Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sudan

Yemen and the Biden Strategy

One of the most useful prisms through which to view Yemen and Somalia is that of the “Biden strategy” for the War on Terror. The strategy’s outlines are provided in this article, one of many recounting Biden’s advocacy of over-the-horizon counterterrorism during the interminable seminar on Afghanistan last year:

Biden urged the president to consider a narrow counterterrorism mission, heavy on Special Forces and Predator drone strikes, which would require far less manpower than the military was seeking. … [He] continues to argue that it may not be possible to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan at a reasonable cost.

Administration policy in Yemen and Somalia has been an even purer example of applying the Biden strategy. Team Obama has disavowed any intention of enlarging U.S. goals or the military footprint in either nation (see here and here, for example). The U.S. is there only to hunt terrorists, suppress piracy, and supply humanitarian aid, with a little military aid thrown in on the side.

Obama has so rigorously eschewed having any greater designs on the region that his administration seems to have missed some very basic geopolitical facts; e.g., that the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden lie between Yemen and Somalia and are the main path by which terrorists — and refugees — travel between their unruly shores. Yemen and Somalia function, in many ways, as a “system”; they share problems and displaced populations; and their neighbors — like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Sudan — claim equities in their turmoil. Proposing to interact with this region solely by executing drone attacks and distributing aid, as if that will immunize the U.S. against unpleasant levels of involvement, is as much a fool’s errand as it is in Central Asia.

The U.S. is already deeply embedded in the region, with our naval task force combating piracy, our joint military headquarters in Djibouti, and our Special Forces and military training activities in Yemen. Now Obama wants to increase our counterterrorism activities in Yemen, deeming it a greater source of terrorism than Pakistan. In Somalia, meanwhile, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is trying to retake the south from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab terror group, the commander of U.S. Africa Command has stated — for the first time — a U.S. willingness to train Somali TFG troops directly.

The intensifying war on terrorists in Yemen is reminiscent of the U.S. posture in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. There are, unfortunately, parallels in multiple realms. Human-rights groups are decrying the collateral damage done by U.S. strikes (like this one in December 2009). Yemen itself is rent by factional insurgencies; one of them, the Southern Movement, has ambiguous relations with al-Qaeda. The moral hazard of U.S. cooperation being exploited by the Yemeni government to go after its internal opposition cannot be discounted. Such allegations are already being made by Amnesty International and others. But the strongest parallel with Southeast Asia 50 years ago is the administration’s passion for Special Forces, military advisers, and standoff air strikes.

What happens in Yemen will not stay in Yemen: it will spill over and affect the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight terror there, but it does mean we will be unprepared for the consequences of doing so if we rely only on the Biden strategy. Perhaps the American people have let Team Obama maintain the fiction that we are executing a distant, hands-off strategy there, but regional circumstances won’t allow it much longer. Obama is inviting things to come to a head by ramping up Special Forces operations and drone attacks in Yemen, which will stretch the Biden method to the breaking point.

We are already involved in Yemen’s fate: we’ve been shooting there for years. Somalia may be next. We are backing into a problem we should be meeting head-on. Our strategy should, at the very least, recognize the limits of our ability to ignore local and regional politics when we are hunting our enemies and enforcing our policies on someone else’s territory.

One of the most useful prisms through which to view Yemen and Somalia is that of the “Biden strategy” for the War on Terror. The strategy’s outlines are provided in this article, one of many recounting Biden’s advocacy of over-the-horizon counterterrorism during the interminable seminar on Afghanistan last year:

Biden urged the president to consider a narrow counterterrorism mission, heavy on Special Forces and Predator drone strikes, which would require far less manpower than the military was seeking. … [He] continues to argue that it may not be possible to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan at a reasonable cost.

Administration policy in Yemen and Somalia has been an even purer example of applying the Biden strategy. Team Obama has disavowed any intention of enlarging U.S. goals or the military footprint in either nation (see here and here, for example). The U.S. is there only to hunt terrorists, suppress piracy, and supply humanitarian aid, with a little military aid thrown in on the side.

Obama has so rigorously eschewed having any greater designs on the region that his administration seems to have missed some very basic geopolitical facts; e.g., that the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden lie between Yemen and Somalia and are the main path by which terrorists — and refugees — travel between their unruly shores. Yemen and Somalia function, in many ways, as a “system”; they share problems and displaced populations; and their neighbors — like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Sudan — claim equities in their turmoil. Proposing to interact with this region solely by executing drone attacks and distributing aid, as if that will immunize the U.S. against unpleasant levels of involvement, is as much a fool’s errand as it is in Central Asia.

The U.S. is already deeply embedded in the region, with our naval task force combating piracy, our joint military headquarters in Djibouti, and our Special Forces and military training activities in Yemen. Now Obama wants to increase our counterterrorism activities in Yemen, deeming it a greater source of terrorism than Pakistan. In Somalia, meanwhile, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is trying to retake the south from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab terror group, the commander of U.S. Africa Command has stated — for the first time — a U.S. willingness to train Somali TFG troops directly.

The intensifying war on terrorists in Yemen is reminiscent of the U.S. posture in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. There are, unfortunately, parallels in multiple realms. Human-rights groups are decrying the collateral damage done by U.S. strikes (like this one in December 2009). Yemen itself is rent by factional insurgencies; one of them, the Southern Movement, has ambiguous relations with al-Qaeda. The moral hazard of U.S. cooperation being exploited by the Yemeni government to go after its internal opposition cannot be discounted. Such allegations are already being made by Amnesty International and others. But the strongest parallel with Southeast Asia 50 years ago is the administration’s passion for Special Forces, military advisers, and standoff air strikes.

What happens in Yemen will not stay in Yemen: it will spill over and affect the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight terror there, but it does mean we will be unprepared for the consequences of doing so if we rely only on the Biden strategy. Perhaps the American people have let Team Obama maintain the fiction that we are executing a distant, hands-off strategy there, but regional circumstances won’t allow it much longer. Obama is inviting things to come to a head by ramping up Special Forces operations and drone attacks in Yemen, which will stretch the Biden method to the breaking point.

We are already involved in Yemen’s fate: we’ve been shooting there for years. Somalia may be next. We are backing into a problem we should be meeting head-on. Our strategy should, at the very least, recognize the limits of our ability to ignore local and regional politics when we are hunting our enemies and enforcing our policies on someone else’s territory.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

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New Report on China Leaves Out the Good Stuff

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

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Winston Churchill in Perspective

In his own day, Winston Churchill was an intensely controversial figure, one who would never have become prime minister were it not for Britain’s desperate straits in May 1940. Yet for decades after the war his heroic leadership made him almost universally acclaimed for saving Western civilization.

The halo began to wear thin in the 1990s when the British historian John Charmley began attacking Churchill for not having tried to strike a deal with Nazi Germany, which would supposedly have preserved the British Empire. Charmley, a right-winger, seemed to think that the empire was worth saving even at the cost of leaving Hitler in power.

Now comes Richard Toye, a left-wing British historian, to attack Churchill for having shown too much devotion to the empire. I confess to not having read his book, Churchill’s Empire, but the glowing review in the New York Times from ultra-left-wing British columnist Johann Hari makes it sound like a standard-issue anti-imperial screed from today’s academy. Hari recites Churchill’s record in defense of the empire, from his early days as a young army officer on the Northwest Frontier, the Sudan, and South Africa, up to his time as a minister who sent the Black and Tans to Ireland, repressed an Iraqi revolt, and tried to stymie Indian independence. Much of Hari’s approach (and Toye’s?) consists of quoting out of context Churchill’s colorful rhetoric. For example:

When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

Apparently, Hari is not familiar with the technique of using rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Undoubtedly, Churchill was opposed to Gandhi’s independence crusade, but, as far as I know, he made no attempt to actually have Gandhi trampled by an elephant. Gandhi was detained under house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace (not exactly Devil’s Island) for two years during World War II but that’s because he was trying to undermine the British war effort against Germany and Japan. If he had succeeded and India had fallen under the sway of Japanese militarists, he and other anti-British activists would soon have found out what real repression feels like.

In trying to paint Churchill as “cruel and cramped,” Hari also dredges up the Harvard historian Caroline Elkins’s allegations that British prison camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s amounted to a “British gulag” — a charge that has been rejected by pretty much all serious historians of the period. There is no doubt that British authorities locked up large numbers of Mau Mau suspects but the conditions under which they were held bore no resemblance to those experienced by Solzhenitsyn and other inmates of the real gulag.

There are indications of a remarkable lack of perspective in Hari’s (and Toyes’s) indictment, which misses two larger points about imperialism. First, for most of his life Churchill championed the empire at a time when imperialism was considered the norm. Empires have existed since ancient Mesopotamia and much of the world was ruled by them until the late 1940s. Hari is right that even in Churchill’s day not everyone favored imperialism but most did — including many Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt. By the standards of its day, the British Empire was, with the possible exception of the American Empire, the most liberal and enlightened in the world — certainly far more humane than the empires carved out by the Belgians and Germans in Africa. It is absurd to second-guess Churchill’s pro-imperial views from the vantage point of 21st century political correctness, which extols nationalism (perhaps wrongly) as the epitome of human development.

This bring us to the second point that Hari and his ilk overlook — namely the alternatives to British imperialism. Not only the alternative of other European empires, most of them far more brutal; but also the alternative of other indigenous regimes, most of which were even worse. Empire was not just a European phenomenon, after all; many of the native powers that British soldiers fought, whether the Zulus or the Moghuls, were imperialists in their own right. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why Britain was able to win and police its empire at such low cost — many of its subject peoples considered British rule preferable to that of local dynasties.

Once the British empire and other Western regimes passed from the scene, what replaced them? In India there was civil strife that killed over a million people. At least India managed to establish a more or less democratic government, thanks to the legacy of British rule. That’s more than can be said for most countries where the British did not stay as long. Many places once ruled by British, French, or other European bureaucrats fell under the sway of native tyrants, whose rule turned out to be far less competent and far more bloody. Idi Amin, who took over the former British colony of Uganda, comes to mind. Given the historical record of much of the post-independence world, it is by no means so obvious that Churchill’s preferred alternative — British rule — was not, in the end, superior.

In his own day, Winston Churchill was an intensely controversial figure, one who would never have become prime minister were it not for Britain’s desperate straits in May 1940. Yet for decades after the war his heroic leadership made him almost universally acclaimed for saving Western civilization.

The halo began to wear thin in the 1990s when the British historian John Charmley began attacking Churchill for not having tried to strike a deal with Nazi Germany, which would supposedly have preserved the British Empire. Charmley, a right-winger, seemed to think that the empire was worth saving even at the cost of leaving Hitler in power.

Now comes Richard Toye, a left-wing British historian, to attack Churchill for having shown too much devotion to the empire. I confess to not having read his book, Churchill’s Empire, but the glowing review in the New York Times from ultra-left-wing British columnist Johann Hari makes it sound like a standard-issue anti-imperial screed from today’s academy. Hari recites Churchill’s record in defense of the empire, from his early days as a young army officer on the Northwest Frontier, the Sudan, and South Africa, up to his time as a minister who sent the Black and Tans to Ireland, repressed an Iraqi revolt, and tried to stymie Indian independence. Much of Hari’s approach (and Toye’s?) consists of quoting out of context Churchill’s colorful rhetoric. For example:

When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

Apparently, Hari is not familiar with the technique of using rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Undoubtedly, Churchill was opposed to Gandhi’s independence crusade, but, as far as I know, he made no attempt to actually have Gandhi trampled by an elephant. Gandhi was detained under house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace (not exactly Devil’s Island) for two years during World War II but that’s because he was trying to undermine the British war effort against Germany and Japan. If he had succeeded and India had fallen under the sway of Japanese militarists, he and other anti-British activists would soon have found out what real repression feels like.

In trying to paint Churchill as “cruel and cramped,” Hari also dredges up the Harvard historian Caroline Elkins’s allegations that British prison camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s amounted to a “British gulag” — a charge that has been rejected by pretty much all serious historians of the period. There is no doubt that British authorities locked up large numbers of Mau Mau suspects but the conditions under which they were held bore no resemblance to those experienced by Solzhenitsyn and other inmates of the real gulag.

There are indications of a remarkable lack of perspective in Hari’s (and Toyes’s) indictment, which misses two larger points about imperialism. First, for most of his life Churchill championed the empire at a time when imperialism was considered the norm. Empires have existed since ancient Mesopotamia and much of the world was ruled by them until the late 1940s. Hari is right that even in Churchill’s day not everyone favored imperialism but most did — including many Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt. By the standards of its day, the British Empire was, with the possible exception of the American Empire, the most liberal and enlightened in the world — certainly far more humane than the empires carved out by the Belgians and Germans in Africa. It is absurd to second-guess Churchill’s pro-imperial views from the vantage point of 21st century political correctness, which extols nationalism (perhaps wrongly) as the epitome of human development.

This bring us to the second point that Hari and his ilk overlook — namely the alternatives to British imperialism. Not only the alternative of other European empires, most of them far more brutal; but also the alternative of other indigenous regimes, most of which were even worse. Empire was not just a European phenomenon, after all; many of the native powers that British soldiers fought, whether the Zulus or the Moghuls, were imperialists in their own right. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why Britain was able to win and police its empire at such low cost — many of its subject peoples considered British rule preferable to that of local dynasties.

Once the British empire and other Western regimes passed from the scene, what replaced them? In India there was civil strife that killed over a million people. At least India managed to establish a more or less democratic government, thanks to the legacy of British rule. That’s more than can be said for most countries where the British did not stay as long. Many places once ruled by British, French, or other European bureaucrats fell under the sway of native tyrants, whose rule turned out to be far less competent and far more bloody. Idi Amin, who took over the former British colony of Uganda, comes to mind. Given the historical record of much of the post-independence world, it is by no means so obvious that Churchill’s preferred alternative — British rule — was not, in the end, superior.

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RE: Vindication On Sudan?

Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:

The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.

Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.

Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.

The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:

“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.

Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.

Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.

“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.

The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.

But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:

“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”

In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.

Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:

The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.

Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.

Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.

The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:

“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”

Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.

Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.

Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.

“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.

The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.

But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:

“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”

In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.

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Vindication on Sudan?

The Washington Post reports:

The International Criminal Court’s judges on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with orchestrating a bloody campaign of genocide against Darfur’s three main ethnic groups, the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.

The three-judge pretrial chamber issued a formal arrest warrant for Bashir — the second time it has done so — on three counts of genocide. They include the crime of targeted mass killing, the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of a target group, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups,” the judges concluded.

But then the Post makes the assertion that this provides a “a degree of vindication to the United States, which has stood largely alone in characterizing the killing in Darfur as genocide.” Well, yes, but it also represents a complete repudiation of this administration’s attempts to engage Sudan, not to mention the work of its much criticized envoy Scott Gration. For sometime now, activists have been hammering the administration precisely because it has failed to treat Bashir as a war criminal and has instead pursued a feckless policy of engagement. The criticism has come from both the left and the right.

In sum, Obama has been dragging his feet rather than leading on this issue. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of giving the ICC too much latitude, but in this case it is filling a void left by the utter absence of leadership from the U.S. This is how America loses standing and forfeits its superpower status to multilateral institutions. It can hardly been seen as a vindication, then, when the ICC grasps the mantle of leadership on human rights from an indifferent U.S. president.

The Washington Post reports:

The International Criminal Court’s judges on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with orchestrating a bloody campaign of genocide against Darfur’s three main ethnic groups, the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.

The three-judge pretrial chamber issued a formal arrest warrant for Bashir — the second time it has done so — on three counts of genocide. They include the crime of targeted mass killing, the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of a target group, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups,” the judges concluded.

But then the Post makes the assertion that this provides a “a degree of vindication to the United States, which has stood largely alone in characterizing the killing in Darfur as genocide.” Well, yes, but it also represents a complete repudiation of this administration’s attempts to engage Sudan, not to mention the work of its much criticized envoy Scott Gration. For sometime now, activists have been hammering the administration precisely because it has failed to treat Bashir as a war criminal and has instead pursued a feckless policy of engagement. The criticism has come from both the left and the right.

In sum, Obama has been dragging his feet rather than leading on this issue. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of giving the ICC too much latitude, but in this case it is filling a void left by the utter absence of leadership from the U.S. This is how America loses standing and forfeits its superpower status to multilateral institutions. It can hardly been seen as a vindication, then, when the ICC grasps the mantle of leadership on human rights from an indifferent U.S. president.

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Obama’s Human Rights Problem

Human rights activists here and abroad had high expectations for President Barack Obama. They took his “hope and change” as more than a campaign slogan, imagining that he might use his celebrity status to promote democracy, religious freedom, and human rights. They envisioned him shining a bright light on oppressors and utilizing the array of tools at his disposal to aid, encourage, and protect the oppressed. It has not come to pass; instead, it is the oppressors who have much to celebrate — for they operate with impunity. They have learned that they can not only escape condemnation but also receive new respect from a president who seems indifferent if not hostile to the dissidents and human rights advocates.

Obama has responded to Hosni Mubarak’s crackdown on political dissidents and extension of the “emergency” laws not with condemnation but with billions in new aid. The president responded to the stolen Iranian election and brutal repression with silence, and subsequently cut aid to groups documenting human rights abuse. He has offered to engage Burma despite its atrocious human rights record but failed to take any significant step after another phony election. Aung San Suu Kyi remains imprisoned, and Burma is now pursuing its own nuclear program. His envoy to Sudan is widely ridiculed by Darfur activists, who are dismayed that he has not carried forth on campaign promises to crack down on the genocidal regime. And so it has been since Obama took office.

There is no more eloquent description of Obama’s sorry record than this:

It’s been a rough seventeen months for Americans whose calling is to fight for the rights of people who’ve been stripped of them by force—young men and women beaten to death in full view of the world by the agents of their oppressors for daring to demand that their votes be counted; others hacked to death with the complicity of the autocrats in power over them for having been born the wrong color or to the wrong tribe; girls subjected to the lash, or, worse, murdered by their own mothers, fathers, or brothers for appearing in public in the wrong company; believers imprisoned for professing faith in the wrong god or the wrong political system; non-believers sentenced to death for “wronging” a wrathful, vengeful religion.

And it is also worth considering why Obama and his secretary of state, when they do muster some concern for human rights, focus not on the world’s worst offenders but on their own countrymen, whose shortcomings on race, inequality, and the like never escape their exacting eyes.

It is not simply a case of misplaced priorities or even moral obtuseness. Hillary Clinton at times can wax poetic on human rights, proving once again that hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue. The problem stems from Obama’s conviction that the U.S. and the West more generally are the world’s problem children and that it is our arrogance, ignorance, and track record of interference in other countries’ affairs that are the source of the world’s ills. The apology tour (which covered everything from dropping the atomic bomb to our supposed lack of simpatico with the “Muslim World”) was perhaps the most heartfelt expression of Obama’s worldview and explains his cockeyed human rights record.

Because the U.S. is so flawed, so guilty of serial misdeeds, we are in Obama’s eyes (and the left-wing academic mindset from which he derives his views) disqualified from pronouncing on others’ behavior and obligated to let them pronounce on ours and our allies. Hence, we bear witness to (and do not challenge) the Human Right Council thugocracies as they condemn countries with infinitely better human rights records (especially Israel). But we temper our words and offer our hand in conciliation (and in some cases open our wallets) to the human rights oppressors. We allow Iran to join the UN Commission on the Status of Women to opine on others’ gender discrimination but avert our eyes from the brutality endured by Muslim women and girls.

There is, of course, a practical, albeit misguided, reason for Obama’s human rights record. He imagines he will incur the goodwill of the world’s despots by soft-peddling criticism of their treatment of their own people. But it is no longer possible to ignore the more fundamental problem: Obama believes his mission is to atone for America’s sins, not set the example for the world as the leader of that “shining city on the hill.” If one doubts the essential goodness of America and is unwilling to hold others to a standard of conduct that reflects our own values, you will wind up with a human rights policy that looks like Obama’s.

Human rights activists here and abroad had high expectations for President Barack Obama. They took his “hope and change” as more than a campaign slogan, imagining that he might use his celebrity status to promote democracy, religious freedom, and human rights. They envisioned him shining a bright light on oppressors and utilizing the array of tools at his disposal to aid, encourage, and protect the oppressed. It has not come to pass; instead, it is the oppressors who have much to celebrate — for they operate with impunity. They have learned that they can not only escape condemnation but also receive new respect from a president who seems indifferent if not hostile to the dissidents and human rights advocates.

Obama has responded to Hosni Mubarak’s crackdown on political dissidents and extension of the “emergency” laws not with condemnation but with billions in new aid. The president responded to the stolen Iranian election and brutal repression with silence, and subsequently cut aid to groups documenting human rights abuse. He has offered to engage Burma despite its atrocious human rights record but failed to take any significant step after another phony election. Aung San Suu Kyi remains imprisoned, and Burma is now pursuing its own nuclear program. His envoy to Sudan is widely ridiculed by Darfur activists, who are dismayed that he has not carried forth on campaign promises to crack down on the genocidal regime. And so it has been since Obama took office.

There is no more eloquent description of Obama’s sorry record than this:

It’s been a rough seventeen months for Americans whose calling is to fight for the rights of people who’ve been stripped of them by force—young men and women beaten to death in full view of the world by the agents of their oppressors for daring to demand that their votes be counted; others hacked to death with the complicity of the autocrats in power over them for having been born the wrong color or to the wrong tribe; girls subjected to the lash, or, worse, murdered by their own mothers, fathers, or brothers for appearing in public in the wrong company; believers imprisoned for professing faith in the wrong god or the wrong political system; non-believers sentenced to death for “wronging” a wrathful, vengeful religion.

And it is also worth considering why Obama and his secretary of state, when they do muster some concern for human rights, focus not on the world’s worst offenders but on their own countrymen, whose shortcomings on race, inequality, and the like never escape their exacting eyes.

It is not simply a case of misplaced priorities or even moral obtuseness. Hillary Clinton at times can wax poetic on human rights, proving once again that hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue. The problem stems from Obama’s conviction that the U.S. and the West more generally are the world’s problem children and that it is our arrogance, ignorance, and track record of interference in other countries’ affairs that are the source of the world’s ills. The apology tour (which covered everything from dropping the atomic bomb to our supposed lack of simpatico with the “Muslim World”) was perhaps the most heartfelt expression of Obama’s worldview and explains his cockeyed human rights record.

Because the U.S. is so flawed, so guilty of serial misdeeds, we are in Obama’s eyes (and the left-wing academic mindset from which he derives his views) disqualified from pronouncing on others’ behavior and obligated to let them pronounce on ours and our allies. Hence, we bear witness to (and do not challenge) the Human Right Council thugocracies as they condemn countries with infinitely better human rights records (especially Israel). But we temper our words and offer our hand in conciliation (and in some cases open our wallets) to the human rights oppressors. We allow Iran to join the UN Commission on the Status of Women to opine on others’ gender discrimination but avert our eyes from the brutality endured by Muslim women and girls.

There is, of course, a practical, albeit misguided, reason for Obama’s human rights record. He imagines he will incur the goodwill of the world’s despots by soft-peddling criticism of their treatment of their own people. But it is no longer possible to ignore the more fundamental problem: Obama believes his mission is to atone for America’s sins, not set the example for the world as the leader of that “shining city on the hill.” If one doubts the essential goodness of America and is unwilling to hold others to a standard of conduct that reflects our own values, you will wind up with a human rights policy that looks like Obama’s.

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RE: Missing George Bush

Pete, there are many reasons to miss George Bush. There is no greater and more tragic contrast between Obama and his predecessor than in the human-rights field. This eloquent piece should be read in full, but Bush’s moral clarity on the subject and his determination to name names bear repeating:

People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten. North Koreans live in a closed society where dissent is brutally suppressed, and they are cut off from their brothers and sisters to the south. The Iranians are a great people who deserve to chart their own future, but they are denied their liberty by a handful of extremists whose pursuit of nuclear weapons prevents their country from taking its rightful place amongst the thriving. The Cubans are desperate for freedom — and as that nation enters a period of transition, we must insist on free elections and free speech and free assembly. (Applause.) And in Sudan, freedom is denied and basic human rights are violated by a government that pursues genocide against its own citizens. My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom. (Applause.)

It’s not just many Americans who miss him, but Coptic Christians, the Green Movement, ravaged masses in Darfur, brutalized women of the Middle East, Egyptian democracy protesters, and scores of others who no longer have a forceful voice in the White House or an American foreign policy which considers them a high priority.

Pete, there are many reasons to miss George Bush. There is no greater and more tragic contrast between Obama and his predecessor than in the human-rights field. This eloquent piece should be read in full, but Bush’s moral clarity on the subject and his determination to name names bear repeating:

People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten. North Koreans live in a closed society where dissent is brutally suppressed, and they are cut off from their brothers and sisters to the south. The Iranians are a great people who deserve to chart their own future, but they are denied their liberty by a handful of extremists whose pursuit of nuclear weapons prevents their country from taking its rightful place amongst the thriving. The Cubans are desperate for freedom — and as that nation enters a period of transition, we must insist on free elections and free speech and free assembly. (Applause.) And in Sudan, freedom is denied and basic human rights are violated by a government that pursues genocide against its own citizens. My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom. (Applause.)

It’s not just many Americans who miss him, but Coptic Christians, the Green Movement, ravaged masses in Darfur, brutalized women of the Middle East, Egyptian democracy protesters, and scores of others who no longer have a forceful voice in the White House or an American foreign policy which considers them a high priority.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t expect a better description of the world’s unique treatment of Israel. From Mark Steyn: “North Korea sinks a South Korean ship; hundreds of thousands of people die in the Sudan; millions die in the Congo. But 10 men die at the hands of Israeli commandos and it dominates the news day in, day out for weeks, with UN resolutions, international investigations, calls for boycotts, and every Western prime minister and foreign minister expected to rise in parliament and express the outrage of the international community. Odd. But why? Because Israel is supposed to be up for grabs in a way that the Congo, Sudan or even North Korea aren’t. Only the Jewish state attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence, and insisting that, after 62 years of independence, that issue is still not resolved.”

Don’t miss the latest from Lee Smith on appeasing Muslim extremists: “The way Obama sees it, the upside is that it will not be a war without end, like the war on terror. All the extremists in the Muslim world want is money and the power that will flow their way as the consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. The faster the United States leaves, the cheaper the cost. This is why the Jewish state is isolated today and why Washington stands with her only reluctantly: Distancing ourselves from Israel is part of the deal we are preparing to strike.”

Don’t expect her to get a cushy White House job after leaving office: “Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has become a symbol that Barack Obama’s got to shake.”

Don’t think Obama’s foreign policy can’t get worse: “The Obama administration is secretly working with Russia to conclude an agreement that many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues.” Aside from the inanity of unilateral disarmament, how does he think this is going to get through the U.S. Senate?

Don’t hold your breath. The Washington Post editors go after Obama for his counterproductive timeline in Afghanistan: “It’s time for him to make clear whether the United States is prepared to stay long enough to ensure a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

Don’t imagine Republicans are ungrateful for a speech this bad: “President Barack Obama’s less-than-specific Oval Office address on energy has White House aides and Senate Democrats scrambling to find a way to pass climate change legislation. What it will be — if anything — remains an open question.”

Don’t let your guard down, but Obama finally seems to have been effective at killing some bad legislation: “Senate Democrats emerged from a special caucus meeting in the Capitol on Thursday with no clear consensus yet on the fate of energy and climate legislation due on the floor before the August recess.”

Don’t expect a better description of the world’s unique treatment of Israel. From Mark Steyn: “North Korea sinks a South Korean ship; hundreds of thousands of people die in the Sudan; millions die in the Congo. But 10 men die at the hands of Israeli commandos and it dominates the news day in, day out for weeks, with UN resolutions, international investigations, calls for boycotts, and every Western prime minister and foreign minister expected to rise in parliament and express the outrage of the international community. Odd. But why? Because Israel is supposed to be up for grabs in a way that the Congo, Sudan or even North Korea aren’t. Only the Jewish state attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence, and insisting that, after 62 years of independence, that issue is still not resolved.”

Don’t miss the latest from Lee Smith on appeasing Muslim extremists: “The way Obama sees it, the upside is that it will not be a war without end, like the war on terror. All the extremists in the Muslim world want is money and the power that will flow their way as the consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. The faster the United States leaves, the cheaper the cost. This is why the Jewish state is isolated today and why Washington stands with her only reluctantly: Distancing ourselves from Israel is part of the deal we are preparing to strike.”

Don’t expect her to get a cushy White House job after leaving office: “Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has become a symbol that Barack Obama’s got to shake.”

Don’t think Obama’s foreign policy can’t get worse: “The Obama administration is secretly working with Russia to conclude an agreement that many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues.” Aside from the inanity of unilateral disarmament, how does he think this is going to get through the U.S. Senate?

Don’t hold your breath. The Washington Post editors go after Obama for his counterproductive timeline in Afghanistan: “It’s time for him to make clear whether the United States is prepared to stay long enough to ensure a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

Don’t imagine Republicans are ungrateful for a speech this bad: “President Barack Obama’s less-than-specific Oval Office address on energy has White House aides and Senate Democrats scrambling to find a way to pass climate change legislation. What it will be — if anything — remains an open question.”

Don’t let your guard down, but Obama finally seems to have been effective at killing some bad legislation: “Senate Democrats emerged from a special caucus meeting in the Capitol on Thursday with no clear consensus yet on the fate of energy and climate legislation due on the floor before the August recess.”

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RE: Here’s That Bipartisan Alliance

A complete video of the press conference yesterday on the flotilla can be viewed here. Especially noteworthy are the two Democrats who forcefully rebut the Obama approach to both that incident and the Middle East more generally. Rep. Eliot Engels (D-N.Y.) demanded that we block any UN investigation into the flotilla and reaffirmed that Israel is fully competent to conduct its own investigation. He also revealed that some of the flotilla activists have applied to enter the U.S. to spew their venom, and that he will be presenting a petition signed by thousands of New Yorkers calling for the State Department to block these individuals’ entry. And he implores the administration to keep its eye on the ball — the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The remarks of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) included these observations:

The UN is once again seeking to condemn Israel for defending its citizens against Hamas terrorists. This is the same UN that gives the green light for Israel’s enemies to attack the Jewish state, and then condemns Israel for any retaliation against its terrorist attackers or acts of self-defense to protect its families. It happened last year with the deeply-flawed and disturbingly-biased Goldstone Report, and we are here to say it must not happen again. … Turkey is a perfect example of the blatant hypocrisy on display. While they criticize Israel in the UN, Turkey continues to occupy Cyprus, denies the Armenian Genocide and warmly welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the genocidal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …

All of this is taking place while North Korea goes unpunished in the UN for a flagrant act of war against South Korea. And the Iranian regime stands on the precipice of developing a nuclear weapon. Either of these despotic regimes could kill millions with access to nuclear weapons and murderous ambitions.

Nicely said, Congresswoman! You can’t miss the vast gulf between the language and position of Berkley and Engel, on one hand, and the White House, on the other. It seems there are at least some Democrats who should be signing on to the King resolution, then, right? Or is there something wrong with insisting that the U.S. get out of the Human Rights Council and start reciting a bill of particulars against Iran, Hamas, and Turkey?

Engel and Berkley are among the strongest Democratic supporters of Israel in Congress. They don’t much care about ruffling the White House’s feathers and they don’t put partisan loyalty above principle. It is a standard that Jewish groups should expect of those who fancy themselves as friends of Israel. Instead of making it easier for lawmakers to capitulate to and enable the Obama assault on Israel, Jewish leaders should be making it harder. You don’t do that by dancing on egg shells or praising Obama’s straddling. You do it by being candid and forceful, both in private and in public — and by reminding lawmakers that these days there’s no benefit (either to their own political fortunes or to the U.S.-Israel relationship) to be gained by running interference for this administration.

A complete video of the press conference yesterday on the flotilla can be viewed here. Especially noteworthy are the two Democrats who forcefully rebut the Obama approach to both that incident and the Middle East more generally. Rep. Eliot Engels (D-N.Y.) demanded that we block any UN investigation into the flotilla and reaffirmed that Israel is fully competent to conduct its own investigation. He also revealed that some of the flotilla activists have applied to enter the U.S. to spew their venom, and that he will be presenting a petition signed by thousands of New Yorkers calling for the State Department to block these individuals’ entry. And he implores the administration to keep its eye on the ball — the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The remarks of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) included these observations:

The UN is once again seeking to condemn Israel for defending its citizens against Hamas terrorists. This is the same UN that gives the green light for Israel’s enemies to attack the Jewish state, and then condemns Israel for any retaliation against its terrorist attackers or acts of self-defense to protect its families. It happened last year with the deeply-flawed and disturbingly-biased Goldstone Report, and we are here to say it must not happen again. … Turkey is a perfect example of the blatant hypocrisy on display. While they criticize Israel in the UN, Turkey continues to occupy Cyprus, denies the Armenian Genocide and warmly welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the genocidal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …

All of this is taking place while North Korea goes unpunished in the UN for a flagrant act of war against South Korea. And the Iranian regime stands on the precipice of developing a nuclear weapon. Either of these despotic regimes could kill millions with access to nuclear weapons and murderous ambitions.

Nicely said, Congresswoman! You can’t miss the vast gulf between the language and position of Berkley and Engel, on one hand, and the White House, on the other. It seems there are at least some Democrats who should be signing on to the King resolution, then, right? Or is there something wrong with insisting that the U.S. get out of the Human Rights Council and start reciting a bill of particulars against Iran, Hamas, and Turkey?

Engel and Berkley are among the strongest Democratic supporters of Israel in Congress. They don’t much care about ruffling the White House’s feathers and they don’t put partisan loyalty above principle. It is a standard that Jewish groups should expect of those who fancy themselves as friends of Israel. Instead of making it easier for lawmakers to capitulate to and enable the Obama assault on Israel, Jewish leaders should be making it harder. You don’t do that by dancing on egg shells or praising Obama’s straddling. You do it by being candid and forceful, both in private and in public — and by reminding lawmakers that these days there’s no benefit (either to their own political fortunes or to the U.S.-Israel relationship) to be gained by running interference for this administration.

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No Room for Human Rights

Jackson Diehl notices that in introducing the administration’s National Security Strategy, Obama omits one big item:

Nowhere in that long sentence, in the introduction to his new national security strategy, does Obama suggest that the international “engagement” he proposes should serve to combat tyranny or oppression, or promote democracy. In that sense, it is typical of the first comprehensive account Obama has offered of his administration’s goals in the world. In theory — as in the practice of his first year — human rights come second. …

The White House’s left-leaning “realists” — who seek to limit U.S. foreign engagements, shift resources to domestic programs and jettison the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush — seem to have won all of the big arguments. Definitions of strategy throughout the report, from how to defeat al-Qaeda to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with North Korea and Iran, exclude any mention of democracy or human rights.

As Diehl observes, there is no indication as to why the administration has taken this tact. There are several explanations.

Obama and his advisers may believe that this is the path of least resistance with despots and thugs. He hopes by not bringing up subjects disagreeable to them — the murder, imprisonment, brutalization, and oppression of their citizens — he will induce their cooperation. But there is now, after a year and a half, overwhelming evidence that this is not so, and indeed the thugs’ aggression and brutality increases in proportion to our quietude and attempts at appeasement. Iran, Syria, China, Burma, Egypt, Russia, and Sudan have all become more brazen, not less so. If this was the intention, what explains the fixation with a losing policy?

There are at least two explanations for that. First, as Obama has repeatedly demonstrated, he perceives America as deeply flawed and responsible for many of the world’s ills. Who are we, then, to promote and insist upon other nations’ adhering to a basic standard of decency and respect for their citizens? Then there is Obama’s infatuation with the international community, multilateralism, and consensus (which one presumes is to take the place of American power). Since most of these bodies are populated by human rights abusers, one isn’t going to fit into the “club” and gain their approval if one insists on pointing out their most disagreeable aspects.

Pundits can weigh these explanations and combinations of them to explain Obama’s approach to the world. But at some level, the why matters less than the result. We have signaled to despots that they have a free pass, demoralized activists and democracy protesters, betrayed friends, and weakened our own standing as the leader of free and democratic nations. When electing a president with zero experience in foreign policy, the country risks that it will elect someone with poor judgment or a flawed worldview or faulty executive skills. In Obama we have all three.

Jackson Diehl notices that in introducing the administration’s National Security Strategy, Obama omits one big item:

Nowhere in that long sentence, in the introduction to his new national security strategy, does Obama suggest that the international “engagement” he proposes should serve to combat tyranny or oppression, or promote democracy. In that sense, it is typical of the first comprehensive account Obama has offered of his administration’s goals in the world. In theory — as in the practice of his first year — human rights come second. …

The White House’s left-leaning “realists” — who seek to limit U.S. foreign engagements, shift resources to domestic programs and jettison the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush — seem to have won all of the big arguments. Definitions of strategy throughout the report, from how to defeat al-Qaeda to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with North Korea and Iran, exclude any mention of democracy or human rights.

As Diehl observes, there is no indication as to why the administration has taken this tact. There are several explanations.

Obama and his advisers may believe that this is the path of least resistance with despots and thugs. He hopes by not bringing up subjects disagreeable to them — the murder, imprisonment, brutalization, and oppression of their citizens — he will induce their cooperation. But there is now, after a year and a half, overwhelming evidence that this is not so, and indeed the thugs’ aggression and brutality increases in proportion to our quietude and attempts at appeasement. Iran, Syria, China, Burma, Egypt, Russia, and Sudan have all become more brazen, not less so. If this was the intention, what explains the fixation with a losing policy?

There are at least two explanations for that. First, as Obama has repeatedly demonstrated, he perceives America as deeply flawed and responsible for many of the world’s ills. Who are we, then, to promote and insist upon other nations’ adhering to a basic standard of decency and respect for their citizens? Then there is Obama’s infatuation with the international community, multilateralism, and consensus (which one presumes is to take the place of American power). Since most of these bodies are populated by human rights abusers, one isn’t going to fit into the “club” and gain their approval if one insists on pointing out their most disagreeable aspects.

Pundits can weigh these explanations and combinations of them to explain Obama’s approach to the world. But at some level, the why matters less than the result. We have signaled to despots that they have a free pass, demoralized activists and democracy protesters, betrayed friends, and weakened our own standing as the leader of free and democratic nations. When electing a president with zero experience in foreign policy, the country risks that it will elect someone with poor judgment or a flawed worldview or faulty executive skills. In Obama we have all three.

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RE: The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

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Obama Not Interested in Religious Freedom

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Freedom (which recently issued a report on religious oppression and discrimination), in an interesting interview explains what has escaped the grasp of Obama:

Promoting the freedom of religion or belief promotes stability and security by reducing resentment, tension, hostility, and extremism. Countries that discriminate against and harass religious minorities, and that enforce blasphemy and other repressive laws, tend to embolden extremists who seek to impose their own orthodoxy. Countries that look the other way when religious minorities are being attacked by private individuals foster a climate of impunity, which similarly creates space for extremism. And, countries that crack down on peaceable religious practices of non-majority faiths create feelings of resentment on the part of oppressed minorities, which in turn can drive young men in those minority faiths to separatist movements and terrorist training camps.

Leo is emphatic that “the U.S. government must do more to make the promotion of freedom of religion a more central feature or objective of our foreign-policy agenda” but diplomatically declines to compare the Obama administration with the Bush team.

He does note, however, that it would be a good idea to fill the position of ambassador for International Religious Freedom. And he focuses on  countries whose lack of religious freedom has gone unaddressed by Obama: “The impunity of Nigeria and Egypt, the use of religion to stoke civil war in places like Sudan, the imposition in countries such as Pakistan of blasphemy laws that result in public punishment of and private violence against dissenters and minorities — these are among the chilling reminders of how fragile human dignity is elsewhere in the world.”

Most telling is the administration’s reaction to the commission’s report: “There hasn’t been much of a response yet.” That’s par for the course. It is not a topic that interests Obama; indeed the calls from religious and political human-rights activists for Obama to step up to the plate in defense of those fighting political and religious oppression (in Iran, China, Sudan, Burma, Egypt, and elsewhere) are no doubt an annoyance to a president whose foreign policy is built on ingratiating himself with despots. Leo advises:

The administration should make freedom of religion an integral part of the negotiations that are taking place with countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea. And, in the close bilateral relations we have with countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we must send the message that we expect more and better from them. All too often, freedom-of-religion issues either are ignored altogether or are not linked into a broader strategic dialogue respecting stability, security, development, and peace.

Don’t expect this to change until there is a new president.

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Freedom (which recently issued a report on religious oppression and discrimination), in an interesting interview explains what has escaped the grasp of Obama:

Promoting the freedom of religion or belief promotes stability and security by reducing resentment, tension, hostility, and extremism. Countries that discriminate against and harass religious minorities, and that enforce blasphemy and other repressive laws, tend to embolden extremists who seek to impose their own orthodoxy. Countries that look the other way when religious minorities are being attacked by private individuals foster a climate of impunity, which similarly creates space for extremism. And, countries that crack down on peaceable religious practices of non-majority faiths create feelings of resentment on the part of oppressed minorities, which in turn can drive young men in those minority faiths to separatist movements and terrorist training camps.

Leo is emphatic that “the U.S. government must do more to make the promotion of freedom of religion a more central feature or objective of our foreign-policy agenda” but diplomatically declines to compare the Obama administration with the Bush team.

He does note, however, that it would be a good idea to fill the position of ambassador for International Religious Freedom. And he focuses on  countries whose lack of religious freedom has gone unaddressed by Obama: “The impunity of Nigeria and Egypt, the use of religion to stoke civil war in places like Sudan, the imposition in countries such as Pakistan of blasphemy laws that result in public punishment of and private violence against dissenters and minorities — these are among the chilling reminders of how fragile human dignity is elsewhere in the world.”

Most telling is the administration’s reaction to the commission’s report: “There hasn’t been much of a response yet.” That’s par for the course. It is not a topic that interests Obama; indeed the calls from religious and political human-rights activists for Obama to step up to the plate in defense of those fighting political and religious oppression (in Iran, China, Sudan, Burma, Egypt, and elsewhere) are no doubt an annoyance to a president whose foreign policy is built on ingratiating himself with despots. Leo advises:

The administration should make freedom of religion an integral part of the negotiations that are taking place with countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea. And, in the close bilateral relations we have with countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we must send the message that we expect more and better from them. All too often, freedom-of-religion issues either are ignored altogether or are not linked into a broader strategic dialogue respecting stability, security, development, and peace.

Don’t expect this to change until there is a new president.

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Mia Farrow Speaks Up Again

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

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Huffington Post Takes Down the Leveretts

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

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So Much for Syrian Engagement

Obama is batting .000 in the engagement-of-despotic-regimes department. Iran, China, Sudan, and Burma have not responded to kind words, bows, or promises of future good relations with the U.S. And now Syria has officially — according to Obama — rebuffed us as well. This report explains:

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he would extend a national state of emergency over Syria for another year, citing the Arab state’s continuing support for terrorists and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama’s decision means that despite Washington’s recent attempts to ease tensions with Damascus, United States economic sanctions against Syria, introduced in May 2004, will remain in force.

“While the Syrian government has made some progress in suppressing networks of foreign fighters bound for Iraq, its actions and policies, including continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Obama said in a statement.

So the administration has now admitted failure — really, how could the Obami do otherwise? Even left-wing Haaretz must concede:

The Obama administration’s strategy of engagement has so far produced disappointing results, with Assad this year hosting Iran’s virulently anti-American President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a high-profile Damascus summit, alongside leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah — both on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

In April tensions soared further following Israeli claims that Syria had supplied Hezbollah militants in Lebanon with advanced Scud missiles capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israel’s major cities – an accusation Damascus denies.

So what now — will the Obami decide to forget about returning an ambassador to Damascus? That, at least, would make the administration’s stance less incoherent. But the real issue remains — what will we do to replace the failed engagement gambit? Come to think of ,it that’s the dilemma with all the regimes that have slapped the open hand.

Obama is batting .000 in the engagement-of-despotic-regimes department. Iran, China, Sudan, and Burma have not responded to kind words, bows, or promises of future good relations with the U.S. And now Syria has officially — according to Obama — rebuffed us as well. This report explains:

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he would extend a national state of emergency over Syria for another year, citing the Arab state’s continuing support for terrorists and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama’s decision means that despite Washington’s recent attempts to ease tensions with Damascus, United States economic sanctions against Syria, introduced in May 2004, will remain in force.

“While the Syrian government has made some progress in suppressing networks of foreign fighters bound for Iraq, its actions and policies, including continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Obama said in a statement.

So the administration has now admitted failure — really, how could the Obami do otherwise? Even left-wing Haaretz must concede:

The Obama administration’s strategy of engagement has so far produced disappointing results, with Assad this year hosting Iran’s virulently anti-American President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a high-profile Damascus summit, alongside leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah — both on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

In April tensions soared further following Israeli claims that Syria had supplied Hezbollah militants in Lebanon with advanced Scud missiles capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israel’s major cities – an accusation Damascus denies.

So what now — will the Obami decide to forget about returning an ambassador to Damascus? That, at least, would make the administration’s stance less incoherent. But the real issue remains — what will we do to replace the failed engagement gambit? Come to think of ,it that’s the dilemma with all the regimes that have slapped the open hand.

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Times Square Bomb: An Israeli Perspective

Like all of us, I am greatly relieved that the Times Square car bomb didn’t go off, that we can talk about fear rather than death, about catching the perps rather than treating the wounded and comforting the bereaved. Judging from news reports, the bomb seems to be the work of amateurs more concerned with not being detected as they bought their supplies than with the actual deadliness of the explosion. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, has called it a “one-off.” Let’s hope she’s right.

Because if she’s not, what now looks like a policing success will start to look more and more like an intelligence failure. Here in Israel, the security of citizens has been bought after many years of fighting bombers, suicide and otherwise, the success of which battles forced our enemies to resort to lobbing rockets across the southern and northern borders — still a war, but somehow a lot more tolerable. Yes, part of it was good policing and the alert responses of civilians, some of them armed, in tough situations. And part of the credit goes to building a big, long wall between us and the terrorist hornet’s nests in the West Bank and Gaza. But the biggest factor in preventing terror attacks today is undoubtedly the vast intelligence apparatus that has prevented literally thousands of attacks like the Times Square bomb from being launched in the first place. Many of the IDF operations you hear about, and many more that never make the news, are acting on intel about planned terror attacks. Terrorists are arrested, sometimes killed, before they make it to our teeming public squares.

There is little one can do to prevent a determined nutcase, acting alone, from buying stuff that can blow up and parking his car in a public place. But if it turns out that the Taliban really were behind it, or that some other international terror group has determined to wreak havoc on New Yorkers again, the first question to ask will be why intel didn’t know about it in time to prevent it. It may sound unfair to place that kind of a burden on intelligence — after all, they can’t know everything, can they? But it’s been by setting the bar that high, and by allocating the resources to make it realistic, that has made it possible for me today to sit on a train between Tel Aviv and Haifa and write these words to you without feeling like my life is at risk.

Of course, America is much bigger, and its terrorist enemies live across Asia and the Middle East, not just in the relatively small areas of the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and a few other places. Yes, America is much bigger — but then again, so is the federal budget, right?

Like all of us, I am greatly relieved that the Times Square car bomb didn’t go off, that we can talk about fear rather than death, about catching the perps rather than treating the wounded and comforting the bereaved. Judging from news reports, the bomb seems to be the work of amateurs more concerned with not being detected as they bought their supplies than with the actual deadliness of the explosion. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, has called it a “one-off.” Let’s hope she’s right.

Because if she’s not, what now looks like a policing success will start to look more and more like an intelligence failure. Here in Israel, the security of citizens has been bought after many years of fighting bombers, suicide and otherwise, the success of which battles forced our enemies to resort to lobbing rockets across the southern and northern borders — still a war, but somehow a lot more tolerable. Yes, part of it was good policing and the alert responses of civilians, some of them armed, in tough situations. And part of the credit goes to building a big, long wall between us and the terrorist hornet’s nests in the West Bank and Gaza. But the biggest factor in preventing terror attacks today is undoubtedly the vast intelligence apparatus that has prevented literally thousands of attacks like the Times Square bomb from being launched in the first place. Many of the IDF operations you hear about, and many more that never make the news, are acting on intel about planned terror attacks. Terrorists are arrested, sometimes killed, before they make it to our teeming public squares.

There is little one can do to prevent a determined nutcase, acting alone, from buying stuff that can blow up and parking his car in a public place. But if it turns out that the Taliban really were behind it, or that some other international terror group has determined to wreak havoc on New Yorkers again, the first question to ask will be why intel didn’t know about it in time to prevent it. It may sound unfair to place that kind of a burden on intelligence — after all, they can’t know everything, can they? But it’s been by setting the bar that high, and by allocating the resources to make it realistic, that has made it possible for me today to sit on a train between Tel Aviv and Haifa and write these words to you without feeling like my life is at risk.

Of course, America is much bigger, and its terrorist enemies live across Asia and the Middle East, not just in the relatively small areas of the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and a few other places. Yes, America is much bigger — but then again, so is the federal budget, right?

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RE: Obama’s Sudan Engagement

Hillary Clinton was asked about the administration’s Sudan policy on Meet the Press. She prattled on as follows:

Well, I would say that, number one, I can’t take anything seriously that Bashir says. He is an indicted war criminal. The United States is very committed to seeing him brought to justice. …

But here’s what we’re trying to do. When we came into office, Bashir threw out the groups, the nongovernmental organizations, who were providing most of the aid in the camps in Darfur, which could have been a disastrous humanitarian crisis. We were able to get a lot of the help back in and we’re beginning to see some slight progress in Darfur. I don’t want to overstate it because it is still a deplorable situation. But we are working to try to get the people back to their homes, out of the camps.

At the same time, you had this election going on. It was, by any measure, a flawed election. There were many, many things wrong with it. But there hadn’t been an election in many years, and so part of our goal was to try to empower opposition parties, empower people to go out and vote. Thousands and thousands did. The result, I think, was pretty much foreordained that Bashir would come out the winner, and that’s unfortunate. We are turning all of our attention to trying to help the South and to mitigate against the attitudes of the North. I can’t sit here and say that we are satisfied, because I’m certainly not satisfied with where we are and what we’re doing, but it is an immensely complicated arena.

Now, the United States could back off and say we won’t deal with these people, we’re not going to have anything to do with them, Bashir is a war criminal. I don’t think that will improve the situation. So along with our partners — the UK, Norway, neighboring countries — we are trying to manage what is a very explosive problem.

Is there a policy in there somewhere? The election was a fraud, but we shouldn’t expect anything better. We’re not accomplishing anything, but if we stop “engaging,” the situation won’t improve, so we keep engaging the war criminal. There is no mystery as to why Hillary blathers on without actually answering whether it’s time to review our Sudan policy. The administration is reluctant to admit failure and lacks an alternative approach. Hillary would at least get points for honesty if she’d say that engagement has been a failure and we’ve given the war criminal cover by appointing a farcical special envoy. Come to think of it, the same would be true of much of the Obama foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton was asked about the administration’s Sudan policy on Meet the Press. She prattled on as follows:

Well, I would say that, number one, I can’t take anything seriously that Bashir says. He is an indicted war criminal. The United States is very committed to seeing him brought to justice. …

But here’s what we’re trying to do. When we came into office, Bashir threw out the groups, the nongovernmental organizations, who were providing most of the aid in the camps in Darfur, which could have been a disastrous humanitarian crisis. We were able to get a lot of the help back in and we’re beginning to see some slight progress in Darfur. I don’t want to overstate it because it is still a deplorable situation. But we are working to try to get the people back to their homes, out of the camps.

At the same time, you had this election going on. It was, by any measure, a flawed election. There were many, many things wrong with it. But there hadn’t been an election in many years, and so part of our goal was to try to empower opposition parties, empower people to go out and vote. Thousands and thousands did. The result, I think, was pretty much foreordained that Bashir would come out the winner, and that’s unfortunate. We are turning all of our attention to trying to help the South and to mitigate against the attitudes of the North. I can’t sit here and say that we are satisfied, because I’m certainly not satisfied with where we are and what we’re doing, but it is an immensely complicated arena.

Now, the United States could back off and say we won’t deal with these people, we’re not going to have anything to do with them, Bashir is a war criminal. I don’t think that will improve the situation. So along with our partners — the UK, Norway, neighboring countries — we are trying to manage what is a very explosive problem.

Is there a policy in there somewhere? The election was a fraud, but we shouldn’t expect anything better. We’re not accomplishing anything, but if we stop “engaging,” the situation won’t improve, so we keep engaging the war criminal. There is no mystery as to why Hillary blathers on without actually answering whether it’s time to review our Sudan policy. The administration is reluctant to admit failure and lacks an alternative approach. Hillary would at least get points for honesty if she’d say that engagement has been a failure and we’ve given the war criminal cover by appointing a farcical special envoy. Come to think of it, the same would be true of much of the Obama foreign policy.

Read Less

Obama’s Sudan Engagement

Our Sudan policy is a shanda. Activists on both sides of the aisle deplore the unctuous behavior of our special envoy, retired Major General Scott Gration. We have done nothing about its abysmal human-rights record, most recently documented by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Washington Post editors join the chorus of critics following the fraudulent reelection of Omar Hassan al-Bashir:

The election was widely acknowledged to be a fraud. Mr. Bashir’s principal opponents boycotted the race, and the vote was riddled with what the White House called “serious irregularities.”

Still, the reaction from the Obama administration and other Western governments was muted. Before the election, U.S. special envoy Scott Gration offered a low standard, declaring that the vote would be “as free and fair as possible.” The reasons for that temperance could be read in Mr. Bashir’s victory speech. After claiming his mandate, the strongman promptly promised to “complete the peace process in Darfur,” the western region where his regime waged a campaign of genocide; and also to “go ahead . . . on time” with a planned referendum in January that will determine whether southern Sudan becomes an independent country.

But nothing — not fraud, not documented religious atrocities — will knock the Obami off their predetermined course, the very same “engagement” strategy which has led to equally dismal results with Syria and Iran. The Obami imagine that they can do business with despots, and Bashir is no different:

The quid pro quo that Mr. Bashir is offering is clear: Accept him as a legitimate president and set aside the war crimes indictment, and he will allow southern Sudan to go peacefully and will preserve the fragile peace in Darfur. For the pragmatic Obama administration, which hasn’t hesitated to subordinate human rights principles in other parts of the world, it’s a tempting offer. After all, the alternative to a settlement in southern Sudan is another terrible war, like the one that killed 5 million in the two decades before 2005. And if Mr. Bashir can somehow strike a deal with Darfur’s myriad rebel groups — he has a preliminary pact with one — that could end the region’s humanitarian crisis.

Bashir certainly knows his audience. This sort of bargain with the devil is right up Obama’s alley. But alas, by demonstrating our willingness in Sudan and around the world to avert our eyes and fork over unilateral concessions, there is little incentive for Bashir to change his stripes and to play a constructive role in averting still more mass killings in Darfur.

Our reaction to provocation — be it stolen elections in Iran or Sudan or missile deliveries to Hezbollah — is to double-down on engagement, assure our foes that military force isn’t at play, and rush forth to explain that further engagement isn’t really a sign of weakness. But of course it is. And the world’s despots have pretty much figured out how to play the Obama team. Brutalize your people, crush opposition, and respond with a mix of threats and frothy promises. It seems to be a winning formula with this American administration. And, indeed, the despots are having a field day of late. Maybe it’s time for hope and change.

Our Sudan policy is a shanda. Activists on both sides of the aisle deplore the unctuous behavior of our special envoy, retired Major General Scott Gration. We have done nothing about its abysmal human-rights record, most recently documented by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Washington Post editors join the chorus of critics following the fraudulent reelection of Omar Hassan al-Bashir:

The election was widely acknowledged to be a fraud. Mr. Bashir’s principal opponents boycotted the race, and the vote was riddled with what the White House called “serious irregularities.”

Still, the reaction from the Obama administration and other Western governments was muted. Before the election, U.S. special envoy Scott Gration offered a low standard, declaring that the vote would be “as free and fair as possible.” The reasons for that temperance could be read in Mr. Bashir’s victory speech. After claiming his mandate, the strongman promptly promised to “complete the peace process in Darfur,” the western region where his regime waged a campaign of genocide; and also to “go ahead . . . on time” with a planned referendum in January that will determine whether southern Sudan becomes an independent country.

But nothing — not fraud, not documented religious atrocities — will knock the Obami off their predetermined course, the very same “engagement” strategy which has led to equally dismal results with Syria and Iran. The Obami imagine that they can do business with despots, and Bashir is no different:

The quid pro quo that Mr. Bashir is offering is clear: Accept him as a legitimate president and set aside the war crimes indictment, and he will allow southern Sudan to go peacefully and will preserve the fragile peace in Darfur. For the pragmatic Obama administration, which hasn’t hesitated to subordinate human rights principles in other parts of the world, it’s a tempting offer. After all, the alternative to a settlement in southern Sudan is another terrible war, like the one that killed 5 million in the two decades before 2005. And if Mr. Bashir can somehow strike a deal with Darfur’s myriad rebel groups — he has a preliminary pact with one — that could end the region’s humanitarian crisis.

Bashir certainly knows his audience. This sort of bargain with the devil is right up Obama’s alley. But alas, by demonstrating our willingness in Sudan and around the world to avert our eyes and fork over unilateral concessions, there is little incentive for Bashir to change his stripes and to play a constructive role in averting still more mass killings in Darfur.

Our reaction to provocation — be it stolen elections in Iran or Sudan or missile deliveries to Hezbollah — is to double-down on engagement, assure our foes that military force isn’t at play, and rush forth to explain that further engagement isn’t really a sign of weakness. But of course it is. And the world’s despots have pretty much figured out how to play the Obama team. Brutalize your people, crush opposition, and respond with a mix of threats and frothy promises. It seems to be a winning formula with this American administration. And, indeed, the despots are having a field day of late. Maybe it’s time for hope and change.

Read Less

Yale Names Its World Fellows

Yale’s just announced its 2010 class of World Fellows, its pallid imitation of the Rhodes. Two biographies caught my eye:

Lumumba Di-Aping (Sudan)

Deputy Permanent Representative, Sudan Mission to United Nations. A diplomat and chief negotiator on financial and economic affairs, Di-Aping represented developing countries as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China at the recent Copenhagen climate change conference.

and

May Tony Akl (Lebanon)

Foreign Press Secretary, Office of MP Michel Aoun. Akl advises former Prime Minister Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. She is a founding member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

So who do we have? We have a representative of the criminal and genocidal Sudanese regime who made headlines earlier in the year when he claimed that the Copenhagen climate-change agreement was “a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” And we have the press secretary for the former Lebanese PM and party allied with Hezbollah.

Great choices, Yale, great choices.

Yale’s just announced its 2010 class of World Fellows, its pallid imitation of the Rhodes. Two biographies caught my eye:

Lumumba Di-Aping (Sudan)

Deputy Permanent Representative, Sudan Mission to United Nations. A diplomat and chief negotiator on financial and economic affairs, Di-Aping represented developing countries as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China at the recent Copenhagen climate change conference.

and

May Tony Akl (Lebanon)

Foreign Press Secretary, Office of MP Michel Aoun. Akl advises former Prime Minister Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. She is a founding member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

So who do we have? We have a representative of the criminal and genocidal Sudanese regime who made headlines earlier in the year when he claimed that the Copenhagen climate-change agreement was “a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” And we have the press secretary for the former Lebanese PM and party allied with Hezbollah.

Great choices, Yale, great choices.

Read Less




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