Commentary Magazine


Topic: Great Britain

The UAE No Fan of the Blackberry — or Intellectual Freedom

The link between political freedom and economic prosperity is by now well-established. It is no coincidence that capitalism and democracy developed at roughly the same time and in the same place — 18th-century Great Britain and to a lesser extent the 17th-century Netherlands. It is hard for a country to prosper if it has a political system intolerant of the kind of intellectual freedom needed to generate good ideas and to attract freethinkers.

That news doesn’t seem to have reached the United Arab Emirates, which has announced plans to ban Blackberry e-mails and text messages because the state-security services find them hard to monitor. Perhaps as a Crackberry addict. I’m biased, but I have to say that this is one of the dumber decisions that the UAE could make given that Dubai — its principal city — has built its wealth on its reputation for being freer and more business-friendly than the surrounding Arab states.

If this decision stands, Dubai’s long-term future, already endangered by reckless real-estate speculation, could be further put at risk.

The link between political freedom and economic prosperity is by now well-established. It is no coincidence that capitalism and democracy developed at roughly the same time and in the same place — 18th-century Great Britain and to a lesser extent the 17th-century Netherlands. It is hard for a country to prosper if it has a political system intolerant of the kind of intellectual freedom needed to generate good ideas and to attract freethinkers.

That news doesn’t seem to have reached the United Arab Emirates, which has announced plans to ban Blackberry e-mails and text messages because the state-security services find them hard to monitor. Perhaps as a Crackberry addict. I’m biased, but I have to say that this is one of the dumber decisions that the UAE could make given that Dubai — its principal city — has built its wealth on its reputation for being freer and more business-friendly than the surrounding Arab states.

If this decision stands, Dubai’s long-term future, already endangered by reckless real-estate speculation, could be further put at risk.

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Prime Minister Cameron’s Slander Against Israel

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

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No Isn’t Enough for Republicans

A story in the Washington Post about the GOP’s growing optimism that its no votes will be sufficient to reclaim control of Congress includes this quote by Representative Tom Cole, a deputy whip in the House:

We’re very comfortable where we’re at; we have very few members who feel endangered. We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no.

The story also reports this:

There has been little public criticism within GOP ranks of the continued opposition. At the same time, some Republicans would like the no votes combined with more discussion of the party’s positive vision. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said last week that Republicans were reluctant to adopt his comprehensive plan to bring down the federal deficit and reform Social Security and Medicare because “they are talking to their pollsters.”

Representative Cole is correct that the American people want Republicans to say no. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion when you analyze the polling data. But Representative Ryan is correct as well; Republicans need to combine their no votes — which are necessary and admirable — with a sufficiently detailed governing agenda. There are plenty of fine ideas out there — beginning with Ryan’s own plan, a Roadmap for America’s Future. That need not be the only one, by any means.

The danger Republicans face is that of developing a mindset that is defensive and de minimus; that of fearing that in offering up specific, concrete plans, they will open themselves up to criticisms and therefore win fewer House and Senate seats.

That is the perennial fear of politicians, and it needs to be resisted. For one thing, voters are looking for solutions rather than slogans. For another, the point of politics is not simply to gain power but also to govern responsibly once you attain it. Republicans need to have confidence in their ideas and, to the extent possible, win a mandate for them.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he was receiving a lot of counsel in favor of running a relatively content-free campaign. His supply-side agenda, it was said, would make him an enormous target for Jimmy Carter. The math didn’t add up. The public would never accept “voodoo economics.” Reagan wisely ignored that advice, won in a landslide, and — for the most part — governed based on the ideas he ran and won on. He is now considered among our greatest presidents. Reagan helped to transform his party and his nation. So did Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. So, for that matter, did Abraham Lincoln.

These are the models Republican candidates should look to as they are told by pollsters and campaign advisers to say nothing substantive, to aim low, to play it safe. Republicans should be smart, aim high, and provide a clear alternative to Obamaism. It’s in their self-interest and in the nation’s best interests. Those are two pretty good reasons to do it.

A story in the Washington Post about the GOP’s growing optimism that its no votes will be sufficient to reclaim control of Congress includes this quote by Representative Tom Cole, a deputy whip in the House:

We’re very comfortable where we’re at; we have very few members who feel endangered. We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no.

The story also reports this:

There has been little public criticism within GOP ranks of the continued opposition. At the same time, some Republicans would like the no votes combined with more discussion of the party’s positive vision. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said last week that Republicans were reluctant to adopt his comprehensive plan to bring down the federal deficit and reform Social Security and Medicare because “they are talking to their pollsters.”

Representative Cole is correct that the American people want Republicans to say no. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion when you analyze the polling data. But Representative Ryan is correct as well; Republicans need to combine their no votes — which are necessary and admirable — with a sufficiently detailed governing agenda. There are plenty of fine ideas out there — beginning with Ryan’s own plan, a Roadmap for America’s Future. That need not be the only one, by any means.

The danger Republicans face is that of developing a mindset that is defensive and de minimus; that of fearing that in offering up specific, concrete plans, they will open themselves up to criticisms and therefore win fewer House and Senate seats.

That is the perennial fear of politicians, and it needs to be resisted. For one thing, voters are looking for solutions rather than slogans. For another, the point of politics is not simply to gain power but also to govern responsibly once you attain it. Republicans need to have confidence in their ideas and, to the extent possible, win a mandate for them.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he was receiving a lot of counsel in favor of running a relatively content-free campaign. His supply-side agenda, it was said, would make him an enormous target for Jimmy Carter. The math didn’t add up. The public would never accept “voodoo economics.” Reagan wisely ignored that advice, won in a landslide, and — for the most part — governed based on the ideas he ran and won on. He is now considered among our greatest presidents. Reagan helped to transform his party and his nation. So did Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. So, for that matter, did Abraham Lincoln.

These are the models Republican candidates should look to as they are told by pollsters and campaign advisers to say nothing substantive, to aim low, to play it safe. Republicans should be smart, aim high, and provide a clear alternative to Obamaism. It’s in their self-interest and in the nation’s best interests. Those are two pretty good reasons to do it.

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The End of the Welfare-State Model?

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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Joe Kennedy Innocent of One Charge, Guilty of the Rest

On a list of prominent 20th-century Americans who were easy to dislike, Joseph P. Kennedy has to rank near the top.

The father of our 35th president was widely reviled in his own time as an unscrupulous operator in the worlds of high finance and politics. Having invested heavily in the presidential candidacy of Franklin Roosevelt, he was rewarded by FDR first with the post of chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission (Roosevelt famously defended his appointment of a man thought to be a crook with the quip that it “takes one to catch one”) and then with the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, where his anti-Semitism and support of appeasement of the Nazis was particularly damaging. A master of insider trading and market manipulation, he was also long rumored to be connected with the Mafia and to have made a fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition as a bootlegger.

But according to author Daniel Okrent, the elder Kennedy was innocent of one of these charges: bootlegging. In an excerpt from his new history of Prohibition published by the Daily Beast, Okrent writes that whatever else you can pin on the Kennedy patriarch, including his serial philandering, he wasn’t a bootlegger. Okrent’s research shows that despite his other nefarious activities, Kennedy’s involvement in the liquor industry was strictly legal. Prior to the repeal of Prohibition, he had sold liquor via legal “medicinal” permits. After it ended, with the help of FDR’s son James, Kennedy obtained import agreements to sell various British whiskey and gin, which added to his already considerable fortune. But, the former New York Times ombudsman says, there is no evidence that he illegally brought in hooch during Prohibition. The “bootlegger” charge is, he believes, a legend that grew up long after the time when these actions supposedly took place.

It’s an interesting point but shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of the old reprobate. Joseph P. Kennedy was a despicable person on so many levels and his involvement in our national life was generally so malevolent that the fact that there is one less crime on his charge sheet doesn’t make him more attractive. Indeed, as one reader said in a response to the excerpt posted by the Daily Beast, “I would have respected Joseph Kennedy more if he HAD been a bootlegger.”

On a list of prominent 20th-century Americans who were easy to dislike, Joseph P. Kennedy has to rank near the top.

The father of our 35th president was widely reviled in his own time as an unscrupulous operator in the worlds of high finance and politics. Having invested heavily in the presidential candidacy of Franklin Roosevelt, he was rewarded by FDR first with the post of chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission (Roosevelt famously defended his appointment of a man thought to be a crook with the quip that it “takes one to catch one”) and then with the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, where his anti-Semitism and support of appeasement of the Nazis was particularly damaging. A master of insider trading and market manipulation, he was also long rumored to be connected with the Mafia and to have made a fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition as a bootlegger.

But according to author Daniel Okrent, the elder Kennedy was innocent of one of these charges: bootlegging. In an excerpt from his new history of Prohibition published by the Daily Beast, Okrent writes that whatever else you can pin on the Kennedy patriarch, including his serial philandering, he wasn’t a bootlegger. Okrent’s research shows that despite his other nefarious activities, Kennedy’s involvement in the liquor industry was strictly legal. Prior to the repeal of Prohibition, he had sold liquor via legal “medicinal” permits. After it ended, with the help of FDR’s son James, Kennedy obtained import agreements to sell various British whiskey and gin, which added to his already considerable fortune. But, the former New York Times ombudsman says, there is no evidence that he illegally brought in hooch during Prohibition. The “bootlegger” charge is, he believes, a legend that grew up long after the time when these actions supposedly took place.

It’s an interesting point but shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of the old reprobate. Joseph P. Kennedy was a despicable person on so many levels and his involvement in our national life was generally so malevolent that the fact that there is one less crime on his charge sheet doesn’t make him more attractive. Indeed, as one reader said in a response to the excerpt posted by the Daily Beast, “I would have respected Joseph Kennedy more if he HAD been a bootlegger.”

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Sorry about my anti-Semitic remarks, now let me tell you about Zionist baby-killing

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

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No Denying White House Animus Toward Israel

This White House likes symbolism. After Barack Obama moved in, one of the first things his staff did was to unceremoniously remove the bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had been in the Oval Office and return it to Great Britain, thus signaling that this president no longer valued the special relationship with the UK, which had been a cornerstone of American diplomacy from the days of FDR to those of George W. Bush. And when Obama finally met with the Dalai Lama last month, the visit was kept low key, with no official welcome and no media allowed to witness the event for fear of offending China. The one picture that was released of the meeting appeared to show the president lecturing the exiled Tibetan so no one might think that a former editor of the Harvard Law Review had anything to learn from a legendary spiritual leader.

But the cold reception of the Dalai Lama now seems like a wild party compared to the way Obama received Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House this week. Oh, I know, Bibi is in the doghouse because we’re all supposed to think that Israel gravely insulted Vice President Joe Biden by allowing the announcement of a housing-project start in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem to coincide with his recent visit there. But the reason this is such a “big f@!%ing deal,” as the vice president might put it, is not because it was a real insult but because it was an excuse for the administration to renew its war on Netanyahu.

This is not the first president to dislike an Israeli prime minister or even Israel itself. The elder George Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@!% the Jews” Baker despised Yitzhak Shamir. But never has the leader of America’s ally Israel been treated with such open contempt as shown by Obama to Netanyahu. The Israeli’s visit to the White House was closed to the press — with not even one photo released of their encounter. The fact is that Obama didn’t even want his picture taken with Netanyahu. That’s particularly strange since the president has never any qualms about getting snapped next to a wide variety of international leaders on his travels. In yesterday’s press briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs was quizzed on this startling behavior by Jake Tapper. In response to repeated questions as to why the White House chose to treat a democratically elected head of the government of a close U.S. ally in this manner, Gibbs did not try very hard to pretend that it was anything but an indication of Obama’s dislike for the Israeli and the country he represents. Coming from a president that has spent his time in office making non-stop efforts to reach out to and engage America’s enemies around the world, this open hostility to Israel is breathtaking in its brazenness.

As for the policy fallout of the meetings, the whole point of the get-together was to bludgeon Netanyahu into conceding that Jews may no longer build homes in parts of their capital. Wisely, the prime minister did not give in to this unprecedented demand, which is something that not even the elder Bush and James Baker ever tried to shove down Shamir’s throat. There was no joint statement released after the talks ended but the White House let it be known that they expected the Israelis to make further concessions as an indication of their willingness to build confidence. Pointedly, the Palestinians, who have refused to even negotiate directly with Israel and who refused only a year and a half ago to accept an Israeli offer of an independent state that would have included part of Jerusalem, have not been asked by Obama to make any gestures of their own to enhance the non-existent chances of peace.

This White House’s cold shoulder to Netanyahu may be just an act of symbolism but not even the most shameless Obama apologist can pretend that it was anything but an indication of the president’s hostility. When the first president Bush used the occasion of an AIPAC conference in Washington in 1991 to show his contempt for Israel, even Jewish Republicans were aghast. Many deserted him at the next election — the GOP’s share of the Jewish vote dropped to a record low in 1992. The question for Jewish Democrats and other liberal friends of Israel is whether they are prepared to hold Barack Obama accountable in the same fashion.

This White House likes symbolism. After Barack Obama moved in, one of the first things his staff did was to unceremoniously remove the bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had been in the Oval Office and return it to Great Britain, thus signaling that this president no longer valued the special relationship with the UK, which had been a cornerstone of American diplomacy from the days of FDR to those of George W. Bush. And when Obama finally met with the Dalai Lama last month, the visit was kept low key, with no official welcome and no media allowed to witness the event for fear of offending China. The one picture that was released of the meeting appeared to show the president lecturing the exiled Tibetan so no one might think that a former editor of the Harvard Law Review had anything to learn from a legendary spiritual leader.

But the cold reception of the Dalai Lama now seems like a wild party compared to the way Obama received Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House this week. Oh, I know, Bibi is in the doghouse because we’re all supposed to think that Israel gravely insulted Vice President Joe Biden by allowing the announcement of a housing-project start in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem to coincide with his recent visit there. But the reason this is such a “big f@!%ing deal,” as the vice president might put it, is not because it was a real insult but because it was an excuse for the administration to renew its war on Netanyahu.

This is not the first president to dislike an Israeli prime minister or even Israel itself. The elder George Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@!% the Jews” Baker despised Yitzhak Shamir. But never has the leader of America’s ally Israel been treated with such open contempt as shown by Obama to Netanyahu. The Israeli’s visit to the White House was closed to the press — with not even one photo released of their encounter. The fact is that Obama didn’t even want his picture taken with Netanyahu. That’s particularly strange since the president has never any qualms about getting snapped next to a wide variety of international leaders on his travels. In yesterday’s press briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs was quizzed on this startling behavior by Jake Tapper. In response to repeated questions as to why the White House chose to treat a democratically elected head of the government of a close U.S. ally in this manner, Gibbs did not try very hard to pretend that it was anything but an indication of Obama’s dislike for the Israeli and the country he represents. Coming from a president that has spent his time in office making non-stop efforts to reach out to and engage America’s enemies around the world, this open hostility to Israel is breathtaking in its brazenness.

As for the policy fallout of the meetings, the whole point of the get-together was to bludgeon Netanyahu into conceding that Jews may no longer build homes in parts of their capital. Wisely, the prime minister did not give in to this unprecedented demand, which is something that not even the elder Bush and James Baker ever tried to shove down Shamir’s throat. There was no joint statement released after the talks ended but the White House let it be known that they expected the Israelis to make further concessions as an indication of their willingness to build confidence. Pointedly, the Palestinians, who have refused to even negotiate directly with Israel and who refused only a year and a half ago to accept an Israeli offer of an independent state that would have included part of Jerusalem, have not been asked by Obama to make any gestures of their own to enhance the non-existent chances of peace.

This White House’s cold shoulder to Netanyahu may be just an act of symbolism but not even the most shameless Obama apologist can pretend that it was anything but an indication of the president’s hostility. When the first president Bush used the occasion of an AIPAC conference in Washington in 1991 to show his contempt for Israel, even Jewish Republicans were aghast. Many deserted him at the next election — the GOP’s share of the Jewish vote dropped to a record low in 1992. The question for Jewish Democrats and other liberal friends of Israel is whether they are prepared to hold Barack Obama accountable in the same fashion.

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Dershowitz Throws Down the Gauntlet to Obama

Let’s give credit where it’s due. In the past, I’ve written about Alan Dershowitz’s defense of the Obama administration (here and here) as well as about his recent attack on J Street.

Despite Dershowitz’s outstanding pro-Israel record, I’ve taken him to task for his loyalty to Obama and refusal to call the president out for his decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel. But it looks as if the Harvard Law professor is finally starting to lose patience with the man whose candidacy for the presidency he supported so enthusiastically. In today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Dershowitz stops short of condemning the administration, but he delivered as stark a challenge to the president as one could imagine regarding Iran.

Pulling no punches, Dershowitz instructs Obama that no one remembers that Neville Chamberlain was a successful reformer who not only helped restore Great Britain’s financial stability during the Depression but also passed landmark legislation on unemployment and retirement benefits. Instead, all history remembers is Chamberlain’s “failure to confront Hitler.” It is, he writes pointedly, “Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.” And if Obama does not act to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, anything he achieves on health care or the economy will count for nothing when compared to the impact of a failure on Iran.

“History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation,” Dershowitz writes. Like Chamberlain with Hitler, “Mr. Obama will come to symbolize the failure of the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.”

Dershowitz is right, both about the nature of the threat from Iran and about Obama’s place in history if he allows Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons. But does Obama take the threat as seriously as Dershowitz? Everything the president has done since he took office leads us to believe the answer is no. A year of feckless engagement and weak diplomacy has led the Iranians to believe Obama is a weakling who will do nothing but appease and talk. The threat of force has been taken off the table, and only recently has the administration begun to speak seriously about sanctions on Iran — but even then, the measures considered aren’t tough enough and lack the support of China and Russia. Beyond wrongly blaming Israel for his failure to rally the world to America’s position, Obama has done little to indicate he cares deeply about the threat.

Thus, while we applaud Dershowitz for throwing down the gauntlet to Obama, we have to wonder how long will he wait before he concedes that the man in the White House is more of a Chamberlain than the Winston Churchill that the West needs so badly today.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. In the past, I’ve written about Alan Dershowitz’s defense of the Obama administration (here and here) as well as about his recent attack on J Street.

Despite Dershowitz’s outstanding pro-Israel record, I’ve taken him to task for his loyalty to Obama and refusal to call the president out for his decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel. But it looks as if the Harvard Law professor is finally starting to lose patience with the man whose candidacy for the presidency he supported so enthusiastically. In today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Dershowitz stops short of condemning the administration, but he delivered as stark a challenge to the president as one could imagine regarding Iran.

Pulling no punches, Dershowitz instructs Obama that no one remembers that Neville Chamberlain was a successful reformer who not only helped restore Great Britain’s financial stability during the Depression but also passed landmark legislation on unemployment and retirement benefits. Instead, all history remembers is Chamberlain’s “failure to confront Hitler.” It is, he writes pointedly, “Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.” And if Obama does not act to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, anything he achieves on health care or the economy will count for nothing when compared to the impact of a failure on Iran.

“History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation,” Dershowitz writes. Like Chamberlain with Hitler, “Mr. Obama will come to symbolize the failure of the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.”

Dershowitz is right, both about the nature of the threat from Iran and about Obama’s place in history if he allows Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons. But does Obama take the threat as seriously as Dershowitz? Everything the president has done since he took office leads us to believe the answer is no. A year of feckless engagement and weak diplomacy has led the Iranians to believe Obama is a weakling who will do nothing but appease and talk. The threat of force has been taken off the table, and only recently has the administration begun to speak seriously about sanctions on Iran — but even then, the measures considered aren’t tough enough and lack the support of China and Russia. Beyond wrongly blaming Israel for his failure to rally the world to America’s position, Obama has done little to indicate he cares deeply about the threat.

Thus, while we applaud Dershowitz for throwing down the gauntlet to Obama, we have to wonder how long will he wait before he concedes that the man in the White House is more of a Chamberlain than the Winston Churchill that the West needs so badly today.

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RE: Tom Ricks’s Quote

Peter Wehner quotes Tom Ricks as writing that the liberation of Iraq was “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and Joe Klein as writing that it was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history.”

Well, they’re journalists, not historians, but really. How about:

1) The Embargo Act of 1807 that forbade foreign trade. In order to teach the high-handed British and French a lesson, we went to war with ourselves and blockaded our own ports. New England, deeply dependent on trade and shipping (we had the second largest merchant fleet in the world after Britain at that time) was economically devastated. Smuggling over the Canadian border became so commonplace that northern New England was declared to be in a state of insurrection. The British and French just laughed at us. When Napoleon seized American ships in French ports he said he was just helping enforce the embargo act.

2) In 1811 Congress killed the Bank of the United States, the prime borrowing mechanism of the federal government. The next year it declared war on the only power on earth capable of attacking the United States, Great Britain, raised soldiers’ pay and enlistment bonuses, and adjourned without figuring out how to pay for the war. By March 1813, there was not enough money in the treasury to pay government salaries, let alone fight a war, and only when the Secretary of the Treasury went hat in hand to Stephen Girard, the richest man in the country, to beg him to take most of a bond issue, did we raise enough money to carry on. In 1814 the British occupied and burned the nation’s capital.

3) In 1861, an American naval captain seized two Confederate agents off a British-flagged vessel. It was only when Prince Albert — already dying, it was his last good deed — cooled down Lord Palmerston and provided the means for a diplomatic climb down by the U.S. (which Lincoln gratefully grasped — “one war at a time,” he explained) did we avoid a war with Great Britain when we were already fighting for the life of the Union.

4) After World War I, with Europe devastated and the United States by far the strongest economic and financial power in the world, we withdrew and refused to take on the world leadership that only we could provide. But we insisted that the European powers pay back the money they had borrowed, which they could only do by extracting reparations from an already broken Germany. The Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II were the result.

Peter Wehner quotes Tom Ricks as writing that the liberation of Iraq was “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and Joe Klein as writing that it was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history.”

Well, they’re journalists, not historians, but really. How about:

1) The Embargo Act of 1807 that forbade foreign trade. In order to teach the high-handed British and French a lesson, we went to war with ourselves and blockaded our own ports. New England, deeply dependent on trade and shipping (we had the second largest merchant fleet in the world after Britain at that time) was economically devastated. Smuggling over the Canadian border became so commonplace that northern New England was declared to be in a state of insurrection. The British and French just laughed at us. When Napoleon seized American ships in French ports he said he was just helping enforce the embargo act.

2) In 1811 Congress killed the Bank of the United States, the prime borrowing mechanism of the federal government. The next year it declared war on the only power on earth capable of attacking the United States, Great Britain, raised soldiers’ pay and enlistment bonuses, and adjourned without figuring out how to pay for the war. By March 1813, there was not enough money in the treasury to pay government salaries, let alone fight a war, and only when the Secretary of the Treasury went hat in hand to Stephen Girard, the richest man in the country, to beg him to take most of a bond issue, did we raise enough money to carry on. In 1814 the British occupied and burned the nation’s capital.

3) In 1861, an American naval captain seized two Confederate agents off a British-flagged vessel. It was only when Prince Albert — already dying, it was his last good deed — cooled down Lord Palmerston and provided the means for a diplomatic climb down by the U.S. (which Lincoln gratefully grasped — “one war at a time,” he explained) did we avoid a war with Great Britain when we were already fighting for the life of the Union.

4) After World War I, with Europe devastated and the United States by far the strongest economic and financial power in the world, we withdrew and refused to take on the world leadership that only we could provide. But we insisted that the European powers pay back the money they had borrowed, which they could only do by extracting reparations from an already broken Germany. The Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II were the result.

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Hamas: Israel Not Responsible for Dubai Assassination

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

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We’ll Meet at the Knesset, in Tel Aviv

A British media watchdog named Just Journalism has released its review of 2009 Financial Times editorials, and it finds what anyone familiar with this newspaper would expect: the FT fits in perfectly with the media culture of obsessive and deranged coverage of Israel that is a national embarrassment for Great Britain. My favorite example of this (as is Marty Peretz’s) is the fact that the FT, as official policy, refers to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, a plain denial of reality. Can you imagine the FT referring, today, to Philadelphia or New York as the capital of the United States? That would be crazy. It would cause the FT to become a laughingstock. But it is really no more neurotic than the Tel Aviv rule. Just Journalism’s complete report (PDF) can be found here.

A British media watchdog named Just Journalism has released its review of 2009 Financial Times editorials, and it finds what anyone familiar with this newspaper would expect: the FT fits in perfectly with the media culture of obsessive and deranged coverage of Israel that is a national embarrassment for Great Britain. My favorite example of this (as is Marty Peretz’s) is the fact that the FT, as official policy, refers to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, a plain denial of reality. Can you imagine the FT referring, today, to Philadelphia or New York as the capital of the United States? That would be crazy. It would cause the FT to become a laughingstock. But it is really no more neurotic than the Tel Aviv rule. Just Journalism’s complete report (PDF) can be found here.

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From Exporting Democracy to Exporting Terrorism

David Frum and Michael Weiss have important pieces on the decline — really, the suicide — of Great Britain.

David Frum and Michael Weiss have important pieces on the decline — really, the suicide — of Great Britain.

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Why Is Obama So Disrespectful of Britain?

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States — from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States — from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

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Carter Supports Global Nukes Race?

Jimmy Carter continues his shameful lurch deep into the land of moral equivalence. Here’s the New York Times:

Asked at a news conference in Wales on Sunday how a future president should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, he sought to put the risk in context by listing atomic weapons held globally. “The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said, according to a transcript.

This has me deeply concerned. I understood the omnipotent Jewish lobby to have put the U.S. in the position of Israel’s lap dog. Surely we can hand over some of our 12,000 to our master so that that he may better defend himself. I mean, only 150?

Jimmy Carter continues his shameful lurch deep into the land of moral equivalence. Here’s the New York Times:

Asked at a news conference in Wales on Sunday how a future president should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, he sought to put the risk in context by listing atomic weapons held globally. “The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said, according to a transcript.

This has me deeply concerned. I understood the omnipotent Jewish lobby to have put the U.S. in the position of Israel’s lap dog. Surely we can hand over some of our 12,000 to our master so that that he may better defend himself. I mean, only 150?

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Great Britain to The Rescue

Back in March, I blogged about the case of Mehdi Kazemi’s efforts to obtain asylum in the UK. Kazemi, who came to Great Britain to study, is gay. Upon discovery that his boyfriend had been executed in Iran and that the authorities were after him, Kazemi applied for asylum, but with no luck. Thus begun a journey to Holland and back to England, in the hope of not being deported back to a certain death.

The good news is just in: The Home Office just granted asylum to Mr Kazemi. It is a small victor,y no doubt–thousands more remain oppressed in Iran for being gay or Baha’i, for daring to criticize the regime, for organizing independent workers’ unions, or for simply showing too much skin. Perhaps this is a reminder to Europeans–who have focused their diplomatic activities with Iran on the nuclear issue alone — that it would not be so bad if Europe started pressuring Iran on its human rights record as well. After all, Europe already has a legal basis for restricting trade with Iran on the ground of human rights violations. Why not use it?

Back in March, I blogged about the case of Mehdi Kazemi’s efforts to obtain asylum in the UK. Kazemi, who came to Great Britain to study, is gay. Upon discovery that his boyfriend had been executed in Iran and that the authorities were after him, Kazemi applied for asylum, but with no luck. Thus begun a journey to Holland and back to England, in the hope of not being deported back to a certain death.

The good news is just in: The Home Office just granted asylum to Mr Kazemi. It is a small victor,y no doubt–thousands more remain oppressed in Iran for being gay or Baha’i, for daring to criticize the regime, for organizing independent workers’ unions, or for simply showing too much skin. Perhaps this is a reminder to Europeans–who have focused their diplomatic activities with Iran on the nuclear issue alone — that it would not be so bad if Europe started pressuring Iran on its human rights record as well. After all, Europe already has a legal basis for restricting trade with Iran on the ground of human rights violations. Why not use it?

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Bomb Rangoon — With Aid

While the death toll in Burma rises, its government continues to block foreign aid shipments, and Western governments fret about what to do, some outspoken voices across the pond are offering up some useful ideas. British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has come up with a novel proposal to the crisis in Burma: air-drop supplies to civilians with or without the consent of their government. “The case for unilateral delivery of aid by the international community will only grow stronger,” as the death toll grows, he said yesterday. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates all but rules out American aid drops, telling reporters that he “cannot imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government.” It’s good to know that the spirit of Tony Blair still exist in British politics, if not within the higher ranks of his own party.

Writing in yesterday’s Times of London, David Aaronovitch goes for the Full Monty, so to speak, and says that the only justifiable objection to military intervention is whether or not it is feasible:

How often do we need it proved? The issue isn’t whether we have the right to intervene – because the consequences of vicious dictatorships usually catch up with us in time – but whether or not, practically, we can. Everything else is a polite conversation in a sunny church.

Nick Cohen, another liberal hawk, echoes the call. If the arguments of these men are not morally pure enough for the Left, a coalition of domestic opposition groups in Burma released a statement explicitly calling for international intervention:

To save thousands of lives before it’s too late, we would like to urge the United Nations and foreign governments to intervene in Burma immediately to provide humanitarian and relief assistance directly to the people of Burma, without waiting for the permission of the military junta.

With the United States stretched thin in both Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention in Burma ought to be left to the British (they could put to use soldiers they withdrew from Basra last year). Not only are the British better equipped to deal with this crisis, but Burma is a former British territorial possession, and so the Brits probably have a better understanding of the lay of the land. The moral and legal case for military intervention is airtight. The question is whether or not Great Britain could ever pull it off.

While the death toll in Burma rises, its government continues to block foreign aid shipments, and Western governments fret about what to do, some outspoken voices across the pond are offering up some useful ideas. British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has come up with a novel proposal to the crisis in Burma: air-drop supplies to civilians with or without the consent of their government. “The case for unilateral delivery of aid by the international community will only grow stronger,” as the death toll grows, he said yesterday. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates all but rules out American aid drops, telling reporters that he “cannot imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government.” It’s good to know that the spirit of Tony Blair still exist in British politics, if not within the higher ranks of his own party.

Writing in yesterday’s Times of London, David Aaronovitch goes for the Full Monty, so to speak, and says that the only justifiable objection to military intervention is whether or not it is feasible:

How often do we need it proved? The issue isn’t whether we have the right to intervene – because the consequences of vicious dictatorships usually catch up with us in time – but whether or not, practically, we can. Everything else is a polite conversation in a sunny church.

Nick Cohen, another liberal hawk, echoes the call. If the arguments of these men are not morally pure enough for the Left, a coalition of domestic opposition groups in Burma released a statement explicitly calling for international intervention:

To save thousands of lives before it’s too late, we would like to urge the United Nations and foreign governments to intervene in Burma immediately to provide humanitarian and relief assistance directly to the people of Burma, without waiting for the permission of the military junta.

With the United States stretched thin in both Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention in Burma ought to be left to the British (they could put to use soldiers they withdrew from Basra last year). Not only are the British better equipped to deal with this crisis, but Burma is a former British territorial possession, and so the Brits probably have a better understanding of the lay of the land. The moral and legal case for military intervention is airtight. The question is whether or not Great Britain could ever pull it off.

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Between Wives

Several British papers report from Scotland that a local Muslim restaurant owner recently caught speeding in an urban area was given a lighter-than-usual sentence: instead of losing his license, the normal punishment, he had to pay a fine and get penalty points. Why was he speeding? He was traveling between wives. He has two, you see, and shares their bed on alternate nights.

What’s striking in the news reports is that, though it is acknowledged by reporters that polygamy in Great Britain is illegal, the offender’s lawyer actually used his bigamous status as an extenuating circumstance, and that the court bought this argument. It should, in my opinion, have prompted the judge to have the man arrested for a much more severe criminal offense than speeding: bigamy. Does this decision mean that Great Britain tolerates polygamy de facto and de jure?

Several British papers report from Scotland that a local Muslim restaurant owner recently caught speeding in an urban area was given a lighter-than-usual sentence: instead of losing his license, the normal punishment, he had to pay a fine and get penalty points. Why was he speeding? He was traveling between wives. He has two, you see, and shares their bed on alternate nights.

What’s striking in the news reports is that, though it is acknowledged by reporters that polygamy in Great Britain is illegal, the offender’s lawyer actually used his bigamous status as an extenuating circumstance, and that the court bought this argument. It should, in my opinion, have prompted the judge to have the man arrested for a much more severe criminal offense than speeding: bigamy. Does this decision mean that Great Britain tolerates polygamy de facto and de jure?

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Troth Blighted in Old Blighty

In a story out of Great Britain today we read that the proportion of Britons getting married is now the lowest since records began in 1862, with the number of weddings held in 2006 the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, show that fewer than ten in every 1,000 single adults in England and Wales got married in 2006. Among men the rate was 22.8 in every 1,000, while among women the rate was 20.5 in every 1,000. When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862, the level was 58.7 in every 1,000 for men and 50 in every 1,000 for women. Even during World War II, the article says, marriage rates for women never dropped below 40 in 1,000 (they fell below 30 for the first time in 1995). The general decline of marriage has been under way since 1972 when marriage rates were more than 78 in 1,000 for men and 60 in 1,000 for women. Also of note: today religious marriages in Great Britain number fewer than 80,000, compared to 157,490 civil weddings.

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In a story out of Great Britain today we read that the proportion of Britons getting married is now the lowest since records began in 1862, with the number of weddings held in 2006 the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, show that fewer than ten in every 1,000 single adults in England and Wales got married in 2006. Among men the rate was 22.8 in every 1,000, while among women the rate was 20.5 in every 1,000. When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862, the level was 58.7 in every 1,000 for men and 50 in every 1,000 for women. Even during World War II, the article says, marriage rates for women never dropped below 40 in 1,000 (they fell below 30 for the first time in 1995). The general decline of marriage has been under way since 1972 when marriage rates were more than 78 in 1,000 for men and 60 in 1,000 for women. Also of note: today religious marriages in Great Britain number fewer than 80,000, compared to 157,490 civil weddings.

There is, as one might imagine, a political and policy component to this story. According to the article,

[t]he evidence that marriage is withering away at an increasing pace was met with a furious response from critics of Labour’s benefits system, which disregards the status of husbands and wives and pays parents extra to stay single. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis claimed the Government had “fuelled family breakdown” and researcher Patricia Morgan, who coined the phrase “marriage lite” to describe cohabitation, said Labour had succeeded in “eradicating” marriage. “This is what they have tried to achieve and they should be congratulating themselves,” she added. “But it is a disaster for children, families and society.”

. . . [T]he tax and benefit system came under most fervent attack. Advantages for married couples have gradually been withdrawn, joint taxation-ended in the 1980s and Gordon Brown withdrew the last tax break for couples, the Married Couples Allowance, shortly after Labour came to power in 1997 . . .

. . . Labour family policy has for a decade maintained that all kinds of families are equally valuable and ministers have campaigned for all references to marriage to be removed from state documents. The Tories promised they would provide incentives for couples to get and stay together. David Davis said: “This is a sad indictment of the Government’s policies which have penalised families and fuelled family breakdown. Stable families are the best formula for bringing up children and preventing delinquency, anti-social behaviour and crime. So a failed family policy is itself a major cause of crime.” He added: “Conservative policies will support the family by shifting the tax burden away from families and giving 1.8million families an extra £2,000 a year.” Researcher and author Mrs Morgan said: “I have been reading the Children’s Plan put out by Children’s Secretary Ed Balls last year. It does not mention marriage once. This Government has removed the idea of marriage from research and public documents and from the tax and benefit system.”

These developments are part of a broad, on-going trend. In his book on marriage The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Collapse of the American Family (2001)*, Bill Bennett reminds us that in 2000, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was asked to identify the biggest change he has seen in his forty-year political career. He answered, “The biggest change, in my judgment, is that the family structure has come apart all over the North Atlantic world.” He said that this transformation had occurred in “an historical instant. Something that was not imaginable forty years ago has happened.” The distinguished historian Lawrence Stone wrote, “The scale of marital breakdown in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent and seems unique.” And the demographer Kingsley Davis added, “At no time in history, with the possible exception of Imperial Rome, has the institution of marriage been more problematic than it is today.” Scholars now speak of a trend toward a “post-marriage” society.

The causes of the collapse of marriage range from the rise in the Western world of a highly individualistic ethic, to a profound shift in moral and religious attitudes, to the sexual revolution, to the widespread use of abortion and the pill, to changes in law, among other things. The precise damage that the collapse in marriage is having on different societies is hard to measure – but we know it cannot be good. Marriage remains the best arrangement ever devised when it comes to sexual and emotional intimacy, raising children, and finding fulfillment and completeness between two people, not to mention things like financial security, better health, and longer lives. It is, as Bennett wrote, “the keystone in the arch of civilization.” It is also, for those of us who are people of faith, an honorable estate, instituted by God.

Revivifying marriage will not be an easy task, and it will depend on much more than government policies. But laws matter a great deal, as we have learned any number of times on any number of issues (among them welfare and crime) – and they surely matter when it comes to marriage. Laws, after all, reflect a society’s attitudes – the things we deem to be worthy of our support and disapprobation.

Great Britain is now experiencing the consequences of having devalued marriage in law, and the Tories are right to advocate steps to fortify traditional marriage. There are few institutions more in need of repair and few issues that are more worthy of our attention.

* Full disclosure: I assisted Bill Bennett in writing the book.

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Europe’s Wavering . . .

The BBC has released a survey of public opinion in 31 countries on Iran’s nuclear program and how to confront it. Conducted after the release of the NIE, its findings are what one would expect. Support for tougher measures against Iran has dropped in all but four countries: Turkey, South Korea, Israel and China. And in only three countries was support for tougher measures higher than support for diplomacy or no action at all: Israel, South Korea, and the U.S.

Of all the swings in opinion across the world, it is the picture in Europe that gives most reasons to worry. German support for softer measures jumped from 48 to 61 percent of respondents. In Great Britain the swing was from 53 to 57 percent. In Spain it went from 49 to 54 percent. In Italy support for a softer approach shifted slightly, from 55 to 56 percent. In France it remained steady at 54 percent.

This means that all the European countries most involved diplomatically and economically in efforts to dissuade Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program are the ones where the public’s appetite for tougher action–never too strong in the first place–has shrunk considerably. Given intelligence assessments of how close Iran may be to the point of no return, this is bad news. Governments will find it hard to make a case for more sanctions, let alone the possibility of military action if sanctions fail. It leaves the burden of action on those countries where governments and people agree on the threat that Iran poses-the U.S. and Israel.

But it also raises a question about the failure of governments to educate their public to the strategic environment they confront or the success of influential media outlets to obfuscate it. The BBC’s commentary on its own poll is a case in point. The organization preferred to say that “the U.S. government says it still sees Iran as a significant danger, and Israel says it believes it is aiming to build nuclear weapons.” The fact is that the U.S and Israel are far from being the only ones concerned about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear aims. Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy denounced Iran’s nuclear activities as a cover for a “clandestine weapons program” two years ago. And as late as last week, the EU-3 (France, Germany and Great Britain) questioned Iran’s responses to the IAEA because of evidence-based concerns that Iran is studying “how to weaponize nuclear materials.”

And as shown by growing support for tougher sanctions in Turkey, Iran’s neighbor, and South Korea, a country threatened by its nuclear neighbor, there is still serious international belief in the threat posed by Iran’s enrichment aims. But the BBC prefers to suggest that Israel and the U.S. are disingenuous warmongers, that Iran’s program is presented by these two countries as a threat but is in fact harmless. No wonder that public opinion in Europe is shifting.

The BBC has released a survey of public opinion in 31 countries on Iran’s nuclear program and how to confront it. Conducted after the release of the NIE, its findings are what one would expect. Support for tougher measures against Iran has dropped in all but four countries: Turkey, South Korea, Israel and China. And in only three countries was support for tougher measures higher than support for diplomacy or no action at all: Israel, South Korea, and the U.S.

Of all the swings in opinion across the world, it is the picture in Europe that gives most reasons to worry. German support for softer measures jumped from 48 to 61 percent of respondents. In Great Britain the swing was from 53 to 57 percent. In Spain it went from 49 to 54 percent. In Italy support for a softer approach shifted slightly, from 55 to 56 percent. In France it remained steady at 54 percent.

This means that all the European countries most involved diplomatically and economically in efforts to dissuade Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program are the ones where the public’s appetite for tougher action–never too strong in the first place–has shrunk considerably. Given intelligence assessments of how close Iran may be to the point of no return, this is bad news. Governments will find it hard to make a case for more sanctions, let alone the possibility of military action if sanctions fail. It leaves the burden of action on those countries where governments and people agree on the threat that Iran poses-the U.S. and Israel.

But it also raises a question about the failure of governments to educate their public to the strategic environment they confront or the success of influential media outlets to obfuscate it. The BBC’s commentary on its own poll is a case in point. The organization preferred to say that “the U.S. government says it still sees Iran as a significant danger, and Israel says it believes it is aiming to build nuclear weapons.” The fact is that the U.S and Israel are far from being the only ones concerned about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear aims. Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy denounced Iran’s nuclear activities as a cover for a “clandestine weapons program” two years ago. And as late as last week, the EU-3 (France, Germany and Great Britain) questioned Iran’s responses to the IAEA because of evidence-based concerns that Iran is studying “how to weaponize nuclear materials.”

And as shown by growing support for tougher sanctions in Turkey, Iran’s neighbor, and South Korea, a country threatened by its nuclear neighbor, there is still serious international belief in the threat posed by Iran’s enrichment aims. But the BBC prefers to suggest that Israel and the U.S. are disingenuous warmongers, that Iran’s program is presented by these two countries as a threat but is in fact harmless. No wonder that public opinion in Europe is shifting.

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A Brave UK Muslim

The U.K. has seen a recent string of capitulations to radical Islam and its politically correct Western enablers. In a February 12 article in the Jerusalem Post, Daniel Pipes chronicled three events in one very bad week in England:

First, the UK government has decided that terrorism by Muslims in the name of Islam is actually unrelated to Islam, or even anti-Islamic.

[…]

Second, and again culminating several years of evolution, the British government now recognizes polygamous marriages.

[…]

Third, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, endorsed applying portions of the Islamic law (the shari’a) in Great Britain.

Indeed, there is reason to suppose that a fair number of British lawmakers and clergy could get a tidy British shari’a system up and running before the Dems figure out who their nominee for President is. Which is why the following news is so important. The Evening Standard reports on a brave British Muslim who’s taking a stand against radicalization among England’s Muslims and the isolation that feeds it.

A leading Muslim figure has spoken out against plans for a 12,000-seat mosque next to the Olympic site.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, who co-founded the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, says there is no need for another mosque in East London.

His opposition follows that of mayoral candidate Alan Craig – who found his own “obituary” posted on internet site YouTube after making his views known.

Dr Siddiqui, an Indian-born elder statesman, said: “We have too many mosques. I think it should not be built. What we need first is more integration between the existing mosques and the wider community.”

The “megamosque” in Newham is being planned by Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat, which the FBI has described as “a recruiting ground” for al Qaeda – a claim it denies. Shoebomber Richard Reid and 7/7 bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were members.

Dr. Siddiqui’s courage and honesty should be a source of great shame to the likes of Rowan Williams. As a Muslim, this man faces a far greater danger from his radical co-religionists than does the Archbishop. Yet he grasps the graver peril of allowing his country to give in to fanatics without a fight. While Williams deems shari’a inevitable, Dr. Siddiqui finds at least enough morale to take a stand. His proposition is hardly dramatic; he’s simply recognizing that there is a problem worthy of engagement. How encouraging it would be if Dr. Siddiqui’s call was the first in a hat trick of resistance to counter Britain’s bad week.

The U.K. has seen a recent string of capitulations to radical Islam and its politically correct Western enablers. In a February 12 article in the Jerusalem Post, Daniel Pipes chronicled three events in one very bad week in England:

First, the UK government has decided that terrorism by Muslims in the name of Islam is actually unrelated to Islam, or even anti-Islamic.

[…]

Second, and again culminating several years of evolution, the British government now recognizes polygamous marriages.

[…]

Third, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, endorsed applying portions of the Islamic law (the shari’a) in Great Britain.

Indeed, there is reason to suppose that a fair number of British lawmakers and clergy could get a tidy British shari’a system up and running before the Dems figure out who their nominee for President is. Which is why the following news is so important. The Evening Standard reports on a brave British Muslim who’s taking a stand against radicalization among England’s Muslims and the isolation that feeds it.

A leading Muslim figure has spoken out against plans for a 12,000-seat mosque next to the Olympic site.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, who co-founded the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, says there is no need for another mosque in East London.

His opposition follows that of mayoral candidate Alan Craig – who found his own “obituary” posted on internet site YouTube after making his views known.

Dr Siddiqui, an Indian-born elder statesman, said: “We have too many mosques. I think it should not be built. What we need first is more integration between the existing mosques and the wider community.”

The “megamosque” in Newham is being planned by Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat, which the FBI has described as “a recruiting ground” for al Qaeda – a claim it denies. Shoebomber Richard Reid and 7/7 bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were members.

Dr. Siddiqui’s courage and honesty should be a source of great shame to the likes of Rowan Williams. As a Muslim, this man faces a far greater danger from his radical co-religionists than does the Archbishop. Yet he grasps the graver peril of allowing his country to give in to fanatics without a fight. While Williams deems shari’a inevitable, Dr. Siddiqui finds at least enough morale to take a stand. His proposition is hardly dramatic; he’s simply recognizing that there is a problem worthy of engagement. How encouraging it would be if Dr. Siddiqui’s call was the first in a hat trick of resistance to counter Britain’s bad week.

Read Less




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