Commentary Magazine


Topic: Defense Secretary

Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

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Spinning the Gates Memo

You knew this was coming: “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said that a New York Times article that revealed the existence of the memo ‘mischaracterized its purpose and content’ when it suggested Gates has despaired that the administration lacked a strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”

Really, they do have an Iran policy, honest. And the Gates memo didn’t wake up anyone or change anything. A White House spokesman insisted, “It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options.”

Well, that part is believable. In short, the rush was on to have Gates reassure everyone that the president’s got everything under control:

[T]he administration apparently believed Gates had to address the issue. “There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests,” Gates said.

Feel reassured? Believe the damage control? No, of course not. The Gates memo created a firestorm not because this was news to anyone following the Obami’s unserious Iran strategy but precisely because everyone understands there is no viable plan that Obama seems willing to employ to halt the mullahs’ nuclear program. The Obami’s solution to each and every foreign policy debacle is misdirection (Look — a nonproliferation summit!), misrepresentation (The Chinese are on board!), delay (Maybe in June we’ll have sanctions), and resignation to American feebleness (Well, who’s to say if sanctions will work?).

In the meantime, perhaps Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities and get Gates up to the Hill to testify. I’m sure it would prove enlightening as he explains what the Obami intend to do if the itty-bitty sanctions don’t work.

You knew this was coming: “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said that a New York Times article that revealed the existence of the memo ‘mischaracterized its purpose and content’ when it suggested Gates has despaired that the administration lacked a strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”

Really, they do have an Iran policy, honest. And the Gates memo didn’t wake up anyone or change anything. A White House spokesman insisted, “It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options.”

Well, that part is believable. In short, the rush was on to have Gates reassure everyone that the president’s got everything under control:

[T]he administration apparently believed Gates had to address the issue. “There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests,” Gates said.

Feel reassured? Believe the damage control? No, of course not. The Gates memo created a firestorm not because this was news to anyone following the Obami’s unserious Iran strategy but precisely because everyone understands there is no viable plan that Obama seems willing to employ to halt the mullahs’ nuclear program. The Obami’s solution to each and every foreign policy debacle is misdirection (Look — a nonproliferation summit!), misrepresentation (The Chinese are on board!), delay (Maybe in June we’ll have sanctions), and resignation to American feebleness (Well, who’s to say if sanctions will work?).

In the meantime, perhaps Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities and get Gates up to the Hill to testify. I’m sure it would prove enlightening as he explains what the Obami intend to do if the itty-bitty sanctions don’t work.

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John McCain: Pull the Trigger

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

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Gates: Obama’s Iran Policy Is a Flop

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

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RE: Obama’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Fantasy

Hillary Clinton declared of the new START treaty, “The treaty also shows the world — particularly states like Iran and North Korea — that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands.” Sigh. One hopes they really don’t believe this gibberish — that small reductions in the stockpiles of two nuclear powers have any impact on the mullahs’ determination to get their hands on just one bomb. But, alas, they seem to be sincere, and that’s the danger.

Turning to the other nuclear news of the week, John Noonan contends that the Nuclear Posture Review could have been a lot worse. Thanks to Defense Secretary Gates:

It preserved both the structure and readiness of America’s nuclear force, as the missile-bomber-submarine triad will remain intact, and there will be no “de-alerting” of ICBMs. Additionally, the NPR acknowledged that rapidly developing security scenarios may require a nuclear first strike. First strike, alerted ICBMs, and a three-system nuclear triad were all key bugaboos that the go-to-zero egalitarians wanted gone. Gates left them disappointed.

No doubt to their eternal annoyance, the secretary took the NPR a step further. He acknowledged that missile defense will play a critical role in America’s security future. He called for follow-ons to the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (which has been on alert since the Nixon administration). Gates also clearly dictated the need for significant life extension to the current inventory of nuclear weapons, a proposal that prompted nose turning from the Obama White House.

But it also — because this is the sort of thing Obama cannot be dissuaded from doing — included the goofy renunciation of nuclear weapons that allows us to use nuclear weapons only to defend ourselves against a biological or chemical attack against a country that is not in compliance with the NPT. (Imagine the inane conversation after such a strike — “Hmm, is Syria in compliance? Does Hezbollah count, as it’s not a country at all?”) On one level, it’s nonsense because in all likelihood, NPT signatories aren’t going to attack us, and if they did — and a million Americans were dead — no president is going to take any option off the table. But on another level, like Clinton’s inanity on START, it projects foolishness and removes strategic ambiguity that is useful in deterring all manner of rogue states. As Noonan comments:

The problem is the fact that Obama has tampered with a simple, effective nuclear policy that keeps the bad guys in check. That is, use a WMD of any sort on the U.S. or her allies and the response will be apocalyptic in its devastation. That doesn’t necessarily have to be true, it just has be to perceived as true by potential adversaries. Deterrence is predicated on fear of force, not force itself. It’s classic Sun Tzu — “to subdue your enemies without fighting is supreme excellence.”

Taking military force off the table with Iran, hoping the START treaty impresses the mullahs, and forswearing a nuclear response to defend the country — these are unserious and unhelpful gestures that are recognized by our enemies as evidence of a feckless administration reluctant to use force or even the threat of force. We are less safe because of it.

Hillary Clinton declared of the new START treaty, “The treaty also shows the world — particularly states like Iran and North Korea — that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands.” Sigh. One hopes they really don’t believe this gibberish — that small reductions in the stockpiles of two nuclear powers have any impact on the mullahs’ determination to get their hands on just one bomb. But, alas, they seem to be sincere, and that’s the danger.

Turning to the other nuclear news of the week, John Noonan contends that the Nuclear Posture Review could have been a lot worse. Thanks to Defense Secretary Gates:

It preserved both the structure and readiness of America’s nuclear force, as the missile-bomber-submarine triad will remain intact, and there will be no “de-alerting” of ICBMs. Additionally, the NPR acknowledged that rapidly developing security scenarios may require a nuclear first strike. First strike, alerted ICBMs, and a three-system nuclear triad were all key bugaboos that the go-to-zero egalitarians wanted gone. Gates left them disappointed.

No doubt to their eternal annoyance, the secretary took the NPR a step further. He acknowledged that missile defense will play a critical role in America’s security future. He called for follow-ons to the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (which has been on alert since the Nixon administration). Gates also clearly dictated the need for significant life extension to the current inventory of nuclear weapons, a proposal that prompted nose turning from the Obama White House.

But it also — because this is the sort of thing Obama cannot be dissuaded from doing — included the goofy renunciation of nuclear weapons that allows us to use nuclear weapons only to defend ourselves against a biological or chemical attack against a country that is not in compliance with the NPT. (Imagine the inane conversation after such a strike — “Hmm, is Syria in compliance? Does Hezbollah count, as it’s not a country at all?”) On one level, it’s nonsense because in all likelihood, NPT signatories aren’t going to attack us, and if they did — and a million Americans were dead — no president is going to take any option off the table. But on another level, like Clinton’s inanity on START, it projects foolishness and removes strategic ambiguity that is useful in deterring all manner of rogue states. As Noonan comments:

The problem is the fact that Obama has tampered with a simple, effective nuclear policy that keeps the bad guys in check. That is, use a WMD of any sort on the U.S. or her allies and the response will be apocalyptic in its devastation. That doesn’t necessarily have to be true, it just has be to perceived as true by potential adversaries. Deterrence is predicated on fear of force, not force itself. It’s classic Sun Tzu — “to subdue your enemies without fighting is supreme excellence.”

Taking military force off the table with Iran, hoping the START treaty impresses the mullahs, and forswearing a nuclear response to defend the country — these are unserious and unhelpful gestures that are recognized by our enemies as evidence of a feckless administration reluctant to use force or even the threat of force. We are less safe because of it.

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Countering Violent Extremism

In his retirement, Donald Rumsfeld must be enjoying a good chuckle right now as he reads that the Obama administration has decided to rename our war against the … whatchamacallit. Out is the Global War on Terror (GWOT). That’s so Bush administration. The preferred name of the Obama folks is “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE.

Reading that report, I knew the term was somewhat familiar but couldn’t quite place it. Where had I heard it before? Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s nearly identical to the wording Rumsfeld tried to enact in 2005 when he began referring to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (G-SAVE). That was ultimately nixed by the White House, which (for once) didn’t appreciate the defense secretary’s freelancing.

It’s funny how the search for euphemisms — nobody wants to say we’re fighting Islamist fanatics — leads the current gang to adopt a nearly identical version of a slogan coined by their bête noire. Perhaps that’s fitting because on many fronts — especially in the use of targeted assassinations via Predators, in wiretap authority, in renditions, and in holding terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial — the Obama administration has continued the policies of its predecessor. It’s actually whacking more terrorists in Pakistan than the Bush administration ever did. The changes so far have been mainly cosmetic — notably the so-far-failed effort to shut Gitmo and the equally failed effort to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in a civilian court. Substance is ultimately more important than sloganeering and, for all my differences with the Obama administration, I have to admit their anti-terrorism policies are, on the whole, better (i.e., tougher) than we could have expected from the Nobel Laureate.

In his retirement, Donald Rumsfeld must be enjoying a good chuckle right now as he reads that the Obama administration has decided to rename our war against the … whatchamacallit. Out is the Global War on Terror (GWOT). That’s so Bush administration. The preferred name of the Obama folks is “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE.

Reading that report, I knew the term was somewhat familiar but couldn’t quite place it. Where had I heard it before? Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s nearly identical to the wording Rumsfeld tried to enact in 2005 when he began referring to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (G-SAVE). That was ultimately nixed by the White House, which (for once) didn’t appreciate the defense secretary’s freelancing.

It’s funny how the search for euphemisms — nobody wants to say we’re fighting Islamist fanatics — leads the current gang to adopt a nearly identical version of a slogan coined by their bête noire. Perhaps that’s fitting because on many fronts — especially in the use of targeted assassinations via Predators, in wiretap authority, in renditions, and in holding terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial — the Obama administration has continued the policies of its predecessor. It’s actually whacking more terrorists in Pakistan than the Bush administration ever did. The changes so far have been mainly cosmetic — notably the so-far-failed effort to shut Gitmo and the equally failed effort to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in a civilian court. Substance is ultimately more important than sloganeering and, for all my differences with the Obama administration, I have to admit their anti-terrorism policies are, on the whole, better (i.e., tougher) than we could have expected from the Nobel Laureate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

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Obama’s Unacceptable Iran Policy

I am not alone in concluding that the Obami are fundamentally unserious about preventing the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Wall Street Journal editors write:

“Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite.” Thus did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seek to reassure the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee two weeks ago about the Obama Administration’s resolve on Iran. Three days later, this newspaper reported on its front page that “the U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran” in order to win Russian and Chinese support for one more U.N. sanctions resolution.

This fits the pattern we have seen across the 14 months of the Obama Presidency. Mrs. Clinton called a nuclear-armed Iran “unacceptable” no fewer than four times in a single paragraph in her AIPAC speech. But why should the Iranians believe her? President Obama set a number of deadlines last year for a negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear file, all of which Tehran ignored, and then Mr. Obama ignored them too…

We were told that engagement would gain us support for crippling sanctions. It hasn’t worked out that way. (“Yet a year later the U.S. finds itself begging for U.N. Security Council votes even from such nonpermanent members as Brazil and Turkey, both of which have noticeably improved their ties with Iran in recent months.”)

As the editors note, the Obami have thrown cold water on the notion that a military strike might be in the offing. ( “As for the potential threat of military strikes to assist diplomacy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made his doubts about their efficacy very public.”) The unspoken suspicion whispered nervously by conservatives has now become the audible, and indeed, conventional wisdom — the administration is inching toward a containment strategy. The means that the administration has employed – engagement, downplaying the revelation of Qom enrichment site, indifference to regime change, pooh-poohing military action, and stalling passage of unilateral sanctions – bear no correlation to the ostensible Obama position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions ( “unacceptable”). But they do go hand in hand with what appears to be an ill-conceived effort to accept the mullahs’ nuclear program as inevitable and regrettable, but not exactly unacceptable.

Among the Obami’s many ill-advised foreign-policy gambits and misjudgments, none would be so devastating as permitting the revolutionary Islamic regime to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is precisely where we are heading, absent a newfound determination by the international community to impose those crippling sanctions. And it may well be too late for that. We stand at a critical juncture — poised to see if Israel — a tiny, beleaguered nation — will spare the world from a nuclear-armed Iran. We reach this point because of a disgraceful lack of vision and will from the U.S. president, who has abdicated his role as leader of the West and protector of American security.

I am not alone in concluding that the Obami are fundamentally unserious about preventing the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Wall Street Journal editors write:

“Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite.” Thus did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seek to reassure the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee two weeks ago about the Obama Administration’s resolve on Iran. Three days later, this newspaper reported on its front page that “the U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran” in order to win Russian and Chinese support for one more U.N. sanctions resolution.

This fits the pattern we have seen across the 14 months of the Obama Presidency. Mrs. Clinton called a nuclear-armed Iran “unacceptable” no fewer than four times in a single paragraph in her AIPAC speech. But why should the Iranians believe her? President Obama set a number of deadlines last year for a negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear file, all of which Tehran ignored, and then Mr. Obama ignored them too…

We were told that engagement would gain us support for crippling sanctions. It hasn’t worked out that way. (“Yet a year later the U.S. finds itself begging for U.N. Security Council votes even from such nonpermanent members as Brazil and Turkey, both of which have noticeably improved their ties with Iran in recent months.”)

As the editors note, the Obami have thrown cold water on the notion that a military strike might be in the offing. ( “As for the potential threat of military strikes to assist diplomacy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made his doubts about their efficacy very public.”) The unspoken suspicion whispered nervously by conservatives has now become the audible, and indeed, conventional wisdom — the administration is inching toward a containment strategy. The means that the administration has employed – engagement, downplaying the revelation of Qom enrichment site, indifference to regime change, pooh-poohing military action, and stalling passage of unilateral sanctions – bear no correlation to the ostensible Obama position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions ( “unacceptable”). But they do go hand in hand with what appears to be an ill-conceived effort to accept the mullahs’ nuclear program as inevitable and regrettable, but not exactly unacceptable.

Among the Obami’s many ill-advised foreign-policy gambits and misjudgments, none would be so devastating as permitting the revolutionary Islamic regime to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is precisely where we are heading, absent a newfound determination by the international community to impose those crippling sanctions. And it may well be too late for that. We stand at a critical juncture — poised to see if Israel — a tiny, beleaguered nation — will spare the world from a nuclear-armed Iran. We reach this point because of a disgraceful lack of vision and will from the U.S. president, who has abdicated his role as leader of the West and protector of American security.

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The Elite Education Sidestep

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

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Re: You Don’t Have to Be a Harvard Think Tank

As Rick notes, think-tank scholars, international diplomats, and ordinary people can all see that Iran engagement has been a bust. Just as Hillary Clinton was touting Iran engagement — despite its failure to unclench any fists – the Iranian mullahs were delivering another slap in the face of the Obami suitors:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered his country’s atomic agency on Sunday to begin the production of higher enriched uranium, a move that’s likely to deepen international skepticism about the country’s real intentions on the crucial issue of enriched uranium.

While Clinton prattles on about an open door, and the Foggy Bottom spokesmen reference vague consequences to befall the Iranians if they don’t start demonstrating their desire to “join the community of nations” (or something like that), the resident grown-up in the Obama administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, was signaling that the jig is up for engagement. (“Speaking to reporters during a weeklong European tour, Mr. Gates said that ‘if the international community will stand together and bring pressure’ on Iran, ‘I believe there is still time for sanctions to work.’”) But even Gibbs is compelled to  parrot the Obama line that those crippling sanctions can’t be too crippling because the Iranian people might get mad at us. (Really, do supporters of the administration’s policy suppose that the democracy advocates marching and dying in the streets have not figured out the source of their oppression?)

The latest development follows only a week after the Iranians were seen trying to lure us back to the bargaining table. Well, never mind that. Another week and another threat:

In what was interpreted to be a possible shift of policy on a major issue, Mr. Ahmadinejad said last week he was ready to export his country’s low-enriched uranium for higher enrichment abroad, saying Iran had “no problem” with the plan. Sunday’s comments, however, appeared to justify the skepticism with which his Tuesday’s comments were met by world leaders.

Mr. Salehi, the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency, later appeared to play down the significance of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments. He told the official IRNA news agency the president was giving a “preparedness order” so Iran would be ready to enrich its uranium if the exchange with the West fails to take place.

He said the higher enrichment would be carried out in facilities in the central Iranian town of Natanz.

It takes a lot of foot-dragging and indifference to all available evidence for the Obami to maintain their fixation on negotiation and to delay imposition of any serious sanctions that might impact the regime’s nuclear ambitions. You would think a full month after the self-imposed end-of-year deadline, which followed the self-imposed September deadline, the Obama team would finally get serious. But no.

As a sharp Capitol Hill adviser described Clinton’s embarrassing outing on Sunday: “I’m sure that she has a sure fire containment strategy ready.” That, unfortunately, is where I suspect they are heading — having frittered a year away, whittled down sanctions, and disparaged any military option. After all, Clinton told us the nuclear threat from Iran really isn’t our primary consideration. We’ll see if Obama goes down in history as the president who allowed the revolutionary Islamic regime to go nuclear and who let the Iranian democracy movement die on the vine. Quite a legacy that would be.

As Rick notes, think-tank scholars, international diplomats, and ordinary people can all see that Iran engagement has been a bust. Just as Hillary Clinton was touting Iran engagement — despite its failure to unclench any fists – the Iranian mullahs were delivering another slap in the face of the Obami suitors:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered his country’s atomic agency on Sunday to begin the production of higher enriched uranium, a move that’s likely to deepen international skepticism about the country’s real intentions on the crucial issue of enriched uranium.

While Clinton prattles on about an open door, and the Foggy Bottom spokesmen reference vague consequences to befall the Iranians if they don’t start demonstrating their desire to “join the community of nations” (or something like that), the resident grown-up in the Obama administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, was signaling that the jig is up for engagement. (“Speaking to reporters during a weeklong European tour, Mr. Gates said that ‘if the international community will stand together and bring pressure’ on Iran, ‘I believe there is still time for sanctions to work.’”) But even Gibbs is compelled to  parrot the Obama line that those crippling sanctions can’t be too crippling because the Iranian people might get mad at us. (Really, do supporters of the administration’s policy suppose that the democracy advocates marching and dying in the streets have not figured out the source of their oppression?)

The latest development follows only a week after the Iranians were seen trying to lure us back to the bargaining table. Well, never mind that. Another week and another threat:

In what was interpreted to be a possible shift of policy on a major issue, Mr. Ahmadinejad said last week he was ready to export his country’s low-enriched uranium for higher enrichment abroad, saying Iran had “no problem” with the plan. Sunday’s comments, however, appeared to justify the skepticism with which his Tuesday’s comments were met by world leaders.

Mr. Salehi, the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency, later appeared to play down the significance of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments. He told the official IRNA news agency the president was giving a “preparedness order” so Iran would be ready to enrich its uranium if the exchange with the West fails to take place.

He said the higher enrichment would be carried out in facilities in the central Iranian town of Natanz.

It takes a lot of foot-dragging and indifference to all available evidence for the Obami to maintain their fixation on negotiation and to delay imposition of any serious sanctions that might impact the regime’s nuclear ambitions. You would think a full month after the self-imposed end-of-year deadline, which followed the self-imposed September deadline, the Obama team would finally get serious. But no.

As a sharp Capitol Hill adviser described Clinton’s embarrassing outing on Sunday: “I’m sure that she has a sure fire containment strategy ready.” That, unfortunately, is where I suspect they are heading — having frittered a year away, whittled down sanctions, and disparaged any military option. After all, Clinton told us the nuclear threat from Iran really isn’t our primary consideration. We’ll see if Obama goes down in history as the president who allowed the revolutionary Islamic regime to go nuclear and who let the Iranian democracy movement die on the vine. Quite a legacy that would be.

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The Gates Minuet

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

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Don’t Ask When, Don’t Tell the Left They’ve Been Conned

As with everything Obama-related, his promise to abolish Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell turns out to be less than billed during the State of the Union. This report explains:

The Defense Department starts the clock next week on what is expected to be a several-year process in lifting its ban on gays from serving openly in the military. A special investigation into how the ban can be repealed without hurting the morale or readiness of the troops was expected to be announced Tuesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Given that the one-year, self-imposed deadline for Guantanamo has come and gone, it is quite possible that the abolition of the policy could then very well never occur, with the debate extending long past Obama’s presidency. Surely his base will not be mollified with this sort of fluff, right? Others, however, may be delighted by the lackadaisical pace:

Democrats in Congress are also unlikely to press the issue until after this fall’s midterm elections. This will probably satisfy [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, who has long suggested that change shouldn’t come too quickly. In a speech last year at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., Gated noted that the 1948 executive order for racial integration took five years to implement. “I’m not saying that’s a model for this, but I’m saying that I believe this is something that needs to be done very, very carefully,” he told the audience.

As J.E. Dyer explained in her thoughtful post, there are serious issues to consider before we allow the military to tolerate openly gay servicemen. And there is reason to wonder why — other than pure domestic politics to assuage the president’s disillusioned netroot fans — we should subject one of the few highly effective public institutions to “an untested, unnecessary, and probably unwise social experiment,” as Bill Kristol puts it.

Aside from the merits of the existing policy and the real cost in time, focus, and morale to change it, this is yet another example of the president’s rhetorical excess, which I suspect will now be seen as flimflam by his base. He promised to end the policy; the reality is that he is setting up an endless bureaucratic process to study it.

Guantanamo is open, the Patriot Act remains in place, ObamaCare is dead, and now Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is likely to be with us for years, perhaps forever. At some point, the president’s fans on the Left will realize they have been had.

As with everything Obama-related, his promise to abolish Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell turns out to be less than billed during the State of the Union. This report explains:

The Defense Department starts the clock next week on what is expected to be a several-year process in lifting its ban on gays from serving openly in the military. A special investigation into how the ban can be repealed without hurting the morale or readiness of the troops was expected to be announced Tuesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Given that the one-year, self-imposed deadline for Guantanamo has come and gone, it is quite possible that the abolition of the policy could then very well never occur, with the debate extending long past Obama’s presidency. Surely his base will not be mollified with this sort of fluff, right? Others, however, may be delighted by the lackadaisical pace:

Democrats in Congress are also unlikely to press the issue until after this fall’s midterm elections. This will probably satisfy [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, who has long suggested that change shouldn’t come too quickly. In a speech last year at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., Gated noted that the 1948 executive order for racial integration took five years to implement. “I’m not saying that’s a model for this, but I’m saying that I believe this is something that needs to be done very, very carefully,” he told the audience.

As J.E. Dyer explained in her thoughtful post, there are serious issues to consider before we allow the military to tolerate openly gay servicemen. And there is reason to wonder why — other than pure domestic politics to assuage the president’s disillusioned netroot fans — we should subject one of the few highly effective public institutions to “an untested, unnecessary, and probably unwise social experiment,” as Bill Kristol puts it.

Aside from the merits of the existing policy and the real cost in time, focus, and morale to change it, this is yet another example of the president’s rhetorical excess, which I suspect will now be seen as flimflam by his base. He promised to end the policy; the reality is that he is setting up an endless bureaucratic process to study it.

Guantanamo is open, the Patriot Act remains in place, ObamaCare is dead, and now Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is likely to be with us for years, perhaps forever. At some point, the president’s fans on the Left will realize they have been had.

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Taliban Reintegration

It’s a good idea to create a “reintegration” program that will allow fighters to leave the Taliban with some prospect of employment, education, housing, and other essentials. That’s what the government of Afghanistan, in cooperation with the U.S., Britain, and other allies, is announcing today in London. Just don’t expect a lot of Taliban defectors to make use of the program until security conditions change on the ground.

As it stands now, former Taliban are more worried about their lives than their livelihoods, and for good reason: in the climate of pervasive insecurity that still exists in much of eastern and southern Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO forces do not have the ability to protect the people from Taliban retribution. That means that Taliban interested in self-preservation — which, it is safe to assume, means most of them — will not switch sides until the balance of power shifts, and it begins to look as if they are leaving the losing side for the winning side.

That calculus applies just as strongly to efforts to encourage high-level reconciliation — i.e., to lure high-level Taliban into the government — or tribal engagement. These are both good ideas that have scant chance of success right now. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week, “until the Taliban leadership sees a change in the momentum and begins to see that they are not going to win, the likelihood of significant reconciliation at senior levels is not terribly great.”

The problem is that it will take some time to change the momentum on the ground. All of the 30,000-plus reinforcements ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama will not arrive until the end of the summer, at best. Then they will have to go to villages where the Taliban lurk and win the trust of the people. Good counterinsurgency cannot be done quickly, yet the troops know that they are on the clock: Obama has said he will begin a drawdown beginning in the summer of 2011. The Taliban know it, too, and that makes it easier for them to keep wavering Afghans in line by telling them that they cannot trust the Americans to protect them. That very public deadline makes it harder to get momentum and thus sabotages the very efforts at reintegration, reconciliation, and tribal engagement that the administration is now promoting.

It’s a good idea to create a “reintegration” program that will allow fighters to leave the Taliban with some prospect of employment, education, housing, and other essentials. That’s what the government of Afghanistan, in cooperation with the U.S., Britain, and other allies, is announcing today in London. Just don’t expect a lot of Taliban defectors to make use of the program until security conditions change on the ground.

As it stands now, former Taliban are more worried about their lives than their livelihoods, and for good reason: in the climate of pervasive insecurity that still exists in much of eastern and southern Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO forces do not have the ability to protect the people from Taliban retribution. That means that Taliban interested in self-preservation — which, it is safe to assume, means most of them — will not switch sides until the balance of power shifts, and it begins to look as if they are leaving the losing side for the winning side.

That calculus applies just as strongly to efforts to encourage high-level reconciliation — i.e., to lure high-level Taliban into the government — or tribal engagement. These are both good ideas that have scant chance of success right now. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week, “until the Taliban leadership sees a change in the momentum and begins to see that they are not going to win, the likelihood of significant reconciliation at senior levels is not terribly great.”

The problem is that it will take some time to change the momentum on the ground. All of the 30,000-plus reinforcements ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama will not arrive until the end of the summer, at best. Then they will have to go to villages where the Taliban lurk and win the trust of the people. Good counterinsurgency cannot be done quickly, yet the troops know that they are on the clock: Obama has said he will begin a drawdown beginning in the summer of 2011. The Taliban know it, too, and that makes it easier for them to keep wavering Afghans in line by telling them that they cannot trust the Americans to protect them. That very public deadline makes it harder to get momentum and thus sabotages the very efforts at reintegration, reconciliation, and tribal engagement that the administration is now promoting.

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Fresh Buzz: Reintegration

A new political theme is slipping the surly bonds of caution this week, as negotiators prepare to converge on London for the upcoming conference on Afghanistan. Suddenly the word “reintegration” is on every tongue, and conferees affirm portentously that the solution in Afghanistan “must be political.” Lest the meaning of that be missed, Sweden’s venerable Carl Bildt offers this clarification: “There is no military solution.”

This is a straw man, of course; no one says there is a “military solution” for unifying and pacifying Afghanistan. But Defense Secretary Bob Gates and General Stanley McChrystal have been clear in the last week that military operations must be one of the tools used to achieve the long-term solution. The candidates for reintegration into Afghanistan’s polity are the Taliban, and among them are factions that have shown no sign at any time of being amenable to consensual negotiation or compromise. They attack civilians and military forces alike in their campaign to destabilize the central government in Kabul.

The Taliban’s record in the past month forms a striking contrast with the pace of reintegration being proposed in political circles. After killing nearly 100 people at a volleyball match in Pakistan and assassinating CIA agents at a base in Afghanistan, the Taliban killed 20 in a market bombing in central Afghanistan and killed seven and wounded 71 in coordinated attacks in downtown Kabul. These tallies don’t reflect smaller incidents in the AfPak theater during the same period, but they are in line with the UN’s report that 2009 was the Taliban’s bloodiest year since the regime change in 2001. Hamid Karzai’s reintegration policy for the Taliban has naturally been endorsed by President Obama and our NATO allies, but there is no evidence as yet — not even a photo op — of any material reciprocation from the insurgents.

European leaders nevertheless show signs of favoring reintegration measures like the ones outlined by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. In light of the Taliban’s unrelieved recalcitrance, adopting this list unilaterally would clearly be getting ahead of ourselves. It’s too early to talk about removing Taliban members from terror lists, or limiting Karzai’s latitude with a UN mandate for him to sit down with the insurgents. Gates and McChrystal have spoken consistently of using a multi-pronged approach, including military operations, to create the conditions for productive diplomacy — and those conditions don’t exist yet. Comments from both men have made it clear that their position has not changed, even though the media is portraying their endorsement of eventual negotiations somewhat misleadingly, as if they might be ready to dispense with the inconvenient labor of shaping conditions beforehand.

We haven’t heard much from Obama on this. We can hope that he concurs with his defense leadership, although there have been troubling indications of divergence in the definitions being used by the White House and the Pentagon. The Taliban are not even pretending to be potential negotiators; they’re giving the international coalition no excuse for deceiving itself about their intentions or openness to compromise. Obama should exercise the coalition leadership necessary to keep the effort in Afghanistan on track, and not let it lose its way in imprudent shortcuts.

A new political theme is slipping the surly bonds of caution this week, as negotiators prepare to converge on London for the upcoming conference on Afghanistan. Suddenly the word “reintegration” is on every tongue, and conferees affirm portentously that the solution in Afghanistan “must be political.” Lest the meaning of that be missed, Sweden’s venerable Carl Bildt offers this clarification: “There is no military solution.”

This is a straw man, of course; no one says there is a “military solution” for unifying and pacifying Afghanistan. But Defense Secretary Bob Gates and General Stanley McChrystal have been clear in the last week that military operations must be one of the tools used to achieve the long-term solution. The candidates for reintegration into Afghanistan’s polity are the Taliban, and among them are factions that have shown no sign at any time of being amenable to consensual negotiation or compromise. They attack civilians and military forces alike in their campaign to destabilize the central government in Kabul.

The Taliban’s record in the past month forms a striking contrast with the pace of reintegration being proposed in political circles. After killing nearly 100 people at a volleyball match in Pakistan and assassinating CIA agents at a base in Afghanistan, the Taliban killed 20 in a market bombing in central Afghanistan and killed seven and wounded 71 in coordinated attacks in downtown Kabul. These tallies don’t reflect smaller incidents in the AfPak theater during the same period, but they are in line with the UN’s report that 2009 was the Taliban’s bloodiest year since the regime change in 2001. Hamid Karzai’s reintegration policy for the Taliban has naturally been endorsed by President Obama and our NATO allies, but there is no evidence as yet — not even a photo op — of any material reciprocation from the insurgents.

European leaders nevertheless show signs of favoring reintegration measures like the ones outlined by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. In light of the Taliban’s unrelieved recalcitrance, adopting this list unilaterally would clearly be getting ahead of ourselves. It’s too early to talk about removing Taliban members from terror lists, or limiting Karzai’s latitude with a UN mandate for him to sit down with the insurgents. Gates and McChrystal have spoken consistently of using a multi-pronged approach, including military operations, to create the conditions for productive diplomacy — and those conditions don’t exist yet. Comments from both men have made it clear that their position has not changed, even though the media is portraying their endorsement of eventual negotiations somewhat misleadingly, as if they might be ready to dispense with the inconvenient labor of shaping conditions beforehand.

We haven’t heard much from Obama on this. We can hope that he concurs with his defense leadership, although there have been troubling indications of divergence in the definitions being used by the White House and the Pentagon. The Taliban are not even pretending to be potential negotiators; they’re giving the international coalition no excuse for deceiving itself about their intentions or openness to compromise. Obama should exercise the coalition leadership necessary to keep the effort in Afghanistan on track, and not let it lose its way in imprudent shortcuts.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

On that “deadline”: “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says Americans should expect a significant U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for two years to four years more. Just as in Iraq, the United States eventually will turn over provinces to local security forces, allowing the United States to bring the number of troops down steadily, according to Mr. Gates.”

Gen. David Petraeus: “In fact, as the secretary explained, this would be a district-by-district, as the conditions obtain, as the security situation is sufficient for the Afghan security forces that will be working hard to develop are capable of taking on those tasks. … And again, there’s no — there’s no time line, no ramp, nothing like that.” He politely sidesteps a direct answer to the question: “General, honestly, would you have preferred no time line to be set publicly?”

Bill Kristol on Copenhagen: “The equivalent of the entire carbon footprint of Morocco is what we’re going to emit into the atmosphere so these guys can get together and talk pointlessly in Copenhagen.”

The voters seem to have other priorities: “For the first time in Gallup’s 25 year history of asking Americans to choose between economic growth and environmental protection, a majority sided with the paper money over the trees. … It’s got to be hard to pass a historic climate change bill when public support for climate change legislation is at historic lows.” Or in the middle of a scandal about just how certain the science is.

Hmm, probably not the best damage-control tactic: “Baucus: Relationship wasn’t an ‘affair.’ ”

Marty Peretz is still waiting for that “new beginning between America and the Muslim World”: “The fact is, as Barack Obama refuses to grasp, Islam needs to shoulder responsibility for what is done in its name. For what is not rejected–in most cases, not at all rejected–by the sages of present-day Islam. Since the president has taken to lecture Americans about ‘one of the world’s great religions,’ which I believe it to be, he might also take to studying why so many of its elders in schools of theology and other authoritative men have embraced, publicly embraced, the gangsters in their midst.”

Really, did you think Obama’s approval and disapproval trend lines would cross in less than a year?

Sen. Ben Nelson seems not to like much of anything about ObamaCare: “He has not only taken an uncompromising position on abortion, demanding stronger language to prohibit federal funding of abortion. He has also voted against every Democratic amendment so far, aside from those that received unanimous support from the body. Nelson’s voting record on the bill suggests a general dislike for key aspects of it.”

On that “deadline”: “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says Americans should expect a significant U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for two years to four years more. Just as in Iraq, the United States eventually will turn over provinces to local security forces, allowing the United States to bring the number of troops down steadily, according to Mr. Gates.”

Gen. David Petraeus: “In fact, as the secretary explained, this would be a district-by-district, as the conditions obtain, as the security situation is sufficient for the Afghan security forces that will be working hard to develop are capable of taking on those tasks. … And again, there’s no — there’s no time line, no ramp, nothing like that.” He politely sidesteps a direct answer to the question: “General, honestly, would you have preferred no time line to be set publicly?”

Bill Kristol on Copenhagen: “The equivalent of the entire carbon footprint of Morocco is what we’re going to emit into the atmosphere so these guys can get together and talk pointlessly in Copenhagen.”

The voters seem to have other priorities: “For the first time in Gallup’s 25 year history of asking Americans to choose between economic growth and environmental protection, a majority sided with the paper money over the trees. … It’s got to be hard to pass a historic climate change bill when public support for climate change legislation is at historic lows.” Or in the middle of a scandal about just how certain the science is.

Hmm, probably not the best damage-control tactic: “Baucus: Relationship wasn’t an ‘affair.’ ”

Marty Peretz is still waiting for that “new beginning between America and the Muslim World”: “The fact is, as Barack Obama refuses to grasp, Islam needs to shoulder responsibility for what is done in its name. For what is not rejected–in most cases, not at all rejected–by the sages of present-day Islam. Since the president has taken to lecture Americans about ‘one of the world’s great religions,’ which I believe it to be, he might also take to studying why so many of its elders in schools of theology and other authoritative men have embraced, publicly embraced, the gangsters in their midst.”

Really, did you think Obama’s approval and disapproval trend lines would cross in less than a year?

Sen. Ben Nelson seems not to like much of anything about ObamaCare: “He has not only taken an uncompromising position on abortion, demanding stronger language to prohibit federal funding of abortion. He has also voted against every Democratic amendment so far, aside from those that received unanimous support from the body. Nelson’s voting record on the bill suggests a general dislike for key aspects of it.”

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The Indispensible Senator

There is little doubt these days that Sen. Joe Lieberman is the most important man in the U.S. Senate. In a must-read Wall Street Journal interview he explains his objections to the public option and to ObamaCare more generally. As to the former, he observes:

It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can’t afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?. . . It doesn’t help one poor person get insurance who doesn’t have it now. It doesn’t compel one insurance company to provide insurance to somebody who has an illness. And . . . it doesn’t do anything to reduce the cost of insurance.

But it’s not just the public option. He’s not buying the supposed deficit neutrality of the Democrats’ scheme. He’s not buying that the Medicare cuts are for real or that the current bill will control costs. It sure sounds as though he’s going to vote to filibuster the sort of bill moving through the Senate. In short, Lieberman may be the only man, or at least the most resolute one, standing in the way of an atrocious government takeover of health care.

And on Afghanistan, Lieberman addresses concerns about the 18-month deadline to which many conservatives have objected:

But after probing Defense Secretary Bob Gates in a Senate hearing this week, he’s now more confident. “[Gates] compared it to the so-called ‘overwatch,’ which is really what we did in Iraq. As we felt the Iraqis were prepared to take over in certain areas, we pulled back but we didn’t pull out.” Mr. Lieberman believes this “pull back” is what begins in July 2011, and also felt he got assurances that it would start only in “uncontested” areas—and that there is no deadline for when all 30,000 troops must leave.

He cautions, however, that it’s up to the president to rally the country.

On these and other topics — Iran, the KSM trial, and the Patriot Act – Lieberman is once again front and center, arguing for a robust response to the threats America faces and opposing his Democratic former colleagues. One can argue it is only because the Senate generally depends on 60, not 51 votes, that Lieberman has such extraordinary and unique influence. But in truth, Lieberman has that influence because of the serious arguments he presents, his lack of political cant, and the moral clarity he brings to the debate. He has become the indispensable senator.

There is little doubt these days that Sen. Joe Lieberman is the most important man in the U.S. Senate. In a must-read Wall Street Journal interview he explains his objections to the public option and to ObamaCare more generally. As to the former, he observes:

It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can’t afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?. . . It doesn’t help one poor person get insurance who doesn’t have it now. It doesn’t compel one insurance company to provide insurance to somebody who has an illness. And . . . it doesn’t do anything to reduce the cost of insurance.

But it’s not just the public option. He’s not buying the supposed deficit neutrality of the Democrats’ scheme. He’s not buying that the Medicare cuts are for real or that the current bill will control costs. It sure sounds as though he’s going to vote to filibuster the sort of bill moving through the Senate. In short, Lieberman may be the only man, or at least the most resolute one, standing in the way of an atrocious government takeover of health care.

And on Afghanistan, Lieberman addresses concerns about the 18-month deadline to which many conservatives have objected:

But after probing Defense Secretary Bob Gates in a Senate hearing this week, he’s now more confident. “[Gates] compared it to the so-called ‘overwatch,’ which is really what we did in Iraq. As we felt the Iraqis were prepared to take over in certain areas, we pulled back but we didn’t pull out.” Mr. Lieberman believes this “pull back” is what begins in July 2011, and also felt he got assurances that it would start only in “uncontested” areas—and that there is no deadline for when all 30,000 troops must leave.

He cautions, however, that it’s up to the president to rally the country.

On these and other topics — Iran, the KSM trial, and the Patriot Act – Lieberman is once again front and center, arguing for a robust response to the threats America faces and opposing his Democratic former colleagues. One can argue it is only because the Senate generally depends on 60, not 51 votes, that Lieberman has such extraordinary and unique influence. But in truth, Lieberman has that influence because of the serious arguments he presents, his lack of political cant, and the moral clarity he brings to the debate. He has become the indispensable senator.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: “Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: “Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

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The Day After

There were two positive developments in the aftermath of Obama’s West Point speech. As this report notes, no matter how loudly the liberal Democrats squawk, they aren’t going to be able to deprive the administration of funding for the Afghanistan surge:

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a vocal war critic who is a senior House Democrat overseeing military spending, predicted that Congress would pass a $40 billion war financing bill early next year to pay for the added deployments.

Murtha said he remains unconvinced the troop increase is a good idea but believes he and other anti-war Democrats will not be able to stop it. “It’s not likely that there would be any circumstances where the president would lose this battle this year,” he said.

Perhaps too much attention and effort was spent worrying about the Murtha contingent.

Second, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did everything humanly possible to walk back and fuzz up that 2011 “deadline”:

At a Senate hearing Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, under tough questioning, said the Pentagon will “evaluate” next year whether the military can meet its goal of starting to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by July 2011, signaling that the withdrawal date could move back if violence spirals out of control.

Under pressure from Sen. John McCain, Gates made clear this isn’t much of a deadline, honest:

Gates said U.S. forces should be able to move out of “uncontested areas” by the summer of 2011 but that the United States would not transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in any province until they can stand up on their own. He said the security team would review the situation at the end of 2010 to see whether the military “can meet that objective” with regard to the timeline.

“If it appears that the strategy’s not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011 then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself,” he said, adding that the president reserves the right to adjust his decision. “We’re not going to just throw these guys into the swimming pool and then walk away.”

That message will need to be re-enforced by the president. He will have his war-funding from Congress, Gen. Stanley McChrystal will have his troops, and we appear to have a workable strategy. Perhaps we need a redo on the presidential speech — this time with feeling.

There were two positive developments in the aftermath of Obama’s West Point speech. As this report notes, no matter how loudly the liberal Democrats squawk, they aren’t going to be able to deprive the administration of funding for the Afghanistan surge:

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a vocal war critic who is a senior House Democrat overseeing military spending, predicted that Congress would pass a $40 billion war financing bill early next year to pay for the added deployments.

Murtha said he remains unconvinced the troop increase is a good idea but believes he and other anti-war Democrats will not be able to stop it. “It’s not likely that there would be any circumstances where the president would lose this battle this year,” he said.

Perhaps too much attention and effort was spent worrying about the Murtha contingent.

Second, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did everything humanly possible to walk back and fuzz up that 2011 “deadline”:

At a Senate hearing Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, under tough questioning, said the Pentagon will “evaluate” next year whether the military can meet its goal of starting to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by July 2011, signaling that the withdrawal date could move back if violence spirals out of control.

Under pressure from Sen. John McCain, Gates made clear this isn’t much of a deadline, honest:

Gates said U.S. forces should be able to move out of “uncontested areas” by the summer of 2011 but that the United States would not transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in any province until they can stand up on their own. He said the security team would review the situation at the end of 2010 to see whether the military “can meet that objective” with regard to the timeline.

“If it appears that the strategy’s not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011 then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself,” he said, adding that the president reserves the right to adjust his decision. “We’re not going to just throw these guys into the swimming pool and then walk away.”

That message will need to be re-enforced by the president. He will have his war-funding from Congress, Gen. Stanley McChrystal will have his troops, and we appear to have a workable strategy. Perhaps we need a redo on the presidential speech — this time with feeling.

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The Unmasking of Barack Obama

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable. Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, has blamed Obama for the decline in British public support for the war in Afghanistan. According to the Telegraph:

Mr. Ainsworth took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the U.S. President and his delays in sending more troops to bolster the mission against the Taliban. A “period of hiatus” in Washington — and a lack of clear direction — had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said. Senior British Government sources have become increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama’s “dithering” on Afghanistan, the Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month, with several former British defense chiefs echoing the concerns.

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. The Economist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Times refers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. The Saudi “has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory,” according to Ajami. But “he is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.”

Indeed he has — and only Obama and his increasingly clueless administration seem unaware of this. Read More

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable. Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, has blamed Obama for the decline in British public support for the war in Afghanistan. According to the Telegraph:

Mr. Ainsworth took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the U.S. President and his delays in sending more troops to bolster the mission against the Taliban. A “period of hiatus” in Washington — and a lack of clear direction — had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said. Senior British Government sources have become increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama’s “dithering” on Afghanistan, the Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month, with several former British defense chiefs echoing the concerns.

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. The Economist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Times refers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. The Saudi “has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory,” according to Ajami. But “he is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.”

Indeed he has — and only Obama and his increasingly clueless administration seem unaware of this.

On almost every front, progress is nonexistent. In many instances, things are getting worse rather than better. The enormous goodwill that Obama’s election was met with hasn’t been leveraged into anything useful and tangible. Rather, our allies are now questioning America’s will, while our adversaries are becoming increasingly emboldened. The United States looks weak and uncertain. It’s “amateur hour at the White House,” according to Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former official in the Carter administration. “Not only are things not getting fixed, they may be getting more broken,” according to Michael Hirsh at Newsweek. When even such strong Obama supporters as Gelb and Hirsh reach these conclusions, you know things must be unraveling.

It’s no mystery as to why. President Obama’s approach to international relations is simplistic and misguided. It is premised on the belief that American concessions to our adversaries will beget goodwill and concessions in return; that American self-abasement is justified; that the American decline is inevitable (and in some respects welcome); and that diplomacy and multilateralism are ends rather than means to an end.

Right now the overwhelming issue on the public’s mind is the economy, where Obama is also having serious problems. But national-security issues matter a great deal, and they remain the unique responsibility of the president. With every passing month, Barack Obama looks more and more like his Democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter: irresolute, unsteady, and overmatched. The president and members of his own party will find out soon enough, though, that Obama the Impotent isn’t what they had in mind when they elected him. We are witnessing the unmasking, and perhaps the unmaking, of Barack Obama.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

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