Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chief

RE: Obama Finally Notices the Tea Party

Sensing that the New York Times story cast them in the roles of desperate partisans, the Obami are denying the report that they are planning an ad campaign to paint the Tea Partiers as extremists. Politico reports:

The story is “100 percent inaccurate,” a White House official told POLITICO. Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet counters that the “piece is accurate.”

OK, in a credibility contest between the Gray Lady and the Obama administration, it’s a close call. But really, is the White House denying that it isn’t contemplating such an ad offensive? That seems remarkable. Maybe it rejected it, or the proponents of such a strategy are embarrassed, but I find the denial a bit Clintonesque: “The first time Obama’s advisers heard about a national ad campaign is when the story showed up on the Times’ website last night.” But the concept — to paint the Tea Partiers as wackos — is certainly being deployed by Obama spinners and will, I strongly suspect, come up in ads in individual races.

The White House now has the worst of both worlds. The media and the voters get the sense that the Obama brain trust is defensive and panicky. If the ads run, this confirms the original story and makes the Obama team — shocking! — look less than candid. And if the ads don’t run, the liberal base is miffed, and the Tea Party claims another victory. As with so much in the Obama White House, the political operatives have managed to put themselves in a lose-lose position.

Sensing that the New York Times story cast them in the roles of desperate partisans, the Obami are denying the report that they are planning an ad campaign to paint the Tea Partiers as extremists. Politico reports:

The story is “100 percent inaccurate,” a White House official told POLITICO. Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet counters that the “piece is accurate.”

OK, in a credibility contest between the Gray Lady and the Obama administration, it’s a close call. But really, is the White House denying that it isn’t contemplating such an ad offensive? That seems remarkable. Maybe it rejected it, or the proponents of such a strategy are embarrassed, but I find the denial a bit Clintonesque: “The first time Obama’s advisers heard about a national ad campaign is when the story showed up on the Times’ website last night.” But the concept — to paint the Tea Partiers as wackos — is certainly being deployed by Obama spinners and will, I strongly suspect, come up in ads in individual races.

The White House now has the worst of both worlds. The media and the voters get the sense that the Obama brain trust is defensive and panicky. If the ads run, this confirms the original story and makes the Obama team — shocking! — look less than candid. And if the ads don’t run, the liberal base is miffed, and the Tea Party claims another victory. As with so much in the Obama White House, the political operatives have managed to put themselves in a lose-lose position.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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Death Talks

While Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas are chatting (primarily to George Mitchell), largely for the sake of Obama’s ego, Israelis are being killed and more will be, as this report makes clear:

Terrorist activity directed against Israel will likely increase as the peace process advances, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin warned the cabinet . …

During his briefing, the head of the internal security service said terror activity initiated in Gaza by Hamas’ armed wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is premised on people who have been released from Israeli prisons and are taking orders from jailed terrorists. …

The Shin Bet chief told the ministers that as long as the diplomatic process advances, attempts to carry out terror attacks will increase. According to Diskin, the past three years have seen a drop in terror-related incidents. However, he said, “It is estimated that this period (of relative calm) may be coming to an end due to the peace talks.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, when Obama and others chide Israel for not appreciating the need to take “risks for peace,” they show both arrogance and ignorance. Israel pays a very heavy price for the microscopic chance of getting something out of the talks. I would submit that there is no other country on the planet that would make the same calculation as Israel.

Second, Jewish leaders have largely sat by passively as the Obami and the mainstream media have set up the narrative: “Will Israel doom talks by lifting the moratorium?” This is a grave strategic error by Israel’s supporters. Israel didn’t walk out of talks when Abbas proved himself unable to provide security in areas under his control. The murders of Israelis are deemed a “distraction.” But Israel, with no hope in sight of a deal, declines to perpetuate a noxious idea — that there are areas in which Jews should not be living — and faces the world’s wrath. Pro-Israel groups would do well to start re-framing the debate: Why isn’t Abbas living up to his obligations and taking risks for peace?

Time magazine proffered the obnoxious suggestion that Israel isn’t interested in peace. The real question is: If Palestinians are, why are they still killing Jews? And if the answer is “the other Palestinians” — Hamas — are doing the killing, then we should acknowledge that Abbas is unable or unwilling to make and enforce a peace deal. And speaking of Time, I eagerly await the cover story showing the economic miracle of the West Bank,  with all the new shops and modern buildings, questioning why Palestinians care more about money than about peace.

While Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas are chatting (primarily to George Mitchell), largely for the sake of Obama’s ego, Israelis are being killed and more will be, as this report makes clear:

Terrorist activity directed against Israel will likely increase as the peace process advances, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin warned the cabinet . …

During his briefing, the head of the internal security service said terror activity initiated in Gaza by Hamas’ armed wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is premised on people who have been released from Israeli prisons and are taking orders from jailed terrorists. …

The Shin Bet chief told the ministers that as long as the diplomatic process advances, attempts to carry out terror attacks will increase. According to Diskin, the past three years have seen a drop in terror-related incidents. However, he said, “It is estimated that this period (of relative calm) may be coming to an end due to the peace talks.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, when Obama and others chide Israel for not appreciating the need to take “risks for peace,” they show both arrogance and ignorance. Israel pays a very heavy price for the microscopic chance of getting something out of the talks. I would submit that there is no other country on the planet that would make the same calculation as Israel.

Second, Jewish leaders have largely sat by passively as the Obami and the mainstream media have set up the narrative: “Will Israel doom talks by lifting the moratorium?” This is a grave strategic error by Israel’s supporters. Israel didn’t walk out of talks when Abbas proved himself unable to provide security in areas under his control. The murders of Israelis are deemed a “distraction.” But Israel, with no hope in sight of a deal, declines to perpetuate a noxious idea — that there are areas in which Jews should not be living — and faces the world’s wrath. Pro-Israel groups would do well to start re-framing the debate: Why isn’t Abbas living up to his obligations and taking risks for peace?

Time magazine proffered the obnoxious suggestion that Israel isn’t interested in peace. The real question is: If Palestinians are, why are they still killing Jews? And if the answer is “the other Palestinians” — Hamas — are doing the killing, then we should acknowledge that Abbas is unable or unwilling to make and enforce a peace deal. And speaking of Time, I eagerly await the cover story showing the economic miracle of the West Bank,  with all the new shops and modern buildings, questioning why Palestinians care more about money than about peace.

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What Real Diplomacy Looks Like

Americans seldom think of Israel in the conventional terms of “alliance,” but Israelis must, perforce, think of America that way. In the most fundamental sense, alliances are formed for security benefits. We don’t have allies because we need them; we have allies because they need us. This works both ways. The benefit is inherently mutual in any alliance that two or more parties take the trouble to form.

When allies begin shopping for defense-cooperation agreements elsewhere, moreover, it always means something. Our pursuit of abstract multilateralism over the last two decades has blinded us to that reality. American diplomacy has tended to behave as if all bilateral developments were benign — a mere natural outgrowth of upbeat nations getting in touch with each other. But in the case of Israel in 2010, the meaning is specific and conventional.

Israel signed a framework agreement for defense cooperation with Russia on September 6 — the first ever between these two nations — and has been at work this year resurrecting its defense-cooperation agreement with China. The rapprochement with China is informative because Israel agreed in 2005, at the behest of the Bush administration, to back off from its military-related projects with Beijing. The U.S. concern at the time was technology proliferation, which is what the news and opinion media tend to focus on, particularly in America. (The new agreement with Russia is being discussed, in its turn, as a means for Russia to obtain cutting-edge UAVs from Israeli manufacturers.)

But Israel has bigger concerns than markets for military hardware. “Defense cooperation” portends more than military sales; it can mean conferences, intelligence and personnel exchanges, joint training, and shared weapons development. It’s a field of agreement with inherent implications for regional relations and security. And Israel’s defense-cooperation outreach this year is hardly random. Binyamin Netanyahu typically handles national security like a statesman in the Western classical mold, and it appears he is doing so here. Warming up ties with Russia and China is a way to gain leverage with the major outside powers that are putting down stakes in the Middle East as Obama’s America loses energy and presence.

The Netanyahu leadership has no illusions about the character of either Russia or China. But courting Russia gives Israel an entrée with a member of the Quartet other than the U.S. Rejuvenating cooperation with China creates the potential for leverage with one of Iran’s chief patrons; the link with Russia offers a similar benefit regarding not only Iran but also Syria, Turkey, Libya, and Algeria as well.

The impetus for Israel to do this now comes from the persistent inertia of the Obama administration. As painful as it is to say it, the potential is obvious for Obama’s role in the Quartet to produce disadvantages for Israel. There is no rational basis for assuming Obama will take effective action against Iran or revise his approach to Syria. Exclusive alignment with the policy trend of Obama’s America promises nothing but disaster for Israel. In the absence of American strength — across the whole Middle Eastern region — Israel’s security situation will change. Although it means inviting Russia further into the Middle East, Netanyahu must work with reality in 2010: he must look for support — for a balancing agent with the region’s radical regimes — where he can find it.

Americans seldom think of Israel in the conventional terms of “alliance,” but Israelis must, perforce, think of America that way. In the most fundamental sense, alliances are formed for security benefits. We don’t have allies because we need them; we have allies because they need us. This works both ways. The benefit is inherently mutual in any alliance that two or more parties take the trouble to form.

When allies begin shopping for defense-cooperation agreements elsewhere, moreover, it always means something. Our pursuit of abstract multilateralism over the last two decades has blinded us to that reality. American diplomacy has tended to behave as if all bilateral developments were benign — a mere natural outgrowth of upbeat nations getting in touch with each other. But in the case of Israel in 2010, the meaning is specific and conventional.

Israel signed a framework agreement for defense cooperation with Russia on September 6 — the first ever between these two nations — and has been at work this year resurrecting its defense-cooperation agreement with China. The rapprochement with China is informative because Israel agreed in 2005, at the behest of the Bush administration, to back off from its military-related projects with Beijing. The U.S. concern at the time was technology proliferation, which is what the news and opinion media tend to focus on, particularly in America. (The new agreement with Russia is being discussed, in its turn, as a means for Russia to obtain cutting-edge UAVs from Israeli manufacturers.)

But Israel has bigger concerns than markets for military hardware. “Defense cooperation” portends more than military sales; it can mean conferences, intelligence and personnel exchanges, joint training, and shared weapons development. It’s a field of agreement with inherent implications for regional relations and security. And Israel’s defense-cooperation outreach this year is hardly random. Binyamin Netanyahu typically handles national security like a statesman in the Western classical mold, and it appears he is doing so here. Warming up ties with Russia and China is a way to gain leverage with the major outside powers that are putting down stakes in the Middle East as Obama’s America loses energy and presence.

The Netanyahu leadership has no illusions about the character of either Russia or China. But courting Russia gives Israel an entrée with a member of the Quartet other than the U.S. Rejuvenating cooperation with China creates the potential for leverage with one of Iran’s chief patrons; the link with Russia offers a similar benefit regarding not only Iran but also Syria, Turkey, Libya, and Algeria as well.

The impetus for Israel to do this now comes from the persistent inertia of the Obama administration. As painful as it is to say it, the potential is obvious for Obama’s role in the Quartet to produce disadvantages for Israel. There is no rational basis for assuming Obama will take effective action against Iran or revise his approach to Syria. Exclusive alignment with the policy trend of Obama’s America promises nothing but disaster for Israel. In the absence of American strength — across the whole Middle Eastern region — Israel’s security situation will change. Although it means inviting Russia further into the Middle East, Netanyahu must work with reality in 2010: he must look for support — for a balancing agent with the region’s radical regimes — where he can find it.

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The Lightbulb Goes on

As this report explains, the Fed will not come to the Democrats’ rescue, at least not in time to stave off a shellacking in November:

Fed chief Ben Bernanke said Friday the nation’s central bank would take action to prop up the economy if absolutely necessary. … He did not pledge any immediate, dramatic steps to goose growth and suggested the bank’s remaining tools might not work very well anyway. The mild statement from Bernanke, while soothing to investors, creates a potentially serious political problem for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, some of whom are feeling their House majority slip away with every passing piece of bad economic news.

The more candid in the left’s blogosphere get that the Democrats are in very big trouble. David Corn, for example, confesses: “It doesn’t appear that Obama has forged and maintained that sort of bond with a majority of voters. Democrats were hoping that a summer economic turn-around would ease the way toward the fall elections. But no such harvest is looming.” They have only figured this out recently? Well, denial is an attractive coping mechanism. And there is reason not to freak out donors and activists with predictions of impending doom.

However, reality is seeping in, and candor is breaking out after months and months of pooh-poohing polls, assuring themselves ObamaCare was essential to their political survival, and lamely trying to sow dissension in Republican ranks (Tea Party vs. mainstream GOP!). Despondency may follow.

As the dismal news piles up and liberals give up the pretense that the economic and electoral outlook is bright, how much worse will the polling get for those Democrats on the ballot in November? And do the pollsters have models to gauge just how depressed the Democrats’ turnout will be? We’ll see, but Democrats are wise, I think, to prepare themselves for the deluge.

As this report explains, the Fed will not come to the Democrats’ rescue, at least not in time to stave off a shellacking in November:

Fed chief Ben Bernanke said Friday the nation’s central bank would take action to prop up the economy if absolutely necessary. … He did not pledge any immediate, dramatic steps to goose growth and suggested the bank’s remaining tools might not work very well anyway. The mild statement from Bernanke, while soothing to investors, creates a potentially serious political problem for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, some of whom are feeling their House majority slip away with every passing piece of bad economic news.

The more candid in the left’s blogosphere get that the Democrats are in very big trouble. David Corn, for example, confesses: “It doesn’t appear that Obama has forged and maintained that sort of bond with a majority of voters. Democrats were hoping that a summer economic turn-around would ease the way toward the fall elections. But no such harvest is looming.” They have only figured this out recently? Well, denial is an attractive coping mechanism. And there is reason not to freak out donors and activists with predictions of impending doom.

However, reality is seeping in, and candor is breaking out after months and months of pooh-poohing polls, assuring themselves ObamaCare was essential to their political survival, and lamely trying to sow dissension in Republican ranks (Tea Party vs. mainstream GOP!). Despondency may follow.

As the dismal news piles up and liberals give up the pretense that the economic and electoral outlook is bright, how much worse will the polling get for those Democrats on the ballot in November? And do the pollsters have models to gauge just how depressed the Democrats’ turnout will be? We’ll see, but Democrats are wise, I think, to prepare themselves for the deluge.

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Jobs Take Second Place, Again

The Obama team, we are told, can’t figure out how to stem unemployment. But actually, it seems they simply place job creation and preservation below other priorities. This report explains:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region’s economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects.

The Obama administration, the least transparent in history, however, has been actively misleading the court: ”The administration has said in court filings that the economic effect of suspended drilling wasn’t as severe as the industry asserted.” The administration turns out to have less credibility than Big Oil. (“An American Petroleum Institute spokesman said the documents show ‘the government itself understood there would be significant impacts felt throughout the region.’”) And, in fact, the administration simply ignored those who raised the warning flag:

In another document, William Hauser, chief of the regulations and standards branch of what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service, outlined the risks of various drilling activities in an email to colleagues and then wrote: “The more I write this stuff the more I believe we can/should/could regulate/stop activities through a prudent management process versus a moratoria scheme.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. The administration’s proclivity to make grand gestures, finger point, bash private industry, and satisfy the left’s pent-up demand has meant that time and time again, the Obama team gave job creation and preservation short shrift. Extend the Bush tax cuts; we can “weather it.” Pass ObamaCare; business will absorb the costs.

It’s no wonder voters think Obama and the Democratic Congress have failed to focus on jobs. They are about to find out the perils of ignoring the voters’ concerns.

The Obama team, we are told, can’t figure out how to stem unemployment. But actually, it seems they simply place job creation and preservation below other priorities. This report explains:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region’s economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects.

The Obama administration, the least transparent in history, however, has been actively misleading the court: ”The administration has said in court filings that the economic effect of suspended drilling wasn’t as severe as the industry asserted.” The administration turns out to have less credibility than Big Oil. (“An American Petroleum Institute spokesman said the documents show ‘the government itself understood there would be significant impacts felt throughout the region.’”) And, in fact, the administration simply ignored those who raised the warning flag:

In another document, William Hauser, chief of the regulations and standards branch of what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service, outlined the risks of various drilling activities in an email to colleagues and then wrote: “The more I write this stuff the more I believe we can/should/could regulate/stop activities through a prudent management process versus a moratoria scheme.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. The administration’s proclivity to make grand gestures, finger point, bash private industry, and satisfy the left’s pent-up demand has meant that time and time again, the Obama team gave job creation and preservation short shrift. Extend the Bush tax cuts; we can “weather it.” Pass ObamaCare; business will absorb the costs.

It’s no wonder voters think Obama and the Democratic Congress have failed to focus on jobs. They are about to find out the perils of ignoring the voters’ concerns.

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New Report on China Leaves Out the Good Stuff

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

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RE: Smearing 68% of America

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

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A Human Rights Breakthrough, No Thanks to the International Community

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the ”international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the ”international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

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No Quick Fix for War Woes

Here’s a New York Times headline double-whammy for the anti-war crowd: On Afghanistan, “U.S. Military to Press for Slower Afghan Drawdown,” and on Iraq, “U.S. and Iraqi Interests May Work Against Pullout.”

It turns out there is more to ending wars than railing against George W. Bush and making speeches about international norms. Barack Obama has taken to citing U.S. accomplishments in Iraq only as justification for a withdrawal of troops. (Notice how things have inverted. The anti-war Democrat now claims mission accomplished, while the pro-Iraq War conservatives describe the job as unfinished.) Yet the president notes the challenges in Afghanistan also as justification for a fixed withdrawal date. For this commander in chief, both achievement and deficiency are grounds for laying down weapons. If the global order’s chief protector—which looks credibly weaker today than it has at any point in the past thirty years—decides that military victory is an inconvenient burden, the consequences will prove catastrophic in ways we can’t yet imagine.

Here’s a New York Times headline double-whammy for the anti-war crowd: On Afghanistan, “U.S. Military to Press for Slower Afghan Drawdown,” and on Iraq, “U.S. and Iraqi Interests May Work Against Pullout.”

It turns out there is more to ending wars than railing against George W. Bush and making speeches about international norms. Barack Obama has taken to citing U.S. accomplishments in Iraq only as justification for a withdrawal of troops. (Notice how things have inverted. The anti-war Democrat now claims mission accomplished, while the pro-Iraq War conservatives describe the job as unfinished.) Yet the president notes the challenges in Afghanistan also as justification for a fixed withdrawal date. For this commander in chief, both achievement and deficiency are grounds for laying down weapons. If the global order’s chief protector—which looks credibly weaker today than it has at any point in the past thirty years—decides that military victory is an inconvenient burden, the consequences will prove catastrophic in ways we can’t yet imagine.

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JFCOM to Be Shut Down?

Defense Secretary Bob Gates has just announced a new round of budget cuts, the major move being the proposed elimination of U.S. Joint Forces Command. JFCOM is one of the newer “combatant commands”; it was created in 1999 to work on “joint” training, doctrine, capabilities, and force generation — all missions that in the past had gone exclusively to the individual military services. The thinking at the time in Congress and at the Pentagon was that a more unified approach was needed to avoid some of the traditional duplication and lack of synchronization.

Apparently, Gates thinks the mission could be done just as well without the existence of a four-star command. Is he right? He may well be. And I say that even though I have been peripherally involved in JFCOM’s operations as a member (unpaid) of its Transformation Advisory Group. Certainly, JFCOM, like all military bureaucracies (indeed all bureaucracies, period), has its share of fat. But it also performed some important functions that will have to be done by someone, whether the command exists or not.

The budget savings from this move will hardly do much to reduce the Pentagon’s budget, much less to close the government’s growing budget deficit. As the Associated Press notes, JFCOM has “nearly 4,900 employees and annual salaries of more than $200 million” — a pittance in federal-budget terms. Indeed, you could cut the entire Pentagon budget ($535 billion) and still not eliminate this year’s budget deficit — $1.47 trillion. To say nothing of our federal debt, which is over $13 billion and counting.

I am all in favor of cutting government spending. But we should be careful about cutting defense spending in wartime. Moreover, we should be careful about dumping the burden of “deficit cutting” onto the Department of Defense while ignoring the budget items actually responsible for most federal spending. OK, cut JFCOM. But then cut, too, the entitlement programs, which, with the encouragement and connivance of both the president and Congress, are growing out of control.

A final question concerns the fate of General Ray Odierno, who is about to leave Iraq to assume the command of… JFCOM, a post just vacated by Gen. Jim Mattis, the new Central Command chief. Where will Odierno go now? His services are far too valuable to be lost, but there wouldn’t be an abundance of open four-star jobs if JFCOM were, in fact, eliminated — which would take an act of Congress. My bet would be on him succeeding General George Casey as army chief of staff.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates has just announced a new round of budget cuts, the major move being the proposed elimination of U.S. Joint Forces Command. JFCOM is one of the newer “combatant commands”; it was created in 1999 to work on “joint” training, doctrine, capabilities, and force generation — all missions that in the past had gone exclusively to the individual military services. The thinking at the time in Congress and at the Pentagon was that a more unified approach was needed to avoid some of the traditional duplication and lack of synchronization.

Apparently, Gates thinks the mission could be done just as well without the existence of a four-star command. Is he right? He may well be. And I say that even though I have been peripherally involved in JFCOM’s operations as a member (unpaid) of its Transformation Advisory Group. Certainly, JFCOM, like all military bureaucracies (indeed all bureaucracies, period), has its share of fat. But it also performed some important functions that will have to be done by someone, whether the command exists or not.

The budget savings from this move will hardly do much to reduce the Pentagon’s budget, much less to close the government’s growing budget deficit. As the Associated Press notes, JFCOM has “nearly 4,900 employees and annual salaries of more than $200 million” — a pittance in federal-budget terms. Indeed, you could cut the entire Pentagon budget ($535 billion) and still not eliminate this year’s budget deficit — $1.47 trillion. To say nothing of our federal debt, which is over $13 billion and counting.

I am all in favor of cutting government spending. But we should be careful about cutting defense spending in wartime. Moreover, we should be careful about dumping the burden of “deficit cutting” onto the Department of Defense while ignoring the budget items actually responsible for most federal spending. OK, cut JFCOM. But then cut, too, the entitlement programs, which, with the encouragement and connivance of both the president and Congress, are growing out of control.

A final question concerns the fate of General Ray Odierno, who is about to leave Iraq to assume the command of… JFCOM, a post just vacated by Gen. Jim Mattis, the new Central Command chief. Where will Odierno go now? His services are far too valuable to be lost, but there wouldn’t be an abundance of open four-star jobs if JFCOM were, in fact, eliminated — which would take an act of Congress. My bet would be on him succeeding General George Casey as army chief of staff.

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Israel Needs to Face Facts About Turkey

Israel’s effort to adjust to the new reality of a hostile Islamist Turkey often seems like “one step forward, two steps back.” This week was a giant step back. Yet even so, progress has been made.

This week’s setback was Israel’s decision to participate in a UN probe of May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Several leading Israeli ministers said the decision was made partly “to restore ties with Turkey.” As one senior official put it, “Hopefully the combination of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and establishing an international investigation will meet the Turkish demands and lead to a restoration of ties.”

This is appeasement of the worst kind. In order to “restore ties” with a government that has made its hostility crystal-clear, Israel for the first time gave its imprimatur to an investigation by one of the world’s most anti-Israel bodies, which has never sought to probe similar incidents in other countries. That sets a dangerous precedent.

Even worse, this decision comes just days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced concern over the new Turkish intelligence chief’s close ties with Iran. Noting that years of military cooperation had left many Israeli secrets in Turkish hands, he worried that Hakan Fidan might pass them to Tehran. What normal country seeks a closer relationship with a government it suspects of sharing its secrets with its worst enemy?

Yet in its soberer moments, the government has, with considerable success, begun reaching out to some of Turkey’s traditional opponents. Last month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou paid an official visit to Israel, becoming the first Greek leader to do so in over 30 years. And in May, the Greek and Israeli air forces conducted joint exercises over the Aegean Sea. Turkey used to be a major venue for such exercises, but lately, it has canceled them repeatedly. And these exercises are vital because they enable pilots to train over longer distances and different terrain than Israel offers.

Ties with Cyprus have also warmed. In May, for instance, Cyprus said it would stop letting Gaza-bound flotillas use its ports, and in June, the Free Gaza movement, which has organized several such flotillas, said this decision had forced it to relocate its headquarters from the island.

But Israel’s schizophrenic behavior is damaging — something even Foreign Ministry professionals, trained to favor diplomacy above all, have recognized. When Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer met Turkey’s foreign minister in June in a bid to mend ties, one senior Foreign Ministry professional told Haaretz (Hebrew only):

The American government is giving Turkey the cold shoulder, Jewish organizations are boycotting it and the whole world is uncomfortable with Turkey’s behavior. Amid all this, we’re the ones who want to embrace them. So how will we be able to object to the world [doing the same] afterward?

This week’s decision shows the damage is only getting worse. It’s time for Jerusalem to face facts: as long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, Turkey will never again be an ally. Better to cut its losses and focus on building other more fruitful relationships.

Israel’s effort to adjust to the new reality of a hostile Islamist Turkey often seems like “one step forward, two steps back.” This week was a giant step back. Yet even so, progress has been made.

This week’s setback was Israel’s decision to participate in a UN probe of May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Several leading Israeli ministers said the decision was made partly “to restore ties with Turkey.” As one senior official put it, “Hopefully the combination of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and establishing an international investigation will meet the Turkish demands and lead to a restoration of ties.”

This is appeasement of the worst kind. In order to “restore ties” with a government that has made its hostility crystal-clear, Israel for the first time gave its imprimatur to an investigation by one of the world’s most anti-Israel bodies, which has never sought to probe similar incidents in other countries. That sets a dangerous precedent.

Even worse, this decision comes just days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced concern over the new Turkish intelligence chief’s close ties with Iran. Noting that years of military cooperation had left many Israeli secrets in Turkish hands, he worried that Hakan Fidan might pass them to Tehran. What normal country seeks a closer relationship with a government it suspects of sharing its secrets with its worst enemy?

Yet in its soberer moments, the government has, with considerable success, begun reaching out to some of Turkey’s traditional opponents. Last month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou paid an official visit to Israel, becoming the first Greek leader to do so in over 30 years. And in May, the Greek and Israeli air forces conducted joint exercises over the Aegean Sea. Turkey used to be a major venue for such exercises, but lately, it has canceled them repeatedly. And these exercises are vital because they enable pilots to train over longer distances and different terrain than Israel offers.

Ties with Cyprus have also warmed. In May, for instance, Cyprus said it would stop letting Gaza-bound flotillas use its ports, and in June, the Free Gaza movement, which has organized several such flotillas, said this decision had forced it to relocate its headquarters from the island.

But Israel’s schizophrenic behavior is damaging — something even Foreign Ministry professionals, trained to favor diplomacy above all, have recognized. When Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer met Turkey’s foreign minister in June in a bid to mend ties, one senior Foreign Ministry professional told Haaretz (Hebrew only):

The American government is giving Turkey the cold shoulder, Jewish organizations are boycotting it and the whole world is uncomfortable with Turkey’s behavior. Amid all this, we’re the ones who want to embrace them. So how will we be able to object to the world [doing the same] afterward?

This week’s decision shows the damage is only getting worse. It’s time for Jerusalem to face facts: as long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, Turkey will never again be an ally. Better to cut its losses and focus on building other more fruitful relationships.

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How Petraeus Is Conducting Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Quietly, without a lot of hype or fanfare, General David Petraeus is putting his stamp on operations in Afghanistan. A few indications of his approach have emerged in the past week.

First, there was the Counterinsurgency Guidance he issued to the troops. In many ways it echoes the guidance from McChrystal and the guidance Petraeus himself had issued in Iraq. For instance, it begins with an injunction to “secure and serve the population” and to “live among the people,” both classic precepts of “population-centric counterinsurgency.”

But the new COIN Guidance also emphasizes the need to “help confront the culture of impunity” — which is to say the rampant corruption which alienates the people of Afghanistan from their government and drives them into the arms of the Taliban. In a similar vein, Petraeus tells the troops to “help Afghans build accountable governance” and to “identify corrupt officials.” One of the biggest problems in Afghanistan has been that too often Western money is inadvertently fueling corruption — so Petraeus instructs his command: “Money is ammunition; don’t put it in the wrong hands.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, to help ensure that the coalition does a better job of fighting corruption, Petraeus is assigning Brigadier General H.R. McMaster — one of the brightest and most famous officers in the entire army — to spearhead a new task force dealing with this problem. That’s very good news, because, while corruption has long been on NATO’s radar screen as an important issue, it has not gotten the resources or attention that it deserves. With McMaster on the case, it’s safe to say that the visibility of this issue will be elevated — as it should be.

Petraeus has also issued a new “tactical directive” governing the use of force. This has been a hot-button issue with some troops and their families (and a few commentators in the States), who have claimed that McChrystal had issued overly restrictive rules of engagement, which made it impossible for troops in combat to call in badly needed air support. Those who hoped that Petraeus would lift the restrictions will be disappointed; but those who realize that the heart of successful counterinsurgency is to win over the people will be cheered by Petraeus’s directive, which slightly adjusts, but does not repudiate, McChrystal’s approach. The directive instructs the troops: “[W]e must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.” That’s exactly the right balance that any smart commander in a counterinsurgency must strike.

These are not massive changes from the McChrystal approach. But then again, massive changes aren’t needed because McChrystal was basically on the right path — and Petraeus, as Central Command chief, had been guiding McChrystal along. These are the kinds of course adjustments that any prudent commander will make when faced with a thinking, adaptive foe. We should not make too much of these initial moves by Petraeus but they do indicate the kind of counterinsurgency effort he is conducting — one that tries to protect the population not only from the Taliban but also from corrupt and predatory government officials.

Quietly, without a lot of hype or fanfare, General David Petraeus is putting his stamp on operations in Afghanistan. A few indications of his approach have emerged in the past week.

First, there was the Counterinsurgency Guidance he issued to the troops. In many ways it echoes the guidance from McChrystal and the guidance Petraeus himself had issued in Iraq. For instance, it begins with an injunction to “secure and serve the population” and to “live among the people,” both classic precepts of “population-centric counterinsurgency.”

But the new COIN Guidance also emphasizes the need to “help confront the culture of impunity” — which is to say the rampant corruption which alienates the people of Afghanistan from their government and drives them into the arms of the Taliban. In a similar vein, Petraeus tells the troops to “help Afghans build accountable governance” and to “identify corrupt officials.” One of the biggest problems in Afghanistan has been that too often Western money is inadvertently fueling corruption — so Petraeus instructs his command: “Money is ammunition; don’t put it in the wrong hands.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, to help ensure that the coalition does a better job of fighting corruption, Petraeus is assigning Brigadier General H.R. McMaster — one of the brightest and most famous officers in the entire army — to spearhead a new task force dealing with this problem. That’s very good news, because, while corruption has long been on NATO’s radar screen as an important issue, it has not gotten the resources or attention that it deserves. With McMaster on the case, it’s safe to say that the visibility of this issue will be elevated — as it should be.

Petraeus has also issued a new “tactical directive” governing the use of force. This has been a hot-button issue with some troops and their families (and a few commentators in the States), who have claimed that McChrystal had issued overly restrictive rules of engagement, which made it impossible for troops in combat to call in badly needed air support. Those who hoped that Petraeus would lift the restrictions will be disappointed; but those who realize that the heart of successful counterinsurgency is to win over the people will be cheered by Petraeus’s directive, which slightly adjusts, but does not repudiate, McChrystal’s approach. The directive instructs the troops: “[W]e must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.” That’s exactly the right balance that any smart commander in a counterinsurgency must strike.

These are not massive changes from the McChrystal approach. But then again, massive changes aren’t needed because McChrystal was basically on the right path — and Petraeus, as Central Command chief, had been guiding McChrystal along. These are the kinds of course adjustments that any prudent commander will make when faced with a thinking, adaptive foe. We should not make too much of these initial moves by Petraeus but they do indicate the kind of counterinsurgency effort he is conducting — one that tries to protect the population not only from the Taliban but also from corrupt and predatory government officials.

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Senator John McCain’s U-Turn on Immigration

According to Politico, Senator John McCain has added his voice to GOP calls for congressional hearings into altering the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. This just about completes a stunning turnabout by McCain (and by his friend and colleague Lindsey Graham) on immigration. As Politico reports, McCain was a champion in 2007 of a comprehensive immigration bill which would have provided a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants. But he has taken an increasingly hard-line position on the issue as he faces a conservative primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth, in a state that has become the epicenter for the nation’s battle over immigration reform.

On the merits of McCain’s position: As a general matter, the conservative starting point should be opposition to Constitutional amendments, especially as regards the 14th amendment (the so-called “citizenship clause” refers to the first sentence of Section 1 in the 14th amendment, which reversed the part of Chief Justice Taney’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford that declared that even free blacks like Dred Scott were not citizens of the United States and could never become so). Opposition to Constitutional amendments shouldn’t be absolute by any means; but it is, I think, a prudent predisposition.

Beyond that, though, McCain’s stand strikes me as political posturing — something that has no chance of passage and which may end up being distracting from the real problems we face and that we can far more easily address, including the reduction of the large number of illegal immigrants crossing our borders.

There is an argument according to which, if we were starting from scratch, children of illegal immigrants should not be granted automatic citizenship; after all, this was clearly not the use of the 14th amendment intended by its architects. But we’re not beginning from scratch — and revoking birthright citizenship now would, as Michael Gerson has written, “turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital.”

Senator McCain’s U-turn is certainly not without precedent in American politics. But it is nevertheless fairly dramatic — and for a man who has long fancied himself a person of unusual political courage and independence, it is discouraging.

According to Politico, Senator John McCain has added his voice to GOP calls for congressional hearings into altering the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. This just about completes a stunning turnabout by McCain (and by his friend and colleague Lindsey Graham) on immigration. As Politico reports, McCain was a champion in 2007 of a comprehensive immigration bill which would have provided a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants. But he has taken an increasingly hard-line position on the issue as he faces a conservative primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth, in a state that has become the epicenter for the nation’s battle over immigration reform.

On the merits of McCain’s position: As a general matter, the conservative starting point should be opposition to Constitutional amendments, especially as regards the 14th amendment (the so-called “citizenship clause” refers to the first sentence of Section 1 in the 14th amendment, which reversed the part of Chief Justice Taney’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford that declared that even free blacks like Dred Scott were not citizens of the United States and could never become so). Opposition to Constitutional amendments shouldn’t be absolute by any means; but it is, I think, a prudent predisposition.

Beyond that, though, McCain’s stand strikes me as political posturing — something that has no chance of passage and which may end up being distracting from the real problems we face and that we can far more easily address, including the reduction of the large number of illegal immigrants crossing our borders.

There is an argument according to which, if we were starting from scratch, children of illegal immigrants should not be granted automatic citizenship; after all, this was clearly not the use of the 14th amendment intended by its architects. But we’re not beginning from scratch — and revoking birthright citizenship now would, as Michael Gerson has written, “turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital.”

Senator McCain’s U-turn is certainly not without precedent in American politics. But it is nevertheless fairly dramatic — and for a man who has long fancied himself a person of unusual political courage and independence, it is discouraging.

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Jim Mattis: New Head of Central Command

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

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UN Still Corrupt

Those infatuated with multilateral institutions — which are lauded as occupying the high moral ground (as opposed to all those grubby democracies) — are continually embarrassed (well, they should be embarrassed) when these bodies prove to be entirely corrupt and dysfunctional. This report explains:

The outgoing chief of a U.N. office charged with combating corruption at the United Nations has issued a stinging rebuke of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, charging him with undermining her efforts and leading the global institution into an era of decline, according to a confidential end-of-assignment report. …

“Your actions are not only deplorable, but seriously reprehensible. … Your action is without precedent and in my opinion seriously embarrassing for yourself,” Ahlenius wrote in the 50-page memo to Ban, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “I regret to say that the secretariat now is in a process of decay.”

Well, it seems the UN has improved not at all from the oil-for-food scandal days.

It remains a mystery why Obama has bestowed upon the UN new respect and importance in his foreign policy schemes. What exactly is it about this body — corrupt, filled with haters of Israel and the West, incapable of enforcing its endless resolutions against rogue states — that captures Obama’s fancy? In grasping for consensus and turning a blind eye to the UN’s bad behavior, Obama has diminished his and our moral authority.

It seems that now is precisely the time to diminish the UN’s importance and make clear the limits of our patience with a body that does far more harm than good.

Those infatuated with multilateral institutions — which are lauded as occupying the high moral ground (as opposed to all those grubby democracies) — are continually embarrassed (well, they should be embarrassed) when these bodies prove to be entirely corrupt and dysfunctional. This report explains:

The outgoing chief of a U.N. office charged with combating corruption at the United Nations has issued a stinging rebuke of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, charging him with undermining her efforts and leading the global institution into an era of decline, according to a confidential end-of-assignment report. …

“Your actions are not only deplorable, but seriously reprehensible. … Your action is without precedent and in my opinion seriously embarrassing for yourself,” Ahlenius wrote in the 50-page memo to Ban, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “I regret to say that the secretariat now is in a process of decay.”

Well, it seems the UN has improved not at all from the oil-for-food scandal days.

It remains a mystery why Obama has bestowed upon the UN new respect and importance in his foreign policy schemes. What exactly is it about this body — corrupt, filled with haters of Israel and the West, incapable of enforcing its endless resolutions against rogue states — that captures Obama’s fancy? In grasping for consensus and turning a blind eye to the UN’s bad behavior, Obama has diminished his and our moral authority.

It seems that now is precisely the time to diminish the UN’s importance and make clear the limits of our patience with a body that does far more harm than good.

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Slip-Sliding away — the Senate Majority, That Is

House Democrats are in frantic mode. Soon, Senate Democrats will be. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Jennifer Duffy writes that Carly Fiorina will have to overcome questions about her leadership of Hewlitt Packard but is one tough candidate:

She defends her role and actions at H-P, arguing that she did what needed to be done to position the company in the wake of the dot com bust and for the challenges ahead. The fact that H-P is doing well today would seem to support her case, but it is not a story that Fiorina tells in enough detail on the stump to take the wind out of the opposition’s argument. Instead, Fiorina prefers to focus on Boxer. She questions what the incumbent has actually accomplished in her nearly 18-year tenure in the Senate, and is critical of Boxer’s voting record, saying that she often votes against California’s economic interests. Fiorina believes that the stimulus package, which Boxer touts as a grand success for California, has been a failure that has not produced the promised jobs. She also takes aim at Boxer’s positions on the environment and her stewardship as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Recently, she has said that Boxer hasn’t done enough to ease the water crisis in the state’s Central Valley, accusing Boxer of caring more about protecting the endangered Delta smelt than about getting water to the state’s farmers and creating jobs. Fiorina also takes aim at Boxer’s record on national security, which was the subject of the last television ad she ran before the primary.

It is interesting that, in a year when many candidates are ignoring foreign policy, Fiorina is highlighting it. (“This marriage of national security and domestic policy may become a staple of Fiorina’s argument against Boxer, as will numerous other statements Boxer has made over the years that Republicans contend portray Boxer as out of touch and arrogant.”) Accordingly, the California race is moved to toss-up status.

Then there is Wisconsin:

Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold and his chief Republican challenger Ron Johnson remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Wisconsin finds Johnson with 47% support, while the Democrat earns 46% of the vote.

It is as if the entire political playing field is tipped, and everything not anchored is sliding to one side. And consider if the turnout models are underestimating Republican enthusiasm. Why, then, the field tips at an even steeper angle.

Democrats have been assuring themselves that there would be a point at which the polls reverse course and their prospects brighten. Maybe that’s so. But they are running out of time.

House Democrats are in frantic mode. Soon, Senate Democrats will be. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Jennifer Duffy writes that Carly Fiorina will have to overcome questions about her leadership of Hewlitt Packard but is one tough candidate:

She defends her role and actions at H-P, arguing that she did what needed to be done to position the company in the wake of the dot com bust and for the challenges ahead. The fact that H-P is doing well today would seem to support her case, but it is not a story that Fiorina tells in enough detail on the stump to take the wind out of the opposition’s argument. Instead, Fiorina prefers to focus on Boxer. She questions what the incumbent has actually accomplished in her nearly 18-year tenure in the Senate, and is critical of Boxer’s voting record, saying that she often votes against California’s economic interests. Fiorina believes that the stimulus package, which Boxer touts as a grand success for California, has been a failure that has not produced the promised jobs. She also takes aim at Boxer’s positions on the environment and her stewardship as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Recently, she has said that Boxer hasn’t done enough to ease the water crisis in the state’s Central Valley, accusing Boxer of caring more about protecting the endangered Delta smelt than about getting water to the state’s farmers and creating jobs. Fiorina also takes aim at Boxer’s record on national security, which was the subject of the last television ad she ran before the primary.

It is interesting that, in a year when many candidates are ignoring foreign policy, Fiorina is highlighting it. (“This marriage of national security and domestic policy may become a staple of Fiorina’s argument against Boxer, as will numerous other statements Boxer has made over the years that Republicans contend portray Boxer as out of touch and arrogant.”) Accordingly, the California race is moved to toss-up status.

Then there is Wisconsin:

Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold and his chief Republican challenger Ron Johnson remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Wisconsin finds Johnson with 47% support, while the Democrat earns 46% of the vote.

It is as if the entire political playing field is tipped, and everything not anchored is sliding to one side. And consider if the turnout models are underestimating Republican enthusiasm. Why, then, the field tips at an even steeper angle.

Democrats have been assuring themselves that there would be a point at which the polls reverse course and their prospects brighten. Maybe that’s so. But they are running out of time.

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Shut Up, Ban Ki-Moon Explained

The UN’s shameless appeasement of terrorists is a well-worn story, but it’s always instructive to take note when it happens. The UN has issued a report on heightened Israel-Lebanon tensions, and it’s not surprising who gets blamed. What is surprising is the UN’s reasoning: it’s Israeli complaints about Hezbollah’s illegal weapons smuggling — not the smuggling itself — that is risking war:

“Rhetoric escalated rapidly, creating a perception in the public that a resumption of conflict was imminent,” the secretary-general wrote in the report. …

The UN chief wrote in his report that the heightened tensions were stoked by Israel’s claims of Hezbollah’s arms acquisitions. He said this “raised the specter of a miscalculation by either party leading to a resumption of hostilities, with potentially devastating consequences for Lebanon and the region.” …

Israel’s disappointment was compounded by the fact that Ban’s report did not mention Hezbollah’s involvement in a series of attempts by Lebanese in the south to interfere with UNIFIL’s operations over the past month. … In his report, Ban said UNIFIL enjoys “freedom of movement” in all of southern Lebanon. He also cited five unusual incidents in which UNIFIL troops were injured and a UN vehicle was stolen, but he refused to blame Hezbollah.

In other words, the UN secretary-general is saying that if war breaks out — even if Hezbollah starts it — it will not be Hezbollah’s fault, even though the group has been illegally importing massive quantities of rockets, and it will not be Syria’s and Iran’s fault, which have been supplying the weapons. It will be Israel’s fault — for talking about it. This would be merely appalling and ridiculous if it weren’t so dangerous: with the UN having already assured Hezbollah that future hostilities will be blamed on Israel, war has become more likely.

The UN’s shameless appeasement of terrorists is a well-worn story, but it’s always instructive to take note when it happens. The UN has issued a report on heightened Israel-Lebanon tensions, and it’s not surprising who gets blamed. What is surprising is the UN’s reasoning: it’s Israeli complaints about Hezbollah’s illegal weapons smuggling — not the smuggling itself — that is risking war:

“Rhetoric escalated rapidly, creating a perception in the public that a resumption of conflict was imminent,” the secretary-general wrote in the report. …

The UN chief wrote in his report that the heightened tensions were stoked by Israel’s claims of Hezbollah’s arms acquisitions. He said this “raised the specter of a miscalculation by either party leading to a resumption of hostilities, with potentially devastating consequences for Lebanon and the region.” …

Israel’s disappointment was compounded by the fact that Ban’s report did not mention Hezbollah’s involvement in a series of attempts by Lebanese in the south to interfere with UNIFIL’s operations over the past month. … In his report, Ban said UNIFIL enjoys “freedom of movement” in all of southern Lebanon. He also cited five unusual incidents in which UNIFIL troops were injured and a UN vehicle was stolen, but he refused to blame Hezbollah.

In other words, the UN secretary-general is saying that if war breaks out — even if Hezbollah starts it — it will not be Hezbollah’s fault, even though the group has been illegally importing massive quantities of rockets, and it will not be Syria’s and Iran’s fault, which have been supplying the weapons. It will be Israel’s fault — for talking about it. This would be merely appalling and ridiculous if it weren’t so dangerous: with the UN having already assured Hezbollah that future hostilities will be blamed on Israel, war has become more likely.

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Obama Enables the Iranian Misogynists

Recently, Iran was allowed onto the UN Commission on the Status of Women with not a peep of protest from the Obama administration. That distinction, I suppose, gives them immunity from scrutiny over this:

Iranian police have issued warnings to 62,000 women who were “badly veiled” in the Shiite holy province of Qom as part of a crackdown on dress and behaviour. Colonel Mehdi Khorasani, the provincial police chief, said police had also confiscated around 100 cars for carrying improperly dressed women and said that “encouraging such relaxations are among the objectives of the enemy.” … By law, women in the Islamic republic must be covered from head to foot, with their hair completely veiled and social interaction is banned between men and women who are not related.

The report explains that Ahmadinejad was opposed to the crackdown (his venom is reserved mostly for Jews these days?), but that he lost that one to “hardliners and several top clerics who have criticised him for opposing the police crackdown.” So the nation that makes pronouncements on other nations’ treatment of women has launched a crackdown on its own women:

Iran’s morality police have returned to the streets in past weeks, confiscating cars whose male drivers harass women, local media say, without clarifying what amounts to harassment. The reports say the police or hardline militiamen have been stopping cars with young men or women inside to question their relationship.

The Obama team is complicit in this farce, by treating the regime as legitimate and as capable of policing others’ human rights records. It is the same mentality that assumes that an international flotilla investigation can be “fair” or “credible” and that led us to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. In sum, by ignoring evil and by elevating cordiality with despotic regimes over other interests, the U.S. is now a supporting player in the UN farce. That’s damaging to the credibility and standing of the U.S. but tragic for the females of the morality police.

One more thing: if an unmarried woman or a woman married to someone else is in a car with a man, what do we suppose happens to her then? Just asking, because our administration apparently doesn’t care to ask or consider the answer.

Recently, Iran was allowed onto the UN Commission on the Status of Women with not a peep of protest from the Obama administration. That distinction, I suppose, gives them immunity from scrutiny over this:

Iranian police have issued warnings to 62,000 women who were “badly veiled” in the Shiite holy province of Qom as part of a crackdown on dress and behaviour. Colonel Mehdi Khorasani, the provincial police chief, said police had also confiscated around 100 cars for carrying improperly dressed women and said that “encouraging such relaxations are among the objectives of the enemy.” … By law, women in the Islamic republic must be covered from head to foot, with their hair completely veiled and social interaction is banned between men and women who are not related.

The report explains that Ahmadinejad was opposed to the crackdown (his venom is reserved mostly for Jews these days?), but that he lost that one to “hardliners and several top clerics who have criticised him for opposing the police crackdown.” So the nation that makes pronouncements on other nations’ treatment of women has launched a crackdown on its own women:

Iran’s morality police have returned to the streets in past weeks, confiscating cars whose male drivers harass women, local media say, without clarifying what amounts to harassment. The reports say the police or hardline militiamen have been stopping cars with young men or women inside to question their relationship.

The Obama team is complicit in this farce, by treating the regime as legitimate and as capable of policing others’ human rights records. It is the same mentality that assumes that an international flotilla investigation can be “fair” or “credible” and that led us to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. In sum, by ignoring evil and by elevating cordiality with despotic regimes over other interests, the U.S. is now a supporting player in the UN farce. That’s damaging to the credibility and standing of the U.S. but tragic for the females of the morality police.

One more thing: if an unmarried woman or a woman married to someone else is in a car with a man, what do we suppose happens to her then? Just asking, because our administration apparently doesn’t care to ask or consider the answer.

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Drafting Diplomatic Alternatives for Israel

The one-day-old Israel Security Council, founded by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, seeks to fill a crucial gap in Israeli public discourse by crafting alternatives to accepted diplomatic dogmas.

JCPA chief Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, explained to reporters that Israel’s biggest international-relations problem is its inability to articulate what it actually wants. Any Palestinian Authority official can recite his goals: a Palestinian state, the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem. But “if someone asks an Israeli politician they say, ‘It’s complicated’ or ‘We want peace,’ or ‘a secure peace.’ The Palestinians have clear targets and we have only indistinct goals.”

What Gold didn’t mention, but is equally true, is that the same problem plagues Israel’s internal discourse. Virtually the only Israeli who ever articulated a clear diplomatic vision is the left-wing Yossi Beilin. And this remains the left’s best argument against the center-right. Whenever someone points out the Beilinite vision’s dangers, leftist politicians retort: “So what’s your solution?” And since center-right politicians have no real answer, they wind up adopting Beilinesque solutions once in office.

Granted, a “solution” shouldn’t be necessary. In real life, not all problems have instant solutions, and Israeli politicians should be capable of saying so — just as successive American presidents acknowledged that there was no instant solution to the Soviet problem, so the free world simply had to hold the line against Communist expansion until a solution became possible. This has the great advantage of being true: until the Arabs accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, no diplomatic solution will be possible.

But Israeli politicians have never succeeded in making this argument. Thus Gold and his colleagues, who represent a broad center-right spectrum, are wise to seek to craft an alternative vision.

The council’s second vital goal is to restore security, and especially Israel’s need for defensible borders, to the center of the diplomatic discourse. At a JPCA symposium on Israel’s security needs earlier this year, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a council member, noted that contrary to accepted dogma, high-trajectory weapons make defensible borders more important, not less.

The 2006 Second Lebanon War demonstrated one reason. The Israel Air Force destroyed all of Hezbollah’s medium- and long-range missiles the first day, because these missiles are easier for intelligence to detect. But short-range missiles are almost impossible to detect and destroy by air; the only solution is to keep them out of range by physically occupying territory. That’s why Israel is currently unwilling to leave the West Bank, which is in rocket range of all its major cities.

But Dayan also cited another reason: Israel’s small population means a small standing army, so its defense depends on the reserves. But rocket fire could disrupt their mobilization, requiring the standing army to fight for longer before they arrive. Moreover, the air force might be too busy with the missile threat to help. Both factors make strategic depth critical.

If the council succeeds in changing the diplomatic discourse on these issues, it will make an invaluable contribution to Israel’s future. So wish it luck.

The one-day-old Israel Security Council, founded by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, seeks to fill a crucial gap in Israeli public discourse by crafting alternatives to accepted diplomatic dogmas.

JCPA chief Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, explained to reporters that Israel’s biggest international-relations problem is its inability to articulate what it actually wants. Any Palestinian Authority official can recite his goals: a Palestinian state, the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem. But “if someone asks an Israeli politician they say, ‘It’s complicated’ or ‘We want peace,’ or ‘a secure peace.’ The Palestinians have clear targets and we have only indistinct goals.”

What Gold didn’t mention, but is equally true, is that the same problem plagues Israel’s internal discourse. Virtually the only Israeli who ever articulated a clear diplomatic vision is the left-wing Yossi Beilin. And this remains the left’s best argument against the center-right. Whenever someone points out the Beilinite vision’s dangers, leftist politicians retort: “So what’s your solution?” And since center-right politicians have no real answer, they wind up adopting Beilinesque solutions once in office.

Granted, a “solution” shouldn’t be necessary. In real life, not all problems have instant solutions, and Israeli politicians should be capable of saying so — just as successive American presidents acknowledged that there was no instant solution to the Soviet problem, so the free world simply had to hold the line against Communist expansion until a solution became possible. This has the great advantage of being true: until the Arabs accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, no diplomatic solution will be possible.

But Israeli politicians have never succeeded in making this argument. Thus Gold and his colleagues, who represent a broad center-right spectrum, are wise to seek to craft an alternative vision.

The council’s second vital goal is to restore security, and especially Israel’s need for defensible borders, to the center of the diplomatic discourse. At a JPCA symposium on Israel’s security needs earlier this year, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a council member, noted that contrary to accepted dogma, high-trajectory weapons make defensible borders more important, not less.

The 2006 Second Lebanon War demonstrated one reason. The Israel Air Force destroyed all of Hezbollah’s medium- and long-range missiles the first day, because these missiles are easier for intelligence to detect. But short-range missiles are almost impossible to detect and destroy by air; the only solution is to keep them out of range by physically occupying territory. That’s why Israel is currently unwilling to leave the West Bank, which is in rocket range of all its major cities.

But Dayan also cited another reason: Israel’s small population means a small standing army, so its defense depends on the reserves. But rocket fire could disrupt their mobilization, requiring the standing army to fight for longer before they arrive. Moreover, the air force might be too busy with the missile threat to help. Both factors make strategic depth critical.

If the council succeeds in changing the diplomatic discourse on these issues, it will make an invaluable contribution to Israel’s future. So wish it luck.

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