Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charlie Rose

Paul Ryan Articulates Conservative Philosophy

Representative Paul Ryan appeared on PBS’s Charlie Rose program earlier this week. The interview demonstrates Ryan’s mastery of budget and economic issues; he also speaks fluently and convincingly on taxes, health care, spending cuts, housing policy, Social Security, the Fed’s policy on quantitative easing, the German vs. the Japanese model, and the inner workings of Congress. He also shows an impressive ability to articulate the philosophical precepts underlying conservatism. But see for yourself.

Representative Paul Ryan appeared on PBS’s Charlie Rose program earlier this week. The interview demonstrates Ryan’s mastery of budget and economic issues; he also speaks fluently and convincingly on taxes, health care, spending cuts, housing policy, Social Security, the Fed’s policy on quantitative easing, the German vs. the Japanese model, and the inner workings of Congress. He also shows an impressive ability to articulate the philosophical precepts underlying conservatism. But see for yourself.

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NPR: Bringing Us Together

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

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This Is Not the Worst of Times

As others have pointed out, during his farewell remarks from the White House, Rahm Emanuel said to President Obama, “I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Earlier that week, Jimmy Carter told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Obama took office facing “the most difficult circumstances a president has ever faced.” And Mr. Obama added his own interpretation of events in his interview with Rolling Stone: “Guys, wake up. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.”

None of this is true or even close to true, as any elementary-school student who has studied American history could tell you. What these comments useful highlight, though, is the mindset that has taken hold of the president, his closest aides, and some of his remaining supporters. They really seem to believe that the scale of problems they face is unprecedented in American history, that the hand they have been dealt is worse than any who have come before them.

I worked in the White House during the worst attack on our homeland in history, two wars, a recession, and one of the worst natural disasters in our history (I had left the White House by the time the financial collapse of 2008 occurred) — and neither I nor any of my colleagues entertained, even for a moment, the thought that what we faced held a candle to what Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt (to name just three past presidents) confronted. If we had, it would have rightly elicited ridicule.

At least the Book of Lamentations contains real poetry and some important theological lessons in it. What we are getting from the president and his team is simply self-pitying nonsense.

As others have pointed out, during his farewell remarks from the White House, Rahm Emanuel said to President Obama, “I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Earlier that week, Jimmy Carter told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Obama took office facing “the most difficult circumstances a president has ever faced.” And Mr. Obama added his own interpretation of events in his interview with Rolling Stone: “Guys, wake up. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.”

None of this is true or even close to true, as any elementary-school student who has studied American history could tell you. What these comments useful highlight, though, is the mindset that has taken hold of the president, his closest aides, and some of his remaining supporters. They really seem to believe that the scale of problems they face is unprecedented in American history, that the hand they have been dealt is worse than any who have come before them.

I worked in the White House during the worst attack on our homeland in history, two wars, a recession, and one of the worst natural disasters in our history (I had left the White House by the time the financial collapse of 2008 occurred) — and neither I nor any of my colleagues entertained, even for a moment, the thought that what we faced held a candle to what Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt (to name just three past presidents) confronted. If we had, it would have rightly elicited ridicule.

At least the Book of Lamentations contains real poetry and some important theological lessons in it. What we are getting from the president and his team is simply self-pitying nonsense.

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Interviews with Tony Blair

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

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Christopher Hitchens Talks to Charlie Rose

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

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RE: The Farce Ends

Jen, the farce has been exposed, but it is not likely to end.

Nearly 15 months ago, weeks after forming a coalition government with parties to both his left and right, Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House and announced he was ready for immediate negotiations without preconditions. A week later, Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington and announced his strategy to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas says there is nothing for him to do. … On Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait … for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula.

Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures.

The following month, Netanyahu publicly endorsed the two-state formula; after that, he produced a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. Obama proved unable to persuade any Arab state to take any confidence-building measure, despite a personal visit (and bow) to the King of Saudi Arabia and what is surely the most pathetic public plea in the history of American diplomacy: Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations begging Arab states to take some steps, “however modest,” toward normalization with Israel.

In December 2009, Abbas told the Israeli press that final-status negotiations could be completed in six months if Israel would just completely halt construction for six months. In George Mitchell’s January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, Rose noted the moratorium was for 10 months and then had this colloquy with Mitchell:

CHARLIE ROSE:  That gives you an incentive to say to the parties, what? … if settlements are important to you or the absence of settlements are important to you, you better get something done before the moratorium ends because I don’t think we can get it again.

GEORGE MITCHELL:  Charlie, will you come with me on my next visit and make that spiel, because it might sound better coming from you.  I’ve made it several times.

Since then, Abbas has increased his pre-negotiation demands: not only a complete construction halt but also acceptance of: (1) the indefensible 1967 borders as the basis of negotiation; and (2) limitation of security arrangements to foreign peacekeepers. These conditions are designed to insure that negotiations cannot start.

But the reason the now-obvious farce will not end is that the real deadline for this exercise in smart diplomacy is September, when three events coalesce: (1) the end of the four-month period for “proximity” talks; (2) the end of the 10-month settlement moratorium; and (3) the meeting of the UN General Assembly, where the Obama administration hopes to announce the “success” of its year-and-a-half efforts to produce… drum roll… direct talks! Until then, the show must go on.

Jen, the farce has been exposed, but it is not likely to end.

Nearly 15 months ago, weeks after forming a coalition government with parties to both his left and right, Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House and announced he was ready for immediate negotiations without preconditions. A week later, Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington and announced his strategy to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas says there is nothing for him to do. … On Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait … for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula.

Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures.

The following month, Netanyahu publicly endorsed the two-state formula; after that, he produced a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. Obama proved unable to persuade any Arab state to take any confidence-building measure, despite a personal visit (and bow) to the King of Saudi Arabia and what is surely the most pathetic public plea in the history of American diplomacy: Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations begging Arab states to take some steps, “however modest,” toward normalization with Israel.

In December 2009, Abbas told the Israeli press that final-status negotiations could be completed in six months if Israel would just completely halt construction for six months. In George Mitchell’s January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, Rose noted the moratorium was for 10 months and then had this colloquy with Mitchell:

CHARLIE ROSE:  That gives you an incentive to say to the parties, what? … if settlements are important to you or the absence of settlements are important to you, you better get something done before the moratorium ends because I don’t think we can get it again.

GEORGE MITCHELL:  Charlie, will you come with me on my next visit and make that spiel, because it might sound better coming from you.  I’ve made it several times.

Since then, Abbas has increased his pre-negotiation demands: not only a complete construction halt but also acceptance of: (1) the indefensible 1967 borders as the basis of negotiation; and (2) limitation of security arrangements to foreign peacekeepers. These conditions are designed to insure that negotiations cannot start.

But the reason the now-obvious farce will not end is that the real deadline for this exercise in smart diplomacy is September, when three events coalesce: (1) the end of the four-month period for “proximity” talks; (2) the end of the 10-month settlement moratorium; and (3) the meeting of the UN General Assembly, where the Obama administration hopes to announce the “success” of its year-and-a-half efforts to produce… drum roll… direct talks! Until then, the show must go on.

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Biden Is the Sane One?

It has come to this: Joe Biden is one of the few administration figures making sense on Israel. On Charlie Rose’s PBS show, he sounded fed up with the second-guessing and attacks on Israel:

“I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest. I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel’s need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview, in which he went on to discuss Hamas’s control of Gaza.

“[The Israelis have] said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people,'” Biden said.

He also asked for an Israeli investigation, not one by the UN, and said the flotilla wasn’t the way to bring in humanitarian relief.

It’s hard to know if he is again off the reservation or if he is previewing an administration walk-back on the hang-Israel-out-to-dry approach to this incident. Some perceived in the Jerusalem-housing flap that Biden tried to turn the heat down before the White House’s political flacks turned it back up. That maybe speaks well of Biden’s instincts but poorly of his influence.

If we’ve learned anything in this administration, it is that Obama is the only one who matters, and unless and until we hear him publicly expressing similar statements and debunking the notion that this was a humanitarian effort, we should remain skeptical.

It has come to this: Joe Biden is one of the few administration figures making sense on Israel. On Charlie Rose’s PBS show, he sounded fed up with the second-guessing and attacks on Israel:

“I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest. I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel’s need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview, in which he went on to discuss Hamas’s control of Gaza.

“[The Israelis have] said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people,'” Biden said.

He also asked for an Israeli investigation, not one by the UN, and said the flotilla wasn’t the way to bring in humanitarian relief.

It’s hard to know if he is again off the reservation or if he is previewing an administration walk-back on the hang-Israel-out-to-dry approach to this incident. Some perceived in the Jerusalem-housing flap that Biden tried to turn the heat down before the White House’s political flacks turned it back up. That maybe speaks well of Biden’s instincts but poorly of his influence.

If we’ve learned anything in this administration, it is that Obama is the only one who matters, and unless and until we hear him publicly expressing similar statements and debunking the notion that this was a humanitarian effort, we should remain skeptical.

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The Second Time Will Be a Tragedy Too

Since he assumed office a year ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has (1) formally offered immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, (2) affirmed Israeli support for a two-state solution, (3) declared a moratorium on new West Bank building — and has been met with a total refusal by the peace-partner Palestinians to begin even “proximity talks,” absent a concession that they know that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister will make.

It was only two months ago that George Mitchell had the following colloquy with Charlie Rose about the demand for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem:

GEORGE MITCHELL: … So what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that settlement enterprise has existed. …

CHARLIE ROSE: And you and Secretary Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to that.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: It does not include East Jerusalem.  There’ve been announcement in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.

MITCHELL: … But for the Israelis, what they’re building in is in part of Israel.

Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject.  Our view is let’s get into negotiations.  Let’s deal with the issues and come up with the solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult but, in my judgment, possible.

The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel. …

ROSE: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?

MITCHELL: You say “Let them go ahead.” It’s what they regard as their country. They don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan.

In making the Palestinian pre-negotiation demand his own (or vice versa), Barack Obama has capped a year of low, dishonest diplomacy: reneging on the long-standing definition of what constituted a settlement “freeze”; disregarding the written commitments to Israel given in exchange for the Gaza withdrawal; creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel as a matter of policy; holding meetings with the Israeli prime minister, both last year and this, in the evening, without press coverage, with an exit through a back way; conspicuously failing to visit Israel while visiting nearby countries; addressing the Muslim world with a speech portraying Israel as the mere creation of the Holocaust; conducting a campaign of public castigation, in a manufactured “crisis” relating to Jewish homes in a Jewish area in the capital of the Jewish state; and now the insistence (complete with a “deadline”) on pre-negotiation concessions to be made to those who have made no concessions themselves — all conducted in the mean-spirited manner of Chicago-style diplomacy.

Jennifer is correct that Jewish organizations will be asked in the future why they stayed silent, but the issue is even broader than that, since the denigration of Israel is being conducted amid the endless appeasement of Iran, Syria, and North Korea — a policy that will ultimately threaten many more countries than Israel. It is not as if we have not been down this road before.

Since he assumed office a year ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has (1) formally offered immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, (2) affirmed Israeli support for a two-state solution, (3) declared a moratorium on new West Bank building — and has been met with a total refusal by the peace-partner Palestinians to begin even “proximity talks,” absent a concession that they know that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister will make.

It was only two months ago that George Mitchell had the following colloquy with Charlie Rose about the demand for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem:

GEORGE MITCHELL: … So what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that settlement enterprise has existed. …

CHARLIE ROSE: And you and Secretary Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to that.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: It does not include East Jerusalem.  There’ve been announcement in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.

MITCHELL: … But for the Israelis, what they’re building in is in part of Israel.

Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject.  Our view is let’s get into negotiations.  Let’s deal with the issues and come up with the solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult but, in my judgment, possible.

The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel. …

ROSE: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?

MITCHELL: You say “Let them go ahead.” It’s what they regard as their country. They don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan.

In making the Palestinian pre-negotiation demand his own (or vice versa), Barack Obama has capped a year of low, dishonest diplomacy: reneging on the long-standing definition of what constituted a settlement “freeze”; disregarding the written commitments to Israel given in exchange for the Gaza withdrawal; creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel as a matter of policy; holding meetings with the Israeli prime minister, both last year and this, in the evening, without press coverage, with an exit through a back way; conspicuously failing to visit Israel while visiting nearby countries; addressing the Muslim world with a speech portraying Israel as the mere creation of the Holocaust; conducting a campaign of public castigation, in a manufactured “crisis” relating to Jewish homes in a Jewish area in the capital of the Jewish state; and now the insistence (complete with a “deadline”) on pre-negotiation concessions to be made to those who have made no concessions themselves — all conducted in the mean-spirited manner of Chicago-style diplomacy.

Jennifer is correct that Jewish organizations will be asked in the future why they stayed silent, but the issue is even broader than that, since the denigration of Israel is being conducted amid the endless appeasement of Iran, Syria, and North Korea — a policy that will ultimately threaten many more countries than Israel. It is not as if we have not been down this road before.

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Worth Watching

If you want to get a better sense of where things stand in the world we face and in the wars we are in, I’d highly recommend watching this recent interview between Charlie Rose and General David Petraeus. They cover the waterfront, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Iran to Pakistan. No one knows these issues better than General Petraeus, and no individual has done more to change the trajectories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. If you’ve got some time to set aside and want to see human excellence on display, take a look.

If you want to get a better sense of where things stand in the world we face and in the wars we are in, I’d highly recommend watching this recent interview between Charlie Rose and General David Petraeus. They cover the waterfront, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Iran to Pakistan. No one knows these issues better than General Petraeus, and no individual has done more to change the trajectories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. If you’ve got some time to set aside and want to see human excellence on display, take a look.

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George Mitchell: “Fatah Believes in Nonviolence”

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

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Negotiating the Conditions for Negotiations Without Preconditions

In a press conference Friday with the Jordanian foreign minister, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations “as soon as possible without preconditions.” She repeated word-for-word her November 25 statement that the U.S. believes negotiations can end the conflict and reconcile (1) “the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps,” with (2) “the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

At a press conference later in the day, a reporter asked Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley about a word omitted from Clinton’s statement:

QUESTION: The [Jordanian] foreign minister also used the word, when he talked about the creation of a separate Palestinian state, one that is contiguous. I noticed the Secretary did not use that word. Where is the – what is the U.S.’s position on contiguous in terms of somehow uniting the West Bank and Gaza?

It was a significant question (for reasons noted here) — but Crowley dodged it:

CROWLEY: This is a – this is the fundamental challenge of a negotiation, which is to determine the borders of a state. We recognize that any state that would be formed for the Palestinians has to be viable and it has to be based on agreed upon borders. So the foreign minister at his formulation, the Secretary at her formulation – what we really want to do is get the parties back into a negotiation where you can actually put these questions before them.

The next paragraph of Crowley’s answer indicated, however, that the U.S. may answer the question later on:

The United States will continue to play a role. At various times, we may offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions. But let’s get to that negotiation. That’s why we’re continuing to push as hard as we can to get this started as quickly as possible.

The administration strategy is apparently to get negotiations started, assuring both sides that their goals can be met, and then later “offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions.”

Once the process begins, however, it is likely to involve more than insights. In his January 7 interview with Charlie Rose, George Mitchell was asked if he had any “sticks” he could use in the negotiating process (his answer: “Oh, sure”). Pressed to give an example (“You sit there and you say to Israel, look, if you don’t do this — what?”), Mitchell noted the possibility of withholding loan guarantees: “That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options.”

Mitchell travels to Europe and then the Middle East next week and is expected to bring with him letters of “guarantees” to persuade both sides that their goals can be met in new negotiations. The conditions for the negotiations “without preconditions,” in other words, are being negotiated now.

It will be important to see whether the letter given to the Palestinians includes the word contiguous. As for Israel’s letter, the question will be whether the U.S. will honor the assurances of “defensible borders” given by both the Clinton and Bush administrations — or whether that issue will be relegated to a question for later American “insights” (and “options” in case of disagreement).

In a press conference Friday with the Jordanian foreign minister, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations “as soon as possible without preconditions.” She repeated word-for-word her November 25 statement that the U.S. believes negotiations can end the conflict and reconcile (1) “the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps,” with (2) “the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

At a press conference later in the day, a reporter asked Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley about a word omitted from Clinton’s statement:

QUESTION: The [Jordanian] foreign minister also used the word, when he talked about the creation of a separate Palestinian state, one that is contiguous. I noticed the Secretary did not use that word. Where is the – what is the U.S.’s position on contiguous in terms of somehow uniting the West Bank and Gaza?

It was a significant question (for reasons noted here) — but Crowley dodged it:

CROWLEY: This is a – this is the fundamental challenge of a negotiation, which is to determine the borders of a state. We recognize that any state that would be formed for the Palestinians has to be viable and it has to be based on agreed upon borders. So the foreign minister at his formulation, the Secretary at her formulation – what we really want to do is get the parties back into a negotiation where you can actually put these questions before them.

The next paragraph of Crowley’s answer indicated, however, that the U.S. may answer the question later on:

The United States will continue to play a role. At various times, we may offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions. But let’s get to that negotiation. That’s why we’re continuing to push as hard as we can to get this started as quickly as possible.

The administration strategy is apparently to get negotiations started, assuring both sides that their goals can be met, and then later “offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions.”

Once the process begins, however, it is likely to involve more than insights. In his January 7 interview with Charlie Rose, George Mitchell was asked if he had any “sticks” he could use in the negotiating process (his answer: “Oh, sure”). Pressed to give an example (“You sit there and you say to Israel, look, if you don’t do this — what?”), Mitchell noted the possibility of withholding loan guarantees: “That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options.”

Mitchell travels to Europe and then the Middle East next week and is expected to bring with him letters of “guarantees” to persuade both sides that their goals can be met in new negotiations. The conditions for the negotiations “without preconditions,” in other words, are being negotiated now.

It will be important to see whether the letter given to the Palestinians includes the word contiguous. As for Israel’s letter, the question will be whether the U.S. will honor the assurances of “defensible borders” given by both the Clinton and Bush administrations — or whether that issue will be relegated to a question for later American “insights” (and “options” in case of disagreement).

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Stuck in Oslo with George Mitchell

Yes, the man has an impossible job. But making himself complicit in the Palestinian Authority’s desire to have it both ways on terrorism — talk up PA security cooperation in English but celebrate terrorism in Arabic — isn’t going to make it any easier.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, one of the Obama administration’s diplomatic rules appears to be that the Palestinians will never be publicly criticized. Israel, of course, gets publicly criticized by the administration on a near weekly basis. Predictably, this has given the PA room to engage in its favorite double game.

Over the past couple of weeks, the PA leadership has repeatedly lauded Fatah terrorists and their acts of murder. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have personally engaged in the celebrations. This finally provoked the Israeli PM’s office to protest to the Americans that

the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are engaging in incitement by honoring a woman responsible for the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, and calling the men who killed Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai last month martyrs. …

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, said in response that “those Palestinian terrorists are murderers, not martyrs. We expect the PA to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel and not glorify killers and name public squares after them.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction? Could he muster the kind of moral outrage that the Obama administration routinely reserves, say, for Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem? Well, no. He went on the Charlie Rose show and lauded Fayyad as an “impressive leader” and declared that the Fayyad-Abbas team represents “strong and effective leadership for the Palestinian people.” This will not end well.

Yes, the man has an impossible job. But making himself complicit in the Palestinian Authority’s desire to have it both ways on terrorism — talk up PA security cooperation in English but celebrate terrorism in Arabic — isn’t going to make it any easier.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, one of the Obama administration’s diplomatic rules appears to be that the Palestinians will never be publicly criticized. Israel, of course, gets publicly criticized by the administration on a near weekly basis. Predictably, this has given the PA room to engage in its favorite double game.

Over the past couple of weeks, the PA leadership has repeatedly lauded Fatah terrorists and their acts of murder. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have personally engaged in the celebrations. This finally provoked the Israeli PM’s office to protest to the Americans that

the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are engaging in incitement by honoring a woman responsible for the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, and calling the men who killed Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai last month martyrs. …

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, said in response that “those Palestinian terrorists are murderers, not martyrs. We expect the PA to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel and not glorify killers and name public squares after them.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction? Could he muster the kind of moral outrage that the Obama administration routinely reserves, say, for Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem? Well, no. He went on the Charlie Rose show and lauded Fayyad as an “impressive leader” and declared that the Fayyad-Abbas team represents “strong and effective leadership for the Palestinian people.” This will not end well.

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Two Years from Never

George Mitchell, perhaps the least effective Middle East envoy ever (maybe the least effective envoy to any region of the world), was interviewed by Charlie Rose. The interview will air in full tonight, but Politico has this tidbit:

“We think that the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun we think it can be done within that period of time,” Mitchell tells Rose. “We hope the parties agree. Personally I think it can be done in a shorter period of time.”

“I want to emphasize, political negotiations, security for both people, and what you call the bottom up, correctly, economic and institutional growth so that when the Palestinian state is created, it is capable of functioning effectively from day one,” Mitchell said.

What is he talking about, really? He has a predetermined time frame for how long the negotiations should last, but there’s no one at the bargaining table and no Palestinian leader invested with the authority or political will to make a deal. And the Israeli government is, at best, wary of the Obama team, which spent a year trying to stuff a unilateral settlement freeze down its throat. Contrast Mitchell’s surreal obsession with conferences and time lines with what is really going on, as this report makes clear:

Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Director-General of the PA Presidency and member of the Fatah Central Council, claimed that Hamas had forged an alliance with Iran in a way that harms Arab national security and Palestinian interests. “Hamas has turned the Palestinian cause into a cheap card in the hands of Iran,” Abdel Rahim said in an interview with a local Palestinian radio station. “They have done this at the expense of the Palestinian issue and the unity of the Palestinian people and homeland.”

Doesn’t sound as though the Palestinians are ready for the bargaining table, does it? But Mitchell is not to be dissuaded by the lack of will or of bargaining parties. He’s got it down pat: the process has to include “political negotiations, security for both people, and what you call the bottom up, correctly, economic and institutional growth.” Earth-shaking and revolutionary! Well, if you’ve been dozing off for 20 years or so and missed the entire failed “peace process,” this would seem innovative.

It’s useful when Mitchell goes on like this, however. When he does, one comes to fully appreciate just how divorced from reality he and the administration are. Back in November, even Thomas Friedman could see that the peace process has become a farce:

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés — and that no one believes any of it anymore. There is no romance, no sex, no excitement, no urgency — not even a sense of importance anymore. The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit. Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has left the realm of diplomacy. It is now more of a calisthenic, like weight-lifting or sit-ups, something diplomats do to stay in shape, but not because they believe anything is going to happen.

Months later Mitchell is still playacting. Meanwhile, the real Middle East crisis — the steady progress of Iran’s march toward inclusion in the club of nuclear powers — grinds on. And while Mitchell has been blathering on, Iran has been busy:

Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers across the country. In doing so, American government and private experts say, Iran has achieved a double purpose. Not only has it shielded its infrastructure from military attack in warrens of dense rock, but it has further obscured the scale and nature of its notoriously opaque nuclear effort. The discovery of the Qum plant only heightened fears about other undeclared sites.

Well, you see why the striped pants set at Foggy Bottom and the frequent-flier champ Mitchell would rather be planning out peace conferences with no agenda, no attendees, and no hope for success.

George Mitchell, perhaps the least effective Middle East envoy ever (maybe the least effective envoy to any region of the world), was interviewed by Charlie Rose. The interview will air in full tonight, but Politico has this tidbit:

“We think that the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun we think it can be done within that period of time,” Mitchell tells Rose. “We hope the parties agree. Personally I think it can be done in a shorter period of time.”

“I want to emphasize, political negotiations, security for both people, and what you call the bottom up, correctly, economic and institutional growth so that when the Palestinian state is created, it is capable of functioning effectively from day one,” Mitchell said.

What is he talking about, really? He has a predetermined time frame for how long the negotiations should last, but there’s no one at the bargaining table and no Palestinian leader invested with the authority or political will to make a deal. And the Israeli government is, at best, wary of the Obama team, which spent a year trying to stuff a unilateral settlement freeze down its throat. Contrast Mitchell’s surreal obsession with conferences and time lines with what is really going on, as this report makes clear:

Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Director-General of the PA Presidency and member of the Fatah Central Council, claimed that Hamas had forged an alliance with Iran in a way that harms Arab national security and Palestinian interests. “Hamas has turned the Palestinian cause into a cheap card in the hands of Iran,” Abdel Rahim said in an interview with a local Palestinian radio station. “They have done this at the expense of the Palestinian issue and the unity of the Palestinian people and homeland.”

Doesn’t sound as though the Palestinians are ready for the bargaining table, does it? But Mitchell is not to be dissuaded by the lack of will or of bargaining parties. He’s got it down pat: the process has to include “political negotiations, security for both people, and what you call the bottom up, correctly, economic and institutional growth.” Earth-shaking and revolutionary! Well, if you’ve been dozing off for 20 years or so and missed the entire failed “peace process,” this would seem innovative.

It’s useful when Mitchell goes on like this, however. When he does, one comes to fully appreciate just how divorced from reality he and the administration are. Back in November, even Thomas Friedman could see that the peace process has become a farce:

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés — and that no one believes any of it anymore. There is no romance, no sex, no excitement, no urgency — not even a sense of importance anymore. The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit. Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has left the realm of diplomacy. It is now more of a calisthenic, like weight-lifting or sit-ups, something diplomats do to stay in shape, but not because they believe anything is going to happen.

Months later Mitchell is still playacting. Meanwhile, the real Middle East crisis — the steady progress of Iran’s march toward inclusion in the club of nuclear powers — grinds on. And while Mitchell has been blathering on, Iran has been busy:

Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers across the country. In doing so, American government and private experts say, Iran has achieved a double purpose. Not only has it shielded its infrastructure from military attack in warrens of dense rock, but it has further obscured the scale and nature of its notoriously opaque nuclear effort. The discovery of the Qum plant only heightened fears about other undeclared sites.

Well, you see why the striped pants set at Foggy Bottom and the frequent-flier champ Mitchell would rather be planning out peace conferences with no agenda, no attendees, and no hope for success.

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It’s Official: Bill Clinton’s Lost His Touch

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

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Loss of Will

In his most recent column George Will writes:

Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America’s military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.

This is in keeping with what Will has written in recent years. He may be the most visible conservative critic of President Bush’s Freedom agenda—that is, the effort to bring liberty to the Iraq and the Arab world. For example, in his May 4, 2004 column, Will wrote:

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how “all people yearn to live in freedom” (McClellan). And about how it is “cultural condescension” to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a “myth” that “our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture” because “ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit” (Tony Blair).

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In his most recent column George Will writes:

Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America’s military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.

This is in keeping with what Will has written in recent years. He may be the most visible conservative critic of President Bush’s Freedom agenda—that is, the effort to bring liberty to the Iraq and the Arab world. For example, in his May 4, 2004 column, Will wrote:

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how “all people yearn to live in freedom” (McClellan). And about how it is “cultural condescension” to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a “myth” that “our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture” because “ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit” (Tony Blair).

It was not always thus. In an October 8, 2002 interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, Will said:

I think the answer is that we believe, with reason, that democracy’s infectious. We’ve seen it. We saw it happen in Eastern Europe. It’s just—people reached a critical mass of mendacity under those regimes of the East block, and it exploded. And I do believe that you will see [in the Middle East] a ripple effect, a happy domino effect, if you will, of democracy knocking over these medieval tyrannies . . . Condoleezza Rice is quite right. She says there is an enormous condescension in saying that somehow the Arab world is just not up to democracy. And there’s an enormous ahistorical error when people say, “Well, we can’t go into war with Iraq until we know what postwar Iraq’s going to look like.” In 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor, did we have a clear idea what we were going to do with postwar Germany? With postwar Japan? Of course not. We made it up as we went along, and we did a very good job . . .

And more. Mr. Will spoke in favor of bringing “instability” to the Middle East and even to Egypt (“What is so wonderful about the stability of Egypt?”). His argument, which he made impressively, was that it is in America’s interest to bring about modernity to the Arab world—a prospect about which he was sanguine.

When asked, “Do you think [Iraq] will be a quick and easy conflict, if it comes to that,” Mr. Will answered, “Fairly quick, yes.” And Will said this about Afghanistan and nation-building:

[Afghanistan is], to put it mildly, a work in progress. The president, I think, admits this. This was part of his education as president, to say that his hostility to nation-building was radically revised when he saw what a failed nation, Afghanistan, a vacuum, gets filled with. Political nature abhors a vacuum, and when it fills up with the Taliban and the leakage of violence to these private groups, essentially, like al Qaeda, then you have to say, “Well, I’ve revised that. We’re going to have to get into the nation-building business.”

Will also distinguished between Afghanistan and Iraq when it comes to nation-building:

It’s different in Iraq because Iraq is a big, rich country with a middle class, with universities…

He added:

But you know, regime change didn’t just arise as a subject recently. We did it in Grenada, Panama, Serbia. Would the world be better off if Milosevic were back in Serbia? Noriega in Panama? I don’t think so.

Prior to the war to liberate Iraq, then, George Will thought Iraq and the Arab world were quite ready for democracy. He was a strong advocate for regime change and nation building. And he thought Iraq would be an easier undertaking than Afghanistan.
It’s fine—it can even be admirable—for an individual to change his mind in the face of new facts and circumstances. But some appreciation for one’s previous views should also be taken into account.

George Will ranks among the finest columnists ever to pick up a pen (quill or otherwise). Over the years his arguments and words have shaped a generation of conservatives, including me. And I wish the best thing I have ever written were half as good as the worst thing George Will has ever written. But it’s fair to ask that he not write as if he always knew better, as if any conservative worth his Burkean salt should have known that the effort to spread democracy to Iraq was Wilsonian foolishness that was fated to fail.

It wasn’t (and isn’t)—and once upon a time George Will thought so, too.

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Shifting Democrats

Today’s Politico has a front page story, “Democrats Retreat on War End.” In the article we read this:

In a strategic shift designed to win over Republican critics of the Iraq war, congressional Democrats are backing off demands for a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops and instead are seeking a new bipartisan deal to end the military campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are calculating that it is futile to continue their months-long campaign to force an immediate end to the war, particularly after Republicans and a few Democrats returned from the summer recess intent on opposing legislation mandating a strict timetable for pulling out U.S. troops.

And this:

Said another [Democratic Hill] aide involved in the process: “Despite the months of debate, and all the votes, and all the ads and everything, we have not been able to break the Republicans. They are still with Bush, and that’s the reality here.”

This article is more evidence that the political ground has shifted significantly, and maybe even massively, on Iraq. Democrats are now seeking a deal based on a position of weakness rather than strength. They made several runs at the President months ago, when he was in his most precarious position politically on Iraq, hoping they could break his will and then undo his strategy. But President Bush, in what may go down as one of his most impressive achievements, held firm—and so did most Republicans. And now their political courage may well bear political fruit.

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Today’s Politico has a front page story, “Democrats Retreat on War End.” In the article we read this:

In a strategic shift designed to win over Republican critics of the Iraq war, congressional Democrats are backing off demands for a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops and instead are seeking a new bipartisan deal to end the military campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are calculating that it is futile to continue their months-long campaign to force an immediate end to the war, particularly after Republicans and a few Democrats returned from the summer recess intent on opposing legislation mandating a strict timetable for pulling out U.S. troops.

And this:

Said another [Democratic Hill] aide involved in the process: “Despite the months of debate, and all the votes, and all the ads and everything, we have not been able to break the Republicans. They are still with Bush, and that’s the reality here.”

This article is more evidence that the political ground has shifted significantly, and maybe even massively, on Iraq. Democrats are now seeking a deal based on a position of weakness rather than strength. They made several runs at the President months ago, when he was in his most precarious position politically on Iraq, hoping they could break his will and then undo his strategy. But President Bush, in what may go down as one of his most impressive achievements, held firm—and so did most Republicans. And now their political courage may well bear political fruit.

Iraq still remains an enormous challenge, and nothing is assured. Yet there’s no longer any doubt that the surge is working militarily; even critics of the war—the honest ones, at least—concede that fact. But to frame the Iraq debate as bifurcated—progress on the security side but failure on the political side—is also wrong. In fact, as Michael Gordon, the chief Pentagon correspondent of the New York Times, said to Charlie Rose earlier this week, the bottom-up reconciliation we’re seeing is the single most important thing happening in Iraq right now. We’re seeing both military progress and political progress—just not in the way many anticipated.

Leading Democrats and antiwar critics made a huge political wager: the Iraq war was an irredeemable failure, and they would force an American withdrawal, thereby expediting an American defeat. But it turns out that failure was not fated and, in fact, a decent outcome in Iraq is now possible and perhaps even within reach. It is now beginning to dawn on Democrats what they have done in their rush to undercut the surge; they are also starting to recognize the good that has followed in the wake of the surge.

It was only eight months ago that the President’s new strategy was unveiled. But when it comes to Iraq, January was a world away. The specter of McGovernism once again stalks the political landscape.

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