Commentary Magazine


Topic: Reagan administration

Sharansky: Reagan Right, Critics Wrong

Ronald Reagan, who would have been 100 this Sunday, had an instinctive affinity for Jews and Israel. As an actor who spent decades in the heavily Jewish environment of Hollywood and who counted scores of Jews among his friends and colleagues, he moved easily in pro-Israel circles. Both as a private citizen and as governor of California, he was a familiar sight and a favored speaker at various functions for Israel.

“I’ve believed many things in my life,” Reagan states in his memoirs, “but no conviction I’ve ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel.”

Reagan inaugurated what Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman termed the “Solid Gold Era” in U.S.-Israel relations. Even so — and this underscores the inevitability of disagreement between Israel and even the friendliest of U.S. presidents — he found himself engaged in a series of tiffs with the Israeli government.

The earliest friction concerned Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in June 1981. The U.S. voted with the rest of the UN Security Council to condemn the action and briefly held up delivery of some F-16 aircraft to Israel, but there were no permanent ramifications.

“Technically,” Reagan notes in his memoirs, “Israel had violated an agreement with us not to use U.S.-made weapons for offensive purposes, and some cabinet members wanted me to lean hard on Israel because it had broken this pledge. … I sympathized with [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin’s motivations and privately believed we should give him the benefit of the doubt.” Read More

Ronald Reagan, who would have been 100 this Sunday, had an instinctive affinity for Jews and Israel. As an actor who spent decades in the heavily Jewish environment of Hollywood and who counted scores of Jews among his friends and colleagues, he moved easily in pro-Israel circles. Both as a private citizen and as governor of California, he was a familiar sight and a favored speaker at various functions for Israel.

“I’ve believed many things in my life,” Reagan states in his memoirs, “but no conviction I’ve ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel.”

Reagan inaugurated what Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman termed the “Solid Gold Era” in U.S.-Israel relations. Even so — and this underscores the inevitability of disagreement between Israel and even the friendliest of U.S. presidents — he found himself engaged in a series of tiffs with the Israeli government.

The earliest friction concerned Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in June 1981. The U.S. voted with the rest of the UN Security Council to condemn the action and briefly held up delivery of some F-16 aircraft to Israel, but there were no permanent ramifications.

“Technically,” Reagan notes in his memoirs, “Israel had violated an agreement with us not to use U.S.-made weapons for offensive purposes, and some cabinet members wanted me to lean hard on Israel because it had broken this pledge. … I sympathized with [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin’s motivations and privately believed we should give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Later in 1981, a bitter fight was played out in Congress between the White House and supporters of Israel over Reagan’s determination to follow through on the Carter administration’s decision to sell Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia. The sale was finally approved by a narrow margin, but the confrontation left bruised feelings and egos on both sides.

Ironically, Israeli military leaders were never in the forefront of the AWACS opposition; according to Raviv and Melman, “the commanders of the Israeli air force — the officers most directly concerned — were willing to live with AWACS flying over Saudi Arabia. They did not see them as a serious threat to Israel’s security.”

The U.S.-Israel relationship was strong enough by then to survive a series of mini-crises during the Reagan era, including Washington’s dismay at the scope of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the failure of the so-called Reagan Plan, which called for a freeze on Israeli settlements and the eventual creation of a quasi-independent Palestinian entity; the visit by Reagan to a German cemetery that contained the remains of SS soldiers; the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Israel played a major role; the arrest and conviction of an American citizen, Jonathan Pollard, on charges of spying for Israel; and the administration’s 1988 decision to talk to the PLO after Yasir Arafat made the requisite noises about recognizing Israel.

Through it all, Reagan provided more military and financial aid to Israel than any of his predecessors. Washington also worked closer with Israel on the economic front, and in 1985 the administration signed a landmark Free Trade Area agreement, long sought by Israel, which resulted in a hefty boost in Israeli exports to the U.S.

Beyond the Middle East, the plight of Soviet Jews was bound to strike a sympathetic chord with someone as unbendingly anti-Communist as Reagan.

“The Soviet leaders,” recalled former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir,  “told me that every time they met with [Secretary of State George] Shultz, he raised the issue of Soviet Jewry.”

The Reagan administration was instrumental in gaining the release in 1986 of prominent Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, imprisoned for nine years on trumped-up treason charges. Sharansky has written of his reaction when, in 1983, confined to a tiny cell in a prison near the Siberian border, he saw on the front page of Pravda that Reagan — much to the ridicule and outrage of American and European liberals — had labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

As Sharansky describes it:

Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s “provocation” quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth — a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us. I never imagined that three years later I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. … Reagan was right and his critics were wrong.

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Not Spending Enough?!

The Obama team is crying deficit crocodile tears over the prospect of an extension of the Bush tax cuts to upper-income taxpayers, which it claims wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. (The more expensive extension for the “non-rich” is fine with the administration, however.) It’s laughable considering the utter lack of fiscal discipline by Obama and the Democratic Congress.

We learned from the CBO that “[s]pending rolled in for the year [2010] that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009′s $3.52 trillion in the record books.” Well, Obama blames the wars. Hardly. We know that “despite two wars, defense spending rose by 4.7% to $667 billion, down from an annual average increase of 8% from 2005 to 2009.”

What, then, are we spending gobs of money on?

Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years. CBO adds that if you take out the savings for deposit insurance, funding for all “other activities” of government—education, transportation, foreign aid, housing, and so on—rose by 13% in 2010.

As for the deficits, the 2010 total was $1.29 trillion, down slightly from $1.42 trillion. That’s a two-year total of $2.7 trillion, or more than the entire amount during the Reagan Administration, when deficits were supposed to be ruinous. Now liberal economists tell us that deficits are the key to restoring prosperity. But all we have to show for spending nearly 25% of GDP for two years running is a growth rate of 1.7% and 9.6% unemployment.

The Paul Krugman wing of the Democratic Party has convinced itself that we haven’t spent enough. But how much would suffice? The answer is always “more than we are now.” As the Wall Street Journal editors point out: “The 21.4% federal spending increase in two years ought to put to rest any debate about the nature of America’s fiscal problem. The Pelosi Congress has used the recession as an excuse to send spending to record heights, and its economic policies have contributed to a lousy recovery.”

It is an unconscionable record — and the reason, in large part, why its authors are going to take a drubbing in November.

The Obama team is crying deficit crocodile tears over the prospect of an extension of the Bush tax cuts to upper-income taxpayers, which it claims wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. (The more expensive extension for the “non-rich” is fine with the administration, however.) It’s laughable considering the utter lack of fiscal discipline by Obama and the Democratic Congress.

We learned from the CBO that “[s]pending rolled in for the year [2010] that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009′s $3.52 trillion in the record books.” Well, Obama blames the wars. Hardly. We know that “despite two wars, defense spending rose by 4.7% to $667 billion, down from an annual average increase of 8% from 2005 to 2009.”

What, then, are we spending gobs of money on?

Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years. CBO adds that if you take out the savings for deposit insurance, funding for all “other activities” of government—education, transportation, foreign aid, housing, and so on—rose by 13% in 2010.

As for the deficits, the 2010 total was $1.29 trillion, down slightly from $1.42 trillion. That’s a two-year total of $2.7 trillion, or more than the entire amount during the Reagan Administration, when deficits were supposed to be ruinous. Now liberal economists tell us that deficits are the key to restoring prosperity. But all we have to show for spending nearly 25% of GDP for two years running is a growth rate of 1.7% and 9.6% unemployment.

The Paul Krugman wing of the Democratic Party has convinced itself that we haven’t spent enough. But how much would suffice? The answer is always “more than we are now.” As the Wall Street Journal editors point out: “The 21.4% federal spending increase in two years ought to put to rest any debate about the nature of America’s fiscal problem. The Pelosi Congress has used the recession as an excuse to send spending to record heights, and its economic policies have contributed to a lousy recovery.”

It is an unconscionable record — and the reason, in large part, why its authors are going to take a drubbing in November.

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Flotsam and Jestsam

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

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Not Only Orwellian but Also Disingenuous

The Obama budget proposes to raise $291 billion over ten years from limiting the benefit of deductions to families in the top tax bracket — and justifies the proposal as a response to a “disparity”:

Currently, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction, but a millionaire who does the same enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous. By reducing this disparity and returning the high-income deduction to the same rates that were in place at the end of the Reagan Administration, we will raise $291 billion over the next decade.

John Hinderaker at Power Line calls this reasoning “Orwellian.” The “disparity” results from the fact that the “millionaire” (defined in the Obama budget as any family with income of $250,000) would pay tax at a rate nearly three times as high (39.6 percent) — and thus obviously receives a 39.6 percent benefit from a deduction. Obama proposes to return to the Reagan rates for deductions (28 percent), but not the Reagan rates for income tax (28 percent). He wants to create a disparity to reduce a disparity.

It is actually even more Orwellian than that, because the Obama proposal is not really designed to address a “disparity” but to transfer huge revenues from charities to the government. If tax rates increase by 13 percent (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent), charitable contributions would presumably increase by at least that amount, since taxpayers could donate 13 percent more at the same after-tax cost. The result would be significantly more aid for charities as taxpayers responded to the increased incentive.

By limiting the deduction to 28 percent, Obama would not only take away the incentive for increased charitable contributions, but reduce the incentive for the current level of contributions, and result in less revenue to charities and more to the government. As the pseudonymous tax lawyer Gregory V. Helvering concluded in “Obama, Charity and Fairness:”

The government needs as much money as it can get to fund its new expanded goals, and Obama has found a way to get a large chunk of it from charities — while justifying the massive transfer of funds to government as something required for “fairness” … George Orwell, call your office.

The Obama proposal affects not only charitable contributions but mortgage deductions (reducing the value of homes) and the burden of state taxes: taxpayers would have to pay their state tax liability but not receive a full deduction of that amount against their federal tax liability. The total effect is to push the nominal 39.6 rate into the mid-40s.

Obama cannot seriously believe this will pass Congress, which rejected it when he first proposed it last year. It would create a huge tax inequity, cause significant damage to charities and home values, and makes no sense. But it enables Obama to present a budget with “only” a 1.3 trillion deficit, instead of the record 1.6 trillion it would be without it. So it is not only Orwellian but also disingenuous.

The Obama budget proposes to raise $291 billion over ten years from limiting the benefit of deductions to families in the top tax bracket — and justifies the proposal as a response to a “disparity”:

Currently, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction, but a millionaire who does the same enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous. By reducing this disparity and returning the high-income deduction to the same rates that were in place at the end of the Reagan Administration, we will raise $291 billion over the next decade.

John Hinderaker at Power Line calls this reasoning “Orwellian.” The “disparity” results from the fact that the “millionaire” (defined in the Obama budget as any family with income of $250,000) would pay tax at a rate nearly three times as high (39.6 percent) — and thus obviously receives a 39.6 percent benefit from a deduction. Obama proposes to return to the Reagan rates for deductions (28 percent), but not the Reagan rates for income tax (28 percent). He wants to create a disparity to reduce a disparity.

It is actually even more Orwellian than that, because the Obama proposal is not really designed to address a “disparity” but to transfer huge revenues from charities to the government. If tax rates increase by 13 percent (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent), charitable contributions would presumably increase by at least that amount, since taxpayers could donate 13 percent more at the same after-tax cost. The result would be significantly more aid for charities as taxpayers responded to the increased incentive.

By limiting the deduction to 28 percent, Obama would not only take away the incentive for increased charitable contributions, but reduce the incentive for the current level of contributions, and result in less revenue to charities and more to the government. As the pseudonymous tax lawyer Gregory V. Helvering concluded in “Obama, Charity and Fairness:”

The government needs as much money as it can get to fund its new expanded goals, and Obama has found a way to get a large chunk of it from charities — while justifying the massive transfer of funds to government as something required for “fairness” … George Orwell, call your office.

The Obama proposal affects not only charitable contributions but mortgage deductions (reducing the value of homes) and the burden of state taxes: taxpayers would have to pay their state tax liability but not receive a full deduction of that amount against their federal tax liability. The total effect is to push the nominal 39.6 rate into the mid-40s.

Obama cannot seriously believe this will pass Congress, which rejected it when he first proposed it last year. It would create a huge tax inequity, cause significant damage to charities and home values, and makes no sense. But it enables Obama to present a budget with “only” a 1.3 trillion deficit, instead of the record 1.6 trillion it would be without it. So it is not only Orwellian but also disingenuous.

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Sic Transit Dodd

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

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RIP William Odom

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

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Will Sanctions Stop Iran?

Not likely. So far, it looks like an enfeebled Bush administration will pass into irrelevance, the Security Council will impose additional ineffectual measures, and Tehran’s mullahs will enrich enough uranium for an atomic device that can kill hundreds of thousands.

Of course, history does not always travel in straight lines. Are there any off-ramps in sight? President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has kept Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts on track by essentially buying support from the populace with his massive program of subsidies for food, fuel, transport, and other items. The government can make these payments thanks to bulging oil and gas revenues—some $70 billion last year—resulting from surging prices. This month, light sweet crude futures hit a record $111.80 a barrel.

No price goes up forever, and oil is about $10 off its high partially due to fears of a mild recession in the United States. If the downturn in America is more severe or goes global, the Iranian government will not be able to maintain its subsidization program. Even today, the economy is fragile. The world’s fourth-largest extractor of crude had to resort to gas rationing last year, and this year inflation is slipping beyond control of Tehran’s technocrats. “Sometimes we have to change the price stickers three times a day because of inflation,” says Ali Daryani, a grocer in the Iranian capital.

Iran, in a buoyant economic environment, can withstand anything the Security Council or the West will throw at it in the way of sanctions. In a global collapse—last Sunday the invariably optimistic Alan Greenspan stated that the current crisis will probably be “the most wrenching since the end of the second world war”—the Iranian nuclear program is a goner.

For the record, I am not arguing that Washington should purposely try to destroy the global economy to get at Iran. But we should remember that the Reagan administration succeeded in depressing commodity prices to undermine the Soviet Union. It’s time, therefore, we started looking at the price of oil and gas as a national security issue of the first order.

Not likely. So far, it looks like an enfeebled Bush administration will pass into irrelevance, the Security Council will impose additional ineffectual measures, and Tehran’s mullahs will enrich enough uranium for an atomic device that can kill hundreds of thousands.

Of course, history does not always travel in straight lines. Are there any off-ramps in sight? President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has kept Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts on track by essentially buying support from the populace with his massive program of subsidies for food, fuel, transport, and other items. The government can make these payments thanks to bulging oil and gas revenues—some $70 billion last year—resulting from surging prices. This month, light sweet crude futures hit a record $111.80 a barrel.

No price goes up forever, and oil is about $10 off its high partially due to fears of a mild recession in the United States. If the downturn in America is more severe or goes global, the Iranian government will not be able to maintain its subsidization program. Even today, the economy is fragile. The world’s fourth-largest extractor of crude had to resort to gas rationing last year, and this year inflation is slipping beyond control of Tehran’s technocrats. “Sometimes we have to change the price stickers three times a day because of inflation,” says Ali Daryani, a grocer in the Iranian capital.

Iran, in a buoyant economic environment, can withstand anything the Security Council or the West will throw at it in the way of sanctions. In a global collapse—last Sunday the invariably optimistic Alan Greenspan stated that the current crisis will probably be “the most wrenching since the end of the second world war”—the Iranian nuclear program is a goner.

For the record, I am not arguing that Washington should purposely try to destroy the global economy to get at Iran. But we should remember that the Reagan administration succeeded in depressing commodity prices to undermine the Soviet Union. It’s time, therefore, we started looking at the price of oil and gas as a national security issue of the first order.

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A Warning on McCain

A few years ago, I wrote a long profile of John McCain for a now-defunct magazine called Arizona Monthly (so defunct that I can’t even find a copy of the article), and had cause to spend days on Nexis and in the Congressional Record going through his career as a politician. Pace my friends on the Right, but what came through most clearly was not his hunger to curry favor with non-conservatives but rather his hunger to stand in opposition to a prevailing authority.

For example: McCain may now trumpet his Reaganite credentials, but as a very junior Congressman from Arizona, he was surprisingly vocal in his libertarian criticisms of the Reagan administration’s spending (sound familiar?).

Later, as the most senior Vietnam vet in government, he chose to set himself against the powerful populist movement to locate living Americans missing in action in Vietnam — disgusted as he was, and properly so, by the Chichikovian hustlers who preyed on the emotions of the families of American soldiers listed as MIA by selling them bills of goods about invented eyewitness accounts of Americans still in custody in Southeast Asia.

He continued his oppositionism by deciding to take on industries with a mercantilist relationship to federal, state, and local governments that did not act in ways to benefit their consumers — Big Tobacco for one, and cable television for another. Even as he was doing this in the 1990s, he was also at the Clinton administration’s throat for behaving fecklessly on the key issues of military readiness and the situation in the former Yugoslavia. And, of course, we know about his oppositionism to the Bush administration in the areas of tax cuts (foolishly against) and the conduct of the struggle in Iraq (against in the most visionary way).

McCain begins to lose his footing when he isn’t squaring off. That is, in part, what accounts for the disastrous turn his campaign took in 2007; he was the frontrunner, the establishment choice, and he simply didn’t know what to do or how to manage it. Fortunately for McCain, he will be running throughout 2008 as an underdog. But he will also have to be a figure of unity, a leader on whom tens of millions of people can project hopes and wishes and expectations. That is what it means to be a national leader. It will be a terrific challenge for him. But who said running for president is easy?

A few years ago, I wrote a long profile of John McCain for a now-defunct magazine called Arizona Monthly (so defunct that I can’t even find a copy of the article), and had cause to spend days on Nexis and in the Congressional Record going through his career as a politician. Pace my friends on the Right, but what came through most clearly was not his hunger to curry favor with non-conservatives but rather his hunger to stand in opposition to a prevailing authority.

For example: McCain may now trumpet his Reaganite credentials, but as a very junior Congressman from Arizona, he was surprisingly vocal in his libertarian criticisms of the Reagan administration’s spending (sound familiar?).

Later, as the most senior Vietnam vet in government, he chose to set himself against the powerful populist movement to locate living Americans missing in action in Vietnam — disgusted as he was, and properly so, by the Chichikovian hustlers who preyed on the emotions of the families of American soldiers listed as MIA by selling them bills of goods about invented eyewitness accounts of Americans still in custody in Southeast Asia.

He continued his oppositionism by deciding to take on industries with a mercantilist relationship to federal, state, and local governments that did not act in ways to benefit their consumers — Big Tobacco for one, and cable television for another. Even as he was doing this in the 1990s, he was also at the Clinton administration’s throat for behaving fecklessly on the key issues of military readiness and the situation in the former Yugoslavia. And, of course, we know about his oppositionism to the Bush administration in the areas of tax cuts (foolishly against) and the conduct of the struggle in Iraq (against in the most visionary way).

McCain begins to lose his footing when he isn’t squaring off. That is, in part, what accounts for the disastrous turn his campaign took in 2007; he was the frontrunner, the establishment choice, and he simply didn’t know what to do or how to manage it. Fortunately for McCain, he will be running throughout 2008 as an underdog. But he will also have to be a figure of unity, a leader on whom tens of millions of people can project hopes and wishes and expectations. That is what it means to be a national leader. It will be a terrific challenge for him. But who said running for president is easy?

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Shedding Light on Iran

As everybody’s favorite Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York, two recent articles about Iranian activities deserve more attention than they’ve been getting.

This article reports on a convoy captured by NATO forces on September 6 in the western Afghan province of Farah, which borders Iran. The convoy was full of bombs of the kind that Iran has also been supplying to insurgents in Iraq. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. As the Washington Post account notes: “International forces captured two smaller shipments of sophisticated roadside bombs believed to be from Iran in April and May in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent areas in the country.”

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As everybody’s favorite Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York, two recent articles about Iranian activities deserve more attention than they’ve been getting.

This article reports on a convoy captured by NATO forces on September 6 in the western Afghan province of Farah, which borders Iran. The convoy was full of bombs of the kind that Iran has also been supplying to insurgents in Iraq. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. As the Washington Post account notes: “International forces captured two smaller shipments of sophisticated roadside bombs believed to be from Iran in April and May in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent areas in the country.”

Then there’s this more recent article, which quotes an American military spokesman in Baghdad, Admiral Mark Fox, saying that U.S. troops are finding that Iran is smuggling into Iraq not only explosively formed projectiles (the potent land mines that can punch a hole in any armor in the U.S. arsenal), but also the advanced RPG-29 (much more potent than the RPG-7, or rocket propelled grenade, which is already available to the insurgents), 240 mm. rockets (which have been landing on the Green Zone), and, most ominously of all, man-portable surface-to-air missiles such as the infrared-guided Misagh 1.

The Misagh 1 is said by the CIA to be modeled on the Chinese-made QW-1, which was unveiled in 1994, and which was “claimed to surpass the US Stinger in maximum effective range, target seeker tracking capability, warhead power and other indicators.”

Thus the Iranian action in supplying these weapons to Iraqi insurgents is reminiscent of what the U.S. did in the 1980′s when the Reagan administration decided to escalate our proxy war with the Soviet Union by supplying Stinger missiles to the mujahideen guerrillas in Afghanistan. This was widely seen as a turning point in the conflict, since, to some extent, it negated the Russian advantage in airpower.

Put together, these reports suggest that Iran is now escalating its war against the U.S. and our democratic allies. And the Bush administration approach—of combining loud threats with economic sanctions—isn’t doing much to dissuade the Iranians from their warlike course. But perhaps Columbia University’s students and faculty can convince Ahmadinejad of the error of his ways when he shows up to speak at their campus.

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Charlie’s Angle

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the National Archives

The website of Stonebridge International, a consulting firm that provides advice on doing business in China, Russia, India, Brazil, and other promising markets, has a tab called “in the news.” I clicked on it this morning and two items caught my eye. One was “Let’s Get to Know the Saudis,” and the other was “How Turning Capitalism Into Equality Can Mean Profit for All.” Interesting stuff–if you are a client of Stonebridge International, that is.

But even more interesting is a news story about Stonebridge that does not appear on its website, or for that matter in most of the newspapers in this country that count.

Stonebridge’s chairman is Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton. In 2005, Berger was convicted of pilfering classified documents from the National Archives as he was preparing to testify before the 9/11 Commission. He had smuggled them out by stuffing them into his trousers and socks and then hidden some of them in a nearby construction site. He was subsequently fined $56,905 and sentenced to 100 hours of community service, which he fulfilled by picking up litter in Virginia parks.

Yesterday, to avoid the ignominy of being disbarred—or perhaps, more importantly, to avoid being asked further questions under oath about what he had done—Berger agreed to surrender his license to practice law. A two-page agreement states that Berger “acknowledges that the material facts upon which the allegations of misconduct are predicated are true” and that he “could not successfully defend against them.”

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The website of Stonebridge International, a consulting firm that provides advice on doing business in China, Russia, India, Brazil, and other promising markets, has a tab called “in the news.” I clicked on it this morning and two items caught my eye. One was “Let’s Get to Know the Saudis,” and the other was “How Turning Capitalism Into Equality Can Mean Profit for All.” Interesting stuff–if you are a client of Stonebridge International, that is.

But even more interesting is a news story about Stonebridge that does not appear on its website, or for that matter in most of the newspapers in this country that count.

Stonebridge’s chairman is Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton. In 2005, Berger was convicted of pilfering classified documents from the National Archives as he was preparing to testify before the 9/11 Commission. He had smuggled them out by stuffing them into his trousers and socks and then hidden some of them in a nearby construction site. He was subsequently fined $56,905 and sentenced to 100 hours of community service, which he fulfilled by picking up litter in Virginia parks.

Yesterday, to avoid the ignominy of being disbarred—or perhaps, more importantly, to avoid being asked further questions under oath about what he had done—Berger agreed to surrender his license to practice law. A two-page agreement states that Berger “acknowledges that the material facts upon which the allegations of misconduct are predicated are true” and that he “could not successfully defend against them.”

What exactly was Berger up to in the National Archives? Why did he want those documents so badly that he was willing to risk so much, including 100 hours picking up soda cans instead of racking up billable hours at Stonebridge? We still don’t really know. His own stated explanation—that he simply wanted to read the documents at his leisure at home—does not comport with stowing them in a construction-site dead-drop like a semi-trained spy. And why are only two newspapers—the Washington Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—keeping us up to date on this bizarre story? If a Bush or a Reagan administration official had done something similar would the media be so incurious? The media’s quiet handling of this is almost as baffling as in the Montaperto matter, although for sheer mystery that case is hard to beat. 

Ronald Montaperto, an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and something of a soft-liner on China policy, pleaded guilty last June to the illegal retention of classified documents. He acknowledged in the course of the proceedings against him that he had passed secret and top-secret information to Chinese intelligence officers. Last September, he was sentenced to three months in prison and was released from incarceration this past February. The sentence stands in sharp contrast to the twelve-plus years that were given to Lawrence Franklin in the AIPAC matter for the less serious offense of passing classified documents to American citizens and mishandling others by keeping them in his home.

Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times nor any of our country’s leading newspapers–except for the conservative Washington Times—has yet to report a word about Montaperto’s escapades. It is as if this Chinese espionage case didn’t happen. I do not believe it could possibly be politics that explains this silence. Newspapers like the Post and Times may not always be the altogether neutral purveyors of news that they purport to be, but they wouldn’t ever actually suppress important information. Or would they, and why?  

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Taiwan’s Missile Gap

Last week the Bush administration publicly suggested that Taiwan should halt plans to produce long-range missiles capable of hitting targets in mainland China. “The U.S. view is that the focus should be on defensive weapons, not on offensive weapons,” said Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. The administration instead proposes to sell Taiwan the Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system as part of a larger $18-billion package of American arms.

But Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian is not content with purely defensive missiles: he wants a real deterrent. Washington seems to forget that China has more than 900 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is, by all accounts, increasing the size of its offensive arsenal by about 50 missiles a year. Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-2 and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles can reach China’s Fujian province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, though they would not be accurate if used against surface targets. Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is developing surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting Chinese military bases. But it remains unclear if the U.S. will provide the Taiwanese with the sophisticated guidance systems necessary to operate them. Read More

Last week the Bush administration publicly suggested that Taiwan should halt plans to produce long-range missiles capable of hitting targets in mainland China. “The U.S. view is that the focus should be on defensive weapons, not on offensive weapons,” said Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. The administration instead proposes to sell Taiwan the Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system as part of a larger $18-billion package of American arms.

But Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian is not content with purely defensive missiles: he wants a real deterrent. Washington seems to forget that China has more than 900 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is, by all accounts, increasing the size of its offensive arsenal by about 50 missiles a year. Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-2 and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles can reach China’s Fujian province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, though they would not be accurate if used against surface targets. Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is developing surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting Chinese military bases. But it remains unclear if the U.S. will provide the Taiwanese with the sophisticated guidance systems necessary to operate them.

President Bush, who in 2001 promised that he would do “whatever it took” to defend the island, has slowly scaled back this commitment in the face of Chinese pressure. Yet at the same time, as Stephen Young’s comment suggests, he also wants to deny the Taiwanese their own credible deterrent against China. This position makes no sense and can’t be sustained.

The Taiwanese will either obtain a firm defense pledge from Washington or develop the means to defend themselves. In the late 1980′s, the Reagan administration was able to stop Taipei’s last known independent attempt to develop nuclear weapons because the Taiwanese had confidence in America’s commitment to defending them.

Will Taiwan feel the same way in the future? Not if the U.S. fails to affirm that commitment. Taipei will then have little choice but to develop a deterrent independently. As President Chen said last July, after North Korea test-fired a volley of missiles: “Peace cannot be achieved with wishful thinking. We can stop a war only by being well-prepared for a war and avoid a war by gaining the capability of winning a war.”

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EEOC Meets CIA

John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.

Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”

Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.

John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.

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John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.

Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”

Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.

John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.

The 9/11 commission was certainly correct that the old order was profoundly flawed. Indeed a long line of CIA directors recognized the contradictory limitations of their position, which seemed to grant them control over the entire U.S. intelligence effort but actually did not. James Schlesinger, who ran the agency for a spell, noted way back in 1971, in a top-secret memo to Richard Nixon, that a series of Presidents had exhorted directors of the CIA “to play the role of [intelligence] community leader and coordinator, but [their] authority over the community has remained minimal.”

But the 9/11 commission’s remedy may well prove to be worse than the disease it was meant to cure. The staff of 1,500 or so employees who now report to the DNI are no doubt among the best and the brightest in the intelligence community. But is this a virtue or a vice? Top talent has been drawn away from the task of actually collecting and interpreting intelligence and into the job of bureaucratic coordination.

What is more, the office of the Director of National Intelligence—the ODNI—is inexorably taking on many of the dysfunctional characteristics of the agencies beneath it, including a seemingly ineradicable preoccupation with affirmative action. As DNI, Negroponte certainly had his hands full with this issue. Even while working tirelessly to avert a second 9/11, he also felt compelled to toil hand in glove with an interagency body called the Diversity Senior Advisory Panel for the Intelligence Community (DSAPIC) to understand “the causes of the under-representation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities” in the intelligence community. This body came up with a plan, Diversity: A National Security Imperative for the Intelligence Community, that made Negroponte confident that the intelligence community would reach its “goal of a work force that looks like America.”

Never mind that a far more urgent “national-security imperative” would be to have an intelligence community that looks not like America but like our key intelligence targets, including Iran or North Korea or Lebanon, where we are flailing around in the dark. Under John McConnell the mindless commitment to diversity evidently persists. It could not be an accident that on the ODNI’s organizational chart the “Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Officer” occupies one of the most prominent spots, positioned on the same line as the director himself.

One would have hoped that the top of the chart would have been occupied by a benignly titled slot like “director of special projects,” whose real job would be to think through how to identify and apprehend home-grown jihadists. A most important fact to bear in mind is that it was not the ODNI or the CIA or the FBI that broke the plot now brought to an end in New Jersey, but a sharp-eyed video-rental clerk.

To apply for a position at the ODNI, click here.

To fight terrorism, click here.

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The British Pat Buchanan

The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

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The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

Wheatcroft is equally hostile to the United States: “There was once a vigorous high Tory tradition of independence from—if not hostility to—America. It was found in the Morning Post before the war, and it continued down to Enoch Powell and Alan Clark.”

As it happens, I met both these colorful figures, who served in various Tory administrations, though never at the highest level. Powell is best remembered for his “Rivers of Blood” speech of 1968, in which he denounced mass immigration from the Commonwealth and warned of civil war. This speech was widely interpreted as racist; it permanently marginalized Powell in mainstream politics. A few years later he left the Tory party. Some people now see him as a prophet who foresaw the difficulty of integrating a large Muslim minority, but his concerns were about race rather than religion.

Powell was once asked whether he was anti-American. He replied: “Most people are. The only change is that it has become a term of abuse.” In answer to the question why, he said: “Well, I just don’t like America, or Americans. It’s like saying you like sugar in your tea. De gustibus non est disputandum.”

At least Enoch Powell was not an anti-Semite. Alan Clark, however, was not only anti-American, but an enthusiastic and unashamed admirer of Hitler, whose portrait he kept on his wall. Clark’s pro-Nazi views permeate Barbarossa, his well-known history of the German invasion of Russia, but they also shine through at several points in The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State, 1922-1997. He hints that German-Jewish refugees hindered Anglo-German efforts to preserve peace. Of Chamberlain’s belated decision to declare war on Germany in 1939, he writes: “Not since the Angevin kings had responded to mystic revelations from the Divinity instructing them to call a crusade to arms can any group of national leaders have taken so momentous a decision on such tenuous assumptions.”

But it is when Clark comes to Rudolf Hess’s flight to Scotland that his agenda is clearly revealed. Not only is he convinced (against all the evidence) that Hess brought a genuine peace offer from Hitler, that Churchill turned down this “wasted opportunity” to save the British Empire, and that the entire British establishment then engaged in a conspiracy to cover it up right down to 1987, when Hess was “strangled in his cell.” Clark also believes that a fall in Wall Street stocks on the news of Hess’s flight holds the key: peace, he claims, would have hit profits, which were far more important to Americans (many of them Jewish) than “the certain fate of human beings.”

As for more recent episodes: Clark depicts the Falklands war as a behind-the-scenes struggle between the Reagan administration, determined to frustrate the British attempt to regain the islands, and a stubborn Mrs. Thatcher—which is more or less the opposite of the version she herself recalls. Clark gained notoriety by publishing his sensational diaries, but they merely reinforce the impression of a clever but twisted mind, a crashing snob and conspiracy theorist, who fantasized about his boss, Mrs. Thatcher, as a kind of female Hitler, describing the thrill he got from her proximity as “Führer-Kontakt”.

So much for Alan Clark and Enoch Powell as keepers of the Tory flame. But Wheatcroft also admires the Arabist tradition exemplified by the vehemently anti-Zionist Ian (now Lord) Gilmour. Then he goes further back, rejecting Charles Moore’s claim that Conservatives have usually supported Israel in the past: “That highest of high Tories, Lord Curzon, deplored the Balfour declaration. . . . In his day Curzon might have seemed the truer Tory than Balfour, and it’s only recently that his spirit has been stifled in his old party.”

So, in Wheatcroft’s mind, true Tories reject the existence of Israel. He ignores such Conservative heroes as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, who staunchly supported both America and Israel, or in the more remote past Edmund Burke and Benjamin Disraeli. Instead, he postulates “infiltration” of the party by “zealous Anglo-neocons” who have “encircled” the Tory leader. He does not want David Cameron to become “the Hugo Chavez of Notting Hill,” he says, but to “forge a foreign policy that, unlike Blair’s, is based on the national interest of this country and not another.”

Geoffrey Wheatcroft emerges here as a British equivalent of Pat Buchanan. It is not often that such venomous resentment of the United States and Israel from the Right is brought out into the open in Britain—and no accident that it is the Guardian that offers these views a platform. To judge from the readers’ comments on the Guardian website, he has brought quite a few extreme anti-Semites out of the woodwork, too. But the tenor of Wheatcroft’s article is not untypical of the circles in which many senior Tories move. It is not only in America that paleoconservatives exist. Britain evidently has its very own Anglo-paleocons.

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The Lessons of Grenada

Like so many “small wars,” the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada has been all but forgotten. But the death of Joseph Metcalf III, the vice admiral who commanded the U.S. invasion force, provides an opportunity to recall the impact of this operation.

The Reagan administration was concerned about Grenada because of the presence of Cuban engineers who were building a large airfield that, it was feared, could become a platform for Soviet combat aircraft. The immediate trigger for the invasion was a coup by hardline Marxists in the army who overthrew Maurice Bishop’s government, which was already radical enough. There were fears that the resulting chaos could endanger 1,000 American medical students on the Caribbean island.

An initial landing of 1,500 American troops who went ashore on October 25 met stiffer-than-expected resistance from the Grenadian army and its Cuban allies. The island was not declared secure until November 2. By then some 8,000 American troops had been committed to fight an estimated 1,200 Grenadian soldiers and 780 Cubans. Nineteen U.S. service personnel died. Cuban and Grenadian forces lost 70 men.

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Like so many “small wars,” the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada has been all but forgotten. But the death of Joseph Metcalf III, the vice admiral who commanded the U.S. invasion force, provides an opportunity to recall the impact of this operation.

The Reagan administration was concerned about Grenada because of the presence of Cuban engineers who were building a large airfield that, it was feared, could become a platform for Soviet combat aircraft. The immediate trigger for the invasion was a coup by hardline Marxists in the army who overthrew Maurice Bishop’s government, which was already radical enough. There were fears that the resulting chaos could endanger 1,000 American medical students on the Caribbean island.

An initial landing of 1,500 American troops who went ashore on October 25 met stiffer-than-expected resistance from the Grenadian army and its Cuban allies. The island was not declared secure until November 2. By then some 8,000 American troops had been committed to fight an estimated 1,200 Grenadian soldiers and 780 Cubans. Nineteen U.S. service personnel died. Cuban and Grenadian forces lost 70 men.

Operation Urgent Fury was a success—just what America needed at the time. It was the first successful American military operation since Vietnam, and came just two days after the devastating bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut. However small, the victory in Grenada helped to revive American morale, solidify support for Ronald Reagan, and increase confidence in the armed forces.

But from a military viewpoint, Grenada was full of frustrations—as made clear in this study by the historian Ronald H. Cole for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The whole operation was put together at the last minute, with inadequate intelligence and confusing lines of command. Admiral Metcalf, commander of the U.S. Second Fleet, was placed in charge, but he and his staff had no experience of ground operations. A major general named H. Norman Schwarzkopf was abruptly dispatched to offer advice—but not given the authority to command ground forces.

The plan called for a simultaneous assault by Army Rangers on one part of the island and Marines on the other. But the Rangers were landed late and in the wrong order, costing them the element of surprise. A SEAL team was trapped and outgunned at the residence of the British governor general, and had to be rescued by the Marines. Navy A-7 Corsairs attacked a brigade headquarters of the 82nd Airborne, wounding seventeen soldiers.

Some snafus are to be expected in combat, of course, but what made Operation Urgent Fury so frustrating was that the Army, Marines, and Navy literally couldn’t talk to one another. “Because of incompatible radios,” Cole writes, “Navy ships within sight of Rangers and airborne troops could not initially receive or respond to their requests for fire support.” Nor could Marines and Army soldiers talk to one another. This led to an incident in which one soldier (not, as in the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge, a marine) was said to have placed a long-distance commercial telephone call to Ft. Bragg, N.C., to get fire support for his unit.

The lessons of Grenada helped lead to the passage of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which established a more unified command structure for the armed forces, and the 1987 Nunn-Cohen Amendment, which established the U.S. Special Operations Command. Not incidentally, it also helped Schwarzkopf go on to greater glory as a unified combatant commander—a job that didn’t exist in 1983.

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