Commentary Magazine


Topic: Prague

Group Outlines the Conservative Case Against New Start

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

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Obama’s Bogus Summits

Yesterday’s kick-off of the “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington DC, intended, according to Jake Tapper, “to help deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world” is the fourth hollow and stage-managed “summit” organized by Barack Obama.

First there was the Beer Summit, during which we watched the president, the professor, and the policeman pretend to resolve what the president and the professor pretended was a problem. Next up, the Health-Care Summit, during which we watched the president and his Democratic friends pretend to listen to hours of suggested solutions to a real problem. This was followed by the Nuclear Security Summit, during which participants pretended that the real problem of nuclear security could be tackled without even mentioning the problem’s main source, Iran.

These make-believe endeavors have all the effective heft of Model-UN confabs.

Yet for Barack Obama, there is no issue – be it as insignificant as a localized grievance or as towering as nuclear war – that cannot be addressed with a pantomime summit. This is perfectly in keeping with a presidency characterized by imitation health-care reform, counterfeit “post-racialism,” and so on. It’s as if Obama is, in fact, invested with the power of his faux-presidential campaign seal and not the real thing.

Instead of creating intelligent policy, Obama seeks to solve problems by giving speeches and then holding events in celebration of his words. This is from his Nuclear Security Summit:

In short, it is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security — to our collective security. And that’s why, one year ago today in — one year ago in Prague, I called for a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years. This is one part of a broader, comprehensive agenda that the United States is pursuing — including reducing our nuclear arsenal and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons — an agenda that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, the self-citer in chief was at it again:

“We know that over the years, despite all we have in common, the United States and Muslim communities around the world too often fell victim to mutual mistrust,” Obama said from the Ronald Reagan building this evening, “That is why I went to Cairo nearly one year ago and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities—a new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I knew that this vision would not be fulfilled in a single year, or even several.  But I knew we had to begin and that all of us have responsibilities to fulfill.”

I guess we can expect a summit to hit one year after every big speech.

If you’re looking for signs that any of this is actually serious work, consider the praise the president offered yesterday for the Kuwaiti entrepreneur, Dr. Naif al-Mutawa:

His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.  After my speech in Cairo, he had a similar idea.  In his comic books, Superman and Batman reached out to their Muslim counterparts.  And I hear they’re making progress, too.

Funny he should bring up comics and such. Here’s my proposal for an entrepreneurial powwow to get this summit started on a potent real-world note. Let’s bring some creative Muslims to the offices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and let them sit in on a “South Park” brainstorming session.

Yesterday’s kick-off of the “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington DC, intended, according to Jake Tapper, “to help deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world” is the fourth hollow and stage-managed “summit” organized by Barack Obama.

First there was the Beer Summit, during which we watched the president, the professor, and the policeman pretend to resolve what the president and the professor pretended was a problem. Next up, the Health-Care Summit, during which we watched the president and his Democratic friends pretend to listen to hours of suggested solutions to a real problem. This was followed by the Nuclear Security Summit, during which participants pretended that the real problem of nuclear security could be tackled without even mentioning the problem’s main source, Iran.

These make-believe endeavors have all the effective heft of Model-UN confabs.

Yet for Barack Obama, there is no issue – be it as insignificant as a localized grievance or as towering as nuclear war – that cannot be addressed with a pantomime summit. This is perfectly in keeping with a presidency characterized by imitation health-care reform, counterfeit “post-racialism,” and so on. It’s as if Obama is, in fact, invested with the power of his faux-presidential campaign seal and not the real thing.

Instead of creating intelligent policy, Obama seeks to solve problems by giving speeches and then holding events in celebration of his words. This is from his Nuclear Security Summit:

In short, it is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security — to our collective security. And that’s why, one year ago today in — one year ago in Prague, I called for a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years. This is one part of a broader, comprehensive agenda that the United States is pursuing — including reducing our nuclear arsenal and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons — an agenda that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, the self-citer in chief was at it again:

“We know that over the years, despite all we have in common, the United States and Muslim communities around the world too often fell victim to mutual mistrust,” Obama said from the Ronald Reagan building this evening, “That is why I went to Cairo nearly one year ago and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities—a new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I knew that this vision would not be fulfilled in a single year, or even several.  But I knew we had to begin and that all of us have responsibilities to fulfill.”

I guess we can expect a summit to hit one year after every big speech.

If you’re looking for signs that any of this is actually serious work, consider the praise the president offered yesterday for the Kuwaiti entrepreneur, Dr. Naif al-Mutawa:

His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.  After my speech in Cairo, he had a similar idea.  In his comic books, Superman and Batman reached out to their Muslim counterparts.  And I hear they’re making progress, too.

Funny he should bring up comics and such. Here’s my proposal for an entrepreneurial powwow to get this summit started on a potent real-world note. Let’s bring some creative Muslims to the offices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and let them sit in on a “South Park” brainstorming session.

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Dreams of Disarmament

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

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A Dose of Reality

As he so often does, Sen. Joe Lieberman introduces a dose of reality into the national-security debate: the START treaty isn’t going to be ratified in its current form:

“I don’t believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “First, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they’re capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian President Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty — they’re just unacceptable to us. “We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran,” Lieberman said.

The problem, of course, is that Medvedev has support for his statements in the text of the treaty. What Lieberman requires — a repudiation of linkage — would require amending the just-signed treaty. Once again one is left to ponder the Obami’s “strategy” — if there is one. Did they imagine no one would notice the linkage to missile defense? Did they think that in an election year they’d get this ratified — or that with reduced Democratic numbers in the Senate it would get through next year? Perhaps all Obama wanted was a signing ceremony, something to justify his “reset” policy and his previous betrayal of Eastern European allies. It is hard to imagine that the Russians will be pleased and our relationship enhanced once we break the news to them that their shiny new treaty is dead on arrival.

Lieberman also blasted the administration for its Orwellian language in addressing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism:

Sen. Joe Lieberman slammed the Obama administration Sunday for stripping terms like “Islamic extremism” from a key national security document, calling the move dishonest, wrong-headed and disrespectful to the majority of Muslims who are not terrorists.

The Connecticut independent revealed that he wrote a letter Friday to top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging the administration to “identify accurately the ideological source” of the threat against the United States. He wrote that failing to identify “violent Islamist extremism” as the enemy is “offensive.”

The letter was written following reports that the administration was removing religious references from the U.S. National Security Strategy — the document that had described the “ideological conflict” of the early 21st century as “the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism.”

Lieberman told “Fox News Sunday” this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has tried to tiptoe around referring to Islam in its security documents and that it’s time to “blow the whistle” on the trend.

“This is not honest and, frankly, I think it’s hurtful in our relations with the Muslim world,” Lieberman said. “We’re not in a war against Islam. It’s a group of Islamist extremists who have taken the Muslim religion and made it into a political ideology, and I think if we’re not clear about that, we disrespect the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not extremists.”

This is the Obama national security approach: paper agreements which can’t be ratified and an enemy that can’t be named. Meanwhile the mullahs proceed to build their nuclear weapons.

As he so often does, Sen. Joe Lieberman introduces a dose of reality into the national-security debate: the START treaty isn’t going to be ratified in its current form:

“I don’t believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “First, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they’re capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian President Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty — they’re just unacceptable to us. “We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran,” Lieberman said.

The problem, of course, is that Medvedev has support for his statements in the text of the treaty. What Lieberman requires — a repudiation of linkage — would require amending the just-signed treaty. Once again one is left to ponder the Obami’s “strategy” — if there is one. Did they imagine no one would notice the linkage to missile defense? Did they think that in an election year they’d get this ratified — or that with reduced Democratic numbers in the Senate it would get through next year? Perhaps all Obama wanted was a signing ceremony, something to justify his “reset” policy and his previous betrayal of Eastern European allies. It is hard to imagine that the Russians will be pleased and our relationship enhanced once we break the news to them that their shiny new treaty is dead on arrival.

Lieberman also blasted the administration for its Orwellian language in addressing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism:

Sen. Joe Lieberman slammed the Obama administration Sunday for stripping terms like “Islamic extremism” from a key national security document, calling the move dishonest, wrong-headed and disrespectful to the majority of Muslims who are not terrorists.

The Connecticut independent revealed that he wrote a letter Friday to top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging the administration to “identify accurately the ideological source” of the threat against the United States. He wrote that failing to identify “violent Islamist extremism” as the enemy is “offensive.”

The letter was written following reports that the administration was removing religious references from the U.S. National Security Strategy — the document that had described the “ideological conflict” of the early 21st century as “the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism.”

Lieberman told “Fox News Sunday” this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has tried to tiptoe around referring to Islam in its security documents and that it’s time to “blow the whistle” on the trend.

“This is not honest and, frankly, I think it’s hurtful in our relations with the Muslim world,” Lieberman said. “We’re not in a war against Islam. It’s a group of Islamist extremists who have taken the Muslim religion and made it into a political ideology, and I think if we’re not clear about that, we disrespect the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not extremists.”

This is the Obama national security approach: paper agreements which can’t be ratified and an enemy that can’t be named. Meanwhile the mullahs proceed to build their nuclear weapons.

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Obama’s Nuclear Sideshow

So Presidents Obama and Medvedev have signed a new nuclear-arms reduction accord. Big deal. The actual cuts called for under the treaty are modest because of accounting tricks that allow a B-52 bomber, which can carry 20 nuclear warheads, to be counted as one “weapon.” The treaty doesn’t affect at all the thousands of tactical nuclear warheads or strategic warheads in storage.

During the Cold War this no doubt would have been hailed as a “breakthrough” but today the treaty seems like an anachronism — a throwback to the world of rotary-dial phones, cars with tail fins, and superpower confrontations. What, one wonders, is the point?

Perhaps Obama hopes this will somehow push the “reset” button on U.S.-Russia relations. If so, I suspect he is deceiving himself; Russia is willing to sign the treaty but not sign off on truly tough sanctions on Iran. Perhaps Obama simply revels in diplomacy for its own sake. If so, this is one of the less harmful manifestations of that proclivity. And perhaps this is part of his larger project to eliminate nuclear weapons in general.

That is a superficially alluring proposition, which is simply impossible to implement in this imperfect world: How would you ever make sure that rogue regimes don’t hide nukes or build new ones in the future? The answer is you can’t, so the U.S. has no option but to keep its nuclear deterrent robust. I don’t think the recent moves by Obama, from the Nuclear Posture Review to the START treaty, jeopardize our deterrent — so I, unlike some on the Right, am not unduly alarmed by them.

I do think, however, that it would be good if he were to commit to doing more for modernizing our nuclear forces, including holding out the possibility of building new nuclear weapons in the future — something that he has rejected for the moment and that perhaps Senate Republicans can force him to reconsider as the price of START ratification. But as I have indicated before, I think all of this is basically a sideshow. The real action isn’t happening in Prague. It’s in Tehran, where the mullahs are getting ever closer to a nuclear weapon — and they won’t be convinced to give up their atomic ambitions because the U.S. is willing to cut is own arsenal. If anything, American concessions embolden Iran into thinking that we are a “weak horse” that can be defied with impunity.

So Presidents Obama and Medvedev have signed a new nuclear-arms reduction accord. Big deal. The actual cuts called for under the treaty are modest because of accounting tricks that allow a B-52 bomber, which can carry 20 nuclear warheads, to be counted as one “weapon.” The treaty doesn’t affect at all the thousands of tactical nuclear warheads or strategic warheads in storage.

During the Cold War this no doubt would have been hailed as a “breakthrough” but today the treaty seems like an anachronism — a throwback to the world of rotary-dial phones, cars with tail fins, and superpower confrontations. What, one wonders, is the point?

Perhaps Obama hopes this will somehow push the “reset” button on U.S.-Russia relations. If so, I suspect he is deceiving himself; Russia is willing to sign the treaty but not sign off on truly tough sanctions on Iran. Perhaps Obama simply revels in diplomacy for its own sake. If so, this is one of the less harmful manifestations of that proclivity. And perhaps this is part of his larger project to eliminate nuclear weapons in general.

That is a superficially alluring proposition, which is simply impossible to implement in this imperfect world: How would you ever make sure that rogue regimes don’t hide nukes or build new ones in the future? The answer is you can’t, so the U.S. has no option but to keep its nuclear deterrent robust. I don’t think the recent moves by Obama, from the Nuclear Posture Review to the START treaty, jeopardize our deterrent — so I, unlike some on the Right, am not unduly alarmed by them.

I do think, however, that it would be good if he were to commit to doing more for modernizing our nuclear forces, including holding out the possibility of building new nuclear weapons in the future — something that he has rejected for the moment and that perhaps Senate Republicans can force him to reconsider as the price of START ratification. But as I have indicated before, I think all of this is basically a sideshow. The real action isn’t happening in Prague. It’s in Tehran, where the mullahs are getting ever closer to a nuclear weapon — and they won’t be convinced to give up their atomic ambitions because the U.S. is willing to cut is own arsenal. If anything, American concessions embolden Iran into thinking that we are a “weak horse” that can be defied with impunity.

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Obama’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Fantasy

There is something weirdly out of whack, almost otherworldly, about Obama’s approach to nuclear proliferation. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

If diplomatic activity equalled disarmament results, President Obama would soon be delivering a nuclear-free world.

On Tuesday, his Administration released its Nuclear Posture Review, setting new limits on the potential U.S. use of nuclear weapons. Today, the President is in Prague to sign an arms-control treaty with Russia, called New Start, which will reduce the U.S. arsenal by 30%. Next week, he’ll host a 47-nation summit on nuclear security in Washington. And next month it’s on to the U.N. conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT.

But, of course, all of this is happening at the very moment when Obama’s own Iran policy has run aground, and the mullahs are edging closer toward acquiring their own nuclear weapons, which will render the NPT obsolete and, indeed, ludicrous. We’ve seen that the NPT has done nothing to deter North Korea or Iran, nor to slow down Syria. (The Israeli air force did the latter.) Yet Obama persists in a Leftist Cold War paradigm — that the weapons, themselves, not the despotic regimes that might use them, are the real threat. And he seems to earnestly believe that we’ll set an example — the inherent rightness of which will melt the hearts of the those who seek nuclear weapons as a means of solidifying their domestic rule and achieving international respect.

Obama’s speech in Prague last year was upstaged by a North Korean missile blast — the perfect metaphor for his foolishness. He talks; the despots shoot rockets. He signs agreements with other democracies; the rogue states build reactors. If you don’t feel safer you are not alone.

There is something weirdly out of whack, almost otherworldly, about Obama’s approach to nuclear proliferation. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

If diplomatic activity equalled disarmament results, President Obama would soon be delivering a nuclear-free world.

On Tuesday, his Administration released its Nuclear Posture Review, setting new limits on the potential U.S. use of nuclear weapons. Today, the President is in Prague to sign an arms-control treaty with Russia, called New Start, which will reduce the U.S. arsenal by 30%. Next week, he’ll host a 47-nation summit on nuclear security in Washington. And next month it’s on to the U.N. conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT.

But, of course, all of this is happening at the very moment when Obama’s own Iran policy has run aground, and the mullahs are edging closer toward acquiring their own nuclear weapons, which will render the NPT obsolete and, indeed, ludicrous. We’ve seen that the NPT has done nothing to deter North Korea or Iran, nor to slow down Syria. (The Israeli air force did the latter.) Yet Obama persists in a Leftist Cold War paradigm — that the weapons, themselves, not the despotic regimes that might use them, are the real threat. And he seems to earnestly believe that we’ll set an example — the inherent rightness of which will melt the hearts of the those who seek nuclear weapons as a means of solidifying their domestic rule and achieving international respect.

Obama’s speech in Prague last year was upstaged by a North Korean missile blast — the perfect metaphor for his foolishness. He talks; the despots shoot rockets. He signs agreements with other democracies; the rogue states build reactors. If you don’t feel safer you are not alone.

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More Than Words?

Bill McGurn writes:

For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?

McGurn argues that Obama would do well to take a break from his “not George W. Bush” approach to everything and back up his new rhetoric with some minimal action. He might, for example, actually meet with some dissidents as Bush did:

George W. Bush also made it a point to meet with dissidents and signal which side America was on. He met with a defector who spent 10 years in the North Korean gulag. He met with persecuted Chinese Christians, marked the 20th anniversary of a famous pro-democracy uprising in Burma by meeting with Burmese dissidents in Thailand, and awarded the Medal of Freedom to a jailed Cuban political prisoner. In 2007, he even spoke to a whole conference of dissidents in Prague organized by another alumnus of the Soviet prison system: Natan Sharansky.

Obama also might fund the Iranian dissidents, sign onto legislation to help the democracy advocates evade censorship, get working on those “crippling” sanctions, and make clear we’re done engaging a regime that lacks the support of its people. But it is far from clear that Obama means to do more than sprinkle in some complimentary words for those whom he has done nothing to aid and much to undercut since the June 12 election. Absent some concrete actions, those words lack meaning and sincerity.

Bill McGurn writes:

For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?

McGurn argues that Obama would do well to take a break from his “not George W. Bush” approach to everything and back up his new rhetoric with some minimal action. He might, for example, actually meet with some dissidents as Bush did:

George W. Bush also made it a point to meet with dissidents and signal which side America was on. He met with a defector who spent 10 years in the North Korean gulag. He met with persecuted Chinese Christians, marked the 20th anniversary of a famous pro-democracy uprising in Burma by meeting with Burmese dissidents in Thailand, and awarded the Medal of Freedom to a jailed Cuban political prisoner. In 2007, he even spoke to a whole conference of dissidents in Prague organized by another alumnus of the Soviet prison system: Natan Sharansky.

Obama also might fund the Iranian dissidents, sign onto legislation to help the democracy advocates evade censorship, get working on those “crippling” sanctions, and make clear we’re done engaging a regime that lacks the support of its people. But it is far from clear that Obama means to do more than sprinkle in some complimentary words for those whom he has done nothing to aid and much to undercut since the June 12 election. Absent some concrete actions, those words lack meaning and sincerity.

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The Best Available Defense of Obama’s Foreign Policy

I got a call the other day from a reporter from the New York Times Magazine doing a retrospective article on the first year of Obama’s foreign policy. He wanted to know what fruit the president’s attempts at “outreach” had borne. My instinctive reaction was: Obama’s stress on diplomacy has not produced any payoff yet. If anything, it has reduced American standing in the world by alarming our friends (notably Eastern Europe and Israel) and earning the scorn of our enemies (North Korea, Iran, and others). There seems to be bipartisan agreement that some of the president’s policies — e.g., on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — have been disastrous. To the extent that he has done things right, it is largely a matter of continuing and expanding on the previous president’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This was greeted with a slightly incredulous noise by my interlocutor. Clearly he was skeptical, as you would expect a writer for the Times to be. So I asked him whether anyone has a contrary viewpoint. Are there serious analysts who can point to a substantive payoff from the president’s policies? He referred me to this essay by Jessica Matthews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Having read it, I am wondering if this is the best that the president’s supporters can muster on his behalf.

Matthews writes: “From his campaign address in Berlin to the path-breaking nuclear policy speech in Prague to the high risk venture in Cairo and the Nowruz message to Iran, the President succeeded in a remarkably short time in turning from dark to light how the world sees the United States.” There is some support for this impression from the Pew poll, which did find Obama’s ascent in improving opinions of the United States in Western Europe and some other places (there was a big bump in Indonesia where Obama spent part of this childhood). But it also found a small slippage in support for the U.S. in Israel, Poland, Pakistan, and Russia, while the gains in the Palestinian territory (up to 15% percent approval from 13 percent in 2007), Turkey (14 percent, up from 12 percent in 2008), Egypt (27 percent, up from 22 percent), and Jordan (25 percent, up from 19 percent) are small and still leave the U.S. mired in deep unpopularity.

The larger question is how Obama can translate greater popularity into greater achievements in safeguarding American security. Matthews thinks he has already done it, but she has to really stretch to make her case. She claims, for instance, that Obama deserves credit for the “establishment of the G-20 as a badly needed new instrument for such cooperation, bringing to the table economic powerhouses excluded from the G-8.” And what exactly will those “economic powerhouses” accomplish, other than holding fabulous meetings? That is unclear.

She also claims that Obama has established a “working relationship” with Russia but has to admit “it remains to be seen how the U.S.-Russia relationship will evolve—especially whether Moscow will do what it must do vis-à-vis Iran to retain credibility as a responsible international actor.” In fact, so far, Russia hasn’t given much reason to think it will be willing to crack down on the Iranian nuclear program. It may agree to a new START treaty, but so what? Reducing nuclear arms is more in the Russian interest than in ours because they can’t afford to maintain their arsenal.

Matthews claims that Obama “has also gone a long way toward reversing the world’s view of whether Washington or Tehran has the better argument in its favor on the crucial nuclear issue,” but there was never much question that most other nations — especially in Europe and the Middle East — sided with Washington’s concerns. The question has always been what they are prepared to do about it. Are they prepared to sacrifice economic self-interest to impose really tough sanctions on Iran? So far there has been no real movement in this direction, while the Iranian nuclear program has been going full-speed ahead.

I am by no means suggesting that the Obama foreign policy is already a failure. It is too early to tell. But certainly it has been hard to point to any substantive achievements of his first year in office. His efforts to reach out to Iran and North Korea, while ignoring their egregious human-rights violations, have been met with humiliating rejection. His Oslo speech suggested that he may be getting a little more tough-minded, as did his decision to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. Perhaps the second year will be better than his first — but that’s a low hurdle to get over.

I got a call the other day from a reporter from the New York Times Magazine doing a retrospective article on the first year of Obama’s foreign policy. He wanted to know what fruit the president’s attempts at “outreach” had borne. My instinctive reaction was: Obama’s stress on diplomacy has not produced any payoff yet. If anything, it has reduced American standing in the world by alarming our friends (notably Eastern Europe and Israel) and earning the scorn of our enemies (North Korea, Iran, and others). There seems to be bipartisan agreement that some of the president’s policies — e.g., on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — have been disastrous. To the extent that he has done things right, it is largely a matter of continuing and expanding on the previous president’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This was greeted with a slightly incredulous noise by my interlocutor. Clearly he was skeptical, as you would expect a writer for the Times to be. So I asked him whether anyone has a contrary viewpoint. Are there serious analysts who can point to a substantive payoff from the president’s policies? He referred me to this essay by Jessica Matthews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Having read it, I am wondering if this is the best that the president’s supporters can muster on his behalf.

Matthews writes: “From his campaign address in Berlin to the path-breaking nuclear policy speech in Prague to the high risk venture in Cairo and the Nowruz message to Iran, the President succeeded in a remarkably short time in turning from dark to light how the world sees the United States.” There is some support for this impression from the Pew poll, which did find Obama’s ascent in improving opinions of the United States in Western Europe and some other places (there was a big bump in Indonesia where Obama spent part of this childhood). But it also found a small slippage in support for the U.S. in Israel, Poland, Pakistan, and Russia, while the gains in the Palestinian territory (up to 15% percent approval from 13 percent in 2007), Turkey (14 percent, up from 12 percent in 2008), Egypt (27 percent, up from 22 percent), and Jordan (25 percent, up from 19 percent) are small and still leave the U.S. mired in deep unpopularity.

The larger question is how Obama can translate greater popularity into greater achievements in safeguarding American security. Matthews thinks he has already done it, but she has to really stretch to make her case. She claims, for instance, that Obama deserves credit for the “establishment of the G-20 as a badly needed new instrument for such cooperation, bringing to the table economic powerhouses excluded from the G-8.” And what exactly will those “economic powerhouses” accomplish, other than holding fabulous meetings? That is unclear.

She also claims that Obama has established a “working relationship” with Russia but has to admit “it remains to be seen how the U.S.-Russia relationship will evolve—especially whether Moscow will do what it must do vis-à-vis Iran to retain credibility as a responsible international actor.” In fact, so far, Russia hasn’t given much reason to think it will be willing to crack down on the Iranian nuclear program. It may agree to a new START treaty, but so what? Reducing nuclear arms is more in the Russian interest than in ours because they can’t afford to maintain their arsenal.

Matthews claims that Obama “has also gone a long way toward reversing the world’s view of whether Washington or Tehran has the better argument in its favor on the crucial nuclear issue,” but there was never much question that most other nations — especially in Europe and the Middle East — sided with Washington’s concerns. The question has always been what they are prepared to do about it. Are they prepared to sacrifice economic self-interest to impose really tough sanctions on Iran? So far there has been no real movement in this direction, while the Iranian nuclear program has been going full-speed ahead.

I am by no means suggesting that the Obama foreign policy is already a failure. It is too early to tell. But certainly it has been hard to point to any substantive achievements of his first year in office. His efforts to reach out to Iran and North Korea, while ignoring their egregious human-rights violations, have been met with humiliating rejection. His Oslo speech suggested that he may be getting a little more tough-minded, as did his decision to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. Perhaps the second year will be better than his first — but that’s a low hurdle to get over.

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Lots of Missiles But No Nukes?

Yesterday, Lt. General Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, noted that Iran is accelerating its efforts to build long-range missiles. “They’re developing ranges of missiles that go far beyond anything they would need in a regional fight, for example, with Israel,” he said.

If Obering is correct, then the National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, is almost certainly wrong—nations do not build missiles of this sort to deliver conventional explosives. Obering was in Prague to convince the Czechs and the Poles to host missile-defense interceptors and radars. So is the Pentagon hyping the threat from Iran to promote its program?

It’s time to go to the videotape. In September, Tehran unveiled the Ghadr-1, which has a range of 1,125 miles. At the end of November, it announced the Ashoura, a new model with a 1,250-mile range. The Ashoura appears to be an improvement over Iran’s Shahab-3, and the country is rumored to be working on even longer-range missiles. Tehran, therefore, seems intent on proving Obering correct.

Iran’s zeal in developing long-range missiles is matched only by its efforts to end the international community’s investigation of its nuclear efforts. Earlier this month, Tehran said its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, had entered a “new phase.” At about the same time, the Iranians pointed out that their cooperation with the IAEA would show that Western suspicions that they are covertly building a bomb are “baseless.” And a few days later, on Sunday, the IAEA announced that Tehran had pledged to answer all remaining questions about its nuclear program within a month. This is a repeat of its now-forgotten promise made last August to respond to all inquiries.

So Iran is once again confirming that it is not building the only weapon suitable for the missiles it is developing at a break-neck pace. I feel so relieved. How about you?

Yesterday, Lt. General Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, noted that Iran is accelerating its efforts to build long-range missiles. “They’re developing ranges of missiles that go far beyond anything they would need in a regional fight, for example, with Israel,” he said.

If Obering is correct, then the National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, is almost certainly wrong—nations do not build missiles of this sort to deliver conventional explosives. Obering was in Prague to convince the Czechs and the Poles to host missile-defense interceptors and radars. So is the Pentagon hyping the threat from Iran to promote its program?

It’s time to go to the videotape. In September, Tehran unveiled the Ghadr-1, which has a range of 1,125 miles. At the end of November, it announced the Ashoura, a new model with a 1,250-mile range. The Ashoura appears to be an improvement over Iran’s Shahab-3, and the country is rumored to be working on even longer-range missiles. Tehran, therefore, seems intent on proving Obering correct.

Iran’s zeal in developing long-range missiles is matched only by its efforts to end the international community’s investigation of its nuclear efforts. Earlier this month, Tehran said its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, had entered a “new phase.” At about the same time, the Iranians pointed out that their cooperation with the IAEA would show that Western suspicions that they are covertly building a bomb are “baseless.” And a few days later, on Sunday, the IAEA announced that Tehran had pledged to answer all remaining questions about its nuclear program within a month. This is a repeat of its now-forgotten promise made last August to respond to all inquiries.

So Iran is once again confirming that it is not building the only weapon suitable for the missiles it is developing at a break-neck pace. I feel so relieved. How about you?

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Rafael Kubelík

A splendid DVD from Deutsche Grammophon, Rafael Kubelík: A Portrait, reminds us that multiple tyrannies can govern a conductor’s life. Kubelík (1914 –1996) was a mightily gifted Bohemian-born conductor, scion of a legendary musical family (his father was the superstar violinist Jan Kubelík). Rafael Kubelík was music director of the Brno Opera when the Nazis shut the company down in 1941. A year later they executed the Opera’s administrative director, Václav Jiříkovský (1891-1942), who had smuggled Jews out of Occupied Prague. Small wonder that Kubelík states in a 1970’s documentary (which is reprinted along with brilliant performances of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bruckner on the new DVD), “A conductor should be a guide, not a dictator. I could never stomach dictatorships.”

When he was named wartime conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, he declined to perform Wagner, and would not give German notables the Nazi salute as required, nearly causing him to be arrested. A stunning interpreter of Mozart, Beethoven, Smetana, and Dvořák, Kubelík helped establish the Prague Spring Festival in 1946, but finally was driven from his homeland by the 1948 Communist coup.

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A splendid DVD from Deutsche Grammophon, Rafael Kubelík: A Portrait, reminds us that multiple tyrannies can govern a conductor’s life. Kubelík (1914 –1996) was a mightily gifted Bohemian-born conductor, scion of a legendary musical family (his father was the superstar violinist Jan Kubelík). Rafael Kubelík was music director of the Brno Opera when the Nazis shut the company down in 1941. A year later they executed the Opera’s administrative director, Václav Jiříkovský (1891-1942), who had smuggled Jews out of Occupied Prague. Small wonder that Kubelík states in a 1970’s documentary (which is reprinted along with brilliant performances of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bruckner on the new DVD), “A conductor should be a guide, not a dictator. I could never stomach dictatorships.”

When he was named wartime conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, he declined to perform Wagner, and would not give German notables the Nazi salute as required, nearly causing him to be arrested. A stunning interpreter of Mozart, Beethoven, Smetana, and Dvořák, Kubelík helped establish the Prague Spring Festival in 1946, but finally was driven from his homeland by the 1948 Communist coup.

Kubelík told one interviewer: “I am an anti-Communist and anti-fascist. I do not think that artistic freedom can cope with a totalitarian regime. Individuals can do nothing in a country dominated by an Iron Curtain, and only truly naïve people think that they can.” He added: “I had lived through one form of bestial tyranny, Nazism. As a matter of principle I was not going to live through another.” Even in exile, he encountered other (if less dangerous) forms of despotism. A brief, artistically productive stint as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1950-1953) was aborted when orchestra trustees and the all-powerful Chicago Tribune music critic Claudia Cassidy (1899–1996) decreed that Kubelík was performing far too much modern music. Cassidy was known as “Acidy Cassidy” for her views that Janáček’s “Taras Bulba” was “trash” and Bartók’s “Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta” a “potboiler.” She scorned Kubelík’s “curious beat, being distorted by arms stiff as driving pistons or limp as boiled spaghetti.”

Despite continuing success in Europe, Kubelík’s second attempt at a permanent post in America was even more short-lived, when Metropolitan Opera general manager Göran Gentele invited him to be the Met’s Music Director, a year before Gentele was killed in a car accident. Without Gentele’s supportive presence, Kubelík lasted only six months at the Met.

Kubelík could be tender and charming, as seen on the Deutsche Grammophon DVD, when he mentions during a rehearsal for Haydn’s St. Cecilia Mass that the patron saint of church music is “not so sacred any more, poor girl, How times change!” When Kubelík, who had been based in Switzerland for decades, died in 1996, Václav Havel wrote of his admiration for the conductor, “not only for all the glory he brought to Czech music, but also because he was an extraordinary character and a patriot.”

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Putin’s Rage

What is Vladimir Putin’s problem? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pay a rare joint visit to the Kremlin, and he snubs them by keeping them cooling their heels for 40 minutes. Then he treats them to a highly undiplomatic tirade before television cameras.

His diatribe was laced with threats. Should the U.S. continue with planned deployment of a small missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will withdraw from the agreement on conventional force deployments in Europe and another treaty governing European nuclear weapons, and perhaps retaliate in additional ways. Putin’s performance, said the New York Times, “appeared to catch Gates and Rice off guard.”

Why the surprise? Because the subject of Putin’s rage, a shield avowedly intended against Iran, could not possibly diminish Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It would comprise enough interceptors to stop a handful of missiles, but Russia disposes of thousands. Moreover, lest Moscow fear that these sites could camouflage a larger anti-Russian system, the two U.S. officials came bearing a plan of transparency. As described by the Times, it

included an invitation for Russia to join the United States and NATO as a full partner in designing and operating an anti-missile system guarding all of Europe. The offer even could include invitations for Russian and American officers to inspect—and even be stationed as liaison officers at—each other’s missile defense sites.

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What is Vladimir Putin’s problem? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pay a rare joint visit to the Kremlin, and he snubs them by keeping them cooling their heels for 40 minutes. Then he treats them to a highly undiplomatic tirade before television cameras.

His diatribe was laced with threats. Should the U.S. continue with planned deployment of a small missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will withdraw from the agreement on conventional force deployments in Europe and another treaty governing European nuclear weapons, and perhaps retaliate in additional ways. Putin’s performance, said the New York Times, “appeared to catch Gates and Rice off guard.”

Why the surprise? Because the subject of Putin’s rage, a shield avowedly intended against Iran, could not possibly diminish Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It would comprise enough interceptors to stop a handful of missiles, but Russia disposes of thousands. Moreover, lest Moscow fear that these sites could camouflage a larger anti-Russian system, the two U.S. officials came bearing a plan of transparency. As described by the Times, it

included an invitation for Russia to join the United States and NATO as a full partner in designing and operating an anti-missile system guarding all of Europe. The offer even could include invitations for Russian and American officers to inspect—and even be stationed as liaison officers at—each other’s missile defense sites.

Putin, however, was unmoved. Why? The answer can be found in his most revealing comment: “We hope . . . you will not be forcing forward your relations with the Eastern European countries.” Putin knows full well that the planned U.S. interceptors pose no threat to Russia. But they would transform America’s relationship with Poland and the Czech Republic. They are already allies, to whose defense America bears a legal and moral obligation. But nations sometimes betray allies. The missile defense installations would make those countries more than allies; they would become the frontline of America’s own defense. It would cement them to the U.S. and make it virtually unthinkable that America would ever fail to come to their defense.

Although a Russian design on these countries seems unimaginable at the moment, Putin views them as belonging to Russia’s sphere of influence. (Ergo, his designation of them as “Eastern European,” whereas they call themselves and we call them “Central European,” a term that better fits geographic as well as cultural realities.) Systematically and implacably, Putin, who publicly laments the disappearance of the Soviet Union, has rolled back democracy in Russia and worked to restore hegemony over the other former Soviet republics, the so-called “near abroad.” There is little danger that he aims to restore Communism: he seems to understand economics too well for that. But by all signs he envisions the rebirth of an imperial and authoritarian Russian state, mighty enough to silence its citizens and dominate its neighbors.

Long before Lenin, Russia subjugated whatever other nations came within its grasp, notably including Poland. Today, Warsaw and Prague are beyond reach. But tomorrow, who knows? If they cannot be conquered, perhaps they can be bent to Moscow’s will. Here, then, is the fear that stirs Putin. An American missile defense system, solidifying a special U.S-Polish-Czech relationship, will foreclose future options for the Greater Russia Putin is laboring to resurrect. That was not our original purpose, but it is another good reason to proceed full speed ahead.

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Visa Stupidity

A young, pro-American, “neolibertarian” blogger from Argentina named Pablo Martin Pozzoni recently wrote me this lament:

A few months ago I got the chance that I never have had before: to visit the country that I admire the most, because of what it is and represents, I had to stubbornly defend my decision against the hysterical anti-Americanism for which my country is well known…. This simple dream was cut short…not because of an economic or political situation in my country [but] by the Embassy of the United States…. Without taking into account my motivations or interests, I was considered something that anybody that knows me, and I am well known in Internet, will realize that is unthinkable and even laughable: a potential illegal immigrant.

It reminded me of other such tales. The Czech Republic and Poland, two of our staunchest allies, were on the brink of winning non-visa entry into the U.S. for their citizens, which several western European countries enjoy, when the deal was scotched by 9/11. Instead, would-be Czech and Polish visitors have to shell out a couple of hundred bucks for a visa application (which is not refundable) and wait on long lines. If this doesn’t cure their philo-Americanism, nothing will.

The ostensible reason is security, but I doubt there has ever been a Czech or Polish terrorist who targeted the U.S. The real purpose of the screening process is to weed out anyone who might wish to stay in the U.S. But what harm, exactly, would a few Czech, Polish, or Argentine illegal immigrants do? And is that harm—such as it might be—worth the ill will we invite at a time when we have a serious dearth of foreign friends?

The stories get even more absurd. This June, when President Bush tried to revivify his democracy-promotion agenda by delivering a stem-winder at a conference in Prague organized by Natan Sharansky and Vaclav Havel, and meeting with a group of dissidents from around the world, the most important Iranian dissident who had been invited was unable to attend. Mohsen Sazegara was scheduled to be one of the conference’s speakers, but he was forced to cancel: U.S. immigration authorities refused to promise him undelayed reentry into the U.S. (where he lives in exile).

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A young, pro-American, “neolibertarian” blogger from Argentina named Pablo Martin Pozzoni recently wrote me this lament:

A few months ago I got the chance that I never have had before: to visit the country that I admire the most, because of what it is and represents, I had to stubbornly defend my decision against the hysterical anti-Americanism for which my country is well known…. This simple dream was cut short…not because of an economic or political situation in my country [but] by the Embassy of the United States…. Without taking into account my motivations or interests, I was considered something that anybody that knows me, and I am well known in Internet, will realize that is unthinkable and even laughable: a potential illegal immigrant.

It reminded me of other such tales. The Czech Republic and Poland, two of our staunchest allies, were on the brink of winning non-visa entry into the U.S. for their citizens, which several western European countries enjoy, when the deal was scotched by 9/11. Instead, would-be Czech and Polish visitors have to shell out a couple of hundred bucks for a visa application (which is not refundable) and wait on long lines. If this doesn’t cure their philo-Americanism, nothing will.

The ostensible reason is security, but I doubt there has ever been a Czech or Polish terrorist who targeted the U.S. The real purpose of the screening process is to weed out anyone who might wish to stay in the U.S. But what harm, exactly, would a few Czech, Polish, or Argentine illegal immigrants do? And is that harm—such as it might be—worth the ill will we invite at a time when we have a serious dearth of foreign friends?

The stories get even more absurd. This June, when President Bush tried to revivify his democracy-promotion agenda by delivering a stem-winder at a conference in Prague organized by Natan Sharansky and Vaclav Havel, and meeting with a group of dissidents from around the world, the most important Iranian dissident who had been invited was unable to attend. Mohsen Sazegara was scheduled to be one of the conference’s speakers, but he was forced to cancel: U.S. immigration authorities refused to promise him undelayed reentry into the U.S. (where he lives in exile).

When the Baathist former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam joined with Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddin Baynouni to form the National Salvation Front, the U.S. found itself in a quandary. It wanted to encourage this exile operation— which promised to be the most powerful opposition to the recalcitrant Assad regime—but it was reluctant to embrace these two men. The solution hit upon by U.S. officials was to work through Ammar Abdulhamid, a prominent Syrian liberal with whom the U.S. felt comfortable, and who was elected to the NSF executive committee. However, Abdulhamid was severely constrained in trying to influence the NSF: he could not attend any of its meetings, which are held in various locations across Europe. Abdulhamid has been living in the U.S. with temporary asylum status for two years, waiting to be granted permanent asylum. In the meantime, U.S. authorities refuse to give him a travel document.

If the arguments about security are absurd when it comes to Czechs and Poles, in the cases of Sazegara and Abdulhamid, there is no conceivable security issue. They already live in the U.S. Of course we need to scrutinize carefully potential terrorists who want to enter our shores. But surely we can do that and at the same time make it easy for friendly foreigners to visit or study here, or to take asylum here when their struggles for freedom endanger their lives.

Before 9/11, our responsible agencies made it easy for anyone to enter, including known terrorists. Now they make it difficult even for known friends. Previously, our border security was disarmed. Now we have loaded up and shot ourselves in the foot. There must be a better way.

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Prague, Part III

In addition to the very interesting speeches delivered by President Bush and Senator Lieberman at last week’s Prague Conference on Democracy and Security, there were some noteworthy moments during the panel discussions.

The most touching came during the remarks of Mithal Al-Alusi, a liberal secularist member of the Iraqi legislature. “We are fighting for you in Iraq,” he said, “because what we are fighting against is part of the Iran-Syria-Hamas-Hizballah axis.” Then he added that Iraqis were aware of and grateful for the losses of American sons and daughters in Iraq: “we have lost children, too.” What he was too dignified to mention was that he, himself, lost two grown sons to terrorists who were attempting to assassinate him after he had attended an anti-terrorism conference in Israel. He has somehow found the strength to continue the struggle to make his country peaceful and free.

The most welcome moment came during the remarks of Egyptian intellectual and leading dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Ibrahim has been an advocate of dialogue with Islamists ever since his prolonged jailhouse exchanges with Muslim Brotherhood prisoners during his own long incarceration. Last summer, however, during the war in Lebanon, Ibrahim appeared to veer toward a closer embrace of Islamists, freely granting their democratic bona fides, a position I criticized in COMMENTARY.

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In addition to the very interesting speeches delivered by President Bush and Senator Lieberman at last week’s Prague Conference on Democracy and Security, there were some noteworthy moments during the panel discussions.

The most touching came during the remarks of Mithal Al-Alusi, a liberal secularist member of the Iraqi legislature. “We are fighting for you in Iraq,” he said, “because what we are fighting against is part of the Iran-Syria-Hamas-Hizballah axis.” Then he added that Iraqis were aware of and grateful for the losses of American sons and daughters in Iraq: “we have lost children, too.” What he was too dignified to mention was that he, himself, lost two grown sons to terrorists who were attempting to assassinate him after he had attended an anti-terrorism conference in Israel. He has somehow found the strength to continue the struggle to make his country peaceful and free.

The most welcome moment came during the remarks of Egyptian intellectual and leading dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Ibrahim has been an advocate of dialogue with Islamists ever since his prolonged jailhouse exchanges with Muslim Brotherhood prisoners during his own long incarceration. Last summer, however, during the war in Lebanon, Ibrahim appeared to veer toward a closer embrace of Islamists, freely granting their democratic bona fides, a position I criticized in COMMENTARY.

In Prague, happily, the old Ibrahim seemed to be back. In addition to fighting the regime, he said, “we are also fighting against the darkness of the theocrats.” He added that because Arab democrats have to fight “both of these enemies,” they were up against a problem that “dissidents in other regions don’t face.”

Despite this problem, Ibrahim was hopeful. In Egypt’s most recent People’s Assembly election, the “autocrats” (i.e., the ruling National Democratic Party) won 19 percent of the vote; the “theocrats” (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood) won 4 percent; while 77 percent of the electorate did not vote. This “silent majority,” he argued, cared for neither the autocrats nor theocrats. In America we know that the non-voters usually differ little in their preferences from those who make it to the polls. But in Egypt, who knows?

Finally, I continued a long-running debate with Martin Kramer, of the Washington Institute, about democracy and the Arabs. (I am a democratic universalist, while Kramer takes a view more common among Israelis, who fear that free voting among Arabs will only stoke radicalism.) In Prague, Kramer coined a useful term—“consensual authoritarianism.” He was alluding, I inferred, to Egypt and the various monarchies of Jordan, Morocco, and the rest of the Persian Gulf, all of them stable and moderate, and almost none of them viciously tyrannical. My response was that to encourage the overthrow of these regimes would indeed be counterproductive. Rather, we should press them to democratize at a measured pace.

But in the region’s trouble spots, the very places where democratization efforts have come in for most criticism, there is and was no “consensual authoritarian” option. Could we have installed a dictator in Iraq instead of trying to build democracy? Perhaps, but every one of the problems dogging us there today would be worse. In Lebanon or Afghanistan, would the installation of dictators have caused less or more resistance than the current governments are facing? The answer is obvious. And what about the Palestinian territories? There, we did in fact help install a “consensual authoritarian.” His name was Yassir Arafat. And he is more responsible than any other person for the sorry state in which America, Israel, and the Palestinians now find themselves.

Just as I conceded part of Kramer’s point, he, I believe, conceded part of mine. No doubt, our debate will continue.

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Lieberman’s Vision

It seems to be about 40 years too late for Joseph Lieberman to run for President as a Democrat, the 1960′s being the last time that hawks were dominant within the party’s ranks. But there is time yet for him to become Vice President or Secretary of State under a Republican President. (One or the other would seem a sure thing if his good friend John McCain wins the White House.) He certainly deserves nothing less for his consistent willingness to say and do the right thing on national security matters, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.

He has, most notably, remained a stalwart supporter of the war effort in Iraq in the face of its increasing unpopularity among the public at large and among almost all of his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill. (Joshua Muravchik has already reported on the great speech Lieberman gave in Prague laying out the stakes in Iraq and the broader Middle East.) Not only does Lieberman want to take the war to the jihadists in Iraq, but he is also breaking the great taboo in Washington by proposing to take the war to their sponsors in Iran.

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It seems to be about 40 years too late for Joseph Lieberman to run for President as a Democrat, the 1960′s being the last time that hawks were dominant within the party’s ranks. But there is time yet for him to become Vice President or Secretary of State under a Republican President. (One or the other would seem a sure thing if his good friend John McCain wins the White House.) He certainly deserves nothing less for his consistent willingness to say and do the right thing on national security matters, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.

He has, most notably, remained a stalwart supporter of the war effort in Iraq in the face of its increasing unpopularity among the public at large and among almost all of his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill. (Joshua Muravchik has already reported on the great speech Lieberman gave in Prague laying out the stakes in Iraq and the broader Middle East.) Not only does Lieberman want to take the war to the jihadists in Iraq, but he is also breaking the great taboo in Washington by proposing to take the war to their sponsors in Iran.

The consensus view in the capital seems to be that while Iran makes war by proxy on the U.S., we are supposed to make nice with Iran. That was the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group. But Iran continues to flaunt the can’t-we-all-get-along approach through shipping potent mines and rockets to anti-American fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, refusing to end its nuclear-weapons program, and its recent seizure of innocent Iranian-Americans as purported spies, among other offenses. The Bush administration reacts largely with rhetorical bluster, backed up by some sanctions and the movement of aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf.

Lieberman quite rightly points out that our pressure has been insufficient to make Iran change its behavior and that stronger medicine may be in order. On CBS’s Face the Nation this past Sunday, he declared:

I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me that would include a strike into—over the border into Iran where I—we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers. . . . They can’t believe that they have immunity for training and equipping people to come in and kill Americans. It’s just—we cannot let them get away with it. If we do, they’ll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region, and ultimately right here at home.

This has earned Lieberman yet more rebukes, such as this bombastic article in the New York Observer, entitled “Lieberman’s Iranian War Fantasy.” In prose that almost parodies State Department thinking, the author, Niall Stanage, concludes: “Dialogue and diplomacy do not make for especially magnetic rallying calls. But they are a much more sensible idea than the dangerous chimera of a short sharp shock to Iran proposed by Mr. Lieberman.”

Stanage is right that the idea of using force against Iran—given its potentially serious repercussions—needs more careful study. But it is his own call for “dialogue and diplomacy” with mullahs who plainly reject both that is the “fantasy” here. Lieberman is willing to face up to the unpleasant reality of the Middle East today, while most of Washington prefers to look the other way as Iran makes war on us.

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Prague, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about the recent Prague Conference on Democracy and Security, focusing on the speech of President Bush. Another speech worthy of attention was given by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a man who, before our eyes, grows stronger as the going gets tougher. His keynote speech to the opening dinner was an easy occasion for platitudes. He might have heaped praise on Natan Sharansky and Václav Havel, topped it off with some bromides about freedom, and taken his bow to much applause. Instead, he plunged unflinchingly into the most difficult issue of the day, and threw down a rhetorical gauntlet to those demanding a quick U.S. exit from Iraq. Here is a key excerpt:

What is happening in the Middle East today is not simply a battle between the United States and its enemies in one particular country, but a much larger struggle between freedom and fear, in which Iraq happens to be the central front. On the one side of this conflict are the latest in a long line of totalitarians, a loose alliance of terrorists and tyrants every bit as fanatical as the fascists and communists with whom they share a hatred of America and the values for which it stands.

Terrorism is their preferred weapon, but it is not their ultimate aim. Their vision is far more ambitious and terrifying: a vision of hatred and conquest, in which billions of people fall under a jihadist jackboot of vicious and repressive rule. . . .

The outcome of the struggle in Iraq will go a long way toward determining whether our future in Europe, and America, and throughout much of the world belongs to these totalitarians, or to democrats. . . .

Iraq is about the survival and success of the very ideal of freedom not only in Iraq, but in Iran, and Syria, and the rest of that region, and in a very real way, in the rest of the world. . . .

Today, the choice we face is not simply whether we support the advance of democracy in the abstract, but at what cost we are willing to fight for it.

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Yesterday, I wrote about the recent Prague Conference on Democracy and Security, focusing on the speech of President Bush. Another speech worthy of attention was given by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a man who, before our eyes, grows stronger as the going gets tougher. His keynote speech to the opening dinner was an easy occasion for platitudes. He might have heaped praise on Natan Sharansky and Václav Havel, topped it off with some bromides about freedom, and taken his bow to much applause. Instead, he plunged unflinchingly into the most difficult issue of the day, and threw down a rhetorical gauntlet to those demanding a quick U.S. exit from Iraq. Here is a key excerpt:

What is happening in the Middle East today is not simply a battle between the United States and its enemies in one particular country, but a much larger struggle between freedom and fear, in which Iraq happens to be the central front. On the one side of this conflict are the latest in a long line of totalitarians, a loose alliance of terrorists and tyrants every bit as fanatical as the fascists and communists with whom they share a hatred of America and the values for which it stands.

Terrorism is their preferred weapon, but it is not their ultimate aim. Their vision is far more ambitious and terrifying: a vision of hatred and conquest, in which billions of people fall under a jihadist jackboot of vicious and repressive rule. . . .

The outcome of the struggle in Iraq will go a long way toward determining whether our future in Europe, and America, and throughout much of the world belongs to these totalitarians, or to democrats. . . .

Iraq is about the survival and success of the very ideal of freedom not only in Iraq, but in Iran, and Syria, and the rest of that region, and in a very real way, in the rest of the world. . . .

Today, the choice we face is not simply whether we support the advance of democracy in the abstract, but at what cost we are willing to fight for it.

What is the response of the Pelosis and Reids and Murthas and Levins to this argument? Note that Lieberman claims nothing about whether we were right or wrong to invade Iraq in the first place. Grant for argument’s sake that it was a mistake to have gone in, that we should have chosen to fight these enemies on some other soil. That changes not a whit of what Lieberman says is at stake now. With what point in his chain of reasoning do they disagree? Perhaps they would say that he exaggerates the impact that defeat or surrender in Iraq would have on America’s domestic institutions. But that is a quibble. The point remains that it would do disastrous damage to the cause of the West. What is their answer?

In fact, we know their answer. It has been, in effect, to kick Lieberman out of their party, so that there is no one left within its ranks to raise such questions. So much the worse for them. For his part, unbeholden to the Democrats, Lieberman has emerged as one of the most eloquent leaders of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call the “freedom party.” The Prague gathering, you might say, was its convention.

Tomorrow, one last report on some of the more interesting sessions in Prague.

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Who Are the True Jihadists?

The exact meaning of jihad is not a new question. It came up, unsurprisingly, at the Conference on Democracy and Security organized by Natan Sharansky, Václav Havel, and José Maria Aznar in Prague last week (about which Joshua Muravchik has been blogging).

Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, was in the middle of a rousing speech about the mystique of democracy. He warned of the danger to democracies posed by jihadists, who abuse its freedoms to subvert democratic institutions. Up rose Sami Angawi, director general of the Amar Center in Saudi Arabia, to protest: “I am a jihadist!” Angawi explained how, as a Muslim, he saw his struggle for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Saudi Arabia as a jihad.

I listened to Angawi develop his point: that jihad is too important a concept for it to be the exclusive property of Islamists, and that it needs to be recaptured and decontaminated by moderate and secular Muslims. I felt real sympathy for Angawi—and not only because he stopped me from walking in front of a Prague streetcar. But there is, depite the best efforts of reformers like Angawi, little likelihood that jihad will lose its ominous connotations for non-Muslims any time soon.

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The exact meaning of jihad is not a new question. It came up, unsurprisingly, at the Conference on Democracy and Security organized by Natan Sharansky, Václav Havel, and José Maria Aznar in Prague last week (about which Joshua Muravchik has been blogging).

Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, was in the middle of a rousing speech about the mystique of democracy. He warned of the danger to democracies posed by jihadists, who abuse its freedoms to subvert democratic institutions. Up rose Sami Angawi, director general of the Amar Center in Saudi Arabia, to protest: “I am a jihadist!” Angawi explained how, as a Muslim, he saw his struggle for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Saudi Arabia as a jihad.

I listened to Angawi develop his point: that jihad is too important a concept for it to be the exclusive property of Islamists, and that it needs to be recaptured and decontaminated by moderate and secular Muslims. I felt real sympathy for Angawi—and not only because he stopped me from walking in front of a Prague streetcar. But there is, depite the best efforts of reformers like Angawi, little likelihood that jihad will lose its ominous connotations for non-Muslims any time soon.

The concept is freighted with memories that go back 1,400 years, to the earliest days of Islam. Whether moderate Muslims like it or not, jihad has a history that extends from Muhammad’s farewell address in 632 (“I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah’”) to Osama bin Laden’s deliberate echo of his words in November 2001. The proclamations of jihad against the West that we have witnessed since the Islamic revolution in Iran are not very different from those of Muslim conquerors throughout history (several of whom came close to fulfilling those proclamations).

Nor, it should be noted, does the fact that some of the Islamic warriors of the past were admired for their chivalry (rather than abhorred for their cruelty, as the Islamists of today are) mean that their concept of jihad was any less warlike and apocalyptic. In 1189, Saladin, the great antagonist of Richard Coeur de Lion, threatened to pursue his jihad across the sea to Europe “until there remains no-one on the face of the earth who does not acknowledge Allah.”

Ignác Goldziher, the Hungarian Jew who pioneered modern Islamic scholarship, began in the late 19th century the long effort by Western orientalists to reinterpret the meaning of jihad—an effort ongoing more or less ever since. But the paucity and insularity of Islamic hermeneutics means that no new interpretation of jihad is likely to gain acceptance in the dominant theological schools of Cairo and Mecca. The Wahhabi interpretation of jihad, which deliberately overlooks the prophetic injunction to practice “greater jihad” (peaceful struggle) as well as “lesser jihad” (war against the infidel), is hugely dominant among them, and will remain so. For these scholars, marooned in the 7th century, war against the infidel is not only legitimate, but laudable and even obligatory—however unholy such war may be in the eyes of more moderate Muslims.

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Weekend Reading

On Monday, an international conference will open in Prague, headed jointly by the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel, and former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. The Conference on Democracy and Security will play host to reformers, dissidents, and democracy activists from every quarter of the world, as well as political leaders including President George W. Bush. Its purpose is to provide a voice for global democracy—something COMMENTARY has been doing for decades. On the eve of the conference, we offer a number of items from our archives on the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights worldwide.

Defending and Advancing Freedom: A Symposium
November 2005

Life, Liberty, Property
Richard Pipes – March 1999

Democracy for Everyone?
Peter L. Berger – September 1983

Human Rights and American Foreign Policy: A Symposium
November 1981

Dictatorships and Double Standards
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick – November 1979

On Monday, an international conference will open in Prague, headed jointly by the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel, and former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. The Conference on Democracy and Security will play host to reformers, dissidents, and democracy activists from every quarter of the world, as well as political leaders including President George W. Bush. Its purpose is to provide a voice for global democracy—something COMMENTARY has been doing for decades. On the eve of the conference, we offer a number of items from our archives on the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights worldwide.

Defending and Advancing Freedom: A Symposium
November 2005

Life, Liberty, Property
Richard Pipes – March 1999

Democracy for Everyone?
Peter L. Berger – September 1983

Human Rights and American Foreign Policy: A Symposium
November 1981

Dictatorships and Double Standards
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick – November 1979

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Petr Ginz

Anne Frank has become such a singular figure in the literature of the Holocaust that it is easy to forget how many other precocious and articulate children also died in the camps. Elena Lappin, a translator and editor at Atlantic Monthly Press, has prepared an English edition of the diaries of one of them, the Czech boy Petr Ginz.

The story of the diaries themselves is an astounding tale. Born in 1928, Ginz lived in Prague until August 1941, when he was deported with his family to Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz, in 1943, where he died in the gas chambers. His sister, Eva, survived, and managed to retain a few of her brother’s drawings, which she carried with her until her eventual emigration to Israel.

But had it not been for, of all things, the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, the bulk of Petr’s papers might never have been recovered. Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli astronaut aboard the shuttle, was carrying one of the drawings saved by Eva; the news coverage attendant on his death prompted a resident of Prague to rifle through several boxes of old papers in his attic. These papers turned out to be Petr’s; Yad Vashem subsequently acquired them. Eva (now Chava Pressburger) arranged for their publication in the Czech Republic at the beginning of 2005.

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Anne Frank has become such a singular figure in the literature of the Holocaust that it is easy to forget how many other precocious and articulate children also died in the camps. Elena Lappin, a translator and editor at Atlantic Monthly Press, has prepared an English edition of the diaries of one of them, the Czech boy Petr Ginz.

The story of the diaries themselves is an astounding tale. Born in 1928, Ginz lived in Prague until August 1941, when he was deported with his family to Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz, in 1943, where he died in the gas chambers. His sister, Eva, survived, and managed to retain a few of her brother’s drawings, which she carried with her until her eventual emigration to Israel.

But had it not been for, of all things, the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, the bulk of Petr’s papers might never have been recovered. Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli astronaut aboard the shuttle, was carrying one of the drawings saved by Eva; the news coverage attendant on his death prompted a resident of Prague to rifle through several boxes of old papers in his attic. These papers turned out to be Petr’s; Yad Vashem subsequently acquired them. Eva (now Chava Pressburger) arranged for their publication in the Czech Republic at the beginning of 2005.

Ginz had great literary ability for an adolescent boy. Observing the newly mandated yellow stars on the lapels of his fellow citizens, he remarks in his diary: “When I went to school, I counted sixty-nine ‘sherrifs.’” He also served as an editor and writer for Vedem, a newspaper published in the boys’ barracks at Theresienstadt.

Atlantic Monthly Press will officially release Lappin’s translation on Sunday, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The book, though, has been available since the end of March. You can order it here.

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