Commentary Magazine


Topic: Support

To Get Arab Support on Iran, Take a Leaf from Bush Sr.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, the latest WikiLeaks revelations definitively refute Barack Obama’s “linkage” theory: that Israeli concessions to the Palestinians were necessary to persuade Arab states to oppose Iran’s nuclear program. But what the documents reveal about the profound strategic misconception behind this theory is frightening.

The list of Arab states urging America to bomb Iran, and the forcefulness with which they urged it, is astonishing. It includes Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates; virtually the only exception was Qatar. Clearly, no Israeli concessions were needed to persuade these countries that strong action against Iran was desirable.

But both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush insisted that this behind-the-scenes urging wasn’t enough; they needed Arab states to go public with it. As CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid told UAE officials in 2007, “we need our friends to say that they stand with the Americans.”

If Bush had any strategy for achieving this goal, it doesn’t emerge from the reports I’ve seen. But Obama did: linkage. If America showed that it’s on the Arabs’ side by extracting Israeli concessions, the theory went, then Arab states would no longer be reluctant to stand publicly beside the U.S.

But the idea that “soft power” could solve a quintessentially hard-power problem is a profound misconception, because the issue wasn’t the Arabs’ view of Washington as too pro-Israel; that never stopped them from supporting America if it served their interests before.

The real issue was their fear, given the visible reluctance to attack Iran displayed by both Bush and Obama, that if they publicly urged America to bomb Iran, and then America didn’t do it — they would be left alone to face the wrath of a nuclear-armed neighbor. And no amount of arm-twisting directed at Israel could possibly assuage that fear.

Indeed, only one thing could have done so: a clear American determination to attack Iran. You needn’t look far to find the model; it’s the one used by the first President George Bush in the Gulf War.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Arab states also initially refused to publicly back American action against Iraq. The day after the invasion, the Arab League even passed a resolution warning against outside intervention in the conflict.

But Bush, ignoring the verbiage, took swift action to assure Iraq’s neighbors that America wouldn’t leave them to face Iraq alone. Within a week, two naval battle groups had deployed to the area and more than 80 fighter jets had begun patrolling Saudi Arabia’s border. More forces arrived subsequently.

Only then did he start forming his coalition to invade Iraq. And with their protection assured, nine Arab states ultimately joined it.

Today, too, Arab states won’t publicly support attacking Iran without the surety that America will follow through. Nor can you blame them: they’re the ones who will have to live with a vengeful nuclear neighbor if America punts.

But you can certainly blame Washington for the delusion that gestures on an unrelated issue would suffice to allay a well-grounded existential fear — and be deeply worried that American leaders could misread the situation that profoundly.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, the latest WikiLeaks revelations definitively refute Barack Obama’s “linkage” theory: that Israeli concessions to the Palestinians were necessary to persuade Arab states to oppose Iran’s nuclear program. But what the documents reveal about the profound strategic misconception behind this theory is frightening.

The list of Arab states urging America to bomb Iran, and the forcefulness with which they urged it, is astonishing. It includes Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates; virtually the only exception was Qatar. Clearly, no Israeli concessions were needed to persuade these countries that strong action against Iran was desirable.

But both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush insisted that this behind-the-scenes urging wasn’t enough; they needed Arab states to go public with it. As CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid told UAE officials in 2007, “we need our friends to say that they stand with the Americans.”

If Bush had any strategy for achieving this goal, it doesn’t emerge from the reports I’ve seen. But Obama did: linkage. If America showed that it’s on the Arabs’ side by extracting Israeli concessions, the theory went, then Arab states would no longer be reluctant to stand publicly beside the U.S.

But the idea that “soft power” could solve a quintessentially hard-power problem is a profound misconception, because the issue wasn’t the Arabs’ view of Washington as too pro-Israel; that never stopped them from supporting America if it served their interests before.

The real issue was their fear, given the visible reluctance to attack Iran displayed by both Bush and Obama, that if they publicly urged America to bomb Iran, and then America didn’t do it — they would be left alone to face the wrath of a nuclear-armed neighbor. And no amount of arm-twisting directed at Israel could possibly assuage that fear.

Indeed, only one thing could have done so: a clear American determination to attack Iran. You needn’t look far to find the model; it’s the one used by the first President George Bush in the Gulf War.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Arab states also initially refused to publicly back American action against Iraq. The day after the invasion, the Arab League even passed a resolution warning against outside intervention in the conflict.

But Bush, ignoring the verbiage, took swift action to assure Iraq’s neighbors that America wouldn’t leave them to face Iraq alone. Within a week, two naval battle groups had deployed to the area and more than 80 fighter jets had begun patrolling Saudi Arabia’s border. More forces arrived subsequently.

Only then did he start forming his coalition to invade Iraq. And with their protection assured, nine Arab states ultimately joined it.

Today, too, Arab states won’t publicly support attacking Iran without the surety that America will follow through. Nor can you blame them: they’re the ones who will have to live with a vengeful nuclear neighbor if America punts.

But you can certainly blame Washington for the delusion that gestures on an unrelated issue would suffice to allay a well-grounded existential fear — and be deeply worried that American leaders could misread the situation that profoundly.

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Oren to American Jews: Prepare Yourselves

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

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Marco Rubio Gets It

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s misstatements and gaffe-prone performance in front of Congress earlier this year lead the administration to … fire him? No! Delay the next round of testimony.

Even before ObamaCare, the Democrats were in trouble in Indiana: “Two of the three top Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Senate in Indiana continue to hold double-digit leads over Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth supported President Obama’s health care plan in a state where opposition to the legislation is higher than it is nationally.” But post-ObamaCare, it may get worse: “Just 35% of Indiana voters favor the plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats, while 63% oppose it.”

Republicans in a number of key Senate races are running on their pro-Israel credentials, while Democrats “must straddle” the divide in their own party between pro- and anti-Israel voters. Tevi Troy: “Support for Israel is one of those issues, like anti-communism used to be, that holds together a number of pieces of the conservative movement, including evangelicals but also neocons, economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks.”

So it begins: “Attorneys general from 13 states are suing the federal government to stop the massive health care overhaul, claiming it’s unconstitutional.”

Not deficit neutral? “The newly passed overhaul of the nation’s health care system is expected to push expenses ‘out of sight’ and cost the country ‘a couple trillion dollars,’ Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, told CNBC.”

And the chattering class was convinced Sarah Palin was the uncouth, vulgar VP candidate in 2008. Well, they also said Obama was a moderate.

Jeffrey Anderson reminds us that ObamaCare won’t really take hold “unless President Obama wins reelection, or unless enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats remain in Congress to thwart the following five-word agenda: Repeal, and then real reform. Based on CBO projections over the next decade, only 1 percent of the legislation’s costs will have kicked in over the next three years. The CBO projections cover the 2010 to 2019 stretch of Obamacare, with most entitlements not kicking in until 2014. So, most of Obamacare will not be implemented out until after the next two elections. We’ll see if the American people freely choose to send enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats — including President Obama — back to Washington, to complete their perhaps unprecedented project of ignoring the people’s will.”

John McCain or Chuck Schumer on Obama’s Iran engagement policy? “Diplomatic efforts have clearly failed. I believe that when it comes to Iran, we should never take the military option off the table. But I have long argued that economic sanctions are arguably the most effective way to choke Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

From Democratic Public Policy Polling: “It’s really looking like a brutal year for Democrats in the Big Ten states. … If the election was today Democrats would likely lose something they currently hold in every state where they have something to lose- Pennsylvania Governor and perhaps Senate, Michigan Governor, Ohio Governor, Indiana Senate, Iowa Governor, Wisconsin Governor and perhaps Senate, and Illinois Senate and/or Governor. Only Minnesota doesn’t join the party because Democrats have nothing to lose there. What all this really makes me wonder is just how many House seats Democrats are going to lose in the region this year.”

Eric Holder’s misstatements and gaffe-prone performance in front of Congress earlier this year lead the administration to … fire him? No! Delay the next round of testimony.

Even before ObamaCare, the Democrats were in trouble in Indiana: “Two of the three top Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Senate in Indiana continue to hold double-digit leads over Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth supported President Obama’s health care plan in a state where opposition to the legislation is higher than it is nationally.” But post-ObamaCare, it may get worse: “Just 35% of Indiana voters favor the plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats, while 63% oppose it.”

Republicans in a number of key Senate races are running on their pro-Israel credentials, while Democrats “must straddle” the divide in their own party between pro- and anti-Israel voters. Tevi Troy: “Support for Israel is one of those issues, like anti-communism used to be, that holds together a number of pieces of the conservative movement, including evangelicals but also neocons, economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks.”

So it begins: “Attorneys general from 13 states are suing the federal government to stop the massive health care overhaul, claiming it’s unconstitutional.”

Not deficit neutral? “The newly passed overhaul of the nation’s health care system is expected to push expenses ‘out of sight’ and cost the country ‘a couple trillion dollars,’ Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, told CNBC.”

And the chattering class was convinced Sarah Palin was the uncouth, vulgar VP candidate in 2008. Well, they also said Obama was a moderate.

Jeffrey Anderson reminds us that ObamaCare won’t really take hold “unless President Obama wins reelection, or unless enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats remain in Congress to thwart the following five-word agenda: Repeal, and then real reform. Based on CBO projections over the next decade, only 1 percent of the legislation’s costs will have kicked in over the next three years. The CBO projections cover the 2010 to 2019 stretch of Obamacare, with most entitlements not kicking in until 2014. So, most of Obamacare will not be implemented out until after the next two elections. We’ll see if the American people freely choose to send enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats — including President Obama — back to Washington, to complete their perhaps unprecedented project of ignoring the people’s will.”

John McCain or Chuck Schumer on Obama’s Iran engagement policy? “Diplomatic efforts have clearly failed. I believe that when it comes to Iran, we should never take the military option off the table. But I have long argued that economic sanctions are arguably the most effective way to choke Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

From Democratic Public Policy Polling: “It’s really looking like a brutal year for Democrats in the Big Ten states. … If the election was today Democrats would likely lose something they currently hold in every state where they have something to lose- Pennsylvania Governor and perhaps Senate, Michigan Governor, Ohio Governor, Indiana Senate, Iowa Governor, Wisconsin Governor and perhaps Senate, and Illinois Senate and/or Governor. Only Minnesota doesn’t join the party because Democrats have nothing to lose there. What all this really makes me wonder is just how many House seats Democrats are going to lose in the region this year.”

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Where’s the Support for U.S. Civilians in Iraq?

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

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ObamaCare Supporters Sink in the Polls

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

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What McCain Gaffe?

When the MSM gets fixated on a certain idea it is almost impossible to dislodge it, regardless of the evidence. One of those ideas is that Sunni and Shiite extremists don’t cooperate with one another or with secular Arab regimes.

Thus, last week, we saw a spate of reports claiming that a government-funded think tank had found no links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The report actually finds considerable evidence of Saddam’s links to a number of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and its constituent organizations. This was noted by commentators such as Steve Hayes in the Weekly Standard but ignored by the MSM.

This week, the MSM is claiming that John McCain made a big gaffe by alleging links between Iran and Al Qaeda. To quote the lead of today’s Washington Post article:

Sen. John McCain, in the midst of a trip to the Middle East that he hoped would help burnish his foreign policy expertise, incorrectly asserted Tuesday that Iran is training and supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq, confusing the Sunni insurgent group with the Shiite extremists who U.S. officials believe are supported by their religious brethren in the neighboring country.

Actually it’s the authors of this Post article who are guilty of making incorrect assertions. There is copious evidence of Iran supplying and otherwise assisting Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda central). The 9/11 Commission itself noted a number of links between Iran and Al Qaeda. That evidence is summarized here. A sample from the Commission report: “There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

For more recent evidence of Iranian activity, take a look at this American Enterprise Institute report by Danielle Pletka, Fred Kagan and Kim Kagan. There is an entire section on pages 22-23 on “Iranian Support for Al Qaeda.” Relying solely on press accounts and coalition forces briefings, the authors write:

A supply of arms flowed from Iran into al Qaeda strongholds in Salman Pak and Arab Jabour, presumably from the Iranian border to the south and east. From there, al Qaeda transported the munitions to Baghdad. Iranian arms became an important part of al Qaeda’s arsenal. In May 2007, both [Major General Rick] Lynch and Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, briefed on the use of EFPs by Sunni extremists south of Baghdad.

This and other bits of evidence have been cited on a number of blogs—for instance, weeklystandard.com and powerline. It has even been noted in the past by the MSM. In fact, last year the Washington Post, the very newspaper now so contemptuous of McCain’s statement, ran this article which states: “Citing testimony from detainees in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Iranian intelligence operatives were backing the Sunni militants inside Iraq while at the same time training Shiite extremists in Iran.”

But don’t expect the facts to get in the way of a good story.

When the MSM gets fixated on a certain idea it is almost impossible to dislodge it, regardless of the evidence. One of those ideas is that Sunni and Shiite extremists don’t cooperate with one another or with secular Arab regimes.

Thus, last week, we saw a spate of reports claiming that a government-funded think tank had found no links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The report actually finds considerable evidence of Saddam’s links to a number of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and its constituent organizations. This was noted by commentators such as Steve Hayes in the Weekly Standard but ignored by the MSM.

This week, the MSM is claiming that John McCain made a big gaffe by alleging links between Iran and Al Qaeda. To quote the lead of today’s Washington Post article:

Sen. John McCain, in the midst of a trip to the Middle East that he hoped would help burnish his foreign policy expertise, incorrectly asserted Tuesday that Iran is training and supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq, confusing the Sunni insurgent group with the Shiite extremists who U.S. officials believe are supported by their religious brethren in the neighboring country.

Actually it’s the authors of this Post article who are guilty of making incorrect assertions. There is copious evidence of Iran supplying and otherwise assisting Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda central). The 9/11 Commission itself noted a number of links between Iran and Al Qaeda. That evidence is summarized here. A sample from the Commission report: “There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

For more recent evidence of Iranian activity, take a look at this American Enterprise Institute report by Danielle Pletka, Fred Kagan and Kim Kagan. There is an entire section on pages 22-23 on “Iranian Support for Al Qaeda.” Relying solely on press accounts and coalition forces briefings, the authors write:

A supply of arms flowed from Iran into al Qaeda strongholds in Salman Pak and Arab Jabour, presumably from the Iranian border to the south and east. From there, al Qaeda transported the munitions to Baghdad. Iranian arms became an important part of al Qaeda’s arsenal. In May 2007, both [Major General Rick] Lynch and Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, briefed on the use of EFPs by Sunni extremists south of Baghdad.

This and other bits of evidence have been cited on a number of blogs—for instance, weeklystandard.com and powerline. It has even been noted in the past by the MSM. In fact, last year the Washington Post, the very newspaper now so contemptuous of McCain’s statement, ran this article which states: “Citing testimony from detainees in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Iranian intelligence operatives were backing the Sunni militants inside Iraq while at the same time training Shiite extremists in Iran.”

But don’t expect the facts to get in the way of a good story.

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