Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pearl Harbor

The Debate We Should Be Having About Rand Paul and Sanctions

Rand Paul was put on the defensive this week over criticism stemming from comments he made last year, posted on Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post blog, on Iran sanctions: “There are times when sanctions have made it worse. There are times–leading up to World War II, we cut off trade with Japan. That probably caused Japan to react angrily. We also had a blockade on Germany after World War I, which may have encouraged some of their anger.”

As with a great many conversations involving Hitler, the debate went off course almost immediately in ways that were unfair to Paul. The senator’s senior advisor told the Post in response: “World War II was a necessary war, a just war, a fully declared war, and an entirely victorious war; the megalomaniac Hitler was to blame for the war and the Holocaust.” So some of the sympathy for Paul is warranted: his recorded statements didn’t suggest that the United States was at fault for Hitler’s rise and the subsequent consequences.

“There’s a debate to be had on foreign policy,” David Harsanyi argues, reasonably. “This isn’t it.” Harsanyi goes on to make the following point:

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Rand Paul was put on the defensive this week over criticism stemming from comments he made last year, posted on Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post blog, on Iran sanctions: “There are times when sanctions have made it worse. There are times–leading up to World War II, we cut off trade with Japan. That probably caused Japan to react angrily. We also had a blockade on Germany after World War I, which may have encouraged some of their anger.”

As with a great many conversations involving Hitler, the debate went off course almost immediately in ways that were unfair to Paul. The senator’s senior advisor told the Post in response: “World War II was a necessary war, a just war, a fully declared war, and an entirely victorious war; the megalomaniac Hitler was to blame for the war and the Holocaust.” So some of the sympathy for Paul is warranted: his recorded statements didn’t suggest that the United States was at fault for Hitler’s rise and the subsequent consequences.

“There’s a debate to be had on foreign policy,” David Harsanyi argues, reasonably. “This isn’t it.” Harsanyi goes on to make the following point:

What Paul never contends is that Hitler’s ideology hinged on the idea of opposing Versailles. He was talking about Germany and Germans. In front of me is Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, where the author basically makes the same case and Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, in which she writes that though Versailles’ impact had likely been exaggerated by German governments, it allowed political parties like the Nazis to tap into widespread “anger” and resentment. Sounds like that’s what Rand was saying.

True enough, though it’s worth noting that in Modern Times, Johnson has much more to say about the grievances unleashed by Versailles, and they center on the ethnic strife sparked by transferring Europe to the individual nation-state model from the age of empires–“self-determination,” in Johnson’s writing, which created more restive minority populations because there were more states. Where economic factors played a role, Johnson seems to put emphasis on the fact that more states also meant more poor states, especially in the immediate postwar period, and he notes that Germany was considered to have defaulted on its postwar obligations as well. If any aspect of Versailles encouraged German expansionism, Johnson appears to blame the fact that “under the Treaty it was forbidden to seek union with Germany, which made the Anschluss seem more attractive than it actually was.”

But I think Paul’s defenders here are on less steady ground in dismissing Paul’s comments as they relate to Pearl Harbor. He prefaced his sanctions comments–at least on Pearl Harbor–by saying sometimes sanctions “have made it worse.” Taken individually, sanctions on a nation can be treated this way. But it doesn’t always apply, and it applies perhaps less to Japan than almost any other scenario (Germany, Iraq, Iran, etc.).

As some have said since Paul’s comments, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was a sort of preemptive strike to at least temporarily avert an American response to simultaneous Japanese aggression throughout the region, including on Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. But another important facet of this is that the sanctions weren’t a surprise to Japan, because they were in response to Japanese action. As the historian Ian Toll writes, Japan took action its leaders–reminded by Admiral Yamamoto, who initially wanted to avoid an unwinnable war–knew would precipitate sanctions, and the whole process would bring them toward war:

From his flagship, Nagato, usually anchored in Hiroshima Bay, Yamamoto continued to warn against joining with the Nazis. He reminded his government that Japan imported around four-fifths of its oil and steel from areas controlled by the Allies. To risk conflict, he wrote, was foolhardy, because “there is no chance of winning a war with the United States for some time to come.”

But Japan’s confused and divided government drifted toward war while refusing to face the strategic problems it posed. It signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in Berlin in September 1940. As Yamamoto had predicted, the American government quickly restricted and finally cut off exports of oil and other vital materials. The sanctions brought events to a head, because Japan had no domestic oil production to speak of, and would exhaust its stockpiles in about a year.

Yamamoto realized he had lost the fight to keep Japan out of war, and he fell in line with the planning process.

Yamamoto warned against the process because he wrongly thought his leaders wanted to avoid war, when in fact they provoked it. This doesn’t mean Paul is “blaming” the U.S. for the attack on Pearl Harbor (and by extension, American entry into World War II). But it raises questions about Paul’s selective use of history–and bad history does not usually inform good policy.

I have raised this issue with Paul before. When he made his major foreign-policy address a year ago, he advocated a greater emphasis on containment. But he conflated the Kennanite version of containment with the strategy that ultimately won the Cold War, which was far from the truth. In reality, Kennan’s ideas were central to the Truman administration’s decision to embrace containment, but his version of containment was so different that Kennan adamantly refused to take credit for it.

It is far from clear that a nuclear Iran would be containable the way the Soviet Union was–in fact, it’s unlikely. But Paul’s version of containment would not have even contained the Soviet Union. Paul’s habit of cherry-picking history to create precedents for his own preferred strategy seems to be present with his comments on Japanese sanctions and Pearl Harbor as well. It certainly doesn’t make him a blame-America-firster. But it does suggest unsound strategic judgment.

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Newt’s Virginia “Pearl Harbor”

Never at a loss for a historical analogy or insight, Newt Gingrich has reportedly described his stunning debacle in being deprived of a spot on the Virginia Republican primary ballot as a rerun of the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor. Though he’s undoubtedly mad about falling victim to Virginia’s onerous ballot qualification requirements, the former speaker isn’t necessarily comparing the state’s petition inspectors to the Japanese who treacherously attacked the U.S. fleet. Rather, he sees it as a case of a terrible defeat from which he will learn and rebound in the coming campaign as America did during the war in the Pacific. But unless he’s got the political equivalent of the aircraft carriers the Japanese failed to sink on December 7, 1941, this sort of talk is just more empty boasts from a campaign whose wheels may be about to come off again.

Gingrich’s organizational failure in Virginia is rightly seen as indicative of a key character flaw that has long dogged his career. He’s great at speeches and debates and promoting ideas, some of which conservatives like very much. But his campaign management style appears highly reminiscent of his largely incompetent leadership of the House of Representatives.

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Never at a loss for a historical analogy or insight, Newt Gingrich has reportedly described his stunning debacle in being deprived of a spot on the Virginia Republican primary ballot as a rerun of the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor. Though he’s undoubtedly mad about falling victim to Virginia’s onerous ballot qualification requirements, the former speaker isn’t necessarily comparing the state’s petition inspectors to the Japanese who treacherously attacked the U.S. fleet. Rather, he sees it as a case of a terrible defeat from which he will learn and rebound in the coming campaign as America did during the war in the Pacific. But unless he’s got the political equivalent of the aircraft carriers the Japanese failed to sink on December 7, 1941, this sort of talk is just more empty boasts from a campaign whose wheels may be about to come off again.

Gingrich’s organizational failure in Virginia is rightly seen as indicative of a key character flaw that has long dogged his career. He’s great at speeches and debates and promoting ideas, some of which conservatives like very much. But his campaign management style appears highly reminiscent of his largely incompetent leadership of the House of Representatives.

Virginia won’t by itself make or break Gingrich’s campaign. Nor is he the only one to fail to make the ballot there since only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have been able to collect enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.  But with his poll numbers already heading south, Gingrich’s inability to organize a competent campaign in the state where he has lived for the past decade is a punch to the gut at a time when he needed some good news to revive confidence in his candidacy.

As for his “Pearl Harbor” comment, this may be one case where playing history professor may not help him as it has in the GOP’s televised debates. Iowans with a sense of the place of that tragedy’s place in U.S. history may think Gingrich’s comparing an event that took the lives of more than 2,000 American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen to a campaign screw up is both pretentious and in bad taste.

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Hiding Behind Rudy

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

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J Street Defends Ground Zero Mosque

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

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How About a Hirohito Monument at Pearl Harbor?

The controversy over the mosque — all fifteen stories of it– planned for Ground Zero is one of those issues that divide ordinary Americans from elites. It is a debate that convinces average Americans that the governing and media elites are not cut from the same cloth as they. In fact, it strikes many as evidence that our “leaders” are stricken with a sort of political and cultural insanity, an obtuseness that defies explanation.

The ADL tried to explain it in personal terms to the dim set:

We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel — and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. …

[U]ltimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.

But there is, of course, a larger cultural issue in play here. What passes for the liberal intelligentsia is convinced that we have no right to protect the sensibilities of our citizens (whom the left scorns as brutes and xenophobes), nor to be wary of unidentified funding from groups wishing to send some sort of a message atop the ashes of 3,000 dead Americans. (The ADL politely explained that “we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”) The supposedly sophisticated left prefers to ignore the message that the mosque-builders are sending to their co-religionists.

Imagine if the United Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to build a 15-foot shrine to Jefferson Davis on the Gettysburg battlefield. The backlash would be fast and furious, the arguments about “free speech” and “reconciliation” would be given the back of the hand. The shrine-builders would rightly be seen as trying to conquer the landscape and the history books — a vile sort of one-upmanship, which does a grave injustice to those slaughtered on that spot.

Well, you say, that is just the loony left, which does not grasp the issue. But wait, it’s most of the chattering class and a great many of our elected leaders, who are clueless. They can’t seem to muster up the indignation to prevent the insult to the dead or to acknowledge that the mega mosque will be interpreted by much of the Muslim World as a symbol of cultural aggression and defiance — and a sign of the West’s submission.

Come to think of it, where is the president on this? He’s been mute, too busy excoriating Fox News over the Shirley Sherrod incident and blaming Republicans for scuttling his statist agenda. In “a spirit of bipartisanship and patriotism,” Bill Kristol offers Obama a helping hand and some smart advice:

Americans by a margin of nearly 3-to-1 think the 15-story mosque and community center, planned by a shadowily financed Wahhabi imam to dominate Ground Zero, is offensive. You don’t have to (yet) move to do anything legally to stop it. Just say that in your opinion it’s a bad idea, that it’s unnecessarily divisive and likely to pit American against American, faith against faith, neighbor against neighbor. Urge the sponsors, financiers, and developers of the mosque to rethink their plans, and the various entities of the City of New York their approval.

But what are the chances that the president who excised “Islamic fundamentalism” from the administration’s vocabulary would do that? Because he won’t, he again demonstrates the vast gulf between his own mindset and the values that his fellow citizens hold dear. He reminds us once more that he has absolutely no interest in rallying the country and the Free World in the civilizational war in which we find ourselves. To the contrary, he denies that such a war even exists.

It’s not enough simply to order up more troops or swap generals in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. A commander in chief in our times must champion American civilization and challenge those who seek to undermine and defile it, whether by violence or by symbolic architecture. Too bad we don’t have an Oval Office occupant willing to do his job — all of it.

The controversy over the mosque — all fifteen stories of it– planned for Ground Zero is one of those issues that divide ordinary Americans from elites. It is a debate that convinces average Americans that the governing and media elites are not cut from the same cloth as they. In fact, it strikes many as evidence that our “leaders” are stricken with a sort of political and cultural insanity, an obtuseness that defies explanation.

The ADL tried to explain it in personal terms to the dim set:

We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel — and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. …

[U]ltimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.

But there is, of course, a larger cultural issue in play here. What passes for the liberal intelligentsia is convinced that we have no right to protect the sensibilities of our citizens (whom the left scorns as brutes and xenophobes), nor to be wary of unidentified funding from groups wishing to send some sort of a message atop the ashes of 3,000 dead Americans. (The ADL politely explained that “we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”) The supposedly sophisticated left prefers to ignore the message that the mosque-builders are sending to their co-religionists.

Imagine if the United Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to build a 15-foot shrine to Jefferson Davis on the Gettysburg battlefield. The backlash would be fast and furious, the arguments about “free speech” and “reconciliation” would be given the back of the hand. The shrine-builders would rightly be seen as trying to conquer the landscape and the history books — a vile sort of one-upmanship, which does a grave injustice to those slaughtered on that spot.

Well, you say, that is just the loony left, which does not grasp the issue. But wait, it’s most of the chattering class and a great many of our elected leaders, who are clueless. They can’t seem to muster up the indignation to prevent the insult to the dead or to acknowledge that the mega mosque will be interpreted by much of the Muslim World as a symbol of cultural aggression and defiance — and a sign of the West’s submission.

Come to think of it, where is the president on this? He’s been mute, too busy excoriating Fox News over the Shirley Sherrod incident and blaming Republicans for scuttling his statist agenda. In “a spirit of bipartisanship and patriotism,” Bill Kristol offers Obama a helping hand and some smart advice:

Americans by a margin of nearly 3-to-1 think the 15-story mosque and community center, planned by a shadowily financed Wahhabi imam to dominate Ground Zero, is offensive. You don’t have to (yet) move to do anything legally to stop it. Just say that in your opinion it’s a bad idea, that it’s unnecessarily divisive and likely to pit American against American, faith against faith, neighbor against neighbor. Urge the sponsors, financiers, and developers of the mosque to rethink their plans, and the various entities of the City of New York their approval.

But what are the chances that the president who excised “Islamic fundamentalism” from the administration’s vocabulary would do that? Because he won’t, he again demonstrates the vast gulf between his own mindset and the values that his fellow citizens hold dear. He reminds us once more that he has absolutely no interest in rallying the country and the Free World in the civilizational war in which we find ourselves. To the contrary, he denies that such a war even exists.

It’s not enough simply to order up more troops or swap generals in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. A commander in chief in our times must champion American civilization and challenge those who seek to undermine and defile it, whether by violence or by symbolic architecture. Too bad we don’t have an Oval Office occupant willing to do his job — all of it.

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Building an East Asian NATO

A common complaint heard among American officials and policy analysts is that in East Asia — one of the most important and conflict-prone areas of the planet — there is no security architecture comparable to NATO. The U.S. has ties to many key countries, notably Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and Taiwan. But they do not have strong ties to one another, and there is no joint military planning of the kind that NATO undertakes. That does not seem likely to change in the future, because, although all those nations are suspicious of growing Chinese power, they also do not want to antagonize the 500-pound panda by forming an explicit alliance for its containment. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, formed in 1954, was a colossal failure and is unlikely to be resurrected.

But there are still steps that U.S. officials can take to encourage greater cooperation among our regional partners. In this regard, I was struck a few days ago while visiting Pacific Command headquarters, looked at Camp Smith overlooking Pearl Harbor, by the near-total absence of coalition allies. At Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Base in Tampa, there are substantial liaison offices from more than 50 countries — allies that are working with the U.S. to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali piracy and other issues. Since 9/11, an entire “coalition village” has sprung up around Centcom headquarters. There is nothing comparable at Camp Smith. In fact, when I asked about coalition representation, I was told about a handful of low-ranking liaison officers from Australia and a few other nations.

This would seem to be an obvious opportunity we are not taking advantage of — to encourage discussion and cooperation among disparate Asian nations hosted by our own regional military command. That would not be as good as a formal alliance structure, but it could represent a small, but useful step, in the right direction.

A common complaint heard among American officials and policy analysts is that in East Asia — one of the most important and conflict-prone areas of the planet — there is no security architecture comparable to NATO. The U.S. has ties to many key countries, notably Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and Taiwan. But they do not have strong ties to one another, and there is no joint military planning of the kind that NATO undertakes. That does not seem likely to change in the future, because, although all those nations are suspicious of growing Chinese power, they also do not want to antagonize the 500-pound panda by forming an explicit alliance for its containment. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, formed in 1954, was a colossal failure and is unlikely to be resurrected.

But there are still steps that U.S. officials can take to encourage greater cooperation among our regional partners. In this regard, I was struck a few days ago while visiting Pacific Command headquarters, looked at Camp Smith overlooking Pearl Harbor, by the near-total absence of coalition allies. At Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Base in Tampa, there are substantial liaison offices from more than 50 countries — allies that are working with the U.S. to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali piracy and other issues. Since 9/11, an entire “coalition village” has sprung up around Centcom headquarters. There is nothing comparable at Camp Smith. In fact, when I asked about coalition representation, I was told about a handful of low-ranking liaison officers from Australia and a few other nations.

This would seem to be an obvious opportunity we are not taking advantage of — to encourage discussion and cooperation among disparate Asian nations hosted by our own regional military command. That would not be as good as a formal alliance structure, but it could represent a small, but useful step, in the right direction.

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They Decided?

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan “was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan “was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

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RE: Blame America First

Jonathan Tobin does a fantastic job of dissecting James Bradley’s ludicrous attempt to blame Theodore Roosevelt, of all people, for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I had read Bradley’s New York Times op-ed and thought of responding as well, but held off because, frankly, I was so baffled by the author’s convoluted reasoning. Not the least of Tobin’s services is to lay out Bradley’s argument more clearly than Bradley himself does, before going on to show why the argument holds no water. I have only a few points to add.

If I understand correctly (and I admit to not having read the book in question, The Imperial Cruise), Bradley wants to blame TR for holding racist, imperialist views — for being a staunch supporter of our acquisition of Asian colonies, namely Hawaii and the Philippines. Since those territories were subsequently attacked by Japan, presumably Bradley thinks acquiring them in the first place was a bad idea, that they were somehow an affront to Japan’s desire to exercise hegemony in the Pacific. A more logical conclusion to draw would be that those territories should have been more strongly defended in the 1930s so as to dissuade Japanese aggression.

But then Bradley heads off in a different and somewhat self-contradictory direction in his Times article, blaming Roosevelt for implicitly ceding Korea to Japan’s sphere of influence in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. TR certainly was misguided in thinking that Japan could be a liberal, responsible stakeholder in the international system, as Britain and the U.S. were, but it is hard to know what he could have done differently. Does Bradley think that Roosevelt should have gone to war in 1905 to champion Korean independence? In fact, if Roosevelt had done more to oppose Japanese imperialism, Bradley could simply bash him for his racist lack of sympathy for the Empire of Japan. In Bradley’s worldview, TR must be guilty of either stirring up the Japanese or appeasing them — maybe both. His argument is the height of unfairness.

Actually if he is looking for unfair scapegoats for the events of December 7, 1941 — and his father’s subsequent rendezvous with destiny on Iwo Jima — he would be better advised to skip TR and go straight for Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill? Yup. As I noted in my book War Made New, Japanese naval aviation got its start in 1920, when Britain sent an advisory mission to Japan, “complete with over 100 demonstration aircraft in a bid to boost the British aviation industry.” I went on to write:

British pilots formed the first faculty of the newly established Japanese naval aviation school at Lake Kasumigaura. British naval architects helped Japan complete its first aircraft carrier, the Hosho, in 1922. British aircraft designers helped Mitsubishi design its initial carrier aircraft. Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for both War and Air, was confident Britain and Japan would never go to war—“I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime,” he exclaimed in 1924. So what was the harm?

There you have it: Winston Churchill was responsible for the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Simply to lay out this line of reasoning is to show, of course, how absurd it is — only slightly less absurd than Bradley’s attempts to blame Theodore Roosevelt for events that occurred 22 years after his death. Let’s place blame where it really belongs: in the ruling circles of the Japanese Empire, where the decision to fight America was made. And if we want to find culprits on the American side, look at the “America Firsters” and other isolationists who made it impossible to undertake the kind of American military buildup prior to December 7 that might have deterred Japanese aggression.

Jonathan Tobin does a fantastic job of dissecting James Bradley’s ludicrous attempt to blame Theodore Roosevelt, of all people, for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I had read Bradley’s New York Times op-ed and thought of responding as well, but held off because, frankly, I was so baffled by the author’s convoluted reasoning. Not the least of Tobin’s services is to lay out Bradley’s argument more clearly than Bradley himself does, before going on to show why the argument holds no water. I have only a few points to add.

If I understand correctly (and I admit to not having read the book in question, The Imperial Cruise), Bradley wants to blame TR for holding racist, imperialist views — for being a staunch supporter of our acquisition of Asian colonies, namely Hawaii and the Philippines. Since those territories were subsequently attacked by Japan, presumably Bradley thinks acquiring them in the first place was a bad idea, that they were somehow an affront to Japan’s desire to exercise hegemony in the Pacific. A more logical conclusion to draw would be that those territories should have been more strongly defended in the 1930s so as to dissuade Japanese aggression.

But then Bradley heads off in a different and somewhat self-contradictory direction in his Times article, blaming Roosevelt for implicitly ceding Korea to Japan’s sphere of influence in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. TR certainly was misguided in thinking that Japan could be a liberal, responsible stakeholder in the international system, as Britain and the U.S. were, but it is hard to know what he could have done differently. Does Bradley think that Roosevelt should have gone to war in 1905 to champion Korean independence? In fact, if Roosevelt had done more to oppose Japanese imperialism, Bradley could simply bash him for his racist lack of sympathy for the Empire of Japan. In Bradley’s worldview, TR must be guilty of either stirring up the Japanese or appeasing them — maybe both. His argument is the height of unfairness.

Actually if he is looking for unfair scapegoats for the events of December 7, 1941 — and his father’s subsequent rendezvous with destiny on Iwo Jima — he would be better advised to skip TR and go straight for Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill? Yup. As I noted in my book War Made New, Japanese naval aviation got its start in 1920, when Britain sent an advisory mission to Japan, “complete with over 100 demonstration aircraft in a bid to boost the British aviation industry.” I went on to write:

British pilots formed the first faculty of the newly established Japanese naval aviation school at Lake Kasumigaura. British naval architects helped Japan complete its first aircraft carrier, the Hosho, in 1922. British aircraft designers helped Mitsubishi design its initial carrier aircraft. Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for both War and Air, was confident Britain and Japan would never go to war—“I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime,” he exclaimed in 1924. So what was the harm?

There you have it: Winston Churchill was responsible for the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Simply to lay out this line of reasoning is to show, of course, how absurd it is — only slightly less absurd than Bradley’s attempts to blame Theodore Roosevelt for events that occurred 22 years after his death. Let’s place blame where it really belongs: in the ruling circles of the Japanese Empire, where the decision to fight America was made. And if we want to find culprits on the American side, look at the “America Firsters” and other isolationists who made it impossible to undertake the kind of American military buildup prior to December 7 that might have deterred Japanese aggression.

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Blame America First — World War II Edition

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt memorably described December 7, 1941, as a “date that will live in infamy,” but as the number of veterans and the witnesses of that war dwindle, its importance in the American calendar has declined. Though the solemn ceremonies in Honolulu’s harbor continue, as far as the New York Times is concerned, the subject of the Japanese surprise attack is nowadays only dragged out of mothballs to make a political point that reinforces its current view of the United States. Thus, the only mention of Pearl Harbor in the print edition of the paper came a day early in an op-ed that placed the blame for the naval disaster and America’s forced entry in that war on Roosevelt.

But not, as author James Bradley points out, on Franklin but on his cousin Theodore, whose presidential term ended nearly 33 years before the Japanese navy set out to sink our Pacific fleet. Bradley’s claim to fame is that he is the author of Flags of Our Fathers, a book that chronicled the lives of the five Marines and one sailor (Bradley’s father) who raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi during the taking of the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese in February 1945. Bradley’s main theme was that the famous photograph and the patriotic fervor it generated were, in a fundamental sense, fraudulent. His book was the source of an overpraised and equally cynical film by Clint Eastwood (who followed it with a companion film that treated the Japanese side of the battle without the same sort of cynicism). Bradley followed that up with a subsequent book, Fly Boys, which took on the same mission of viewing the war against Japan with moral relativism, and then another new volume, The Imperial Cruise, which elaborates on his thesis that it was all somehow the fault of TR. The Imperial Cruise earned a favorable review from the Times last month.

This revisionist take on the history of World War II may seem familiar to those who have seen the way some have taken our generation’s Pearl Harbor — the 9/11 attacks — and sought to blame it on American foreign policy or support for Israel rather than on America-hating al-Qaeda terrorists. The sheer wrongheadedness of an argument that seeks to mitigate the guilt of those who actually committed these atrocities and instead blame the victims is insufferable. But while most Americans know enough about the contemporary world to dismiss such garbage out of hand, given the well-documented decline in our knowledge of our own history, Bradley’s assault on the first president Roosevelt deserves at least a brief refutation.

First, contrary to Bradley’s thesis, the Japanese needed no encouragement from TR to set them on an imperialist path. The 1868 Meiji Restoration in Japan launched a long period of military and industrial buildup that aimed to create a modern state that would have the power not only to resist Western pressures but also to make the country a regional power. The roots of Japan’s attempt to extend its empire over the entire Pacific in the 1930s and 1940s can be found in that event and the subsequent development of a political and military culture that saw service to the militarized state as a religious duty for all Japanese.

Bradley also accuses TR of siding with the Japanese in their 1905 war with tsarist Russia and thereby facilitating their imperialist ambitions and their brutal control of Korea. But a full decade earlier, Japan had fought a war with China over that same issue without any assistance or encouragement from Roosevelt. As for the peace treaty that Roosevelt brokered (and that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize), far from it being a case of the president openly siding with Japan, as Bradley alleges, the treaty was criticized by many Japanese because its restrained terms took some of the fruits of their military victory away from them, as most of Manchuria was given back to China. Bradley also omits the fact that it was Britain, not the United States, that was the principal military ally of Japan during this period.

We may well look back on the racist attitudes of Theodore Roosevelt and other Americans toward Asia a century ago with some regret. But the idea that our 26th president was in any way responsible for the creation of a Japanese state that viewed the subjugation of the Eastern Hemisphere as a divinely inspired mission for whom any atrocity or deceit was permissible is utterly devoid of historical truth.

While an earlier generation of historical revisionists blamed Franklin Roosevelt for Pearl Harbor because they thought he welcomed a Japanese attack that would convince Americans to join World War II, today’s revisionists have an even broader agenda. As with interpretations of our current battle with Islamists that seek to blame it all on our own sins, Bradley prefers to spin tales about Teddy Roosevelt rather than to face up to the truth about the Japan that his father fought. It speaks volumes about the state of the New York Times that its editors would choose this crackpot historian’s rant as their only acknowledgement of the anniversary of December 7, 1941.

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt memorably described December 7, 1941, as a “date that will live in infamy,” but as the number of veterans and the witnesses of that war dwindle, its importance in the American calendar has declined. Though the solemn ceremonies in Honolulu’s harbor continue, as far as the New York Times is concerned, the subject of the Japanese surprise attack is nowadays only dragged out of mothballs to make a political point that reinforces its current view of the United States. Thus, the only mention of Pearl Harbor in the print edition of the paper came a day early in an op-ed that placed the blame for the naval disaster and America’s forced entry in that war on Roosevelt.

But not, as author James Bradley points out, on Franklin but on his cousin Theodore, whose presidential term ended nearly 33 years before the Japanese navy set out to sink our Pacific fleet. Bradley’s claim to fame is that he is the author of Flags of Our Fathers, a book that chronicled the lives of the five Marines and one sailor (Bradley’s father) who raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi during the taking of the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese in February 1945. Bradley’s main theme was that the famous photograph and the patriotic fervor it generated were, in a fundamental sense, fraudulent. His book was the source of an overpraised and equally cynical film by Clint Eastwood (who followed it with a companion film that treated the Japanese side of the battle without the same sort of cynicism). Bradley followed that up with a subsequent book, Fly Boys, which took on the same mission of viewing the war against Japan with moral relativism, and then another new volume, The Imperial Cruise, which elaborates on his thesis that it was all somehow the fault of TR. The Imperial Cruise earned a favorable review from the Times last month.

This revisionist take on the history of World War II may seem familiar to those who have seen the way some have taken our generation’s Pearl Harbor — the 9/11 attacks — and sought to blame it on American foreign policy or support for Israel rather than on America-hating al-Qaeda terrorists. The sheer wrongheadedness of an argument that seeks to mitigate the guilt of those who actually committed these atrocities and instead blame the victims is insufferable. But while most Americans know enough about the contemporary world to dismiss such garbage out of hand, given the well-documented decline in our knowledge of our own history, Bradley’s assault on the first president Roosevelt deserves at least a brief refutation.

First, contrary to Bradley’s thesis, the Japanese needed no encouragement from TR to set them on an imperialist path. The 1868 Meiji Restoration in Japan launched a long period of military and industrial buildup that aimed to create a modern state that would have the power not only to resist Western pressures but also to make the country a regional power. The roots of Japan’s attempt to extend its empire over the entire Pacific in the 1930s and 1940s can be found in that event and the subsequent development of a political and military culture that saw service to the militarized state as a religious duty for all Japanese.

Bradley also accuses TR of siding with the Japanese in their 1905 war with tsarist Russia and thereby facilitating their imperialist ambitions and their brutal control of Korea. But a full decade earlier, Japan had fought a war with China over that same issue without any assistance or encouragement from Roosevelt. As for the peace treaty that Roosevelt brokered (and that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize), far from it being a case of the president openly siding with Japan, as Bradley alleges, the treaty was criticized by many Japanese because its restrained terms took some of the fruits of their military victory away from them, as most of Manchuria was given back to China. Bradley also omits the fact that it was Britain, not the United States, that was the principal military ally of Japan during this period.

We may well look back on the racist attitudes of Theodore Roosevelt and other Americans toward Asia a century ago with some regret. But the idea that our 26th president was in any way responsible for the creation of a Japanese state that viewed the subjugation of the Eastern Hemisphere as a divinely inspired mission for whom any atrocity or deceit was permissible is utterly devoid of historical truth.

While an earlier generation of historical revisionists blamed Franklin Roosevelt for Pearl Harbor because they thought he welcomed a Japanese attack that would convince Americans to join World War II, today’s revisionists have an even broader agenda. As with interpretations of our current battle with Islamists that seek to blame it all on our own sins, Bradley prefers to spin tales about Teddy Roosevelt rather than to face up to the truth about the Japan that his father fought. It speaks volumes about the state of the New York Times that its editors would choose this crackpot historian’s rant as their only acknowledgement of the anniversary of December 7, 1941.

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Why?

Robert Samuelson has a must-read Washington Post column on ObamaCare. Pointing out that the country’s fiscal situation is terrible right now, Samuelson writes that

a prudent society would embark on long-term policies to control health costs, reduce government spending, and curb massive future deficits. The administration estimates these at $9 trillion from 2010 to 2019. The president and all his top economic advisers proclaim the same cautionary message.

So, what do they do? Just the opposite.

The question, of course, is why? Why a massive overhaul of the American health-care system that anyone honest knows will cost far more than advertised, instead of concentrating on reviving the economy and lowering the deficit, which are the primary concerns of the people in poll after poll?

Why not make incremental improvements in the health-care system, such as 1) allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, 2) reforming tort law, 3) allowing small companies to band together to buy insurance at lower prices, and 4) requiring health-care providers to post prices for standard procedures? These actions would cost the government not a single red cent (and red they are, as they are all borrowed) and would greatly lower health-care costs at the same time, a political win-win if ever there was one.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Obama, Pelosi & Co. see this as a one-time opportunity to make socialized medicine inevitable. By destroying the current health-care system under the name of reform, they would make single-payer unavoidable. The fact that the majority of the American people, as measured in numerous polls, don’t want single-payer is, apparently, a matter to which they are indifferent. The fact that the fiscal situation can only sharply deteriorate in the process is likewise not something they seem to care about.

The analogy being drawn is with Franklin Roosevelt, who moved a deeply isolationist country toward war with the Axis powers before Pearl Harbor because he believed that it was in the interests of the American people, even though they opposed it at the time. But that is a false analogy. Foreign-policy situations can be irreversible and time-sensitive. Had Roosevelt not done what he did, Germany might easily have ended up supreme in Europe and thus in a position from which it would have directly menaced the United States while being exceedingly difficult to defeat (how do you invade Europe without Britain as a base?).

But if we don’t radically reform health care today, we can still do it two years or five years from now when the economy and the deficit are much improved. People will still be adequately, often splendidly, cared for in the meantime. With the incremental reforms listed above, we might well find out that the system doesn’t need much reform in five years.

That, of course, is exactly why Obama wants it done now. He is bent on sharply shifting power in the direction of the government, away from individuals and the free market, and is willing to defy both the public and fiscal sanity to achieve this goal.

Robert Samuelson has a must-read Washington Post column on ObamaCare. Pointing out that the country’s fiscal situation is terrible right now, Samuelson writes that

a prudent society would embark on long-term policies to control health costs, reduce government spending, and curb massive future deficits. The administration estimates these at $9 trillion from 2010 to 2019. The president and all his top economic advisers proclaim the same cautionary message.

So, what do they do? Just the opposite.

The question, of course, is why? Why a massive overhaul of the American health-care system that anyone honest knows will cost far more than advertised, instead of concentrating on reviving the economy and lowering the deficit, which are the primary concerns of the people in poll after poll?

Why not make incremental improvements in the health-care system, such as 1) allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, 2) reforming tort law, 3) allowing small companies to band together to buy insurance at lower prices, and 4) requiring health-care providers to post prices for standard procedures? These actions would cost the government not a single red cent (and red they are, as they are all borrowed) and would greatly lower health-care costs at the same time, a political win-win if ever there was one.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Obama, Pelosi & Co. see this as a one-time opportunity to make socialized medicine inevitable. By destroying the current health-care system under the name of reform, they would make single-payer unavoidable. The fact that the majority of the American people, as measured in numerous polls, don’t want single-payer is, apparently, a matter to which they are indifferent. The fact that the fiscal situation can only sharply deteriorate in the process is likewise not something they seem to care about.

The analogy being drawn is with Franklin Roosevelt, who moved a deeply isolationist country toward war with the Axis powers before Pearl Harbor because he believed that it was in the interests of the American people, even though they opposed it at the time. But that is a false analogy. Foreign-policy situations can be irreversible and time-sensitive. Had Roosevelt not done what he did, Germany might easily have ended up supreme in Europe and thus in a position from which it would have directly menaced the United States while being exceedingly difficult to defeat (how do you invade Europe without Britain as a base?).

But if we don’t radically reform health care today, we can still do it two years or five years from now when the economy and the deficit are much improved. People will still be adequately, often splendidly, cared for in the meantime. With the incremental reforms listed above, we might well find out that the system doesn’t need much reform in five years.

That, of course, is exactly why Obama wants it done now. He is bent on sharply shifting power in the direction of the government, away from individuals and the free market, and is willing to defy both the public and fiscal sanity to achieve this goal.

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The Secret History of Neoconservatism

The furor over the supposedly perfidious influence of “neocons” in the making of Bush foreign policy seems to have died down a bit. But it will nevertheless remain part of the lasting legend about this administration. Bob Kagan, one of our foremost foreign policy sages, has a must-read article on the subject in the latest issue of Lawrence Kaplan’s new foreign policy quarterly, World Affairs.

Kagan makes many valuable points, but in essence his argument is that there is absolutely nothing new or foreign about the “neocon” vision—combining power with idealism to make the defense of democracy a central tenet of American policy. The more fevered critics of the neocons insist on explaining their world view with reference to Leon Trotsky, Leo Strauss, and other philosophers of marginal influence in modern America. (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally have never read a single book by either Trotsky or Strauss.) They would be better advised, Kagan notes, to look to figures as varied as Alexander Hamilton, William Seward, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dean Acheson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom advocated an expansive vision of America’s role in the world.

The opposing viewpoint—which denounces American “imperialism” and abjures the defense of liberty abroad—has an equally long history.  It lists among its proponents not only modern-day neocon-bashers such as Michael Moore and Pat Buchanan, but also such illustrious predecessors as the “progressive” historians Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams and realpolitik thinkers like Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lippmann.

Nor is this the first time that the more fevered critics of the war effort have wound up charging that the country was “lied” into war by nefarious conspirators. Today it’s neocons. In the past it was banana companies, “merchants of death,” and international bankers. Such assertions have been heard about the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. (In other words, after every conflict that has turned out to be tougher than anticipated.) Even when it came to World War II, some die-hard isolationists accused FDR of somehow forcing Japan to fight us and of deliberately not warning Pearl Harbor in advance of the attack.

Kagan does not deny that folly and miscalculation played a large role in planning the Iraq War. But, as he notes, there is nothing unique about America being overweening or imprudent in the pursuit of its ideals. The only way to avoid such setbacks is to pursue an isolationist or narrowly realpolitik agenda—which would wind up causing us far greater problems in the long run.

The furor over the supposedly perfidious influence of “neocons” in the making of Bush foreign policy seems to have died down a bit. But it will nevertheless remain part of the lasting legend about this administration. Bob Kagan, one of our foremost foreign policy sages, has a must-read article on the subject in the latest issue of Lawrence Kaplan’s new foreign policy quarterly, World Affairs.

Kagan makes many valuable points, but in essence his argument is that there is absolutely nothing new or foreign about the “neocon” vision—combining power with idealism to make the defense of democracy a central tenet of American policy. The more fevered critics of the neocons insist on explaining their world view with reference to Leon Trotsky, Leo Strauss, and other philosophers of marginal influence in modern America. (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally have never read a single book by either Trotsky or Strauss.) They would be better advised, Kagan notes, to look to figures as varied as Alexander Hamilton, William Seward, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dean Acheson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom advocated an expansive vision of America’s role in the world.

The opposing viewpoint—which denounces American “imperialism” and abjures the defense of liberty abroad—has an equally long history.  It lists among its proponents not only modern-day neocon-bashers such as Michael Moore and Pat Buchanan, but also such illustrious predecessors as the “progressive” historians Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams and realpolitik thinkers like Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lippmann.

Nor is this the first time that the more fevered critics of the war effort have wound up charging that the country was “lied” into war by nefarious conspirators. Today it’s neocons. In the past it was banana companies, “merchants of death,” and international bankers. Such assertions have been heard about the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. (In other words, after every conflict that has turned out to be tougher than anticipated.) Even when it came to World War II, some die-hard isolationists accused FDR of somehow forcing Japan to fight us and of deliberately not warning Pearl Harbor in advance of the attack.

Kagan does not deny that folly and miscalculation played a large role in planning the Iraq War. But, as he notes, there is nothing unique about America being overweening or imprudent in the pursuit of its ideals. The only way to avoid such setbacks is to pursue an isolationist or narrowly realpolitik agenda—which would wind up causing us far greater problems in the long run.

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He Is No Prophet

In an effort to help Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., some people are not only defending Wright but portraying him as a “prophet.” The Reverend James Forbes, who recently retired as the longtime pastor of Riverside Church in Manhattan, said, “Some of us wish we had the nerve that Jeremiah had. We praise God that he’s saying it, so the rest of us don’t have to.” When asked if Wright ever crossed a line, Forbes answered this way: “I think if a person is a prophet and he’s not seen as ever crossing a line, then he has not told the truth as it ought to be told.”

The former minister and author Anthony B. Robinson said of Wright’s words:

Sounds like what the Bible calls a prophet. Biblical prophets weren’t crystal-ball gazers. They were … preachers who “regularly exposed the failures of a society in savage rhetoric.” Prophets afflict the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. And they use language and images that pretty much guarantee that they won’t get invited to cocktail parties.

We can add to this list the distinguished religious historian Martin Marty, a former professor, congregant, and friend of Jeremiah Wright. In “Prophet and Pastor,” published last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Marty recounts what he admires in Wright and the work of his church. He admits, though, that we ought not gloss over the “abrasive edges” of Wright. Marty finds some of his comments “distracting and harmful” and the honoring of Minister Louis Farrakhan “abhorrent and indefensible.” Marty also writes this:

Now, for the hard business: the sermons, which have been mercilessly chipped into for wearying television clips. While Wright’s sermons were pastoral – my wife and I have always been awed to hear the Christian Gospel parsed for our personal lives – they were also prophetic. At the university, we used to remark, half lightheartedly, that this Jeremiah was trying to live up to his namesake, the seventh-century B.C. prophet.

Though Jeremiah of old did not “curse” his people of Israel, Wright, as a biblical scholar, could point out that the prophets Hosea and Micah did. But the Book of Jeremiah, written by numbers of authors, is so full of blasts and quasi curses – what biblical scholars call “imprecatory topoi” – that New England preachers invented a sermonic form called “the jeremiad,” a style revived in some Wrightian shouts.

Jeremiah, however, was the prophet of hope, and that note of hope is what attracts the multiclass membership at Trinity and significant television audiences. Both Jeremiahs gave the people work to do: to advance the missions of social justice and mercy that improve the lot of the suffering. For a sample, read Jeremiah 29, where the prophet’s letter to the exiles in Babylon exhorts them to settle down and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” Or listen to many a Jeremiah Wright sermon . . . Those who were part of [Wright’s] ministry for years . . . are not going to turn their backs on their pastor and prophet.

“Prophet.” That’s quite an appellation to bestow on Wright. It’s worth considering, then, precisely what a prophet is. Far more than just a provocative exhorter, a prophet, for those of the Christian and Jewish faiths, is a person who proclaims divine revelation. He is an oracle of Yahweh, one who speaks for the Holy Ruler of History. Prophecy involves a human messenger communicating a divine message. It is a rare and special calling, one that should not be recklessly bandied about.

With that in mind, let’s quickly rehearse some of the comments by the former senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. He refers to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.” The attacks on September 11th is something America had coming; in Wright’s words (borrowed from Malcolm X) “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Rather than bless America, Wright–insisting it is in the Bible–wants God to damn her. The government, he says, lied about having advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor and “lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.” Israel is a “dirty word.” Wright also took to reprinting op-eds by supporters of Hamas in his “Pastor’s Page.” He praised Louis Farrakhan as a man of “honesty and integrity” and favored bestowing a lifetime achievement award on the Nation of Islam leader. And the list goes on from there.

For liberals and those on the Left to lift up Jeremiah Wright–a man whose words can be fairly judged to be anti-Israel and anti-American–and attempt to turn him into a prophet is a grave error. I have spoken out before regarding my concern for what politics can do to people of faith on both the left and the right, and how easy it is to subordinate the latter to the former. I don’t pretend that the above remarks are the sum total of Wright’s decades-long preaching or actions, and Marty’s account is worth reading. But to insist that a man who utters hateful and bitter words against his country is a prophet is (to be charitable) intellectually sloppy. “Afflicting the comfortable” is not enough to qualify one as a prophet. Do we really want to propose the idea that Wright’s vitriolic proclamations proceed from direct divine inspiration, that Wright speaks for God? That would be completely irresponsible.

In an effort to help Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., some people are not only defending Wright but portraying him as a “prophet.” The Reverend James Forbes, who recently retired as the longtime pastor of Riverside Church in Manhattan, said, “Some of us wish we had the nerve that Jeremiah had. We praise God that he’s saying it, so the rest of us don’t have to.” When asked if Wright ever crossed a line, Forbes answered this way: “I think if a person is a prophet and he’s not seen as ever crossing a line, then he has not told the truth as it ought to be told.”

The former minister and author Anthony B. Robinson said of Wright’s words:

Sounds like what the Bible calls a prophet. Biblical prophets weren’t crystal-ball gazers. They were … preachers who “regularly exposed the failures of a society in savage rhetoric.” Prophets afflict the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. And they use language and images that pretty much guarantee that they won’t get invited to cocktail parties.

We can add to this list the distinguished religious historian Martin Marty, a former professor, congregant, and friend of Jeremiah Wright. In “Prophet and Pastor,” published last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Marty recounts what he admires in Wright and the work of his church. He admits, though, that we ought not gloss over the “abrasive edges” of Wright. Marty finds some of his comments “distracting and harmful” and the honoring of Minister Louis Farrakhan “abhorrent and indefensible.” Marty also writes this:

Now, for the hard business: the sermons, which have been mercilessly chipped into for wearying television clips. While Wright’s sermons were pastoral – my wife and I have always been awed to hear the Christian Gospel parsed for our personal lives – they were also prophetic. At the university, we used to remark, half lightheartedly, that this Jeremiah was trying to live up to his namesake, the seventh-century B.C. prophet.

Though Jeremiah of old did not “curse” his people of Israel, Wright, as a biblical scholar, could point out that the prophets Hosea and Micah did. But the Book of Jeremiah, written by numbers of authors, is so full of blasts and quasi curses – what biblical scholars call “imprecatory topoi” – that New England preachers invented a sermonic form called “the jeremiad,” a style revived in some Wrightian shouts.

Jeremiah, however, was the prophet of hope, and that note of hope is what attracts the multiclass membership at Trinity and significant television audiences. Both Jeremiahs gave the people work to do: to advance the missions of social justice and mercy that improve the lot of the suffering. For a sample, read Jeremiah 29, where the prophet’s letter to the exiles in Babylon exhorts them to settle down and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” Or listen to many a Jeremiah Wright sermon . . . Those who were part of [Wright’s] ministry for years . . . are not going to turn their backs on their pastor and prophet.

“Prophet.” That’s quite an appellation to bestow on Wright. It’s worth considering, then, precisely what a prophet is. Far more than just a provocative exhorter, a prophet, for those of the Christian and Jewish faiths, is a person who proclaims divine revelation. He is an oracle of Yahweh, one who speaks for the Holy Ruler of History. Prophecy involves a human messenger communicating a divine message. It is a rare and special calling, one that should not be recklessly bandied about.

With that in mind, let’s quickly rehearse some of the comments by the former senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. He refers to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.” The attacks on September 11th is something America had coming; in Wright’s words (borrowed from Malcolm X) “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Rather than bless America, Wright–insisting it is in the Bible–wants God to damn her. The government, he says, lied about having advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor and “lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.” Israel is a “dirty word.” Wright also took to reprinting op-eds by supporters of Hamas in his “Pastor’s Page.” He praised Louis Farrakhan as a man of “honesty and integrity” and favored bestowing a lifetime achievement award on the Nation of Islam leader. And the list goes on from there.

For liberals and those on the Left to lift up Jeremiah Wright–a man whose words can be fairly judged to be anti-Israel and anti-American–and attempt to turn him into a prophet is a grave error. I have spoken out before regarding my concern for what politics can do to people of faith on both the left and the right, and how easy it is to subordinate the latter to the former. I don’t pretend that the above remarks are the sum total of Wright’s decades-long preaching or actions, and Marty’s account is worth reading. But to insist that a man who utters hateful and bitter words against his country is a prophet is (to be charitable) intellectually sloppy. “Afflicting the comfortable” is not enough to qualify one as a prophet. Do we really want to propose the idea that Wright’s vitriolic proclamations proceed from direct divine inspiration, that Wright speaks for God? That would be completely irresponsible.

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Is President Bush the Real Author of the Iran NIE?

I recently had a chance to sit down over coffee with Donald Rumsfeld, now in private life, to discuss intelligence issues and some other related subjects. In the course of our conversation (as I recalled this morning on the anniversary of December 7, 1941), Rumsfeld brought up the subject of Roberta Wohlstetter’s magisterial book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. He especially pointed me to the book’s introduction by Thomas Schelling, which opens up a short and very brilliant discussion of the nature of surprise, a copy of which Rumsfeld had on hand to give me.  

“Surprise, when it happens to a government,” wrote Schelling,

is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that, like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he’ll be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also those that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes straightforward procrastination, but also decisions protracted by internal disagreement. It includes, in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion — which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

This text, and presumably the attack on Pearl Harbor itself — Rumsfeld was nine years old when it occurred — seems to have had a profound influence on the former Secretary of Defense. When he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearings on the still-innocent date of January 11, 2001, he was asked a simple but highly pertinent question by Senator Pat Roberts: “What’s the one big thing that keeps you up at night?”

“Intelligence,” is what Rumsfeld replied without missing a beat. And the “importance of considerably improving our intelligence capabilities so that we know more about what people think and how they behave.”

Alas, improving our intelligence capabilities is one thing President Bush has conspicuously failed to do. Our country fell victim to a first intelligence failure on his watch on September 11, 2001, in an attack on our homeland that in both casualties and costs was more devastating than the Japanese surprise attack of 1941. Our country was then led into a war in part on the basis of an erroneous intelligence estimate about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Since September 11 we have poured immense resources into improving intelligence and embarked on numerous reforms, including both a 100-day and a 500-day plan to “integrate” the intelligence community’s diverse components. But as we see from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran — shoddily argued on its face, with the facts it puts forward directly contradicting its own starkly stated finding that the Iranian nuclear-weapons program came to a halt in 2003 — the fundamental problem of our intelligence community remains intractably in place. Some very low-quality people, who have few inhibitions about smuggling their politics into intelligence findings, continue to occupy positions of high responsibility in the bureaucracy.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? We can blame some of this on Bush’s first CIA director, George Tenet. And we can also point a finger at Tenet’s successor, the far less canny but equally hapless Porter Goss, who was forced out of the job within half a year. And we can question many of the decisions taken by John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, the two directors, successively, of the new post of Director of National Intelligence.

But who appointed all these people? Who kept the Clinton holdover George Tenet in office after September 11 and then, even after the Iraq-WMD “slam-dunk” fiasco, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor? Who appointed Porter Goss to run the CIA and failed to back him up when he tried to clean house? Who acquiesced in the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is emerging as a clumsy and duplicative bureaucratic behemoth, far more focused on drawing and redrawing the organizational charts of the intelligence community than on getting the intelligence itself straight, as the latest NIE demonstrates?

Looking back over the past seven years, I believe it is increasingly apparent that President Bush’s failure to reform the intelligence community — to manage even to gain control of it — is emerging as the largest blot on his presidency. Accused of politicizing the intelligence community, the President has manifestly failed to depoliticize it, with ramifications now spreading across the globe, including the prospect of Iran’s obtaining nuclear weapons while the U.S. turns a blind eye. 

“Neglect of responsibility,” wrote Schelling, is one of the factors that lead governments to be taken by surprise. Such neglect already cost us dearly on September 11, 2001. We are now fully into the age of weapons of mass destruction, and it may cost us far more the next time around.

I recently had a chance to sit down over coffee with Donald Rumsfeld, now in private life, to discuss intelligence issues and some other related subjects. In the course of our conversation (as I recalled this morning on the anniversary of December 7, 1941), Rumsfeld brought up the subject of Roberta Wohlstetter’s magisterial book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. He especially pointed me to the book’s introduction by Thomas Schelling, which opens up a short and very brilliant discussion of the nature of surprise, a copy of which Rumsfeld had on hand to give me.  

“Surprise, when it happens to a government,” wrote Schelling,

is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that, like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he’ll be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also those that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes straightforward procrastination, but also decisions protracted by internal disagreement. It includes, in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion — which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

This text, and presumably the attack on Pearl Harbor itself — Rumsfeld was nine years old when it occurred — seems to have had a profound influence on the former Secretary of Defense. When he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearings on the still-innocent date of January 11, 2001, he was asked a simple but highly pertinent question by Senator Pat Roberts: “What’s the one big thing that keeps you up at night?”

“Intelligence,” is what Rumsfeld replied without missing a beat. And the “importance of considerably improving our intelligence capabilities so that we know more about what people think and how they behave.”

Alas, improving our intelligence capabilities is one thing President Bush has conspicuously failed to do. Our country fell victim to a first intelligence failure on his watch on September 11, 2001, in an attack on our homeland that in both casualties and costs was more devastating than the Japanese surprise attack of 1941. Our country was then led into a war in part on the basis of an erroneous intelligence estimate about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Since September 11 we have poured immense resources into improving intelligence and embarked on numerous reforms, including both a 100-day and a 500-day plan to “integrate” the intelligence community’s diverse components. But as we see from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran — shoddily argued on its face, with the facts it puts forward directly contradicting its own starkly stated finding that the Iranian nuclear-weapons program came to a halt in 2003 — the fundamental problem of our intelligence community remains intractably in place. Some very low-quality people, who have few inhibitions about smuggling their politics into intelligence findings, continue to occupy positions of high responsibility in the bureaucracy.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? We can blame some of this on Bush’s first CIA director, George Tenet. And we can also point a finger at Tenet’s successor, the far less canny but equally hapless Porter Goss, who was forced out of the job within half a year. And we can question many of the decisions taken by John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, the two directors, successively, of the new post of Director of National Intelligence.

But who appointed all these people? Who kept the Clinton holdover George Tenet in office after September 11 and then, even after the Iraq-WMD “slam-dunk” fiasco, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor? Who appointed Porter Goss to run the CIA and failed to back him up when he tried to clean house? Who acquiesced in the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is emerging as a clumsy and duplicative bureaucratic behemoth, far more focused on drawing and redrawing the organizational charts of the intelligence community than on getting the intelligence itself straight, as the latest NIE demonstrates?

Looking back over the past seven years, I believe it is increasingly apparent that President Bush’s failure to reform the intelligence community — to manage even to gain control of it — is emerging as the largest blot on his presidency. Accused of politicizing the intelligence community, the President has manifestly failed to depoliticize it, with ramifications now spreading across the globe, including the prospect of Iran’s obtaining nuclear weapons while the U.S. turns a blind eye. 

“Neglect of responsibility,” wrote Schelling, is one of the factors that lead governments to be taken by surprise. Such neglect already cost us dearly on September 11, 2001. We are now fully into the age of weapons of mass destruction, and it may cost us far more the next time around.

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Behind the Barn at the CIA

Whom should the CIA hire? With the United States engaged in a war in which intelligence is the critical front, finding the best and brightest and putting them in charge of counterterrorism and related black arts is an essential task.

The good news is that the CIA is being flooded with applicants at the staggering rate of 10,000 a month. The bad news is that the process of sifting and screening these aspiring spies remains distorted.

One problem is an affirmative-action program that seeks to replicate the ethnic balance in the United States rather than focus singlemindedly on hiring men and women steeped in knowledge of our adversaries. Another is a security-screening program that remains ferociously suspicious of applicants with foreign roots. A third is an organizational culture that in some measure remains, despite radical changes introduced after September 11, risk averse.

How can we do better? One place to begin is by looking at what has worked, and/or failed to work, in the past.

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Whom should the CIA hire? With the United States engaged in a war in which intelligence is the critical front, finding the best and brightest and putting them in charge of counterterrorism and related black arts is an essential task.

The good news is that the CIA is being flooded with applicants at the staggering rate of 10,000 a month. The bad news is that the process of sifting and screening these aspiring spies remains distorted.

One problem is an affirmative-action program that seeks to replicate the ethnic balance in the United States rather than focus singlemindedly on hiring men and women steeped in knowledge of our adversaries. Another is a security-screening program that remains ferociously suspicious of applicants with foreign roots. A third is an organizational culture that in some measure remains, despite radical changes introduced after September 11, risk averse.

How can we do better? One place to begin is by looking at what has worked, and/or failed to work, in the past.

Five months before Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt established an office called the Coordinator of Information, a precursor to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). When Japanese bombs fell on American territory on December 7, 1941, the U.S. had a fledgling intelligence service to ramp up.

One of the more fascinating documents in the history of American intelligence has been published under the bland title of How Assessment Centers Were Started in the United States: The OSS Assessment Program. Written by Donald W. MacKinnon, the man in charge of screening personnel at the time, it tells the story of our first efforts to screen candidates for an espionage agency in the midst of wartime.

At the very beginning, some disastrous mistakes were made. It seemed logical to some that “it takes dirty men to do dirty works.” A number of initial recruits were thus drawn from the ranks of organized crime, including Murder Inc., and the Philadelphia Purple Gang. But several clandestine operations in operations employing such underworld types ended in catastrophe. By 1943, a professional screening program at a secret installation known as Station S was put in place.

Applicants to the OSS were soon being subjected to an extended set of tests. These were not designed to measure specific skills but to assess “the man as a whole” across eight dimensions: motivation, practical intelligence, emotional stability, social relations, leadership, physical ability, observation and reporting, propaganda skills, and maintaining cover.

Many of the tests were exceptionally grueling, including especially the one designed to measure one component of emotional stability, “resistance to stress and frustration tolerance,” and which came to be known as Behind the Barn.

Candidates were required to direct two helpers in the task of building a five-foot cube structure with seven-foot diagonals on its four sides, using an immense “tinker-toy” set of materials:

The candidate had 10 minutes in which to accomplish the task. All the physical work was to be done by the helpers, junior staff members who played the role of Kippy (passive, sluggish, and something of a stumblebum) and Buster (aggressive, critical, constantly making impractical suggestions). Both were insulting, faultfinding characters.

In the history of the assessment center, the construction task was never completed in the allotted time, but that was not the point. Rather, the point was to evaluate how the applicants behaved:

Some candidates gained insight into the problem, but more often they became so involved and so frustrated that they had difficulty in handling their frustration and controlling their anger. A few physically attacked their helpers, and some asked to be relieved from the program after this exercise.

Did the men who made it through this and the many other rigorous challenges at Station S make for good spies? The answer to that questions is by no means uncomplicated, as Mackinnon shows. All told, it remains doubtful that the initial OSS approach is the right one for the challenges before us today.

But there is no question that in the years running up to September 11, too many mediocrities and dangerous misfits came to occupy pivotal positions in the CIA. Preventing a recurrence of such organizational decay is a critical task.

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Loss of Will

In his most recent column George Will writes:

Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America’s military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.

This is in keeping with what Will has written in recent years. He may be the most visible conservative critic of President Bush’s Freedom agenda—that is, the effort to bring liberty to the Iraq and the Arab world. For example, in his May 4, 2004 column, Will wrote:

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how “all people yearn to live in freedom” (McClellan). And about how it is “cultural condescension” to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a “myth” that “our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture” because “ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit” (Tony Blair).

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In his most recent column George Will writes:

Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America’s military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.

This is in keeping with what Will has written in recent years. He may be the most visible conservative critic of President Bush’s Freedom agenda—that is, the effort to bring liberty to the Iraq and the Arab world. For example, in his May 4, 2004 column, Will wrote:

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how “all people yearn to live in freedom” (McClellan). And about how it is “cultural condescension” to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a “myth” that “our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture” because “ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit” (Tony Blair).

It was not always thus. In an October 8, 2002 interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, Will said:

I think the answer is that we believe, with reason, that democracy’s infectious. We’ve seen it. We saw it happen in Eastern Europe. It’s just—people reached a critical mass of mendacity under those regimes of the East block, and it exploded. And I do believe that you will see [in the Middle East] a ripple effect, a happy domino effect, if you will, of democracy knocking over these medieval tyrannies . . . Condoleezza Rice is quite right. She says there is an enormous condescension in saying that somehow the Arab world is just not up to democracy. And there’s an enormous ahistorical error when people say, “Well, we can’t go into war with Iraq until we know what postwar Iraq’s going to look like.” In 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor, did we have a clear idea what we were going to do with postwar Germany? With postwar Japan? Of course not. We made it up as we went along, and we did a very good job . . .

And more. Mr. Will spoke in favor of bringing “instability” to the Middle East and even to Egypt (“What is so wonderful about the stability of Egypt?”). His argument, which he made impressively, was that it is in America’s interest to bring about modernity to the Arab world—a prospect about which he was sanguine.

When asked, “Do you think [Iraq] will be a quick and easy conflict, if it comes to that,” Mr. Will answered, “Fairly quick, yes.” And Will said this about Afghanistan and nation-building:

[Afghanistan is], to put it mildly, a work in progress. The president, I think, admits this. This was part of his education as president, to say that his hostility to nation-building was radically revised when he saw what a failed nation, Afghanistan, a vacuum, gets filled with. Political nature abhors a vacuum, and when it fills up with the Taliban and the leakage of violence to these private groups, essentially, like al Qaeda, then you have to say, “Well, I’ve revised that. We’re going to have to get into the nation-building business.”

Will also distinguished between Afghanistan and Iraq when it comes to nation-building:

It’s different in Iraq because Iraq is a big, rich country with a middle class, with universities…

He added:

But you know, regime change didn’t just arise as a subject recently. We did it in Grenada, Panama, Serbia. Would the world be better off if Milosevic were back in Serbia? Noriega in Panama? I don’t think so.

Prior to the war to liberate Iraq, then, George Will thought Iraq and the Arab world were quite ready for democracy. He was a strong advocate for regime change and nation building. And he thought Iraq would be an easier undertaking than Afghanistan.
It’s fine—it can even be admirable—for an individual to change his mind in the face of new facts and circumstances. But some appreciation for one’s previous views should also be taken into account.

George Will ranks among the finest columnists ever to pick up a pen (quill or otherwise). Over the years his arguments and words have shaped a generation of conservatives, including me. And I wish the best thing I have ever written were half as good as the worst thing George Will has ever written. But it’s fair to ask that he not write as if he always knew better, as if any conservative worth his Burkean salt should have known that the effort to spread democracy to Iraq was Wilsonian foolishness that was fated to fail.

It wasn’t (and isn’t)—and once upon a time George Will thought so, too.

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Asians in Classical Music

Anyone who has been to a classical concert recently, especially at a conservatory, will note the ever-increasing number of Asian musicians, what some call an “Asian Invasion.” In 2006, of the nine new musicians hired by the New York Philharmonic, six were Asian. At the noted Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, fully three-quarters of the piano students are from Asia. A new study from Temple University Press, Musicians from a Different Shore, by Mari Yoshihara, analyzes the phenomenon.

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim recalls, during an interview transcribed in the book, that when he studied at Juilliard in the 1970’s, “Eastern European and Jewish students were diminishing and Asians were just coming up.” Kim adds: “Right now at Juilliard, it’s like all Asian.” Yoshihara asserts that in fact only 30 percent of Juilliard students today are Asian, yet the impression remains. Many Asian families seem willing to make any sacrifice in order to advance their offspring’s studies. At ten, Kim made bi-weekly flights to Juilliard from his family’s home in South Carolina, so he could study with legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. Classical music enjoys great prestige among educated families in China, Japan, and Korea, akin to that routinely felt a century ago in bourgeois households in Middle and Eastern Europe.

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Anyone who has been to a classical concert recently, especially at a conservatory, will note the ever-increasing number of Asian musicians, what some call an “Asian Invasion.” In 2006, of the nine new musicians hired by the New York Philharmonic, six were Asian. At the noted Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, fully three-quarters of the piano students are from Asia. A new study from Temple University Press, Musicians from a Different Shore, by Mari Yoshihara, analyzes the phenomenon.

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim recalls, during an interview transcribed in the book, that when he studied at Juilliard in the 1970’s, “Eastern European and Jewish students were diminishing and Asians were just coming up.” Kim adds: “Right now at Juilliard, it’s like all Asian.” Yoshihara asserts that in fact only 30 percent of Juilliard students today are Asian, yet the impression remains. Many Asian families seem willing to make any sacrifice in order to advance their offspring’s studies. At ten, Kim made bi-weekly flights to Juilliard from his family’s home in South Carolina, so he could study with legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. Classical music enjoys great prestige among educated families in China, Japan, and Korea, akin to that routinely felt a century ago in bourgeois households in Middle and Eastern Europe.

Another interviewee, the eminent Taiwanese-born violinist Cho-Liang Lin (profiled on contentions earlier this year) points out that nowadays Asian music students all want to be solo stars instead of ensemble musicians; most do not “want to play the trumpet, they hardly play the clarinet, but they have to play a solo instrument, piano or violin, or maybe sometimes cello, but bassoon, out of the question, you know.”

Despite the indisputable number of talented Asian performers, Yoshihara points out that Asians remain severely underrepresented on a management level, on boards of trustees, and in other power positions in the classical music world. On the boards of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Asians are as rare as hen’s teeth. And even when it comes to musicians, misunderstandings still remain. Joel Tse, principal flutist of the Toledo Symphony, recounts that when he plays school concerts in Ohio, students ask him, “Are you related to Jackie Chan?” When the violinist Muneko Otani, who teaches at Columbia University, tours in Oklahoma, people ask her about Pearl Harbor, as if her Japanese ancestry sufficed to make her a ranking expert on the faraway subject. The viola player Junah Chung relates that when his blonde wife, also a musician, auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, she was told by another string player: “Oh thank God, a blonde violinist! This orchestra is starting to look like the Shanghai Symphony.” Even setting aside blatant racism, it is clear that Asian musicians still have some ways to go before they are integrated fully into America’s classical music scene.

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We’re All Neocons Now

Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

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Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

That’s a distinction without a difference. How many self-proclaimed isolationists exist who proudly proclaim that their goal is a policy that “completely cuts America off from the world”? In fact, throughout our history, those who have advocated a de facto policy of isolationism have always claimed that they were in favor of a “rigorous and limited definition of America’s interests.” After the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, even the America Firsters were ready to embrace war; unfortunately, they weren’t willing, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, to take the kinds of actions that might have staved off a world war.

Ron Paul, a self-proclaimed “libertarian,” fits squarely into this isolationist tradition. As noted by Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times Magazine:

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

Is this a foreign policy philosophy likely to gain much adherence in the Republican Party? Not on the evidence so far. True, Paul has been doing a bit better than expected in the presidential race, but that’s not saying much. He still barely registers in the polls. And all of the mainstream Republican (as well as Democratic) candidates firmly reject his brand of isolationism. Even many libertarians dissent from Paul’s crabbed view of America’s role abroad: see, for instance, this Wall Street Journal article.

One of the most interesting things about this year’s Republican field is that there is not a single major candidate who is running on a foreign policy platform markedly at odds with President Bush’s. Chuck Hagel could have run as an antiwar candidate, but so far he’s stayed out of the race, presumably because he knows he has no chance of winning. The debate among Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, and McCain hasn’t been over whether Bush’s foreign policy objectives are sound; it has been over who would do a better job of carrying out those policies. Even the Democratic candidates offer a foreign policy vision that differs more in rhetoric and details than in substance from Bush’s stated goals of spreading democracy, defeating terrorists, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, even as the Democrats profess a desire to pull out of Iraq, they are talking up other military interventions from Darfur to Pakistan. It’s enough to make you think we’re all neocons now.

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George Tenet: CIA or CYA?

Former CIA director George Tenet’s score-settling memoir, At the Center of the Storm, is rocking Washington, with officials in the Bush administration dashing for shelter from his charge that they ignored or distorted CIA intelligence findings as they hurtled toward war. Tenet’s signature line, a paraphrase of something clever said once by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is: “Policymakers are entitled to their own opinions—but not to their own set of facts.”

True enough, but in evaluating the CIA’s intelligence in the run-up to the second Gulf war, could policymakers really trust the facts provided by the CIA, or would they have been justified in being quite skeptical of anything and everything the agency said?

The latter is far more likely, for despite the billions spent on intelligence (the exact sum is classified, but it is known that the U.S. paid out $26.7 billion in 1998), the track record of the CIA in this period, and on this critical subject, was not exactly stellar.

One event that loomed large in the mind of decision-makers at the time was a plot that came out of the blue skies on September 11, 2001. This was an event whose possibility the spy agency had caught glimpses of but mostly missed, and whose actuality it proved unable to stop—the most consequential intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.

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Former CIA director George Tenet’s score-settling memoir, At the Center of the Storm, is rocking Washington, with officials in the Bush administration dashing for shelter from his charge that they ignored or distorted CIA intelligence findings as they hurtled toward war. Tenet’s signature line, a paraphrase of something clever said once by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is: “Policymakers are entitled to their own opinions—but not to their own set of facts.”

True enough, but in evaluating the CIA’s intelligence in the run-up to the second Gulf war, could policymakers really trust the facts provided by the CIA, or would they have been justified in being quite skeptical of anything and everything the agency said?

The latter is far more likely, for despite the billions spent on intelligence (the exact sum is classified, but it is known that the U.S. paid out $26.7 billion in 1998), the track record of the CIA in this period, and on this critical subject, was not exactly stellar.

One event that loomed large in the mind of decision-makers at the time was a plot that came out of the blue skies on September 11, 2001. This was an event whose possibility the spy agency had caught glimpses of but mostly missed, and whose actuality it proved unable to stop—the most consequential intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.

And the CIA had been horribly wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the first Gulf war, when, despite blithe agency assurances, Saddam turned out to be far closer to putting the final screw in a nuclear bomb than any of its assessments had previously entertained.

Tenet faults the Bush administration for going beyond facts established by the CIA as, ten years later, it was gearing up for a campaign against Saddam. But even at that moment, the CIA had botched the facts. As Tenet himself concedes, the agency’s appraisal of Iraq’s WMD programs in its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate—the critical one on which the war was premised—was flawed.

Tenet implicitly wants to have it both ways: the Bush administration was reckless when it ignored “facts” put forward by the CIA, and it was equally reckless when it acted on those same supposed facts. Perhaps I am missing something, but this score-settling memoir appears to be more of a CYA operation than anything else.

George W. Bush has clearly made his share of serious mistakes, but one of the biggest ones, to my mind, was awarding America’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to George Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration, who presided over a series of critical intelligence failures and let the country down.

Why Bush bestowed this award is something about which one can only conjecture. Was it because Tenet had named the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after Bush’s father, or was it a way—a successful way—to hedge in advance against criticism from Tenet? While Tenet skewers vice-president Cheney and cabinet-level figures one after the other in the book, he largely leaves the President alone.

A caveat: I have not yet read At the Center of the Storm in its entirety; I intend to review it in COMMENTARY; and I am reserving the right to change my mind.

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Brzezinski’s Paranoia

Writing in the Sunday, March 25 Outlook section of the Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski claims that “The ‘war on terror’ has created a culture of fear in America.” Moreover, he says, “the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors [to] stimulate . . . the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions, and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.” The “fear-mongering” of President Bush has been reinforced, says Brzezinski, “by security entrepreneurs, the mass media, and the entertainment industry.” As a result, the American people have been subjected to “five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror.”

This, Brzezinski continues, has “stimulate[d] Islamophobia.” In particular, the “Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in [American] newspaper cartoons,” remind Brzezinski of the “Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns.” The people who do such things are “apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.”

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Writing in the Sunday, March 25 Outlook section of the Washington Post, Zbigniew Brzezinski claims that “The ‘war on terror’ has created a culture of fear in America.” Moreover, he says, “the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors [to] stimulate . . . the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions, and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.” The “fear-mongering” of President Bush has been reinforced, says Brzezinski, “by security entrepreneurs, the mass media, and the entertainment industry.” As a result, the American people have been subjected to “five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror.”

This, Brzezinski continues, has “stimulate[d] Islamophobia.” In particular, the “Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in [American] newspaper cartoons,” remind Brzezinski of the “Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns.” The people who do such things are “apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.”

Brzezinski’s goal, he says, is an end to “this hysteria . . . this paranoia.”

How to react to this? Would that one could say simply that it is sad to see a former high official go off the rails, and leave it at that. But the very fact that the Post chose to give the man such prime space shows that he will be taken seriously, although he no longer deserves to be. So here are a few comments.

It is rather rich to decry hysteria and paranoia in the same breath that one likens the slights to Arabs in the American news media to the depiction of Jews by the Nazis, and to imply that these slights may be the prelude to another Holocaust.

It is also rich to hear Brzezinski sneer at “security entrepreneurs.” How, exactly, would Brzezinski describe his own career? The Encyclopedia of World Biography’s entry on him reminds us that “Brzezinski was openly eager to be appointed assistant to the President for nation security affairs and delighted when President-elect Carter offered him the position in December 1976.”

It is amusing to be lectured that “America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor” by the national security adviser of the President who delivered the infamous “malaise” speech, telling Americans that our problems arose from “a crisis of the American spirit” and a “los[s of] confidence in the future.” Aside from being rich, Brzezinski’s claim is false. Fear of the enemy is not the opposite of determination and confidence in ultimate victory. There was much fear of the enemy in 1941, including some that was quite hysterical. The main difference in regard to self-confidence between World War II and the war on terror is that after Pearl Harbor, one no longer heard voices like Brzezinski’s claiming that the real enemy was ourselves.

In a further sneer, Brzezinski writes: “President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging [the war on terror] lest al Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.” Quite a fool, that Bush. Terror here in the United States? Absurd, indeed! How could al Qaeda cross the Atlantic? In airplanes? Ha, ha.

Between sneers, Brzezinski waxes professorial. “Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique,” he explains. Quite so. The enemy might more precisely be described as jihadism, a political ideology that claims that the Christian and Jewish worlds are at war with Islam and that the Islamic world must make war on them. This ideology traces its roots to the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920’s. But it only took wing after a jihadist government seized power in Iran in 1979, much as Communism only emerged as a major force after a Communist government was established in Russia. And where was Brzezinski when this enemy was taking shape? At the very pinnacle of the American government, flapping about pathetically, pursuing policies that enabled this strategic disaster to happen. His qualification for instructing us about how to deal with jihadism is therefore clear: there are few Americans who did us much as he to create the problem.

* Editor’s Note: You can read Gabriel Schoenfeld’s response to one of Muravchik’s critics here.

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Why Not an Extra 210,000?

On December 7, 1941, Japan largely destroyed the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,400 Americans. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the country. December 7, he said, was “a date which will live in infamy.” Then he continued:

“Unfortunately, there is little we can do about it. A war with Japan will necessarily mean fighting her allies, notably Germany, as well. This would require an American military force on the order of 12 million men and women. Today our military numbers fewer than 2 million. I cannot see where the extra 10 million will come from. Therefore, I will attempt to negotiate to see if we can reach a peaceful settlement. If not, I will surrender.”

As you know, this is not what FDR said. His actual words were: “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

But my imaginary reconstruction of FDR’s speech comes to mind when I hear the complaint that we simply do not have enough soldiers to win the war in Iraq. In his State of the Union address, President Bush once again described eloquently and accurately what is at stake in Iraq. Allowing ourselves to lose will be like administering a course of steroids to jihadists everywhere. It will not only create yet more chaos in Iraq and in the Middle East, but will inspire new attacks on America itself.

Will an extra 21,000 troops forestall that outcome? Who knows. But given the stakes, why are we not sending an extra 210,000? That would bring our forces almost to the numbers that General Eric Shinseki said we needed in the first place. The population of the U.S. is more than double what it was in 1941. If we found an extra 10 million troops then, why can’t we find an extra 210,000 now?

True, we had a draft then, something that no one, and especially no politician, wants now. But the number I am proposing for Iraq is, proportional to our current population, less than 1 percent of the added forces we raised between 1941 and 1945.

Bush’s surge proposal is far preferable to the Democrats’ proposed policy of withdrawal. But, as Victor Davis Hanson and Max Boot have argued in their exchange on this blog, it has only a chance of success. That is not good enough.

I wouldn’t try to match military knowledge with either of these two experts, and Victor may well be right that smart tactics “transcend” numbers. But I’m inclined to side with Max: we’ve already tried winning this war by going “light,” and it hasn’t worked. It simply cannot be the case that pacifying Iraq is beyond our capacity. The question is whether we have the will to do it.

On December 7, 1941, Japan largely destroyed the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,400 Americans. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the country. December 7, he said, was “a date which will live in infamy.” Then he continued:

“Unfortunately, there is little we can do about it. A war with Japan will necessarily mean fighting her allies, notably Germany, as well. This would require an American military force on the order of 12 million men and women. Today our military numbers fewer than 2 million. I cannot see where the extra 10 million will come from. Therefore, I will attempt to negotiate to see if we can reach a peaceful settlement. If not, I will surrender.”

As you know, this is not what FDR said. His actual words were: “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

But my imaginary reconstruction of FDR’s speech comes to mind when I hear the complaint that we simply do not have enough soldiers to win the war in Iraq. In his State of the Union address, President Bush once again described eloquently and accurately what is at stake in Iraq. Allowing ourselves to lose will be like administering a course of steroids to jihadists everywhere. It will not only create yet more chaos in Iraq and in the Middle East, but will inspire new attacks on America itself.

Will an extra 21,000 troops forestall that outcome? Who knows. But given the stakes, why are we not sending an extra 210,000? That would bring our forces almost to the numbers that General Eric Shinseki said we needed in the first place. The population of the U.S. is more than double what it was in 1941. If we found an extra 10 million troops then, why can’t we find an extra 210,000 now?

True, we had a draft then, something that no one, and especially no politician, wants now. But the number I am proposing for Iraq is, proportional to our current population, less than 1 percent of the added forces we raised between 1941 and 1945.

Bush’s surge proposal is far preferable to the Democrats’ proposed policy of withdrawal. But, as Victor Davis Hanson and Max Boot have argued in their exchange on this blog, it has only a chance of success. That is not good enough.

I wouldn’t try to match military knowledge with either of these two experts, and Victor may well be right that smart tactics “transcend” numbers. But I’m inclined to side with Max: we’ve already tried winning this war by going “light,” and it hasn’t worked. It simply cannot be the case that pacifying Iraq is beyond our capacity. The question is whether we have the will to do it.

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