Commentary Magazine


Topic: Guantanamo Bay

Detainees Coming to Illinois

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

Read Less

Not There Yet

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

Read Less

The Difference Between Drefyus and al-Qaeda

I have not read novelist Louis Begley’s new book Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, which received a favorable review in today’s New York Times Book Review section. However, there are some things that may be confidently asserted even without having perused that tome.

One is that there is absolutely no analogy to be drawn between Captain Alfred Dreyfus on the one hand, and Khalid Sheik Muhammad and the other al-Qaeda operatives on the other, who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay over the last several years.

A second is that there is no analogy between the machinations of the French Army’s High Command, which covered up the identity of the real German spy in Paris in the 1890s and instead chose to place the blame for a security breach on a loyal French Jew, and the efforts of the Bush administration to defend the United States against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

A third would be to note that if there is any common thread between the actors of 9/11 and those of the Dreyfus affair, it is not between the anti-Dreyfusards and the Bush administration but rather between the former and their fellow Jew haters in al-Qaeda, not to mention the lunatic Left, which has rationalized Islamist terrorism and attacked those who fight it.

One would think that such elemental facts would be known to the editors of the Book Review or to Ruth Scurr, who gave Begley’s book a rave. But apparently in this case political prejudices trump even the barest knowledge of history. Scurr applauds Begley when he asks: “Will some day in the near future the crimes of the Bush administration, like … the crimes against Dreyfus, disappear under the scar tissue of silence and indifference?” She goes on to note approvingly his desire for the emergence of “an American Zola or Proust” to speak up against Bush as those French writers did against the Dreyfus persecutors.

What can one say about such nonsense? Most Americans probably know little of the Dreyfus Affair. So it’s worth pointing out a few facts about the difference between our contemporary war on terror and the political and cultural conflict that turned France upside down over 100 years ago.

Unlike the al-Qaeda murderers who planned and executed 9/11, Dreyfus was innocent. One may criticize the zealousness of the Bush administration in their counter-offensive against al Qaeda. One may even criticize Guantanamo though when compared to the Devil’s Island accommodations offered Dreyfus, it looks more like a stay at the Waldorf than a prison. But in the end, the notion that KSM and other al-Qaeda members are the victims of persecution and, as Scurr put it, of “kangaroo trials,” is beyond absurd.

Unlike Bush’s critics, those who defended Dreyfus were speaking up for a genuine victim of injustice, a patriot wrongly accused and convicted solely because he was a Jew. But it is a telling insight into the depth of the political bias that Bush-haters have descended to observe that some are even prepared to analogize Dreyfus and al-Qaeda. The bizarre notion that virtually everything done by Bush after 9/11 was an attack on American liberty has become so firmly ingrained in the popular imagination that anything can and will be said to besmirch his administration. That it occurs to neither Begley nor Scurr that the anti-Semitism of the anti-Dreyfusards finds its echo in the forces that Bush sought to fight speaks volumes about the tone-deaf nature of their political vendetta.

Of course, the Dreyfus Affair does matter. For those who want to actually learn about the Dreyfus Affair, there is still no better place to turn to than Jean Louis Bredin’s 1986 The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus.

But it matters not just because speaking out against injustice is the duty of all decent persons but also because the forces that sought to delegitimize Jewish identity in the 1890s are once again on the march in Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in our time is due, in no small measure, to the influence of political Islam and the unwillingness of many Westerners to defend their democratic traditions. If any analogy is to be found today for the persecution of Dreyfus, it is in the lies that are hurled by Europeans and their Islamist friends against the State of Israel.

The spectacle of Dreyfus’s degradation in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire in Paris – as Dreyfus’s pitiful cries of his innocence and loyalty to France were drowned out by a mob screaming for the death of the Jews — helped motivate Theodor Herzl to write “The Jewish State” and launch the modern Zionist movement. Today, as then, there are many in Europe and elsewhere who cry out for Jewish blood or attempt to portray Israel’s terrorist foes as innocent victims. Those like Begley and Scurr — who seem to think the fight against Islamist terrorists is the real evil of the day – have the bully pulpit of venues such as the Times from which to vent their spleen against Bush. But there is no resemblance between such jeremiads and a defense of Western values or of the Jews for which Zola is better remembered than his novels.

I have not read novelist Louis Begley’s new book Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, which received a favorable review in today’s New York Times Book Review section. However, there are some things that may be confidently asserted even without having perused that tome.

One is that there is absolutely no analogy to be drawn between Captain Alfred Dreyfus on the one hand, and Khalid Sheik Muhammad and the other al-Qaeda operatives on the other, who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay over the last several years.

A second is that there is no analogy between the machinations of the French Army’s High Command, which covered up the identity of the real German spy in Paris in the 1890s and instead chose to place the blame for a security breach on a loyal French Jew, and the efforts of the Bush administration to defend the United States against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

A third would be to note that if there is any common thread between the actors of 9/11 and those of the Dreyfus affair, it is not between the anti-Dreyfusards and the Bush administration but rather between the former and their fellow Jew haters in al-Qaeda, not to mention the lunatic Left, which has rationalized Islamist terrorism and attacked those who fight it.

One would think that such elemental facts would be known to the editors of the Book Review or to Ruth Scurr, who gave Begley’s book a rave. But apparently in this case political prejudices trump even the barest knowledge of history. Scurr applauds Begley when he asks: “Will some day in the near future the crimes of the Bush administration, like … the crimes against Dreyfus, disappear under the scar tissue of silence and indifference?” She goes on to note approvingly his desire for the emergence of “an American Zola or Proust” to speak up against Bush as those French writers did against the Dreyfus persecutors.

What can one say about such nonsense? Most Americans probably know little of the Dreyfus Affair. So it’s worth pointing out a few facts about the difference between our contemporary war on terror and the political and cultural conflict that turned France upside down over 100 years ago.

Unlike the al-Qaeda murderers who planned and executed 9/11, Dreyfus was innocent. One may criticize the zealousness of the Bush administration in their counter-offensive against al Qaeda. One may even criticize Guantanamo though when compared to the Devil’s Island accommodations offered Dreyfus, it looks more like a stay at the Waldorf than a prison. But in the end, the notion that KSM and other al-Qaeda members are the victims of persecution and, as Scurr put it, of “kangaroo trials,” is beyond absurd.

Unlike Bush’s critics, those who defended Dreyfus were speaking up for a genuine victim of injustice, a patriot wrongly accused and convicted solely because he was a Jew. But it is a telling insight into the depth of the political bias that Bush-haters have descended to observe that some are even prepared to analogize Dreyfus and al-Qaeda. The bizarre notion that virtually everything done by Bush after 9/11 was an attack on American liberty has become so firmly ingrained in the popular imagination that anything can and will be said to besmirch his administration. That it occurs to neither Begley nor Scurr that the anti-Semitism of the anti-Dreyfusards finds its echo in the forces that Bush sought to fight speaks volumes about the tone-deaf nature of their political vendetta.

Of course, the Dreyfus Affair does matter. For those who want to actually learn about the Dreyfus Affair, there is still no better place to turn to than Jean Louis Bredin’s 1986 The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus.

But it matters not just because speaking out against injustice is the duty of all decent persons but also because the forces that sought to delegitimize Jewish identity in the 1890s are once again on the march in Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in our time is due, in no small measure, to the influence of political Islam and the unwillingness of many Westerners to defend their democratic traditions. If any analogy is to be found today for the persecution of Dreyfus, it is in the lies that are hurled by Europeans and their Islamist friends against the State of Israel.

The spectacle of Dreyfus’s degradation in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire in Paris – as Dreyfus’s pitiful cries of his innocence and loyalty to France were drowned out by a mob screaming for the death of the Jews — helped motivate Theodor Herzl to write “The Jewish State” and launch the modern Zionist movement. Today, as then, there are many in Europe and elsewhere who cry out for Jewish blood or attempt to portray Israel’s terrorist foes as innocent victims. Those like Begley and Scurr — who seem to think the fight against Islamist terrorists is the real evil of the day – have the bully pulpit of venues such as the Times from which to vent their spleen against Bush. But there is no resemblance between such jeremiads and a defense of Western values or of the Jews for which Zola is better remembered than his novels.

Read Less

So Much for Home State Favors

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

Read Less

Nobel Speech

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: America in the World

Obama takes some dramatic license in recounting his record:

I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.

It would have been grand had he done all that! But to his credit, he also gives one of his more robust defenses of America’s role in the world:

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

More of that would be nice to hear — and when he is talking to other nations, and not just to the cadets at West Point.

Obama takes some dramatic license in recounting his record:

I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.

It would have been grand had he done all that! But to his credit, he also gives one of his more robust defenses of America’s role in the world:

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

More of that would be nice to hear — and when he is talking to other nations, and not just to the cadets at West Point.

Read Less

To Yemen?

Rep. Frank Wolf has sent a letter to the Justice Department and issued a press release questioning the release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, especially “in light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood where the alleged shooter reportedly has ties to a radical cleric now living in Yemen.” Yes, that is correct. Wolf’s press release explains:

“The American people have a right to know who these detainees are and what acts of terror they were engaged in,” Wolf wrote. “If the public had this information, they would never tolerate the release of these men back to unstable countries with a sizeable al Qaeda presence.” …

“If the administration does not halt these pending releases immediately, it could be responsible for creating a new revolving door of terrorism that will cost American lives,” Wolf wrote today. “The security of the American people could be at risk because of the administration’s relentless pursuit of a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.”

“Why has the administration made basic information about these dangerous detainees so highly classified that it cannot be shared with the American people or the media?” Wolf asked. “I have reviewed the materials. These are dangerous individuals. To release committed al Qaeda terrorists back to Yemen under these conditions would be an act of gross malfeasance that undermines the safety of the American people.”

In his statement, Wolf also raised the red flag about Anwar al-Aulaqi, “the radical cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal M. Hasan and also mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Wolf does not subscribe to the view that Hasan was simply suffering from post-traumatic stress:

“As the facts surrounding the Fort Hood attack have emerged, it is becoming clear that anyone who is cited in the 9/11 Commission Report — as al-Aulaqi was on page 221 — as a ‘significant’ contact for 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar should be considered a ‘significant’ connection to Hasan,” Wolf wrote. “Al-Aulaqi has subsequently praised Hasan’s attack stating on his Web site: ‘Nidal Hassan is a hero. … Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal,’’’ according to a translation.

Really, if not for the appalling decision to move 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for a trial — that will soon devolve into a three-ring circus in which the U.S. and its defenders are in the dock — the decision to export the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where they can hear the same pearls of wisdom that inspired Hasan, would be tops on the list of “most outrageous things” the Obama team has done recently. But there is always plenty of competition for that distinction.

Rep. Frank Wolf has sent a letter to the Justice Department and issued a press release questioning the release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, especially “in light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood where the alleged shooter reportedly has ties to a radical cleric now living in Yemen.” Yes, that is correct. Wolf’s press release explains:

“The American people have a right to know who these detainees are and what acts of terror they were engaged in,” Wolf wrote. “If the public had this information, they would never tolerate the release of these men back to unstable countries with a sizeable al Qaeda presence.” …

“If the administration does not halt these pending releases immediately, it could be responsible for creating a new revolving door of terrorism that will cost American lives,” Wolf wrote today. “The security of the American people could be at risk because of the administration’s relentless pursuit of a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.”

“Why has the administration made basic information about these dangerous detainees so highly classified that it cannot be shared with the American people or the media?” Wolf asked. “I have reviewed the materials. These are dangerous individuals. To release committed al Qaeda terrorists back to Yemen under these conditions would be an act of gross malfeasance that undermines the safety of the American people.”

In his statement, Wolf also raised the red flag about Anwar al-Aulaqi, “the radical cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal M. Hasan and also mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Wolf does not subscribe to the view that Hasan was simply suffering from post-traumatic stress:

“As the facts surrounding the Fort Hood attack have emerged, it is becoming clear that anyone who is cited in the 9/11 Commission Report — as al-Aulaqi was on page 221 — as a ‘significant’ contact for 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar should be considered a ‘significant’ connection to Hasan,” Wolf wrote. “Al-Aulaqi has subsequently praised Hasan’s attack stating on his Web site: ‘Nidal Hassan is a hero. … Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal,’’’ according to a translation.

Really, if not for the appalling decision to move 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for a trial — that will soon devolve into a three-ring circus in which the U.S. and its defenders are in the dock — the decision to export the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where they can hear the same pearls of wisdom that inspired Hasan, would be tops on the list of “most outrageous things” the Obama team has done recently. But there is always plenty of competition for that distinction.

Read Less

Klein’s Mad Again

Joe Klein is upset yet again–this time at Senator Joseph Lieberman. The source of his consternation is an interview Lieberman gave to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. When asked about a Hamas spokesman’s endorsement of Obama, Lieberman said that

John McCain obviously knows and has said that Senator Obama clearly doesn’t support any of the values or goals of Hamas. But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question “Why?” and it suggests the difference between these two candidates.

According to Klein, Lieberman is

smearing Barack Obama re Hamas. He is entitled to his views about the Middle East, but for the past five years he has taken those Likudnik views a step beyond propriety–saying that those who disagree with him (i.e.–the Democratic Party, which nominated him for the Vice Presidency in 2000) are counseling “defeat” and “surrender.” And now this.  I wish Blitzer had been a bit more dogged and asked: “What could you possibly mean by that, Senator Lieberman–and please be specific. Why do you think Hamas “favors” Obama over McCain? What are you implying here, Senator?

Now one might believe Lieberman is wrong in what he said, but it is hardly a smear. In fact, Lieberman goes out of his way to stress that Obama does not share the values or goals of Hamas. His argument is a completely legitimate one: Obama would pursue policies that would (unintentionally) advance the aims of Hamas. It’s the flipside of an argument I presume Klein endorses: Bush’s policies–from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay to water-boarding–have helped the jihadists cause rather than hurt it.

It’s not a smear to make the argument that the policies of a President will have real-world consequences–in some instances making life easier for our enemies, and in some instances making life harder for our enemies. Is it unreasonable to conclude that the leaders of the Soviet Union were rooting for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984?

Likewise, it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that the policy Barack Obama embraces would lead to an American surrender and defeat in Iraq–just as it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that McCain’s policies would harm American interests. Political campaigns are supposed to be about such matters.

This is all part of what is becoming an increasingly tiresome reflex within the media and which Klein embodies as well as anyone. When Lanny Davis said that Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright was a legitimate, troubling issue, Klein accused Davis of “spreading the poison.” Now Lieberman’s argument that it’s worth asking why Hamas would rather see Obama than McCain as President is a “smear.” And next week if Lindsey Graham criticizes Obama’s willingness to meet with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions, I suppose we can expect Klein to charge Graham with “character assassination.”

For a fellow who likes to rip the hide off of his critics, Klein has developed some fairly thin skin. Years ago Bob Dole asked, “Where’s the outrage?” The answer, is appears, can be found in the writing of Joe Klein. Outrage seems to be a perennial state for him these days.

Joe Klein is upset yet again–this time at Senator Joseph Lieberman. The source of his consternation is an interview Lieberman gave to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. When asked about a Hamas spokesman’s endorsement of Obama, Lieberman said that

John McCain obviously knows and has said that Senator Obama clearly doesn’t support any of the values or goals of Hamas. But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question “Why?” and it suggests the difference between these two candidates.

According to Klein, Lieberman is

smearing Barack Obama re Hamas. He is entitled to his views about the Middle East, but for the past five years he has taken those Likudnik views a step beyond propriety–saying that those who disagree with him (i.e.–the Democratic Party, which nominated him for the Vice Presidency in 2000) are counseling “defeat” and “surrender.” And now this.  I wish Blitzer had been a bit more dogged and asked: “What could you possibly mean by that, Senator Lieberman–and please be specific. Why do you think Hamas “favors” Obama over McCain? What are you implying here, Senator?

Now one might believe Lieberman is wrong in what he said, but it is hardly a smear. In fact, Lieberman goes out of his way to stress that Obama does not share the values or goals of Hamas. His argument is a completely legitimate one: Obama would pursue policies that would (unintentionally) advance the aims of Hamas. It’s the flipside of an argument I presume Klein endorses: Bush’s policies–from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay to water-boarding–have helped the jihadists cause rather than hurt it.

It’s not a smear to make the argument that the policies of a President will have real-world consequences–in some instances making life easier for our enemies, and in some instances making life harder for our enemies. Is it unreasonable to conclude that the leaders of the Soviet Union were rooting for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984?

Likewise, it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that the policy Barack Obama embraces would lead to an American surrender and defeat in Iraq–just as it’s perfectly legitimate to argue that McCain’s policies would harm American interests. Political campaigns are supposed to be about such matters.

This is all part of what is becoming an increasingly tiresome reflex within the media and which Klein embodies as well as anyone. When Lanny Davis said that Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright was a legitimate, troubling issue, Klein accused Davis of “spreading the poison.” Now Lieberman’s argument that it’s worth asking why Hamas would rather see Obama than McCain as President is a “smear.” And next week if Lindsey Graham criticizes Obama’s willingness to meet with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions, I suppose we can expect Klein to charge Graham with “character assassination.”

For a fellow who likes to rip the hide off of his critics, Klein has developed some fairly thin skin. Years ago Bob Dole asked, “Where’s the outrage?” The answer, is appears, can be found in the writing of Joe Klein. Outrage seems to be a perennial state for him these days.

Read Less

The View from the Continent

Last week I was in London attending a Global Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, the Princeton Project on National Security, Newsweek International, and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The attendees–from both the United States and Europe–included academics, scholars, journalists, diplomatic advisers and others who inhabit the foreign policy world. The event was well-organized, the conversations wide-ranging, and there was a genuine effort to hear from a diversity of voices (hence my invitation). But there is no question that the dominant outlook of most of those in attendance was left-leaning, which itself made the trip illuminating.

I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one’s desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren’t so terribly dangerous.

There were the predictable assertions made about how the United States, under George W. Bush, was “unilateralist” and that, in the words of one former Clinton Administration official, “multilateralism was a dirty word” in the Bush Administration. This charge is simplistic and demonstrably untrue–and one could cite as evidence everything from the lead up to the Iraq war (in which the United States went to the UN not once but twice, and gained unanimous approval of Resolution 1441); the war itself (which included support from the governments of Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Norway, El Salvador and many other nations); the E3; the Quartet; the Six Party Talks; the Proliferation Security Initiative; a slew of free trade agreements; and more. In fact the Bush Administration was criticized by Democrats for being too multilateralist in their dealings with North Korea; it was said by John Kerry, among other liberals, that we should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea rather than rely on the Six Party Talks.

Another impression I had was that many (if not most) Europeans and American foreign policy experts are caught in a time warp, acting as if we are still in 2006. They simply want to wash their hands of Iraq. They hate the war, are seemingly impervious to the security and political progress we have seen in Iraq since last summer, and they want the next Administration to downplay Iraq as an issue, which they believe has “obsessed” the Bush presidency. What they don’t seem to understand is that ending U.S. involvement in the war won’t end the war. In fact, if Obama or Clinton follow up on their stated commitments, it is likely to trigger mass death and possibly genocide, revitalize al Qaeda, strengthen Iran, and further destabilize the region. The irony would be that the plans laid out by Democrats, if followed, would increase, not decrease, Iraq’s dominance of American foreign policy. An Iraq that is cracking up and caught in a death spiral is not something that even a President Obama or Clinton could ignore.

The third impression I came away with is the widespread view in Europe, as well as among some Americans, that the U.S. has suffered a huge, almost incalculable, loss of “moral authority” (its worth recalling that we heard much the same thing during the Reagan years). The evidence cited is always the same: Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret prisons, and waterboarding. They are invoked like an incantation. The effect of this is that you would think that the United States is among the leading violators of human rights in the world.

During one of the panel sessions I said it was fine to place on one side of the moral ledger waterboarding three leading al Qaeda figures, which I consider to be a morally complicated issue–but that it’s also worth putting on the other side of the moral ledger the fact that we liberated more than 50 million people from two of the most odious and repressive regimes in modern history. Liberation was not the only impulse that drove the two wars, but it was one of them, and a noble one at that. I borrowed a line from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic who, while a harsh critic of the execution of the Bush Administration, has written “I find it impossible to denounce a war that led to the removal of a genocidal dictator.” That is especially true now that we have the right strategy in place, that we’re seeing progress on almost every front, and that we have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq. The situation is still hugely challenging and success, if we achieve it, will be long in coming. But the collapse of will that I witnessed among some leading foreign policy voices on both sides of the Atlantic, while not surprising, was still discouraging. It is no wonder that world leaders who do not share that exhaustion are the objects of condemnation.

Last week I was in London attending a Global Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, the Princeton Project on National Security, Newsweek International, and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The attendees–from both the United States and Europe–included academics, scholars, journalists, diplomatic advisers and others who inhabit the foreign policy world. The event was well-organized, the conversations wide-ranging, and there was a genuine effort to hear from a diversity of voices (hence my invitation). But there is no question that the dominant outlook of most of those in attendance was left-leaning, which itself made the trip illuminating.

I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one’s desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren’t so terribly dangerous.

There were the predictable assertions made about how the United States, under George W. Bush, was “unilateralist” and that, in the words of one former Clinton Administration official, “multilateralism was a dirty word” in the Bush Administration. This charge is simplistic and demonstrably untrue–and one could cite as evidence everything from the lead up to the Iraq war (in which the United States went to the UN not once but twice, and gained unanimous approval of Resolution 1441); the war itself (which included support from the governments of Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Norway, El Salvador and many other nations); the E3; the Quartet; the Six Party Talks; the Proliferation Security Initiative; a slew of free trade agreements; and more. In fact the Bush Administration was criticized by Democrats for being too multilateralist in their dealings with North Korea; it was said by John Kerry, among other liberals, that we should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea rather than rely on the Six Party Talks.

Another impression I had was that many (if not most) Europeans and American foreign policy experts are caught in a time warp, acting as if we are still in 2006. They simply want to wash their hands of Iraq. They hate the war, are seemingly impervious to the security and political progress we have seen in Iraq since last summer, and they want the next Administration to downplay Iraq as an issue, which they believe has “obsessed” the Bush presidency. What they don’t seem to understand is that ending U.S. involvement in the war won’t end the war. In fact, if Obama or Clinton follow up on their stated commitments, it is likely to trigger mass death and possibly genocide, revitalize al Qaeda, strengthen Iran, and further destabilize the region. The irony would be that the plans laid out by Democrats, if followed, would increase, not decrease, Iraq’s dominance of American foreign policy. An Iraq that is cracking up and caught in a death spiral is not something that even a President Obama or Clinton could ignore.

The third impression I came away with is the widespread view in Europe, as well as among some Americans, that the U.S. has suffered a huge, almost incalculable, loss of “moral authority” (its worth recalling that we heard much the same thing during the Reagan years). The evidence cited is always the same: Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret prisons, and waterboarding. They are invoked like an incantation. The effect of this is that you would think that the United States is among the leading violators of human rights in the world.

During one of the panel sessions I said it was fine to place on one side of the moral ledger waterboarding three leading al Qaeda figures, which I consider to be a morally complicated issue–but that it’s also worth putting on the other side of the moral ledger the fact that we liberated more than 50 million people from two of the most odious and repressive regimes in modern history. Liberation was not the only impulse that drove the two wars, but it was one of them, and a noble one at that. I borrowed a line from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic who, while a harsh critic of the execution of the Bush Administration, has written “I find it impossible to denounce a war that led to the removal of a genocidal dictator.” That is especially true now that we have the right strategy in place, that we’re seeing progress on almost every front, and that we have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq. The situation is still hugely challenging and success, if we achieve it, will be long in coming. But the collapse of will that I witnessed among some leading foreign policy voices on both sides of the Atlantic, while not surprising, was still discouraging. It is no wonder that world leaders who do not share that exhaustion are the objects of condemnation.

Read Less

A Nation of Psychotic Soldiers

It’s rare that Americans get to pore over a screed of up-to-date anti-U.S. hysteria as unapologetically caustic and lovingly detailed as this rant by Sir Simon Jenkins at Comment is Free. The distinguished British journalist has gone to the trouble of diagnosing America’s various ailments, their causes, and the overall prognosis, so we should give him our full attention:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

From Jenkins’ visits to the U.S., he’s arrived at this impression of our fair land: “A country in so many ways a kaleidoscope of the world is in many ways so different. Above all it is full of soldiers.” This is excellent news, as I’ve been hearing rumors the military was stretched thin, and as Sir Simon says, America is engaged in an “atavistic love affair with war.” There’s nothing atavistic about twenty-first Century knights like Jenkins, is there?

Here’s a charming wrap-up:

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

But doesn’t the psychosis lie in denying the ramifications of post-9/11 existence? In reality, threat alerts are almost non-existent now. It’s the threat that’s remained ubiquitous. As for having to take off our shoes in airports, that maddening requirement comes courtesy of London’s own Richard Reid, who managed to sneak his shoe bomb past the decidedly non-hysterical airport security at Charles De Gaulle International. Prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay live better than American soldiers, and have each gained an average of twenty pounds while there. So now we’re down to the flag lapel pin and “public figures.” For starters, the likely Democratic nominee for president isn’t just any public figure, and anyway, who can take seriously a scolding about nationalism from a journalist whose title establishes him as member of the English nobility?

And speaking of nobility, it should come as no surprise that this regal anti-American is gaga for Barack Obama: “His capacity to transform America‘s self-image and world image is colossal.” If only he can convince the soldiers from sea to shining sea.

It’s rare that Americans get to pore over a screed of up-to-date anti-U.S. hysteria as unapologetically caustic and lovingly detailed as this rant by Sir Simon Jenkins at Comment is Free. The distinguished British journalist has gone to the trouble of diagnosing America’s various ailments, their causes, and the overall prognosis, so we should give him our full attention:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

From Jenkins’ visits to the U.S., he’s arrived at this impression of our fair land: “A country in so many ways a kaleidoscope of the world is in many ways so different. Above all it is full of soldiers.” This is excellent news, as I’ve been hearing rumors the military was stretched thin, and as Sir Simon says, America is engaged in an “atavistic love affair with war.” There’s nothing atavistic about twenty-first Century knights like Jenkins, is there?

Here’s a charming wrap-up:

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

But doesn’t the psychosis lie in denying the ramifications of post-9/11 existence? In reality, threat alerts are almost non-existent now. It’s the threat that’s remained ubiquitous. As for having to take off our shoes in airports, that maddening requirement comes courtesy of London’s own Richard Reid, who managed to sneak his shoe bomb past the decidedly non-hysterical airport security at Charles De Gaulle International. Prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay live better than American soldiers, and have each gained an average of twenty pounds while there. So now we’re down to the flag lapel pin and “public figures.” For starters, the likely Democratic nominee for president isn’t just any public figure, and anyway, who can take seriously a scolding about nationalism from a journalist whose title establishes him as member of the English nobility?

And speaking of nobility, it should come as no surprise that this regal anti-American is gaga for Barack Obama: “His capacity to transform America‘s self-image and world image is colossal.” If only he can convince the soldiers from sea to shining sea.

Read Less

A Canadian Course in Torture

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07′/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07′/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

Read Less

If George F. Kennan Met Osama bin Laden

“Did George Kennan know the best way to fight terror?” is the question asked by a New York Times op-ed today. My question in return is: why is so much that appears on the op-ed page of our leading newspaper so fatuous?

In 1947, writes Nicholas Thompson, the author of a forthcoming book about Kennan, the late American strategist published his famous article in Foreign Affairs under the byline of X, setting forth the strategy of containment. The Soviet challenge, as Kennan understood it, Thompson explains, was political and not military, and it required a political not a military response: “The United States should refrain from provoking Moscow, whether through confrontation or histrionics,” Thompson paraphrases. “Patience would lead to success.”

Alas, Thompson continues, containment was massively misinterpreted and militarized by American cold warriors and turned into an instrument of aggression and bellicosity. This in turn led into the horrors of the cold war:

We soon built up our forces to defend Western Europe, created NATO and engaged in a huge arms race. Eventually containment would mean soldiers in Vietnam and thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at the Soviet Union.

Has Thompson has given us a fair summary of Kennan’s position? In Foreign Affairs, after all, Kennan offered a strategy of “firm containment designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interest of a peaceful and stable world.” It is impossible to read this as a call for pacifism or disengagement or even “patience”—try as Thompson might (and, in his later years, Kennan himself did). In fact, as I have argued in COMMENTARY, there were actually two George Kennans, the second of whom waged a life-long war against the writings of the first, grossly distorting his own ideas and the historical record along the way.

Read More

“Did George Kennan know the best way to fight terror?” is the question asked by a New York Times op-ed today. My question in return is: why is so much that appears on the op-ed page of our leading newspaper so fatuous?

In 1947, writes Nicholas Thompson, the author of a forthcoming book about Kennan, the late American strategist published his famous article in Foreign Affairs under the byline of X, setting forth the strategy of containment. The Soviet challenge, as Kennan understood it, Thompson explains, was political and not military, and it required a political not a military response: “The United States should refrain from provoking Moscow, whether through confrontation or histrionics,” Thompson paraphrases. “Patience would lead to success.”

Alas, Thompson continues, containment was massively misinterpreted and militarized by American cold warriors and turned into an instrument of aggression and bellicosity. This in turn led into the horrors of the cold war:

We soon built up our forces to defend Western Europe, created NATO and engaged in a huge arms race. Eventually containment would mean soldiers in Vietnam and thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at the Soviet Union.

Has Thompson has given us a fair summary of Kennan’s position? In Foreign Affairs, after all, Kennan offered a strategy of “firm containment designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interest of a peaceful and stable world.” It is impossible to read this as a call for pacifism or disengagement or even “patience”—try as Thompson might (and, in his later years, Kennan himself did). In fact, as I have argued in COMMENTARY, there were actually two George Kennans, the second of whom waged a life-long war against the writings of the first, grossly distorting his own ideas and the historical record along the way.

But what does any of this cold-war arcana have to do with terrorism?

Thompson acknowledges that today “we face vastly different challenges from those the nation confronted right after World War II.” Al-Qaeda cells plotting attacks with weapons of mass destruction are a far cry from the dangers posed by the Red Army and Communist insurrection. Nevertheless, claims Thompson, Kennan’s pacific version of containment—“the desired but never executed policy from 60 years ago—contains “profound wisdom” for our present circumstances. In particular, we should recognize that, as in the cold war, “[t]ime is on our side—particularly if we act in a way that doesn’t inflame our enemies’ pride and anger and win them new recruits.”

Thus, with respect to Pakistan, where we are spending $10 billion on military assistance and less than $1 billion on health, education, and the promotion of democracy, Kennan “would have wanted the numbers to be closer to the reverse.”

Kennan’s vision of counterterrorism would also involve

the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, an unambiguous renunciation of torture, and an abandonment of the notion that our legal and moral norms don’t apply to the current struggle. Kennan believed we gave our opponents a propaganda victory each time we acted in a manner unfitting of our ideals.

Whatever the merits and demerits of each of these proposals, invoking Kennan’s doctrine of containment in defense of them is both dishonest and illogical.

Even in the cold war itself, as Thompson himself admits, “We can’t know for sure how [Kennan’s] recommended, wholly political version of containment”—assuming he ever adumbrated such a vision—“would have fared.” In the event, and in the face of massive threats to the peace in places like Korea and Berlin, the “militarized” version of the doctrine was a necessity.

Toward the end of the cold war, moreover, it was only America’s willingness to engage in a military competition that enabled the West to prevail; even Thompson is compelled to admit that a “militant foreign policy” eventually helped “bring about the collapse of Soviet Communism.”

So how does it follow from the history of the cold war that we should now abandon military means in the struggle against al Qaeda and simply try to contain it? In fact, we tried something like that approach in the 1990’s, and on September 11, 2001, it led to one of the worst military disasters in American history.

That there are now voices telling us to abandon the military fight against Islamic terrorists and win by setting an example of moral rectitude shows only that there is no limit to the human desire to cut and run.

Read Less

The Land of the Eunuchs

In Thursday morning’s Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash appealed for European solidarity with Britain in the face of the Iranian seizure of fifteen British naval personnel. “Fourteen European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged ‘confession,’ clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what’s it going to do about it? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s the action?” asks Garton Ash.

He notes that “the EU is by far Iran’s biggest trading partner. More than 40 percent of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis.” This commerce is not purely in the private sector but is sustained by European government subsidies. “The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn, more than for Russia or China,” Garton Ash reports.

Garton Ash asks whether “Britain’s European friends—and Germany, France, and Italy in particular—might be prevailed upon to convey to Iran, perhaps privately in the first instance, the possibility that such export credit guarantees would be temporarily suspended until the kidnapped Europeans are freed.”

Read More

In Thursday morning’s Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash appealed for European solidarity with Britain in the face of the Iranian seizure of fifteen British naval personnel. “Fourteen European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged ‘confession,’ clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what’s it going to do about it? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s the action?” asks Garton Ash.

He notes that “the EU is by far Iran’s biggest trading partner. More than 40 percent of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis.” This commerce is not purely in the private sector but is sustained by European government subsidies. “The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn, more than for Russia or China,” Garton Ash reports.

Garton Ash asks whether “Britain’s European friends—and Germany, France, and Italy in particular—might be prevailed upon to convey to Iran, perhaps privately in the first instance, the possibility that such export credit guarantees would be temporarily suspended until the kidnapped Europeans are freed.”

When I read this, I took pen in hand to point out the insipidness of Garton Ash’s remedy: that the words to Iran would be spoken “privately,” that they would only allude to a “possibility” of suspending credits “temporarily.” Presumably, then, when the fifteen were freed, Europe would resume subsidizing the Iranian economy while Iran went on building its nuclear bomb. In short, I thought Garton Ash rather namby-pamby.

Until, that is, I read the replies to his column posted on the Guardian’s blog. Then I saw that by contemporary European standards—or at least the standards of that part of Europe represented by the left-leaning Guardian—Garton Ash might as well be the second coming of Winston Churchill. Scores of comments are posted. Out of a randomly chosen 25, I counted one who grudgingly supported Garton Ash’s position, two who called for stronger action against Iran and 22 (i.e., 88 percent) who denounced him as a jingoist, imperialist, war-mongering puppet of Uncle Sam.

Here is a sample (not including any whose comments or screen names suggested that they might be Iranian or Middle Eastern):

“Timothy Garton Ash [is] a pompous tub-thumping twat who gets his meal-tickets from the Americans these days. . . . It ill behooves pundits like Mr. Garton Ash to bang the table about who can detain whom, when the ‘Alliance of the Willing’ is illegally holding 450+ detainees in Guantanamo Bay.”

“If the prisoners confessed to being in Iranian waters, they probably were.”

“Britain is now no better than Stalinist Russia, with regard to certain media in so far as taking the government line.”

“We have the hullabaloo about supposed mistreatment, possibe torture, etc. Complete propagandistic bullshit. Once again, no proof at all.”

“A simple apology to the Iranians (i.e., sorry fifteen sailors got lost by a kilometer) would have diffused this crisis completely in a single instant.”

It is said that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king. Mutatis mutandis, in the land of the eunuchs.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.