Commentary Magazine


Topic: Vietnam

Business Execs vs. Professional Pols

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Thunk. Do we tell her moving day is in January? “In the weekly briefing, Pelosi said that she believes the Democrats have a chance to retain their congressional majority. A week before, speaking to a women’s group in New York, Pelosi said that she ‘fully expects to be speaker of the House five weeks from now,’ the paper reported.”

Yikes (for the Dems). “Republicans have a significant lead over Democrats among likely voters in Gallup’s generic ballot poll released Monday. The figures show a much greater lead for Republicans among likely voters than registered voters, and suggest the party is poised to make large gains in the midterm elections. Gallup’s first generic ballot estimate of likely voters showed Republicans leading Democrats 53-40 percent in a high turnout scenario and 56-38 percent in a low turnout scenario.”

Oops. “Emanuel’s ‘Glad to be Home’ video filmed in Washington.”

Cringe. Eric Holder denies hostility to race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws — by blaming the Bush administration. This contradicts shown testimony of two DOJ attorneys, so perhaps Holder should testify under oath as well.

Ouch. Walter Mondale criticizes Obama for using “idiot boards” (teleprompters) and failing to connect with voters.

Yowser. Linda McMahon nails Dick Blumenthal for lying about military service in Vietnam.

Well, yeah. Obama declares our fiscal situation to be “untenable.” Is he a bystander in his own presidency?

Thunk. Do we tell her moving day is in January? “In the weekly briefing, Pelosi said that she believes the Democrats have a chance to retain their congressional majority. A week before, speaking to a women’s group in New York, Pelosi said that she ‘fully expects to be speaker of the House five weeks from now,’ the paper reported.”

Yikes (for the Dems). “Republicans have a significant lead over Democrats among likely voters in Gallup’s generic ballot poll released Monday. The figures show a much greater lead for Republicans among likely voters than registered voters, and suggest the party is poised to make large gains in the midterm elections. Gallup’s first generic ballot estimate of likely voters showed Republicans leading Democrats 53-40 percent in a high turnout scenario and 56-38 percent in a low turnout scenario.”

Oops. “Emanuel’s ‘Glad to be Home’ video filmed in Washington.”

Cringe. Eric Holder denies hostility to race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws — by blaming the Bush administration. This contradicts shown testimony of two DOJ attorneys, so perhaps Holder should testify under oath as well.

Ouch. Walter Mondale criticizes Obama for using “idiot boards” (teleprompters) and failing to connect with voters.

Yowser. Linda McMahon nails Dick Blumenthal for lying about military service in Vietnam.

Well, yeah. Obama declares our fiscal situation to be “untenable.” Is he a bystander in his own presidency?

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RE: J Street Unmasked

Chris Good at the Atlantic, not exactly neocon central, is peeved at the J Streeters:

A set of half-truths, non-truths and ambiguities from J Street lead a reasonable person to conclude that the group tried to falsely conceal that George Soros has been one of its largest donors for years, and to falsely claim that it had been ‘open’ about those donations over the past three years. J Street also seemed to distort the fact that it received a large donation from Hong Kong. Some of this happened on the phone with me earlier today.

Now, as Good points out, there is reason to conceal the connection: “More broadly, Soros is toxic to the American Jewish community, having suggested that Israel’s policies contributed to global anti-Semitism. President Obama, at one point, had to distance himself from Soros because of Soros’s views on Israel.”

Another liberal Jewish publication is similarly fed up with Soros Street. The Jewish Week:

You gotta wonder why people in politics lie when the things they’re lying about will inevitably come to light. … Why this is stupid: there’s no way this information wasn’t going to come out. There’s no way this revelation, coming after two years of denials, will not be seen as confirmation in the minds of many that J Street is what its detractors say — a group that is something less than pro-Israel. The critics, it turns out, were right about Soros; isn’t that going to fan suspicion they were right about other things, as well?

There’s no way this isn’t going to make the politicians supported by J Street and those who may be considering accepting its endorsement incredibly nervous.

And there’s no way this doesn’t sow mistrust among commentators and reporters who write and speak about J Street, and who were repeatedly misled by its officials.

In the world of Jewish politics, this is akin to LBJ losing Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam war. The jig is up. J Street’s credibility is gone among even the most sympathetic of press outlets. No serious pol or Jewish community leader will want to associate himself with a group that is not only anti-Israeli but also funded by an anti-Semite. Any respectable figure in Israeli politics can no longer give Soros Street any attention.

I think we can all agree to stop calling Soros Street a “pro-Israel” group. The only question remaining is how long it will be before Soros Street closes shop, a failed “astroturfing” experiment by the far-left, who can’t really seem to find actual public support for its views.

Chris Good at the Atlantic, not exactly neocon central, is peeved at the J Streeters:

A set of half-truths, non-truths and ambiguities from J Street lead a reasonable person to conclude that the group tried to falsely conceal that George Soros has been one of its largest donors for years, and to falsely claim that it had been ‘open’ about those donations over the past three years. J Street also seemed to distort the fact that it received a large donation from Hong Kong. Some of this happened on the phone with me earlier today.

Now, as Good points out, there is reason to conceal the connection: “More broadly, Soros is toxic to the American Jewish community, having suggested that Israel’s policies contributed to global anti-Semitism. President Obama, at one point, had to distance himself from Soros because of Soros’s views on Israel.”

Another liberal Jewish publication is similarly fed up with Soros Street. The Jewish Week:

You gotta wonder why people in politics lie when the things they’re lying about will inevitably come to light. … Why this is stupid: there’s no way this information wasn’t going to come out. There’s no way this revelation, coming after two years of denials, will not be seen as confirmation in the minds of many that J Street is what its detractors say — a group that is something less than pro-Israel. The critics, it turns out, were right about Soros; isn’t that going to fan suspicion they were right about other things, as well?

There’s no way this isn’t going to make the politicians supported by J Street and those who may be considering accepting its endorsement incredibly nervous.

And there’s no way this doesn’t sow mistrust among commentators and reporters who write and speak about J Street, and who were repeatedly misled by its officials.

In the world of Jewish politics, this is akin to LBJ losing Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam war. The jig is up. J Street’s credibility is gone among even the most sympathetic of press outlets. No serious pol or Jewish community leader will want to associate himself with a group that is not only anti-Israeli but also funded by an anti-Semite. Any respectable figure in Israeli politics can no longer give Soros Street any attention.

I think we can all agree to stop calling Soros Street a “pro-Israel” group. The only question remaining is how long it will be before Soros Street closes shop, a failed “astroturfing” experiment by the far-left, who can’t really seem to find actual public support for its views.

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Salvatore A. Giunta, Living Recipient of the Medal of Honor

It’s great to see a living soldier finally receive the Medal of Honor — something that hasn’t happened since the Vietnam War. Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta is more than worthy to follow in a long line of heroes. His actions in the Korangal valley of Afghanistan — where during the course of an enemy ambush he first pulled two wounded comrades to safety and then drove off some Taliban who were attempting to kidnap a wounded soldier — are the stuff that movies are made of. Giunta has a fantastic quote in this New York Times article: “In my battalion, I am mediocre at best. This shows how great the rest of them are.”

The award to Giunta raises a couple of interesting issues. First, why haven’t more Medals of Honor been awarded for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Only six, all posthumous, have been awarded for conflicts that have featured no end of heroism. As the Times notes: “According to Pentagon statistics, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded during World War II, 133 during the Korean conflict and 246 during the war in Vietnam. An analysis by the Army Times last year concluded that there were, on average, two or three Medals of Honor awarded per 100,000 service personnel in previous wars — but that the rate for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had averaged one per million.” Why so stingy now with the nation’s highest medal? “Pentagon officials say the decisions reflect the differences of modern warfare,” according to the Times, but it’s hard to figure out what the difference is. Let us hope that Giunta’s Medal is part of a trend.

The second issue raised is, will anyone know his name? Probably not. Who, after all, has heard of Paul Smith, Michael Monsoor, or Jason Dunham — three brave warriors who gave their lives in Iraq before being honored with the Medal of Honor? Granted, most Medal of Honor recipients in previous wars were not exactly household names either, but the anonymity of today’s heroes is striking. We still revel in great deeds of heroism — as long as they’re performed by celluloid fakes like Sylvester Stallone or Tom Cruise. We no longer seem to have much interest in the real thing.

It’s great to see a living soldier finally receive the Medal of Honor — something that hasn’t happened since the Vietnam War. Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta is more than worthy to follow in a long line of heroes. His actions in the Korangal valley of Afghanistan — where during the course of an enemy ambush he first pulled two wounded comrades to safety and then drove off some Taliban who were attempting to kidnap a wounded soldier — are the stuff that movies are made of. Giunta has a fantastic quote in this New York Times article: “In my battalion, I am mediocre at best. This shows how great the rest of them are.”

The award to Giunta raises a couple of interesting issues. First, why haven’t more Medals of Honor been awarded for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Only six, all posthumous, have been awarded for conflicts that have featured no end of heroism. As the Times notes: “According to Pentagon statistics, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded during World War II, 133 during the Korean conflict and 246 during the war in Vietnam. An analysis by the Army Times last year concluded that there were, on average, two or three Medals of Honor awarded per 100,000 service personnel in previous wars — but that the rate for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had averaged one per million.” Why so stingy now with the nation’s highest medal? “Pentagon officials say the decisions reflect the differences of modern warfare,” according to the Times, but it’s hard to figure out what the difference is. Let us hope that Giunta’s Medal is part of a trend.

The second issue raised is, will anyone know his name? Probably not. Who, after all, has heard of Paul Smith, Michael Monsoor, or Jason Dunham — three brave warriors who gave their lives in Iraq before being honored with the Medal of Honor? Granted, most Medal of Honor recipients in previous wars were not exactly household names either, but the anonymity of today’s heroes is striking. We still revel in great deeds of heroism — as long as they’re performed by celluloid fakes like Sylvester Stallone or Tom Cruise. We no longer seem to have much interest in the real thing.

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Challenge at Sea

At the end of August, the Royal Navy gave the UK Telegraph a rare glimpse of what’s going on today in the arcane world of the submariner, under the Northern Atlantic’s restless surface. The report includes the nugget that “British submariners … are experiencing the highest number of ‘contacts’ with Russian submarines since 1987.”

It’s no surprise that Russian attack submarines are trying to trail British ballistic-missile submarines, as the Telegraph reports. But the reference to 1987 is informative. In the annals of the Cold War, 1987 was the last year the Soviet Navy maintained the very active global profile it assumed in the early 1970s. The Royal Navy’s disclosures last month indicate that the reversal of a two-decade trend is gathering steam — and more so than was evident when Russian submarines were reported off the U.S. east coast a year ago.

The Royal Navy had 38 submarines in 1987, compared with its 12 today. The U.S. force of attack submarines — “hunter-killer” submarines — has declined in the same period, from 98 to 53, with a target number of 48 being argued by budget cutters. But numbers are only one aspect of the issue. Equally important, as suggested by the Royal Navy’s recent encounters with Russian submarines, is how our would-be rivals are behaving on the seas.

In that regard, China’s profile constitutes a steadily expanding challenge, particularly to regional stability in the Far East. Tuesday morning, a Chinese fishing vessel was challenged by the Japanese coast guard in the waters of the Senkaku Islands, a chain disputed by Beijing and Tokyo. The Chinese vessel proceeded to collide with not one but two Japanese patrol ships — something that, given the Japanese military’s exemplary tradition of seamanship, had to be deliberate and was probably sanctioned by authorities in China.

China has operated through maritime provocation and bullying in recent years, but usually with smaller nations like Vietnam and the Philippines; very rarely in confrontations with Japan. In the wake of China’s most aggressive naval exercise ever, which penetrated the Japanese islands this past spring, as well as Beijing’s securing of rights to use a North Korean port on the Sea of Japan, the latest incident looks more like part of a trend than an isolated, strategically meaningless event.

This is how maritime dominance is lost: incrementally and off the public’s radar. The U.S. Navy, as an oceangoing sea-control force, has shrunk from 568 ships and submarines in 1987 to 285 today. Our NATO allies’ navies have shrunk significantly as well, some of them by greater percentages. Among our key allies, only Japan and Australia are investing in larger and more diverse naval forces. The U.S. military, under Defense Secretary Gates, is looking at reducing further the inventory of warships — aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines — that perform sea-control missions and maintain maritime dominance. Equally troubling, DoD proposes to eliminate entirely the two major U.S. commands most closely linked with NATO and maritime power in the Atlantic: Joint Forces Command and the U.S. Second Fleet. Events, on the other hand, continue to warn us against this irresponsible course. We can expect more of them.

At the end of August, the Royal Navy gave the UK Telegraph a rare glimpse of what’s going on today in the arcane world of the submariner, under the Northern Atlantic’s restless surface. The report includes the nugget that “British submariners … are experiencing the highest number of ‘contacts’ with Russian submarines since 1987.”

It’s no surprise that Russian attack submarines are trying to trail British ballistic-missile submarines, as the Telegraph reports. But the reference to 1987 is informative. In the annals of the Cold War, 1987 was the last year the Soviet Navy maintained the very active global profile it assumed in the early 1970s. The Royal Navy’s disclosures last month indicate that the reversal of a two-decade trend is gathering steam — and more so than was evident when Russian submarines were reported off the U.S. east coast a year ago.

The Royal Navy had 38 submarines in 1987, compared with its 12 today. The U.S. force of attack submarines — “hunter-killer” submarines — has declined in the same period, from 98 to 53, with a target number of 48 being argued by budget cutters. But numbers are only one aspect of the issue. Equally important, as suggested by the Royal Navy’s recent encounters with Russian submarines, is how our would-be rivals are behaving on the seas.

In that regard, China’s profile constitutes a steadily expanding challenge, particularly to regional stability in the Far East. Tuesday morning, a Chinese fishing vessel was challenged by the Japanese coast guard in the waters of the Senkaku Islands, a chain disputed by Beijing and Tokyo. The Chinese vessel proceeded to collide with not one but two Japanese patrol ships — something that, given the Japanese military’s exemplary tradition of seamanship, had to be deliberate and was probably sanctioned by authorities in China.

China has operated through maritime provocation and bullying in recent years, but usually with smaller nations like Vietnam and the Philippines; very rarely in confrontations with Japan. In the wake of China’s most aggressive naval exercise ever, which penetrated the Japanese islands this past spring, as well as Beijing’s securing of rights to use a North Korean port on the Sea of Japan, the latest incident looks more like part of a trend than an isolated, strategically meaningless event.

This is how maritime dominance is lost: incrementally and off the public’s radar. The U.S. Navy, as an oceangoing sea-control force, has shrunk from 568 ships and submarines in 1987 to 285 today. Our NATO allies’ navies have shrunk significantly as well, some of them by greater percentages. Among our key allies, only Japan and Australia are investing in larger and more diverse naval forces. The U.S. military, under Defense Secretary Gates, is looking at reducing further the inventory of warships — aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines — that perform sea-control missions and maintain maritime dominance. Equally troubling, DoD proposes to eliminate entirely the two major U.S. commands most closely linked with NATO and maritime power in the Atlantic: Joint Forces Command and the U.S. Second Fleet. Events, on the other hand, continue to warn us against this irresponsible course. We can expect more of them.

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Frank Rich’s War Games

A few days ago the New York Times’ Frank Rich expressed pity for General David Petraeus. The Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan is working tirelessly to partner with Afghans and implement a counterinsurgency strategy while, back home, the neoconservatives—“the last cheerleaders for America’s nine-year war in Afghanistan”—are, in a tragically ironic turn, undermining his effort. The neocons, says Rich, are broadcasting their repugnant Islamophobia in the Ground Zero mosque debate. “How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar,” he asks, “when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?” Let us take a moment to admire the high-mindedness of Frank Rich—an American who only wants to support the monumental effort of, as he rightly phrases it, “America’s most venerable soldier.”

Done? Good. Here’s what Rich had to say about Petraeus and counterinsurgency three years ago, back when neither could be used as a shiv in a domestic political debate. “On the sixth anniversary of the day that did not change everything, General Petraeus couldn’t say we are safer because he knows we are not.” Rich was referring to Petraeus’s September 11, 2007 appearance before Congress. “Few used their time to cross-examine General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on their disingenuous talking points,” Rich lamented. Then came the Westmoreland comparison:

Certainly there were some eerie symmetries between General Petraeus’s sales pitch last week and its often-noted historical antecedent: Gen. William Westmoreland’s similar mission for L.B.J. before Congress on April 28, 1967. Westmoreland, too, refused to acknowledge that our troops were caught in a civil war. He spoke as well of the “repeated successes” of the American-trained South Vietnamese military and ticked off its growing number of combat-ready battalions. “The strategy we’re following at this time is the proper one,” the general assured America, and “is producing results.”

Those fabulous results delayed our final departure from Vietnam for another eight years — just short of the nine to 10 years General Petraeus has said may be needed for a counterinsurgency in Iraq.

This September 16, 2007 column is a nonpareil of miscalculation. Rich managed to get everything wrong, relevant and otherwise. From his assertion that the “surge” (in discrediting scare quotes) was a bust to his pronouncement that the American public was so down on the Iraq War that they no longer cared for war films (he didn’t see the non-political Hurt Locker coming less than a year later). But his most grievous error was doubting the probity of David Petraeus (and Ryan Crocker, for that matter). Had Rich been listening, he would have heard the plain truth of the ongoing turnaround in Iraq. Instead, he called Petraeus a liar and pronounced the war lost. You’d think that after he made himself such a flamboyant hostage to fortune, he’d be more humble about tinkering with Petraeus in print. You’d be wrong. Three years later, Rich adduces the virtue and commitment that he had once mocked and lambasts the neocons (without evidence, by the way) for undoing the good work of “poor General Petraeus.” If and when Petraeus fully turns around the effort in Afghanistan, as he did in Iraq, on whom will poor Frank Rich blame the victory?

A few days ago the New York Times’ Frank Rich expressed pity for General David Petraeus. The Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan is working tirelessly to partner with Afghans and implement a counterinsurgency strategy while, back home, the neoconservatives—“the last cheerleaders for America’s nine-year war in Afghanistan”—are, in a tragically ironic turn, undermining his effort. The neocons, says Rich, are broadcasting their repugnant Islamophobia in the Ground Zero mosque debate. “How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar,” he asks, “when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?” Let us take a moment to admire the high-mindedness of Frank Rich—an American who only wants to support the monumental effort of, as he rightly phrases it, “America’s most venerable soldier.”

Done? Good. Here’s what Rich had to say about Petraeus and counterinsurgency three years ago, back when neither could be used as a shiv in a domestic political debate. “On the sixth anniversary of the day that did not change everything, General Petraeus couldn’t say we are safer because he knows we are not.” Rich was referring to Petraeus’s September 11, 2007 appearance before Congress. “Few used their time to cross-examine General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on their disingenuous talking points,” Rich lamented. Then came the Westmoreland comparison:

Certainly there were some eerie symmetries between General Petraeus’s sales pitch last week and its often-noted historical antecedent: Gen. William Westmoreland’s similar mission for L.B.J. before Congress on April 28, 1967. Westmoreland, too, refused to acknowledge that our troops were caught in a civil war. He spoke as well of the “repeated successes” of the American-trained South Vietnamese military and ticked off its growing number of combat-ready battalions. “The strategy we’re following at this time is the proper one,” the general assured America, and “is producing results.”

Those fabulous results delayed our final departure from Vietnam for another eight years — just short of the nine to 10 years General Petraeus has said may be needed for a counterinsurgency in Iraq.

This September 16, 2007 column is a nonpareil of miscalculation. Rich managed to get everything wrong, relevant and otherwise. From his assertion that the “surge” (in discrediting scare quotes) was a bust to his pronouncement that the American public was so down on the Iraq War that they no longer cared for war films (he didn’t see the non-political Hurt Locker coming less than a year later). But his most grievous error was doubting the probity of David Petraeus (and Ryan Crocker, for that matter). Had Rich been listening, he would have heard the plain truth of the ongoing turnaround in Iraq. Instead, he called Petraeus a liar and pronounced the war lost. You’d think that after he made himself such a flamboyant hostage to fortune, he’d be more humble about tinkering with Petraeus in print. You’d be wrong. Three years later, Rich adduces the virtue and commitment that he had once mocked and lambasts the neocons (without evidence, by the way) for undoing the good work of “poor General Petraeus.” If and when Petraeus fully turns around the effort in Afghanistan, as he did in Iraq, on whom will poor Frank Rich blame the victory?

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Inconvenient Facts About Israel

George Will has been on a roll when it comes to Israel and debunking the Israel-haters. He’s not Jewish, and he’s no neocon, so this may be hard to explain for the “Israel Lobby” hysterics. Actually, he’s just looked at the facts:

In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America’s eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take “risks for peace.”

Yes, that’s a phrase thrown around by those living thousands of miles away, whose biggest problem is how to convince the public that their uninterrupted criticism of the Jewish state is just “tough love.”

There are some inescapable, stubborn facts, which Will highlights. (“Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.”) You can understand why Obama left such details out of his Cairo speech.

Will is right when he argues:

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’ In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza’s actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla’s pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza — where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

But these are more inconvenient facts, which neither the administration nor the anti-Israel left (and certainly not the “international community”) cares much about. That, in a sense, is the real tragedy of Obama’s Muslim outreach. At a time when he did command the international and national stage, when Americans and the world had not figured out that there was less to him than meets the eye, when he could have injected some realism into the Middle East, when he could have elucidated the Wahhabists tentacles seeking to strangle Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and when he could have begun to wean the Palestinians from their victimology and rejectionism, he instead misrepresented history, ignored the evidence, turned a blind eye toward Islamic human-rights abusers, and encouraged anti-Israel animosity. (Who can resist the urge to attack a Jewish state “condemned” by the U.S.?)

Will concludes:

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

That’s actually an apt description for the administration’s Middle East policy.

George Will has been on a roll when it comes to Israel and debunking the Israel-haters. He’s not Jewish, and he’s no neocon, so this may be hard to explain for the “Israel Lobby” hysterics. Actually, he’s just looked at the facts:

In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America’s eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take “risks for peace.”

Yes, that’s a phrase thrown around by those living thousands of miles away, whose biggest problem is how to convince the public that their uninterrupted criticism of the Jewish state is just “tough love.”

There are some inescapable, stubborn facts, which Will highlights. (“Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.”) You can understand why Obama left such details out of his Cairo speech.

Will is right when he argues:

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’ In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza’s actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla’s pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza — where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

But these are more inconvenient facts, which neither the administration nor the anti-Israel left (and certainly not the “international community”) cares much about. That, in a sense, is the real tragedy of Obama’s Muslim outreach. At a time when he did command the international and national stage, when Americans and the world had not figured out that there was less to him than meets the eye, when he could have injected some realism into the Middle East, when he could have elucidated the Wahhabists tentacles seeking to strangle Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and when he could have begun to wean the Palestinians from their victimology and rejectionism, he instead misrepresented history, ignored the evidence, turned a blind eye toward Islamic human-rights abusers, and encouraged anti-Israel animosity. (Who can resist the urge to attack a Jewish state “condemned” by the U.S.?)

Will concludes:

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

That’s actually an apt description for the administration’s Middle East policy.

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Blumenthal May Be Pulling for Simmons After All in CT GOP Primary

Tomorrow’s Connecticut Senate Republican primary poses an interesting dilemma for the voters. Back when the story broke of Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies about serving in Vietnam, the thinking here was that the obvious beneficiary ought to be former Republican congressman Rob Simmons, a decorated Vietnam vet who had been the favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd. But I was ignoring the fact that Nutmeg State Republicans were more impressed by the fact that the revelation was the work of Simmons’s rival, pro-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon.

In the face of McMahon’s huge money advantage and the fact that the party establishment had abandoned him, Simmons withdrew, although it was too late to take his name off the ballot. But after a couple of weeks, unhappy about his decision, Simmons resumed his candidacy, albeit in a halfhearted sort of way. Perhaps he thought that in a primary with what will probably be a small turnout, he still ought to have a decent chance of upsetting McMahon. Her record as the head of the deeply unsavory WWE ought to provide enough fodder for Democratic opposition researchers. But the story this week isn’t the chance for Republicans to rethink their embrace of a candidate with no chance to win. Rather it is the way the dynamic of the race has been changed by her early and massive media campaign, which put very effective commercials on air, showing upscale women talking about Blumenthal’s shortcomings and McMahon’s strengths.

As Reuters noted yesterday, the $50 million of her own money that she is prepared to spend has done more than turn the heads of Republican bigwigs. The television ads aired so far have helped lower Blumenthal’s lead to 10 points in a recent Quinnipiac poll. So rather than the absurdity of a WWE exec in the Senate — with all the related questions about violence, vulgarity, fraud, and steroids, which pro wrestling conjures up — it may be that Blumenthal’s problems will still be the big story this fall. As the New York Times reported in April, even before he was humiliated by the reporting of his Vietnam lies, Connecticut Democrats were so unimpressed with his campaign that they were calling him “Martha Coakley in pants.” If Blumenthal, rather than McMahon, is being viewed as the problem candidate today, it is only because the latter’s money has helped keep the bull’s-eye on his back rather than on her own.

That means that even though McMahon’s wrestling record arguably ought to disqualify her for high office, her energy and determination to win (literally) at all costs make her the obvious Republican choice, as well as a woman with a more than reasonable chance of being sworn into the Senate in January. Back in the spring, Democrats might have been hoping to have the scandalous McMahon to run against. But today, Blumenthal may be saying a silent and hopeless prayer that the lackluster, though better qualified, Simmons pulls off a monumental upset tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Connecticut Senate Republican primary poses an interesting dilemma for the voters. Back when the story broke of Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies about serving in Vietnam, the thinking here was that the obvious beneficiary ought to be former Republican congressman Rob Simmons, a decorated Vietnam vet who had been the favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd. But I was ignoring the fact that Nutmeg State Republicans were more impressed by the fact that the revelation was the work of Simmons’s rival, pro-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon.

In the face of McMahon’s huge money advantage and the fact that the party establishment had abandoned him, Simmons withdrew, although it was too late to take his name off the ballot. But after a couple of weeks, unhappy about his decision, Simmons resumed his candidacy, albeit in a halfhearted sort of way. Perhaps he thought that in a primary with what will probably be a small turnout, he still ought to have a decent chance of upsetting McMahon. Her record as the head of the deeply unsavory WWE ought to provide enough fodder for Democratic opposition researchers. But the story this week isn’t the chance for Republicans to rethink their embrace of a candidate with no chance to win. Rather it is the way the dynamic of the race has been changed by her early and massive media campaign, which put very effective commercials on air, showing upscale women talking about Blumenthal’s shortcomings and McMahon’s strengths.

As Reuters noted yesterday, the $50 million of her own money that she is prepared to spend has done more than turn the heads of Republican bigwigs. The television ads aired so far have helped lower Blumenthal’s lead to 10 points in a recent Quinnipiac poll. So rather than the absurdity of a WWE exec in the Senate — with all the related questions about violence, vulgarity, fraud, and steroids, which pro wrestling conjures up — it may be that Blumenthal’s problems will still be the big story this fall. As the New York Times reported in April, even before he was humiliated by the reporting of his Vietnam lies, Connecticut Democrats were so unimpressed with his campaign that they were calling him “Martha Coakley in pants.” If Blumenthal, rather than McMahon, is being viewed as the problem candidate today, it is only because the latter’s money has helped keep the bull’s-eye on his back rather than on her own.

That means that even though McMahon’s wrestling record arguably ought to disqualify her for high office, her energy and determination to win (literally) at all costs make her the obvious Republican choice, as well as a woman with a more than reasonable chance of being sworn into the Senate in January. Back in the spring, Democrats might have been hoping to have the scandalous McMahon to run against. But today, Blumenthal may be saying a silent and hopeless prayer that the lackluster, though better qualified, Simmons pulls off a monumental upset tomorrow.

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Obama Doesn’t Credit His Predecessor

Glenn Thrush of Politico wrote a story on President Obama’s “summer of no love.” It includes this analysis:

On Monday, President Barack Obama recommitted to ending the combat mission in Iraq by the end of this month, a milestone that seemed nearly unattainable in 2008 — and seems nearly unnoticed in 2010.

Ending the war in Iraq was Obama’s central campaign promise two years ago, so the announcement should have been a huge deal. But by mid-Monday, the story drooped like a limp flag on news websites, sliding below obituaries of bandleader Mitch Miller.

Let’s see if we can sort through some of what’s wrong with these two paragraphs.

For one thing, the milestone didn’t seem “nearly unattainable in 2008” — since 2008 is when the Status of Forces agreement was signed. The SOFA — which was signed during the Bush administration — established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

For another, Obama’s plan to end the war wasn’t based on a return on success; it was a plan to leave despite the awful consequences of an American defeat. Remember: when Obama announced his run for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, he said: “It’s time to start bringing our troops home. That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” And in May 2007, Obama voted against funding for combat operations. He was also a constant critic of the surge.

If Obama had his way, the Iraq war would have been lost, that nation would be engulfed in a civil war and possibly genocide, militant Islamists would have scored their greatest victory, and America would have suffered a defeat worse than in Vietnam.

Obama’s central campaign promise, contrary to the Thrush article, wasn’t to end America’s involvement in Iraq in a way anything like what we’re doing now (the SOFA agreement was responsible and carefully crafted); it was to cut and run and lose.

What President Obama was doing on Monday was claiming credit for the success and foresight of George W. Bush. Maybe that’s one explanation for why the story drooped like a limp flag. The reason Obama is not getting more credit for this achievement is because most of the credit belongs to his predecessor, which is something Obama simply cannot admit.

Glenn Thrush of Politico wrote a story on President Obama’s “summer of no love.” It includes this analysis:

On Monday, President Barack Obama recommitted to ending the combat mission in Iraq by the end of this month, a milestone that seemed nearly unattainable in 2008 — and seems nearly unnoticed in 2010.

Ending the war in Iraq was Obama’s central campaign promise two years ago, so the announcement should have been a huge deal. But by mid-Monday, the story drooped like a limp flag on news websites, sliding below obituaries of bandleader Mitch Miller.

Let’s see if we can sort through some of what’s wrong with these two paragraphs.

For one thing, the milestone didn’t seem “nearly unattainable in 2008” — since 2008 is when the Status of Forces agreement was signed. The SOFA — which was signed during the Bush administration — established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

For another, Obama’s plan to end the war wasn’t based on a return on success; it was a plan to leave despite the awful consequences of an American defeat. Remember: when Obama announced his run for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, he said: “It’s time to start bringing our troops home. That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” And in May 2007, Obama voted against funding for combat operations. He was also a constant critic of the surge.

If Obama had his way, the Iraq war would have been lost, that nation would be engulfed in a civil war and possibly genocide, militant Islamists would have scored their greatest victory, and America would have suffered a defeat worse than in Vietnam.

Obama’s central campaign promise, contrary to the Thrush article, wasn’t to end America’s involvement in Iraq in a way anything like what we’re doing now (the SOFA agreement was responsible and carefully crafted); it was to cut and run and lose.

What President Obama was doing on Monday was claiming credit for the success and foresight of George W. Bush. Maybe that’s one explanation for why the story drooped like a limp flag. The reason Obama is not getting more credit for this achievement is because most of the credit belongs to his predecessor, which is something Obama simply cannot admit.

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

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Wikileaks and the Final Defeat of Tet

I agree with Max that the content of the leaked Afghan war documents is underwhelming. The thousands of pedestrian, narrow-scope field reports tell us nothing we didn’t already know about the overall conduct of the war or our coalition partners’ roles in it. The real story here is how accurate our view of the war in Afghanistan has been: even the failures and missteps have been chronicled with thematic, if not always specific, fidelity.

A swelling chorus of voices is pondering the roles of New and Old Media in the Wikileaks disclosure, with its effect being compared to that of Tet and the Pentagon Papers (see here, here, here, and here, for example). These analogies are overblown — wildly so, in my view — but there is nevertheless an important New/Old Media dynamic to watch in this case. The question in the coming days will be whether the Old Media — of which Time, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, et al. are members — can establish a counterfactual narrative and make it politically decisive. Will Congress, for example, consider itself bound to accept the narrative that this massive leak amounts to a set of game-changing revelations?

I predict not. Although John Kerry has stated already that the leaked documents “raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” my sense is that there is simply too much knowledge of that reality, both in Congress and among the public, for the political gambit to go anywhere. Much credit for that knowledge must go to New Media — independent online reporters like Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and COMMENTARY’s Max Boot, websites like Long War Journal and Small Wars Journal — which has labored to bring the war to the average reader in a level of detail unimaginable even two decades ago.

Credit is also due to both the Bush and Obama administrations and the military that has served them. In terms of “secrets” about the war, political or operational, there’s just no story in the leaked documents. We already know about all the categories of information revealed in them. They are, moreover, tactical-level reports from the field; they are not a source of “smoking-gun” policy documents like the Pentagon Papers’ infamous McNaughton Memo, which demonstrated that Johnson’s actual policy in Vietnam differed from the justification he presented to the public. (James Fallows raises this topic by referring to the McNaughton Memo in his Atlantic post, linked above.)

The severity of the leaks is related primarily to the damage they may do to our forces’ operational security in Afghanistan, and much of what is reflected about their activities is outdated now. Meanwhile, the eager hope of left-wing pundits that this leak will turn American sentiment to widespread anger and unrest is unfounded. From 1968 to 1971, Americans had few alternatives to Walter Cronkite and the New York Times. Today they have thousands. I believe the New Media will succeed in the signal task of burying Old Media’s “Tet-effect” talisman, once and for all.

I agree with Max that the content of the leaked Afghan war documents is underwhelming. The thousands of pedestrian, narrow-scope field reports tell us nothing we didn’t already know about the overall conduct of the war or our coalition partners’ roles in it. The real story here is how accurate our view of the war in Afghanistan has been: even the failures and missteps have been chronicled with thematic, if not always specific, fidelity.

A swelling chorus of voices is pondering the roles of New and Old Media in the Wikileaks disclosure, with its effect being compared to that of Tet and the Pentagon Papers (see here, here, here, and here, for example). These analogies are overblown — wildly so, in my view — but there is nevertheless an important New/Old Media dynamic to watch in this case. The question in the coming days will be whether the Old Media — of which Time, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, et al. are members — can establish a counterfactual narrative and make it politically decisive. Will Congress, for example, consider itself bound to accept the narrative that this massive leak amounts to a set of game-changing revelations?

I predict not. Although John Kerry has stated already that the leaked documents “raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” my sense is that there is simply too much knowledge of that reality, both in Congress and among the public, for the political gambit to go anywhere. Much credit for that knowledge must go to New Media — independent online reporters like Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and COMMENTARY’s Max Boot, websites like Long War Journal and Small Wars Journal — which has labored to bring the war to the average reader in a level of detail unimaginable even two decades ago.

Credit is also due to both the Bush and Obama administrations and the military that has served them. In terms of “secrets” about the war, political or operational, there’s just no story in the leaked documents. We already know about all the categories of information revealed in them. They are, moreover, tactical-level reports from the field; they are not a source of “smoking-gun” policy documents like the Pentagon Papers’ infamous McNaughton Memo, which demonstrated that Johnson’s actual policy in Vietnam differed from the justification he presented to the public. (James Fallows raises this topic by referring to the McNaughton Memo in his Atlantic post, linked above.)

The severity of the leaks is related primarily to the damage they may do to our forces’ operational security in Afghanistan, and much of what is reflected about their activities is outdated now. Meanwhile, the eager hope of left-wing pundits that this leak will turn American sentiment to widespread anger and unrest is unfounded. From 1968 to 1971, Americans had few alternatives to Walter Cronkite and the New York Times. Today they have thousands. I believe the New Media will succeed in the signal task of burying Old Media’s “Tet-effect” talisman, once and for all.

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Hillary vs. China

Throwing your weight around is a time-honored tool in the diplomatic toolbox. Some circumstances call for it, but in others, it is cringe-inducingly inappropriate. With an oddly overt poke in China’s eye at the Asean conference this week, the Obama administration has unfortunately chosen to engage in weight-throwing under the latter conditions.

Almost every relevant headline in the mainstream media is some variation on that of the New York Times: “U.S. Challenges China on Island Chain.” Hillary Clinton, speaking at an Asean meeting in Hanoi, reportedly “said [the U.S. was] ready to step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically sensitive islands in the South China Sea.” The islands in question make up the Spratly archipelago, claims to which confer tremendous undersea mineral resources on those who can enforce them. Clinton properly identified the U.S. interest as relating to freedom of navigation for world shipping, but her method of offering U.S. intervention in the regional dispute – one that China calls a “core interest” of its own national security – could hardly have been less diplomatic.

Nor could the timing have been worse. As Jillian wrote yesterday, the U.S. and South Korea are launching a naval exercise series that is planned to involve major operations in the Yellow Sea, obviously a sensitive area for Beijing. (The Chinese were unamused by USS George Washington’s foray into the Yellow Sea in October 2009, as discussed here.) Moreover, Bloomberg reports that the American delegation to the Asean conference got some very pointed additional business done on the side, inaugurating discussions on military cooperation with conference host Vietnam and restoring ties between the special forces of the U.S. and Indonesian militaries. Both nations border the South China Sea and have island claims in competition with China’s.

The point here is not that the U.S. doesn’t have a security interest in the South China Sea, nor is it that we can’t play a constructive role in fostering a peaceful and equitable settlement of the Spratly Islands dispute. But an offer of mediation is a departure from our decades-old policy of tacitly enforcing regional stability and promoting our own primary interest – freedom of maritime navigation – while respecting the sovereign concerns of the Spratly claimants as a matter for them to work out among themselves. This week’s policy departure has the appearance of being blurted out without prior diplomatic spade work.

Such an Obama initiative, introduced less pointedly and with less of the appearance of challenging China, might well have achieved a productive effect. We do want all the nations of the region to know that the U.S. will act to prevent the imbalance of power that China tends to seek. But conveying that quietly, through dedicated military presence and assiduous bilateral diplomacy – and without dramatic announcements and provocative headlines – is worth every minute of the tongue-biting patience necessary to operating with greater foresight. There is no strategic payoff from issuing gratuitous and public challenges to China, which is what the Obama administration has effectively done.

Throwing your weight around is a time-honored tool in the diplomatic toolbox. Some circumstances call for it, but in others, it is cringe-inducingly inappropriate. With an oddly overt poke in China’s eye at the Asean conference this week, the Obama administration has unfortunately chosen to engage in weight-throwing under the latter conditions.

Almost every relevant headline in the mainstream media is some variation on that of the New York Times: “U.S. Challenges China on Island Chain.” Hillary Clinton, speaking at an Asean meeting in Hanoi, reportedly “said [the U.S. was] ready to step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically sensitive islands in the South China Sea.” The islands in question make up the Spratly archipelago, claims to which confer tremendous undersea mineral resources on those who can enforce them. Clinton properly identified the U.S. interest as relating to freedom of navigation for world shipping, but her method of offering U.S. intervention in the regional dispute – one that China calls a “core interest” of its own national security – could hardly have been less diplomatic.

Nor could the timing have been worse. As Jillian wrote yesterday, the U.S. and South Korea are launching a naval exercise series that is planned to involve major operations in the Yellow Sea, obviously a sensitive area for Beijing. (The Chinese were unamused by USS George Washington’s foray into the Yellow Sea in October 2009, as discussed here.) Moreover, Bloomberg reports that the American delegation to the Asean conference got some very pointed additional business done on the side, inaugurating discussions on military cooperation with conference host Vietnam and restoring ties between the special forces of the U.S. and Indonesian militaries. Both nations border the South China Sea and have island claims in competition with China’s.

The point here is not that the U.S. doesn’t have a security interest in the South China Sea, nor is it that we can’t play a constructive role in fostering a peaceful and equitable settlement of the Spratly Islands dispute. But an offer of mediation is a departure from our decades-old policy of tacitly enforcing regional stability and promoting our own primary interest – freedom of maritime navigation – while respecting the sovereign concerns of the Spratly claimants as a matter for them to work out among themselves. This week’s policy departure has the appearance of being blurted out without prior diplomatic spade work.

Such an Obama initiative, introduced less pointedly and with less of the appearance of challenging China, might well have achieved a productive effect. We do want all the nations of the region to know that the U.S. will act to prevent the imbalance of power that China tends to seek. But conveying that quietly, through dedicated military presence and assiduous bilateral diplomacy – and without dramatic announcements and provocative headlines – is worth every minute of the tongue-biting patience necessary to operating with greater foresight. There is no strategic payoff from issuing gratuitous and public challenges to China, which is what the Obama administration has effectively done.

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A Times Bouquet for Those Lovable North Koreans

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of one of America’s least-known conflicts: the Korean War. The remarkable thing about Korea is that even at the height of the Cold War, when leftist apologists for the Soviet Union and other Communist aggressors were at their high watermark, in the West there were few if any among them who spent much time criticizing America’s decision to save South Korea after it was invaded in June of 1950. Even in those decades when defenders of the Soviets, Castro, and even Mao were never in short supply, it was hard to find anyone to say a good word about the lunatic regime in Pyongyang, a government so oppressive that it gave dedicated Stalinists the willies. There was little room for debate about how the Korean conflict started or what the consequences for the Korean people would have been had the Communists been allowed to complete their takeover of the entire country. But with the passage of time, memory of these basic facts fade, and for the squishy left there is no topic, no matter how cut and dried, that is not ripe for a revisionist retelling as long as America can be portrayed as the villain. That’s the only way to explain a new book about Korea by Bruce Cumings, the chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago, and the rapturous review it received in today’s New York Times. Turning history and logic on its head, Cumings believes that not only was American intervention in Korea wrong but the North Koreans were the good guys.

To be fair, Cumings clearly knows a lot more about modern Korean history than most of those Americans who have written about the war. He has a point when he notes that a record of collaboration with the brutal Japanese occupation of the country compromised the South Korean leadership during the first half of the 20th century. But however nasty some of the South Korean leaders were, it is impossible to compare them unfavorably with their Stalinist opponents in the North. Cumings also spends much of his book attempting to paint the American-led United Nations force that defended the South against Communist aggression as genocidal murderers. The strategic bombing of the North exacted a high toll of casualties, but the same could be said of Allied bombings of Germany and Japan during World War Two. But Cumings’s argument isn’t so much with American tactics but rather with its goal of defeating the Communists.

One of the interesting sidelights of the book, touched on with approval in Dwight Garner’s fawning review, is the way the Chicago historian torches the late David Halberstam’s book about Korea. Halberstam, a liberal icon, played a key role in demolishing support for America’s war in Vietnam, but he rightly understood that there could be no ambivalence about his country’s role in saving South Korea. But for a blinkered leftist like Cumings, there are no enemies, no matter how despicable, on the left and no good American wars.

It is Cumings who can’t face the basic truth about Korea. Without American military intervention, the whole of the peninsula would today be under the rule of a maniacal Communist dictatorship that prides itself on starving and oppressing its own people and threatening its neighbors. After a rocky start to life in the midst of the destruction wrought by the North Korean invasion, South Korea has become a democracy with a vibrant economy. The reality of the contrasting fates of the two halves of the Korean peninsula is a testament to the courage of President Truman and the Americans and other UN troops that fought there. It is a sad commentary on the state of contemporary liberal intellectual life — demonstrated by Cumings’s book and the Times review — that the impulse to trash America’s past is so strong that it takes precedence over a respect for history’s verdict about Communist aggression in Korea.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of one of America’s least-known conflicts: the Korean War. The remarkable thing about Korea is that even at the height of the Cold War, when leftist apologists for the Soviet Union and other Communist aggressors were at their high watermark, in the West there were few if any among them who spent much time criticizing America’s decision to save South Korea after it was invaded in June of 1950. Even in those decades when defenders of the Soviets, Castro, and even Mao were never in short supply, it was hard to find anyone to say a good word about the lunatic regime in Pyongyang, a government so oppressive that it gave dedicated Stalinists the willies. There was little room for debate about how the Korean conflict started or what the consequences for the Korean people would have been had the Communists been allowed to complete their takeover of the entire country. But with the passage of time, memory of these basic facts fade, and for the squishy left there is no topic, no matter how cut and dried, that is not ripe for a revisionist retelling as long as America can be portrayed as the villain. That’s the only way to explain a new book about Korea by Bruce Cumings, the chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago, and the rapturous review it received in today’s New York Times. Turning history and logic on its head, Cumings believes that not only was American intervention in Korea wrong but the North Koreans were the good guys.

To be fair, Cumings clearly knows a lot more about modern Korean history than most of those Americans who have written about the war. He has a point when he notes that a record of collaboration with the brutal Japanese occupation of the country compromised the South Korean leadership during the first half of the 20th century. But however nasty some of the South Korean leaders were, it is impossible to compare them unfavorably with their Stalinist opponents in the North. Cumings also spends much of his book attempting to paint the American-led United Nations force that defended the South against Communist aggression as genocidal murderers. The strategic bombing of the North exacted a high toll of casualties, but the same could be said of Allied bombings of Germany and Japan during World War Two. But Cumings’s argument isn’t so much with American tactics but rather with its goal of defeating the Communists.

One of the interesting sidelights of the book, touched on with approval in Dwight Garner’s fawning review, is the way the Chicago historian torches the late David Halberstam’s book about Korea. Halberstam, a liberal icon, played a key role in demolishing support for America’s war in Vietnam, but he rightly understood that there could be no ambivalence about his country’s role in saving South Korea. But for a blinkered leftist like Cumings, there are no enemies, no matter how despicable, on the left and no good American wars.

It is Cumings who can’t face the basic truth about Korea. Without American military intervention, the whole of the peninsula would today be under the rule of a maniacal Communist dictatorship that prides itself on starving and oppressing its own people and threatening its neighbors. After a rocky start to life in the midst of the destruction wrought by the North Korean invasion, South Korea has become a democracy with a vibrant economy. The reality of the contrasting fates of the two halves of the Korean peninsula is a testament to the courage of President Truman and the Americans and other UN troops that fought there. It is a sad commentary on the state of contemporary liberal intellectual life — demonstrated by Cumings’s book and the Times review — that the impulse to trash America’s past is so strong that it takes precedence over a respect for history’s verdict about Communist aggression in Korea.

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Cohen on Hamas: OK, They’re Islamic Fascists

Richard Cohen discovers Hamas really is a gang of Islamic fascists:

Gaza is a mean and brutal place with a totalitarian government steeped in a cult of violence and death. This hardly means that the government does not have a measure of popular support and did not, as some of the activists naively point out, come to power by democratic means. So did the Nazis.

Cohen reads up on the subject only to discover — why, yes! — these are Jew-haters:

The term “Islamic fascism” gets thrown around a lot. I initially recoiled from it because I prefer to reserve fascism for fascists. The term is too loosely employed — New York City cops were called fascists by Vietnam-era peace demonstrators — but Paul Berman, in his new book “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” makes a solid case that it can, with justice, be applied to Hamas. … Berman traces Hamas’s intellectual pedigree to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, greatly admired Hitler, and to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who spent much of World War II in Germany cozying up to Hitler, organizing a Muslim SS unit and, on occasion, remonstrating with the Nazis for not killing enough Jews. … The successor to both Banna and Husseini was Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), an Egyptian intellectual of uncontested importance whose influence can be found in the writing of the Hamas charter. Qutb was an indefatigable author (more than 20 books, some written while in an Egyptian prison where he was tortured), but the article that should interest the pro-Hamas activists the most is called “Our Struggle with the Jews.” It is a shocking and repellent work of anti-Semitism that, among other things, says the “Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction” of Islam. Qutb cites that hoary anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” for substantiation — suggesting that his status as an intellectual is somewhat due to heroic grade inflation.

Cohen adds that the flotilla’s “so-called” activists are “useful idiots” (actually, a significant share of them were with the Islamic fascists, but at least he is getting the gist). He sums up:

Now is the time, I suppose, to say that Israel is not exactly perfect either. It continues to overreact, uses too much force and has often trampled on the rights of Palestinians. Still, Israel is Thomas Jefferson’s idea of heaven compared with Gaza, which could serve as a seaside Club Med for Jew-haters. One country is consonant with the Enlightenment; the other is a dark place of religious intolerance where the firmest principles of anti-Semitism — not anti-Zionism or pro-Palestinianism — are embedded in the Hamas charter.

It’s mind-boggling that all this is apparently news to him, and to many on the left. But it does raise the question: other than by vanquishing Hamas and like-minded Islamic fascists (as the Allies defeated Hitler), how is there to be “peace”?

Richard Cohen discovers Hamas really is a gang of Islamic fascists:

Gaza is a mean and brutal place with a totalitarian government steeped in a cult of violence and death. This hardly means that the government does not have a measure of popular support and did not, as some of the activists naively point out, come to power by democratic means. So did the Nazis.

Cohen reads up on the subject only to discover — why, yes! — these are Jew-haters:

The term “Islamic fascism” gets thrown around a lot. I initially recoiled from it because I prefer to reserve fascism for fascists. The term is too loosely employed — New York City cops were called fascists by Vietnam-era peace demonstrators — but Paul Berman, in his new book “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” makes a solid case that it can, with justice, be applied to Hamas. … Berman traces Hamas’s intellectual pedigree to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, greatly admired Hitler, and to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who spent much of World War II in Germany cozying up to Hitler, organizing a Muslim SS unit and, on occasion, remonstrating with the Nazis for not killing enough Jews. … The successor to both Banna and Husseini was Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), an Egyptian intellectual of uncontested importance whose influence can be found in the writing of the Hamas charter. Qutb was an indefatigable author (more than 20 books, some written while in an Egyptian prison where he was tortured), but the article that should interest the pro-Hamas activists the most is called “Our Struggle with the Jews.” It is a shocking and repellent work of anti-Semitism that, among other things, says the “Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction” of Islam. Qutb cites that hoary anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” for substantiation — suggesting that his status as an intellectual is somewhat due to heroic grade inflation.

Cohen adds that the flotilla’s “so-called” activists are “useful idiots” (actually, a significant share of them were with the Islamic fascists, but at least he is getting the gist). He sums up:

Now is the time, I suppose, to say that Israel is not exactly perfect either. It continues to overreact, uses too much force and has often trampled on the rights of Palestinians. Still, Israel is Thomas Jefferson’s idea of heaven compared with Gaza, which could serve as a seaside Club Med for Jew-haters. One country is consonant with the Enlightenment; the other is a dark place of religious intolerance where the firmest principles of anti-Semitism — not anti-Zionism or pro-Palestinianism — are embedded in the Hamas charter.

It’s mind-boggling that all this is apparently news to him, and to many on the left. But it does raise the question: other than by vanquishing Hamas and like-minded Islamic fascists (as the Allies defeated Hitler), how is there to be “peace”?

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Success Without Victory

Developments with the war in Afghanistan are causing us to question our methods of warfare as we have not since Vietnam. Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam are mushrooming, of course; Fouad Ajami has a useful one today, in which he considers the effect of withdrawal deadlines on the American people’s expectations as well as the enemy’s. But on Friday, Caroline Glick took a broader view of contemporary Western methods, comparing the U.S. operating profile in Afghanistan to that of the IDF in Lebanon in the 1990s.

As I have done here, she invoked the White House guidance report in December, according to which “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” Such guidance, she says, “when executed … brings not victory nor even stability.” She is right; Fouad Ajami is right; and both are focusing where our attention should be right now, which is on the conduct of the war at the political level.

There’s a good reason why comparisons with Vietnam are gathering steam. It’s not the geography, the campaign plan, or the details of the historical context, alliances, or political purposes: it’s the behavior of the American leadership. As Senator McCain points out, President Obama has steadfastly refused to affirm that the July 2011 deadline is conditions-based. But I was particularly struck by the recent words of Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for the “AfPak” problem, because they evoke a whole political doctrine of “limited war,” which dates back to the Vietnam era.

Holbrooke has been keeping a low profile. But he’s a crucial actor in this drama, and in early June he made these observations:

Let me be clear on one thing, everybody understands that this war will not end in a clear-cut military victory. It’s not going to end on the deck of a battleship like World War Two, or Dayton, Ohio, like the Bosnian war. …

It’s going to have some different ending from that, some form of political settlements are necessary … you can’t have a settlement with al-Qaeda, you can’t talk to them, you can’t negotiate with them, it’s out of the question. But it is possible to talk to Taliban leaders. …

What do [critics] mean by win? We don’t use the word win, we use the word succeed.

As an aside, I would have thought the Dayton process did, in fact, have relevance for the “peace jirga” process now underway with the Afghan factions, and that we might expect an outcome with some similarities to the Dayton Accords. But my central concern here is the virtually exact overlap of Holbrooke’s conceptual language with that of the Johnson-era prosecution of the Vietnam War.

That we had to seek a “settlement” with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was received wisdom under Lyndon Johnson; in this memo from a key reevaluation of the war effort in 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara leads off with it. His reference to “creating conditions for a favorable settlement” by demonstrating to the North Vietnamese that “the odds are against their winning” is a near-perfect statement of the limited-war proposition encapsulated by Henry Kissinger in his influential 1958 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (quotations are from the W. W. Norton & Co. edition of 1969). Said Kissinger:

The goal of war can no longer be military victory, strictly speaking, but the attainment of certain specific political conditions, which are fully understood by the opponent. … Our purpose is to affect the will of the enemy, not to destroy him. … War can be limited only by presenting the enemy with an unfavorable calculus of risks. (p. 189)

Kissinger’s title reminds us that it was the emerging nuclear threat that galvanized limited-war thinking in the period leading up to Vietnam. But that was only one of the factors in our selection of limited objectives for that conflict. Another was an attribution to the enemy of aspirations that mirrored ours, with the persistent characterization of the North Vietnamese Communists – much like Richard Holbrooke’s of the Taliban – as potential partners in negotiation. A seminal example of that occurred in Johnson’s celebrated “Peace without Conquest” speech of April 7, 1965:

For what do the people of North Vietnam want? They want what their neighbors also desire: food for their hunger; health for their bodies; a chance to learn; progress for their country; and an end to the bondage of material misery. And they would find all these things far more readily in peaceful association with others than in the endless course of battle.

It was not, of course, what the people of North Vietnam wanted that mattered; this political factor was sadly miscast. The LBJ speech was beautifully crafted and full of poignant and powerful rhetoric. But the rhetoric could not ultimately hide the bald facts, which were that Johnson wanted a settlement in Vietnam, that he had no concept of victory to outline, and that his main desire was to get out.

The speech was recognized at the time as “defensive” in character. And we must not deceive ourselves that Holbrooke’s words from earlier this month are being interpreted abroad in any other way. I’ve seen no reference to his comments in a leading American publication, but media outlets across Asia, Europe, and Africa have quoted him. It’s interesting that in 2010, he feels no need to cloak his blunt observations – so consonant with Kissinger’s dryly precise limited-war formulation – in the elliptical, emotive language favored by the Johnson administration in its public utterances. In the 1960s, the limited-war concept of disclaiming all desire to “win” was still suspect. But, as much as we have criticized it in the decades since, we have internalized and mainstreamed it as well. Holbrooke apparently feels empowered to speak clearly in these terms, without euphemism or caveat.

There is no good record to invoke for pursuing the strategy of “peace without conquest.” It took almost exactly 10 years after the LBJ speech for the strategy to produce the total collapse of the U.S. effort in Vietnam; a wealthy superpower can keep “not-winning” for a long time. All but 400 of the 58,000 American lives given to Vietnam were lost in that 10-year period, along with the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives taken in the fighting and the Communist victory.

But there was a lot of success in that period too. U.S. troops won every tactical engagement, including the defeat of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Under Nixon, North Vietnam was isolated and driven to the bargaining table. Under General Creighton Abrams, the defense of the South had, with the exception of air support, been successfully “Vietnamized” when the U.S. pulled out our last ground forces in 1972. But these successes could not establish a sustainable status quo.

Vietnam is our example of what “success without victory” looks like. We should be alarmed that the current administration seeks that defensive objective in Afghanistan. Such a pursuit is, itself, one of the main conditions for producing failure – and failure that is compounded by being protracted and bloody. As for the reason why that should be, Dr. Kissinger, with his clinical precision, must have the last word:

In any conflict the side which is animated by faith in victory has a decided advantage over an opponent who wishes above all to preserve the status quo. It will be prepared to run greater risks because its purpose will be stronger. (p. 246)

Kissinger acknowledged when he wrote these words – having both Vietnam and the larger Soviet threat in mind – that this was a limiting factor the Western powers had not devised a means of overcoming. In Afghanistan today, meanwhile, by Team Obama’s affirmation, we are the side not animated by faith in victory.

Developments with the war in Afghanistan are causing us to question our methods of warfare as we have not since Vietnam. Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam are mushrooming, of course; Fouad Ajami has a useful one today, in which he considers the effect of withdrawal deadlines on the American people’s expectations as well as the enemy’s. But on Friday, Caroline Glick took a broader view of contemporary Western methods, comparing the U.S. operating profile in Afghanistan to that of the IDF in Lebanon in the 1990s.

As I have done here, she invoked the White House guidance report in December, according to which “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” Such guidance, she says, “when executed … brings not victory nor even stability.” She is right; Fouad Ajami is right; and both are focusing where our attention should be right now, which is on the conduct of the war at the political level.

There’s a good reason why comparisons with Vietnam are gathering steam. It’s not the geography, the campaign plan, or the details of the historical context, alliances, or political purposes: it’s the behavior of the American leadership. As Senator McCain points out, President Obama has steadfastly refused to affirm that the July 2011 deadline is conditions-based. But I was particularly struck by the recent words of Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for the “AfPak” problem, because they evoke a whole political doctrine of “limited war,” which dates back to the Vietnam era.

Holbrooke has been keeping a low profile. But he’s a crucial actor in this drama, and in early June he made these observations:

Let me be clear on one thing, everybody understands that this war will not end in a clear-cut military victory. It’s not going to end on the deck of a battleship like World War Two, or Dayton, Ohio, like the Bosnian war. …

It’s going to have some different ending from that, some form of political settlements are necessary … you can’t have a settlement with al-Qaeda, you can’t talk to them, you can’t negotiate with them, it’s out of the question. But it is possible to talk to Taliban leaders. …

What do [critics] mean by win? We don’t use the word win, we use the word succeed.

As an aside, I would have thought the Dayton process did, in fact, have relevance for the “peace jirga” process now underway with the Afghan factions, and that we might expect an outcome with some similarities to the Dayton Accords. But my central concern here is the virtually exact overlap of Holbrooke’s conceptual language with that of the Johnson-era prosecution of the Vietnam War.

That we had to seek a “settlement” with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was received wisdom under Lyndon Johnson; in this memo from a key reevaluation of the war effort in 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara leads off with it. His reference to “creating conditions for a favorable settlement” by demonstrating to the North Vietnamese that “the odds are against their winning” is a near-perfect statement of the limited-war proposition encapsulated by Henry Kissinger in his influential 1958 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (quotations are from the W. W. Norton & Co. edition of 1969). Said Kissinger:

The goal of war can no longer be military victory, strictly speaking, but the attainment of certain specific political conditions, which are fully understood by the opponent. … Our purpose is to affect the will of the enemy, not to destroy him. … War can be limited only by presenting the enemy with an unfavorable calculus of risks. (p. 189)

Kissinger’s title reminds us that it was the emerging nuclear threat that galvanized limited-war thinking in the period leading up to Vietnam. But that was only one of the factors in our selection of limited objectives for that conflict. Another was an attribution to the enemy of aspirations that mirrored ours, with the persistent characterization of the North Vietnamese Communists – much like Richard Holbrooke’s of the Taliban – as potential partners in negotiation. A seminal example of that occurred in Johnson’s celebrated “Peace without Conquest” speech of April 7, 1965:

For what do the people of North Vietnam want? They want what their neighbors also desire: food for their hunger; health for their bodies; a chance to learn; progress for their country; and an end to the bondage of material misery. And they would find all these things far more readily in peaceful association with others than in the endless course of battle.

It was not, of course, what the people of North Vietnam wanted that mattered; this political factor was sadly miscast. The LBJ speech was beautifully crafted and full of poignant and powerful rhetoric. But the rhetoric could not ultimately hide the bald facts, which were that Johnson wanted a settlement in Vietnam, that he had no concept of victory to outline, and that his main desire was to get out.

The speech was recognized at the time as “defensive” in character. And we must not deceive ourselves that Holbrooke’s words from earlier this month are being interpreted abroad in any other way. I’ve seen no reference to his comments in a leading American publication, but media outlets across Asia, Europe, and Africa have quoted him. It’s interesting that in 2010, he feels no need to cloak his blunt observations – so consonant with Kissinger’s dryly precise limited-war formulation – in the elliptical, emotive language favored by the Johnson administration in its public utterances. In the 1960s, the limited-war concept of disclaiming all desire to “win” was still suspect. But, as much as we have criticized it in the decades since, we have internalized and mainstreamed it as well. Holbrooke apparently feels empowered to speak clearly in these terms, without euphemism or caveat.

There is no good record to invoke for pursuing the strategy of “peace without conquest.” It took almost exactly 10 years after the LBJ speech for the strategy to produce the total collapse of the U.S. effort in Vietnam; a wealthy superpower can keep “not-winning” for a long time. All but 400 of the 58,000 American lives given to Vietnam were lost in that 10-year period, along with the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives taken in the fighting and the Communist victory.

But there was a lot of success in that period too. U.S. troops won every tactical engagement, including the defeat of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Under Nixon, North Vietnam was isolated and driven to the bargaining table. Under General Creighton Abrams, the defense of the South had, with the exception of air support, been successfully “Vietnamized” when the U.S. pulled out our last ground forces in 1972. But these successes could not establish a sustainable status quo.

Vietnam is our example of what “success without victory” looks like. We should be alarmed that the current administration seeks that defensive objective in Afghanistan. Such a pursuit is, itself, one of the main conditions for producing failure – and failure that is compounded by being protracted and bloody. As for the reason why that should be, Dr. Kissinger, with his clinical precision, must have the last word:

In any conflict the side which is animated by faith in victory has a decided advantage over an opponent who wishes above all to preserve the status quo. It will be prepared to run greater risks because its purpose will be stronger. (p. 246)

Kissinger acknowledged when he wrote these words – having both Vietnam and the larger Soviet threat in mind – that this was a limiting factor the Western powers had not devised a means of overcoming. In Afghanistan today, meanwhile, by Team Obama’s affirmation, we are the side not animated by faith in victory.

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Yes We Can … Win in Afghanistan

Andrew Exum has posted a short reply to my critique of his hand-wringing article on Afghanistan. He begins on a nice note: “I respect the heck out of Max Boot and consider him among the smartest of the thinkers often lumped under the label ‘neoconservative’.” (I especially like the way he distances himself from the cliched neocon label.) He then goes on to concede, “Boot is right, to a degree, about political will.” (I had written that, although political will is now lacking in the United States, it could easily be manufactured, if only President Obama were to be slightly more resolute.) But Andrew writes:

I think Boot, like many other neoconservatives, overestimates the importance of U.S. actions and downplays the agency of others. So Afghanistan will definitely be a success if we will it? Sorry, but that’s not how third-party counterinsurgency campaigns work. The actions of others matter as much or more than our own.

For my part, I respect the heck out of Andrew Exum and believe his arguments are worthy of a more detailed examination.

Will Afghanistan definitely be a success if we will it? Nothing is definite, especially not in the confusing realm of warfare. But I think the odds are good — certainly better than 50% — that a reasonable commitment of time and resources can make Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy (which Andrew helped formulate) to succeed. Population-centric counterinsurgency has worked in countries as diverse as Iraq, Malaya, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, Oman, and Colombia. Historically speaking (and I say this based on research I’m currently doing for a book on the history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism), it is the most successful counterinsurgency strategy there is. Does that mean it will work in every instance? Of course not. But it works more often than not, and I have yet to see any evidence that Afghanistan is uniquely resistant to such an approach.

There are difficulties, to be sure, principally having to do with weak and corrupt government; but those problems were well known a year ago, when the McChrystal strategy was formulated with Andrew’s input and support. What has changed in the past year to make McChrystal’s approach invalid? Nothing that I can see.

Indeed, the biggest cause for optimism remains intact — namely the unpopularity of the Taliban. Public opinion polls show that only 6% of the Afghan people would like to see them return to power. The percentage is slightly higher in the South but still well short of a majority. The Taliban suffer from a major disadvantage that did not afflict successful insurgencies in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba: they have actually been in power before and people remember how awful they were. Some 90% of Afghans favor the current government for all of its myriad imperfections.

The Taliban are able to make gains only because of the security and governance vacuum that has existed in much of the countryside. Filling that vacuum is certainly difficult and will take a long time. But is it impossible? I think not, because our objectives are fundamentally in alignment with the views of most Afghans. The key, as I stress once again, is whether the U.S. will have the patience and the will to see this war through to an acceptable conclusion — something that Andrew concedes is “probably” a vital interest of ours.

I don’t mean to suggest that the U.S. is capable of doing anything; I don’t think we could transform the moon into Swiss cheese simply by willing it. Can we, working in cooperation with international and local partners, defeat a ragtag guerrilla army of perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 fighters who are widely despised by the population they seek to rule? Yes, we can.

Andrew Exum has posted a short reply to my critique of his hand-wringing article on Afghanistan. He begins on a nice note: “I respect the heck out of Max Boot and consider him among the smartest of the thinkers often lumped under the label ‘neoconservative’.” (I especially like the way he distances himself from the cliched neocon label.) He then goes on to concede, “Boot is right, to a degree, about political will.” (I had written that, although political will is now lacking in the United States, it could easily be manufactured, if only President Obama were to be slightly more resolute.) But Andrew writes:

I think Boot, like many other neoconservatives, overestimates the importance of U.S. actions and downplays the agency of others. So Afghanistan will definitely be a success if we will it? Sorry, but that’s not how third-party counterinsurgency campaigns work. The actions of others matter as much or more than our own.

For my part, I respect the heck out of Andrew Exum and believe his arguments are worthy of a more detailed examination.

Will Afghanistan definitely be a success if we will it? Nothing is definite, especially not in the confusing realm of warfare. But I think the odds are good — certainly better than 50% — that a reasonable commitment of time and resources can make Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy (which Andrew helped formulate) to succeed. Population-centric counterinsurgency has worked in countries as diverse as Iraq, Malaya, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, Oman, and Colombia. Historically speaking (and I say this based on research I’m currently doing for a book on the history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism), it is the most successful counterinsurgency strategy there is. Does that mean it will work in every instance? Of course not. But it works more often than not, and I have yet to see any evidence that Afghanistan is uniquely resistant to such an approach.

There are difficulties, to be sure, principally having to do with weak and corrupt government; but those problems were well known a year ago, when the McChrystal strategy was formulated with Andrew’s input and support. What has changed in the past year to make McChrystal’s approach invalid? Nothing that I can see.

Indeed, the biggest cause for optimism remains intact — namely the unpopularity of the Taliban. Public opinion polls show that only 6% of the Afghan people would like to see them return to power. The percentage is slightly higher in the South but still well short of a majority. The Taliban suffer from a major disadvantage that did not afflict successful insurgencies in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba: they have actually been in power before and people remember how awful they were. Some 90% of Afghans favor the current government for all of its myriad imperfections.

The Taliban are able to make gains only because of the security and governance vacuum that has existed in much of the countryside. Filling that vacuum is certainly difficult and will take a long time. But is it impossible? I think not, because our objectives are fundamentally in alignment with the views of most Afghans. The key, as I stress once again, is whether the U.S. will have the patience and the will to see this war through to an acceptable conclusion — something that Andrew concedes is “probably” a vital interest of ours.

I don’t mean to suggest that the U.S. is capable of doing anything; I don’t think we could transform the moon into Swiss cheese simply by willing it. Can we, working in cooperation with international and local partners, defeat a ragtag guerrilla army of perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 fighters who are widely despised by the population they seek to rule? Yes, we can.

Read Less

Hey, Democrats Wanted These Two Senate Candidates

The Democrats’ electoral problems keep piling up. First, after spending gobs of money and political capital to rescue Blanche Lincoln, the White House and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee may have to throw in the towel on her race:

Republican John Boozman now holds a near two-to-one lead over Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas’ U.S. Senate race, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state. Boozman earns 61% of the vote, while Lincoln, coming off her Democratic Primary runoff win last week, picks up 32% support.

Then in the Connecticut race, Richard Blumenthal’s problem with truth-telling continues. He made the mistake of talking to a local reporter and, once again, made stuff up:

At one point in the interview, Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat, said he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in April 1970 knowing that reservists could be activated for service in Vietnam. “I did not want to avoid service,” he said. “I did realize reservists could be called up, and that it was something that I wanted to do.”

But military experts said there was no expectation that reserve units would be activated at the time Mr. Blumenthal enlisted, particularly given how drastically public opinion had turned against the war. …

In the interview with The Connecticut Mirror this week, Mr. Blumenthal sought to play down the instances in which he inaccurately described his military service, saying it was a “very limited” number of occasions.

“Whatever the number, I regret the mistake,” he said.

Mr. Blumenthal, 64, has also in recent weeks sought to defend his record of service in the military.

In the interview, he discussed the number he received in the draft lottery in 1969, just a few months before he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, according to the article.

His number in the December 1969 draft lottery, according to the Selective Service, was 152. People with numbers as high as 195 in that lottery were eligible to be drafted.

Mr. Blumenthal, in the interview, said that he did not remember the number he got in the draft lottery but that it was probably high enough to keep him out of the draft, according to the article.

David Curry, a professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who is an expert on the Vietnam draft, said Mr. Blumenthal’s lottery number would have been cause for worry for someone who did not want to be drafted.

I wonder which Democrats are going to come into the state to sing his praises. Not all that many, I suspect. (No one really wants a photo showing himself arm-in-arm with Blumenthal.) He is currently far ahead in the polls, but a few more of these blunders, some hard-hitting ads, and some debates may change voters’ minds.

The Democrats’ electoral problems keep piling up. First, after spending gobs of money and political capital to rescue Blanche Lincoln, the White House and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee may have to throw in the towel on her race:

Republican John Boozman now holds a near two-to-one lead over Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas’ U.S. Senate race, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state. Boozman earns 61% of the vote, while Lincoln, coming off her Democratic Primary runoff win last week, picks up 32% support.

Then in the Connecticut race, Richard Blumenthal’s problem with truth-telling continues. He made the mistake of talking to a local reporter and, once again, made stuff up:

At one point in the interview, Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat, said he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in April 1970 knowing that reservists could be activated for service in Vietnam. “I did not want to avoid service,” he said. “I did realize reservists could be called up, and that it was something that I wanted to do.”

But military experts said there was no expectation that reserve units would be activated at the time Mr. Blumenthal enlisted, particularly given how drastically public opinion had turned against the war. …

In the interview with The Connecticut Mirror this week, Mr. Blumenthal sought to play down the instances in which he inaccurately described his military service, saying it was a “very limited” number of occasions.

“Whatever the number, I regret the mistake,” he said.

Mr. Blumenthal, 64, has also in recent weeks sought to defend his record of service in the military.

In the interview, he discussed the number he received in the draft lottery in 1969, just a few months before he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, according to the article.

His number in the December 1969 draft lottery, according to the Selective Service, was 152. People with numbers as high as 195 in that lottery were eligible to be drafted.

Mr. Blumenthal, in the interview, said that he did not remember the number he got in the draft lottery but that it was probably high enough to keep him out of the draft, according to the article.

David Curry, a professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who is an expert on the Vietnam draft, said Mr. Blumenthal’s lottery number would have been cause for worry for someone who did not want to be drafted.

I wonder which Democrats are going to come into the state to sing his praises. Not all that many, I suspect. (No one really wants a photo showing himself arm-in-arm with Blumenthal.) He is currently far ahead in the polls, but a few more of these blunders, some hard-hitting ads, and some debates may change voters’ minds.

Read Less

U.S. Defense Merits Spending

Big surprise. Reason magazine, the libertarian Bible, favors cutting defense spending. But it would be hard to come up with a more unpersuasive argument if they tried. Contributor Veronica de Rugy of George Mason University, a bastion of free-market economics, writes:

Liberals often view the Pentagon as an item that should be cut but can’t for political reasons. … Yet such cuts have been achieved in the past. … During the last 70 years, the defense budget was cut 26 times by an average rate of 10 percent. … The biggest cuts followed World War II, with a 72 percent reduction in 1947. The last cut was in 1998. … Most of the cuts have taken place after the end of a war. But cuts were also achieved in the late 1960s and early ’70s, despite the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. Politicians explicitly debated how to cut spending without cutting security, and they still managed to get re-elected.

So let me see if I have this straight: de Rugy thinks that defense cuts in the late 1940s, early 1970s, and early 1990s are a good model to follow? In all three instances, major wars were winding down (World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War, respectively), and the political class was eager to spend a “peace dividend.” Ms. de Rugy is an economist, not a historian, but she would be well advised to study the historical record for what happened next.

In all three cases, the result was to make America less secure and to embolden our adversaries. The precipitous decline in defense spending after World War II left us ill-prepared to confront Communist aggression in Korea. The drawdown after the end of the Vietnam War led to a “hollow army” that could not stand up to Soviet aggression or the Iranian hostage crisis in the 1970s. And the 1990s drawdown, which included slashing a third of the Army’s active-duty strength, left the armed forces overstretched and ill-prepared to deal with a host of low-intensity conflicts, from Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, the trend has reversed, with a big increase in defense budgets, but most of the money has gone for current operations and personnel costs (including health care and pensions) – the latter line item consuming an ever-larger share of the budget since the abolition of the draft in 1973. The U.S. armed forces have not been able to acquire enough big-ticket items to replace weapons designed and bought during the Reagan years or even earlier. (B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers date back to the Eisenhower administration.) The Army has grown slightly, but it is still far below its strength at the end of the Cold War, when it had 710,000 active-duty soldiers. (Today the figure is 560,000.)

It’s true that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, but our commitments are also greater because the U.S. armed forces have to maintain peace and security across the globe – something that is increasingly hard to do when the Navy, for example, has just 286 ships (down from almost 600 ships in the Reagan years). We can certainly afford to keep spending as much on defense as we do today – or even spend more. As de Rugy notes in passing, defense spending is hardly a crippling burden, insofar as it accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget and 4.6 percent of GDP (down from 6.2 percent in the 1980s).

She seems enamored of studies that claim that great efficiencies can be achieved “by eliminating a few controversial weapons systems or by reforming the Pentagon’s supply chain, I.T., and personnel management practices.” There is little doubt that the Pentagon – one of the world’s largest bureaucracies – can be more efficiently run. But, to refer once again to the historical record, every secretary of defense since the post was created in 1947 has tried to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse.” This may have saved a few bucks at the margins, but at the end of the day, no green-eye-shade legerdemain can produce a budgetary miracle of less spending and more defense capabilities.

The bottom line is: either we keep spending a lot for defense, or we will watch our strategic position decline. And the consequences of such a decline – as we learned in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s – will be far more costly in the end than maintaining a robust deterrent capacity to begin with.

Big surprise. Reason magazine, the libertarian Bible, favors cutting defense spending. But it would be hard to come up with a more unpersuasive argument if they tried. Contributor Veronica de Rugy of George Mason University, a bastion of free-market economics, writes:

Liberals often view the Pentagon as an item that should be cut but can’t for political reasons. … Yet such cuts have been achieved in the past. … During the last 70 years, the defense budget was cut 26 times by an average rate of 10 percent. … The biggest cuts followed World War II, with a 72 percent reduction in 1947. The last cut was in 1998. … Most of the cuts have taken place after the end of a war. But cuts were also achieved in the late 1960s and early ’70s, despite the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. Politicians explicitly debated how to cut spending without cutting security, and they still managed to get re-elected.

So let me see if I have this straight: de Rugy thinks that defense cuts in the late 1940s, early 1970s, and early 1990s are a good model to follow? In all three instances, major wars were winding down (World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War, respectively), and the political class was eager to spend a “peace dividend.” Ms. de Rugy is an economist, not a historian, but she would be well advised to study the historical record for what happened next.

In all three cases, the result was to make America less secure and to embolden our adversaries. The precipitous decline in defense spending after World War II left us ill-prepared to confront Communist aggression in Korea. The drawdown after the end of the Vietnam War led to a “hollow army” that could not stand up to Soviet aggression or the Iranian hostage crisis in the 1970s. And the 1990s drawdown, which included slashing a third of the Army’s active-duty strength, left the armed forces overstretched and ill-prepared to deal with a host of low-intensity conflicts, from Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, the trend has reversed, with a big increase in defense budgets, but most of the money has gone for current operations and personnel costs (including health care and pensions) – the latter line item consuming an ever-larger share of the budget since the abolition of the draft in 1973. The U.S. armed forces have not been able to acquire enough big-ticket items to replace weapons designed and bought during the Reagan years or even earlier. (B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers date back to the Eisenhower administration.) The Army has grown slightly, but it is still far below its strength at the end of the Cold War, when it had 710,000 active-duty soldiers. (Today the figure is 560,000.)

It’s true that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, but our commitments are also greater because the U.S. armed forces have to maintain peace and security across the globe – something that is increasingly hard to do when the Navy, for example, has just 286 ships (down from almost 600 ships in the Reagan years). We can certainly afford to keep spending as much on defense as we do today – or even spend more. As de Rugy notes in passing, defense spending is hardly a crippling burden, insofar as it accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget and 4.6 percent of GDP (down from 6.2 percent in the 1980s).

She seems enamored of studies that claim that great efficiencies can be achieved “by eliminating a few controversial weapons systems or by reforming the Pentagon’s supply chain, I.T., and personnel management practices.” There is little doubt that the Pentagon – one of the world’s largest bureaucracies – can be more efficiently run. But, to refer once again to the historical record, every secretary of defense since the post was created in 1947 has tried to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse.” This may have saved a few bucks at the margins, but at the end of the day, no green-eye-shade legerdemain can produce a budgetary miracle of less spending and more defense capabilities.

The bottom line is: either we keep spending a lot for defense, or we will watch our strategic position decline. And the consequences of such a decline – as we learned in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s – will be far more costly in the end than maintaining a robust deterrent capacity to begin with.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.’”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.’”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Read Less

Saving American Employees in Iraq

U.S. forces are rapidly withdrawing from Iraq; they are supposed to be down to 50,000 by the end of August and to zero by the end of 2011. What does that mean for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have worked for U.S. military and civilian representatives? That is unclear, but the portents are ominous.

Iraq is getting more peaceful, but extremist groups have openly talked about “nine bullets for the traitors.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq is, no doubt, much weakened by a recent wave of raids by Iraqi and U.S. forces that have taken out much of its top leadership, but it could well regenerate itself to carry out such threats or other groups could rise up to target these American employees. Many have already died in such terrorist attacks since 2003, and those who remain an American employee are scared about what happens once American troops leave. This article in an English-language Abu Dhabi paper quotes one “‘terp,” who works for American troops:

“They’re going to leave us behind, I can see that now,” he said. “I never thought this day would come and even when [president] Obama said they’d pull-out, I believed all the promises from the soldiers that they’d take us with them, that we were their brothers, their buddies, their guys.

“But now they’re going and it’s obvious they’re not going to take us. We’ll be left here, we’ll be hung out to dry, we’ll be [expletive].”

The question is whether America will accept a moral responsibility to help out those who have helped us. Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker in Iraq who has started an NGO called the List Project to resettle Iraqi allies, urges what he calls the Guam option:

In the 1970s, then-President Gerald Ford eventually did the right thing by airlifting hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, using the U.S. military base in Guam as a staging area, but not before thousands were slain or lost to Ho Chi Minh’s “re-education camps.” Bill Clinton used Guam again in 1996 when he ordered Operation Pacific Haven, which flew 7,000 at-risk Iraqis to safety in an effort that took weeks, not months or years. Since then, the “Guam option” has been the standard for swiftly saving refugees, while also maintaining security, as processing occurs in military bases.

One may well object that the Vietnam analogy doesn’t apply, because we haven’t lost in Iraq. That’s true. And if some U.S. troops remain in Iraq after 2011 — as I hope will occur — the Guam option may not be necessary, because U.S. forces can play an important peacekeeping role to ensure that Iraq remains on a stable, democratic path. But if we do execute a full pullout by the end of next year, then all bets are off, and the Guam option should be given serious consideration as a way to save our brave allies, whose safety cannot otherwise be assured.

U.S. forces are rapidly withdrawing from Iraq; they are supposed to be down to 50,000 by the end of August and to zero by the end of 2011. What does that mean for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have worked for U.S. military and civilian representatives? That is unclear, but the portents are ominous.

Iraq is getting more peaceful, but extremist groups have openly talked about “nine bullets for the traitors.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq is, no doubt, much weakened by a recent wave of raids by Iraqi and U.S. forces that have taken out much of its top leadership, but it could well regenerate itself to carry out such threats or other groups could rise up to target these American employees. Many have already died in such terrorist attacks since 2003, and those who remain an American employee are scared about what happens once American troops leave. This article in an English-language Abu Dhabi paper quotes one “‘terp,” who works for American troops:

“They’re going to leave us behind, I can see that now,” he said. “I never thought this day would come and even when [president] Obama said they’d pull-out, I believed all the promises from the soldiers that they’d take us with them, that we were their brothers, their buddies, their guys.

“But now they’re going and it’s obvious they’re not going to take us. We’ll be left here, we’ll be hung out to dry, we’ll be [expletive].”

The question is whether America will accept a moral responsibility to help out those who have helped us. Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker in Iraq who has started an NGO called the List Project to resettle Iraqi allies, urges what he calls the Guam option:

In the 1970s, then-President Gerald Ford eventually did the right thing by airlifting hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, using the U.S. military base in Guam as a staging area, but not before thousands were slain or lost to Ho Chi Minh’s “re-education camps.” Bill Clinton used Guam again in 1996 when he ordered Operation Pacific Haven, which flew 7,000 at-risk Iraqis to safety in an effort that took weeks, not months or years. Since then, the “Guam option” has been the standard for swiftly saving refugees, while also maintaining security, as processing occurs in military bases.

One may well object that the Vietnam analogy doesn’t apply, because we haven’t lost in Iraq. That’s true. And if some U.S. troops remain in Iraq after 2011 — as I hope will occur — the Guam option may not be necessary, because U.S. forces can play an important peacekeeping role to ensure that Iraq remains on a stable, democratic path. But if we do execute a full pullout by the end of next year, then all bets are off, and the Guam option should be given serious consideration as a way to save our brave allies, whose safety cannot otherwise be assured.

Read Less




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