Commentary Magazine


Topic: Canada

The Canadian Way of Saving

Everyone complains that the U.S. savings rate is too low. To be sure, the way it is calculated is very flawed. It’s basically income minus outgo. But that doesn’t take into account such things as the growth of capital assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. Nor does it count as savings the portion of a monthly mortgage payment that is building equity rather than paying interest. Toward the end of a mortgage, most of the payment is building equity. As Forbes reported last month, American household wealth is a whopping $81.5 trillion.

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Everyone complains that the U.S. savings rate is too low. To be sure, the way it is calculated is very flawed. It’s basically income minus outgo. But that doesn’t take into account such things as the growth of capital assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. Nor does it count as savings the portion of a monthly mortgage payment that is building equity rather than paying interest. Toward the end of a mortgage, most of the payment is building equity. As Forbes reported last month, American household wealth is a whopping $81.5 trillion.

But if the federal government would like to see a big increase in conventional savings, it should adopt a Canadian idea that has been a huge success there. The Cato Institute reports on a savings account in Canada known as a TFSA (for Tax Free Savings Account). Canadians can put up to $5,500 a year into these accounts, out of after-tax income. And, if they put in less one year, they can put in more next year. Say in 2014 you put in only $2,000. Then next year you could put in $9,000 ($3,500 plus $5,500). The account earns tax-free interest and can be tapped at any time, with no taxes due on withdrawal.

Only available since 2009, as of June 2014, there were 13.1 million TFSAs in existence, with deposits amounting to $131.5 billion. There are about 27.7 million adult Canadians, so that means that fully 47 percent of them have a TFSA account. The United States has a population ten times that of Canada. So, presumably, if we were to adopt a similar program, in five years 130 million Americans could have $1.3 trillion on deposit.

One reason for their popularity is their liquidity and flexibility. There are no complicated rules about penalties for withdrawals or paying taxes on the interest, as there are with the various IRA’s and 401(k)s.

This is a very good idea. But, alas, Washington these days is where good ideas go to die.

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Of Pipelines and Fundraisers

For six long years, the Obama administration has been holding up the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from the Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Approving the project would provide thousands of well-paying construction jobs, boost the economy, help lower the world price of oil (which has been declining sharply on its own in recent weeks—as you have probably noticed at the gas pump), and reduce the influence of Russia and OPEC in world affairs. In other words, Keystone is a win-win-win-win project.

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For six long years, the Obama administration has been holding up the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from the Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Approving the project would provide thousands of well-paying construction jobs, boost the economy, help lower the world price of oil (which has been declining sharply on its own in recent weeks—as you have probably noticed at the gas pump), and reduce the influence of Russia and OPEC in world affairs. In other words, Keystone is a win-win-win-win project.

Obama, however, prefers to cater to self-appointed environmental interests that are a major component of his base. They, of course, being uniformly affluent, don’t give a damn about working-class jobs, however well paying. They prefer driving around in their Range Rovers, maintaining more than one large home, jetting off hither and yon, and congratulating themselves on their good stewardship of planet earth. It’s another indication of how much the Democratic Party has become the party of the elite. Siding with the environmentalists, of course, not only injures the American economy, it also injures the Canadian economy and strains our relationship with one of our closest allies and NAFTA partners.

But Canada is a sovereign state. It’s not going to abandon one of its key natural resources because a bunch of over-privileged Americans don’t like its exploitation and go to Obama fundraisers. So Canada is beginning to develop alternatives. One would be to build a 2,900-mile pipeline that would carry a million barrels of oil a day from the oil sands region to the ice-free port of St. John, New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy. There it would be refined and then shipped to customers around the world via supertankers.

The oil was always going to reach market one way or another, sooner or later, a fact that the environmentalists and the Obama administration refuse to acknowledge. So the only fruits of Obama’s policy of endless delay will be considerable harm to the American economy and some successful fundraisers. No wonder his Gallop approval rating is down to 39 percent.

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Obama and Burger King Demagoguery

Who are the biggest villains in the United States today? As much as Americans may rightly fear the rise of ISIS Islamist terrorists, to listen to some commentators, the owners of the Burger King fast-food chain aren’t just the epitome of corporate greed. They’re also being depicted as 21st century Benedict Arnolds for planning to move their corporate headquarters to Canada to evade high U.S. tax bills. But instead of joining in a cost-free demagogue fest that both left and right-wingers can enjoy, rational citizens should be blaming the tax code and a president who could reform the system if he was willing to work with Republicans rather than use them as rhetorical punching bags.

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Who are the biggest villains in the United States today? As much as Americans may rightly fear the rise of ISIS Islamist terrorists, to listen to some commentators, the owners of the Burger King fast-food chain aren’t just the epitome of corporate greed. They’re also being depicted as 21st century Benedict Arnolds for planning to move their corporate headquarters to Canada to evade high U.S. tax bills. But instead of joining in a cost-free demagogue fest that both left and right-wingers can enjoy, rational citizens should be blaming the tax code and a president who could reform the system if he was willing to work with Republicans rather than use them as rhetorical punching bags.

The manner by which Burger King is heading to the great white north is called corporate inversion and is being facilitated by the fast-food franchise purchase of Tim Horton’s, the Canadian donut chain named after an otherwise obscure hockey player. Once they own Horton’s, BK can shift its corporate operations to Canada where they will pay lower taxes than they do now. This is an eminently sensible business decision, but to listen to the likes of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, it’s tantamount to treason; the onetime congressman says he won’t eat there any more is encouraging others to do the same. Left-wing lawmakers like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown agrees and also supports a boycott which would aid both White Castle and Wendy’s that are currently based in his state.

President Obama isn’t calling for a boycott. Instead he issued a call for Congress to pass corporate tax reform that would eliminate the need for American companies to flee the country over their tax bill. But he also said that the need to immediately pass a bill prohibiting such corporate moves shouldn’t have to wait until a solution to the years-long standoff about taxes that helped fuel numerous confrontations between the White House and congressional Republicans is found. Which is to say, he wants companies like Burger King compelled to stay without actually offering them tax relief.

Nobody need hold a benefit for Burger King but the hypocrisy and foolishness that form the foundation for all the demagoguery being aimed at that company seems at least equal to the venality of the fast food franchise.

First, the talk about patriotism and hamburgers is pure baloney. In the global economy trying to tie down a company that does business around the world in this fashion is silly. Americans haven’t owned Burger King since 2010 when SG Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, purchased it when its previous proprietors dumped it because of its declining value. Expecting these stockholders who purchased a flagging company in the hope of increasing its worth and not to do their part in funding America’s out-of-control government spending is absurd. Global capitalism may not appeal to our sentimentality but it is a reality, and for supposedly smart people who are otherwise happy to profit from it to bash BK in this manner is hypocrisy on an Olympic scale.

Second, the president’s umbrage should be tempered by the fact that the person enabling this transaction is none other than his good buddy Warren Buffett. In 2012, Buffett was a major asset to Obama’s reelection because the billionaire’s support for higher taxes was seen as a definitive answer to conservatives who rightly believed Obama’s budget plans were bad for the economy and economic growth. But though he claimed to be personally in favor of higher taxes for himself, apparently Buffett doesn’t think the same principle applies to companies and it is his Berkshire Hathaway firm that is financing Burger King’s purchase of Horton’s. Hopefully, his secretary, whose higher personal tax rate than her boss (a disingenuous argument if ever there was one) became a staple of Democratic campaign rhetoric, will get a cut of the profits from the deal.

But more important than either of those facets of the story is the fact that if President Obama really wanted to reform our tax code, he could have done so years ago. While joining in the gang tackle of Burger King, Obama lamented Congress’s failure to pass reforms that would have made such moves unnecessary. Yet he torpedoed every opportunity to do so by demanding that a fairer revenue code be tied to tax increases. Rather than make cuts in the entitlements and government boondoggles he wishes to preserve, Obama preferred a continued stalemate because it enabled him to blame this failure on his congressional antagonists. That’s good politics but bad economics.

Liberals have given a lot of praise to Canada in recent years because of its government health-care program, but instead of trying to work toward the creation of a medical system that is a bad fit for Americans, they should have been studying our northern neighbor’s tax codes. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of those wanting to boycott Burger King, the president and his supporters should stop the demagoguery and begin negotiating in good faith with Republicans in order to create a tax system that doesn’t punish success or reward failure. Kicking Burger King is easy. Protecting both citizens and corporations from the greed of the government and its permanent bureaucracy is hard.

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Europeans Fund Lawfare Against “Allies” Israel and Canada

The growing European hostility toward the Jewish state is well publicized, as is the corresponding European support for the Palestinians and their agenda. The Palestinian Authority’s largest funder is not the oil-rich and supposedly sympathetic Arab world. It is not even the United States. No, despite its own critical financial situation, the largest single funder of the dubious Fatah-run mini-state in the West Bank is the European Union. Given the way in which the PA is known to squander huge sums of money through corruption, that it is guilty of torturing and persecuting political opponents, openly incites genocidal levels of Jew-hatred among its population and generally obstructs the peace process at every turn, this level of European funding ought to raise some eyebrows.

Yet, in addition to this direct funding to the PA, European countries are also channeling large amounts of money to highly politicized activist groups, and in doing so financing the legitimacy war being waged against Israel. In a report released by NGO Monitor earlier this month, it has been exposed that the EU, along with several other European governments, is paying for the waging of what has come to be known as “lawfare” against Israel. More noteworthy still is the way this funding is also being used by one particularly hostile and activist NGO to even pursue Canada, a close of ally of Israel, at the UN. The large body of evidence here really does have to be seen to be believed. Yet there is no denying it: European countries are indeed financing “lawfare” against two nations that they purport to consider friends.

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The growing European hostility toward the Jewish state is well publicized, as is the corresponding European support for the Palestinians and their agenda. The Palestinian Authority’s largest funder is not the oil-rich and supposedly sympathetic Arab world. It is not even the United States. No, despite its own critical financial situation, the largest single funder of the dubious Fatah-run mini-state in the West Bank is the European Union. Given the way in which the PA is known to squander huge sums of money through corruption, that it is guilty of torturing and persecuting political opponents, openly incites genocidal levels of Jew-hatred among its population and generally obstructs the peace process at every turn, this level of European funding ought to raise some eyebrows.

Yet, in addition to this direct funding to the PA, European countries are also channeling large amounts of money to highly politicized activist groups, and in doing so financing the legitimacy war being waged against Israel. In a report released by NGO Monitor earlier this month, it has been exposed that the EU, along with several other European governments, is paying for the waging of what has come to be known as “lawfare” against Israel. More noteworthy still is the way this funding is also being used by one particularly hostile and activist NGO to even pursue Canada, a close of ally of Israel, at the UN. The large body of evidence here really does have to be seen to be believed. Yet there is no denying it: European countries are indeed financing “lawfare” against two nations that they purport to consider friends.

The Palestinian NGO in question is the cryptically named Norwegian Refugee Council, a title that offers few clues as to the group’s actual activities. Quite simply, the primary function of this organization appears to be to wage “lawfare” against Israel’s judicial system in an effort to sabotage its legal process and subvert the democratic structures for determining Israeli policy. NGO Monitor reports that NRC has financed at least 677 cases that received full legal representation in court and other administrative bodies in Israel. According to an eyewitness report, the strategy here is to “try every possible legal measure to disrupt the Israeli judicial system… as many cases as possible are registered and that as many cases as possible are appealed to increase the workload of the courts and the Supreme Court to such an extent that there will be a blockage.” 

In addition, NGO Monitor details how NRC pursues “public interest cases” concerning some of the most sensitive aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in an effort to circumvent the democratic process for determining Israeli policy on these matters, instead seeking to alter policy by obtaining legal precedents at the court level. Some of the most outrageous cases taken up by the NRC involve attempts to abrogate Jewish property rights in Jerusalem by bringing private cases seeking to nullify Jewish claims to property owned prior to 1948 and the Jordanian expulsion of all Jews from north, east, and south Jerusalem.

Most remarkable of all has to be the NRC’s activities against Canada. In 2008 another Palestinian campaign group masquerading as an NGO called Al Haq brought a civil case to court in Quebec that accused three Canadian companies of having operated illegally by being involved in the construction of West Bank settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. This was despite the fact that six lawsuits on this matter had already been filed in Israel itself. Primarily it appears that bringing the case to Canada was part of an orchestrated publicity stunt.

Yet, in 2009 the court in Quebec found that the campaigners had produced “no evidence whatsoever” to support their claims about the ownership of the land, and as such their case was thrown out, with partial costs being awarded to the defendants. In 2010 the court of appeal upheld the lower court’s decision and in 2011 the Canadian Supreme Court endorsed both of these previous rulings. Having still not received their desired outcome, in 2013 the NRC took the astonishing action of pursuing Canada at the UN, using funds specifically provided by Britain to do so. Issuing a complaint against the Canadian judicial system to the UN Human Rights Committee, the group also claimed that, “Canada violated its extra-territorial obligation to ensure respect for Articles 2, 7, 12, 17 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” Given just how supportive Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been of Israel, one cannot help but wonder if this might not be part of the reason that Canada is being targeted at the UN in this way.

The primary donors for the NRC are Norway, Sweden, the UK, and the EU. Given that both Sweden and the UK already pay into the EU budget, tax payers in these countries are funding this organization twice over. Between 2011 and 2013 alone, the NRC spent $20 million on its lawfare campaigns. With the considerable deficits that most EU countries are currently running up, how might European publics react to discovering that this is how their tax euros are being spent? The British public exists in a permanent state of embitterment regarding the poor state of the country’s National Health Service. Imagine the news going down that while hospital wards are being closed, the British government is directing huge sums of money to a rogue NGO that engages in such activity as pursuing Canada at the UN on entirely trumped-up charges?

If nothing else, as long as this funding continues to flow, the Europeans cannot expect to play any role as fair brokers in the peace process, and they must be allowed absolutely no say in that matter. 

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Canada Shows the Way on Jerusalem

The Palestinian Authority is up in arms over a cup of coffee consumed by Canada’s foreign affairs minister, John Baird. He was in the Middle East last week and made the requisite pilgrimage to Ramallah to give PA President Mahmoud Abbas a photo opportunity as well as a chance to beg yet another Western leader for more cash to keep his sinking ship afloat. But whatever success Abbas and company may have had in hitting up the Canadians for more money to squander is being overshadowed by their rage for Baird’s decision to meet with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Since it was located over the green line in the part of the city that was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 prior to Jerusalem’s unification, the Palestinians consider this a violation of international law. In consequence of this protest, Baird received a stern letter from the PA and a Canadian diplomat was summoned for another meeting in Ramallah where, after the scolding is finished, the Palestinians would, no doubt, have another chance to talk about more cash to spread around in no-show and no-work patronage jobs that enable the Fatah Party to maintain its hold on the area.

Left-wing Canadian politicians are also using the incident to lambast Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, but no one in Ottawa should be trembling at the thought of offending Abbas. Though the Canadians say the meeting shouldn’t be construed as a change in policy, the get-together exposes the lie at the heart of so much of international comment about Israel’s capital. For decades the world has adhered to the fiction that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital and kept embassies in Tel Aviv so as to avoid giving the impression that it recognizes the reality that the ancient city is part of the Jewish state. But the world did not end when Baird sipped coffee with Livni. Nor did it further complicate the already moribund peace negotiations. All that happened is that the beggar of international politics got mad at one of their benefactors.

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The Palestinian Authority is up in arms over a cup of coffee consumed by Canada’s foreign affairs minister, John Baird. He was in the Middle East last week and made the requisite pilgrimage to Ramallah to give PA President Mahmoud Abbas a photo opportunity as well as a chance to beg yet another Western leader for more cash to keep his sinking ship afloat. But whatever success Abbas and company may have had in hitting up the Canadians for more money to squander is being overshadowed by their rage for Baird’s decision to meet with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Since it was located over the green line in the part of the city that was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 prior to Jerusalem’s unification, the Palestinians consider this a violation of international law. In consequence of this protest, Baird received a stern letter from the PA and a Canadian diplomat was summoned for another meeting in Ramallah where, after the scolding is finished, the Palestinians would, no doubt, have another chance to talk about more cash to spread around in no-show and no-work patronage jobs that enable the Fatah Party to maintain its hold on the area.

Left-wing Canadian politicians are also using the incident to lambast Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, but no one in Ottawa should be trembling at the thought of offending Abbas. Though the Canadians say the meeting shouldn’t be construed as a change in policy, the get-together exposes the lie at the heart of so much of international comment about Israel’s capital. For decades the world has adhered to the fiction that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital and kept embassies in Tel Aviv so as to avoid giving the impression that it recognizes the reality that the ancient city is part of the Jewish state. But the world did not end when Baird sipped coffee with Livni. Nor did it further complicate the already moribund peace negotiations. All that happened is that the beggar of international politics got mad at one of their benefactors.

Even before this incident, Harper’s government has repeatedly demonstrated its friendship for Israel with warmth that often exceeds that of the relationship between Israel and the United States. While the importance of its alliance with the world’s sole superpower cannot be compared to the one with its far less populous neighbor, the Canadians’ decision to buck conventional wisdom on Jerusalem and other issues is more than refreshing. It shows that the impact on peace or regional stability of doing things that do not adhere to the Palestinian line is negligible.

Meeting with Israelis in Jerusalem or even moving an embassy there wouldn’t prevent peace, were it possible. But it does deliver a body blow to the Palestinian delusion that if they just keep denying reality long enough, the rest of the world will force the Israelis to abandon their capital.

That’s a point the U.S. should consider when it panders to the Palestinians on Jerusalem. Even though everyone in Washington from President Obama on down knows that Israel will never return to the 1967 lines in the city, they have gone along with the myth that Israel’s government does not reside in the capital.

That this dispute should come up in the very week that Abbas and his cronies have finally rid themselves of the one Palestinian that the West trusts with their donations to the PA is telling. The resignation of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad pleases both Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas since his focus on development and honest governance was a problem for the corrupt agenda of the former and the terrorist aims of the latter. Both seem to think that his exit will not mean an end to the gravy train of Western donations. Nor do they think their dependence on the West should cause them to moderate their stands or even negotiate peace with an Israel that is willing to talk without preconditions.

Canada’s chutzpah shows that fears about the blowback for breaking down the myth about Israel and Jerusalem are overblown. It also demonstrates that what is needed is some reality-based diplomacy that will bring home to the PA that their effort to isolate Israel and to avoid peace negotiations will have consequences. Far from hurting the peace process, actions such as those undertaken by Canada only serve to prod the Palestinians to stop relying on the world to do their dirty work for them. As President Obama said last month, those who expect Israel to eventually disappear are mistaken. The same can be said for those who think it will be booted out of Jerusalem. Canada deserves cheers for reminding the Palestinians of this fact.

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Canada Suspends Ties with Iran

While the Obama administration grants waivers to Iran’s trading partners to lessen the effectiveness of sanctions, not every country is approaching Iran’s failure to abide by international norms and its proliferation and terrorist activities with the same lack of seriousness.

Calling Iran the “most significant threat to global peace and security” today, Ottawa has announced a suspension of relations. The CBC reported:

Iran is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. It shelters and materially supports terrorist groups,” [Foreign Affairs Minister John] Baird said. In the statement, Baird said Canada has closed its embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared personae non gratae all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada. Those diplomats must leave within five days. All Canadian diplomats have already left Iran. “Canada’s position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” he said in the statement. The statement cited Iran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and failure to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, and its threats against Israel. The statement also makes reference to Iran’s “blatant disregard” of the Vienna Convention that guarantees the protection of diplomatic personnel…

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While the Obama administration grants waivers to Iran’s trading partners to lessen the effectiveness of sanctions, not every country is approaching Iran’s failure to abide by international norms and its proliferation and terrorist activities with the same lack of seriousness.

Calling Iran the “most significant threat to global peace and security” today, Ottawa has announced a suspension of relations. The CBC reported:

Iran is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. It shelters and materially supports terrorist groups,” [Foreign Affairs Minister John] Baird said. In the statement, Baird said Canada has closed its embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared personae non gratae all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada. Those diplomats must leave within five days. All Canadian diplomats have already left Iran. “Canada’s position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” he said in the statement. The statement cited Iran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and failure to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, and its threats against Israel. The statement also makes reference to Iran’s “blatant disregard” of the Vienna Convention that guarantees the protection of diplomatic personnel…

Pro-democracy activists in Canada renewed calls over the summer for the embassy in Ottawa to be closed. The calls were sparked by a news report that said Iran’s cultural counselor in Ottawa, Hamid Mohammadi, suggested Iranian expatriates should be nurtured to be of service to Iran.

Kudos to Canada which, as with the UN’s anti-Semitic Durban Conference and a host of other issues, has consistently embraced a foreign policy rooted in values and a no-nonsense approach to terrorism. If only President Obama would demonstrate the same seriousness of purpose.

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China’s Getting Our Oil Because of Obama, Says Canada PM

This is big news, and not just because it refutes a lot of the skepticism that Canada would ever actually go through with its threats to sell its oil to China. It also shows there will be major consequences from what the Obama administration clearly believed was a harmless little political game it could play with the Keystone XL permitting. Even if the president backs down from his Keystone XL objections now – as Republicans have continued to urge him to do – Canadian PM Stephen Harper says it won’t make a difference.

Canada’s Sun News reports:

In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.

And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.

“Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets,” Harper told Harman in front of a live audience of businesspeople, scholars, diplomats, and journalists.

“We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.” Read More

This is big news, and not just because it refutes a lot of the skepticism that Canada would ever actually go through with its threats to sell its oil to China. It also shows there will be major consequences from what the Obama administration clearly believed was a harmless little political game it could play with the Keystone XL permitting. Even if the president backs down from his Keystone XL objections now – as Republicans have continued to urge him to do – Canadian PM Stephen Harper says it won’t make a difference.

Canada’s Sun News reports:

In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.

And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.

“Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets,” Harper told Harman in front of a live audience of businesspeople, scholars, diplomats, and journalists.

“We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.”

Where to begin on this? First, there’s the amateurishness of an administration that thinks it can string along Canada for political convenience, without realizing the potential fallout. It’s also yet another example of Obama’s commitment to alienating allies while simultaneously aiding adversaries.

And the damages aren’t limited to diplomacy and the U.S. losing out on oil to China. The U.S. will also take a hit on the oil it already purchases, at a reduced rate, from Canada, because of the added competition in the market:

Harper also told Harman that Canada has been selling its oil to the United States at a discounted price.

So not only will America be able to buy less Canadian oil even if Keystone is eventually approved, the U.S. will also have to pay more for it because the market for oilsands crude will be more competitive.

“We have taken a significant price hit by virtue of the fact that we are a captive supplier and that just does not make sense in terms of the broader interests of the Canadian economy,” Harper said. “We’re still going to be a major supplier of the United States. It will be a long time, if ever, before the United States isn’t our number one export market, but for us the United States cannot be our only export market.

“That is not in our interest, either commercially or in terms of pricing.”

The U.S. could be paying for Obama’s political stunt long after he leaves office.

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Obama Quietly Trying to Kill Keystone Bill

Just yesterday, President Obama promised he was going to do whatever he could to speed up pipeline construction, and now it turns out he’s quietly lobbying behind the scenes for the exact opposite:

President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.

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Just yesterday, President Obama promised he was going to do whatever he could to speed up pipeline construction, and now it turns out he’s quietly lobbying behind the scenes for the exact opposite:

President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.

The fact that Obama is personally inserting himself into this fight shows how worried the White House is. If the bill passes, Republicans will have a huge bludgeon to hit Obama with during the campaign. And if it fails, Republicans will still be able to blame Obama for blocking a pipeline that would create thousands of jobs and reduce U.S. dependency on OPEC. No wonder his campaign is panicking now that the national conversation is turning to rising gas prices.

But the longer Obama holds up Keystone XL construction, the more likely it becomes that Canada will take its oil exports elsewhere.  Alberta Premier Alison Redford said as much yesterday during a meeting with oil industry insiders in Washington, according to reports:

Meeting later Wednesday with Canadian diplomats and industry representatives, Redford again stressed Alberta’s plans to pursue exports to Asia rather than rely on the uncertainty in the U.S. market.

“We certainly want the United States to be our natural customers. But we are an exporting nation,” she said at a luncheon hosted by the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“We have resources that we must export and we will find ways to export those resources.”

Obama’s position on the Keystone XL issue has become so muddled that he’s ended up alienating all sides of the debate simultaneously. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, because that’s the way he operates on most issues involving a foreign ally.

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Canada Warns Obama on Keystone XL

The Obama administration has spent three years reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Canadian government is understandably frustrated that the decision has been kicked further down the road. After the White House insinuated earlier this week that it might reject the pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to take the oil elsewhere (via HotAir):

Canada could sell its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a year-end television interview, Harper indicated he had doubts the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Canada should be looking outside the United States for markets.

“I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that,” Harper said in the Monday interview with CTV National News.

Right now, there’s no avenue for Canada to get the oil to the Pacific for shipping, so any deal with China would be far down the road.

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The Obama administration has spent three years reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Canadian government is understandably frustrated that the decision has been kicked further down the road. After the White House insinuated earlier this week that it might reject the pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to take the oil elsewhere (via HotAir):

Canada could sell its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a year-end television interview, Harper indicated he had doubts the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Canada should be looking outside the United States for markets.

“I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that,” Harper said in the Monday interview with CTV National News.

Right now, there’s no avenue for Canada to get the oil to the Pacific for shipping, so any deal with China would be far down the road.

Proposals to build a pipeline extension to reach Canada’s West Coast are also likely to get major pushback from environmentalists. But it is possible. At Huffington Post Canada, Christopher Sands explains:

Canada’s best move now would be to quietly build the pipeline to the West Coast, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. 2012 elections or the progress of Keystone XL construction. Canada needs real options to avoid being repeatedly held captive to American political caprice. To earn U.S. respect and stop the bullying by environmental groups and politicians, Canada must turn its Keystone threats into credible promises, and act on them when necessary.

This would be a major disappointment, but it would be hard to blame Canada for taking that route. Let’s say Obama gets reelected, and the Keystone XL decision comes due in 2013. There’s a good chance Obama will approve the pipeline once he’s free of reelection constraints, but it’s far from certain. Who knows what the political dynamic will be like in a year?

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About Those ‘Likudniks’

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

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Democracy and Homogeneity in Tunisia

As we try to determine the odds of a successful democracy in post-revolution Tunisia, it’s worth considering the question of ethnic and religious homogeneity. This quote jumped out from a Reuters story: “‘Tunisia is a small country but it has room for everyone and everyone’s ideas. They thought there would be chaos in Tunisia but we are united. We do not have Shi’ites, Christians, Jews. We are all Sunni Muslims and this unites us,’ worshipper Rida Harrathi told Reuters before Friday prayers.”

The argument that there’s room for everyone because everyone is the same sounds funny to American ears, but there’s actually a solid point here. In a wonderful COMMENTARY article from March 2000, James Q. Wilson identified homogeneity as one of four important conditions that have “underlain the emergence and survival of our oldest democracies.” (The other three being isolation, property, and tradition.) Wilson wrote the following:

Several democratic nations are today ethnically diverse, but at the time democracy was being established, that diversity was so limited that it could be safely ignored. England was an Anglo-Saxon nation; America, during its founding period, was overwhelmingly English; so also, by and large, were Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. . . . I am not suggesting that ethnic homogeneity is a good thing or ought to be preserved at any cost; nor am I denying that democracies can become ethnically heterogeneous. Certainly one of the great glories of the United States is to have become both vigorously democratic and ethnically diverse. But it is a rare accomplishment. Historically, and with few exceptions, the growth of democracy and of respect for human rights was made easier—often much easier—to accomplish in nations that had a more or less common culture.

Indeed, in the formative years of a nation, ethnic diversity can be as great a problem as foreign enemies. The time, power, and money that must be devoted to maintaining one ethnic group in power is at least equivalent to the resources needed to protect against a foreign enemy. When one part of a people thinks another part is unworthy of rights, it is hard for a government to act in the name of the “rights of the people.” That is why democracy in England preceded democracy in the United Kingdom: because many parts of that kingdom—the Scots, the Irish—had very different views about who should rule them and how.

This was written three years before the Iraq invasion, but its wisdom readily brings to mind the ongoing challenges of uniting Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis to serve a common national purpose. In addition to being saturated by Sunni Islam, the Tunisian population doesn’t have much in the way of meaningful ethnic division. There are many Berbers among the Arabs, but they’ve all more-or-less assimilated. As the revolt in Tunisia has thrown us all into the tea-leaves-reading business, we could do a lot worse than to consider the question of democracy from this reality-based angle.

As we try to determine the odds of a successful democracy in post-revolution Tunisia, it’s worth considering the question of ethnic and religious homogeneity. This quote jumped out from a Reuters story: “‘Tunisia is a small country but it has room for everyone and everyone’s ideas. They thought there would be chaos in Tunisia but we are united. We do not have Shi’ites, Christians, Jews. We are all Sunni Muslims and this unites us,’ worshipper Rida Harrathi told Reuters before Friday prayers.”

The argument that there’s room for everyone because everyone is the same sounds funny to American ears, but there’s actually a solid point here. In a wonderful COMMENTARY article from March 2000, James Q. Wilson identified homogeneity as one of four important conditions that have “underlain the emergence and survival of our oldest democracies.” (The other three being isolation, property, and tradition.) Wilson wrote the following:

Several democratic nations are today ethnically diverse, but at the time democracy was being established, that diversity was so limited that it could be safely ignored. England was an Anglo-Saxon nation; America, during its founding period, was overwhelmingly English; so also, by and large, were Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. . . . I am not suggesting that ethnic homogeneity is a good thing or ought to be preserved at any cost; nor am I denying that democracies can become ethnically heterogeneous. Certainly one of the great glories of the United States is to have become both vigorously democratic and ethnically diverse. But it is a rare accomplishment. Historically, and with few exceptions, the growth of democracy and of respect for human rights was made easier—often much easier—to accomplish in nations that had a more or less common culture.

Indeed, in the formative years of a nation, ethnic diversity can be as great a problem as foreign enemies. The time, power, and money that must be devoted to maintaining one ethnic group in power is at least equivalent to the resources needed to protect against a foreign enemy. When one part of a people thinks another part is unworthy of rights, it is hard for a government to act in the name of the “rights of the people.” That is why democracy in England preceded democracy in the United Kingdom: because many parts of that kingdom—the Scots, the Irish—had very different views about who should rule them and how.

This was written three years before the Iraq invasion, but its wisdom readily brings to mind the ongoing challenges of uniting Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis to serve a common national purpose. In addition to being saturated by Sunni Islam, the Tunisian population doesn’t have much in the way of meaningful ethnic division. There are many Berbers among the Arabs, but they’ve all more-or-less assimilated. As the revolt in Tunisia has thrown us all into the tea-leaves-reading business, we could do a lot worse than to consider the question of democracy from this reality-based angle.

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Al-Qaeda Training New Wave of Western Terrorists

Al-Qaeda is making progress on its plan to train and unleash Islamic terrorists that it’s recruited from Western countries, Asia Times Online reports today:

With the Afghan war entering its 10th year, completely undeterred by the American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal region, al-Qaeda is putting the final touches to plans to recruit, train and launch Western Caucasians in their countries; the aim is to spread the flames of the South Asian war theater to the West.

Al-Qaeda began planning the operation in 2002, after the fall in late 2001 of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the group had been given sanctuary. Al-Qaeda had regrouped in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, and used this base to developed propaganda media structures to recruit in the West.

Taliban sources told Asia Times that there are currently 12 Canadians training in North Waziristan, on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Jihadis from the U.S., Britain, and Germany can also reportedly be found in the training grounds of North Waziristan.

Not only is this a discouraging bit of news for the progress in Afghanistan; it’s also another worrisome sign that NATO countries have been unable to prevent terror recruitment on their own soil:

According to available information, the Canadians joined the Egyptian militant organization Jihad al-Islami (JAI), which then helped them reach Afghanistan. The head of the group goes by the alias of Abu Shahid. The 30-year-old, who sports a golden beard, converted to Islam in 2007 and joined the JAI, with which he works to collect funds for the organization. Shahid is responsible for all of the activities of the Canadians in North Waziristan. According to Taliban sources, the 12 will remain in the tribal belt until it is felt that they are sufficiently trained to successfully carry out terror activities in Canada. Shahid apparently is confident he can recruit more Canadians.

Al-Qaeda has become extremely creative with its recruitment methods since the Sept. 11 attacks. From Anwar al-Awlaki’s YouTube videos to Inspire magazine, it’s made extensive use of online media platforms to get its message across to impressionable young people. So far, our response to this type of radicalization has been reactive, which is only useful in cases where the terrorist is caught before the attack is carried out. Stories like this one are just further evidence that we need to increase our focus on the prevention of homegrown radicalization.

Al-Qaeda is making progress on its plan to train and unleash Islamic terrorists that it’s recruited from Western countries, Asia Times Online reports today:

With the Afghan war entering its 10th year, completely undeterred by the American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal region, al-Qaeda is putting the final touches to plans to recruit, train and launch Western Caucasians in their countries; the aim is to spread the flames of the South Asian war theater to the West.

Al-Qaeda began planning the operation in 2002, after the fall in late 2001 of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the group had been given sanctuary. Al-Qaeda had regrouped in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, and used this base to developed propaganda media structures to recruit in the West.

Taliban sources told Asia Times that there are currently 12 Canadians training in North Waziristan, on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Jihadis from the U.S., Britain, and Germany can also reportedly be found in the training grounds of North Waziristan.

Not only is this a discouraging bit of news for the progress in Afghanistan; it’s also another worrisome sign that NATO countries have been unable to prevent terror recruitment on their own soil:

According to available information, the Canadians joined the Egyptian militant organization Jihad al-Islami (JAI), which then helped them reach Afghanistan. The head of the group goes by the alias of Abu Shahid. The 30-year-old, who sports a golden beard, converted to Islam in 2007 and joined the JAI, with which he works to collect funds for the organization. Shahid is responsible for all of the activities of the Canadians in North Waziristan. According to Taliban sources, the 12 will remain in the tribal belt until it is felt that they are sufficiently trained to successfully carry out terror activities in Canada. Shahid apparently is confident he can recruit more Canadians.

Al-Qaeda has become extremely creative with its recruitment methods since the Sept. 11 attacks. From Anwar al-Awlaki’s YouTube videos to Inspire magazine, it’s made extensive use of online media platforms to get its message across to impressionable young people. So far, our response to this type of radicalization has been reactive, which is only useful in cases where the terrorist is caught before the attack is carried out. Stories like this one are just further evidence that we need to increase our focus on the prevention of homegrown radicalization.

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Students Launch Public Relations Campaign for North Korea

Concerned that North Korea is getting a bad rap, some Brown University alumni have actually started a travel program to give students an eyewitness experience inside the totalitarian state. The project apparently started as a short trip for students, but it has now been expanded into a semester-long study abroad program:

The Pyongyang Project was the brainchild of Matthew Reichel and Nick Young, who were inspired to counteract what they describe as the “one-sided” coverage of North Korea in the international media.

“The US and North Korea don’t have established relations, and talks are indirect at best. And what we believe is that there is a need for a grassroots level of engagement that we haven’t seen yet between citizens,” says Mr Reichel, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate. “We feel that education is the best ice-breaker.”

The pair scheduled meetings with North Korean government officials at consulates in the US and China – and got the go ahead to run a scheme which takes university students and professors from the US, UK, Canada and other nations inside North Korea in a bid to reach out to the nation behind the headlines.

This program has the potential to be a useful educational tool if it actually exposes students to the deplorable conditions that most North Koreans live under. But like most “tourists” of North Korea, the participants of this trip visited only areas of the country handpicked by government propagandists.

The naivety of these students — enrolled at one of the top American universities — is simply astounding. One participant was amazed that he was allowed to wonder freely around a beach and interact with North Koreans — apparently unaware that the visit was probably about as orchestrated as a Hollywood movie set:

“They took us to the beach, we got our swimming trunks on and they basically said, ‘Go have a good time, you can talk to people’,” said Dave Fields, 27, a participant from the US state of Wisconsin.

Another participant gushed over a gymnastics competition she watched, but added that she noticed some “red flags” during her visit. “It definitely felt like there were props around the university. You get the feeling that it is sort of like a time capsule society — hair styles even that are kind of stuck in the 1960s,” she told the BBC.

I’m not sure if the founders of the Pyongyang Project planned to make this a pure propaganda campaign for the North Korean government, or if they’re simply clueless. But there’s no doubt that Pyongyang officials are probably thrilled by the results, judging from the comically fawning “participant reflections” posted on the project’s website. Read More

Concerned that North Korea is getting a bad rap, some Brown University alumni have actually started a travel program to give students an eyewitness experience inside the totalitarian state. The project apparently started as a short trip for students, but it has now been expanded into a semester-long study abroad program:

The Pyongyang Project was the brainchild of Matthew Reichel and Nick Young, who were inspired to counteract what they describe as the “one-sided” coverage of North Korea in the international media.

“The US and North Korea don’t have established relations, and talks are indirect at best. And what we believe is that there is a need for a grassroots level of engagement that we haven’t seen yet between citizens,” says Mr Reichel, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate. “We feel that education is the best ice-breaker.”

The pair scheduled meetings with North Korean government officials at consulates in the US and China – and got the go ahead to run a scheme which takes university students and professors from the US, UK, Canada and other nations inside North Korea in a bid to reach out to the nation behind the headlines.

This program has the potential to be a useful educational tool if it actually exposes students to the deplorable conditions that most North Koreans live under. But like most “tourists” of North Korea, the participants of this trip visited only areas of the country handpicked by government propagandists.

The naivety of these students — enrolled at one of the top American universities — is simply astounding. One participant was amazed that he was allowed to wonder freely around a beach and interact with North Koreans — apparently unaware that the visit was probably about as orchestrated as a Hollywood movie set:

“They took us to the beach, we got our swimming trunks on and they basically said, ‘Go have a good time, you can talk to people’,” said Dave Fields, 27, a participant from the US state of Wisconsin.

Another participant gushed over a gymnastics competition she watched, but added that she noticed some “red flags” during her visit. “It definitely felt like there were props around the university. You get the feeling that it is sort of like a time capsule society — hair styles even that are kind of stuck in the 1960s,” she told the BBC.

I’m not sure if the founders of the Pyongyang Project planned to make this a pure propaganda campaign for the North Korean government, or if they’re simply clueless. But there’s no doubt that Pyongyang officials are probably thrilled by the results, judging from the comically fawning “participant reflections” posted on the project’s website.

“The DMZ was my favorite. Mass Games, local restaurants were wonderful, Mt Myohyang was beautiful, USS Pueblo, Korean War Museum, Metro. All of it was fantastic. I commend the two of you for putting together such an action-packed, well-rounded program,” wrote Amy C., a 2009 Fulbright scholar.

Another participant was apparently honored to have been given a museum tour by the same woman who guided President Kim Il-Sung. “[W]e went to an agricultural museum where both leaders had been to several times, and were guided by the same lady that guided President Kim II Sung; on the very same night when we were back to our hotel, we turned on the TV and the TV was showing President Kim II Sung visiting the exact same museum guided by the lady we just saw in in afternoon. What de ja vu!” wrote Ji G.

And in a ringing endorsement, Neil E., a Bowling Green State University professor, wrote that the “highlights” of his trip were “the kids playing in the street in front of the Children’s Palace, followed by the glitzy, absolutely perfect performance inside, the crowd streaming out of the Kaesong rally interrupted by a fight, the audiences clapping in unison. I would definitely recommend the experience to others — in fact, I already have.”

Well, I suppose we can at least we can be thankful that the unpleasant sight of emaciated North Koreans didn’t get in the way of their thrilling vacation.

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“If It’s Freedom We Hate, Why Didn’t We Attack Sweden?”

That was the question posed by Osama bin Laden in a 2006 speech, in which he blamed the 9/11 attacks on U.S. “imperialist” foreign policy. Apparently, this statement seemed like watertight logic to a certain species of non-interventionists, who immediately began quoting the terror leader as if he was a dependable, trustworthy source.

“Why is America the target of terrorists and suicide bombers?” asked Philip Giraldi at CPAC just last February. “Surely not because it has freedoms that some view negatively. As Usama bin Laden put it, in possibly the only known joke made by a terrorist, if freedoms were the issue, al-Qaeda would be attacking Sweden.”

Of course, in light of some recent events in Stockholm, I think we can now safely assume that terrorists fall into the anti-freedom camp. As Elliot Jager notes at Jewish Ideas Daily, even the Swedish foreign policy praised by so many non-interventionists wasn’t enough to protect the country from getting targeted by radical Islamists:

Given Sweden’s lusty embrace of multiculturalism and an immigration policy that many observers regard as suicidal; its diplomatic predisposition to the Palestinian cause; and its tepid response to violent Muslim anti-Semitism, what could it possibly have done to deserve an Islamist suicide bombing? In his recording, al-Abdaly, for one, named the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a 2007 cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. But is this credible? Sweden has a mere 500 soldiers in northern Afghanistan, where they are involved mostly in reconstruction work and social services like training midwives. As for the allegedly offensive cartoons, they appeared in a regional newspaper and were intended only as a protest against the widespread media self-censorship that followed in the wake of the 2005 Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark.

And the Stockholm attack is only the latest in a string of international terrorist acts and plots that have helped discredit the “blowback” theory. Nearly every country that non-interventionists have claimed was “safe” from terrorism has been forced to fight Islamic terrorists on its own soil in recent years.

“A growing number of Americans are concluding that the threat we now face comes more as a consequence of our foreign policy than because the bad guys envy our freedoms and prosperity,” said Rep. Ron Paul on the floor of the House in 2002. “How many terrorist attacks have been directed toward Switzerland, Australia, Canada, or Sweden? They too are rich and free, and would be easy targets, but the Islamic fundamentalists see no purpose in doing so.”

Let’s look back on that statement knowing what we know today. Have Islamic terrorists targeted Switzerland? Yes. Australia? Several times. Canada? Definitely. Sweden? Of course.

So to say that the U.S. would be safe from terrorism by adapting a non-interventionist foreign policy simply ignores the reality on the ground. Enemies who will gladly kill us over a petty cartoon in a small-circulation newspaper certainly don’t need to use foreign policy as a justification to fly planes into our buildings.

That was the question posed by Osama bin Laden in a 2006 speech, in which he blamed the 9/11 attacks on U.S. “imperialist” foreign policy. Apparently, this statement seemed like watertight logic to a certain species of non-interventionists, who immediately began quoting the terror leader as if he was a dependable, trustworthy source.

“Why is America the target of terrorists and suicide bombers?” asked Philip Giraldi at CPAC just last February. “Surely not because it has freedoms that some view negatively. As Usama bin Laden put it, in possibly the only known joke made by a terrorist, if freedoms were the issue, al-Qaeda would be attacking Sweden.”

Of course, in light of some recent events in Stockholm, I think we can now safely assume that terrorists fall into the anti-freedom camp. As Elliot Jager notes at Jewish Ideas Daily, even the Swedish foreign policy praised by so many non-interventionists wasn’t enough to protect the country from getting targeted by radical Islamists:

Given Sweden’s lusty embrace of multiculturalism and an immigration policy that many observers regard as suicidal; its diplomatic predisposition to the Palestinian cause; and its tepid response to violent Muslim anti-Semitism, what could it possibly have done to deserve an Islamist suicide bombing? In his recording, al-Abdaly, for one, named the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a 2007 cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. But is this credible? Sweden has a mere 500 soldiers in northern Afghanistan, where they are involved mostly in reconstruction work and social services like training midwives. As for the allegedly offensive cartoons, they appeared in a regional newspaper and were intended only as a protest against the widespread media self-censorship that followed in the wake of the 2005 Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark.

And the Stockholm attack is only the latest in a string of international terrorist acts and plots that have helped discredit the “blowback” theory. Nearly every country that non-interventionists have claimed was “safe” from terrorism has been forced to fight Islamic terrorists on its own soil in recent years.

“A growing number of Americans are concluding that the threat we now face comes more as a consequence of our foreign policy than because the bad guys envy our freedoms and prosperity,” said Rep. Ron Paul on the floor of the House in 2002. “How many terrorist attacks have been directed toward Switzerland, Australia, Canada, or Sweden? They too are rich and free, and would be easy targets, but the Islamic fundamentalists see no purpose in doing so.”

Let’s look back on that statement knowing what we know today. Have Islamic terrorists targeted Switzerland? Yes. Australia? Several times. Canada? Definitely. Sweden? Of course.

So to say that the U.S. would be safe from terrorism by adapting a non-interventionist foreign policy simply ignores the reality on the ground. Enemies who will gladly kill us over a petty cartoon in a small-circulation newspaper certainly don’t need to use foreign policy as a justification to fly planes into our buildings.

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University of Toronto Thesis Argues Jews Exploit the Holocaust

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

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Iran Issues Travel Warning on Canada

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Imagine if the Bush administration had pulled this. “An inspector general says the White House edited a report about the administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling to make it appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of a six-month ban on new drilling. The Interior Department’s inspector general says the changes resulted ‘in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.’ But it hadn’t been.” Reminds you of Elena Kagan’s stunt about the outside experts’ report on partial-birth abortion, doesn’t it?

Imagine if our president sounded like Canada’s prime minister on Israel. “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.” Read the whole thing.

Imagine if the media scrutinized Obama on Afghanistan the way it did his predecessor on Iraq. “A White House review of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy next month will judge ‘how this current approach is working’ but will not suggest alternatives if aspects of the policy are found to be failing, a senior administration official said Tuesday.” Appalling.

Imagine if Chris Christie were given a chance to get the federal government’s fiscal house in order. Oh my! He keeps this up and there will be “Draft Christie!” movements in every state.

Imagine how much the debt commission could have saved if it had recommended shelving ObamaCare. “The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. … The fundamental problem here is that it is not possible to build a bipartisan budget framework on a foundation that includes a partisan health-care plan with sweeping implications for future spending levels. To have a bipartisan budget requires a bipartisan health plan. And that means repealing Obamacare and starting over.”

Imagine if Obama had pulled the plug on this months ago. Eric Holder says he’s “close to a decision” on a civilian trial for KSM. With the new GOP Congress, I think there is no chance KSM is going to see the inside of an Article III courtroom, and the Obami know it. Get ready for an about-face on this one.

Imagine if Obama listened to sane advice on the Middle East. “Why does the president continue to harp on settlements in East Jerusalem, as opposed to expansion of West Bank settlements that would be dismantled under the terms of any peace agreement between the parties? Obama may feel that he has crossed a Rubicon and must push forward. Or he may feel that he must put Netanyahu in his place. … Whatever the reason, Obama’s behavior in Indonesia, and his constant harping on the construction issue, has complicated his avowed search for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. … The peace process is stalemated, and it is up to the president, who has, perhaps unwittingly, brought on this latest dead end on the long-standing saga of Israeli-Palestinian misery, to come up with a way that lets both sides move forward, even if it means that he personally has to take several steps back in order to do so.”

Imagine if the Bush administration had pulled this. “An inspector general says the White House edited a report about the administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling to make it appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of a six-month ban on new drilling. The Interior Department’s inspector general says the changes resulted ‘in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.’ But it hadn’t been.” Reminds you of Elena Kagan’s stunt about the outside experts’ report on partial-birth abortion, doesn’t it?

Imagine if our president sounded like Canada’s prime minister on Israel. “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.” Read the whole thing.

Imagine if the media scrutinized Obama on Afghanistan the way it did his predecessor on Iraq. “A White House review of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy next month will judge ‘how this current approach is working’ but will not suggest alternatives if aspects of the policy are found to be failing, a senior administration official said Tuesday.” Appalling.

Imagine if Chris Christie were given a chance to get the federal government’s fiscal house in order. Oh my! He keeps this up and there will be “Draft Christie!” movements in every state.

Imagine how much the debt commission could have saved if it had recommended shelving ObamaCare. “The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. … The fundamental problem here is that it is not possible to build a bipartisan budget framework on a foundation that includes a partisan health-care plan with sweeping implications for future spending levels. To have a bipartisan budget requires a bipartisan health plan. And that means repealing Obamacare and starting over.”

Imagine if Obama had pulled the plug on this months ago. Eric Holder says he’s “close to a decision” on a civilian trial for KSM. With the new GOP Congress, I think there is no chance KSM is going to see the inside of an Article III courtroom, and the Obami know it. Get ready for an about-face on this one.

Imagine if Obama listened to sane advice on the Middle East. “Why does the president continue to harp on settlements in East Jerusalem, as opposed to expansion of West Bank settlements that would be dismantled under the terms of any peace agreement between the parties? Obama may feel that he has crossed a Rubicon and must push forward. Or he may feel that he must put Netanyahu in his place. … Whatever the reason, Obama’s behavior in Indonesia, and his constant harping on the construction issue, has complicated his avowed search for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. … The peace process is stalemated, and it is up to the president, who has, perhaps unwittingly, brought on this latest dead end on the long-standing saga of Israeli-Palestinian misery, to come up with a way that lets both sides move forward, even if it means that he personally has to take several steps back in order to do so.”

Read Less

Hillary’s World

Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The text can be read in full here. A few observations.

She, unlike the president, seems rhetorically willing to fly the banner of American exceptionalism:

The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.

Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment. A moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways. A moment when those things that make us who we are as a nation — our openness and innovation, our determination, and devotion to core values — have never been needed more.

Her argument, however, that she and the Obama team have furthered American influence and power is belied by the facts. But this does not deter her from offering disingenuous platitudes. (“From Europe and North America to East Asia and the Pacific, we are renewing and deepening the alliances that are the cornerstone of global security and prosperity.” Apparently Britain, Honduras, Israel, India, Eastern Europe, and others don’t understand that their relationship with us has “deepened.”) She touts progress with China, but one is left wondering where this has manifested itself. China has grown more aggressive, not less, and its human-rights abuses have not abated.

Second, the aversion to hard power is obvious. The cornerstones of American leadership according to Clinton are domestic economic strength and “diplomacy.” She has a single line, a throw-away to mollify the easily mollified (“This administration is also committed to maintaining the greatest military in the history of the world and, if needed, to vigorously defending our friends and ourselves.”) But in paragraph after paragraph of blather (I spare you the extract) about global architecture and centers of influence, she makes it clear that her idea of foreign policy is: talk, talk, and more talk. And her sole mention of the two wars is this: “Long after our troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, our diplomatic and development assistance and support for the Afghan security forces will continue.” So much for projecting American power and values.

Most troubling, however, is the placement of Iran in the speech and the content. It comes at the very end, suggesting that it really is not at the top of her to-do list. She gives no indication that this is the most pressing issue we face. And she dispenses with even the formulaic “all options are on the table.” None of this suggests that the administration is serious — gone is even the term “unacceptable”:

First, we began by making the United States a full partner and active participant in international diplomatic efforts regarding Iran. Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.

Second, we have sought to frame this issue within the global non-proliferation regime in which the rules of the road are clearly defined for all parties. To lead by example, we have renewed our own disarmament efforts. Our deepened support for global institutions such as the IAEA underscores the authority of the international system of rights and responsibilities. Iran, on the other hand, continues to single itself out through its own actions. Its intransigence represents a challenge to the rules to which all countries must adhere.

Third, we continue to strengthen relationships with those countries whose help we need if diplomacy is to be successful. Through classic shoe-leather diplomacy, we have built a broad consensus that will welcome Iran back into the community of nations if it meets its obligations and likewise will hold Iran accountable to its obligations if it continues its defiance.

This spring, the UN Security Council passed the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions ever on Iran. The European Union has followed up with robust implementation of that resolution. Many other nations are implementing their own additional measures, including Australia, Canada, Norway and most recently Japan. We believe Iran is only just beginning to feel the full impact of sanctions. Beyond what governments are doing, the international financial and commercial sectors are also starting to recognize the risks of doing business with Iran.

Sanctions and pressure are not ends in themselves. They are the building blocks of leverage for a negotiated solution, to which we and our partners remain committed. The choice for Iran’s leaders is clear, even if they attempt to obfuscate and avoid it: Meet the responsibilities incumbent upon all nations and enjoy the benefits of integration into the international community, or continue to flout your obligations and accept increasing isolation and costs.  Iran now must decide for itself.

That is it. The whole thing. It is a shocking, even for them, signal of the nonchalance with which the Obami view the most pressing national-security concern of our time. And much of what she says is simply gibberish. For example: “Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.” What is she talking about? Iran made excuses before, they make them now, and we’ve lost 18 months in fruitless negotiations.

Israelis, I am sure, are listening carefully. While they go through the motions at the save-face-for-Obama Middle East peace talks, they must surely be coming to terms with the fact that their military is all that stands between the West and a nuclear-armed Iran. If Hillary is any indication, they will get no help from us.

Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The text can be read in full here. A few observations.

She, unlike the president, seems rhetorically willing to fly the banner of American exceptionalism:

The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.

Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment. A moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways. A moment when those things that make us who we are as a nation — our openness and innovation, our determination, and devotion to core values — have never been needed more.

Her argument, however, that she and the Obama team have furthered American influence and power is belied by the facts. But this does not deter her from offering disingenuous platitudes. (“From Europe and North America to East Asia and the Pacific, we are renewing and deepening the alliances that are the cornerstone of global security and prosperity.” Apparently Britain, Honduras, Israel, India, Eastern Europe, and others don’t understand that their relationship with us has “deepened.”) She touts progress with China, but one is left wondering where this has manifested itself. China has grown more aggressive, not less, and its human-rights abuses have not abated.

Second, the aversion to hard power is obvious. The cornerstones of American leadership according to Clinton are domestic economic strength and “diplomacy.” She has a single line, a throw-away to mollify the easily mollified (“This administration is also committed to maintaining the greatest military in the history of the world and, if needed, to vigorously defending our friends and ourselves.”) But in paragraph after paragraph of blather (I spare you the extract) about global architecture and centers of influence, she makes it clear that her idea of foreign policy is: talk, talk, and more talk. And her sole mention of the two wars is this: “Long after our troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, our diplomatic and development assistance and support for the Afghan security forces will continue.” So much for projecting American power and values.

Most troubling, however, is the placement of Iran in the speech and the content. It comes at the very end, suggesting that it really is not at the top of her to-do list. She gives no indication that this is the most pressing issue we face. And she dispenses with even the formulaic “all options are on the table.” None of this suggests that the administration is serious — gone is even the term “unacceptable”:

First, we began by making the United States a full partner and active participant in international diplomatic efforts regarding Iran. Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.

Second, we have sought to frame this issue within the global non-proliferation regime in which the rules of the road are clearly defined for all parties. To lead by example, we have renewed our own disarmament efforts. Our deepened support for global institutions such as the IAEA underscores the authority of the international system of rights and responsibilities. Iran, on the other hand, continues to single itself out through its own actions. Its intransigence represents a challenge to the rules to which all countries must adhere.

Third, we continue to strengthen relationships with those countries whose help we need if diplomacy is to be successful. Through classic shoe-leather diplomacy, we have built a broad consensus that will welcome Iran back into the community of nations if it meets its obligations and likewise will hold Iran accountable to its obligations if it continues its defiance.

This spring, the UN Security Council passed the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions ever on Iran. The European Union has followed up with robust implementation of that resolution. Many other nations are implementing their own additional measures, including Australia, Canada, Norway and most recently Japan. We believe Iran is only just beginning to feel the full impact of sanctions. Beyond what governments are doing, the international financial and commercial sectors are also starting to recognize the risks of doing business with Iran.

Sanctions and pressure are not ends in themselves. They are the building blocks of leverage for a negotiated solution, to which we and our partners remain committed. The choice for Iran’s leaders is clear, even if they attempt to obfuscate and avoid it: Meet the responsibilities incumbent upon all nations and enjoy the benefits of integration into the international community, or continue to flout your obligations and accept increasing isolation and costs.  Iran now must decide for itself.

That is it. The whole thing. It is a shocking, even for them, signal of the nonchalance with which the Obami view the most pressing national-security concern of our time. And much of what she says is simply gibberish. For example: “Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.” What is she talking about? Iran made excuses before, they make them now, and we’ve lost 18 months in fruitless negotiations.

Israelis, I am sure, are listening carefully. While they go through the motions at the save-face-for-Obama Middle East peace talks, they must surely be coming to terms with the fact that their military is all that stands between the West and a nuclear-armed Iran. If Hillary is any indication, they will get no help from us.

Read Less

Dismantling Our NATO-Linked Infrastructure

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

Read Less

Americans Get It

Rasmussen has an interesting poll concerning which countries Americans consider to be our allies:

Eighty-seven percent (87%) rate our neighbor to the north as a U.S. ally, while two percent (2%) view Canada as an enemy. Six percent (6%) place it somewhere between an ally and an enemy. … Great Britain, whose had a special relationship with America from the start, is seen as an ally by 85%, an enemy by two percent (2%) and somewhere in between by eight percent (8%). … Next comes Israel, recognized by the United States immediately after its independence in 1948. America has been the Jewish state’s strongest supporter ever since. Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans regard Israel as an ally, but six percent (6%) say it’s an enemy. For 17%, Israel falls somewhere in between.

Alas, Obama does not seem to share the warm feelings about Britain or Israel, and the relationship between the U.S. and these countries is indisputably worse than it was under the Bush administration, or, for that matter, the Clinton administration. Americans have figured that out as well, according to a separate Rasmussen poll earlier this month:

U.S. voters are now as pessimistic about America’s relationship with Israel as they are about relations with the Muslim world. A new Rasmussen Reports nationwide telephone survey finds that one-in-three voters (34%) believe the U.S. relationship with Israel will be worse one year from now.

Let’s hope that voters are wrong on that one and that after 18 months of acrimonious dealings with the Jewish state, Obama rethinks he approach. As for Britain, I don’t imagine Obama can top sending back the Churchill bust or giving cheesy gifts to the prime minister. But he might do well to spend more time reassuring on our skittish allies and less time fawning over despots and throwing concessions at the Russians’ feet.

Rasmussen has an interesting poll concerning which countries Americans consider to be our allies:

Eighty-seven percent (87%) rate our neighbor to the north as a U.S. ally, while two percent (2%) view Canada as an enemy. Six percent (6%) place it somewhere between an ally and an enemy. … Great Britain, whose had a special relationship with America from the start, is seen as an ally by 85%, an enemy by two percent (2%) and somewhere in between by eight percent (8%). … Next comes Israel, recognized by the United States immediately after its independence in 1948. America has been the Jewish state’s strongest supporter ever since. Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans regard Israel as an ally, but six percent (6%) say it’s an enemy. For 17%, Israel falls somewhere in between.

Alas, Obama does not seem to share the warm feelings about Britain or Israel, and the relationship between the U.S. and these countries is indisputably worse than it was under the Bush administration, or, for that matter, the Clinton administration. Americans have figured that out as well, according to a separate Rasmussen poll earlier this month:

U.S. voters are now as pessimistic about America’s relationship with Israel as they are about relations with the Muslim world. A new Rasmussen Reports nationwide telephone survey finds that one-in-three voters (34%) believe the U.S. relationship with Israel will be worse one year from now.

Let’s hope that voters are wrong on that one and that after 18 months of acrimonious dealings with the Jewish state, Obama rethinks he approach. As for Britain, I don’t imagine Obama can top sending back the Churchill bust or giving cheesy gifts to the prime minister. But he might do well to spend more time reassuring on our skittish allies and less time fawning over despots and throwing concessions at the Russians’ feet.

Read Less




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