Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mexico

Mexico’s Immigration Hypocrisy

Late last month, a train derailed in southern Mexico killing at least five passengers. The train is part of a line that often serves to bring Central American migrants north into Mexico. While the United States has trouble defending—or simply chooses not to defend—its southern border against illegal immigrants, it is not the only country into which illegal immigrants flow. The irony is, however, that while the Mexican government has long chided the United States for supposed illiberalism toward illegal migrants, the Mexican government itself imposes a no-nonsense crackdown on those illegally in Mexico.

Central American complaints about treatment in Mexico have a long history. Beginning in 1974, the Mexican penalty for illegal entry into Mexico was up to two years in prison, and Mexican authorities did not hesitate to impose it. Repeat offenders could be slapped with a ten-year prison sentence. While Mexico’s 2011 Migration Law issued some basic protections, the Mexican government’s attitude toward its own illegal migrant population remains draconian compared to that of the United States.

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Late last month, a train derailed in southern Mexico killing at least five passengers. The train is part of a line that often serves to bring Central American migrants north into Mexico. While the United States has trouble defending—or simply chooses not to defend—its southern border against illegal immigrants, it is not the only country into which illegal immigrants flow. The irony is, however, that while the Mexican government has long chided the United States for supposed illiberalism toward illegal migrants, the Mexican government itself imposes a no-nonsense crackdown on those illegally in Mexico.

Central American complaints about treatment in Mexico have a long history. Beginning in 1974, the Mexican penalty for illegal entry into Mexico was up to two years in prison, and Mexican authorities did not hesitate to impose it. Repeat offenders could be slapped with a ten-year prison sentence. While Mexico’s 2011 Migration Law issued some basic protections, the Mexican government’s attitude toward its own illegal migrant population remains draconian compared to that of the United States.

It’s all well and good to talk about immigration reform: I’m all for expanding legal immigration for those who add positively to the American economy—there’s no reason why we can’t seek strategic advantage from immigration and take advantage of other countries’ brain drains—though it seems nonsensical to accommodate illegal immigration, and cases like this seem truly bizarre. It is even more bizarre to take counsel to liberalize immigration policies from a country which believes its own national interest is to do the opposite.

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Ciudad Juarez: The Wrong Kind of Calm?

One side effect of the American political habit of fighting metaphorical “wars”—the war on poverty, the war on drugs—is the blurring of distinctions. But the war on drugs stands apart as trickier case: it may be a metaphorical war here, but it is very real once that war stretches beyond our borders. The situation in Mexico is a perfect example, where Ciudad Juarez became one of the most dangerous and bloody cities in the world.

And paradoxically, in Mexico losing the war doesn’t seem all that different from what a victory might look like. The Washington Post reports:

It was one of the most sensational killing sprees in recent history, with 10,500 people left dead in the streets of Juarez as two powerful drug mafias went to war. In 2010, the peak, there were at least 3,115 homicides, with many months posting more than 300 deaths, according to the newspaper El Diario. Mexico is still struggling to make sense of the bloodshed.

But the fever seems to have broken.

Last month, there were just 48 homicides — 33 by gun, seven by beatings, six by strangulation and two by knife. Of these, authorities consider 40 to be related to the drug trade or criminal rivalries.

Authorities attribute the decrease in killings to their own efforts: patrols by the army, arrests by police, new schools to keep young men out of gangs and in the classroom.

Yet ordinary Mexicans suspect there is another, more credible reason for the decline in extreme violence: The most-wanted drug lord in the world, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and his Sinaloa cartel have won control of the local narcotics trade and smuggling routes north.

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One side effect of the American political habit of fighting metaphorical “wars”—the war on poverty, the war on drugs—is the blurring of distinctions. But the war on drugs stands apart as trickier case: it may be a metaphorical war here, but it is very real once that war stretches beyond our borders. The situation in Mexico is a perfect example, where Ciudad Juarez became one of the most dangerous and bloody cities in the world.

And paradoxically, in Mexico losing the war doesn’t seem all that different from what a victory might look like. The Washington Post reports:

It was one of the most sensational killing sprees in recent history, with 10,500 people left dead in the streets of Juarez as two powerful drug mafias went to war. In 2010, the peak, there were at least 3,115 homicides, with many months posting more than 300 deaths, according to the newspaper El Diario. Mexico is still struggling to make sense of the bloodshed.

But the fever seems to have broken.

Last month, there were just 48 homicides — 33 by gun, seven by beatings, six by strangulation and two by knife. Of these, authorities consider 40 to be related to the drug trade or criminal rivalries.

Authorities attribute the decrease in killings to their own efforts: patrols by the army, arrests by police, new schools to keep young men out of gangs and in the classroom.

Yet ordinary Mexicans suspect there is another, more credible reason for the decline in extreme violence: The most-wanted drug lord in the world, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and his Sinaloa cartel have won control of the local narcotics trade and smuggling routes north.

Though the U.S. poured millions in aid into former President Felipe Calderon’s effort to wrest control from the cartels—which included the deployment of the Mexican military to the area—it hardly seems as though the Mexican government was involved in the war. That is, El Chapo, the legendary and seemingly indestructible gang leader, was up against a rival cartel and some infamous assassins, not the authorities.

As James Verini wrote recently, the idea that the Mexican government doesn’t run its own country is far from controversial:

Many Mexicans assume [Guzman] essentially runs the country, and it’s easy to see why. Since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2007, a steady procession of high-raking government, military, and police officials has been revealed to be working for Chapo or his deputy, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Meanwhile, the murder rate has dropped off a cliff, nightlife is buzzing again–unthinkable only a couple years ago–and the city says 20,000 jobs have been created. To understand just how much of a relief this is to the city’s residents, you need but to glance at the statistics of the infighting at its worst–the murder rate of nine per day, for example. The effect the violence had on the city, not to mention the country, was profound. As Charles Bowden writes in his modern history of the city’s drug wars:

I am sitting with a Juarez lawyer at a party, and he explains that there has been a failure of analysis. He tells me criminology will not explain what is happening, nor will sociology. He pauses and then says that we must study demonology.

Yet if it’s true that the violence has ceased because the government has been defeated (or made irrelevant) then the hope engendered by the quiet seems misplaced and temporary. It also indicates that the supposed American voracious appetite for drugs isn’t, as many claim, fueling the gang war. “From my perspective, the violence had its origin in the sale and consumption of drugs here in Ciudad Juarez; that’s what caused the bulk of the crisis,” Cesar Peniche, the top federal prosecutor in the Juarez area, told the Post, explaining that the war was for control of the city–hence the quiet that currently prevails.

And that portends a larger problem for Mexico. The Post story closes on a dim note:

The criminal organizations that brought Juarez to the brink have not disappeared. “What we have seen,” said Peniche, the prosecutor, “is these groups have moved to other parts of the state.”

Back in 2009, Hillary Clinton’s State Department found itself in the uncomfortable position of seeming to prepare for treating Mexico as a failed state while publicly reassuring the Mexican government that Foggy Bottom had no such intentions. If Clinton was indeed looking at Mexico as a looming failed state, nothing that has happened in the interim will have convinced her otherwise.

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Who Will Check Los Zetas Spread?

Earlier this year, a Mexican think tank released a report which found that five of the 10 most violent cities in the world are in Mexico, and 45 of the 50 most violent cities are in Central or South America (scroll down here for the list).

Today, I’ll be heading to Fort Bliss, a post I’m privileged to visit four or five times each year, to lecture on issues relating to Afghanistan. It’s always weird landing at El Paso International Airport, as the plane flies low over the Mexican border, giving us window-seat passengers a clear view of the slums of Ciudad Juárez, the second most violent city on earth, according to the list. When I talk to long-time El Paso/Fort Bliss residents or those who had been stationed at Fort Bliss in years past, many talk about the fun times, great restaurants, and excellent shopping they enjoyed in Juárez. Today, however, the city is strictly no-go.

The problem, of course, is the rise of drug cartels in Mexico. While Los Zetas may not be the dominant group in Juárez, they are one of the most infamous in Mexico. As the civilian murder rate in Mexico exceeds, according to some accounts, that of Afghanistan, the U.S. position has largely been to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Alas, cancers left untreated spread.

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Earlier this year, a Mexican think tank released a report which found that five of the 10 most violent cities in the world are in Mexico, and 45 of the 50 most violent cities are in Central or South America (scroll down here for the list).

Today, I’ll be heading to Fort Bliss, a post I’m privileged to visit four or five times each year, to lecture on issues relating to Afghanistan. It’s always weird landing at El Paso International Airport, as the plane flies low over the Mexican border, giving us window-seat passengers a clear view of the slums of Ciudad Juárez, the second most violent city on earth, according to the list. When I talk to long-time El Paso/Fort Bliss residents or those who had been stationed at Fort Bliss in years past, many talk about the fun times, great restaurants, and excellent shopping they enjoyed in Juárez. Today, however, the city is strictly no-go.

The problem, of course, is the rise of drug cartels in Mexico. While Los Zetas may not be the dominant group in Juárez, they are one of the most infamous in Mexico. As the civilian murder rate in Mexico exceeds, according to some accounts, that of Afghanistan, the U.S. position has largely been to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Alas, cancers left untreated spread.

According to the Guatemalan magazine Siglo 21 (with a translation provided by the Open Source Center), the Zetas have now spread beyond Mexico’s borders and now operate in eight Guatemalan departments:

A mapping of the Interior Ministry indicates that the group of drug traffickers Los Zetas operates in eight departments of Guatemala, including the capital city which they have used as a transit point. According to the report, Los Zetas operate in Zacapa, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Izabal, Huehuetenango, Chiquimula, and Peten. David Martinez-Amador, a social researcher, explained: “With little resistance from rival groups and due to their operational strength, it would not be crazy to think that they could be doing what they are doing in Monterrey, Mexico: seizing control of an urban area and eliminating and extorting money from other criminal groups.” According to the expert, that group “has the logistical capacity to seize control of territories with great ease.”

A lesson of the past two decades is that state failures, anywhere on the globe, can pose a security threat to the United States. When those failures occur on our border, the risk rises exponentially. Both President Obama and Governor Romney may seek to make the next election about the economy, but they are also running for commander-in-chief and national security crises seldom conform to a Washington political calendar. With The Zetas expanding beyond Mexico and potentially destabilizing other Latin American allies, perhaps it is time for Obama and Romney to talk about how to re-establish peace and security in our hemisphere and especially on our borders.

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Texas Public Policy Is Case Study

Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

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Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

Remember when a certain Texas governor was warning fellow Republicans that education and a strong economy were better solutions than a fence? Though the symbiotic economic relationship between Texas and Mexico is long established, and Mexican reforms in the mid-1990s have helped keep the peso stable, recent trade between the two has increased and been a boon to both countries:

Three Texas customs districts, Laredo, El Paso and Houston, rank among Mexico’s top four trading partners. Collectively, they accounted for roughly $235 billion in trade between Texas and Mexico from January to September 2011, according to United States Census data analyzed by WorldCity, which tracks global trade patterns. The figures show an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico because of warring drug cartels.

One more time: an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico. Texas has been a job creator and engine of growth during a recession and global economic downturn in two countries, stabilizing immigration levels along the way and buttressing the argument for free trade. Of course, it’s worth noting that to produce this economic success story, Texan public policy is just about the polar opposite of that of the Obama administration. If nothing else, the first Obama term has at least given us a tidy case study.

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China and Those Tensions that Remain

Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington has been accompanied by the usual swooning. The New York Times, for instance, finds “Subtle Signs of Progress in U.S.-China Relations.” Very subtle indeed:

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the Chinese for the first time expressed public concern over North Korea’s recent disclosure of a modern uranium-enrichment plant, a small but ardently sought step in American efforts to press Kim Jong-il to roll back his nuclear weapons program.

More surprisingly, perhaps, Mr. Hu said at a White House news conference that China “recognizes and also respects the universality of human rights,” a palpable shift for a government that has staged a two-year crackdown on internal dissent and imprisoned a Nobel laureate.

But even Times reporter Michael Wines is forced to admit that “words, of course, are easier than deeds.” He went on to concede (a concession that undercuts the entire thrust of the article):

Neither side made any significant progress, much less any breakthrough, on the larger problems that have bedeviled relations ever since Mr. Obama made his state visit to Beijing in November 2009. On the American side, that includes revaluing China’s currency, leveling the playing field for American investors in China and establishing a serious discourse between the nations’ militaries.

That tensions remain even after the two presidents broke bread together should hardly be a surprise. Keep in mind the larger picture. Numerous countries have ascended to great power status in the past 1,000 years, as China now aspires to do. Not a single one managed to make the transition peacefully. Not the Ottomans, not the Habsburgs, not the French, not the British, not the Germans, not the Russians. Not even the Americans. We like to think of ourselves as a peace-loving nation, but that’s not how our neighbors see us — and with good cause. Remember, as soon as we were strong enough, we went to war with Mexico to wrestle away the Southwest, and then, for good measure, we went to war with Spain to wrestle away Cuba and the Philippines. These were the actions, recall, of a liberal democracy. Autocratic regimes like the one in Beijing tend to be much more belligerent.

And indeed, China has been acting aggressively recently in trying to establish its hegemony in the region. As part of this process, it has undertaken a rapid military buildup that, as Dan Blumenthal and Mike Mazza note in the Weekly Standard, includes acquiring the means to strike distant American bases.

Does this mean that war with China is inevitable? Of course not. But we should be wary of the happy talk that normally accompanies summits. China may indeed see a “peaceful rise,” the slogan it adopted a few years ago. But based on history, that’s not the way to bet.

Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington has been accompanied by the usual swooning. The New York Times, for instance, finds “Subtle Signs of Progress in U.S.-China Relations.” Very subtle indeed:

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the Chinese for the first time expressed public concern over North Korea’s recent disclosure of a modern uranium-enrichment plant, a small but ardently sought step in American efforts to press Kim Jong-il to roll back his nuclear weapons program.

More surprisingly, perhaps, Mr. Hu said at a White House news conference that China “recognizes and also respects the universality of human rights,” a palpable shift for a government that has staged a two-year crackdown on internal dissent and imprisoned a Nobel laureate.

But even Times reporter Michael Wines is forced to admit that “words, of course, are easier than deeds.” He went on to concede (a concession that undercuts the entire thrust of the article):

Neither side made any significant progress, much less any breakthrough, on the larger problems that have bedeviled relations ever since Mr. Obama made his state visit to Beijing in November 2009. On the American side, that includes revaluing China’s currency, leveling the playing field for American investors in China and establishing a serious discourse between the nations’ militaries.

That tensions remain even after the two presidents broke bread together should hardly be a surprise. Keep in mind the larger picture. Numerous countries have ascended to great power status in the past 1,000 years, as China now aspires to do. Not a single one managed to make the transition peacefully. Not the Ottomans, not the Habsburgs, not the French, not the British, not the Germans, not the Russians. Not even the Americans. We like to think of ourselves as a peace-loving nation, but that’s not how our neighbors see us — and with good cause. Remember, as soon as we were strong enough, we went to war with Mexico to wrestle away the Southwest, and then, for good measure, we went to war with Spain to wrestle away Cuba and the Philippines. These were the actions, recall, of a liberal democracy. Autocratic regimes like the one in Beijing tend to be much more belligerent.

And indeed, China has been acting aggressively recently in trying to establish its hegemony in the region. As part of this process, it has undertaken a rapid military buildup that, as Dan Blumenthal and Mike Mazza note in the Weekly Standard, includes acquiring the means to strike distant American bases.

Does this mean that war with China is inevitable? Of course not. But we should be wary of the happy talk that normally accompanies summits. China may indeed see a “peaceful rise,” the slogan it adopted a few years ago. But based on history, that’s not the way to bet.

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Not So Fast with the “1962” Allusions

The news that Iran is shipping Shahab and Scud missiles to Venezuela has the blogosphere going full throttle, and for good reason. The introduction of medium-range ballistic missiles in Latin America will mark a threshold of dangerous destabilization for the region. Iran’s current crop of operational missiles can’t hit U.S. territory from Venezuela, but they can hit Colombia, Panama, Honduras, and Mexico, among others. With Iran successfully testing longer-range missiles, it’s only a matter of time before Iranian missiles launched from Venezuela could hit the U.S.

Of equal concern, moreover, is the mere presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Latin America. Hezbollah is already there in growing numbers, operating freely in Brazil and Venezuela and often detected along narcotics-trafficking routes all the way to the U.S. border with Mexico. Earlier hints that Iran’s paramilitary Qods force has already deployed to Venezuela are now the harbinger of a greater and more complex threat.

American commentators are quick to point out the obvious similarities of the “Venezuelan Missile Crisis” to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Their complaint is understandable: the Obama administration doesn’t seem to be acting vigorously — or even paying attention — as John F. Kennedy did. But the truth is that we shouldn’t long for a Kennedy-style resolution to the missile incursion of 2010. The record of Kennedy’s actions during the crisis shows that he bargained the Soviet missiles out of Cuba by agreeing to remove American missiles from Turkey.

Kennedy admirers have been at pains to minimize this aspect of the deal and depict it as a collateral, low-cost gesture. It was certainly presented in that light in the 2000 movie Thirteen Days. As summarized at the above link, however, the actual significance of the quid pro quo was sufficient to cause editors and historians to excise references to it in the early accounts of the missile crisis. Making such a deal didn’t reflect well on Kennedy’s public profile. It could not do so: the missiles removed from Turkey were a key element of the NATO defense posture in 1962, and Kennedy’s agreement to remove them was made without NATO consultation. The question about the missiles was not whether they were “obsolete” — they were liquid-fueled, and the U.S. was transitioning to a solid-fueled missile force — but whether the alliance was depending on them at the time. And the answer to that question was yes.

The Iran-Venezuela situation of today is more complex; as it unfolds, its features will increasingly diverge from the profile of the 1962 crisis. Today’s impending crisis involves much more of Latin America. We should address it on its own terms. I don’t wish for a Kennedy-esque approach from President Obama. I’m apprehensive about what he would be prepared to trade away in missile negotiations with Iran.

The news that Iran is shipping Shahab and Scud missiles to Venezuela has the blogosphere going full throttle, and for good reason. The introduction of medium-range ballistic missiles in Latin America will mark a threshold of dangerous destabilization for the region. Iran’s current crop of operational missiles can’t hit U.S. territory from Venezuela, but they can hit Colombia, Panama, Honduras, and Mexico, among others. With Iran successfully testing longer-range missiles, it’s only a matter of time before Iranian missiles launched from Venezuela could hit the U.S.

Of equal concern, moreover, is the mere presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Latin America. Hezbollah is already there in growing numbers, operating freely in Brazil and Venezuela and often detected along narcotics-trafficking routes all the way to the U.S. border with Mexico. Earlier hints that Iran’s paramilitary Qods force has already deployed to Venezuela are now the harbinger of a greater and more complex threat.

American commentators are quick to point out the obvious similarities of the “Venezuelan Missile Crisis” to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Their complaint is understandable: the Obama administration doesn’t seem to be acting vigorously — or even paying attention — as John F. Kennedy did. But the truth is that we shouldn’t long for a Kennedy-style resolution to the missile incursion of 2010. The record of Kennedy’s actions during the crisis shows that he bargained the Soviet missiles out of Cuba by agreeing to remove American missiles from Turkey.

Kennedy admirers have been at pains to minimize this aspect of the deal and depict it as a collateral, low-cost gesture. It was certainly presented in that light in the 2000 movie Thirteen Days. As summarized at the above link, however, the actual significance of the quid pro quo was sufficient to cause editors and historians to excise references to it in the early accounts of the missile crisis. Making such a deal didn’t reflect well on Kennedy’s public profile. It could not do so: the missiles removed from Turkey were a key element of the NATO defense posture in 1962, and Kennedy’s agreement to remove them was made without NATO consultation. The question about the missiles was not whether they were “obsolete” — they were liquid-fueled, and the U.S. was transitioning to a solid-fueled missile force — but whether the alliance was depending on them at the time. And the answer to that question was yes.

The Iran-Venezuela situation of today is more complex; as it unfolds, its features will increasingly diverge from the profile of the 1962 crisis. Today’s impending crisis involves much more of Latin America. We should address it on its own terms. I don’t wish for a Kennedy-esque approach from President Obama. I’m apprehensive about what he would be prepared to trade away in missile negotiations with Iran.

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“A Rough Version of Mr. Bush’s Dream May Yet Come True”

In its editorial today, “A Good Year in Iraq,” the Washington Post writes this:

AT THE beginning of this year, Iraq’s fragile new political order faced a momentous challenge. The country needed to hold credible democratic elections at a time when its army was still battling al-Qaeda and other domestic insurgents. The winners had to form a government in spite of deep rifts among leaders and sects, who just three years ago were fighting a civil war. And all this had to happen even as the United States reduced its troops from 150,000 to 50,000 and ended combat operations for those who remained.

The result was a long, painful, contentious, confusing and sometimes bloody year. But when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presented his new government to parliament on Tuesday, Iraq could fairly be said to have passed a major test. It is not yet the peaceful Arab democracy and force for good in the Middle East that President George W. Bush imagined when he decided on invasion eight years ago. But in the past 12 months it has taken some big steps in the right direction.

The editorial goes on to point out that (a) the election was judged free and fair, a very rare event in the Middle East; (b) measures to integrate former Sunni militiamen into the security forces or other government jobs have been implemented; (c) fears that Mr. Maliki would establish a dictatorship look to be exaggerated; (d) the economy is nearing a tipping point, with foreign oil companies refurbishing the fields of southern Iraq and the city of Basra, a militia-ruled jungle four years ago, beginning to boom; and (e) violence has dwindled to the lowest level Iraq probably has known in decades (in September 2006, there were more than 3,300 civilian deaths from violence; this month so far it has counted 62, making Iraq a country far safer than Mexico). Read More

In its editorial today, “A Good Year in Iraq,” the Washington Post writes this:

AT THE beginning of this year, Iraq’s fragile new political order faced a momentous challenge. The country needed to hold credible democratic elections at a time when its army was still battling al-Qaeda and other domestic insurgents. The winners had to form a government in spite of deep rifts among leaders and sects, who just three years ago were fighting a civil war. And all this had to happen even as the United States reduced its troops from 150,000 to 50,000 and ended combat operations for those who remained.

The result was a long, painful, contentious, confusing and sometimes bloody year. But when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presented his new government to parliament on Tuesday, Iraq could fairly be said to have passed a major test. It is not yet the peaceful Arab democracy and force for good in the Middle East that President George W. Bush imagined when he decided on invasion eight years ago. But in the past 12 months it has taken some big steps in the right direction.

The editorial goes on to point out that (a) the election was judged free and fair, a very rare event in the Middle East; (b) measures to integrate former Sunni militiamen into the security forces or other government jobs have been implemented; (c) fears that Mr. Maliki would establish a dictatorship look to be exaggerated; (d) the economy is nearing a tipping point, with foreign oil companies refurbishing the fields of southern Iraq and the city of Basra, a militia-ruled jungle four years ago, beginning to boom; and (e) violence has dwindled to the lowest level Iraq probably has known in decades (in September 2006, there were more than 3,300 civilian deaths from violence; this month so far it has counted 62, making Iraq a country far safer than Mexico).

The Post editorial concludes this way:

It’s still too early to draw conclusions about Iraq, though many opponents of the war did so long ago. Mr. Maliki’s government could easily go wrong; the coming year, which could end with the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops, will likely be just as challenging as this one. But the country’s political class has repeatedly chosen democracy over dictatorship and accommodation over violence. If that keeps up, a rough version of Mr. Bush’s dream may yet come true.

Four years ago this month may have been the low-water mark in Iraq, with the nation gripped by a low-grade but escalating civil war. The American public strongly opposed the war. Almost every Democratic lawmaker in Congress, with the honorable exception of Senator Joseph Lieberman, was in fierce opposition to both the war and what later became known as the “surge.” Republican lawmakers were losing their nerve as well. Three months earlier, in September 2006, Senator Mitch McConnell had asked for, and received, a private meeting with President Bush. Senator McConnell’s message was a simple one: the Iraq war’s unpopularity was going to cost the GOP control of Congress. “Mr. President,” McConnell said, “bring some troops home from Iraq.”

President Bush, to his everlasting credit, not only refused to bend; he increased the American commitment to Iraq and changed our counterinsurgency strategy. And while the situation in Iraq remains fragile and can be undone — and while problems still remain and need to be urgently addressed (including the terrible persecution of Christians occurring in Iraq right now) — this is a moment for our nation, and most especially our military, to take sober satisfaction in what has been achieved. It has not been an easy journey. But it has been a noble and estimable one.

There is no need here to rehearse the names of the few who did not buckle at the moment when the war seemed lost. They know who they are. In the words of Milton, they were “faithful found among the faithless.” Their faithfulness, and in many cases their courage, is being vindicated.

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Balmy with the Likelihood of Mass Death

Global-warming prophets have stepped up their predictive skills. Calling the next hundred years of weather was kids’ stuff. They can now tell you how many people are going to die annually from the temperature rises they see in man’s future (hint: it’s a big, fat, round number) and what it’s going to cost the survivors. “By 2030, climate change will indirectly cause nearly one million deaths a year and inflict 157 billion dollars in damage in terms of today’s economy, according to estimates presented at UN talks on Friday,” the AFP reports. Here’s the “peer-reviewed” meteorological mumbo-jumbo that makes it all perfectly clear:

“No amount of (greenhouse-gas) mitigation will prevent at least another 0.7 degree (Celsius, 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature rise over the next two decades,”  he [a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development] said.

“In the last century we have already seen a 0.7 degree (1.26 F) rise. So we are headed for 1.4 (2.5 F) almost certainly.

“If emissions carry on their current pathway then we may in the longer term be headed for three or four degrees (5.4-7.2 F), which is practically impossible for everybody to adapt to.”

Sorry if I’m not shaken to my depths by the grim reapers of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the talks began as follows:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

And to think some people doubt global warming.

Global-warming prophets have stepped up their predictive skills. Calling the next hundred years of weather was kids’ stuff. They can now tell you how many people are going to die annually from the temperature rises they see in man’s future (hint: it’s a big, fat, round number) and what it’s going to cost the survivors. “By 2030, climate change will indirectly cause nearly one million deaths a year and inflict 157 billion dollars in damage in terms of today’s economy, according to estimates presented at UN talks on Friday,” the AFP reports. Here’s the “peer-reviewed” meteorological mumbo-jumbo that makes it all perfectly clear:

“No amount of (greenhouse-gas) mitigation will prevent at least another 0.7 degree (Celsius, 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature rise over the next two decades,”  he [a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development] said.

“In the last century we have already seen a 0.7 degree (1.26 F) rise. So we are headed for 1.4 (2.5 F) almost certainly.

“If emissions carry on their current pathway then we may in the longer term be headed for three or four degrees (5.4-7.2 F), which is practically impossible for everybody to adapt to.”

Sorry if I’m not shaken to my depths by the grim reapers of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the talks began as follows:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

And to think some people doubt global warming.

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J Street’s New Hire Not a Huge Fan of Israel

Is it any surprise that J Street’s newly hired Jerusalem organizer has made some anti-Zionist statements? Probably not, but it’s still astounding to watch the president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, continue to stridently claim that J Street is pro-Israel, even as so much evidence to the contrary has piled up.

Omri Ceren dug up some blog posts that were apparently written by the new leader of J Street U in Jerusalem — Drew Cohen — and found them to be sharply critical of Zionism and Israel’s military actions:

[I]t’s kind of predictable that JStreet’s new Israel campus organizer Drew Cohen would (a) harbor some really ugly antipathy toward the Jewish State and (b) commit to getting other American Jews to embrace his antipathy. This pattern is in line with the rest of JStreetU, which finally had to drop even the pretense of pro-Israel advocacy because it meshed poorly with their “genocidal anti-Jewish terrorists equal Israeli Jewish victims” moral equivocation.

According to Ceren, Cohen has called Operation Cast Lead “unjust and even criminal” and lamented that some Israelis “are engaged in a structural violence against the Palestinian people.”

Cohen also wrote that he’s only comfortable “with people who I am certain do not espouse Zionism or any form of oppression,” which I’m sure won’t be a problem at his new office.

Ceren cites more from Cohen:

* Here’s him snidely passing on a description of Israel’s Gaza Flotilla interdiction, a last-ditch passive option forced by Israel’s having been denied forward defense and active defense, as “a heinous brutality.”
* Here’s him minimizing the danger posed by that Flotilla, which would have detonated Israel’s last chance of blocking Iran’s Gaza proxy, due to it being merely a “mythic threat.”
* Here’s him insisting that Jews who want to reverse Jordan’s gleeful 1948 ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter “are engaged in structural violence against the Palestinian people.”
* Here’s him musing over the “parallels between the issues at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Israeli-Palestinian security barrier” and here’s him rhetorically leveling ghettos and Bethlehem.

I don’t object to Ben-Ami hiring Cohen, but I am curious as to why he would do so when the Soros and Goldstone controversies are still fresh in people’s minds. Is it simply that J Street doesn’t care how it looks? Were they unaware that Cohen held these views? Or has J Street become so toxic to liberal pro-Israel Jews that only anti-Zionists and people on the hard left are willing to associate with it?

Is it any surprise that J Street’s newly hired Jerusalem organizer has made some anti-Zionist statements? Probably not, but it’s still astounding to watch the president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, continue to stridently claim that J Street is pro-Israel, even as so much evidence to the contrary has piled up.

Omri Ceren dug up some blog posts that were apparently written by the new leader of J Street U in Jerusalem — Drew Cohen — and found them to be sharply critical of Zionism and Israel’s military actions:

[I]t’s kind of predictable that JStreet’s new Israel campus organizer Drew Cohen would (a) harbor some really ugly antipathy toward the Jewish State and (b) commit to getting other American Jews to embrace his antipathy. This pattern is in line with the rest of JStreetU, which finally had to drop even the pretense of pro-Israel advocacy because it meshed poorly with their “genocidal anti-Jewish terrorists equal Israeli Jewish victims” moral equivocation.

According to Ceren, Cohen has called Operation Cast Lead “unjust and even criminal” and lamented that some Israelis “are engaged in a structural violence against the Palestinian people.”

Cohen also wrote that he’s only comfortable “with people who I am certain do not espouse Zionism or any form of oppression,” which I’m sure won’t be a problem at his new office.

Ceren cites more from Cohen:

* Here’s him snidely passing on a description of Israel’s Gaza Flotilla interdiction, a last-ditch passive option forced by Israel’s having been denied forward defense and active defense, as “a heinous brutality.”
* Here’s him minimizing the danger posed by that Flotilla, which would have detonated Israel’s last chance of blocking Iran’s Gaza proxy, due to it being merely a “mythic threat.”
* Here’s him insisting that Jews who want to reverse Jordan’s gleeful 1948 ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter “are engaged in structural violence against the Palestinian people.”
* Here’s him musing over the “parallels between the issues at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Israeli-Palestinian security barrier” and here’s him rhetorically leveling ghettos and Bethlehem.

I don’t object to Ben-Ami hiring Cohen, but I am curious as to why he would do so when the Soros and Goldstone controversies are still fresh in people’s minds. Is it simply that J Street doesn’t care how it looks? Were they unaware that Cohen held these views? Or has J Street become so toxic to liberal pro-Israel Jews that only anti-Zionists and people on the hard left are willing to associate with it?

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Applying Counterinsurgency Tactics Against Criminals

Americans are naturally focused on the counterinsurgency work being performed by our forces in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in other areas of radical Islamist activity (e.g., Yemen and Pakistan). But there are many other insurgencies raging around the world and quite a few of them are primarily criminal not political. That is certainly the case in Mexico and Brazil — both countries that have seen their authority challenged by powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Many of the same principles that apply in Afghanistan or Iraq also need to be observed in those countries. Chief among them is the importance of follow-through — the need to do not just “clear” operations but “clear, hold, and build.” That is something that U.S. forces have struggled with in the past, as have many other armed forces. Pakistan, for example, has not followed through in the Swat Valley, where its army attacked militants last year. There has been insufficient  development aid or security to keep the extremists from coming back.

I fear that Brazil might be making the same mistake when I read about its army and police making a celebrated sweep through the Alemão shantytown in Rio de Janiero — an area that has long been dominated by criminal gangs. My concern stems from this detail in a New York Times account of the recent operations:

It was also unclear how long the military and the police planned to stay, or how long they could.

Mr. Beltrame, Rio’s security secretary and the architect of the pacification program, has previously said that he did not expect to have enough officers to occupy either Alemão or Rocinha, another violent slum overhanging the city’s affluent South Zone, until next year.

If there are not enough forces to occupy the slum, then why bother clearing it in the first place? Odds are that the gangs will just come back and wreak vengeance on anyone who was seen as helping the forces of law and order. That, at least, has been the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries such as Brazil would do well to study the lessons of counterinsurgency as they battle criminals on their own turf.

Americans are naturally focused on the counterinsurgency work being performed by our forces in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in other areas of radical Islamist activity (e.g., Yemen and Pakistan). But there are many other insurgencies raging around the world and quite a few of them are primarily criminal not political. That is certainly the case in Mexico and Brazil — both countries that have seen their authority challenged by powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Many of the same principles that apply in Afghanistan or Iraq also need to be observed in those countries. Chief among them is the importance of follow-through — the need to do not just “clear” operations but “clear, hold, and build.” That is something that U.S. forces have struggled with in the past, as have many other armed forces. Pakistan, for example, has not followed through in the Swat Valley, where its army attacked militants last year. There has been insufficient  development aid or security to keep the extremists from coming back.

I fear that Brazil might be making the same mistake when I read about its army and police making a celebrated sweep through the Alemão shantytown in Rio de Janiero — an area that has long been dominated by criminal gangs. My concern stems from this detail in a New York Times account of the recent operations:

It was also unclear how long the military and the police planned to stay, or how long they could.

Mr. Beltrame, Rio’s security secretary and the architect of the pacification program, has previously said that he did not expect to have enough officers to occupy either Alemão or Rocinha, another violent slum overhanging the city’s affluent South Zone, until next year.

If there are not enough forces to occupy the slum, then why bother clearing it in the first place? Odds are that the gangs will just come back and wreak vengeance on anyone who was seen as helping the forces of law and order. That, at least, has been the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries such as Brazil would do well to study the lessons of counterinsurgency as they battle criminals on their own turf.

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On the Offense Against Israel’s Delegitimizers

A pro-Israel activist passes on this transcript of “the most brilliantly audacious defence of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea.” The topic is whether Israel is a “rogue” state. The defense emphatically replies: it sure is. The key to the argument is reminding Israel’s critics as to the precise meaning of rogue — “The Oxford English Dictionary defines rogue as ‘aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,’ while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: ‘behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.'”

So if you want “rogue” — how about this:

The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the U.S.’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst — and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behaviour anomalous is an understatement.

Or how about this:

Another part of the dictionary definition is behaviour or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East — except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality.

In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

The speaker is a 19-year-old Cambridge University law student. Perhaps he should forget about law school and run the Israel government’s press operation. It seems he has figured out the key to combating Israel’s delegitimizers: go on the offense.

A pro-Israel activist passes on this transcript of “the most brilliantly audacious defence of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea.” The topic is whether Israel is a “rogue” state. The defense emphatically replies: it sure is. The key to the argument is reminding Israel’s critics as to the precise meaning of rogue — “The Oxford English Dictionary defines rogue as ‘aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,’ while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: ‘behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.'”

So if you want “rogue” — how about this:

The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the U.S.’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst — and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behaviour anomalous is an understatement.

Or how about this:

Another part of the dictionary definition is behaviour or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East — except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality.

In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

The speaker is a 19-year-old Cambridge University law student. Perhaps he should forget about law school and run the Israel government’s press operation. It seems he has figured out the key to combating Israel’s delegitimizers: go on the offense.

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Human Rights Policy Gone Mad

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

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He’s Against the Special Interests

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

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Soccer, Nationalism, and America

The debate today has sparked two thoughts in particular about soccer and the American left. One is that, for the rest of the world, soccer is absolutely about nationalism. People have their favorite individual teams within their countries, and many fans root for professional teams across borders, especially in Europe. But there is a robust body of nationalist chants chorused by fans when teams meet for cross-border play. Cheering on the team from one’s own country is only half the fun; equally necessary is denigrating the other team or poking fun at its nation’s history. Popular chants for English fans include this one (to the tune of “Camptown Races”), when playing a German team:

Two World Wars and one World Cup
Doo dah, doo dah
Two World Wars and one World Cup
Doo dah, doo dah day

This one is chanted at French fans:

If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts
If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts
If it wasn’t for the English
Wasn’t for the English
If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts!

These are the more printable chants. Often the French and English keep it simpler and merely yell “Hastings!” and “Agincourt!” at each other. That causes American internationalists to swoon with delight, but it wouldn’t translate to the American condition at all. Yanks would feel like fools going down to Mexico and shouting “Veracruz!” at the fans there, and like imperialist heels hollering “Anzio!” or “Bulge!” — or perhaps, monstrously, “Dresden!” — at Europeans.

National and ethnic taunts are endemic to soccer fandom; see here, here, and here for a sampling. This survey leads to my second point: that the soccer phenomenon fails to resonate culturally with Americans precisely because of the exceptionalist character the left wants us to shed. Much of what drives our culture of exceptionalism is pure geography. Our continental expanse, our few and friendly neighbors, the great oceans on our flanks; these factors fostering exceptionalism are also opposite to the ones that encourage soccer to thrive. The left can’t do much about them. But while we may not have the limiting geography of Brazil, Germany, Italy, or England, the left would like us to act as if we did.

The truth, however, is that it would be uniquely offensive for Americans to roam the world’s soccer stadiums taunting other nations’ fans with our past political victories and their defeats. It would hurt because it would matter. That, ultimately, is what the American left finds distasteful. A flip side of that coin is that we don’t have nearly as much of a psychological need to channel nationalist yearnings and ethnic triumphalism into team sports.

Except, apparently, for the employees of NPR. I understand Emanuele Ottolenghi’s sentiment — that it’s good to see leftists letting their inner nationalist come out — but the problem is that the form of nationalism they approve of has a poor record of actually doing what the nation-state is good for: defending political liberty. I’ll take our American nationalism — and the goofy, sometimes autarchic sports exceptionalism that comes with it.

The debate today has sparked two thoughts in particular about soccer and the American left. One is that, for the rest of the world, soccer is absolutely about nationalism. People have their favorite individual teams within their countries, and many fans root for professional teams across borders, especially in Europe. But there is a robust body of nationalist chants chorused by fans when teams meet for cross-border play. Cheering on the team from one’s own country is only half the fun; equally necessary is denigrating the other team or poking fun at its nation’s history. Popular chants for English fans include this one (to the tune of “Camptown Races”), when playing a German team:

Two World Wars and one World Cup
Doo dah, doo dah
Two World Wars and one World Cup
Doo dah, doo dah day

This one is chanted at French fans:

If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts
If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts
If it wasn’t for the English
Wasn’t for the English
If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts!

These are the more printable chants. Often the French and English keep it simpler and merely yell “Hastings!” and “Agincourt!” at each other. That causes American internationalists to swoon with delight, but it wouldn’t translate to the American condition at all. Yanks would feel like fools going down to Mexico and shouting “Veracruz!” at the fans there, and like imperialist heels hollering “Anzio!” or “Bulge!” — or perhaps, monstrously, “Dresden!” — at Europeans.

National and ethnic taunts are endemic to soccer fandom; see here, here, and here for a sampling. This survey leads to my second point: that the soccer phenomenon fails to resonate culturally with Americans precisely because of the exceptionalist character the left wants us to shed. Much of what drives our culture of exceptionalism is pure geography. Our continental expanse, our few and friendly neighbors, the great oceans on our flanks; these factors fostering exceptionalism are also opposite to the ones that encourage soccer to thrive. The left can’t do much about them. But while we may not have the limiting geography of Brazil, Germany, Italy, or England, the left would like us to act as if we did.

The truth, however, is that it would be uniquely offensive for Americans to roam the world’s soccer stadiums taunting other nations’ fans with our past political victories and their defeats. It would hurt because it would matter. That, ultimately, is what the American left finds distasteful. A flip side of that coin is that we don’t have nearly as much of a psychological need to channel nationalist yearnings and ethnic triumphalism into team sports.

Except, apparently, for the employees of NPR. I understand Emanuele Ottolenghi’s sentiment — that it’s good to see leftists letting their inner nationalist come out — but the problem is that the form of nationalism they approve of has a poor record of actually doing what the nation-state is good for: defending political liberty. I’ll take our American nationalism — and the goofy, sometimes autarchic sports exceptionalism that comes with it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

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RE: What Would Reagan Have Thought?

Jennifer Rubin draws attention to the elephant in the room — that is, the GOP’s unfortunate posturing toward immigration, of which John McCain has lately become the embodiment.

It should be of some consolation that before he could find someone to cast in the nativist role he sought, McCain had to do quite a bit of fruitless searching and, in the end, resort to “synthesizing” his ad from the scenery of a border town and the commentary of a sheriff from a different county. Indeed, the sheriff who enthusiastically confirms McCain’s bona fides as “one of us” — whatever that means — hails from Pinal county, not even on the border, while the ad is shot in Nogales, a border town in the county of Santa Cruz, whose sheriff, Antonio Estrada, has blasted the Arizona immigration bill in no uncertain terms:

“Local law enforcement has a great relationship with the Hispanic community, and something like this is really going to scare these people,” said [Sheriff] Estrada. “They’re going to look at us as immigration officers every time they see us.”

Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Pima — another county in Southern Arizona, which shares with Mexico the longest border in the state — has called the bill “disgusting,” “racist,” and “unnecessary.”

The ad merely reveals McCain to be a politician, evidently less principled than his supporters took him for in 2008. His presidential ambitions now thwarted, in order to at least not lose his Senate seat, he has gone to great lengths — as far as to endorse the anti-immigration bill of Arizona after having supported the pro-immigration bill of President Bush. But no matter that a politician should flip-flop. Most troubling is the fact that McCain judged this ad expedient because it can find a sympathetic audience among the GOP base.

Incendiary as some of them might be, it is hard to dismiss the complaints against the Arizona immigration bill, for it

makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law, and obligates police to make an attempt, when practicable during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official,” to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien. Police may arrest a person if there is probable cause that the person is an alien not in possession of required registration documents.

Therefore, the law relies for its execution on the discretion of law-enforcement agents, known to misfire even before the bill invested in them so much authority. Take, for example, the detention of a U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent in Phoenix a few months back:

Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate. …

Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option.

Jackie says, “It doesn’t feel like it’s a good way of life, to live with fear, even though we are okay, we are legal … still have to carry documents around.”

Disgraceful incidents such as this cannot but multiply now in Arizona. And it would be sad to see the fetish for birth certificates spread from the small lunatic band of “birthers,” who refuse to believe that President Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen, into the broader base of the GOP, which seems to support the Arizona bill.

As a legal alien, I would shudder if such a bill as this came to pass in New York, where I live — though, on second thought, I’d have little to fear, since I am and look European. Indeed, does anyone think that racial profiling will not guide the application of this law? On what other grounds can one be reasonably suspected of being an illegal alien? It is easy for those Arizonans who can boast a porcelain complexion and a flawless accent to support the bill, for by virtue of such qualifications alone they will never be subjected to any inconvenience from it. Of course, it would be another thing entirely if the bill required that at a lawful stop, detention, or arrest anyone must be extensively probed for documentation. In that case, I’d love to hear the opinion of those who now support the bill and scoff indignantly at the charges of discrimination leveled against it.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Independently, even, of this disastrous bill, the GOP’s position on immigration needs serious rethinking. At its heart lies the nativist meme Jen mentioned, that of foreigners stealing American jobs — perhaps the only talking point many on the right share with the unionists on the left. Not only is it distasteful and wrongheaded, not only does it repulse immigrants, legal ones too, but it also undermines the right’s reputation for economic literacy. True, an immigrant gainfully employed takes a job. But he or she also patronizes other businesses while living in the country, thus creating other jobs — for Americans. A bigger population means greater economic activity and more jobs. Indeed, blaming immigrants for putting Americans out of work is as sound as blaming the young, in a population reproducing above replacement rate, of stealing their elders’ jobs. Ironically, the nativists who complain thus about immigrants are often the very same ones (think John Derbyshire, think Peter Brimelow) who, in so many words, lament the impending collapse of Western Civilization due to the white man’s failure to breed as diligently as they think he should.

Republicans had better not concede their position on immigration to the few Buchananite elements in their midst.

Jennifer Rubin draws attention to the elephant in the room — that is, the GOP’s unfortunate posturing toward immigration, of which John McCain has lately become the embodiment.

It should be of some consolation that before he could find someone to cast in the nativist role he sought, McCain had to do quite a bit of fruitless searching and, in the end, resort to “synthesizing” his ad from the scenery of a border town and the commentary of a sheriff from a different county. Indeed, the sheriff who enthusiastically confirms McCain’s bona fides as “one of us” — whatever that means — hails from Pinal county, not even on the border, while the ad is shot in Nogales, a border town in the county of Santa Cruz, whose sheriff, Antonio Estrada, has blasted the Arizona immigration bill in no uncertain terms:

“Local law enforcement has a great relationship with the Hispanic community, and something like this is really going to scare these people,” said [Sheriff] Estrada. “They’re going to look at us as immigration officers every time they see us.”

Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Pima — another county in Southern Arizona, which shares with Mexico the longest border in the state — has called the bill “disgusting,” “racist,” and “unnecessary.”

The ad merely reveals McCain to be a politician, evidently less principled than his supporters took him for in 2008. His presidential ambitions now thwarted, in order to at least not lose his Senate seat, he has gone to great lengths — as far as to endorse the anti-immigration bill of Arizona after having supported the pro-immigration bill of President Bush. But no matter that a politician should flip-flop. Most troubling is the fact that McCain judged this ad expedient because it can find a sympathetic audience among the GOP base.

Incendiary as some of them might be, it is hard to dismiss the complaints against the Arizona immigration bill, for it

makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law, and obligates police to make an attempt, when practicable during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official,” to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien. Police may arrest a person if there is probable cause that the person is an alien not in possession of required registration documents.

Therefore, the law relies for its execution on the discretion of law-enforcement agents, known to misfire even before the bill invested in them so much authority. Take, for example, the detention of a U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent in Phoenix a few months back:

Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate. …

Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option.

Jackie says, “It doesn’t feel like it’s a good way of life, to live with fear, even though we are okay, we are legal … still have to carry documents around.”

Disgraceful incidents such as this cannot but multiply now in Arizona. And it would be sad to see the fetish for birth certificates spread from the small lunatic band of “birthers,” who refuse to believe that President Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen, into the broader base of the GOP, which seems to support the Arizona bill.

As a legal alien, I would shudder if such a bill as this came to pass in New York, where I live — though, on second thought, I’d have little to fear, since I am and look European. Indeed, does anyone think that racial profiling will not guide the application of this law? On what other grounds can one be reasonably suspected of being an illegal alien? It is easy for those Arizonans who can boast a porcelain complexion and a flawless accent to support the bill, for by virtue of such qualifications alone they will never be subjected to any inconvenience from it. Of course, it would be another thing entirely if the bill required that at a lawful stop, detention, or arrest anyone must be extensively probed for documentation. In that case, I’d love to hear the opinion of those who now support the bill and scoff indignantly at the charges of discrimination leveled against it.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Independently, even, of this disastrous bill, the GOP’s position on immigration needs serious rethinking. At its heart lies the nativist meme Jen mentioned, that of foreigners stealing American jobs — perhaps the only talking point many on the right share with the unionists on the left. Not only is it distasteful and wrongheaded, not only does it repulse immigrants, legal ones too, but it also undermines the right’s reputation for economic literacy. True, an immigrant gainfully employed takes a job. But he or she also patronizes other businesses while living in the country, thus creating other jobs — for Americans. A bigger population means greater economic activity and more jobs. Indeed, blaming immigrants for putting Americans out of work is as sound as blaming the young, in a population reproducing above replacement rate, of stealing their elders’ jobs. Ironically, the nativists who complain thus about immigrants are often the very same ones (think John Derbyshire, think Peter Brimelow) who, in so many words, lament the impending collapse of Western Civilization due to the white man’s failure to breed as diligently as they think he should.

Republicans had better not concede their position on immigration to the few Buchananite elements in their midst.

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What Would Reagan Have Thought?

Peter Robinson, former Reagan speechwriter and Hoover fellow, has a must-read column on the Gipper and immigration. It is a scholarly brief for the case that Reagan, while committed to law and order and defense of our borders, was unapologetically pro-immigration for both ideological and partisan reasons. As to the latter, Peter explains:

All his political life, Ronald Reagan wooed voters outside his base. Who were Reagan Democrats who gave him landslide victories in 1980 and 1984? Voters of German, Irish, Italian, Polish and other ethnic backgrounds — in a word, the children and grandchildren of immigrants who entered the country at points such as Ellis Island.

Today Reagan would have wooed not only Reagan Democrats but the children and grandchildren of immigrants who entered the country from Mexico. He would have done so as a matter of principle — as we have seen, he gloried in the country’s basic openness to immigrants — but he would also have recognized that Republicans face a math problem.

Whereas the proportion of the population composed of Americans of northern European descent—the traditional Republican base—is steadily shrinking, the proportion composed of Hispanics is rapidly expanding. The GOP will capture the support of some large fraction of Hispanics or it will become as irrelevant as the Federalists and the Whigs.

There are those loud pundits — some themselves emigrants from Anglo countries — who reject all that. Our culture will be swamped! Americans will lose jobs! They will find a scrap of evidence here — ooh, look at the long line for applications at the poultry factory! — and horror stories there. And as they trumpet their opposition to immigration, they point to evidence that Hispanics remain wary of the Republican Party (well, yeah) and choose to ignore the fact that, with the exception of Jews, immigrant groups have historically become more conservative as they climbed the economic ladder.

The critics seem to want America to remain just as it is (with them safely inside the wall). But “America” is not and cannot be a static phenomenon. Quoting Reagan, Peter reminds us:

Describing America as “a shining city” in his 1989 farewell address, for example, he said, “[a]nd if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

None of this is to excuse the unconscionable refusal to enforce our borders or the cries of “Racism!” that greet every effort to secure those borders. But “‘Senator,’ the sheriff says to Sen. McCain at the end of his advertisement, ‘you’re one of us.’ One white man to another white man — speaking the very words most likely to alienate every Hispanic voter who hears them.” And when John McCain stoops to such an ad, which — wink-wink, nod-nod — takes up the nativist line, it’s time to take stock of where we are heading and what message we are conveying to those who want a piece of the American dream.

Peter Robinson, former Reagan speechwriter and Hoover fellow, has a must-read column on the Gipper and immigration. It is a scholarly brief for the case that Reagan, while committed to law and order and defense of our borders, was unapologetically pro-immigration for both ideological and partisan reasons. As to the latter, Peter explains:

All his political life, Ronald Reagan wooed voters outside his base. Who were Reagan Democrats who gave him landslide victories in 1980 and 1984? Voters of German, Irish, Italian, Polish and other ethnic backgrounds — in a word, the children and grandchildren of immigrants who entered the country at points such as Ellis Island.

Today Reagan would have wooed not only Reagan Democrats but the children and grandchildren of immigrants who entered the country from Mexico. He would have done so as a matter of principle — as we have seen, he gloried in the country’s basic openness to immigrants — but he would also have recognized that Republicans face a math problem.

Whereas the proportion of the population composed of Americans of northern European descent—the traditional Republican base—is steadily shrinking, the proportion composed of Hispanics is rapidly expanding. The GOP will capture the support of some large fraction of Hispanics or it will become as irrelevant as the Federalists and the Whigs.

There are those loud pundits — some themselves emigrants from Anglo countries — who reject all that. Our culture will be swamped! Americans will lose jobs! They will find a scrap of evidence here — ooh, look at the long line for applications at the poultry factory! — and horror stories there. And as they trumpet their opposition to immigration, they point to evidence that Hispanics remain wary of the Republican Party (well, yeah) and choose to ignore the fact that, with the exception of Jews, immigrant groups have historically become more conservative as they climbed the economic ladder.

The critics seem to want America to remain just as it is (with them safely inside the wall). But “America” is not and cannot be a static phenomenon. Quoting Reagan, Peter reminds us:

Describing America as “a shining city” in his 1989 farewell address, for example, he said, “[a]nd if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

None of this is to excuse the unconscionable refusal to enforce our borders or the cries of “Racism!” that greet every effort to secure those borders. But “‘Senator,’ the sheriff says to Sen. McCain at the end of his advertisement, ‘you’re one of us.’ One white man to another white man — speaking the very words most likely to alienate every Hispanic voter who hears them.” And when John McCain stoops to such an ad, which — wink-wink, nod-nod — takes up the nativist line, it’s time to take stock of where we are heading and what message we are conveying to those who want a piece of the American dream.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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Obama’s Immigration-Reform Gambit Unmasked

Speaking in the Rose Garden with Mexican President Calderón, Obama let the cat out of the bag. Recall that he and the Democrats put immigration on the to-do list with great fanfare, grandstanding to their Hispanic base that yes — yes, they really were serious about immigration reform. But Obama let on that, by gosh, “I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.”

So this is now the Republicans’ fault, because they would insist on a tough border control bill. And more important, in pointing fingers and lowering expectations, Obama revealed that his promise to pass immigration reform is less than sincere. After all, the president is incapable of persuading anyone who doesn’t already agree with him to pass something he really cares about. (He does care about this, right?) So nothing is going to happen on immigration for the balance of his term.

In this moment, Obama revealed both his lack of political muscle and his lack of sincerity. He revealed himself to be just another slick pol, spouting whatever promises the voters will buy. Voters should take note. After all, if the Democrats get enough Senate seats and flip the House to GOP control, there just might be an immigration bill that would land on his desk. Not the sort he had in mind, of course.

Speaking in the Rose Garden with Mexican President Calderón, Obama let the cat out of the bag. Recall that he and the Democrats put immigration on the to-do list with great fanfare, grandstanding to their Hispanic base that yes — yes, they really were serious about immigration reform. But Obama let on that, by gosh, “I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.”

So this is now the Republicans’ fault, because they would insist on a tough border control bill. And more important, in pointing fingers and lowering expectations, Obama revealed that his promise to pass immigration reform is less than sincere. After all, the president is incapable of persuading anyone who doesn’t already agree with him to pass something he really cares about. (He does care about this, right?) So nothing is going to happen on immigration for the balance of his term.

In this moment, Obama revealed both his lack of political muscle and his lack of sincerity. He revealed himself to be just another slick pol, spouting whatever promises the voters will buy. Voters should take note. After all, if the Democrats get enough Senate seats and flip the House to GOP control, there just might be an immigration bill that would land on his desk. Not the sort he had in mind, of course.

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Race Profiling in Immigration Enforcement

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

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