Commentary Magazine


Topic: Major

The Berlin-Rome-Tehran Axis

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

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Israel Brings Senior Gov’t Officials to Justice

If any more evidence were needed of Israel’s moral superiority over the neighboring states, look no further than the news that former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of rape. At first blush, that may seem like a strange statement: isn’t the fact that a rapist and sexual harasser was president of Israel a blow to the moral standing of the Jewish state? Actually no: abuse of power, especially by powerful men, can happen under any regime. Can anyone doubt that such offenses are frequent among senior Arab officials? Certainly Saddam Hussein and his debased sons were known for preying on women; and that is only the most public example of a pattern that no doubt applies across all dictatorial regimes around the world — including the dictatorial regimes that surround Israel. The difference is that, in Israel, there is an independent judiciary that has the power to root out wrongdoing at the highest level. Such prosecutions are in fact routine. As the AP notes:

The conviction was the latest in a series of high-profile cases against Israeli officials.

Former Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson is currently in prison after being convicted of embezzling more than $600,000 from a workers union. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted in March 2007 of forcibly kissing a female soldier. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is currently standing trial on corruption charges.

It is, in fact, an amazing testament to the strength of Israel’s democracy that a former president — and other senior officials — can be convicted of such grave offenses and it’s not even big news. It would be very big news indeed if the former president of any major Middle Eastern state aside from Israel were to face prosecution and conviction for any crime — unless it was the result of a vendetta carried out by his political enemies.

If any more evidence were needed of Israel’s moral superiority over the neighboring states, look no further than the news that former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of rape. At first blush, that may seem like a strange statement: isn’t the fact that a rapist and sexual harasser was president of Israel a blow to the moral standing of the Jewish state? Actually no: abuse of power, especially by powerful men, can happen under any regime. Can anyone doubt that such offenses are frequent among senior Arab officials? Certainly Saddam Hussein and his debased sons were known for preying on women; and that is only the most public example of a pattern that no doubt applies across all dictatorial regimes around the world — including the dictatorial regimes that surround Israel. The difference is that, in Israel, there is an independent judiciary that has the power to root out wrongdoing at the highest level. Such prosecutions are in fact routine. As the AP notes:

The conviction was the latest in a series of high-profile cases against Israeli officials.

Former Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson is currently in prison after being convicted of embezzling more than $600,000 from a workers union. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted in March 2007 of forcibly kissing a female soldier. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is currently standing trial on corruption charges.

It is, in fact, an amazing testament to the strength of Israel’s democracy that a former president — and other senior officials — can be convicted of such grave offenses and it’s not even big news. It would be very big news indeed if the former president of any major Middle Eastern state aside from Israel were to face prosecution and conviction for any crime — unless it was the result of a vendetta carried out by his political enemies.

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Faith in Government Erodes

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

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Cut Defense Spending NOW?

The attack on North Korea — an act of war by any definition, even if not acknowledged as such — is a timely reminder that the suggestions floating around to cut defense spending are misguided. The Foreign Policy Initiative explains:

America’s military has come under severe strain in the last decade, fighting two wars, preparing for the many potential challenges of the future, and contending with a growing number of aging, worn-out weapons systems. Yet as the debate in Washington about reducing America’s deficit gathers steam, there are increasing calls to make deep cuts in the defense budget. The fiscal effects of such reductions are miniscule—saving perhaps $100 billion over many years against projected annual deficits of more than $1.4 trillion—but the impact on the U.S. military is major. Greater still would be the effects of diminished American power in an increasingly “multipolar” world. …

There is a common misconception that the military has enjoyed ballooning budgets since the beginning of the decade. In reality, the baseline defense budget (not including the costs of the-wars) grew from only 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP from the end of the Clinton administration to the time George W. Bush left office, delaying modernization and procurement efforts across all the armed services. “Going to war with the army you have,” to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has exacerbated this problem, gobbling up the remaining service life of older systems; nine-plus years of war have only increased this “modernization deficit.” Further reductions, on top of the more than $300 billion Secretary Gates has already cut in proposed procurement of new weapon systems, will dangerously erode the technological edge that America’s armed forces depend upon, and deserve.

The frenzy to cut defense spending is in reality an entirely political ploy: to get liberals on board with cuts in massive entitlement and discretionary spending, fiscal hawks are willing to throw defense spending into the mix. But this ignores the real and multiplying threats we face, especially under a president whose reticence seems only to have whetted the appetites of aggressive regimes.

The result of the lower-defense-spending fetish is that the way we have traditionally looked at defense spending and national security has been reversed. Presidents of both parties have attempted to assess the threats we face and from that determine what expenditures we need. It is imperfect at best, since congressmen and senators are not shy about asking for goodies for their districts and states. But at least the effort is made to gear spending to national security needs. But in the rush to cut defense spending, this process is reversed: we are told by liberal Democrats, conservative neo-isolationists, and budget hawks that because of the need to cut spending, we need to reassess our national security commitments. It is quite frankly a non sequitur. Al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, and the rest are only growing bolder. If the defense cutters were honest, they’d say they are willing to make us less safe to get liberals to accept domestic spending cuts. But that sounds daft. And it is.

As the 2012 GOP presidential contenders scramble for visibility, they would do well to take on this issue — and those who think that in an increasingly dangerous world we should be spending less to defend ourselves.

The attack on North Korea — an act of war by any definition, even if not acknowledged as such — is a timely reminder that the suggestions floating around to cut defense spending are misguided. The Foreign Policy Initiative explains:

America’s military has come under severe strain in the last decade, fighting two wars, preparing for the many potential challenges of the future, and contending with a growing number of aging, worn-out weapons systems. Yet as the debate in Washington about reducing America’s deficit gathers steam, there are increasing calls to make deep cuts in the defense budget. The fiscal effects of such reductions are miniscule—saving perhaps $100 billion over many years against projected annual deficits of more than $1.4 trillion—but the impact on the U.S. military is major. Greater still would be the effects of diminished American power in an increasingly “multipolar” world. …

There is a common misconception that the military has enjoyed ballooning budgets since the beginning of the decade. In reality, the baseline defense budget (not including the costs of the-wars) grew from only 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP from the end of the Clinton administration to the time George W. Bush left office, delaying modernization and procurement efforts across all the armed services. “Going to war with the army you have,” to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has exacerbated this problem, gobbling up the remaining service life of older systems; nine-plus years of war have only increased this “modernization deficit.” Further reductions, on top of the more than $300 billion Secretary Gates has already cut in proposed procurement of new weapon systems, will dangerously erode the technological edge that America’s armed forces depend upon, and deserve.

The frenzy to cut defense spending is in reality an entirely political ploy: to get liberals on board with cuts in massive entitlement and discretionary spending, fiscal hawks are willing to throw defense spending into the mix. But this ignores the real and multiplying threats we face, especially under a president whose reticence seems only to have whetted the appetites of aggressive regimes.

The result of the lower-defense-spending fetish is that the way we have traditionally looked at defense spending and national security has been reversed. Presidents of both parties have attempted to assess the threats we face and from that determine what expenditures we need. It is imperfect at best, since congressmen and senators are not shy about asking for goodies for their districts and states. But at least the effort is made to gear spending to national security needs. But in the rush to cut defense spending, this process is reversed: we are told by liberal Democrats, conservative neo-isolationists, and budget hawks that because of the need to cut spending, we need to reassess our national security commitments. It is quite frankly a non sequitur. Al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, and the rest are only growing bolder. If the defense cutters were honest, they’d say they are willing to make us less safe to get liberals to accept domestic spending cuts. But that sounds daft. And it is.

As the 2012 GOP presidential contenders scramble for visibility, they would do well to take on this issue — and those who think that in an increasingly dangerous world we should be spending less to defend ourselves.

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Jihadist Prayer Sessions on Capitol Hill?!

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster: Read More

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster:

Randall “Ismail” Royer, a former communications associate for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who confessed in 2004 to receiving jihadist training in Pakistan. He is serving a 20-year prison term.

Esam Omeish, the former president of the Muslim American Society, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2007 after calling for “the jihad way,” among other remarks.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was forced to step down from a national terrorism committee post in 1999 for pro-terrorist comments.

— Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, the head of a division of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, considered a foreign agent by the U.S.

While their convictions and most egregious actions postdated their sermons on the Hill, these were controversial, extremist figures. For example:

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, can also be seen at the Awlaki prayer session. Awad has spoken out in support of Hamas and attended a 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI, according to public record and court documents from the Holy Land Foundation trial. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial.

Last year, the FBI severed ties with CAIR due to evidence of the group’s ties to networks supporting Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist group, according to documents obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a watchdog group.

The staffers who organized this and their defenders will no doubt attribute all the concern to Islamophobia and plead that they are loyal Americans opposed to violent jihad. But here’s the problem: CAIR had “a heavy hand in selecting and bringing in outside guests.” So what is CAIR — which the FBI has tagged as a terrorist front group — doing acting as a sort of  speakers’ bureau for Capitol Hill Muslims?

Even when there was abundant evidence of their terrorist connections, the preachers still led the prayer groups. A case in point is Anwar Hajjaj:

Hajjaj, tax filings show, was president of Taibah International Aid Association, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 for its ties to a network funneling money to Hamas.

Hajjaj and Usama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah bin Laden, co-founded World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which the FBI has deemed a “suspected terrorist organization” since 1996, according to a complaint filed in New York federal court on behalf of the families of Sept. 11 victims. The judge refused to dismiss the charges against the World Assembly in September, saying the charges against it were “sufficient to demonstrate that they are knowingly and intentionally providing material support to Al Qaeda.” Hajaj’s involvement with CMSA dates back at least to 2006, according to reports.

Fox has other eye-popping examples. So what in the world were the CMSA staffers and their congressional bosses thinking? Are they oblivious to the radical nature of their guests? Or are they sympathetic to their views? But more important, what will Congress do about the CMSA and the congressmen who attended? Isn’t a full investigation warranted at the very least?

Be prepared for the “Islamophobe!” hysterics. We’ve no right to meddle in the prayer groups of Muslims? Oh, yes we do when those attending are jihadists committed to the murder of Americans and those attending are charged with defending our country. And let’s find out who the true “moderate” Muslims are. They will be the ones calling for an inquiry and condemning the jihadist-led prayer sessions.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get ready for the next big idea in the non-peace, non-direct talks. “Why must Gazans carry their sons on their shoulders to their convocations of sanguinity, when they could be walking side-by-side with them, sharing space adequate for the lobbing of rocks and grenades and the aiming of RPGs? I say declare them a state, and don’t bother stopping at the tiny sliver of land that comprises Israel.” Read the whole thing to find out just what kind of state it should be.

Get ready for a slug-fest. Actually, Josh Block may already have scored a knockout. “The average, minuscule amount of support Jstreet claims to pass to their endorsees will again and again be offset by the grief and cost even the most pro-Israel candidates expose themselves to by associating with a group proven to be as duplicitous, deceitful and outright dishonest they have been exposed to be.”

Get ready for her to spend more time with her family. “Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs, told POLITICO on Thursday that Pelosi should not be a candidate for minority leader—a sign that other Blue Dogs are ready to pounce if Pelosi doesn’t voluntarily cede her power.”

Get ready for William Galston to be ignored by the Dems. Again. He tries to tell them: “It’s the ideology, stupid. … Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.” Do you think if Obama leaves the scene, the trend will abate? Just asking.

Get ready for the Beagle Blogger to freak out, again. “Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who self-identified to exit pollsters made up 3 percent of those casting ballots in House races on Tuesday, and 31 percent of them voted Republican. By itself, that number is amazing, especially when you consider that way too many people think being gay and voting Democratic are one in the same. But that percentage is ominous news for a White House viewed with suspicion by many gay men and lesbians, because that’s four percentage points higher than the change election of 2008.” First the Jews, now the gays. Only Obama could alienate them from the Democratic Party.

Get ready for more of this transparent slamming of the current Israeli government. “Fifteen years after the Israeli prime minister’s assassination, Israel needs his guiding spirit more than ever.” Why don’t these sorts ever lament the absence of a Palestinian Sadat? And do we imagine Yitzhak Rabin would have carved up his country without recognition of the Jewish state? The only prime ministers the Middle East establishment fancies are the dead ones.

Get ready for some major George W. Bush nostalgia on the right. “When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. ‘Damn right,’ he said. … In his memoir, ‘Decision Points,’ Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.”

Get ready for the next big idea in the non-peace, non-direct talks. “Why must Gazans carry their sons on their shoulders to their convocations of sanguinity, when they could be walking side-by-side with them, sharing space adequate for the lobbing of rocks and grenades and the aiming of RPGs? I say declare them a state, and don’t bother stopping at the tiny sliver of land that comprises Israel.” Read the whole thing to find out just what kind of state it should be.

Get ready for a slug-fest. Actually, Josh Block may already have scored a knockout. “The average, minuscule amount of support Jstreet claims to pass to their endorsees will again and again be offset by the grief and cost even the most pro-Israel candidates expose themselves to by associating with a group proven to be as duplicitous, deceitful and outright dishonest they have been exposed to be.”

Get ready for her to spend more time with her family. “Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs, told POLITICO on Thursday that Pelosi should not be a candidate for minority leader—a sign that other Blue Dogs are ready to pounce if Pelosi doesn’t voluntarily cede her power.”

Get ready for William Galston to be ignored by the Dems. Again. He tries to tell them: “It’s the ideology, stupid. … Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.” Do you think if Obama leaves the scene, the trend will abate? Just asking.

Get ready for the Beagle Blogger to freak out, again. “Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who self-identified to exit pollsters made up 3 percent of those casting ballots in House races on Tuesday, and 31 percent of them voted Republican. By itself, that number is amazing, especially when you consider that way too many people think being gay and voting Democratic are one in the same. But that percentage is ominous news for a White House viewed with suspicion by many gay men and lesbians, because that’s four percentage points higher than the change election of 2008.” First the Jews, now the gays. Only Obama could alienate them from the Democratic Party.

Get ready for more of this transparent slamming of the current Israeli government. “Fifteen years after the Israeli prime minister’s assassination, Israel needs his guiding spirit more than ever.” Why don’t these sorts ever lament the absence of a Palestinian Sadat? And do we imagine Yitzhak Rabin would have carved up his country without recognition of the Jewish state? The only prime ministers the Middle East establishment fancies are the dead ones.

Get ready for some major George W. Bush nostalgia on the right. “When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. ‘Damn right,’ he said. … In his memoir, ‘Decision Points,’ Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.”

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False Hope

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

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No Tears for Harry if He Loses

Harry Reid is in a fight for his political life against Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle (who’s mighty relieved that Christine O’Donnell is now the left’s poster girl for its scare campaign against the GOP). He’s majority leader but has told us he’s not responsible for the economic bad news. He just works there, apparently.

This week, he again proved that he’s of little use to the people of Nevada and the Democratic Senate caucus. Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped the defense policy bill would help make a final pre-election argument for Democrats while energizing the base on gay rights and immigration.

But what he got was a failed vote and a mix of frustration and disappointment from the people he was trying to help. The stalled defense authorization bill — one of the last major Senate votes before November’s elections — was emblematic of the Nevada senator’s struggles to cut deals with the GOP while still pleasing core Democratic constituencies.

He managed to upset gay groups, Hispanics, and “Democrats on both sides of the Capitol [who] are unhappy that a debate on gay rights and immigration distracted yet again from issue No. 1: jobs.” It’s never Reid’s fault, yet he doesn’t seem to get the job done. (“But while blaming Republicans for obstruction — a well-worn pattern for  Reid — the majority leader also seemed to alienate some of his moderates, who were not eager to jump into a debate about immigration and gays in the military at the end of the session and with the economy slumping.”)

Aside from the Republicans and many of his constituents, his fellow Democratic senators and Democratic interest groups, one suspects, won’t be sorry to see him go either:

Jarrod Chlapowski, field director for Servicemembers United, a group that backs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” called it a “cynical move” for Reid to push forward with the bill in such a manner, saying it was “pretty much a recipe for failure.”

“It will be part of our education plan that Democratic leaders are just as accountable as the Republicans that are obstructing this right now,” he said.

No, don’t expect Big Labor to really hold Democrats accountable. But neither do I see them going to the mat for Reid.

It’s no wonder Reid tried to make the race about Angle, going negative as soon as she got the GOP nomination. But as the focus returns to Reid, his leadership, his economic policies, and his penchant for gaffes, he may find himself out of a job (along with 14.4 percent of Nevadans) come November. In a year in which Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats anyway, his loss wouldn’t be the worst news for Democrats or for Democratic activists.

Harry Reid is in a fight for his political life against Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle (who’s mighty relieved that Christine O’Donnell is now the left’s poster girl for its scare campaign against the GOP). He’s majority leader but has told us he’s not responsible for the economic bad news. He just works there, apparently.

This week, he again proved that he’s of little use to the people of Nevada and the Democratic Senate caucus. Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped the defense policy bill would help make a final pre-election argument for Democrats while energizing the base on gay rights and immigration.

But what he got was a failed vote and a mix of frustration and disappointment from the people he was trying to help. The stalled defense authorization bill — one of the last major Senate votes before November’s elections — was emblematic of the Nevada senator’s struggles to cut deals with the GOP while still pleasing core Democratic constituencies.

He managed to upset gay groups, Hispanics, and “Democrats on both sides of the Capitol [who] are unhappy that a debate on gay rights and immigration distracted yet again from issue No. 1: jobs.” It’s never Reid’s fault, yet he doesn’t seem to get the job done. (“But while blaming Republicans for obstruction — a well-worn pattern for  Reid — the majority leader also seemed to alienate some of his moderates, who were not eager to jump into a debate about immigration and gays in the military at the end of the session and with the economy slumping.”)

Aside from the Republicans and many of his constituents, his fellow Democratic senators and Democratic interest groups, one suspects, won’t be sorry to see him go either:

Jarrod Chlapowski, field director for Servicemembers United, a group that backs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” called it a “cynical move” for Reid to push forward with the bill in such a manner, saying it was “pretty much a recipe for failure.”

“It will be part of our education plan that Democratic leaders are just as accountable as the Republicans that are obstructing this right now,” he said.

No, don’t expect Big Labor to really hold Democrats accountable. But neither do I see them going to the mat for Reid.

It’s no wonder Reid tried to make the race about Angle, going negative as soon as she got the GOP nomination. But as the focus returns to Reid, his leadership, his economic policies, and his penchant for gaffes, he may find himself out of a job (along with 14.4 percent of Nevadans) come November. In a year in which Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats anyway, his loss wouldn’t be the worst news for Democrats or for Democratic activists.

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Give Americans a Break Already

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

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Challenge at Sea

At the end of August, the Royal Navy gave the UK Telegraph a rare glimpse of what’s going on today in the arcane world of the submariner, under the Northern Atlantic’s restless surface. The report includes the nugget that “British submariners … are experiencing the highest number of ‘contacts’ with Russian submarines since 1987.”

It’s no surprise that Russian attack submarines are trying to trail British ballistic-missile submarines, as the Telegraph reports. But the reference to 1987 is informative. In the annals of the Cold War, 1987 was the last year the Soviet Navy maintained the very active global profile it assumed in the early 1970s. The Royal Navy’s disclosures last month indicate that the reversal of a two-decade trend is gathering steam — and more so than was evident when Russian submarines were reported off the U.S. east coast a year ago.

The Royal Navy had 38 submarines in 1987, compared with its 12 today. The U.S. force of attack submarines — “hunter-killer” submarines — has declined in the same period, from 98 to 53, with a target number of 48 being argued by budget cutters. But numbers are only one aspect of the issue. Equally important, as suggested by the Royal Navy’s recent encounters with Russian submarines, is how our would-be rivals are behaving on the seas.

In that regard, China’s profile constitutes a steadily expanding challenge, particularly to regional stability in the Far East. Tuesday morning, a Chinese fishing vessel was challenged by the Japanese coast guard in the waters of the Senkaku Islands, a chain disputed by Beijing and Tokyo. The Chinese vessel proceeded to collide with not one but two Japanese patrol ships — something that, given the Japanese military’s exemplary tradition of seamanship, had to be deliberate and was probably sanctioned by authorities in China.

China has operated through maritime provocation and bullying in recent years, but usually with smaller nations like Vietnam and the Philippines; very rarely in confrontations with Japan. In the wake of China’s most aggressive naval exercise ever, which penetrated the Japanese islands this past spring, as well as Beijing’s securing of rights to use a North Korean port on the Sea of Japan, the latest incident looks more like part of a trend than an isolated, strategically meaningless event.

This is how maritime dominance is lost: incrementally and off the public’s radar. The U.S. Navy, as an oceangoing sea-control force, has shrunk from 568 ships and submarines in 1987 to 285 today. Our NATO allies’ navies have shrunk significantly as well, some of them by greater percentages. Among our key allies, only Japan and Australia are investing in larger and more diverse naval forces. The U.S. military, under Defense Secretary Gates, is looking at reducing further the inventory of warships — aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines — that perform sea-control missions and maintain maritime dominance. Equally troubling, DoD proposes to eliminate entirely the two major U.S. commands most closely linked with NATO and maritime power in the Atlantic: Joint Forces Command and the U.S. Second Fleet. Events, on the other hand, continue to warn us against this irresponsible course. We can expect more of them.

At the end of August, the Royal Navy gave the UK Telegraph a rare glimpse of what’s going on today in the arcane world of the submariner, under the Northern Atlantic’s restless surface. The report includes the nugget that “British submariners … are experiencing the highest number of ‘contacts’ with Russian submarines since 1987.”

It’s no surprise that Russian attack submarines are trying to trail British ballistic-missile submarines, as the Telegraph reports. But the reference to 1987 is informative. In the annals of the Cold War, 1987 was the last year the Soviet Navy maintained the very active global profile it assumed in the early 1970s. The Royal Navy’s disclosures last month indicate that the reversal of a two-decade trend is gathering steam — and more so than was evident when Russian submarines were reported off the U.S. east coast a year ago.

The Royal Navy had 38 submarines in 1987, compared with its 12 today. The U.S. force of attack submarines — “hunter-killer” submarines — has declined in the same period, from 98 to 53, with a target number of 48 being argued by budget cutters. But numbers are only one aspect of the issue. Equally important, as suggested by the Royal Navy’s recent encounters with Russian submarines, is how our would-be rivals are behaving on the seas.

In that regard, China’s profile constitutes a steadily expanding challenge, particularly to regional stability in the Far East. Tuesday morning, a Chinese fishing vessel was challenged by the Japanese coast guard in the waters of the Senkaku Islands, a chain disputed by Beijing and Tokyo. The Chinese vessel proceeded to collide with not one but two Japanese patrol ships — something that, given the Japanese military’s exemplary tradition of seamanship, had to be deliberate and was probably sanctioned by authorities in China.

China has operated through maritime provocation and bullying in recent years, but usually with smaller nations like Vietnam and the Philippines; very rarely in confrontations with Japan. In the wake of China’s most aggressive naval exercise ever, which penetrated the Japanese islands this past spring, as well as Beijing’s securing of rights to use a North Korean port on the Sea of Japan, the latest incident looks more like part of a trend than an isolated, strategically meaningless event.

This is how maritime dominance is lost: incrementally and off the public’s radar. The U.S. Navy, as an oceangoing sea-control force, has shrunk from 568 ships and submarines in 1987 to 285 today. Our NATO allies’ navies have shrunk significantly as well, some of them by greater percentages. Among our key allies, only Japan and Australia are investing in larger and more diverse naval forces. The U.S. military, under Defense Secretary Gates, is looking at reducing further the inventory of warships — aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines — that perform sea-control missions and maintain maritime dominance. Equally troubling, DoD proposes to eliminate entirely the two major U.S. commands most closely linked with NATO and maritime power in the Atlantic: Joint Forces Command and the U.S. Second Fleet. Events, on the other hand, continue to warn us against this irresponsible course. We can expect more of them.

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Western Culture and the Mosque

Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a profound point at the Wall Street Journal today: that the Park 51 mosque controversy, although framed in most of our public discussions as a narrow question of religious tolerance, is actually a battleground in the broader “clash of civilizations” outlined by Samuel Huntington. I’ve been thinking about this a great deal. I would approach her point with the following framework: that the central question for New Yorkers, as for Americans and the West, is what religious tolerance means at the border between civilizations.

The West has had real trouble answering this question. What we are finding is that the default attitudes of the 20th century are inadequate to preserving a sustainable balance of religious and other philosophical influences in communal life. Western Christians and Jews have grown complacent about the protection of their religious freedoms in an increasingly secular culture. Indeed, our society has grown complacent about all freedom of conscience, routinely ignoring the dangers posed by the assaults of absolutist ideologies and our flirtations with creating thought crimes.

As Ali points out, however, “Our civilization is not indestructible. It needs to be actively defended.” She is right. The question for the West is how to tolerate Islam – which is culturally prescriptive and preemptive to a greater degree than either of the major Western religions – and yet retain what matters in our civilization.

I wrote last week about the differing levels of zeal for “religious rights” displayed by the New York City authorities in their approach to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious arrangements. Their unaccommodating posture with Christians and Jews is emblematic of a steadily more reflexive prejudice in our American civic consciousness (and in the letter of our law as well). This imbalance of favor has consequences – and not just for religion but also for intellectual freedom of all kinds.

But taking the long view, we must see that addressing this problem solely with the blunt instruments of majoritarian politics and demagogic suasion is not enough.  We need to reexamine some of our modern attitudes. Certainly, we ought to elect new public officials who are wiser about respecting the competing claims of the people. But the issue is deeper than that. Sharing the public square is fundamental for Western civilization; for Islam, it is not. The reactionary political debate over the Park 51 mosque will leave us without the thing we need most of all: a way to live with Islam, one in which Islam accommodates our culture even as we seek to be respectful of Islam.

We won’t get to that solution by continuing on the path of lazy complacency about the survival of our culture. Europe shows us where that path leads: to urban neighborhoods where women aren’t safe unveiled and Jews aren’t safe at all. Muslims have demonstrated that they can live peacefully in the culture of the West, but where Islam rules the culture, the freedoms that we prize disappear. The truth is that we must privilege and defend our practices if we want to keep our freedoms. One such practice – one to which Christians and Jews have regularly been subjected, along with Wal-Mart, shopping malls, and adult video stores – is the veto of local majorities over their plans for construction and operation on specific sites.

Rights and cultural conditions don’t defend themselves:  we have to teach them to our children and be vigilant about their application and privilege. We have nothing to apologize for in doing that. And it’s essential to establish that our purpose is not to defeat or drive out Islam, but to live with it. Perhaps the outcome in the case at hand will be the Park 51 mosque. But we have been very clear that living with Christianity and Judaism does not mean that the public must accommodate everything their faithful want to do – nor does it mean driving them out of civic life. It means, rather, respect and compromise from everyone. Those are the club rules.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a profound point at the Wall Street Journal today: that the Park 51 mosque controversy, although framed in most of our public discussions as a narrow question of religious tolerance, is actually a battleground in the broader “clash of civilizations” outlined by Samuel Huntington. I’ve been thinking about this a great deal. I would approach her point with the following framework: that the central question for New Yorkers, as for Americans and the West, is what religious tolerance means at the border between civilizations.

The West has had real trouble answering this question. What we are finding is that the default attitudes of the 20th century are inadequate to preserving a sustainable balance of religious and other philosophical influences in communal life. Western Christians and Jews have grown complacent about the protection of their religious freedoms in an increasingly secular culture. Indeed, our society has grown complacent about all freedom of conscience, routinely ignoring the dangers posed by the assaults of absolutist ideologies and our flirtations with creating thought crimes.

As Ali points out, however, “Our civilization is not indestructible. It needs to be actively defended.” She is right. The question for the West is how to tolerate Islam – which is culturally prescriptive and preemptive to a greater degree than either of the major Western religions – and yet retain what matters in our civilization.

I wrote last week about the differing levels of zeal for “religious rights” displayed by the New York City authorities in their approach to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious arrangements. Their unaccommodating posture with Christians and Jews is emblematic of a steadily more reflexive prejudice in our American civic consciousness (and in the letter of our law as well). This imbalance of favor has consequences – and not just for religion but also for intellectual freedom of all kinds.

But taking the long view, we must see that addressing this problem solely with the blunt instruments of majoritarian politics and demagogic suasion is not enough.  We need to reexamine some of our modern attitudes. Certainly, we ought to elect new public officials who are wiser about respecting the competing claims of the people. But the issue is deeper than that. Sharing the public square is fundamental for Western civilization; for Islam, it is not. The reactionary political debate over the Park 51 mosque will leave us without the thing we need most of all: a way to live with Islam, one in which Islam accommodates our culture even as we seek to be respectful of Islam.

We won’t get to that solution by continuing on the path of lazy complacency about the survival of our culture. Europe shows us where that path leads: to urban neighborhoods where women aren’t safe unveiled and Jews aren’t safe at all. Muslims have demonstrated that they can live peacefully in the culture of the West, but where Islam rules the culture, the freedoms that we prize disappear. The truth is that we must privilege and defend our practices if we want to keep our freedoms. One such practice – one to which Christians and Jews have regularly been subjected, along with Wal-Mart, shopping malls, and adult video stores – is the veto of local majorities over their plans for construction and operation on specific sites.

Rights and cultural conditions don’t defend themselves:  we have to teach them to our children and be vigilant about their application and privilege. We have nothing to apologize for in doing that. And it’s essential to establish that our purpose is not to defeat or drive out Islam, but to live with it. Perhaps the outcome in the case at hand will be the Park 51 mosque. But we have been very clear that living with Christianity and Judaism does not mean that the public must accommodate everything their faithful want to do – nor does it mean driving them out of civic life. It means, rather, respect and compromise from everyone. Those are the club rules.

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RE: Why Are So Many Conservatives Backing a Radical Immigration Solution?

Not all of them are, at least not those who fancy themselves competitive in diverse states. Politico reports that California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t in favor of mucking around in the 14th Amendment in an effort to end birthright citizenship:

“Meg believes we have to address the first problem, which is securing the border, and opposes a change in the U.S. Constitution,” Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told POLITICO. Whitman is the GOP nominee for governor, while Fiorina is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. …

After a speech Thursday to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fiorina said calls to repeal the 14th Amendment are not “useful dialogue.” She echoed Whitman on prioritizing border security and stopping short of stripping citizenship.

“I don’t support changing the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I think what we need to do is have the federal government do its job and secure the border and have a temporary worker program that works. And all the rest of it is a distraction and, unfortunately, an emotional distraction.”

Maybe they and others are beginning to wake up to the words of caution coming from figures such as CONTENTIONS contributor Linda Chavez, who provided a helpful guide to the history of fights over birthright citizenship and the failures to repeal it. And she explained this past week:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics — the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American. …

Our history has been largely one of continuously expanding the community of people regarded as Americans, from native-born whites to freed slaves to Indians to naturalized citizens of all races and ethnicities. Since the abolition of slavery, we have never denied citizenship to any group of children born in the U.S. — even when we denied citizenship to their parents, as we did Asian immigrants from 1882 to 1943. This expansive view of who is an American has been critical to our successful assimilation of millions of newcomers.

It is rather stunning to see “conservatives” abandon the reasoned and careful approach to governance (i.e., enforce existing law, push policies that promote assimilation) in favor of what would be a white-knuckle ride through a process of major Constitutional revision.

But, heck, even John McCain, who made heads spin with his apparent embrace of revision to the 14th Amendment is having second thoughts. We will see if he sticks to his current aversion to amending the Constitution for more than a few days. (It does remind one of that roller coaster presidential candidacy, doesn’t it? The presidential debate is on — no, off — no, on. But I digress.)

Listen, Obama is being castigated for his stunt on immigration reform (i.e., pretending to get serious about comprehensive reform). Republicans would be wise to steer clear of their own stunts.

Not all of them are, at least not those who fancy themselves competitive in diverse states. Politico reports that California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t in favor of mucking around in the 14th Amendment in an effort to end birthright citizenship:

“Meg believes we have to address the first problem, which is securing the border, and opposes a change in the U.S. Constitution,” Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told POLITICO. Whitman is the GOP nominee for governor, while Fiorina is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. …

After a speech Thursday to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fiorina said calls to repeal the 14th Amendment are not “useful dialogue.” She echoed Whitman on prioritizing border security and stopping short of stripping citizenship.

“I don’t support changing the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I think what we need to do is have the federal government do its job and secure the border and have a temporary worker program that works. And all the rest of it is a distraction and, unfortunately, an emotional distraction.”

Maybe they and others are beginning to wake up to the words of caution coming from figures such as CONTENTIONS contributor Linda Chavez, who provided a helpful guide to the history of fights over birthright citizenship and the failures to repeal it. And she explained this past week:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics — the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American. …

Our history has been largely one of continuously expanding the community of people regarded as Americans, from native-born whites to freed slaves to Indians to naturalized citizens of all races and ethnicities. Since the abolition of slavery, we have never denied citizenship to any group of children born in the U.S. — even when we denied citizenship to their parents, as we did Asian immigrants from 1882 to 1943. This expansive view of who is an American has been critical to our successful assimilation of millions of newcomers.

It is rather stunning to see “conservatives” abandon the reasoned and careful approach to governance (i.e., enforce existing law, push policies that promote assimilation) in favor of what would be a white-knuckle ride through a process of major Constitutional revision.

But, heck, even John McCain, who made heads spin with his apparent embrace of revision to the 14th Amendment is having second thoughts. We will see if he sticks to his current aversion to amending the Constitution for more than a few days. (It does remind one of that roller coaster presidential candidacy, doesn’t it? The presidential debate is on — no, off — no, on. But I digress.)

Listen, Obama is being castigated for his stunt on immigration reform (i.e., pretending to get serious about comprehensive reform). Republicans would be wise to steer clear of their own stunts.

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A New Abbas?

Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and presumptive world representative of the Palestinian cause, has been making life difficult for those who make attacking Israel an axiom for their activism. The Jerusalem Post reported that, at a luncheon at Washington’s Brookings Institution last week, Abbas crossed a number of rhetorical red lines that have become the foundations of the anti-Israel narrative.

One: “Nobody denies the Jewish history in the Middle East. A third of our holy Koran talks about the Jews in the Middle East, in this area. Nobody from our side at least denies that the Jews were in Palestine.” Nobody, of course, except for Helen Thomas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and countless activists who speak of the entire state of Israel, not just the post-1967 territories, as an “occupation.”

Two: he recognizes “West Jerusalem” as the “capital of Israel.” This is rather bold, considering that even the U.S. State Department doesn’t recognize Western Jerusalem as a part of Israel at all, much less its capital.

Three: Abbas stated that the goal of negotiations would be an absolute end to the conflict, so that there would be “no more demands” — something that sounds obvious but has forever eluded the public Palestinian discourse, keeping Israeli suspicions high that the Palestinians are not remotely interested in ending the conflict.

Four: he conceded that there is anti-Israel incitement on the Palestinian side and that such could be resolved through an agreed-upon monitoring committee.

Five: he allowed for the possibility of an agreed solution that included an international force, even NATO, occupying the Palestinian territories, at least for a few years — opening the door, perhaps, for meeting Israel’s demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.

Yet the biggest zinger from Abbas appears in today’s Haaretz. According to the report, he told President Barack Obama that he opposes lifting Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — a position shared with the Egyptian government, as well. This, of course, not only justifies Israel’s enforcement of the blockade during the flotilla mess (regardless of whether the tactics were prudent) but it also implies that the blockade itself is precisely right. This is truly remarkable, for it drastically undermines the justification for the entire flotilla and puts Turkey and other supporters in the awkward position of having to explain why, exactly, they have been so excited about it in the first place. (It would have been nice if Abbas had said so before the boats launched, but I suppose you can’t have everything.)

Certainly many people will dismiss his comments as the sudden spin of a politician worried about losing his place in the international arena. And obviously his concessions here, assuming he holds on to them, do not mean an immediate breakthrough to peace: you still have the massive problem of dismantling the Hamas government in Gaza (without which there cannot be peace) and coming to agreements on the refugees and Jerusalem. Yet one wonders why these statements have largely been ignored by the major Western media. Is it because, perhaps, that it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state and its right to defend itself?

Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and presumptive world representative of the Palestinian cause, has been making life difficult for those who make attacking Israel an axiom for their activism. The Jerusalem Post reported that, at a luncheon at Washington’s Brookings Institution last week, Abbas crossed a number of rhetorical red lines that have become the foundations of the anti-Israel narrative.

One: “Nobody denies the Jewish history in the Middle East. A third of our holy Koran talks about the Jews in the Middle East, in this area. Nobody from our side at least denies that the Jews were in Palestine.” Nobody, of course, except for Helen Thomas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and countless activists who speak of the entire state of Israel, not just the post-1967 territories, as an “occupation.”

Two: he recognizes “West Jerusalem” as the “capital of Israel.” This is rather bold, considering that even the U.S. State Department doesn’t recognize Western Jerusalem as a part of Israel at all, much less its capital.

Three: Abbas stated that the goal of negotiations would be an absolute end to the conflict, so that there would be “no more demands” — something that sounds obvious but has forever eluded the public Palestinian discourse, keeping Israeli suspicions high that the Palestinians are not remotely interested in ending the conflict.

Four: he conceded that there is anti-Israel incitement on the Palestinian side and that such could be resolved through an agreed-upon monitoring committee.

Five: he allowed for the possibility of an agreed solution that included an international force, even NATO, occupying the Palestinian territories, at least for a few years — opening the door, perhaps, for meeting Israel’s demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.

Yet the biggest zinger from Abbas appears in today’s Haaretz. According to the report, he told President Barack Obama that he opposes lifting Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — a position shared with the Egyptian government, as well. This, of course, not only justifies Israel’s enforcement of the blockade during the flotilla mess (regardless of whether the tactics were prudent) but it also implies that the blockade itself is precisely right. This is truly remarkable, for it drastically undermines the justification for the entire flotilla and puts Turkey and other supporters in the awkward position of having to explain why, exactly, they have been so excited about it in the first place. (It would have been nice if Abbas had said so before the boats launched, but I suppose you can’t have everything.)

Certainly many people will dismiss his comments as the sudden spin of a politician worried about losing his place in the international arena. And obviously his concessions here, assuming he holds on to them, do not mean an immediate breakthrough to peace: you still have the massive problem of dismantling the Hamas government in Gaza (without which there cannot be peace) and coming to agreements on the refugees and Jerusalem. Yet one wonders why these statements have largely been ignored by the major Western media. Is it because, perhaps, that it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state and its right to defend itself?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.’”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.’” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.’”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.’” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

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Yemen Won’t Extradite Jihadist Cleric

Eli Lake reports:

Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.

Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.

“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.

The Yemenis say the problem is their constitution, which prohibits extradition. It can’t be changed? Oh well, then the problem is cooperating with America. Apparently, they don’t want to be seen as “lackeys” of the U.S. The imam who inspired both Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad can’t then be sent here for interrogation and trial. (Goodness knows whether Obama would insist on a public trial for him.) But we can continue to target and try to kill him with drones.

It seems that our self-satisfied Obama diplomats must resort to some very “hard power” after all. The left may be aghast that the president is relying on assassination. But the rest of the country won’t shed too many tears. It would, however, be helpful to have access to him and get much-needed intelligence about other followers who are the next potential bombers. But alas, we can’t get the help, and the State Department pronounces itself satisfied: “We are encouraged by Yemen’s willingness to take action against various extremist groups, especially over the last year.” That’s the State Department version of “The system is working.” But it really isn’t.

Eli Lake reports:

Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.

Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.

“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.

The Yemenis say the problem is their constitution, which prohibits extradition. It can’t be changed? Oh well, then the problem is cooperating with America. Apparently, they don’t want to be seen as “lackeys” of the U.S. The imam who inspired both Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad can’t then be sent here for interrogation and trial. (Goodness knows whether Obama would insist on a public trial for him.) But we can continue to target and try to kill him with drones.

It seems that our self-satisfied Obama diplomats must resort to some very “hard power” after all. The left may be aghast that the president is relying on assassination. But the rest of the country won’t shed too many tears. It would, however, be helpful to have access to him and get much-needed intelligence about other followers who are the next potential bombers. But alas, we can’t get the help, and the State Department pronounces itself satisfied: “We are encouraged by Yemen’s willingness to take action against various extremist groups, especially over the last year.” That’s the State Department version of “The system is working.” But it really isn’t.

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Does the Obama Administration’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy Rely on Luck?

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

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The Enemy We Dare Not Name

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch – Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch – Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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The Times Square Attack and the Effort to Redefine “Terrorism”

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

Read Less




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