Commentary Magazine


Topic: co-author

Middle East Optimism Requires Blinders

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end. Read More

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end.

The chief of these is the power of Hamas. Optimists like Goldberg acknowledge the fact that Gaza is a Hamas state and that no peace can be signed without its agreement. Unacknowledged in the Goldberg-Ibish piece is the fact that Abbas’s hold on the West Bank rests not on his legitimacy or the strength of his forces but on Israel’s unwillingness to allow it to fall into the hands of Hamas, as happened in Gaza in 2006. After all, Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008 and was turned down flat. President Obama’s foolish insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze even in those areas (as the recently released Al Jazeera documents show) the PA had already agreed would stay in Israeli hands has made it impossible for those talks to be renewed. But even if Abbas were to return to the table, he would be faced with the same dilemma he had before. Were he to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn, he would face the wrath of his own people (as the reaction from the released documents proves), and even Israel’s support might not be enough to keep him in power, or alive.

Goldberg and Ibish conclude their lengthy article by calling for both Netanyahu and Abbas to visit the other side and acknowledge their antagonists’ respective rights and pain much in the way that Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan once did. But they forget that the original Oslo Accords were just such an acknowledgment, and that while Israelis swooned over such gestures (even though Yasir Arafat’s credibility was very much doubtful), Palestinians merely took Israel’s willingness to make concessions as a sign of weakness and lack of faith in the rightness of their cause. Moreover, Abbas doesn’t dare do more. In a region where both Israel and the PA are faced with the growing influence of Iran and its allies Hezbollah (which is moving toward control of Lebanon) and Hamas, the tide of extremism is more than a match for Fayyad’s pragmatism. Under such circumstances, optimism about peace requires the sort of tunnel vision that comes only with blind faith.

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The Backlash

Mark Halperin, co-author of a very good campaign book, Game Change, is usually a reasonable political reporter. But yesterday he made comments on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that were irresponsible and deeply (and unintentionally) revealing.

In discussing the political reaction to the Tucson massacre, Halperin said: “I just want to single out one thing. I don’t want to over-generalize. But I think the media and the politicians have behaved pretty well so far. The thing I’m most concerned about now is the anger on the right-wing commentariat. On Fox and George Will and other conservatives are in some cases justifiably upset at liberals. But they’re turning this right now, in the last 24 hours, back into the standard operating procedure of ‘all this is war and fodder for content’ rather than trying to bring the country together.”

“Wait a second, Mark,” Joe Scarborough responded. “I think they would say that you have that backwards, that a shooting was turned into fodder to attack conservatives.”

“And I’ve already made that criticism as well,” Halperin said. “They’re right. But rather than seizing on it and turning the other cheek, they’re back at their war stations. And that’s not going to help us.”

Let’s examine Halperin’s arguments in turn.

What’s not going to “bring the country together” is a grotesque effort by some liberals to implicate conservatives in the shooting death of six innocent people. And perhaps if the network Mr. Halperin appears on (MSNBC) and the magazine he writes for (Time) had not allowed, and in some cases advanced, that narrative, conservatives would not have to go “back to their war stations.” (For more, see this.)

Mr. Halperin concedes that conservatives are right in believing that the Tucson shooting was turned into fodder against conservatives. Yet he seems quite untroubled by it all. In fact, he counsels conservatives to “turn the other cheek.” Now isn’t that touching? Conservatives have been on the receiving end of a remarkable slander campaign — and Halperin is most upset that they are responding to it. It’s not advancing the civilized public discourse conversation that Halperin says he wants to have. What he doesn’t seem to grasp — and it really isn’t all that hard to grasp — is that when the left attempts to make conservatives moral accessories to a massacre, it isn’t likely to drain our political dialogue of anger. And the blame for this doesn’t rest with those who are on the receiving end of the slander. Read More

Mark Halperin, co-author of a very good campaign book, Game Change, is usually a reasonable political reporter. But yesterday he made comments on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that were irresponsible and deeply (and unintentionally) revealing.

In discussing the political reaction to the Tucson massacre, Halperin said: “I just want to single out one thing. I don’t want to over-generalize. But I think the media and the politicians have behaved pretty well so far. The thing I’m most concerned about now is the anger on the right-wing commentariat. On Fox and George Will and other conservatives are in some cases justifiably upset at liberals. But they’re turning this right now, in the last 24 hours, back into the standard operating procedure of ‘all this is war and fodder for content’ rather than trying to bring the country together.”

“Wait a second, Mark,” Joe Scarborough responded. “I think they would say that you have that backwards, that a shooting was turned into fodder to attack conservatives.”

“And I’ve already made that criticism as well,” Halperin said. “They’re right. But rather than seizing on it and turning the other cheek, they’re back at their war stations. And that’s not going to help us.”

Let’s examine Halperin’s arguments in turn.

What’s not going to “bring the country together” is a grotesque effort by some liberals to implicate conservatives in the shooting death of six innocent people. And perhaps if the network Mr. Halperin appears on (MSNBC) and the magazine he writes for (Time) had not allowed, and in some cases advanced, that narrative, conservatives would not have to go “back to their war stations.” (For more, see this.)

Mr. Halperin concedes that conservatives are right in believing that the Tucson shooting was turned into fodder against conservatives. Yet he seems quite untroubled by it all. In fact, he counsels conservatives to “turn the other cheek.” Now isn’t that touching? Conservatives have been on the receiving end of a remarkable slander campaign — and Halperin is most upset that they are responding to it. It’s not advancing the civilized public discourse conversation that Halperin says he wants to have. What he doesn’t seem to grasp — and it really isn’t all that hard to grasp — is that when the left attempts to make conservatives moral accessories to a massacre, it isn’t likely to drain our political dialogue of anger. And the blame for this doesn’t rest with those who are on the receiving end of the slander.

What I think we’re seeing in Halperin’s reaction is upset that the rules that once applied in journalism no longer do.

Once upon a time, a libel by liberals, amplified by the press, would have worked. The narrative would have been locked into place. Conservatives could complain about it here and there, but it wouldn’t really matter much (think Reed Irvine). The rise of the “new media,” which is not really so new anymore, has changed all that.

Today there are a variety of outlets — tweets, blogs, websites, conservative talk radio, and cable news, as well as columnists and even a few editorial pages — that are quite able and willing to push back, to deconstruct bad arguments, to point out factual errors, and to change the trajectory of a story.

We’ve seen that with the Tucson massacre. During the first 24 hours, the left, aided by many in the “mainstream media,” argued that the killings were fostered by a political (read: conservative) climate of hate. That was a completely unjustified and bigoted assumption; and in every hour since then, it has been exposed as such. We are now seeing a public backlash against that calumny. It will grow with time.

The quasi-media monopoly was broken some time ago. A relatively few journalists with a strikingly similar ideological disposition are no longer able to dictate the story lines they want. In this case, they desperately wanted to use the Tucson massacre as a way to indict conservatives for their supposed part in creating a “climate of hate.” But this effort is backfiring. The response from conservatives (along with a few reporters and left-leaning commentators) has been swift, comprehensive, sustained, and effective. Liberal-minded journalists see that and are rattled by it. In response, they are making silly arguments that, on reflection, they probably wish they hadn’t made. But those arguments are themselves instructive. Many journalists are lamenting the loss of a world that no longer exists.

Liberals wanted to use the Tucson massacre to smear conservatives. In the end, it will further discredit them and journalism itself. We are seeing, in a somewhat different form, the Dan Rather/National Guard story all over again. And we know how that turned out.

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Morning Commentary

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

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The Permanent Things

The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson (co-author, with me, of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era) has written a lovely column about Christopher Hitchens, who is now enduring a journey to what Hitchens calls “the sick country.” The column ends with this:

At the Pew Forum, Hitchens was asked a mischievous question: What positive lesson have you learned from Christianity? He replied, with great earnestness: the transience and ephemeral nature of power and all things human. But some things may last longer than he imagines, including examples of courage, loyalty and moral conviction.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Hitchens has stood for over the years — but Gerson’s tribute to him is both insightful and well-deserved.

The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson (co-author, with me, of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era) has written a lovely column about Christopher Hitchens, who is now enduring a journey to what Hitchens calls “the sick country.” The column ends with this:

At the Pew Forum, Hitchens was asked a mischievous question: What positive lesson have you learned from Christianity? He replied, with great earnestness: the transience and ephemeral nature of power and all things human. But some things may last longer than he imagines, including examples of courage, loyalty and moral conviction.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Hitchens has stood for over the years — but Gerson’s tribute to him is both insightful and well-deserved.

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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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American Equality

Arthur Brooks, the outstanding president of the American Enterprise Institute (and co-author, with me, of a forthcoming monograph on capitalism and morality), published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on fairness that ends this way:

There is nothing inherently fair about equalizing incomes. If the government penalizes you for working harder than somebody else, that is unfair. If you save your money but retire with the same pension as a free-spending neighbor, that is also unfair.

Real fairness, as most of us see it, does not mean bringing the top down. Yes, free markets tend to produce unequal incomes. We should not be ashamed of that. On the contrary, our system is the envy of the world and should be a source of pride. Generation after generation, it has rewarded hard work and good values, education and street smarts. It has offered the world’s most disadvantaged not government redistribution but a chance to earn their success.

That is true fairness, American-style.

One of the reasons Brooks’ piece is important is because he places economic issues in a moral frame and, rather than running away from the charge of “fairness” – which has been used as a battering ram against conservatives for decades – Brooks takes it head on and turns it to the advantage of conservatives. Brooks’ article helps explain why, in the words of Tocqueville, “equality in liberty” is vastly preferable, both economically and morally, to “equality in restraint and servitude.”

Call it true equality, American-style.

Arthur Brooks, the outstanding president of the American Enterprise Institute (and co-author, with me, of a forthcoming monograph on capitalism and morality), published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on fairness that ends this way:

There is nothing inherently fair about equalizing incomes. If the government penalizes you for working harder than somebody else, that is unfair. If you save your money but retire with the same pension as a free-spending neighbor, that is also unfair.

Real fairness, as most of us see it, does not mean bringing the top down. Yes, free markets tend to produce unequal incomes. We should not be ashamed of that. On the contrary, our system is the envy of the world and should be a source of pride. Generation after generation, it has rewarded hard work and good values, education and street smarts. It has offered the world’s most disadvantaged not government redistribution but a chance to earn their success.

That is true fairness, American-style.

One of the reasons Brooks’ piece is important is because he places economic issues in a moral frame and, rather than running away from the charge of “fairness” – which has been used as a battering ram against conservatives for decades – Brooks takes it head on and turns it to the advantage of conservatives. Brooks’ article helps explain why, in the words of Tocqueville, “equality in liberty” is vastly preferable, both economically and morally, to “equality in restraint and servitude.”

Call it true equality, American-style.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

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A World of Difference

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

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Muslim Survey “Challenges” West

A new Gallup poll is being touted as a “challenge” to western misperceptions of Islam. The survey was done on three continents and took six years to complete, and as the French news agency AFP reports, we’ve all been a little alarmist over here: “About 93 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews.”

Seven percent of 1.3 billion leaves us with . . . 91 million radical Islamists. And to think we were concerned! That piddling handful is nothing that can’t be taken care of with a little dialogue, a few billion in American aid, and some proper education. I’m feeling audaciously hopeful.

But, wait, what’s this? “The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims,” said John Esposito, who authored the book Who Speaks for Islam.

Oh well.

One shouldn’t cherry-pick facts to fit an agenda. The study does say that radicals “believe in democracy even more than many of the mainstream moderates do.” But does anyone really think we’re operating with a consistent definition of democracy here? The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, makes claims to be democratic, yet its leaders-for-life are not elected, the organization boasts a doctrine of female subordination, and it calls for the death of apostates. Kind of a big-government democracy, I suppose.

Dalia Mogahed, Esposito’s co-author, says, “A billion Muslims should be the ones that we look to, to understand what they believe, rather than a vocal minority.” How right she is. We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs. They’re the only Westerners this study challenges.

A new Gallup poll is being touted as a “challenge” to western misperceptions of Islam. The survey was done on three continents and took six years to complete, and as the French news agency AFP reports, we’ve all been a little alarmist over here: “About 93 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews.”

Seven percent of 1.3 billion leaves us with . . . 91 million radical Islamists. And to think we were concerned! That piddling handful is nothing that can’t be taken care of with a little dialogue, a few billion in American aid, and some proper education. I’m feeling audaciously hopeful.

But, wait, what’s this? “The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims,” said John Esposito, who authored the book Who Speaks for Islam.

Oh well.

One shouldn’t cherry-pick facts to fit an agenda. The study does say that radicals “believe in democracy even more than many of the mainstream moderates do.” But does anyone really think we’re operating with a consistent definition of democracy here? The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, makes claims to be democratic, yet its leaders-for-life are not elected, the organization boasts a doctrine of female subordination, and it calls for the death of apostates. Kind of a big-government democracy, I suppose.

Dalia Mogahed, Esposito’s co-author, says, “A billion Muslims should be the ones that we look to, to understand what they believe, rather than a vocal minority.” How right she is. We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs. They’re the only Westerners this study challenges.

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Choreographing the Synchronicity of Mutually-Reinforcing Couplings

That, my friends, is what Robert Malley and Hussein Agha would like us to understand is the key to peace in the Middle East. In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, they start with a somewhat reasonable premise:

Nervous about being left out, all three parties are laboring mightily to avert an understanding between the other two. . . . The end result is collective checkmate, a political standstill that hurts all and serves none.

But then the analysis gets buried in so much vague diplomatic twaddle that all of the realities of the conflict become helpfully obscured — which seems to be the point. “Fatah and Hamas will need to reach a new political arrangement, this time not one vigorously opposed by Israel.” Oh, that will be nice. So it was Israel that caused all of that unpleasantness in Gaza over the summer? “Hamas and Israel will need to achieve a cease-fire and prisoner exchange, albeit mediated by Abbas.” Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

“And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will need to negotiate a political deal with Abbas, who will have to receive a mandate to do so from Hamas.” Did you catch that? Hamas will grant its rival, Mahmoud Abbas, who Hamas views as a Zionist puppet, a “mandate” to negotiate a peace deal with the country whose annihilation is the premise of Hamas’ existence. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hamas would ever even think of doing this — but why should that stop Malley and Agha from predicting it on the Washington Post op-ed page?

They conclude this acid trip by saying:

The current mind-set, in which each side considers dealmaking by the other two to be a mortal threat, could be replaced by one in which all three couplings are viewed as mutually reinforcing. For that, the parties’ allies ought to cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies. Instead, they should encourage a choreography that minimizes violence and promotes a serious diplomatic process.

Translation into plain English: Gosh, peacemaking would be so simple if everyone would just make peace already! And I want a pony for my birthday. I’m going to go huff some lighter fluid and see if I can get a piece in the Post, too.

Meanwhile, take note of who Robert Malley is: the leader of a group of revisionists who are attempting to shift blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David negotiations onto Israel and America. His co-author was an adviser to Yasser Arafat. Most disturbingly, Malley is also a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. See here, here, and here for more.

That, my friends, is what Robert Malley and Hussein Agha would like us to understand is the key to peace in the Middle East. In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, they start with a somewhat reasonable premise:

Nervous about being left out, all three parties are laboring mightily to avert an understanding between the other two. . . . The end result is collective checkmate, a political standstill that hurts all and serves none.

But then the analysis gets buried in so much vague diplomatic twaddle that all of the realities of the conflict become helpfully obscured — which seems to be the point. “Fatah and Hamas will need to reach a new political arrangement, this time not one vigorously opposed by Israel.” Oh, that will be nice. So it was Israel that caused all of that unpleasantness in Gaza over the summer? “Hamas and Israel will need to achieve a cease-fire and prisoner exchange, albeit mediated by Abbas.” Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

“And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will need to negotiate a political deal with Abbas, who will have to receive a mandate to do so from Hamas.” Did you catch that? Hamas will grant its rival, Mahmoud Abbas, who Hamas views as a Zionist puppet, a “mandate” to negotiate a peace deal with the country whose annihilation is the premise of Hamas’ existence. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hamas would ever even think of doing this — but why should that stop Malley and Agha from predicting it on the Washington Post op-ed page?

They conclude this acid trip by saying:

The current mind-set, in which each side considers dealmaking by the other two to be a mortal threat, could be replaced by one in which all three couplings are viewed as mutually reinforcing. For that, the parties’ allies ought to cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies. Instead, they should encourage a choreography that minimizes violence and promotes a serious diplomatic process.

Translation into plain English: Gosh, peacemaking would be so simple if everyone would just make peace already! And I want a pony for my birthday. I’m going to go huff some lighter fluid and see if I can get a piece in the Post, too.

Meanwhile, take note of who Robert Malley is: the leader of a group of revisionists who are attempting to shift blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David negotiations onto Israel and America. His co-author was an adviser to Yasser Arafat. Most disturbingly, Malley is also a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. See here, here, and here for more.

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The GOP’s Immigration Meltdown

The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

Read More

The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

The Washington Post noted in a front-page story that there is little reason to believe that the (deservedly maligned) Department of Homeland Security will be up to the enormous administrative task of implementing the legislation. Similarly, many voters will remember the 1986 immigration reform bill, which provided amnesty for illegal immigrants in exchange for enforcement provisions that never took hold.

McCain will no doubt be hurt by the fallout from the deal and his show of temper in defending it; Mitt Romney, in yet another flip-flop, now claims to oppose the bill. Rudy Giuliani has done little other than question the bill’s security implications. Though immigration is unlikely to boost a second-tier candidate into the top rank, it might provide the opportunity for an outsider like Tom Tancredo (who has already murmured about running) to put together a breakaway campaign based on his opposition to both abortion and illegal immigration. Whatever happens, it is obvious that for the Republican party, the political costs of this deal are going to be high.

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Freedom House v. Anatol Lieven

Anatol Lieven—a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and the co-author of Ethical Realism: A Vision of America’s Role in the World—has emerged in recent years as one of the more relentless critics of democratization as a core project of U.S. foreign policy. The latest effort in his anti-democratization campaign is a January 26 column published in the Financial Times in response to Freedom House’s recently released annual index of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World. (contentions blogger Joshua Muravchik wrote about the Washington Post‘s own attempt to spin this report here.) Lieven levels a number of serious charges at Freedom House and democracy advocates in general. Let’s examine these charges, one by one:

1. Democracy advocates, presumably including Freedom House, have exaggerated the impact of the elections in Iraq.

In its reports and findings on Iraq, Freedom House has consistently stressed the high incidence there of violence, terrorism, and sectarian strife. Freedom House has never described Iraq as a democracy or as a free society, and the country’s rating has remained “not free” throughout the period of occupation.

2. Freedom House distorts its findings to suit the ideological leanings of the American government.

Only someone who has not read Freedom in the World carefully could come to this conclusion. The latest index suggests that, far from being on the march, freedom has entered a period of stagnation, with very little progress in recent years—a conclusion hardly in line with the ideological leanings of the Bush administration.

3. Freedom House gives the United States the highest possible freedom score while judging other countries by the degree of their alliance with America.

The United States does, indeed, receive the highest possible rating—as do practically all the countries of Western Europe. One feels almost ridiculous in pointing out that a number of these countries—for starters, France, Spain, and Germany—have had sharp differences with America over its foreign policy in recent years. At the same time, Freedom in the World gives low scores to such American allies or “partners” as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

4. Freedom House does not appreciate the levels of freedom in China and Russia.

China devotes billions of dollars to the political censorship of the Internet. The authorities regularly imprison journalists, human-rights lawyers, and ordinary citizens seeking redress in cases of official abuse of power. Russia is moving precipitously in the wrong direction in almost every sphere of freedom. (For a detailed look at Russia’s regression, see Leon Aron’s What Does Putin Want? in the December issue of COMMENTARY.) What, exactly, are we meant to appreciate?

5. Freedom House has a narrow and extremist definition of freedom that fails to consider political developments leading to “a real sense of individual rights and personal liberty.”

Again, had Lieven read the report more carefully, he would have learned that Freedom House stresses precisely those institutions that are the key guarantors of “individual rights and personal liberty.” The issues of concern singled out in the report include the global decline in freedom of expression and the press, the widespread failure to create the effective rule of law, and rampant corruption.

Anatol Lieven calls himself an “ethical realist.” The “realist” component of this description seems to consist in his support of “benevolent” autocrats the globe over. Where the “ethical” comes in, given his slipshod reporting of the contents of Freedom in the World, remains rather mysterious.

Anatol Lieven—a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and the co-author of Ethical Realism: A Vision of America’s Role in the World—has emerged in recent years as one of the more relentless critics of democratization as a core project of U.S. foreign policy. The latest effort in his anti-democratization campaign is a January 26 column published in the Financial Times in response to Freedom House’s recently released annual index of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World. (contentions blogger Joshua Muravchik wrote about the Washington Post‘s own attempt to spin this report here.) Lieven levels a number of serious charges at Freedom House and democracy advocates in general. Let’s examine these charges, one by one:

1. Democracy advocates, presumably including Freedom House, have exaggerated the impact of the elections in Iraq.

In its reports and findings on Iraq, Freedom House has consistently stressed the high incidence there of violence, terrorism, and sectarian strife. Freedom House has never described Iraq as a democracy or as a free society, and the country’s rating has remained “not free” throughout the period of occupation.

2. Freedom House distorts its findings to suit the ideological leanings of the American government.

Only someone who has not read Freedom in the World carefully could come to this conclusion. The latest index suggests that, far from being on the march, freedom has entered a period of stagnation, with very little progress in recent years—a conclusion hardly in line with the ideological leanings of the Bush administration.

3. Freedom House gives the United States the highest possible freedom score while judging other countries by the degree of their alliance with America.

The United States does, indeed, receive the highest possible rating—as do practically all the countries of Western Europe. One feels almost ridiculous in pointing out that a number of these countries—for starters, France, Spain, and Germany—have had sharp differences with America over its foreign policy in recent years. At the same time, Freedom in the World gives low scores to such American allies or “partners” as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

4. Freedom House does not appreciate the levels of freedom in China and Russia.

China devotes billions of dollars to the political censorship of the Internet. The authorities regularly imprison journalists, human-rights lawyers, and ordinary citizens seeking redress in cases of official abuse of power. Russia is moving precipitously in the wrong direction in almost every sphere of freedom. (For a detailed look at Russia’s regression, see Leon Aron’s What Does Putin Want? in the December issue of COMMENTARY.) What, exactly, are we meant to appreciate?

5. Freedom House has a narrow and extremist definition of freedom that fails to consider political developments leading to “a real sense of individual rights and personal liberty.”

Again, had Lieven read the report more carefully, he would have learned that Freedom House stresses precisely those institutions that are the key guarantors of “individual rights and personal liberty.” The issues of concern singled out in the report include the global decline in freedom of expression and the press, the widespread failure to create the effective rule of law, and rampant corruption.

Anatol Lieven calls himself an “ethical realist.” The “realist” component of this description seems to consist in his support of “benevolent” autocrats the globe over. Where the “ethical” comes in, given his slipshod reporting of the contents of Freedom in the World, remains rather mysterious.

Read Less




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