Commentary Magazine


Topic: machinery

Gitmo Will Stay Open (But It’s Really, Really Bad)

The Obama administration now acknowledges what the rest of us already knew. You can’t close a facility housing stateless unlawful enemy combatants with a presidential signature. “The White House admitted Sunday it would be unable to shut Guantanamo Bay in the near future, even as it acknowledged the U.S. naval prison camp is a rallying cry for Islamic extremists,” the AFP reports.

For a White House skilled in the art of dangerous mixed messages, this is a magnum opus. The damage is inflicted both at home and abroad. First, at home: the president has said he considers Gitmo a betrayal of American values, stating, “Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.” He once went so far as to claim that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Now, with the admission that Gitmo must remain open, Americans are left to ponder the persistence of a self-described terrorist-creating policy. Is the machinery of our governance so decrepit that we have no choice but to move ahead with policies that are antithetical to American principles? Is there no way to fight a war on terrorism that is both honorable and effective?

Around the world, it will be noted that President Obama embraced the narrative of Islamist grievance against the United States, only to confirm its worst aspect by reneging on his pledges to be different and to right supposed wrongs. Peaceful Muslims who had shed no tears for terrorists didn’t need Obama’s patronizing gesture to reaffirm their distaste for jihad, while Islamists now have a colorful two-part talking point to bolster their claim that America is an untrustworthy force of evil: the American president gave lip service to their complaints and then continued to cage up their brothers like animals.

In total, incoherence triumphs. Amid accounts of  the Great Obama Comeback, let’s not lose sight of the enduring challenges created by the Great Obama Discombobulation.

The Obama administration now acknowledges what the rest of us already knew. You can’t close a facility housing stateless unlawful enemy combatants with a presidential signature. “The White House admitted Sunday it would be unable to shut Guantanamo Bay in the near future, even as it acknowledged the U.S. naval prison camp is a rallying cry for Islamic extremists,” the AFP reports.

For a White House skilled in the art of dangerous mixed messages, this is a magnum opus. The damage is inflicted both at home and abroad. First, at home: the president has said he considers Gitmo a betrayal of American values, stating, “Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.” He once went so far as to claim that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Now, with the admission that Gitmo must remain open, Americans are left to ponder the persistence of a self-described terrorist-creating policy. Is the machinery of our governance so decrepit that we have no choice but to move ahead with policies that are antithetical to American principles? Is there no way to fight a war on terrorism that is both honorable and effective?

Around the world, it will be noted that President Obama embraced the narrative of Islamist grievance against the United States, only to confirm its worst aspect by reneging on his pledges to be different and to right supposed wrongs. Peaceful Muslims who had shed no tears for terrorists didn’t need Obama’s patronizing gesture to reaffirm their distaste for jihad, while Islamists now have a colorful two-part talking point to bolster their claim that America is an untrustworthy force of evil: the American president gave lip service to their complaints and then continued to cage up their brothers like animals.

In total, incoherence triumphs. Amid accounts of  the Great Obama Comeback, let’s not lose sight of the enduring challenges created by the Great Obama Discombobulation.

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Guess We’re Governable After All

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims. Read More

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims.

The present circumstance should serve as a “teachable moment” for those frustrated Obama enthusiasts who were more outraged by a non-compliant citizenry than they were by an entitled leadership. If there was a threat to the structural soundness of our democracy, it came not from voices of opposition but rather from the ideological bullies who assumed that dissent could only mean defectiveness. In a democracy, the machinery of governance comes to a halt when the people sense someone has tried to override the system. In despotic countries, friction can stop the gears. In the U.S., it’s the energy source that keeps things moving.

On matters of policy, this administration still has much to learn. A new NBC–Wall Street Journal poll shows that 63 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. This is the highest wrong-track number since Obama became president. The figure mostly reflects Americans’ concern about the economy and the government’s failure to raise employment prospects. As grim as things are, the good news is that America is now poised to tackle its toughest challenges. Accountability and ideological pluralism have come out of hiding. As Americans, we need to panic only when they go missing, not when our elected officials don’t get their way.

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The New Anarchists

There’s something too meta about reading the headline “UK Judge Allows Tweets From Assange Court Hearing” as a tweet. There’s also something frustrating about it — the sense that those who seek to do the most harm via technology are making us all use their currency. The AP reports, “Free-speech advocates are welcoming a judge’s decision.” Somehow the only “free-speech advocates” who come to mind here are Julian Assange and the rest of the cyber-anarchists now screaming about censorship. With Juan Williams losing his job for stating an opinion, and Mike Bloomberg telling Americans they should be ashamed of themselves for doing the same, is courtroom tweeting really where today’s front-line free-speech fight is?

The Assange fan club is steadily reframing the Internet technology question as one of freedom of expression, not global security, right to privacy, or rule of law. Those who applaud legal decisions allowing for freer flows of information are, at the same time, via cyber-attack, attempting to undo the foundations on which such decisions rest.

The Internet is too thoroughly transnational to make cyber-warfare a viable means of country-on-country attack. China, our biggest perceived cyber-threat, is too intertwined with the American market-state to launch anything but a self-defeating cyber-war on the U.S. A choreographed attack on the American public and private sectors would send Chinese investments plummeting. So cyber-warfare is most perfectly suited to those who are now attacking — the anarchists. They’re bent on dissolving the glue of the interconnected world.

In his book Terror And Consent, Philip Bobbitt rather brilliantly details how every type of state produces its own brand of terrorism. “In each era,” writes Bobbitt, “terrorism derives its ideology in reaction to the raison d’être of the dominant constitutional order; at the same time negating and rejecting that form’s unique ideology but mimicking the form’s structural characteristics.” So today’s cyber-anarchists seek to negate the individual opportunities furnished by the interconnected market-state while using the very machinery of that order to bring it down.

Up until a few weeks ago, one could have read a novel like G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908, and wonder at the ridiculous fuss over the anarchists conspiring on every page. Anarchism, as a genuine force to be reckoned with, has largely come to seem absurd to us. How did that happen? According to Bobbitt, “Anarchism was not defeated. Rather it simply faded away with the imperial state nations that were its targets when this constitutional order, shattered by the First World War, was progressively replaced by nation states.” For the new kind of state, a new kind of terrorism arose. Where turn-of-the-century anarchists sought to kill imperial leaders, nation-state terrorists targeted a nation’s people.

But now anarchism, particularly of the cyber variety, seems to have found a perfect fit once again.  While greater interconnectivity among countries, corporations, and individuals means greater and more easily exploited opportunities for good, it also creates new vulnerabilities. One mouse click can now shut down countless parts of a connected system. Moreover, a cyber-terrorist network can collect many more nodes also by virtue of a mouse click. The WikiLeaks ally Anonymous, for example, has developed a program to allow would-be hackers to join the cyber-war by clicking on a button, rather than having to download anything cumbersome and traceable. So perhaps it’s not that cyber-anarchists are making us use their currency. It’s that they have successfully co-opted the technological means by which today’s constitutional order manages to survive. They’ve perverted our technology. Let’s not allow them to do the same with our legal framework.

There’s something too meta about reading the headline “UK Judge Allows Tweets From Assange Court Hearing” as a tweet. There’s also something frustrating about it — the sense that those who seek to do the most harm via technology are making us all use their currency. The AP reports, “Free-speech advocates are welcoming a judge’s decision.” Somehow the only “free-speech advocates” who come to mind here are Julian Assange and the rest of the cyber-anarchists now screaming about censorship. With Juan Williams losing his job for stating an opinion, and Mike Bloomberg telling Americans they should be ashamed of themselves for doing the same, is courtroom tweeting really where today’s front-line free-speech fight is?

The Assange fan club is steadily reframing the Internet technology question as one of freedom of expression, not global security, right to privacy, or rule of law. Those who applaud legal decisions allowing for freer flows of information are, at the same time, via cyber-attack, attempting to undo the foundations on which such decisions rest.

The Internet is too thoroughly transnational to make cyber-warfare a viable means of country-on-country attack. China, our biggest perceived cyber-threat, is too intertwined with the American market-state to launch anything but a self-defeating cyber-war on the U.S. A choreographed attack on the American public and private sectors would send Chinese investments plummeting. So cyber-warfare is most perfectly suited to those who are now attacking — the anarchists. They’re bent on dissolving the glue of the interconnected world.

In his book Terror And Consent, Philip Bobbitt rather brilliantly details how every type of state produces its own brand of terrorism. “In each era,” writes Bobbitt, “terrorism derives its ideology in reaction to the raison d’être of the dominant constitutional order; at the same time negating and rejecting that form’s unique ideology but mimicking the form’s structural characteristics.” So today’s cyber-anarchists seek to negate the individual opportunities furnished by the interconnected market-state while using the very machinery of that order to bring it down.

Up until a few weeks ago, one could have read a novel like G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908, and wonder at the ridiculous fuss over the anarchists conspiring on every page. Anarchism, as a genuine force to be reckoned with, has largely come to seem absurd to us. How did that happen? According to Bobbitt, “Anarchism was not defeated. Rather it simply faded away with the imperial state nations that were its targets when this constitutional order, shattered by the First World War, was progressively replaced by nation states.” For the new kind of state, a new kind of terrorism arose. Where turn-of-the-century anarchists sought to kill imperial leaders, nation-state terrorists targeted a nation’s people.

But now anarchism, particularly of the cyber variety, seems to have found a perfect fit once again.  While greater interconnectivity among countries, corporations, and individuals means greater and more easily exploited opportunities for good, it also creates new vulnerabilities. One mouse click can now shut down countless parts of a connected system. Moreover, a cyber-terrorist network can collect many more nodes also by virtue of a mouse click. The WikiLeaks ally Anonymous, for example, has developed a program to allow would-be hackers to join the cyber-war by clicking on a button, rather than having to download anything cumbersome and traceable. So perhaps it’s not that cyber-anarchists are making us use their currency. It’s that they have successfully co-opted the technological means by which today’s constitutional order manages to survive. They’ve perverted our technology. Let’s not allow them to do the same with our legal framework.

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This Is What Happens When You Get Engulfed by a Wave

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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Money’s Not the Dems’ Problem

The canard that the GOP is going to make off with the election because of Karl Rove or mysterious foreign money is not passing the laugh test. Politico reports:

To hear top Democrats tell it, the party is being wildly outgunned this year in the fight for campaign cash as Republicans rely on outside groups to funnel money to GOP contenders. But the numbers tell a different story. …

So far, the latest figures show that the Democratic Party machinery has outraised its Republican counterpart in this campaign cycle by almost $270 million.

And even when outside spending on television advertising and direct mail is added to the mix, Republicans still haven’t closed the gap. The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In other words, money is the least of the Democrats’ problems. An unpopular president, an objectionable agenda, an arrogant disregard for the views of voters, ObamaCare, and sky-high unemployment (despite the promises that sold the stimulus plan) are all part of the picture. But money? That’s a dog-ate-my-homework excuse that is convincing no one but those doing the spinning (and maybe not even them). As Politico put it:

The argument seems designed to achieve two ends: insulating Democrats from blame that they gave up big losses in the House and Senate a mere two years after President Barack Obama’s historic win, and suggesting that the Republican wins have an unseemly edge, fueled by the secretive groups. “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where – because they won’t disclose it – is pouring in,” Pelosi recounted at a recent fundraiser.

Indeed. And the real danger for the Democrats is that they will fall in love with their own explanation and avoid taking the steps necessary to align themselves with public opinion.

The canard that the GOP is going to make off with the election because of Karl Rove or mysterious foreign money is not passing the laugh test. Politico reports:

To hear top Democrats tell it, the party is being wildly outgunned this year in the fight for campaign cash as Republicans rely on outside groups to funnel money to GOP contenders. But the numbers tell a different story. …

So far, the latest figures show that the Democratic Party machinery has outraised its Republican counterpart in this campaign cycle by almost $270 million.

And even when outside spending on television advertising and direct mail is added to the mix, Republicans still haven’t closed the gap. The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In other words, money is the least of the Democrats’ problems. An unpopular president, an objectionable agenda, an arrogant disregard for the views of voters, ObamaCare, and sky-high unemployment (despite the promises that sold the stimulus plan) are all part of the picture. But money? That’s a dog-ate-my-homework excuse that is convincing no one but those doing the spinning (and maybe not even them). As Politico put it:

The argument seems designed to achieve two ends: insulating Democrats from blame that they gave up big losses in the House and Senate a mere two years after President Barack Obama’s historic win, and suggesting that the Republican wins have an unseemly edge, fueled by the secretive groups. “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where – because they won’t disclose it – is pouring in,” Pelosi recounted at a recent fundraiser.

Indeed. And the real danger for the Democrats is that they will fall in love with their own explanation and avoid taking the steps necessary to align themselves with public opinion.

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Shilling for the UN Human Rights Council

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

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Obama’s Problem Isn’t Leadership — It’s Liberal Policy

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

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The Conservative Party and British National Security

In a major speech on Friday at Chatham House, David Cameron set out how the Conservative party would approach the issue of national security should it win the forthcoming general election. His theme was the value of connection — both domestically, with an emphasis on what Britain has to gain from better joined-up government, and abroad, emphasizing Britain’s need to see conflicts as a whole, and to respond to threats before they become crises.

There’s nothing that can be said against the idea that government should be better coordinated, or more forward-looking. Of course, advancing this idea while out of power is simpler than achieving it while in power. The creation of a National Security Council is not likely to persuade the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defense, and all the other players in Whitehall to abandon their institutional interests, just as the American NSC has palpably failed to achieve this in Washington.

Aaron Friedberg’s short, superb study of the collapse of strategic planning in the U.S. is very relevant here. It argues that the task of the NSC is to be “an aid to the collective thinking of the highest echelons of the government … [not] a mechanism for the production of operational plans.” It may be that Cameron’s vision of the role of his NSC leans a little more toward the vision of NSC as planner in chief than Friedberg would wish.

On the other hand, Cameron is clearly right to argue that the existing system in Britain treats national security as, at best, a second-order concern; that it has allowed development aid and post-conflict planning to become disconnected from the national interest or to go AWOL entirely; and that, in an age of Islamist terror, security must begin at home. If a British NSC can assist Prime Minister Cameron and his cabinet in implementing policies based on these preferences — and especially on the last one — it will be a good deal more than a step in the right direction.

For my money, the most interesting parts of Cameron’s speech – and the accompanying Green Paper that the speech launched — were those that dealt not with machinery but with attitudes. It’s always easy for politicians — especially newly elected ones — to blame the system: President Obama has done a good deal of this, especially recently. But this is not helpful: systems are always less than optimal, and, especially in a war with a determined and intelligent enemy, they are always going to fail.

Systems, in the end, matter less than leadership that acknowledges when it’s in a war and demands that responsible people take decisions and accept responsibility for them. The problem is ultimately one of culture. That was exactly the note on which Cameron ended, and while, again, it is obviously more pleasant to call for responsibility when out of office than it is to accept responsibility once in it, Cameron’s speech was a refreshing change from Gordon Brown’s determination to evade responsibility for all the errors for which, as chancellor of the exchequer and then as prime minister, he bears a central responsibility.

In a major speech on Friday at Chatham House, David Cameron set out how the Conservative party would approach the issue of national security should it win the forthcoming general election. His theme was the value of connection — both domestically, with an emphasis on what Britain has to gain from better joined-up government, and abroad, emphasizing Britain’s need to see conflicts as a whole, and to respond to threats before they become crises.

There’s nothing that can be said against the idea that government should be better coordinated, or more forward-looking. Of course, advancing this idea while out of power is simpler than achieving it while in power. The creation of a National Security Council is not likely to persuade the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defense, and all the other players in Whitehall to abandon their institutional interests, just as the American NSC has palpably failed to achieve this in Washington.

Aaron Friedberg’s short, superb study of the collapse of strategic planning in the U.S. is very relevant here. It argues that the task of the NSC is to be “an aid to the collective thinking of the highest echelons of the government … [not] a mechanism for the production of operational plans.” It may be that Cameron’s vision of the role of his NSC leans a little more toward the vision of NSC as planner in chief than Friedberg would wish.

On the other hand, Cameron is clearly right to argue that the existing system in Britain treats national security as, at best, a second-order concern; that it has allowed development aid and post-conflict planning to become disconnected from the national interest or to go AWOL entirely; and that, in an age of Islamist terror, security must begin at home. If a British NSC can assist Prime Minister Cameron and his cabinet in implementing policies based on these preferences — and especially on the last one — it will be a good deal more than a step in the right direction.

For my money, the most interesting parts of Cameron’s speech – and the accompanying Green Paper that the speech launched — were those that dealt not with machinery but with attitudes. It’s always easy for politicians — especially newly elected ones — to blame the system: President Obama has done a good deal of this, especially recently. But this is not helpful: systems are always less than optimal, and, especially in a war with a determined and intelligent enemy, they are always going to fail.

Systems, in the end, matter less than leadership that acknowledges when it’s in a war and demands that responsible people take decisions and accept responsibility for them. The problem is ultimately one of culture. That was exactly the note on which Cameron ended, and while, again, it is obviously more pleasant to call for responsibility when out of office than it is to accept responsibility once in it, Cameron’s speech was a refreshing change from Gordon Brown’s determination to evade responsibility for all the errors for which, as chancellor of the exchequer and then as prime minister, he bears a central responsibility.

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About That 10 Percent . . .

Cinque Henderson has a piece at the New Republic that’s well worth a read. Henderson explains why, as a black American, he doesn’t support Barack Obama for President:

I disliked Obama almost instantly. I never believed the central premises of his autobiography or his campaign. He is fueled by precisely the same brand of personal ambition as Bill Clinton. But, where Clinton is damned as “Slick Willie,” Obama is hailed as a post-racial Messiah.

But Henderson’s (somewhat confused) argument runs deeper than this reactive distaste. His case against Obama amounts to an indictment of white America for its cluelessness and black America for its protective impulses:

We have arrived at the crux of the matter. So much of the educated white people’s love for Barack depends on educated white people’s complete ignorance of and distance from the rest of us. Barack is the black person they want the rest of us to be–half-white and loving, or “racially transcendent,” as the press loves to call him.

I suspect this is just right. Indeed such adoration for Barack Obama is based not only on fantastic assumptions about blacks, but on larger delusions about America and the world beyond. Blacks are not that black, whites are not that white: it’s the economic and political machinery of America that continues to create this polarity. Once Obama’s elected, that machinery will be broken. But the truth is that differences in skin color are rendered meaningless by a commitment to the guiding principles of our nation–not by the political rise of a single ethnically-mixed candidate.

Here’s Henderson on Obama’s black supporters:

It’s worth remembering that the majority of blacks still think O.J. Simpson is innocent. And, in times like these, when a black man is out front in the public eye, black people feel both proud and vulnerable and, as a result, scour the earth for evidence of racists plotting to bring him down, like an advance team ready to sound an alarm. Barack needed only a gesture, a quick sneer or nod in the direction of the Clintons’ hidden racism to avail himself of the twisted love that rescued O.J. and others like him and to smooth his path to victory, and, therefore, to salvage his candidacy. . . [H]e gave speeches across South Carolina that warned against being “hoodwinked” and “bamboozled” by the Clintons. His use of the phrase is resonant. It comes from a scene in Malcolm X, where Denzel Washington warns black people about the hidden evils of “the White Man” masquerading as a smiling politician: “Every election year, these politicians are sent up here to pacify us,” he says. “You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled.”

[…]

As soon as I heard that Obama had quoted from Malcolm X like this, I knew that Obama would win South Carolina by a massive margin.

That minorities look out for their own isn’t news. And Henderson really trips himself up is in trying to maintain that most American blacks are both tribally motivated to fall for Obama’s use of Malcom X code words and nothing like the fringy anti-Americans of Jeremiah Wright’s church. Henderson writes:

As the son of a Baptist minister, I can attest that Wright is and was an extreme aberration from how the overwhelming majority of black Christians worship. In church, black people hear about Peter, Paul, Mary, and how to get into heaven. How to forgive. How to love. Not how to vote.

I have no reason to doubt that, but his Malcolm X argument seems overstated. Blacks don’t need cues from Spike Lee movies to feel protective of someone from their community.

Still and all, this is one of the most interesting discussions of race in America to come out of Barack Obama’s much-praised speech. But somehow I don’t think it’s quite what the Senator had in mind.

Cinque Henderson has a piece at the New Republic that’s well worth a read. Henderson explains why, as a black American, he doesn’t support Barack Obama for President:

I disliked Obama almost instantly. I never believed the central premises of his autobiography or his campaign. He is fueled by precisely the same brand of personal ambition as Bill Clinton. But, where Clinton is damned as “Slick Willie,” Obama is hailed as a post-racial Messiah.

But Henderson’s (somewhat confused) argument runs deeper than this reactive distaste. His case against Obama amounts to an indictment of white America for its cluelessness and black America for its protective impulses:

We have arrived at the crux of the matter. So much of the educated white people’s love for Barack depends on educated white people’s complete ignorance of and distance from the rest of us. Barack is the black person they want the rest of us to be–half-white and loving, or “racially transcendent,” as the press loves to call him.

I suspect this is just right. Indeed such adoration for Barack Obama is based not only on fantastic assumptions about blacks, but on larger delusions about America and the world beyond. Blacks are not that black, whites are not that white: it’s the economic and political machinery of America that continues to create this polarity. Once Obama’s elected, that machinery will be broken. But the truth is that differences in skin color are rendered meaningless by a commitment to the guiding principles of our nation–not by the political rise of a single ethnically-mixed candidate.

Here’s Henderson on Obama’s black supporters:

It’s worth remembering that the majority of blacks still think O.J. Simpson is innocent. And, in times like these, when a black man is out front in the public eye, black people feel both proud and vulnerable and, as a result, scour the earth for evidence of racists plotting to bring him down, like an advance team ready to sound an alarm. Barack needed only a gesture, a quick sneer or nod in the direction of the Clintons’ hidden racism to avail himself of the twisted love that rescued O.J. and others like him and to smooth his path to victory, and, therefore, to salvage his candidacy. . . [H]e gave speeches across South Carolina that warned against being “hoodwinked” and “bamboozled” by the Clintons. His use of the phrase is resonant. It comes from a scene in Malcolm X, where Denzel Washington warns black people about the hidden evils of “the White Man” masquerading as a smiling politician: “Every election year, these politicians are sent up here to pacify us,” he says. “You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled.”

[…]

As soon as I heard that Obama had quoted from Malcolm X like this, I knew that Obama would win South Carolina by a massive margin.

That minorities look out for their own isn’t news. And Henderson really trips himself up is in trying to maintain that most American blacks are both tribally motivated to fall for Obama’s use of Malcom X code words and nothing like the fringy anti-Americans of Jeremiah Wright’s church. Henderson writes:

As the son of a Baptist minister, I can attest that Wright is and was an extreme aberration from how the overwhelming majority of black Christians worship. In church, black people hear about Peter, Paul, Mary, and how to get into heaven. How to forgive. How to love. Not how to vote.

I have no reason to doubt that, but his Malcolm X argument seems overstated. Blacks don’t need cues from Spike Lee movies to feel protective of someone from their community.

Still and all, this is one of the most interesting discussions of race in America to come out of Barack Obama’s much-praised speech. But somehow I don’t think it’s quite what the Senator had in mind.

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On The Same Team

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

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Who Won the Second Lebanon War?

Who won last summer’s Lebanon war, Israel or Hizballah? A year after combat ceased that question remains hotly controverted. If nothing else, the continuing debate is testimony to the ambiguous nature of the outcome between one of the world’s most powerful armies and the rag-tag Islamic militia that it faced.

Since neither side suffered a knock-out blow, what indicators, short of total defeat and surrender, can be employed to evaluate the conflict? Because Hizballah was fighting a rocket war, firing a variety of projectiles into Israel’s north, one key question that must be posed is: how effective was Hizballah’s rocket campaign, and how effective was Israel’s response?

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Who won last summer’s Lebanon war, Israel or Hizballah? A year after combat ceased that question remains hotly controverted. If nothing else, the continuing debate is testimony to the ambiguous nature of the outcome between one of the world’s most powerful armies and the rag-tag Islamic militia that it faced.

Since neither side suffered a knock-out blow, what indicators, short of total defeat and surrender, can be employed to evaluate the conflict? Because Hizballah was fighting a rocket war, firing a variety of projectiles into Israel’s north, one key question that must be posed is: how effective was Hizballah’s rocket campaign, and how effective was Israel’s response?

One exceedingly well-researched answer comes from Uzi Rubin, who served as the first director of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization in the 1990’s, where he managed development of the Arrow missile-defense system.

The picture that emerges from Rubin’s analysis is of an Islamic militia force that was astonishingly well prepared for the conflict, and which had thought carefully about matching means and ends. Even if Hizballah’s head, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had misjudged the scope and scale of Israel’s response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, Hizballah’s basic approach was vindicated by the course of the fighting.

“[I]t can now be seen,” writes Rubin, that Hizballah had “devised a two-pronged strategy to overturn Israel’s predominance in terms of manpower, machinery, and technology.” In the first prong, “massive rocket fire was used against Israel’s homeland in order to provoke Israel into launching a ground offensive.” In the second prong, “well-entrenched defense in depth was employed in order to defeat the ground offensive.”

In other words, Hizballah, “aimed to bait Israel into entering its carefully laid trap with rocket fire.” The key for Israel would have been successfully suppressing the rocket fire that for 33 days rained destruction on its north, thereby avoiding having to pay the “butcher’s bill” for an incursion on the ground.

But even as the Israeli air force succeeded in destroying most if not all of Hizballah’s longer-range missiles, it was unable to deal with the short-range ones. On the final day of the war, to demonstrate that it had preserved quite a few arrows in its quiver, and that its lines of communication had survived Israel’s best destructive efforts, Hizballah launched a coordinated salvo, hurling a record 232 rockets over the Lebanese border at one time.

What can be learned from the war? Israel’s adversaries are certainly studying it carefully. Rubin notes that the outcome

may well prompt the Palestinian factions to intensify their already ongoing rocket attacks against southern Israel, both in terms of quality and quantity. Hamas in Gaza is already stocking up on longer-range rockets, and may well adapt the Hizballah’s two-pronged strategy. Syria, a patron of the Hizballah with its own vast stockpile of rockets and ballistic missiles, might be tempted to devise a doctrine of attrition by rocket and missile fire instead of a full-scale, 1973-style invasion, to gain back the Golan Heights.

Israel has been studying the conflict, too. The most obvious lesson, as Rubin writes, is that “[a]s long as simple, unsophisticated, cheaply produced rockets cannot be overcome, they are now and will remain in the future a veritable strategic threat to Israel’s national security.”

What is to be done to counter this strategic threat? Click here to learn about MTHEL. It is not a silver bullet, but one vital component of a successful Israeli response.

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Among the Collaborationists

Maurice Papon has just died at the age of ninety-six, but his name will always stand for France’s moral collapse in 1940, and that country’s inability—or reluctance—to redress matters afterwards. In his capacity as a ranking Vichy official, the documentation proves, he signed the deportation orders to Auschwitz for 1,690 Jews, 223 of whom were children, organizing sixteen trains for them, the last in June 1944 when German defeat was certain. It was also his idea to send the bill for the expense of the requisite cattle-trucks to the Jewish representative council, thus obliging the victims to pay for their journey to be murdered. One of his German superiors described him as a sincere collaborator, “co-operating correctly with the Feldkommandatur.”

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Maurice Papon has just died at the age of ninety-six, but his name will always stand for France’s moral collapse in 1940, and that country’s inability—or reluctance—to redress matters afterwards. In his capacity as a ranking Vichy official, the documentation proves, he signed the deportation orders to Auschwitz for 1,690 Jews, 223 of whom were children, organizing sixteen trains for them, the last in June 1944 when German defeat was certain. It was also his idea to send the bill for the expense of the requisite cattle-trucks to the Jewish representative council, thus obliging the victims to pay for their journey to be murdered. One of his German superiors described him as a sincere collaborator, “co-operating correctly with the Feldkommandatur.”

Collaboration with Nazism was the political choice taken by Marshal Pétain after the fall of France; it was pre-war appeasement in the new context of military defeat. Pétain and his Vichy regime imagined that they were sparing France the sort of horrors inflicted on Poland, but in reality they were facilitating them. In the absence of enough German personnel trained in mass murder, the Nazi authorities had to rely on the French to do their work. The turning point was the accord signed in May 1942 between General Karl Oberg of the SS, and René Bousquet, general secretary of the French police. That accord placed the French gendarmerie at the service of the Nazi machinery of murder. One among many who could now obey orders zealously was Papon, and another was Jean Leguay, Bousquet’s representative.

At the end of the war, Bousquet was condemned to five years of “national indignity,” a somewhat unspecific term, then immediately granted reprieve and decorated for “resistance,” in this case an even less specific term. Bousquet then enjoyed a spectacular career as an industrialist, protected by President Mitterand for no very evident reason except that he too had a compromising Vichy past. Leguay also had a successful business career. Papon fared best of all. General de Gaulle, no less, protected him, appointing him prefect of police in Paris. In that capacity, he supervised a crack-down on Algerians with thousands of arrests, and the massacre of perhaps a hundred of them, their corpses simply thrown into the Seine. Papon showed himself as adept at murdering Muslims as Jews. Under President Giscard d’Estaing, he entered the cabinet as budget minister.

Researching in the archives, Michel Slitinsky came across his own death warrant with Papon’s signature on it. Slitinsky’s father had been killed in Auschwitz, while he himself only just managed to escape arrest. In 1986, more than twenty years after the event, he brought Papon to justice. At his trial, Papon denounced the proceedings as “fake,” claimed to have helped the resistance, and dismissed the evidence as lies, speaking of “plots,” the usual fascist code for supposed Jewish world domination. Sentenced to ten years in prison for crimes against humanity, he fled defiantly to Switzerland, but was sent back and imprisoned. After he had served three years, the Chirac government had him released. The protection of such people by so many French presidents speaks volumes.

Like Papon, Leguay was indicted for crimes against humanity (though he died before going to prison). When I was writing my book Paris in the Third Reich, in which I describe his role in deporting Jews, he used to seek me out in order to plead that he had not really done anything wrong, and in any case had no choice, and would I please understand his predicament. Like Papon again, but in his more oily way, he showed no trace of remorse. Nor did Bousquet, who became more and more arrogant with the passing of time even though he too was facing a trial for crimes against humanity. One day, someone named Christian Didier—always labelled as “unbalanced”—turned up at his house and shot him dead.

The wish to hide complicity in mass murder may be humanly understandable, but it has rotted France’s national conscience and self-respect. Unwillingness to acknowledge complicity in Nazi crime explains the lack of conscience—the sheer bad faith—of the French stance in so many post-war issues.

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