Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sheriff

Silence Is Preferable to Speculation as to Loughner’s Motives

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

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RE: What Would Reagan Have Thought?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Would Reagan Have Thought?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A New Sheriff in the Strait

In the flurry of mildly interesting disclosures from the Iranian military exercise this week, one is likely to be overlooked. Iranian state media report that on Friday, April 23, the Revolutionary Guard’s naval arm stopped two ships for inspection in the Strait of Hormuz. The ships, according to Iran’s Press TV, were French and Italian. The photo accompanying the story depicts a Kaman-class guided-missile patrol boat on which the boxy, Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship-missile launchers can be seen amidships. The stated purpose of the inspections was to verify “environmental compliance.”

The names of the foreign ships were not provided; sketchy details make it difficult to be certain exactly where in the strait they were stopped. But European ships — even private yachts — rarely venture outside the recognized navigation corridors in the Strait of Hormuz. If this news report is valid, it almost certainly means that Iran detained ships that were transiting those corridors.

That, as our vice president might say, is a big effing deal. That’s not because Iran has committed an act of war by intercepting these ships, as some in the blogosphere are speculating. The intercepts were not acts of war. The purpose of verifying environmental compliance is one Iran can theoretically invoke on the basis of its maritime claims lodged with the UN in 1993. Ironically, however, Iran has never signed the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the instrument by which the terms of its claims are defined. Many nations, of course, have yet to either sign or ratify UNCLOS, America being among them. In the meantime, world shipping has operated in the Strait of Hormuz for decades on the basis of UNCLOS’s definition of “transit passage,” which has customarily immunized ships in routine transit through straits against random intercept by the littoral navies (e.g., Iran’s or Oman’s).

Iran would be breaking with that custom by stopping ships for inspection in the recognized transit corridors. But this venue for a newly assertive Iranian profile is chosen well: stopping foreign ships that are conducting transit passage is uncollegial and inconvenient for commerce, but it is not clearly in breach of international law.

What it is, however, is an incipient challenge to the maritime regime enforced by the U.S., which includes the quiescent transit-passage custom on which global commerce relies. Mariners take care to observe the law as it is written, regardless of their nationality or national position on UNCLOS; but the guarantee of their unhindered passage isn’t international law, it’s the U.S. Navy. Demonstrations of force are required only rarely. Reagan put down revolutionary Iran’s only serious challenge to international maritime order back in 1988, in the final months of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, Iran has refrained from unilateral action against shipping in the recognized transit corridors of the strait.

It’s ingenious to use environmental inspection as a pretext for establishing a new regime of unilateral Iranian prerogative. Iran is probing the U.S. and the West with this move. Fortunately, for the time being, diplomacy is the ideal tool for making it clear to Iran that the U.S. won’t tolerate capricious interference with shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. This initiative of Tehran’s must be nipped in the bud promptly, however. It can only escalate — and without pushback, it will.

In the flurry of mildly interesting disclosures from the Iranian military exercise this week, one is likely to be overlooked. Iranian state media report that on Friday, April 23, the Revolutionary Guard’s naval arm stopped two ships for inspection in the Strait of Hormuz. The ships, according to Iran’s Press TV, were French and Italian. The photo accompanying the story depicts a Kaman-class guided-missile patrol boat on which the boxy, Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship-missile launchers can be seen amidships. The stated purpose of the inspections was to verify “environmental compliance.”

The names of the foreign ships were not provided; sketchy details make it difficult to be certain exactly where in the strait they were stopped. But European ships — even private yachts — rarely venture outside the recognized navigation corridors in the Strait of Hormuz. If this news report is valid, it almost certainly means that Iran detained ships that were transiting those corridors.

That, as our vice president might say, is a big effing deal. That’s not because Iran has committed an act of war by intercepting these ships, as some in the blogosphere are speculating. The intercepts were not acts of war. The purpose of verifying environmental compliance is one Iran can theoretically invoke on the basis of its maritime claims lodged with the UN in 1993. Ironically, however, Iran has never signed the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the instrument by which the terms of its claims are defined. Many nations, of course, have yet to either sign or ratify UNCLOS, America being among them. In the meantime, world shipping has operated in the Strait of Hormuz for decades on the basis of UNCLOS’s definition of “transit passage,” which has customarily immunized ships in routine transit through straits against random intercept by the littoral navies (e.g., Iran’s or Oman’s).

Iran would be breaking with that custom by stopping ships for inspection in the recognized transit corridors. But this venue for a newly assertive Iranian profile is chosen well: stopping foreign ships that are conducting transit passage is uncollegial and inconvenient for commerce, but it is not clearly in breach of international law.

What it is, however, is an incipient challenge to the maritime regime enforced by the U.S., which includes the quiescent transit-passage custom on which global commerce relies. Mariners take care to observe the law as it is written, regardless of their nationality or national position on UNCLOS; but the guarantee of their unhindered passage isn’t international law, it’s the U.S. Navy. Demonstrations of force are required only rarely. Reagan put down revolutionary Iran’s only serious challenge to international maritime order back in 1988, in the final months of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, Iran has refrained from unilateral action against shipping in the recognized transit corridors of the strait.

It’s ingenious to use environmental inspection as a pretext for establishing a new regime of unilateral Iranian prerogative. Iran is probing the U.S. and the West with this move. Fortunately, for the time being, diplomacy is the ideal tool for making it clear to Iran that the U.S. won’t tolerate capricious interference with shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. This initiative of Tehran’s must be nipped in the bud promptly, however. It can only escalate — and without pushback, it will.

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Game On

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

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Jobs? Feh!

This isn’t going to help the White House spin effort:

President Barack Obama says creating jobs isn’t the goal of a coming White House forum on jobs and economic growth.

Yes, “job creation” is a touchy subject since the stimulus plan’s numbers went kaplooey. And it’s clear whose fault that is. As Rick Klein of ABC remarks: “The administration asked for this — dare we say, literally asked for this — with promises of actual job totals and new accountability and oversight mechanisms, all with Sheriff Joe Biden at the helm.” Indeed they did.

So what about the non-job-creating job summit? They want to find out “how to encourage hiring by businesses still reluctant to do so.” That’s a tough one. Hmm. Maybe not raise taxes on employers but cut them? Perhaps not slap new health-care mandates on businesses? One thing is for certain: the Obami need help with this problem. Plainly they are stumped when it comes to job growth.

This isn’t going to help the White House spin effort:

President Barack Obama says creating jobs isn’t the goal of a coming White House forum on jobs and economic growth.

Yes, “job creation” is a touchy subject since the stimulus plan’s numbers went kaplooey. And it’s clear whose fault that is. As Rick Klein of ABC remarks: “The administration asked for this — dare we say, literally asked for this — with promises of actual job totals and new accountability and oversight mechanisms, all with Sheriff Joe Biden at the helm.” Indeed they did.

So what about the non-job-creating job summit? They want to find out “how to encourage hiring by businesses still reluctant to do so.” That’s a tough one. Hmm. Maybe not raise taxes on employers but cut them? Perhaps not slap new health-care mandates on businesses? One thing is for certain: the Obami need help with this problem. Plainly they are stumped when it comes to job growth.

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A Boxcutter, a Plane, a Qur’an – Again

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

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Is ‘No Country for Old Men’ About the Culture of Death?

Walking away from the Coen Brothers film of No Country for Old Men, you may have a couple of questions. For instance, why is the film set in 1980? And what does it all mean? In Cormac McCarthy’s novel, it’s obvious why the story takes place in 1980. The reason is Vietnam. Most of the characters served there; it’s where they learned about the value of human life, or lack thereof.

The sheriff’s deputy, examining a crime scene that ended up in a shootout, says, “It must of sounded like Vietnam out here.” When Moss (played by Josh Brolin in the film) buys ammo, he thinks, “the box of shells contained almost exactly the firepower of a claymore mine.” The sheriff (the Tommy Lee Jones character) tells Moss’s wife that “he’s goin’ to wind up killin somebody,” to which the wife responds, “He never has.” The sheriff points out, “he was in Vietnam,” and the wife says, “I mean as a civilian.” That dry distinction—that killing in war doesn’t count—is ironic.

When Carson Wells (the Woody Harrelson character) is killed by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in the film), Chigurh thinks about “the body of a child dead in a roadside ravine in another country,” as well as all the people he has assassinated, which underlines the point that killing leads to more killing. The sheriff thinks about how “I was supposed to be a war hero and I lost a whole squad of men. They died and I got a medal.”

COMMENTARY Editorial Director John Podhoretz has castigated the film as nihilist. But if you measure McCarthy’s ironic tone in the book, you might come to another conclusion. Possibly McCarthy is taking the extreme, Catholic stance that all killing is wrong, from capital punishment to war to abortion. The book takes place seven years after Roe v. Wade, five years after the fall of Saigon, four years after the restoration of the death penalty by the Supreme Court. It’s a year when the idea that state could sanction killing has begun to take root. The sheriff, in the book as in the film the voice of wisdom and restraint, expresses a sad resignation toward the death penalty from page one on, and a portion of the book that isn’t referred to in the movie might be the key to understanding McCarthy’s moral.

Remembering a conference in Corpus Christi, the sheriff thinks, “Me and Loretta…got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I ain’t even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”

McCarthy has a vision of an America that fosters what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death;” these men come back from Vietnam, where they learned to kill, then apply their killing skills on a country that is killing fetuses and condemned prisoners and will soon give the okay to killing old people and the weak. The remorseless assassin Anton Chigurh is the natural consequence of a culture of death: A harbinger of unchecked killing.

Walking away from the Coen Brothers film of No Country for Old Men, you may have a couple of questions. For instance, why is the film set in 1980? And what does it all mean? In Cormac McCarthy’s novel, it’s obvious why the story takes place in 1980. The reason is Vietnam. Most of the characters served there; it’s where they learned about the value of human life, or lack thereof.

The sheriff’s deputy, examining a crime scene that ended up in a shootout, says, “It must of sounded like Vietnam out here.” When Moss (played by Josh Brolin in the film) buys ammo, he thinks, “the box of shells contained almost exactly the firepower of a claymore mine.” The sheriff (the Tommy Lee Jones character) tells Moss’s wife that “he’s goin’ to wind up killin somebody,” to which the wife responds, “He never has.” The sheriff points out, “he was in Vietnam,” and the wife says, “I mean as a civilian.” That dry distinction—that killing in war doesn’t count—is ironic.

When Carson Wells (the Woody Harrelson character) is killed by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in the film), Chigurh thinks about “the body of a child dead in a roadside ravine in another country,” as well as all the people he has assassinated, which underlines the point that killing leads to more killing. The sheriff thinks about how “I was supposed to be a war hero and I lost a whole squad of men. They died and I got a medal.”

COMMENTARY Editorial Director John Podhoretz has castigated the film as nihilist. But if you measure McCarthy’s ironic tone in the book, you might come to another conclusion. Possibly McCarthy is taking the extreme, Catholic stance that all killing is wrong, from capital punishment to war to abortion. The book takes place seven years after Roe v. Wade, five years after the fall of Saigon, four years after the restoration of the death penalty by the Supreme Court. It’s a year when the idea that state could sanction killing has begun to take root. The sheriff, in the book as in the film the voice of wisdom and restraint, expresses a sad resignation toward the death penalty from page one on, and a portion of the book that isn’t referred to in the movie might be the key to understanding McCarthy’s moral.

Remembering a conference in Corpus Christi, the sheriff thinks, “Me and Loretta…got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I ain’t even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”

McCarthy has a vision of an America that fosters what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death;” these men come back from Vietnam, where they learned to kill, then apply their killing skills on a country that is killing fetuses and condemned prisoners and will soon give the okay to killing old people and the weak. The remorseless assassin Anton Chigurh is the natural consequence of a culture of death: A harbinger of unchecked killing.

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Three Interrogators

The Washington Post has a fascinating article by Laura Blumenfeld featuring interviews with three interrogators—one American, one British, one Israeli. Much of the focus is on the American, Tony Lagouranis, a 37-year-old military intelligence specialist who served in Iraq in 2004 and who has a new memoir out. He says he is anguished by his service, wracked by guilt over having to “torture” suspects.

Well, everyone is against torture in principle—at least everyone who is not a sadist. But what constitutes torture? That’s the nub of the problem. Blumenfeld’s article sheds interesting light on this vexatious issue by juxtaposing Lagouranis’s comments with those of his far more experienced Israeli and British counterparts.

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The Washington Post has a fascinating article by Laura Blumenfeld featuring interviews with three interrogators—one American, one British, one Israeli. Much of the focus is on the American, Tony Lagouranis, a 37-year-old military intelligence specialist who served in Iraq in 2004 and who has a new memoir out. He says he is anguished by his service, wracked by guilt over having to “torture” suspects.

Well, everyone is against torture in principle—at least everyone who is not a sadist. But what constitutes torture? That’s the nub of the problem. Blumenfeld’s article sheds interesting light on this vexatious issue by juxtaposing Lagouranis’s comments with those of his far more experienced Israeli and British counterparts.

First up is a man identified only by his first name, now living on an unidentified Mediterranean island because of death threats from the IRA. James, 65, was one of Britain’s most experienced interrogators in Northern Ireland. Starting in 1971, James said, he worked for the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), interrogating Irish nationalists Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands, and others whom the British government suspected of being terrorists. Blumenfeld’s article offers these vignettes of how James operated:

Once, IRA leader Brendan Hughes claimed that James had cocked a gun to his head. James does not deny it. “You fight fire with fire,” he said, the memory igniting his blue eyes. Another anecdote: “My friend once saw a guy planting a bomb,” he said. He laughed. “My friend tied a rope around the guy’s ankle, and made him defuse it. Now that’s how to deal with a ticking bomb.” Yet James denies being guilty of torture: “Yes, a bloke would get a cuff in the ear or he might brace against the wall. Yes, they had sleep deprivation,” he said. “But we did not torture.”

Then there is “Sheriff,” the code name of the recently retired chief of interrogations for the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. The article describes his technique as follows:

For Sheriff, interrogation was more psychological than physical. He used flattery on Palestinians who put bombs under playground benches: “You say, ‘Hey! Wow! How did you connect these wires? Did you manufacture this explosive? This is good!” He played good cop, and bad: “One day I was good. Next day I was bad. The prisoner said, ‘Yesterday you were good. What happened today?’ I told him we were short on manpower.”

Presumably those kinds of psychological ploys are exactly what opponents of “torture,” broadly defined, think we should use to extract information. Yet even for someone as skilled as Sheriff, they weren’t always enough:

But when the pressure mounted for intelligence, Sheriff said, the best method was “a very little violence.” Enough to scare people but not so much that they’d collapse. Agents tried it on themselves. “Not torture.”

James’s and Sheriff’s justifications won’t convince those who consider everything from the good cop/bad cop routine to “a little violence” as torture. That’s a comforting, consistent position to take. In fact, it is basically the policy laid out in the new Army Field Manual on Interrogations, a policy that prohibits many of the more coercive techniques employed in the days after 9/11.

But is this new policy sufficient to keep us safe? Sheriff doesn’t think so:

“You have to play by different rules,” the Israeli interrogator told an American visitor. “The terrorists want to use your own system to destroy you. What your President is doing is right.”

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