Archive for category War on Islamism

Obama Negotiates

In his joint press conference today with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President Obama commented on the state of negotiations with Iran, specifically on the issue of sanctions.  While most of the discussion has focused on the question of being able to reimpose sanctions, or abandoning them, or being able to reimpose them after abandoning them, this line caught my ear:

I would just make a general observation. That is that how sanction are, lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there is a violation, there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that. Part of John’s job and part of Iranian negotiators’ job and part of the P5+1′s job, is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable.

Obama publicly said that, in part, the negotiations with Iran consist of an effort to get what we want, while letting the mullahs present some palatable line to their “body politic.”

In other words, he just told the Iranian people that their leaders are lying to them about the terms of the deal, in order to make the sale.

It’s no doubt true that part of a negotiation can be, under the right circumstances, when you hold the high cards and have been driving a hard bargain, to find some way of letting the other side save face.

None of those conditions obtains here. We’ve been getting rolled, and all Obama has just done with that comment is give the mullahs an excuse to pretend they’ve been backed into a corner where they have to drive a harder bargain.  He seems have mistaken conducting a seminar in foreign policy for actually conducting foreign policy.

As Mark Steyn likes to ask, “If he were on the other side, what would he be doing differently?”

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Sen. Cotton on Attacking Iran

CNN is quoting Sen. Tom Cotton as comparing a US military operation on Iran’s nuclear facilities to President Clinton’s brief 1998 Desert Fox air campaign.

I admire Cotton for the courage to write The Letter™, round up colleagues to sign it, and publish it, and I think he’s both right and wrong about the prospects of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

He’s right, in that it won’t be anything like the invasion of Iraq, the rescue of Kuwait, or the invasion of Afghanistan. It will be conducted mostly from the air, with specialized units on the ground to support the air ops. It won’t be an invasion, and people who talk of “another war in the Middle East” are trying to conjure up the wrong images, as Cotton points out.

That said, Iran isn’t just Iran. It’s Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemen, and forces in Syria and Iraq. It’s got assets in Europe, South America, and possibly Central America. It almost certainly has sneaked assets into the US, with the ability to do a little more than kidnap the Saudi ambassador.  Expect them to wreak as much mayhem and terror as they can muster, either in immediate response, or over time afterwards.

The argument for attacking them now, is that it’s better to fight a non-nuclear Iran now, before it’s consolidated its grip on the region and further developed its missile technology, than to fight a nuclear one later, with all the resources it will have at its disposal.  That may or may not be the best or only course of action, but it’s one that may well be required.

Given the nature of the regime, any effective negotiation needs to be backed by the credible use of force, and any credible use of force needs to include the enemy’s retaliatory capability.

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Robert Zubrin on Iran

Robert Zubrin, in three succinct Facebook posts, explains his objections to the Iran “deal.”  First, the problems with the deal itself:

The problem with the Obama-Teheran Pact is that no genuine deal is possible. This is so because the entire purpose of the Iranian nuclear program is to produce nuclear bombs. The proof of this is:
  1. Iran does not need nuclear power for electricity, as it is currently flaring vast quantities of natural gas.
  2. If Iran did want nuclear power for electricity, it could buy 3.7% enriched U235 (reactor grade) for power generation purposes from either France or Russia at much lower cost than it can producing it domestically.
  3. Therefore, the only reason why Iran needs its own enrichment capability is to further enrich reactor grade U235 to bomb grade material.
  4. Further proof of this is supplied by the fact that Iran is actively developing ICBMs, whose only purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads.
  5. Therefore there can be no genuine deal, because any arrangement which stops Iran from developing nuclear weapons would defeat the entire purpose of its nuclear bomb program, while any deal that does not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would represent a complete capitulation by the West.
  6. And since Iran cares deeply about what actually results from any deal, while Obama only cares about how the deal appears, it is clear that any deal which is made will be one in which Iran is allowed to develop atomic bombs while Obama gets to pretend otherwise for a few months.
Second (in two posts), a way that Israel, or some other country, could stop the program almost immediately, and now has the incentive to do so:

The simplest way to stop the Iranian nuclear bomb program completely is to strike Iran’s oil export terminal on Kharg Island. As you can see, it is a very soft target. Two dozen JDAMs would suffice to set the whole place ablaze. Without oil exports, Iran would go bankrupt, and not only the bomb program, but the entire regime would be brought to an end, as they would be unable to meet payroll. No bucks = no bombs.

I observe that my previous posting identifying Iran’s extreme vulnerability to a strike on Kharg Island has provoked numerous responses objecting to US military action and pointing out a variety of possible negative consequences. However those authors misunderstand my point entirely. I am not calling for a US military strike on Kharg Island. That obviously is not going to happen under the Obama administration, as its current energetic efforts to make any deal with Iran, regardless of consequences, clearly shows. I was simply pointing out that if someone actually did want to stop Iran from getting atomic weapons, they readily could do it using much smaller military forces than the US has at its disposal.

Therefore, those people who find the idea of a strike on Kharg island and its potential aftermath unpleasant should do everything in their power to prevent the Obama administration from sealing a deal that would make such a strike an existential necessity for the Israelis.

It will be observed that everywhere Obama has abandoned America’s commitments, chaos and mass bloodshed has erupted. Look at Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Ukraine. Consider what will happen to Afghanistan, particularly the women and girls of Afghanistan, as soon as Obama withdraws American forces. Should Obama be allowed to proceed with his policy of ending the containment of Iran, the level of violence he has already unleashed will continue to expand without limit.

When the policeman abandons his post, it does not bring peace to the neighborhood.

 

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Today’s Private-Public Purim

More than history, the Jews have memory.

In his marvelous little book, Zakhor (“Memory”), Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi notes that Jewish historiography ends with the destruction of the Second Temple, revived only with the Continental Enlightenment and its reach into the communities of France and Germany.

Jewish memory, by contrast continues on, making sense of current events by analogy with Biblical ones.  It’s a method not entirely alien to American history itself.  The New England settlers saw themselves as latter-day Israelites, guided by God across a forbidding body of water, fleeing a corrupt Egypt to establish His kingdom on Earth in a new land.  Franklin proposed that the Great Seal of the United States feature the Israelite crossing the Red Sea.  Bruce Feiler’s America’s Prophet (I have not read it, so I can make no recommendation one way or the other) chronicles the role of Moses in American thought, American memory.

But if America could draw on a new founding to make Moses its central prophet, the Jews, in exile, usually turned to a different Biblical story, the Book of Esther.  Scattered, everywhere a minority, at the mercy of temporal powers who were usually not friendly, the Jews frequently found reason to compare their situation to the Jews in the Babylonian exile, rescued from extinction by Divine Providence hidden in natural events, hopeful of soon returning home.

It was not unusual for local communities, and even families, to celebrate such rescues by declaring local “Purims,” often recording the events in local chronicles by paralleling the very words of the Book of Esther.

Even though there is now a Jewish Commonwealth for the first time since 70 AD, the current Purim Parallel practically writes itself.  Genocidal theocratic Persian seeks nuclear bomb for destruction of Jewish people, twists current world power’s leader to its own ends to obtain such. The comparison was given an added push by the timing of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress – on Tuesday, the day before the Fast of Esther, commemorating Esther’s own fast before she approached the King to plead her case.  Most of the commentaries I’ve seen put Netanyahu in the role of Esther, braving the dangers of speaking truth to power (in the old Lefty phrase) in order to save his people.

I don’t think that’s quite right.

Netanyahu’s role here much more close parallels that of Mordecai, imploring Esther to do the right thing and risk her own position and comfort to save her people.  Netanyahu deftly explained why the approaching deal is a bad idea, why it’s a threat to Israel, but also – more importantly, given the audience – a threat to the United States.  He appealed to the common civilization and shared values between Israel and the United States.

But thought Bibi can persuade, he cannot directly influence.  He has no vote in the US, he must act through others, igniting a serious debate where there had been none, inviting others to bring to bear direct political pressure.

Which means that you and I, friends, are Esther.

It is incumbent upon us to act, to persuade Congress to oppose the agreement when it is reached, to retain or increase sanctions, to prevent the administration from giving power, legitimacy, and trade to our enemies as Americans and Jews.

It is our role to step out of our comfortable positions in a wealthy, friendly, welcoming society and use what influence and power we have to prevent any agreement that even contemplates an Iranian bomb from being anything more than a dead letter.

Given this, the actual words of Mordecai’s plea are even more ominous for an American Jewish community used to security but facing new demographic and ideological threats:

Do not imagine to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house from among all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish.  And who knows if you became Queen for such a time as this?

There is actually a dispute as to how to translate Mordecai’s last sentence.  Some translate it as, “And who knows if you will remain Queen a year from now?” meaning that Esther might lose her position as Queen.  Others translate it as, “And who knows if this isn’t the reason you became Queen?”

The two translations aren’t necessarily at odds: the calendar date for the actual massacre was a year off from Esther’s approach to the King.  Mordecai could have been arguing that if Esther didn’t fulfill her purpose in being Queen, God could easily enough arrange for her fall from power and its protections.

There is, or should be, a growing unease among Jews in the United States, this exceptional home for us with its exceptional relationship to us.  Too many Jews have traded in their Jewish identity for a Democratic Party one, replacing eternal transcendent values for temporary, political issues of the day.  A small minority, the 10% who are Orthodox, are having the great majority of the children, and with even Modern Orthodoxy teetering a little unsurely, the future of Judaism in the States looks potentially smaller, poorer, and more inward-looking.

The President, in his desire to reach a deal with Iran’s mullahs, has put Jewish Americans, but especially Jewish Democrats, in a position of having to choose between identities many had come to see as identical.  There are any number of powerful and influential Jewish Democrats, and who knows that they didn’t achieve these positions for such a time as this?

Rabbi David Fohrman points out something I hadn’t noticed before.  Two tribes – Judah and Benjamin (plus some Levites, but leave them aside, they’re not a full tribe here) – are actually in exile in Babylon.  Those are the only two tribes left in the southern Kingdom of Judah after the northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered a couple of centuries earlier.

Mordecai was from Benjamin.  Esther was from Benjamin.  But the decree was phrased as “Yehudim,” Judahites.  Haman didn’t care about tribal differences, but Mordecai would have caught the wording.  Benjamin and Judah had often had a somewhat tense relationship.  Would Esther think that the decree didn’t mean Benjamin, that she and others from her tribe could ride this out?

Mordecai’s demand means this, too: we’re all in this together, Benjamin and Judah.  Don’t think this doesn’t mean you.  It does.

Similarly Netanyahu is telling American Jews: don’t think this doesn’t mean you.  The Islamists, the anti-semites, the BDS-ers and the campus radicals have it in for all of us.  You may be secular, you may be comfortable, you may be wealthy, you may even be intermarried or atheist, it doesn’t matter.  They mean you, too.

And to non-Jewish Americans, Netanyahu is saying the same thing: the Islamists are coming for you, too.  This is a civilizational war we’re fighting, and we’re part of the same team.  Some of you may think you can buy safety by cutting a deal that puts Israel at risk, but you can’t.  And you’re putting your country and your children and your future in danger if you try.

Will the American Jews extend themselves on behalf of the Israeli Jews, or will we huddle together, trying to ride out the storm?

There are some, Alan Dershowitz, AIPAC, Larry Mizel & Norm Brownstein, who have risen to the occasion.  Since 2005, I’ve been on the email list for Jewish NOLA, and its president, Michael Weil, sent out an email this afternoon very supportive of Netanyahu’s speech and its message.

Too many, however, including our own JCRC here in Denver, the ADL, and other organizations charged specifically with advocating for Israel, have taken the safe route.  Happy to opine on just about any partisan political social or economic issue, they have fallen silent, ostensibly afraid to make Israel “partisan.”  In doing so, of course, they are acquiescing the an administration that has chosen to politicize Israel to try to isolate it, because it stands in the way of its Middle East Grand Strategy.  They have, perversely, allowed Israel to become the one topic they won’t discuss.

That’s not good enough.

There is one final parallel.  The Purim story doesn’t end with the King revoking his decree and saving the Jews.  In some interpretations, the King is prevented by Persian law from revoking a decree, in others he’s too proud to admit a mistake.  Regardless of the reason, the King instead issues another decree – a change in policy, if you will – permitting the Jews the defend themselves.  It’s a striking thing, a King risking the internal stability of his empire by permitting a subject people to take self-defense into their own hands on a national scale.  But he does it, confident that he’s not unleashing chaos, but rather encouraging justice.

Too often, we have valued stability in the Middle East above all else (indeed, stability is given as the reason for welcoming a nuclear-tipped Iran into a role a regional hegemon).  It would take a brave president indeed, or at least a confident and secure one, to welcome an Israeli effort to defend itself against an Iranian bomb.  It may mean waiting until the next president, who, while not repudiating whatever agreement this one reaches, winks and nods at such an effort.

 A sobering thought indeed, for American Jewry, ironically linked to a holiday associated with revelry and celebration.

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The White House and Free Speech

It goes without saying that reporting, opinion, and satire are not occasions for retaliatory violence.

Yet at the January 12th daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest repeated it no fewer than eight times.

Who can this bland truism of a sermon be meant for?  Westerners take it for granted.  Islamists reject it out of hand.  It simultaneously fails to reassure, persuade, or defend.

It was meant, instead, to threaten.  Each repetition was paired with a reason why news organizations might do well to consider self-censoring their reporting and their commentary.   A number of times, Earnest invoked the idea that printing potentially offensive material might endanger the lives of American service personnel serving overseas – a notion for which there is approximately zero evidence.  (One wonders whether or not the servicemen and women themselves were ever consulted about being used in this fashion.)

Earnest ominously suggested that newspapers might need to take into account their own calculations of the risks to themselves involved in reprinting cartoons or controversial material, that they or their reporters might be subject to violent attacks as a result:

The first thing is I think that there are any number of reasons that media organizations have made a decision not to reprint the cartoons.  In some cases, maybe they were concerned about their physical safety.  In other cases, they were exercising some judgment in a different way.  So we certainly would leave it to media organizations to make a decision like this.

He also proposed that considerations of taste, journalistic judgment, and ethics might come into play:

And, again, those decisions aren’t just driven by safety; they’re also driven by certain ethics and journalistic standards.  And these are complicated issues but ultimately ones that journalists should make.

There was a faint mention, prompted by insistent questioning, that a free press was something that our military is out there defending, but that only served to heighten the need for self-censorship in order to protect them.

And I think you could make the case, as I mentioned earlier, that a lot of men and women in uniform — not just from American soldiers, but French soldiers and British soldiers and others are fighting for that principle in a very real way.

In fact, given the opportunity in a question to say that American newspapers really should consider themselves safe, Earnest passed it up, in favor of another statement that journalists were just going to have to make that assessment themselves:

Q: Are you saying that based on your knowledge, the White House — you guys know a thing or two about security — that American media organizations shouldn’t be afraid of writing something or showing a cartoon that would offend jihadis because, hey, you, as the White House say, America is the place where you don’t have to be afraid of that because we have sufficient security here? …

A: What I’m saying is that individual news organizations have to assess that risk for themselves.

Earnest then went on to mention the risks journalists routinely take to bring stories to their readers – without mentioning that reporting on ISIS from Iraq entails, or should entail, slightly different security concerns from printing satirical cartoons in Paris or New York.

Put together, the logic of the briefing reads like satire itself:  No speech can justify violence like what we saw in Paris, but news organizations need to think about what they’re printing, the kinds of risks they’re taking printing it, since we really can’t protect them, and how they might endanger our servicemen who are fighting to protect their right to print this sort of thing.

Here’s what a robust defense of the spirit of the First Amendment would look like: “Americans – indeed all people – have the right to unfettered free speech, be it reporting, opinion, or satire.  It is not the job of this government to pass judgment on the content of that speech.  It is the job of this government to make sure that Americans can exercise that right without fear for their safety.”

We didn’t get that.

Instead, then-Secretary of State Clinton supported the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) notorious UN Resolution 16/18.  That resolution would effectively criminalize criticism of Islam, encouraging countries to ban speech that serves as an “incitement to violence.”  While under Western law “incitement” means encouraging violence, Islamists interpret it to mean “offending to the point of provoking violence.” Such laws would surrender our free press to the Islamist mob.

The administration’s support for Resolution 16/18, and active cooperation in its development, lends a decidedly more sinister cast to its statements.  In this context, the repeated statements that nothing that gets printed can justify violence begins to seem a little less like an attempt to state a principle, and a little more like a Chicago politician’s traditional warning: nice little newspaper you got there, shame if anything happened to it.

How long will it be before we see Earnest making the case for Resolution 16/18 simultaneously on the patriotic grounds of protecting our troops, and as a preferable alternative to the violence that “irresponsible” speech invites?  We would then have the spectacle of a United States President using the threat of Islamist terror attacks to justify Islamist restrictions on a free press.

Even though, it goes without saying, such violence can’t be justified.

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Provocation Is Not Incitement

Overseas and in Canada, Islamists have succeeded in using the notion of “defaming” a religion in order to misuse libel laws and shut down criticism of Islam or Islamic leaders.  Fortunately, the US has proven more resistant to such abuses.

As an end-around, Islamists seeking to suppress free speech in the name of “respect” for Islam are using a treacherous linguistic bait-and-switch to get restrictions written into national laws.

Historically, incitement to violence – or any criminal act – has been considered at least a justification for prior restraint, and sometimes even a criminal act in itself.  This Findlaw page on the legendary Judge Learned Hand discusses changing standards for what constitutes incitement – and therefore what written material might be subject to prior restraint. It is clear that the term means encouraging or instructing someone to commit a crime:

At that time, the legality of written or spoken words was usually judged by the probable result of the words—that is, if the words had the tendency to produce unlawful conduct, then they could be banned. Hand took a different approach: his solution focused on the words themselves, rather than on a guess at the public’s reaction to them. He invented what became known as the incitement test: if the words told someone to break the law, if they instructed the person that it was a duty or interest to do so, then they could be banned. The Masses magazine praised conscientious objectors and antiwar demonstrators, but it never actually told readers they should behave similarly. For this reason, Hand ruled that the postmaster could not ban the magazine.

Here’s a case of modern-day incitement, although for some obscure reason, charges were never brought:

YouTube Preview Image

This definition places the burden where it belongs: on the mob and on the guy who yelled, “Burn it down!” or “Kill the Jew!”  That is, the mob who actually did the destruction, the individual who actually committed the act, and the person who inspired them to commit that act.

Islamists seek to reverse this logic, and therefore, gain power over our speech and our writing.  They do this by subtly redefining incitement, so that if someone published cartoons insulting to Islam, and a mob uses that as a pretext for wreaking havoc, the publisher of the cartoons will have “incited” the mob’s behavior, even though this wasn’t the intent of the speech or the writing.

Take this 2012 oped by Randall Hamud, a San Diego attorney who gained brief notoriety in the aftermath of 9/11 for representing some men accused of being involved with the plot.  Here, Hamud is trying to make the case that Mark Nakoulay, of Beghazi Video fame, may have committed a criminal act by making and distributing the video.

In 1919, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote that free speech did not include the right to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater resulting in a panic. If there were a clear and present danger of substantive evil, such speech would not be protected. In 1969, the Supreme Court held that government cannot punish advocacy in the abstract. However, advocacy can be criminalized where it urges “imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

You see what he did there? The video doesn’t even come close to urging imminent lawless action, and the action presumed taken – riots by an Islamist mob – are certainly not what Nakoulay had in mind.  On a nontrivial technical note, the Court said “and” rather than “or,” meaning that the lawless action taken has to be the one contemplated by the speaker.

Consider the following scenario.  Jyllands-Posten publishes a series of juvenile cartoons making fun of Muhammad. The local imam takes those cartoons, waves them around at Friday prayers, and demands satisfaction.  Young Arab men then stream out of the mosques, burning and smashing the business district of their town.

Under the traditional definition of “incitement,” the imam would be guilty of incitement, and the mob would be guilty of property destruction.

Under the revised, Hamudian definition, the publisher would be guilty of incitement, and the imam would off scot free.

Whenever Muslim mobs rampage allegedly over some perceived slight, or Islamists walk into a newspaper and murder the staff, apologists would argue that they were “incited” to do so by the cartoons/editorial/image/oped/sandwich, effectively giving the most-touchy, most thin-skinned guy with access to a knife veto power over what we can say.

I’d like to be able to report that the US government, leader of the free world and primary defender of liberty across the globe, is having none of it.  Sadly, in 2011, then-Secretary of State Clinton enthusiastically endorsed UN Human Right Council (sic) Resolution 16/18. Whether this is the result of useful idiocy or active sympathy is beside the point – the US government has opened to door to subverting the 1st Amendment at the behest of our enemies.

Randall Hamud, by the way, was presented in 2002 with something called the “Alex Odeh Freedom of Speech Award.”

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Democrat Unseriousness on Islamism – Again

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cloud Cuckooland) has appointed Andre Carson (D-IN) to serve on the Permanent House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rep. Carson is a Muslim, which in and of itself would not be problematic.  If, say, Dr. Zudhi Jasser or Dr. Qanta Ahmed were to be elected to Congress, I can’t think of a place where they should be more welcomed.

But Rep. Carson is no Dr. Ahmed or Dr. Jasser.  Rep. Carson is both a fan of and beloved by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political operations here in the United States.  Carson has a long history of associating with the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society, both groups recognized by Egypt and the UAE as being part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s American political and influence operations.

The appointment comes a week after a set of bloody Islamist attacks in France, and less than a month after Egyptian President Sisi, whose country exists in a state of low-grade warfare against the Brotherhood, issued what amounted to a call for an Islamic reformation.

The appointment puts someone with close ties to America’s enemies on its most sensitive committee, and the one most directly involved with fighting that threat here and overseas.  Why on earth would you give someone like that access to a routine diet of sensitive operational and finished intelligence?

Given the fact that the mainstream media has mostly reported on the novelty of having a Muslim on the Intelligence Committee, the question answers itself.  Pelosi is looking to court a voting bloc, another of the Democrats’ increasingly incompatible identity interest groups in its increasingly unstable and incoherent coalition.  That is also helps to prove that America is no place for the oft-heralded, never-materialized backlash against Muslims.  Pelosi and most Democrats have long since acquiesced in CAIR’s and the MAS’s assertions that the worst thing about terrorist murders is that Muslims might be blamed for them.  What better way to prove that’s not the case than to put an Islamist sympathizer on the committee most responsible for overseering America’s conduct of its war on That Which Has Nothing To Do With Islam?

This is deranged.

It’s the equivalent of putting an actual Communist, say, Ron Dellums of California, on the Committee, or on the Pike Committee, the House’s equivalent of the Church Committee.  Oh, wait, they did that, too, back in the early 70s.
The Democrats have been fundamentally unserious about national defense for generations at this point.  It doesn’t bode well for the country when one of its two major parties derides missile defense as destabilizing, while putting a friend of the most civilizationally destabilizing force on the planet on the Intelligence Committee.

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Charlie Hebdo, and The Hill

The Hill was kind enough to pick up my op-ed on the Charlie Hebdo massacre yesterday in Paris.  You can read the whole thing, of course, but here’s my favorite bit:

There was a time when we understood what was at stake.  The fearful editor and wrecked printing press were staples of Hollywood westerns for decades, but this sort of thing happens in real life here, on occasion.

In the run-up to the Civil War, abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy made plenty of enemies on St. Louis with his anti-slavery newspaper, so much so that they destroyed his printing press three times and ran him off, across the river to the free state of Illinois.

The fourth time, they crossed the river, threw the press in the river, killed Lovejoy, and burned his warehouse.

I doubt those at the Washington PostNew York Times, or Yale University Press teach or retell that story today by implying that Lovejoy would have been better-advised to tone it down because deeply held and easily bruised feelings were at stake.

Since, at the end, I call for media to reprint things that irk Islamists, here’s a cover from the newspaper, and the Danish Cartoons that started it all, almost 10 years ago.

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John Kerry – Raising the Bar for Wrongness

The Olympics are coming up, and in the judged sports, like figured skating, we’ll hear a lot about the judges deliberately grading skaters down in order to “leave room” for later competitors who might do better.  If we were to judge the Obama Administration on wrongness, we’d probably have given up and just awarded a perfect score a long time ago, but that wouldn’t have left room for the continuing improvements being demonstrated.

The latest comes via the Weekly Standard, which reports these remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry:

We talked about the common interest of Pope Francis and President Obama in addressing poverty and extreme poverty on a global basis. The United States of America is deeply involved in efforts in Africa and in other parts of the world – in Asia, South Central Asia – to address this poverty, as is the Catholic Church. And so we have a huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.

The idea that poverty is the cause of terrorism has been so thoroughly debunked – most suicide bombers come from middle-class families, bin Laden was the wealthy son of a wealthy construction contractor, etc. – that his statement on the merits is hardly worth addressing.

That said, the second part of his statement, where he says that he and Theresa have therefore decided to set an example by donating their entire fortune to the Palestinian people, is really quite remarkable.

Ha, just kidding.  Of course, he didn’t say anything of the sort.  The solution, as always, will be to transfer billions of dollars of wealth from the middle-class and aspiring lower-class earners of the developed countries to the corrupt coffers of their “governments,” many of whom actively support terrorism, even as they pose as the most-reasonable-least-bad-alternative, in order to continue padding their Swiss bank accounts.  (Would that we pursued those half as assiduously as we went after law-abiding Americans with overseas money.)

In other words, Kerry wants to redistribute my future to people who want to kill me, enabling them to better do so, and feeding the contempt which is the real source of their murderousness.

Of course, Kerry himself won’t turn over his fortune to this good cause in defense of his countrymen.  He’ll pay some nominal increase in taxes, and continue to enjoy marvelous security at taxpayer expense (for a while) and then his own (for a while).

It’s really the foreign policy equivalent of Obama’s domestic policies.  Nobody thinks he or his rich backers from Silicon Valley are going to suffer from redistributionist policies.  It’s the middle-class and those just starting out who will see their futures bargained away, while the rest of us join the permanent renter class.

Foreign policy naivete combined with cronyism – the administration may finally have earned that Perfect 10.

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Volunteering For Our Own Victimization

Michael Doran of the Brookings Institution argues that the Iran deal is this days well-known version of the danegeld, in this case, making substantive concessions just for the purpose of keeping talks going:

…In my view, there will never be a final agreement. What the administration just initiated was, rather, a long and expensive process by which the West pays Iran to refrain from going nuclear. We are, in essence, paying Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate with us. We just bought six months. What was the price?

We shredded the six United Nations Security Council resolutions that ordered the Islamic Republic to abandon all enrichment and reprocessing activities. We exposed fractures in the coalition against Iran. And we started building a global economic lobby that is dedicated to eroding the sanctions that we have generated through a decade of hard, very hard, diplomatic work.

It’s a dynamic that Washington has repeatedly foisted on Israel in its dealings with the Palestinians.  For all that, it’s hard to argue with any of Doran’s conclusions, and the incoherence with which Obama and Kerry are defending the agreement is the hallmark of an agreement with its own internal incoherence.  Smart, sensible dealings rarely need intellectual gymnastics in their defense.

Doran also suggests another parallel with the worst of the Israel-Palestinian dynamic, the attempt to build goodwill with our enemy through gestures:

In my view, that free hand was already visible in the chemical weapons deal that Obama cut with Syria’s Bashar al-Asad. I have long suspected that Obama’s retreat from Syria was prompted, in part, by his desire to generate Iranian goodwill in the nuclear negotiations. The evidence for that case is growing by the day. We now learn, for example, that the administration had opened a bilateral backchannel to Tehran well before the Syria crisis. I can only assume that the president backed away from the use of force against Assad because, in part, he saw the Syria challenge as a subset of the Iranian nuclear negotiation.

I’ve been working my way through Witness, Whittaker Chambers’s remarkable tour through the authoritarian mind.  In it, he tells this story in passing:

He [Sam Krieger] explained that he had once been a Wobbly (a member of the International Workers of the World).  He had been arrested somewhere in the West for some radical activity.  The Civil Liberties Union had come to his rescue, and Krieger had at last gone free.  For Roger Baldwin, the head of the Civil Liberties Union, he had a respect quite unusual among Communists.  For while Communists make full use of liberals and their solicitudes, and sometimes flatter them to their faces, in private they treat them with that sneering contempt that the strong and predatory almost invariably feel for victims who volunteer to help in their own victimization.

I’m quite certain that’s how the mullahs think of us.  The figures in Witness are all long dead, and many are kept alive in memory only through their inclusion in this book.  But the authoritarian mind goes on and on.

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