. It isn’t money the Islamists are after, she explains. “We don’t need your money; we need big ads retracting the story,” she quotes a Saudi prince. The name of the game here is to silence Western media. Read More

You may not have heard of Rachel Ehrenfeld or the SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act), the one truly bipartisan piece of legislation passed unanimously during the Obama presidency. Ehrenfeld, the SPEECH Act, and the relative unenthusiasm that greeted the passage of legislation that concerns both the First Amendment and jihadism tell us a lot about “law-ware” being waged by Islamists.

Ehrenfeld has worked as an investigative journalist and researcher since the early 1990s. She is Israeli by birth and now an American citizen. In 2004 she was sued in the UK by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz. In her book Funding Evil, she documented his and other Saudis’ connection to and support for radical Muslim groups. Although her book was not distributed there and she is not a citizen or resident of the UK, British libel laws allowed the suit to proceed. (The case was described in detail in Andrew McCarthy’s COMMENTARY article, “Can Libel Tourism Be Stopped?” in September 2008.)  Bin Mahfouz was the only figure to sue her, although two others named in the book sued other publications. She explained to me in a phone interview that before his death the Saudi billionarie had in essence created a cottage industry suing or threatening to sue more than 40 journalists and publications in England, thereby intimidating Western journalists. Why sue her? “I had a very small publisher,” she tells me. And as an Israeli, she was an attractive target. It isn’t money the Islamists are after, she explains. “We don’t need your money; we need big ads retracting the story,” she quotes a Saudi prince. The name of the game here is to silence Western media.

But “I hadn’t done anything wrong” she says. “It was never tried on the merits. I wanted to stop it.” So she countersued the Saudi in New York court. While sympathetic, the court issued an opinion declaring that it lacked jurisdiction over the case. She didn’t stop there. She went to the New York legislature, which in a few months passed what became known as “Rachel’s law,” making clear that foreign libel judgments against U.S. journalists that run afoul of the First Amendment are not enforceable in the U.S. She then went to Capitol Hill and testified before Congress. Sponsored in the House by Democrat Steve Cohen and in the Senate by Pat Leahy and Jeff Sessions, the SPEECH Act was signed into law in August.

The reaction of the White House, not to mention the mainstream media, was oddly muted. Ehrenfeld explains that there was no signing ceremony, “Yet there’s a signing ceremony when they name some tree.” She also tells me that a joint op-ed by Sens. Sessions and Leahy was rejected by major publications, including the New York Times. (The Times did not respond to my request for comment.) She says, “Something very strange is going on.” Are the administration and mainstream media uncomfortable advertising the Saudi connection to terror funding and the need for such legislation? Ehrenfeld asserts that in both Britain and the U.S., media outlets have “caved to political correctness.” She warns that monetary interests (“Greed is the mother of all evil, ” she remarks) and the politicization of the press and the plaintiff’s bar in England have worked hand in hand to insulate Muslim groups from scrutiny.

I asked her if she sees a connection between “libel tourism” (the name for use of the UK courts to intimidate journalists) and the current furor over supposed, but unproven, Islamophobia in the U.S. She responds emphatically, “Wealthy Muslims are trying to dictate what the media does.” She explains that the Saudis and others go to great pains to “train” U.S. journalists, invite them on junkets, and press their view that accusations of terrorism are libelous and/or stem from bigotry. “It is very important to expose those who are enemies of both Israel and the U.S.,” Ehrenfeld says. “The same organizations are out to harm both the U.S. and Israel.” In Europe, she explains, foes of the U.S. and Israel are “supporting anti-Israel and anti-American groups. Take the flotilla incident. … Anti-Israel propaganda is increasing.” British journalists may be prevented from reporting by threat of litigation, “but here in America, we can do that without being sued.”

On a personal note, she adds that “it sometimes takes a new American to demand First Amendment rights, while Americans [by birth] are blase. My parents were in the Irgun and won against the Brits. I came to America. And I won against the Brits too.” Yes, she did.

Her implication is clear: if the mainstream media and the chattering class fall silent and cease researching, investigating and commenting on terror connections because of economic pressure and the reign of political correctness, the First Amendment will be severely weakened, and terrorists and their sponsors will escape scrutiny. Whether by libel tourism or accusations of Islamophobia, the Islamic radicals will use all available means to ensure that they can continue to conduct the jihadist war from the shadows. They will certainly succeed unless others join Rachel Ehrenfeld and refuse to be silenced.

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Is Reconciliation “Soft”?

Conservative bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Andrew McCarthy, and our own Jennifer Rubin, are understandably irate over news that U.S. forces have released imprisoned terrorist leader Qais Qazali (also spelled Khazali) at the same time that his group, the Asaib al-Haq (AAH), has released British hostage Peter Moore. They see this as another sign of the Obama administration’s weakness in the face of terrorism. “No conceivable justification for this one” reads the headline over Jen’s blog item.

Whether this deal is justified or not remains to be seen, but I do think there is a reasonable justification for it and I don’t see this as evidence of Obama’s supineness in dealing with Iran. (There’s plenty of other evidence to make that case.) The fact is that under the U.S.-Iraq security accord brokered by the Bush administration, our forces’ legal right to hold detainees in Iraq has essentially expired. We have released most of our detainees. We are still holding a few hard-core terrorists at the sufferance of the Iraqi government but even that arrangement will not last long, with U.S. forces drawing down to 50,000 in September and to zero (or close to it) by the end of 2011. While U.S. forces have been moving into an “over-watch” role, Iraqis have stepped forward with a fair extent of success, notwithstanding some high-profile bombings in Baghdad. As General David Petraeus noted at a ceremony in Baghdad marking the inauguration of a new U.S. command, U.S. Forces-Iraq, “insurgent attacks have dropped from more than 200 a day two years ago to approximately 15 a day,” and no U.S. troops were killed in combat in December.

Part of this improvement is attributable to better security operations. But part is also due to a process of reconciliation that has been happening behind the scenes. We all know about the former Sunni insurgents who, as part of the Sons of Iraq, have joined the governmental side in fighting against al-Qaeda in Iraq. They have received amnesty for attacks carried out when they were on the other side. (Some have subsequently been arrested on charges of breaking the law after joining the Sons of Iraq.)

Less well known is the fact that most Shiite insurgents have also laid down their arms, including most of the former Mahdist movement. Moqtada al-Sadr’s decline has led to the establishment of various breakaway factions, including the AAH, which is led by the Qazali brothers, supported by Iran’s Quds Force, and responsible for some gruesome attacks on U.S. forces in the past. The most notorious of them was a well-organized raid on the government center in Karbala in January 2007, which killed five American service members. In the spring of 2009, Laith Qazali was released from custody as part of a provisional arrangement whereby AAH agreed to stop mounting violent attacks. When I was in Iraq in October, I was told by American intelligence analysts that they believed AAH has largely stuck by its word. Hence the turnover of Qais to the Iraqis and his probable release.

All of these deals have been brokered by Prime Minister Maliki with the close oversight of General Ray Odierno, now the U.S. Forces-Iraq commander, and his boss, General Petraeus. They can hardly be accused of being “soft” on terrorism, yet they know that in the end warfare alone will not suffice to end an insurgency. There must be a process of political reconciliation, which involves accommodating even vile figures such as the Qazali brothers, who have American blood on their hands. It is the same realization reached by Lincoln, Churchill, and other great wartime commanders who understood that after the guns fell silent they would have to learn to live with former enemies.

Conservative bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Andrew McCarthy, and our own Jennifer Rubin, are understandably irate over news that U.S. forces have released imprisoned terrorist leader Qais Qazali (also spelled Khazali) at the same time that his group, the Asaib al-Haq (AAH), has released British hostage Peter Moore. They see this as another sign of the Obama administration’s weakness in the face of terrorism. “No conceivable justification for this one” reads the headline over Jen’s blog item.

Whether this deal is justified or not remains to be seen, but I do think there is a reasonable justification for it and I don’t see this as evidence of Obama’s supineness in dealing with Iran. (There’s plenty of other evidence to make that case.) The fact is that under the U.S.-Iraq security accord brokered by the Bush administration, our forces’ legal right to hold detainees in Iraq has essentially expired. We have released most of our detainees. We are still holding a few hard-core terrorists at the sufferance of the Iraqi government but even that arrangement will not last long, with U.S. forces drawing down to 50,000 in September and to zero (or close to it) by the end of 2011. While U.S. forces have been moving into an “over-watch” role, Iraqis have stepped forward with a fair extent of success, notwithstanding some high-profile bombings in Baghdad. As General David Petraeus noted at a ceremony in Baghdad marking the inauguration of a new U.S. command, U.S. Forces-Iraq, “insurgent attacks have dropped from more than 200 a day two years ago to approximately 15 a day,” and no U.S. troops were killed in combat in December.

Part of this improvement is attributable to better security operations. But part is also due to a process of reconciliation that has been happening behind the scenes. We all know about the former Sunni insurgents who, as part of the Sons of Iraq, have joined the governmental side in fighting against al-Qaeda in Iraq. They have received amnesty for attacks carried out when they were on the other side. (Some have subsequently been arrested on charges of breaking the law after joining the Sons of Iraq.)

Less well known is the fact that most Shiite insurgents have also laid down their arms, including most of the former Mahdist movement. Moqtada al-Sadr’s decline has led to the establishment of various breakaway factions, including the AAH, which is led by the Qazali brothers, supported by Iran’s Quds Force, and responsible for some gruesome attacks on U.S. forces in the past. The most notorious of them was a well-organized raid on the government center in Karbala in January 2007, which killed five American service members. In the spring of 2009, Laith Qazali was released from custody as part of a provisional arrangement whereby AAH agreed to stop mounting violent attacks. When I was in Iraq in October, I was told by American intelligence analysts that they believed AAH has largely stuck by its word. Hence the turnover of Qais to the Iraqis and his probable release.

All of these deals have been brokered by Prime Minister Maliki with the close oversight of General Ray Odierno, now the U.S. Forces-Iraq commander, and his boss, General Petraeus. They can hardly be accused of being “soft” on terrorism, yet they know that in the end warfare alone will not suffice to end an insurgency. There must be a process of political reconciliation, which involves accommodating even vile figures such as the Qazali brothers, who have American blood on their hands. It is the same realization reached by Lincoln, Churchill, and other great wartime commanders who understood that after the guns fell silent they would have to learn to live with former enemies.

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First Demi Moore Became a Kabbalist. Now This.

The actor Andrew McCarthy is writing a diary for Slate about his work on a new television show called Lipstick Jungle. The show is not good (this isn’t what McCarthy says; it’s what I’m telling you). But it turns out that McCarthy, who remains best known for his work as a teen and post-teen heartthrob in Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire, is a very, very good writer. This is only a little more surprising than the discovery that Mare Winningham, who was in St. Elmo’s Fire with McCarthy and appeared in approximately 248 made-for-television movies playing a teenage prostitute, converted to Judaism a few years ago and recorded an album called “Refuge Rock Sublime,” which features a bluegrass version of “Etz Chaim” and another number in which she sings: “The Torah will be a fixed point in my life.” It’s…well…it’s certainly very…interesting….

The actor Andrew McCarthy is writing a diary for Slate about his work on a new television show called Lipstick Jungle. The show is not good (this isn’t what McCarthy says; it’s what I’m telling you). But it turns out that McCarthy, who remains best known for his work as a teen and post-teen heartthrob in Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire, is a very, very good writer. This is only a little more surprising than the discovery that Mare Winningham, who was in St. Elmo’s Fire with McCarthy and appeared in approximately 248 made-for-television movies playing a teenage prostitute, converted to Judaism a few years ago and recorded an album called “Refuge Rock Sublime,” which features a bluegrass version of “Etz Chaim” and another number in which she sings: “The Torah will be a fixed point in my life.” It’s…well…it’s certainly very…interesting….

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The Real Real Pakistan

It is rare for me to agree with a writer from the New Republic over one from National Review, but I have to do so in the case of former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy’s intemperate denunciation of Pakistan. In this post, McCarthy claims that the extremists who murdered Benazir Bhutto represent the “real Pakistan”—a country that is “an enemy of the United States and the West” and “a breeding ground of Islamic holy war”. “Whether we get round to admitting it or not, in Pakistan, our quarrel is with the people,” McCarthy claims. In support of this alarming proposition he cites public opinion polls:

A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

McCarthy, who now works, ironically, at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, concludes that Pakistan offers evidence “that placing democratization at the top of our foreign policy priorities is high-order folly.”

Josh Patashnik at the Plank dissents from this judgment, and so do I. The poll evidence that McCarthy cites—which, incidentally, was compiled by an organization called Terror Free Tomorrow, not by CNN—is more ambiguous than he suggests. Yes, bin Laden scores 46 percent approval, but Bhutto, a symbol of opposition to the Islamists, scored considerably higher—63 percent. And: “Seventy-five percent of poll respondents said suicide bombings are rarely or never justified.”

As for Bush’s rock-bottom rating, that’s easy to explain. It’s not because of our “campaign to bring democracy . . . to the Islamic world.” It’s because in Pakistan (as in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) we have been associated with dictatorship, not democracy. Bush has not pressed for free elections; he has been a steadfast supporter of Musharraf’s dictatorship. The result is that, as Musharraf has gotten more unpopular, so has the United States.

This might be a price worth paying if Musharraf were actually the great ally that Bush (and McCarthy) imagine him to be. He’s not. The jihadists have gotten considerably stronger on his watch, and the military he leads has long been complicit with the extremists.

McCarthy and others suggest that holding elections in Pakistan would be as misguided as holding them in the Palestinian Authority. But the differences are greater than the similarities. Notwithstanding its long history of military coups, Pakistan has over the years developed much more robust democratic institutions than the Palestinian Authority. Admittedly that’s not saying much, but Pakistan does have a relatively free press (at least it did before Musharraf imposed his State of Emergency), an independent judiciary (Musharraf’s attempts to compromise that independence have turned public opinion against him), and opposition parties that rely on the ballot box, not bullets, to win power (although Musharraf has hindered both the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League from freely competing in elections).

The best news of all is that, while there are far too many Islamist sympathizers for comfort in Pakistan, by all indications they do not represent the majority of the population. Nowhere close to it. There is simply no Islamic party in Pakistan with the kind of popular following that Hamas has in Palestine. As I have mentioned before, only 4 percent of Pakistanis in a recent poll said they were planning to support religious parties in the next election. As McCarthy might say: “Four!”
The prospects of democracy in Pakistan, in short, are much more favorable than in Palestine. In any case, the Musharraf dictatorship has lost its last scraps of legitimacy. Sticking with Musharraf is no longer a serious option. As Hussain Haqqani argues in the Wall Street Journal, America has no choice but to press for a return to democracy.

It is rare for me to agree with a writer from the New Republic over one from National Review, but I have to do so in the case of former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy’s intemperate denunciation of Pakistan. In this post, McCarthy claims that the extremists who murdered Benazir Bhutto represent the “real Pakistan”—a country that is “an enemy of the United States and the West” and “a breeding ground of Islamic holy war”. “Whether we get round to admitting it or not, in Pakistan, our quarrel is with the people,” McCarthy claims. In support of this alarming proposition he cites public opinion polls:

A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

McCarthy, who now works, ironically, at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, concludes that Pakistan offers evidence “that placing democratization at the top of our foreign policy priorities is high-order folly.”

Josh Patashnik at the Plank dissents from this judgment, and so do I. The poll evidence that McCarthy cites—which, incidentally, was compiled by an organization called Terror Free Tomorrow, not by CNN—is more ambiguous than he suggests. Yes, bin Laden scores 46 percent approval, but Bhutto, a symbol of opposition to the Islamists, scored considerably higher—63 percent. And: “Seventy-five percent of poll respondents said suicide bombings are rarely or never justified.”

As for Bush’s rock-bottom rating, that’s easy to explain. It’s not because of our “campaign to bring democracy . . . to the Islamic world.” It’s because in Pakistan (as in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) we have been associated with dictatorship, not democracy. Bush has not pressed for free elections; he has been a steadfast supporter of Musharraf’s dictatorship. The result is that, as Musharraf has gotten more unpopular, so has the United States.

This might be a price worth paying if Musharraf were actually the great ally that Bush (and McCarthy) imagine him to be. He’s not. The jihadists have gotten considerably stronger on his watch, and the military he leads has long been complicit with the extremists.

McCarthy and others suggest that holding elections in Pakistan would be as misguided as holding them in the Palestinian Authority. But the differences are greater than the similarities. Notwithstanding its long history of military coups, Pakistan has over the years developed much more robust democratic institutions than the Palestinian Authority. Admittedly that’s not saying much, but Pakistan does have a relatively free press (at least it did before Musharraf imposed his State of Emergency), an independent judiciary (Musharraf’s attempts to compromise that independence have turned public opinion against him), and opposition parties that rely on the ballot box, not bullets, to win power (although Musharraf has hindered both the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League from freely competing in elections).

The best news of all is that, while there are far too many Islamist sympathizers for comfort in Pakistan, by all indications they do not represent the majority of the population. Nowhere close to it. There is simply no Islamic party in Pakistan with the kind of popular following that Hamas has in Palestine. As I have mentioned before, only 4 percent of Pakistanis in a recent poll said they were planning to support religious parties in the next election. As McCarthy might say: “Four!”
The prospects of democracy in Pakistan, in short, are much more favorable than in Palestine. In any case, the Musharraf dictatorship has lost its last scraps of legitimacy. Sticking with Musharraf is no longer a serious option. As Hussain Haqqani argues in the Wall Street Journal, America has no choice but to press for a return to democracy.

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Is Michael Mukasey Really Spider-Man?

What is the difference between the Daily Bugle and the New York Times? In the Daily Bugle, the fictional newspaper in the Spider-Man franchise, the superhero is smeared as a danger to the public weal with headlines like “Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?”

The headline in Monday’s New York Times, “Post-9/11 Cases Fuel Criticism for Nominee,” was more subtle than that. But the contents that followed were not. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy demonstrates today in an exceptionally well-informed analysis, the Times was performing nothing less than a hatchet job on Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush’s choice for the position of Attorney General.

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What is the difference between the Daily Bugle and the New York Times? In the Daily Bugle, the fictional newspaper in the Spider-Man franchise, the superhero is smeared as a danger to the public weal with headlines like “Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?”

The headline in Monday’s New York Times, “Post-9/11 Cases Fuel Criticism for Nominee,” was more subtle than that. But the contents that followed were not. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy demonstrates today in an exceptionally well-informed analysis, the Times was performing nothing less than a hatchet job on Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush’s choice for the position of Attorney General.

Next to the MoveOn.org advertising flap, which has revealed how the paper’s managerial incompetence can mix with its biases, the Mukasey story exposes the partisanship of the paper’s supposedly non-partisan news section in a way that few stories ever quite so nakedly do. It will be interesting to see if Clark Hoyt, the Times’s Public Editor, takes up this scandal, as he has here with the MoveOn.org ad, in a forthcoming column.

Whether we hear from Hoyt or not, the lengthening of the line of soiled laundry on display at our country’s premier newspaper is spectacularly ill-timedat least from the point of view of the self-preening journalism lobby itself. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to take up a “shield law” that would carve out special privileges for journalists, exempting them from having to testify in legal proceedings about their confidential sources.

Although the Times’s Mukasey story does not bear in any direct way on the issues addressed in the bill, it demonstrates, as clearly as DanRathergate did, something else. Rank partisanship has infected American journalism to the point that a shield lawa bad idea under any circumstances, as I have argued herewould at this juncture be a formula for the kind of disaster that only a Spider-Man could save us from.

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“Free Speech for Terrorists?”

This afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke by invitation at Columbia University. (See Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post here.) Ahmadinejad has made clear that he considers the U.S. and Iran to be mortal enemies, and that the victory of Iran in the struggle between them is divinely ordained. This is to say nothing of his intention to develop a nuclear bomb, his genocidal attitude toward Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his blatant anti-Semitism and hatred of Christianity. In March 2005, the noted legal scholar Andrew McCarthy addressed in COMMENTARY the question of how far American legal protections of speech should extend toward our nation’s declared Islamist enemies. In “Free Speech for Terrorists?” he concludes that the First Amendment is not now and never has been a suicide pact.

This afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke by invitation at Columbia University. (See Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post here.) Ahmadinejad has made clear that he considers the U.S. and Iran to be mortal enemies, and that the victory of Iran in the struggle between them is divinely ordained. This is to say nothing of his intention to develop a nuclear bomb, his genocidal attitude toward Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his blatant anti-Semitism and hatred of Christianity. In March 2005, the noted legal scholar Andrew McCarthy addressed in COMMENTARY the question of how far American legal protections of speech should extend toward our nation’s declared Islamist enemies. In “Free Speech for Terrorists?” he concludes that the First Amendment is not now and never has been a suicide pact.

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Learning To Love the Islamic Bomb

As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

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As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

Building one from scratch is out of the question; major states spend years and billions of dollars acquiring the expertise and the materials, especially the fissionable elements for its explosive core. Conducting such an enterprise on a shoestring budget while on the run from cave to cave is not a likely prospect.

Far more worrisome is that al Qaeda will seek out a bomb from Pakistan, which now has perhaps as many as 25 to 100 such devices in its arsenal. There would be two ways to lay one’s hands on such a heavily guarded apparatus.

The first would be to foment a revolution in unstable Pakistan that brings Islamists into power. Toward that end, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been waging a campaign of terror inside Pakistan designed to topple the government of General Pervez Musharraf. In the most recent attack this past Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in a failed attempt on the life of Pakistan’s interior minister.

A second approach would be to find a sympathizer inside Pakistan’s military or nuclear establishment. Given recent history, this might well be the easier route. After all, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb-making project, Abdul Q. Khan, now under house arrest in Islamabad, found it convenient and profitable to trade nuclear secrets and materials to a host of aggressive anti-American, terror-supporting states, including Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

How many others are there like Khan inside the Pakistani establishment, and can they be stopped? That is a question that every presidential candidate should be compelled to ponder, especially because a swelling chorus of voices in the liberal-Left foreign-policy establishment is now all of a sudden telling us that nuclear proliferation is not the fearful thing we have long believed.

The latest entry is a new book called the The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor, by William Langewiesche, a correspondent for Vanity Fair, whose considered opinion is that the “spread of nuclear weapons, even to such countries as North Korea and Iran, may not be as catastrophic as is generally believed,” and certainly not bad enough to justify “the pursuit of preemptive wars” of the kind we are now fighting in Iraq and contemplating against Iran.

On the contrary, suggests Langewiesche, we should recognize that we live in a “new reality in which limited nuclear wars are possible, and the use of a few devices, though locally devastating, will not necessarily blossom into a global exchange.” Overall, he concludes, since the end of the cold war, “the risk of an apocalypse may have been reduced.”

Perhaps Langewiesche is right. Or perhaps he is wrong. On the basis of his experience writing for Vanity Fair, should we just take his word for it? I prefer to side with the tainted Tenet in the view that we should do our utmost to stop such a thing from happening. And I find it fascinating, and profoundly disquieting, that a growing chorus of voices is telling us that we should not worry about something so worrisome, a case of defining deviancy down if there ever was one. 

A nuclear device supplied by a rogue element in Pakistan and detonated by al Qaeda at Four Times Square, where the offices of Vanity Fair are located, would almost certainly destroy the offices of COMMENTARY as well, even though we are located a few blocks north and across town. A global apocalypse during the cold war would no doubt have been awful. “Locally devastating” in the post-cold war would be bad enough.
 

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Is Democracy the Answer?

In an exchange on National Review Online (April 17), Andrew McCarthy takes Mario Loyola to task for suggesting that the Bush Doctrine is about spreading democracy. “That is just nonsense,” writes McCarthy. “The Bush Doctrine, as announced in the days after 9/11 . . . holds that jihadists are our enemies and that regimes that support their terror have the choice of being with us or against us.” It is only “revisionists,” he argues, who claim that “the Bush Doctrine means terrorism will be defeated by spreading democracy.” And this is “preposterous” since there is “is no evidence—NONE—that adopting democracy means defeating terrorism.”

On the historical record, McCarthy is wrong in claiming that promoting democracy somehow slipped into Bush’s rhetoric only in his second inaugural address. It was clearly set out in Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy (about which I wrote in COMMENTARY). But the important question is not the semantic one of whether promoting democracy deserves to be called part of the Bush Doctrine. It is whether it is a good idea for winning the war on terror.

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In an exchange on National Review Online (April 17), Andrew McCarthy takes Mario Loyola to task for suggesting that the Bush Doctrine is about spreading democracy. “That is just nonsense,” writes McCarthy. “The Bush Doctrine, as announced in the days after 9/11 . . . holds that jihadists are our enemies and that regimes that support their terror have the choice of being with us or against us.” It is only “revisionists,” he argues, who claim that “the Bush Doctrine means terrorism will be defeated by spreading democracy.” And this is “preposterous” since there is “is no evidence—NONE—that adopting democracy means defeating terrorism.”

On the historical record, McCarthy is wrong in claiming that promoting democracy somehow slipped into Bush’s rhetoric only in his second inaugural address. It was clearly set out in Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy (about which I wrote in COMMENTARY). But the important question is not the semantic one of whether promoting democracy deserves to be called part of the Bush Doctrine. It is whether it is a good idea for winning the war on terror.

McCarthy’s formula is inadequate. Yes, jihadists are our enemies. And, yes, we should pressure states to support us against them. But our old image of terrorism as something entirely dependent on state support is outdated.

Even more important than state sponsorship is the popular support that jihadism receives. Tens of thousands of young Muslims volunteer to be its warriors. Millions of Muslims support its activities. And even many non-supporters feel a certain understanding or sympathy for it. It is a monumentally important fact that the states of the Islamic Conference stand as a block against any blanket repudiation of terrorism. Their unswerving position is that terrorism is wrong—except if it is carried out for a good cause. Which means it is not wrong at all in principle.

What Bush recognized in repudiating 60 years of U.S. support for the Middle Eastern status quo is that we will not be safe from jihadism unless the mindset of the Middle East changes, and that we have to do whatever we can to try to precipitate such change. Jihadism is a movement that must be fought ideologically as well as militarily. As an enemy, the challenge it presents is more like that of Communism than that of Nazism.

McCarthy is right to say there is no proof that democracy will be the antidote to terrorism. But it is the best way we know to transform societies and the socialization that their citizens experience. What other strategies have been suggested? Just to declare that jihadism is our enemy is no strategy at all.

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