Commentary Magazine


Topic: Davos

Media Attack on Israel

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

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Our No-Contact Policy

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the United States had not changed its no-contact policy with regard to Iran. The statement was prompted by Zalmay Khalilzad, who sat next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a panel at Davos on January 26. Khalilzad, Washington’s U.N. ambassador, neither greeted the Iranian nor shook his hand. Yet the American diplomat broke State Department practice by not seeking permission before appearing at the discussion session. McCormack implied that the Bush administration would have preferred that Khalilzad not have participated in the panel discussion.

Should American diplomats shun their Iranian counterparts? Our ultimate goals are not to isolate Iran and make it an enemy for generations. Our goals are to stop Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, end its support for Iraqi insurgents, and prevent it from closing the Persian Gulf. In all probability, we will not accomplish these objectives until the fanatical theocracy that rules the country falls. As Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute points out, since the 1979 revolution every American administration has tried to negotiate with Iran and all have failed. That’s because the ayatollahs wish to destroy those with whom they disagree and especially Americans. “They are not like us, and they do not share our dreams,” he has written. “Diplomacy will not tame them. Only our victory will.”

There are many routes to victory, and not all of them require American diplomats like Khalilzad to run for cover whenever a mullah approaches the room. The problem with American policy toward Iran—apart from the fact that it is achieving little—is that it is more petulant attitude than comprehensive plan. A no-contact rule only makes sense when it is part of a coordinated effort that actually has a chance of succeeding. We have no such plan. Not only do we look weak, we appear hardheaded and intransigent.

So the big story is how Condoleezza Rice is losing control of her diplomats, as evidenced by Khalilzad’s participation at Davos. Nobody is talking about how she is prevailing over the theocrats in Iran. Until the Secretary of State can come up with a credible policy, American diplomats will be prohibited from standing their ground in forums where Iranians are present. And, more important, we will lose even more time in the existential struggle against Tehran.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the United States had not changed its no-contact policy with regard to Iran. The statement was prompted by Zalmay Khalilzad, who sat next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a panel at Davos on January 26. Khalilzad, Washington’s U.N. ambassador, neither greeted the Iranian nor shook his hand. Yet the American diplomat broke State Department practice by not seeking permission before appearing at the discussion session. McCormack implied that the Bush administration would have preferred that Khalilzad not have participated in the panel discussion.

Should American diplomats shun their Iranian counterparts? Our ultimate goals are not to isolate Iran and make it an enemy for generations. Our goals are to stop Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, end its support for Iraqi insurgents, and prevent it from closing the Persian Gulf. In all probability, we will not accomplish these objectives until the fanatical theocracy that rules the country falls. As Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute points out, since the 1979 revolution every American administration has tried to negotiate with Iran and all have failed. That’s because the ayatollahs wish to destroy those with whom they disagree and especially Americans. “They are not like us, and they do not share our dreams,” he has written. “Diplomacy will not tame them. Only our victory will.”

There are many routes to victory, and not all of them require American diplomats like Khalilzad to run for cover whenever a mullah approaches the room. The problem with American policy toward Iran—apart from the fact that it is achieving little—is that it is more petulant attitude than comprehensive plan. A no-contact rule only makes sense when it is part of a coordinated effort that actually has a chance of succeeding. We have no such plan. Not only do we look weak, we appear hardheaded and intransigent.

So the big story is how Condoleezza Rice is losing control of her diplomats, as evidenced by Khalilzad’s participation at Davos. Nobody is talking about how she is prevailing over the theocrats in Iran. Until the Secretary of State can come up with a credible policy, American diplomats will be prohibited from standing their ground in forums where Iranians are present. And, more important, we will lose even more time in the existential struggle against Tehran.

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Bluffing Iran

Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he expected his country to be producing electricity from the atom within a year. “On the nuclear path we are moving towards the peak,” he told a crowd in Bushehr, the city where Tehran has located its Russian-built reactor. On Monday, Russia delivered the eighth and final shipment of enriched uranium to fuel the plant.

After failing to stop Moscow, President Bush last month said he supported Russia’s supplying nuclear fuel for Bushehr. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich,” he noted. Tehran, not surprisingly, was not buying the argument. Nor would it accept purchasing enriched uranium from an international nuclear-fuel bank. “Having this nuclear-fuel cycle is part of our right,” said Hashemi Samareh, Ahmadinejad’s chief advisor, in Davos earlier this week. “There is no reason—when we can produce something—to get it from other people.”

No reason at all, Hashemi? Suppose Washington, Brussels, Moscow, and Beijing jointly guaranteed the supply of enriched uranium indefinitely and without cost. If you insisted on spending billions of dollars to produce something that you could have for free, we might conclude that you were enriching uranium for other purposes, such as building the core of a nuclear weapon. If you replied that your nation wanted to be self-sufficient, I would ask why you are concerned that the world would cut off supply. Are you planning some abhorrent act?

At the beginning of last month, we learned that the American intelligence community had “high confidence” that Iran, in the fall of 2003, had abandoned its program to build a bomb. Whatever one may think of the National Intelligence Estimate, let’s put the Iranians to the test. Let’s see if the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad will accept the most generous offer that the international community could ever make. If the Iranians reject it, we will have obtained the best evidence of their actual plans.

What plans? Yesterday, while speaking about scaling nuclear peaks, Ahmadinejad managed to slip in this message to the West: “I warn you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity, which has reached the end of the line.”

Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he expected his country to be producing electricity from the atom within a year. “On the nuclear path we are moving towards the peak,” he told a crowd in Bushehr, the city where Tehran has located its Russian-built reactor. On Monday, Russia delivered the eighth and final shipment of enriched uranium to fuel the plant.

After failing to stop Moscow, President Bush last month said he supported Russia’s supplying nuclear fuel for Bushehr. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich,” he noted. Tehran, not surprisingly, was not buying the argument. Nor would it accept purchasing enriched uranium from an international nuclear-fuel bank. “Having this nuclear-fuel cycle is part of our right,” said Hashemi Samareh, Ahmadinejad’s chief advisor, in Davos earlier this week. “There is no reason—when we can produce something—to get it from other people.”

No reason at all, Hashemi? Suppose Washington, Brussels, Moscow, and Beijing jointly guaranteed the supply of enriched uranium indefinitely and without cost. If you insisted on spending billions of dollars to produce something that you could have for free, we might conclude that you were enriching uranium for other purposes, such as building the core of a nuclear weapon. If you replied that your nation wanted to be self-sufficient, I would ask why you are concerned that the world would cut off supply. Are you planning some abhorrent act?

At the beginning of last month, we learned that the American intelligence community had “high confidence” that Iran, in the fall of 2003, had abandoned its program to build a bomb. Whatever one may think of the National Intelligence Estimate, let’s put the Iranians to the test. Let’s see if the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad will accept the most generous offer that the international community could ever make. If the Iranians reject it, we will have obtained the best evidence of their actual plans.

What plans? Yesterday, while speaking about scaling nuclear peaks, Ahmadinejad managed to slip in this message to the West: “I warn you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity, which has reached the end of the line.”

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Another Reason to Fear Jacob Zuma

One of the few reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the impending presidency of Jacob Zuma in South Africa was the expectation that the ousted Deputy President would change his country’s disastrous policies towards Zimbabwe. Zuma’s leadership style is that of the populist, in stark contrast to Thabo Mbeki, an English-educated intellectual with an aloof demeanor. Zuma has long been the man of the African National Congress’ left wing, and is firmly supported by the country’s Communist Party and COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, both of which fought a years-long struggle to mobilize support for Zuma over Mbeki, whom they viewed as too friendly to business. The support Zuma has garnered from the most left-wing elements in South African politics would normally give those supportive of liberal democracy and free markets pause, yet on the issue of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s trade unions have been stalwart opponents of Mugabe. The Zimbabwean dictator, after all, has tried to crush free labor unions, and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe — the Movement for Democratic Change — is led by a trade unionist. South African labor has put worker brotherhood before vague appeals to liberation-era, anti-imperialist “struggle” politics, and for that it should be applauded.

Yet the expectation that Zuma would follow South African labor’s lead in favoring a more aggressive policy to end the rule of Robert Mugabe and restore constitutional government seems to have been dashed. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zuma criticized the United States and Europe for “tell[ing] us what we need to do” about Zimbabwe and said that Western appeals contained “an element of racism.” He went onto state that “I’m not sure I will do anything fundamentally different,” from Mbeki in terms of Zimbabwe policy.

For years, Zuma’s critics have alleged that he will prove to be another Mugabe. I’ve long found such criticism hysterical, as South Africa’s economic infrastructure, centuries-long example of (limited) parliamentary government, and connections to Western capital would preclude a Zimbabwe-type tragedy from occurring there. Jacob Zuma will not be another Mugabe, but, at the very least, he does not seem all too bothered by him.

One of the few reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the impending presidency of Jacob Zuma in South Africa was the expectation that the ousted Deputy President would change his country’s disastrous policies towards Zimbabwe. Zuma’s leadership style is that of the populist, in stark contrast to Thabo Mbeki, an English-educated intellectual with an aloof demeanor. Zuma has long been the man of the African National Congress’ left wing, and is firmly supported by the country’s Communist Party and COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, both of which fought a years-long struggle to mobilize support for Zuma over Mbeki, whom they viewed as too friendly to business. The support Zuma has garnered from the most left-wing elements in South African politics would normally give those supportive of liberal democracy and free markets pause, yet on the issue of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s trade unions have been stalwart opponents of Mugabe. The Zimbabwean dictator, after all, has tried to crush free labor unions, and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe — the Movement for Democratic Change — is led by a trade unionist. South African labor has put worker brotherhood before vague appeals to liberation-era, anti-imperialist “struggle” politics, and for that it should be applauded.

Yet the expectation that Zuma would follow South African labor’s lead in favoring a more aggressive policy to end the rule of Robert Mugabe and restore constitutional government seems to have been dashed. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zuma criticized the United States and Europe for “tell[ing] us what we need to do” about Zimbabwe and said that Western appeals contained “an element of racism.” He went onto state that “I’m not sure I will do anything fundamentally different,” from Mbeki in terms of Zimbabwe policy.

For years, Zuma’s critics have alleged that he will prove to be another Mugabe. I’ve long found such criticism hysterical, as South Africa’s economic infrastructure, centuries-long example of (limited) parliamentary government, and connections to Western capital would preclude a Zimbabwe-type tragedy from occurring there. Jacob Zuma will not be another Mugabe, but, at the very least, he does not seem all too bothered by him.

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Gates vs. Grove

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

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The David Gergen Project

Not since The Blair Witch Project has there been a more terrifying piece of seemingly amateur video than this short squib captured by my friend Jeff Jarvis, in which David Gergen, the Super Elastic Man of American politics, gets down and funky with all the other extremely white people at the extremely elite Davos conference.

Not since The Blair Witch Project has there been a more terrifying piece of seemingly amateur video than this short squib captured by my friend Jeff Jarvis, in which David Gergen, the Super Elastic Man of American politics, gets down and funky with all the other extremely white people at the extremely elite Davos conference.

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Iran’s Grand Strategy

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

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Musharraf: Going, Going . . .

This morning’s newspapers bring more news that Pervez Musharraf’s days as president of Pakistan are numbered. Even as the retired general is gallivanting around Europe, meeting with other movers and shakers at Davos, his base of support among the Pakistani military is crumbling. According to news accounts such as this one, more than 100 senior retired military officers have called on Musharraf to resign. It’s not hard to see why: The military sees that Musharraf’s credibility is shot, and they do not want him to tar the entire institution.

As the Musharraf regime teeters on the edge of collapse and Islamic extremists continue their reign of terror, the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy, which was closely tied to the general, lies in tatters. Pakistan is fast emerging, if it has not already, as the most critical battleground in the Global War on Terror, or whatever we’re calling it these days. Thus it is good to read that the U.S. is planning to offer more assistance to the Pakistani armed forces and perhaps even send more Special Operations forces to hunt down the terrorists.

But sending commandos and military aid is seldom enough to quell a growing insurgency of the kind that Pakistan faces. A prerequisite for success is a legitimate government that can mobilize the people against the terrorists. That is what Pakistan lacks at the moment, and will lack as long as Musharraf continues to cling to power. It is high time the Bush administration realized that, and pushed its pal out the door.

This morning’s newspapers bring more news that Pervez Musharraf’s days as president of Pakistan are numbered. Even as the retired general is gallivanting around Europe, meeting with other movers and shakers at Davos, his base of support among the Pakistani military is crumbling. According to news accounts such as this one, more than 100 senior retired military officers have called on Musharraf to resign. It’s not hard to see why: The military sees that Musharraf’s credibility is shot, and they do not want him to tar the entire institution.

As the Musharraf regime teeters on the edge of collapse and Islamic extremists continue their reign of terror, the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy, which was closely tied to the general, lies in tatters. Pakistan is fast emerging, if it has not already, as the most critical battleground in the Global War on Terror, or whatever we’re calling it these days. Thus it is good to read that the U.S. is planning to offer more assistance to the Pakistani armed forces and perhaps even send more Special Operations forces to hunt down the terrorists.

But sending commandos and military aid is seldom enough to quell a growing insurgency of the kind that Pakistan faces. A prerequisite for success is a legitimate government that can mobilize the people against the terrorists. That is what Pakistan lacks at the moment, and will lack as long as Musharraf continues to cling to power. It is high time the Bush administration realized that, and pushed its pal out the door.

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Too Many Hats in the Ring

In a recent column, satirist Andy Borowitz suggests that in 2008, there will be more presidential candidates than there are voters:

With politicians throwing their hats in the ring at a torrid pace, by November 2008, one out of every two Americans is expected to be running for the nation’s highest office—an extraordinary figure by any measure.

Why so many candidates? Because the barriers to entry are so low and the psychic rewards so great. Today the presidential campaign has become a kind of Davos for the political set: a seemingly endless opportunity for opining on energy, education, and health care, pontificating about the future, rubbing elbows with high-profile journalists, and being taken very, very seriously. No other avenue of American life grants so much attention and national exposure to individuals of such modest accomplishments. How else can one explain the presidential campaigns of Congressman Duncan Hunter, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, or former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore?

All this places the media in a dilemma: how can they cover so many candidates without appearing biased? Because they fear being accused of pre-emptively anointing a front-runner, the media use a spurious evenhandedness in discussing the growing roster of aspirants. As the passing weeks have launched the presidential ambitions of one mediocre pol after another, one wonders whether each will be accorded the full road-to-the-White-House treatment: extended excerpts of his speeches on the Jim Lehrer Newshour; a one-on-one interview with Marvin Kalb at the Kennedy School; cinema verité footage of his New Hampshire town meetings on C-SPAN, etc.

While editorial writers are loath to admit it, there is, in the end, only one way to separate the presidential wheat from the chaff: fundraising. Asking someone for $2,000 to support your candidacy—or, more accurately, asking someone to find 20 such donors—is still the best test of a candidate’s national viability. This point seems to be utterly lost on those public watchdogs who insist that there is too much money in our campaigns. Fred Wertheimer, the founder of campaign-finance watchdog Common Cause and now president of Democracy21, held a press conference on Wednesday to bemoan the fact that Hillary Clinton may forgo public funding of her campaign. Public funding, Wertheimer contends, gives “serious candidates” a chance to be heard.

Yet surely any “serious” candidate ought to be interesting enough to attract serious money, or at least enough to mount a competitive campaign. The alternative is to rely on public financing, the favorite hobby horse of Wertheimer, former Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, the New York Times, the Center for Responsive Politics, and many other self-appointed guardians of good government. It is remarkable that this argument can still be made with a straight face: do we really want a taxpayer-funded system that enables and indeed fosters the narcissistic electoral pursuits of Dennis Kucinich?

In a recent column, satirist Andy Borowitz suggests that in 2008, there will be more presidential candidates than there are voters:

With politicians throwing their hats in the ring at a torrid pace, by November 2008, one out of every two Americans is expected to be running for the nation’s highest office—an extraordinary figure by any measure.

Why so many candidates? Because the barriers to entry are so low and the psychic rewards so great. Today the presidential campaign has become a kind of Davos for the political set: a seemingly endless opportunity for opining on energy, education, and health care, pontificating about the future, rubbing elbows with high-profile journalists, and being taken very, very seriously. No other avenue of American life grants so much attention and national exposure to individuals of such modest accomplishments. How else can one explain the presidential campaigns of Congressman Duncan Hunter, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, or former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore?

All this places the media in a dilemma: how can they cover so many candidates without appearing biased? Because they fear being accused of pre-emptively anointing a front-runner, the media use a spurious evenhandedness in discussing the growing roster of aspirants. As the passing weeks have launched the presidential ambitions of one mediocre pol after another, one wonders whether each will be accorded the full road-to-the-White-House treatment: extended excerpts of his speeches on the Jim Lehrer Newshour; a one-on-one interview with Marvin Kalb at the Kennedy School; cinema verité footage of his New Hampshire town meetings on C-SPAN, etc.

While editorial writers are loath to admit it, there is, in the end, only one way to separate the presidential wheat from the chaff: fundraising. Asking someone for $2,000 to support your candidacy—or, more accurately, asking someone to find 20 such donors—is still the best test of a candidate’s national viability. This point seems to be utterly lost on those public watchdogs who insist that there is too much money in our campaigns. Fred Wertheimer, the founder of campaign-finance watchdog Common Cause and now president of Democracy21, held a press conference on Wednesday to bemoan the fact that Hillary Clinton may forgo public funding of her campaign. Public funding, Wertheimer contends, gives “serious candidates” a chance to be heard.

Yet surely any “serious” candidate ought to be interesting enough to attract serious money, or at least enough to mount a competitive campaign. The alternative is to rely on public financing, the favorite hobby horse of Wertheimer, former Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, the New York Times, the Center for Responsive Politics, and many other self-appointed guardians of good government. It is remarkable that this argument can still be made with a straight face: do we really want a taxpayer-funded system that enables and indeed fosters the narcissistic electoral pursuits of Dennis Kucinich?

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