So Hezbollah did it. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been replaced with Najib Miqati, a man billed as a “compromise” leader who is time zones away from being a Hezbollah member but who nevertheless agrees with Hezbollah on the few things — which ultimately add up to everything — that matter most.
Miqati says he’s an independent centrist who disagrees with Hezbollah as much as he disagrees with everyone else in Lebanon. I believe him, actually, so long as he’s referring to the number of things he disagrees with Hezbollah about. He’s a Sunni and therefore obviously not a cheerleader for the parochial Shia sectarian interests that Hezbollah champions. There’s no chance he endorses the Iranian government’s reigning ideology of Velayat-e faqih, the totalitarian theocratic system Hezbollah would love to impose on Lebanon if it had the strength — which it doesn’t. Miqati is a billionaire businessman and does not even remotely share Hezbollah’s cartoonish paranoia about global capitalism and how it’s supposedly a nefarious Jewish-American plot.
What Miqati will do, however, is safeguard “the resistance,” as he has promised — meaning he won’t ask Hezbollah to hand over its weapons to the authorities — which is one of only two things Hezbollah requires of him. The second is repudiate the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Everyone now expects the tribunal to indict Hezbollah for the assassination of the Sunni former prime minister Rafik Hariri, an event that may severely damage Hezbollah’s standing in the majority-Sunni Arab world even if it does have a prominent Sunni willing to provide some cover.
Hezbollah also needs, and will get, the same from Lebanon’s Christian president Michel Suleiman. Anything else these two leaders do in their official capacities is irrelevant from Hezbollah’s perspective.
Lebanon won’t likely ever resemble Gaza, which is under the complete control of an Islamist terrorist army. Hamas rules that beleaguered territory as the virtual Taliban of the eastern Mediterranean, but the Lebanese will blow their country to hell and gone all over again before submitting to something like that. Hezbollah knows it, as do the Syrians and the Iranians. They also know, or at least think they know, that they can bully the rest of the country into surrendering on the two most crucial items on its agenda, the ones that give Hezbollah the latitude to do whatever it wants in the Shia-majority areas that it does control directly.
We’re about to find out if that’s actually true. We’ll also most likely find out how true it remains if Israel takes the gloves off the next time there’s war.
You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.
This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:
It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments. Read More
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only defended the Ground Zero mosque but also told its critics to shut up, is going to Pennsylvania today to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak. Honest. Sestak, who is fending off attacks that he is too liberal on a range of issues, is anti-Israel in his voting record, and who keynoted for CAIR, is now, in the midst of a fever-pitch debate about Cordoba House, going to get the blessing of the mayor who managed to infuriate even liberal New Yorkers.
I suppose Sestak could criticize Bloomberg, J Street, Obama, and CAIR — all of whom support both his candidacy and the mosque — but that would certainly come as a shock to those who’ve been supporting him and raising money for campaign. Meanwhile, Pat Toomey’s director of communications, Nachama Soloveichik, had this statement when I asked about his views: “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.” A fine suggestion — Rep. Sestak, what say you? So far, he’s waffling:
A spokesman for Sestak said the congressman “believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” but he declined to clearly back the plan.
Sooner or later, he and other Democrats will be forced to answer – for or against the mosque? It’s not like it’s a hard question or one that lacks national significance. After all, Gov. Bob McDonnell had no problem stating his views: “If it were my decision, I would not put that center there. It is a site where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and I certainly would not locate that center there if I had a voice.” Eventually Sestak will have to either alienate his lefty, pro-mosque supporters or the people of Pennsylvania. Not sure which he’ll choose.
As one might imagine, the pro-terrorist lobby (wait — you’ll see it’s appropriate in this context) is raising a fuss over CNN’s decision to can an editor for praising a Hezbollah leader. This is particularly revealing:
“This is unbelievable what is happening in the United States of America,” said Osama Siblani, the publisher of the Arab American News. “You can say anything you want – except when it comes to Israel.”
He accused CNN of a double standard, citing what he said was CNN host Wolf Blitzer’s history of working for the Jerusalem Post and for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “But for Octavia Nasr to make a statement that’s in agreement with millions of people around the world, has become a firing offense at CNN. It’s incredible the level we have sunk to.”
You know, he says “double standard” like it’s a bad thing. Actually, it’s good to have one standard for those who are infatuated with terrorists — so infatuated that while employed in a “news” capacity, they sing their praises — and another standard for those who used to work in Israel or for a Jewish organization who, in their current capacity, rather objectively report the news. I think if Wolf Blitzer started sending tweets about his deep and abiding respect for Bibi, he’d be in hot water too. But more to the point, it’s revealing that Arab groups and the Israel-hating John Zogby consider it an outrage that CNN would fire someone who did not merely praise Palestinians or their cause but praised an avowed terrorist. Speaks volumes about the accusers, doesn’t it?
Tom Friedman has not exactly been a cheerleader for democracy around the globe. Truth be told, he’s rather partial to autocratic states, especially ones he and his New York Times comrade visit. But even he cannot deny the triumph of Iraqi democracy — nor of the U. S. president who made it possible. He writes:
Of all the pictures I saw from the Iraqi elections last weekend, my favorite was on nytimes.com: an Iraqi mother holding up her son to let him stuff her ballot into the box. I loved that picture. Being able to freely cast a ballot for the candidate of your choice is still unusual for Iraqis and for that entire region. That mother seemed to be saying: When I was a child, I never got to vote. I want to live in a world where my child will always be able to.
And unlike the Obami on Iraq, who — as Ann Richards once said of George H.W. Bush — effectively woke up on third base and thought they hit a triple, Friedman gives credit where credit is due:
Yes, the U.S.’s toppling of Saddam Hussein helped Iran expand its influence into the Arab world. Saddam’s Iraq was a temporary iron-fisted bulwark against Iranian expansion. But if Iraq has any sort of decent outcome — and becomes a real Shiite-majority, multiethnic democracy right next door to the phony Iranian version — it will be a source of permanent pressure on the Iranian regime. It will be a constant reminder that “Islamic democracy” — the rigged system the Iranians set up — is nonsense. Real “Islamic democracy” is just like any other democracy, except with Muslims voting.
Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.
Now why can’t Obama say the same? It would dispel the notion that he is peevish, small, and unable to accept his own errors in opposing the war – the results of which Friedman and the West now cheer.
Barack Obama’s greatest cheerleader writes:
“Wright is doubtless a complex figure: you cannot deny his theological depth, his intellectual gifts, his service in the Marines, his contribution to his community. But he is also clearly an ego-maniac, as some preachers often are. And he has succumbed to bitterness, envy, paranoia and racial polarization.”
I beg to differ! I certainly can deny his theological depth and intellectual gifts. Even a cursory read through his sermons, his National Press Club tirade, and his NAACP speech should remove any doubt. Wright’s assertions that AIDS was created to destroy African-Americans, that Israel has created an ethnic bomb, that African-American brains are wired differently to be more musical, and that Israel is a “dirty word” show that he is not theologically deep but a crank. Even Obama now says:
But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.
So if Obama can now admit Wright is spouting “a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth,” isn’t it time for Obama apologists to stop making excuses? But that would be to admit that their candidate had been an atrocious judge of intellect and character.
David Brooks reviews John McCain’s rather impressive record (too impressive for many in the conservative base) of trying to limit money in politics and of going after lobbying interests and concludes the early potshots taken by Barack Obama are unwarranted:
This is, of course, the gospel of the mediocre man: to ridicule somebody who tries something difficult on the grounds that the effort was not a total success. But any decent person who looks at the McCain record sees that while he has certainly faltered at times, he has also battled concentrated power more doggedly than any other legislator. If this is the record of a candidate with lobbyists on his campaign bus, then every candidate should have lobbyists on the bus. And here’s the larger point: We’re going to have two extraordinary nominees for president this year. This could be one of the great general election campaigns in American history. The only thing that could ruin it is if the candidates become demagogues and hurl accusations at each other that are an insult to reality and common sense. Maybe Obama can start this campaign over.
Well this perhaps raises a larger problem for Obama: what exactly is he going to talk about? After a few more months, maybe just weeks, the “change” mantra and accompanying fluff will grow old and the media will begin to grow impatient for more. (Signs of that are already popping up.)
There seem to be three possibilities. First, he will describe how horrible the Bush years have been. There is always a segment of the population who will nod approvingly when told things are bad and getting worse. However, you cannot do this for long without sounding like a depressing scold. Moreover, with Bush not running it has limited utility. (This is especially true since McCain has not been a cheerleader for many of the Bush positions which Obama will attack — e.g. energy policy, torture.) Second, he will talk about leaving Iraq. Or will he? If military and political progress continue, does his insistence that everything is just a mess begin to look as out of touch with reality as he is accusing the Bush administration of being? At some point it may be better to say as little as possible. Third, he can talk about all the things he wants to do. However, unless he is content with trimming and hedging ( not a good thing for a “change” guy) it is going to sound fairly far Left. He does not have much that is not out of the liberal playbook and that rarely wins elections.
So, we are back to taking shots at McCain — on age, on lobbyists, on anything he thinks plausible. Those who are expecting a high minded campaign may be sorely disappointed.