Monday, October 22, 2012

Leading from behind meant sending USN's carrier strike forces far from Libyan shores

If you're looking for cultural trivia clues to help you deduce how long the United States Navy and Marine Corps have been projecting power from the Mediterranean Sea — and very specifically, into what's now Libya — consider that the very first phrase of the Marines' Hymn refers to them fighting our country's battles all the way to "the shores of Tripoli." The Commander in Chief who dispatched those Marines there aboard warships of the U.S. Navy? That would be Thomas Jefferson. And the referenced action on those shores of Tripoli, the Battle of Derne in 1804, was the "first recorded land battle of the United States on foreign soil after the American Revolutionary War."

The U.S. Navy and the Marines it transports have been actively protecting American interests in the Mediterranean, and specifically in what's now Libya, for almost as long as those military services have existed. After Operation Torch and the successful North Africa landings during World War Two, the U.S. Navy gradually took over military dominance of the entire Mediterranean from the British. Throughout the entire Cold War, the Mediterranean was, in military terms, an American lake, actively patrolled at almost all times by at least one U.S. Navy carrier group. Those whose memories reach back to 1986 will remember Ronald Reagan deliberately flaunting Mumar Kadafi's cosmically silly Line of Death in the Gulf of Sidra to reassert and reestablish, in the only way meaningful, Freedom of the High Seas.

Does anyone doubt that if Ronald Reagan were alive and serving as POTUS during the "Arab spring," during the change in government of our economic and military client Egypt, during the civil unrest and rebellion in Syria, and during the ouster and killing of that same clown Kadafi, he would have done at least as much for the security of American assets in the Mediterranean area as the U.S. had done throughout the four-plus decades of the Cold War? Does anyone doubt that Ronald Reagan would have had a carrier strike group within overwatch and reaction distance before sending a U.S. Ambassador directly into harm's way in Libya on the anniversary of al Qaeda's greatest triumph?

We have eleven carrier strike groups. As best I can tell, on September 11, 2012, five of them were deployed: Three (Washington, Nimitz, and Stennis) were at sea in the Pacific, and two (Enterprise and Eisenhower) were at sea somewhere in the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility, which comprises the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. Not until its passage through the Suez Canal on October 15, 2012, did the Enterprise carrier strike group finally enter the Sixth Fleet AOR, which includes the Mediterranean Sea.

Ponder that. Then read this set of blunt questions and observations by military writer, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and USMC infantry officer (ret.) Bing West. Colonel West makes it clear that even with no carrier strike groups in range, President Obama had other military assets that could, and clearly ought, to have been employed. But carrier groups are also intended to deter as well as to respond. So how could it have failed to make a difference if a carrier strike group had been within rescue and response range during the many deadly hours of the Benghazi terrorist attack?

Posted by Beldar at 02:09 AM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On 9/11/01 plus eleven

As part of my private commemoration of the eleventh anniversary of 9/11/01, earlier this evening I finished reading No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, written under the pseudonym "Mark Owen" by a senior member of SEAL Team 6 (with assistance from an experienced military author who'd been embedded with American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kevin Maurer). It is a quick read, and it is written in the most plain and straightforward prose, but I nevertheless found it to be a very satisfying and timely read.

But today's news is full of ugly omens. The President of the United States has once again publicly brushed off the Prime Minister of Israel, who'd like to meet this week to discuss the completely unresolved problem of Iran's nuclear weapons program. American embassies are being assaulted in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that we're supporting with money borrowed from China nominally stands watching and secretly plots America's mortification.

Roughly half of America has nevertheless been lulled back into the most false sense of security in human history. The voters among them will vote for Obama, again.

But when the next attack comes, and when it is worse, they will be incandescent in their resentment and fury whenever anyone suggests to them that they were foolish back in the Novembers of 2008 and 2012, back when Iran's nuclear program could still have been stopped at less than the cost of an American city.


UPDATE (Sep 12 @ 5:40am): All Americans of every political stripe will be horrified by the awful news coming out of Libya this morning. I'm not yet prepared to comment on it, and when I am I'll do that in another post, so I'm simply going to close comments on this post for now.

Posted by Beldar at 11:05 PM in 2012 Election, Books, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Hillary watch, pt. 2 [updated x 8]

I have a bad back myself. I know how back problems can flare up unexpectedly. So I'm certainly not asserting that Xi Jinping didn't really hurt his back:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday and pledged greater cooperation despite tensions on a rising number of issues.

But a meeting with Mr. Hu's expected successor, Xi Jinping, was unexpectedly canceled for what a U.S. official said was a back injury.

The severity and cause of the injury wasn't clear on Wednesday. The U.S. official said the cancellation wouldn't likely affect the tenor of Mrs. Clinton's visit. A senior State Department official said Mr. Xi had also canceled appearances with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and an unidentified Russian official.

From other news reports, under the slightly alarming headline "China's Xi Jinping cancels Hillary Clinton meeting amid 'tensions,'" we learn this:

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, asked at a joint news conference with Clinton about Xi's cancellation, said: "I hope people will not have unnecessary speculation."

China has in the past called off meetings at the last minute to show displeasure, although Xi has generally made US-friendly statements and sought warm relations during a trip across the United States earlier this year.

As I wrote earlier this week, I don't think our SecState would blow off an important meeting with the Chinese. I'm sure the senior State Department official who spoke to the WSJ's reporters was comprehensively briefed on the status of Mr. Xi's back and appointment schedule before going on the record (but not, apparently, for attribution by name) to Secretary Clinton's traveling press corps. And even the Chinese sometimes have trouble remembering the names of those Russian officials.

US SecState Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Wed., Sep. 5, 2012, in Beijing. Fair-use photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages via only a delusional conspiracy theorist would believe that a high official in the Obama Administration might secretly bargain for a competing world power's cooperation by offering, for example, offering some vague quid pro quo during a second Obama term, when the President will have a little more flexibility.

But it might turn out to be awfully convenient for Secretary Clinton that Mr. Xi hurt his back if, for instance, she were in no particular hurry to get to Timor-Leste tomorrow to tour that coffee plantation.

So as I wrote on Monday: "I will be happy to be proved wrong, and I hope I will be." Nevertheless, "I'll believe Joe Biden's job is safe when I see reliable proof that Secretary Clinton has stepped onto the tarmac at the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili."


UPDATE #1 (Wed Sep 5 @ 7:50am): Things are getting even weirder. Now WaPo correspondent William Wan is reporting from Beijing that other journalists can't get confirmation of the report I linked above from the Wall Street Journal, to the effect that the reason for cancellation was Mr. Xi's back:

The formal and highly scripted meetings in Beijing had their share of surprises. Besides the Wen comments, a meeting planned for Wednesday with Xi Jinping — the man expected to replace Hu Jintao as China’s president — was abruptly canceled upon Clinton’s arrival. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi did not explain the cancellation, only warning that people not use it as an excuse for "unnecessary speculation."

Xi also canceled meetings with the prime minister of Singapore and a Russian parliamentarian, according to U.S. officials. To try to make sure the United States would not interpret the cancellation as a snub, the Chinese set up a last-minute meeting instead with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is widely expected to succeed Wen as premier.

Yang also told the Clinton that the Chinese would deliver a letter to her from Xi on Wednesday.

Citing an anonymous U.S. official, the Wall Street Journal reported the Xi cancellation was due to a back injury, a claim that American diplomats traveling with Clinton refused to confirm.

I wish the WaPo had reported when the consolation meeting with Vice Premier Li Keqiang took place, or is scheduled to take place. But surely there is a perfectly innocent explanation for all this confusion. I'm just not clever enough to piece it together yet. Certainly none of these reporters who are rushing into print to contradict each other seem to sense that anything is amiss or other than what meets the eye. At least now we know that the unidentified Russian whose meeting with Mr. Xi was also cancelled was a parliamentarian instead of some other kind of official.


UPDATE #2 (Wed Sep 5 @ 8:15am): The NYT assures us that all is well and normal. The Chinese Foreign Ministry says so:

One of Mrs. Clinton’s most important appointments, a session with Vice President Xi Jinping, the likely next leader of China, was canceled. The Foreign Ministry said at its regular briefing that the cancellation was a “normal adjustment of the itinerary.” Mr. Xi also canceled his scheduled meeting Wednesday with Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong. “We have reached consensus with the United States and Singapore” on the cancellations, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said.

Diplomats in Beijing said they were told that Mr. Xi had hurt his back and said there was no reason not to believe that explanation, even though there was speculation about whether the cancellation of the meeting with Mrs. Clinton was connected to the once-in-a-decade transition, or whether it was intended as a snub.

Instead of Mr. Xi, Mrs. Clinton met with the vice premier, Li Keqiang, who is expected to become the premier early next year. Earlier Wednesday, she met with President Hu Jintao, whose term ends next year, at the Great Hall of the People.

So why can't the WaPo's reporter find the same "diplomats in Beijing" that the NYT's reporters found?


UPDATE #3 (Wed Sep 5 @ 9:55am): Hanna Beech of TIME now reports more specifics. They do not reduce my curiosity, but perhaps they will yours:

The urgent notice from the U.S. embassy in Beijing arrived in e-mail inboxes at 10:26 on Wednesday morning. The press conference with China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been moved up suddenly to 10:30. That would be in four minutes’ time. Could members of the foreign press please proceed quickly to Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the edge of Tiananmen Square? The reason for the last-minute change of schedule appeared to be a no-show by the man widely expected to take over from President Hu Jintao in China’s upcoming once-a-decade leadership transition. Clinton’s scheduled talk this morning with Vice President Xi Jinping had been called off by the Chinese side, paving the way for an earlier press conference with the Chinese Foreign Minister. In the Sept. 5 media briefing, Clinton sidestepped a question about whether Xi’s cancellation might reflect tensions between the world’s two biggest economies at a time when competing territorial claims in waters off China have marred the People’s Republic’s relations with its maritime neighbors.


Despite the Xi cancellation, Clinton met with President Hu and other top Chinese leaders in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the American side, Xi’s scheduled meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday was also scrapped. One version of events ascribes the Chinese Vice President’s absence to an injured back. “The current schedule of the secretary’s visit has been agreed by both sides,” said Yang, presumably referring to Xi’s cancellation. “I hope people won’t have unnecessary speculation.” China’s chattering classes are atwitter over how the upcoming leadership transition will play out in the coming weeks, as the first of the high-level staffing changes within the government trickle out of the capital. In a country where analysts often must seize on the briefest of shadow plays in order to guess what’s really going on behind the bamboo curtain, it’s only natural that Xi’s no-show will set off the rumor mill. Perhaps China’s presumptive heir to the presidency really does have an aching back. But convincing China pundits of that may be tough.

I'm no "China pundit," so I'm convinced! This is totally, totally a coincidence. Certainly there's no reason to think President Obama would have any incentive to create, at the moment of his re-nomination, the same kind of spectacular international distraction from his record that he briefly enjoyed after the bin Ladin raid. Surely the speech he plans to deliver on Thursday night, and that of Vice President Biden earlier that same evening, will be so wondrous that we'll all laugh, just laugh, to think that he might have ever wanted Hillary to replace Slow Joe.

But it only takes about fifteen hours to get from Beijing to Charlotte, N.C., by air, even flying commercial. And my wild fantasy has never involved Secretary Clinton taking any risks to offend the Chinese. But the East Timoreans are, perhaps, a different story. So I'm still looking for that "Dateline: Dili" news report confirming Secretary Clinton's arrival in Timor-Leste before I'm 100% convinced.


UPDATE #4 (Wed Sep 5 @ 10:20am): Now the AP (via Bloomberg) reports:

Clinton had been scheduled to meet Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over as China's top leader later this year, but that was canceled by the Chinese for "unexpected scheduling reasons," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. A meeting between Xi and the visiting prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, also was canceled without explanation.

Yang would say only there should not be "unnecessary speculation" about changes to Clinton's schedule.

So we might infer that at least one of the State Department officials who's been speaking on this subject is Victoria Nuland. She is the "Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson," for the State Department, which is impressive in a place filled with deputies and assistant vice underlings. I wonder if she knows any Russian parliamentarians. I'm guessing yes. Ms. Nuland, if you happen to read this in the next 24 hours, could you leave me a comment below, please?


UPDATE #5 (Wed Sep 5 @ 11:40am): From a southwest Asian source with which I'm not familiar, so for which I cannot vouch, a quote and time reference I haven't seen elsewhere yet:

China's likely next president Xi Jinping has cancelled a meeting with the visiting US Secretary of State, a US official said Wednesday, amid friction between the two global powers.

Hillary Clinton had been due to meet Vice President Xi later Wednesday during a brief visit to Beijing that looks set to be dominated by a series of territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, notably in the South China Sea.

"We were informed after 11:00 pm last night by the Chinese side that for unexpected scheduling reasons, the meeting between Vice President Xi and Secretary Clinton is not going to happen today," said the official, who requested anonymity.

"We understand from the Chinese side that Vice President Xi's meetings with the prime minister of Singapore and a Russian official have also been cancelled today."

Lots of things happen late at night. People hurt their backs. Airplanes fly, sometimes to secret destinations. It's sure hard for me to figure out what's going on with the SecState's travels, though.


UPDATE #6 (Wed Sep 5 @ 11:50am): Now the WSJ's reporters, Brian Spegele and Monica Langley, have posted an updated story:

China and the U.S. made little visible progress in resolving thorny diplomatic disputes during a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, as both sides stuck to long-standing positions on issues from regional territorial claims to violence in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government stayed silent on why Vice President Xi Jinping unexpectedly pulled out of a planned meeting with Mrs. Clinton on Wednesday. A U.S. official said Mr. Xi was suffering from a back problem. The incident highlighted how Beijing's information vacuum regarding its senior leaders spurs speculation by an increasingly curious and digitally savvy public.


Mr. Xi, the vice president, is expected to succeed Mr. Hu as Communist Party chief later this year and as president in 2013. Beijing's decision to cancel the meeting immediately drew speculation on the country's raucous online forums.

Chinese censors have struggled to quell political gossip on Twitter-like microblogging websites, which have become incubators for rumors. The rumors appear to be at least partly prompted by a lack of available information about the lives and work of China's senior leaders, whose very names are blocked on the services.

On Sina Corp.'s popular Weibo microblogging service, users who managed to evade censors put forward theories as to why Mrs. Clinton's meeting with Mr. Xi was canceled so suddenly.


"It seems like it's related to Japan's purchase today of the Diaoyu islands," wrote one user upon hearing the news, speculating that the Chinese might be preparing a military operation.

Mr. Yang, China's foreign minister, said there shouldn't be "unnecessary speculation" about why Mr. Xi's meeting was canceled.

Mr. Hong, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, described the cancellation as a normal "adjustment of itinerary" at Wednesday's daily press briefing.

One U.S. official said the meeting was canceled because Mr. Xi was suffering from a back problem. Further details were unclear. A senior State Department official said Mr. Xi had also canceled an appearance with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr. Xi, who is 59 years old, hasn't appeared since Saturday on the government's official nightly news broadcast, which routinely spotlights the activities of senior leaders.

Aha. Perhaps this really is all about the Diaoyu Islands.

But why would Victoria Nuland, the most official of spokespersons, permit herself to be quoted by name by some reporters (unless we assume they risked banishment by naming her after having promised not to), but not by others, in one or more conversations about this specific topic within the last 24 hours? Isn't it reasonable to infer that there was perhaps another senior Treasury Department official who's also been speaking to the press about this — and if so, is the She Who Must Not Be Named someone who once lived in Arkansas?

This is hugely amusing to me, however it all turns out. If you're still reading this post, you must share my slightly warped sense of humor, or perhaps you just credit the Dems with the same capacity for deviousness that I do.


UPDATE #7 (Wed Sep 5 @ 12:15pm): How hard does BeldarBlog work to find out what the Secretary of State is doing on the opposite side of the globe? I even check the People's Daily Online, the official state-sponsored Chinese newspaper, which does indeed give us another piece of the puzzle, while leaving other questions unanswered:

Clinton arrived in Beijing Tuesday evening for a two-day visit at the invitation of Yang. She met with Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday morning and is due to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Dai Bingguo in the afternoon.

So the consolation-prize interview with Vice Premier Li Keqiang took place many hours ago, and with it ended her need to remain in Beijing: It's already 1:15am on Thursday there. Is the SecState airborne already? And if so, are they headed to East Timor, or to North Carolina?


UPDATE #8 (Wed Sep 5 @ 1:40pm):

The LA Times, which I am normally loathe to link, has this:

In a short, frustrating visit to Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was stood up Wednesday by the future leader of China and delivered a stern lecture on China’s rights in the South China Sea.


During the third stop in her nearly two-week sweep of Asia, Clinton had hoped to meet with Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to get the nod next month to succeed Hu Jintao as China's president.

Xi also canceled meetings Wednesday with the Singapore prime minister and Russian officials, claiming a back injury. Nonetheless, the no-show at the session with Clinton was widely interpreted as a snub.


Xi’s cancellation of his meetings Wednesday triggered speculation that something was amiss with his candidacy and censors blocked any reference to “back injury” on the voracious microblog sites.

This is beginning to remind me of Akira Kurosawa's 1950 classic film, Rashomon.

And by the way, the video in the newer WSJ piece I linked above is an interview with their Sydney correspondent; the audio link was quite bad. But he made a determined and impressive case for the proposition that Secretary Clinton's visit to Timor-Leste is actually quite important because that new country has a lot of offshore hydrocarbons that are being developed by consortia which include American companies like Conoco-Philips. Moreover, he argued, a visit from a high-level U.S. diplomat is actually needed to show our support in the face of increased competition or even threat to Timor-Leste by China. That's all perfectly plausible. Yet none of it explains why Secretary Clinton couldn't instead simply make the visit next week after she finishes up in Vladivostok, or some other convenient time this fall.

Posted by Beldar at 05:50 AM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hillary watch

Just in case you're curious — and I am, obviously — the SecState's official website says she's spending Monday (which is barely underway in Texas as I write this), September 3, in Jakarta (where it's already early Monday afternoon now), and she is expected in Beijing on Tuesday-Wednesday, September 4-5.

But what's next? Again per Secretary Clinton's official schedule on her official government website:

On [Thursday,] September 6, Secretary Clinton will be the first Secretary of State to travel to Dili, where she will emphasize U.S. support for the young democracy of Timor-Leste in her meetings with senior officials.

In Brunei, Secretary Clinton will meet with senior officials to emphasize the importance of the increasingly vibrant U.S.-Brunei relationship. She will also highlight the U.S.-Brunei ASEAN English Language initiative and discuss Brunei’s 2013 chairmanship of ASEAN.

The final stop on Secretary Clinton’s trip will be Vladivostok, where she will lead the U.S. delegation to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting [on Saturday-Sunday,] September 8-9....

Meanwhile back in Charlotte, North Carolina, the official schedule for the Democratic National Convention promises that:

President Obama and Vice President Biden will accept the Democratic nominations for President and Vice President on Thursday, September 6 at Bank of America Stadium.

I note that many pundits have asserted that Secretary Clinton is not only not attending her husband Bubba's speech (which I fully expect to be the highlight of the entire convention), she's scheduled to be on the other side of the world. Many wise pundits whom I admire insist that Obama could never replace Biden because it would imply a mistake in choosing Biden to begin with, a mistake which Obama is incapable of admitting. And I certainly don't expect Secretary Clinton to create an international incident by publicly snubbing the Indonesians or the Chinese or the Russians.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a joint news conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (not pictured) in Rarotonga August 31, 2012 (Reuters photo via to the argument that Obama can't admit error: That's true, but it's still never stopped him from changing direction on a dime (see, e.g., his sudden epiphany that he really does support gay marriage). Obama is undeniably over-proud, but one must also take into account the Beldar Corollary: "Only a sucker would base any bet on the proposition that Barack Obama is capable of being shamed by anything."

Once or twice already in the two and a third centuries of American diplomatic history, a small country (like, say, Dili or Brunei) may have been disappointed when an American diplomat has sent a subordinate or asked to postpone a meeting. I don't know how important the Obama Administration thinks Timor-Leste is in the grand scheme of things, but apparently no American SecState has taken time to go there either before or since its independence a decade ago. While in Dili, Secretary Clinton is scheduled to "visit a coffee plantation," but one doubts whether missing that visit would be a casus belli even with the East Timoreans. And it would be in the Sultan of Brunei's financial interests to see Obama win, assuming the sultan wants to continue America's dependence on foreign oil. (He's surely shrewd enough to contain his giggles whenever anyone mentions Obama's "green energy" push.) Indeed, if you skimmed the roster of the U.N. looking for countries to which the SecState could most easily send a brush-off her polite regrets at the last minute and with no real consequence, Timor-Leste and Brunei would be hard to top. 

Screencap of SecState Clinton's current travel map —
Screencap of SecState Clinton's current travel map — — early on Sep. 3, 2012

Moreover, the world is smaller than it used to be, especially when you are the SecState and you have the resources of the U.S. Air Force at your command. The press covering her trip consists largely of the reporters traveling on her plane; and such reporters are routinely held incommunicado while they're being re-routed across the globe without notice or apology, as with Obama's recent surprise trip to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a joint civil-military facility, one to which a government plane could easily divert and land in complete secrecy. And even upon leaving the USAF's protective arms to venture into a busy city, a cabinet secretary, when she wants, can move with far greater stealth than, say, a Hollywood celebrity like Clint Eastwood (who famously played a Secret Service agent on film, but doesn't have any himself).

If the sudden replacement for Joe Biden had just secretly flown in from international diplomatic negotiations in Beijing, and was about to head off to Russia afterwards, that would certainly add to the breathless excitement of a Thursday night surprise, wouldn't it? Would anyone in the country still be talking on Friday about the latest disastrous unemployment figures or the $16 trillion national debt milestone?

So, being admittedly paranoid and fond of conspiracy theories — and still of the firm opinion that this switch would represent Obama's best hope for reelection and Hillary's best hope to succeed him — I'll believe Joe Biden's job is safe when I see reliable proof that Secretary Clinton has stepped onto the tarmac at the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili.

I will be happy to be proved wrong, and I hope I will be.

But if you're a would-be Democratic voter this fall and my prediction indeed fails, will you not be disappointed?

Posted by Beldar at 01:15 AM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Obama, Politics (2012), Travel | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Obama's magic death ray

Covert operations involving drones, including targeted counter-terrorism assassinations, are something on which I'm inclined to give the POTUS, as Commander in Chief — whoever is in that office, even Obama — a lot of deference and discretion. But as suggested by this Wall Street Journal story entitled "Tensions Rising Over Drone Secrecy," this is turning into a situation from Marvel Comics: The only difference is that in the funny papers, it was always an orbiting death ray instead of an unmanned drone made out of composites, cameras, computer chips, and Hellfire missiles. As we use this power, it's increasingly going to motivate other countries and, yes, non-state actors like al-Qaeda, to want their own equivalent toys. But even before they can match our capabilities to use (and defend against?) such drones, there is going to be international attention and concern.

I hope and (must, for now) trust that the White House and the Pentagon and Langley have a cohesive, comprehensive, and wise plan for what America's going to do to moderate, channel, and otherwise affect the resulting change in international security affairs. This is already a bigger deal than most folks realize, and it's going to become a very, very big deal indeed.

But that hope and trust require me to assume, however, a degree of wisdom and simple competency that the Obama Administration has never displayed in anything else. Certainly its handling of the just-lost drone in Iran suggests that they're making up American diplomatic and military/operational policy as they go along, and that they're making it up not just on a day-by-day basis, but an hour-by-hour basis. And as the WSJ story points out:

John Bellinger, a top legal adviser for the State Department during the Bush administration, said the White House needs to start thinking about a legal framework that would define acceptable practices. He pointed to the risk that other countries will start using drones in ways that the U.S. may find objectionable.

"If Russia starts using drones to go after terrorists, will the U.S. look like we have a double standard if we criticize them?" Mr. Bellinger asked.

In short, the whole world, including his own legislators and constituents, is going to be listening more carefully to what Obama says (and doesn't say) about drones during the coming year, and comparing those words to what's actually being done (and not done) with the drones in actual practice, much of which will be covert.

The growing Congressional challenges to Obama's authority here — implemented so far only by demanding broader reporting to Congress, but likely to be subjected to more intrusive involvement, with associated security risks — suggest that I'm not the only one to have noticed this, or to have become concerned by it. Certainly the mainstream media is doing very little to put it on the voting public's respective radar screens. But even carefully targeted Hellfire missile strikes eventually demand attention; and any one of these strikes might trigger something quite unexpected, and potentially much bigger, as a counter-response by someone.

I'm perplexed at the silence of my liberal friends who, in theory, at least the last time we discussed such things in other contexts, don't share my views on the breadth of the Executive's authority to prosecute the war on terror and to defend the country from both foreign and domestic threats. How many layers of duct tape have they had to wrap around their heads to prevent them from exploding at the notion that, by executive order, the POTUS can now selectively vaporize almost any given roomful or carload of people, including U.S. citizens (at least while abroad)? The enormity of their double-standard has never been more obvious: If any Republican, and certainly if George W. Bush, had taken the same positions and engaged in the same volume of drone activities that Obama has, we'd be in the midst of full-blown impeachment proceedings by now.

Posted by Beldar at 03:18 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Obama, Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Federal courts refuse to hear challenge to Obama's Libyan intervention, but Congress should push back — with the power of the purse — over Obama's new Ugandan adventure

In a post about the Obama Administration's ridiculously stupid efforts to argue that the "kinetic military action" in Libya didn't trigger the War Powers Resolution and its associated reporting requirements and deadlines, I had this to say on May 21, 2011, immediately after "the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces" if the War Powers Resolution were constitutional and enforceable:

I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.

Today — on the very day the non-war war finally achieved the laudable (and bizarrely denied) goal of regime change via decapitation — in proceedings styled Kucinich v. Obama, it has turned out that my predictions about how the federal courts would refuse to even hear such a challenge were proved absolutely correct. From the Blog of Legal Times (link in original; hat-tip Above the Law and WSJ Law Blog):

A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a suit challenging the Obama administration's legal justification for military action against targets in Libya.

The suit, filed by a bipartisan group of congressmen in June in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sought a ruling that the U.S. military strikes are unconstitutional without a congressional declaration of war....

Responding to the suit, the U.S. Justice Department said the claims raise political questions that federal district judges are not authorized to entertain and that the plaintiffs do not have standing to sue in the first place.

Walton agreed, ruling that the lawmakers do not have standing. He rejected the alleged injury the lawmakers claimed—that they have been deprived the ability to vote on a war declaration.

In a footnote, Walton questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to sue given legal precedent, he said, that didn't bode well for the members of Congress.

“While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law,” Walton said.

Take a step back. Pretend we don't have "Republican" and "Democrat" labels here, or even "conservative" and "liberal" labels, and that we're just looking at this solely as a test of power between the respective branches of the federal government.

Looking at it as part of that big picture, today's ruling granting the Administration's motion to dismiss made no new law at all: It didn't weigh or decide any facts at all; it didn't endorse Obama's argument that the War Powers Resolution wasn't implicated. It just announced that this handful of Congressmen lacked standing "either in their capacity as Members of the House of Representatives or because of their status as taxpayers" to challenge Obama's actions in federal court, even if the court assumed that all the facts they alleged were absolutely true.

This exact result was a predictable outcome, one that I (and many others) had in fact predicted — so predictable that the federal district judge who first heard it became rather grumpy about having to waste his time on it. (Indeed, one of the prior precedents on which Judge Walton relied was a 2002 case in which this same lead plaintiff, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, had tried to sue President George W. Bush over the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty without Congressional approval.) But is either today's court result or Kadafi's death likely to result in a new extra-legal precedent, an unenforceable but nevertheless notable practical precedent in the grand interplay of constitutional checks and balances in the 21st Century?

Naw, not so much. The mild and short-lived court scuffle between Obama and a handful of Congressmen here was just an isolated example of something we already knew:

If Congress, acting as Congress (as opposed to acting through its individual members who're trying to be litigants in court), declines to exercise the express powers granted Congress by the Constitution — chief among them, the power of the purse — to protect other express privileges and responsibilities also conferred upon Congress by the Constitution, including the exclusive power to "declare war," then we're not seeing an actual constitutional confrontation.

With the opposition to Obama's Libyan adventure, then, in Obama's silly efforts to claim the War Powers Resolution didn't really apply, in the resulting Congressional grumbling, and in this lawsuit, we've only seen a kabuki show intended to fool the easily fooled. Obama calculated that he could get away with something like the Libyan adventure — and this time, Congress has clearly let him. That is the only important take-away message.


UgandaBut as I've said here earlier this week, I do not think Congress should continue to let Obama get away with sending American ground forces into conflict in Uganda with neither Congressional approval nor even the merest hint of a shadow of a whisper of a threat (imminent or even just gathering) to significant American strategic interests. Such interests do not exist in Uganda. No, this particular frolicsome detour — which is indeed likely to become extremely "kinetic" at some times and places (since that's part of what Special Ops guys are known for, after all, and they're being sent specifically to catch and kill tyrants) — cannot possibly be justified under any theory other than that America is the world's policeman.

If the GOP and those Dems who opposed the Libyan adventure voted together, they could certainly override even a presidential veto of legislation defunding this sub-Saharan Africa adventure. And the GOP by itself, with its majority in the House, could certainly refuse to include funding for it in their next appropriations bill.

This is a confrontation that needs to be had. Even though the scale and risks and expenses of the sub-Saharan Africa adventure may be smaller than what we're doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Libya, the Uganda operation pits the Executive's and the Legislature's respective responsibilities and powers against one another far more vividly: This isn't a Cold War-era "proxy war" like that conducted over Nicaragua in opposition to the Soviet Union's challenge to the Monroe Doctrine and American interests close to home. No one in Uganda is pursuing WMD capabilities or harboring and supporting terrorists; it has no oil wealth or other strategically important position or resources. It has nothing at all, in fact, except some very bad African men who are regularly and enthusiastically killing and terrorizing other Africans.

Ugandan flagIf Barack Obama wants to host a telethon to raise private contributions to help the victims, that would be peachy. If he wants to propose sanctions or other legislation, or encourage Congressional resolutions on relevant topics, or even to try to gather support from our allies and other countries whose interests are more directly involved, or who simply share our humanitarian concerns, I'll not say a word of criticism. And I am, in general, a strong supporter of a strong Executive Branch, with a great deal of practical and implied power to respond to emergencies, conduct American foreign policy, and direct the U.S. military as Commander-in-Chief both in and out of war.

But this is too much. This is genuinely unprecedented, and the practical precedent it threatens to set is a bad one. The GOP presidential candidates need to start talking about this, because it's a mark of how fundamentally flippant Barack Obama is when it comes to his execution of his Oath of Office and the Constitution. But Congress needs to push back, current electoral politics notwithstanding, because all of its members, Republican and Democrat, have an institutional duty to respect and preserve Congress' proper role in our system of checks and balances.

Posted by Beldar at 07:01 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why presume that, in Libya, if we break it we've bought it?

Regular readers will know that I'm a huge and consistent fan of former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy. As the successful prosecutor of the Blind Sheikh for the first World Trade Center bombing, McCarthy is perhaps the best qualified and most clear-eyed commentator on the disastrous Democratic strategy of treating the Global War on Terror as a matter of domestic American criminal law, to be addressed as law enforcement (instead of war) and followed up in civilian courts. But he's a perceptive speaker and writer on foreign policy and terrorism issues in general. He's just a very smart and eloquent guy, and I've been gratified to correspond with him from time to time in the past and to link his writings here.

In a post today at NRO's The Corner, Mr. McCarthy makes a number of excellent points about Republicans and Libya. I commend it to your thoughtful attention. But I find myself in reluctant disagreement with some of his conclusions, which prompted me to leave the following comment there (reprinted here with light editing for clarity and without block-quoting):


Mr. McCarthy, you've made a number of fine points here, but with due and genuine respect, you're confusing things that ought be kept straight.

All of what you wrote about Kadafi's history is correct and incredibly pertinent. His history has been to use Libya's vast oil wealth as a state supporter and exporter of international terrorism, of which the U.S. has been the chief target.

You're also right on the mark about the weakness of his "conversion" and "cooperation." That it was insincere and temporary doesn't mean it was unwelcome, just that it was unreliable. But any possibility of his continuing to justify the civilized world's forbearance, however, evaporated when he turned heavy weapons on his own population. Kadafi has violated his parole — not in the sense that word is used in our civilian criminal justice system, but in its original sense of a condition upon which an enemy who's surrendered in war was permitted to go free on continuing condition that he remain peaceful.

It astounds me that you can know, and articulate, all that history so well and yet insist that there are "no vital U.S. interests at stake."

The U.S. doesn't have a vital interest in protecting Libya's civilian population, merely a humanitarian interest; I would agree with you, I think, that such humanitarian interest is insufficient to justify American military intervention.

But we clearly, obviously have a vital interest in ensuring that Kadafi is now removed from power. We simply cannot permit this oil-funded terror-exporting again-out-of-control madman to remain in power, because as soon as the boot is off his neck he will instantly return to using Libya's oil wealth to acquire WMDs (a la the Pakistanis, the Norks, and soon the Iranians) as a guarantee against further American or western intervention.

You seem to think the determination of whether we ought to remove Kadafi from power — to effect regime change — depends in turn upon whether we wish to support the particular "rebel" forces who are, mostly independently, trying to oust Kadafi. Those issues must be analyzed separately.

It's entirely possible as a logical matter — and I believe it is the most sound weighing of competing concerns — to conclude that we have a compelling American interest in changing this regime without necessarily also having a compelling interest in what comes after.

Nothing but our own hypertrophied sense of overarching responsibility, our own sense of ourselves as "good guys," says that we have any responsibility to rescue the Libyan populace from what comes after Kadafi.

Contrary to Colin Powell's famous pronouncement, we can break it without buying it. We can take out Kadafi and walk away. Certainly for all of world history before WW2, that was among the options for conquering nations. We could take out Kadafi without decimating Libya's civilian population or destroying its infrastructure; we've no need, nor appetite, for the earth-salting, mass-executing, and enslaving tactics the Romans used against the Carthaginians on these same North African shores.

What ought to happen is that we use our superior military capability — especially with regard to precision use of force with less collateral damage than our NATO allies can limit themselves to — to take out Kadafi, and then dump the result into the laps of our NATO allies, especially the French and Italians (who have the strongest historical interests in Libya) for such nation-building exercises, if any, as they deem justified by their then-existing vital interests. Their continuing interests are likely to be greater than ours because they are the traditional and logical (logistical) market for Libyan energy production. And proximity, geography, and history all combine to make supervising the birth and infancy of a new regime in Libya a more limited and feasible task for them than the same process in Iraq or, especially, Afghanistan, has been for us.

Now of course, it may turn out that despite our NATO allies' efforts, or because of the lack thereof, Kadafi's successors turn out to be as bad or even worse than he's been. No one should try to sell any scenario for what America should do now as implying any guarantee that we won't have to effect regime change there again in the future.

But frankly, showing that we can (which everyone now knows) and will (which nobody now believes) decapitate a regime and then (mostly) walk away from the results might be a really good and cost-effective way to influence regime leaders not just in Libya but elsewhere.

We should play to our strengths. We are exceedingly good at blowing up bad guys without killing very many of the innocents with whom they surround themselves.

You seem to think this inevitably has to become a sustained, expensive counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism effort of the sort in which we've engaged in Iraq or Afghanistan. That's just not so.

Think of it not as nation-building, but a grand SWAT-team raid, or an exercise in removing a rabid animal from a populated area. Obama may not be capable of that mental flexibility, but you certainly are.

With apologies to Cato the Elder: Kadafi delenda est.

Posted by Beldar at 08:24 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beldar scoffs at Ackerman's notion of a magical priesthood of special government lawyers

His bio page at Yale tells us that Bruce Ackerman is the "Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy." Prof. Ackerman has credentials out the wazoo, but there seems to be something very wrong with his basic understanding of government, lawyers, and government lawyers. As part of an NYT op-ed decrying Pres. Obama's defiance of the War Powers Resolution, and in particular on Obama's refusal to accept and follow the advice of the Office of Legal counsel with respect thereto, Prof. Ackerman wrote this:

If the precedent Mr. Obama has created is allowed to stand, future presidents who do not like what the Justice Department is telling them could simply cite the example of Mr. Obama’s war in Libya and instruct the White House counsel to organize a supportive “coalition of the willing” made up of the administration’s top lawyers. Even if just one or two agreed, this would be enough to push ahead and claim that the law was on the president’s side.

The premise of that last sentence is spectacularly wrong.

Prof. Ackerman seems to see the government lawyers advising the President as some sort of official priesthood whose special blessings are essential prerequisites to the legitimate exercise of presidential power under the Constitution. And if the wrong priests are being relied upon, Prof. Ackerman seems to believe that this President's actions, and those of future Presidents, may become some sort of legal heresy. Ackerman scolds: "Mr. Obama is creating a decisive and dangerous precedent for the next commander in chief who is unlikely to have the Harvard Law Review on his résumé" — as if that credential has some constitutional significance.

But that's just silly. Whether they're from the Office of Legal Counsel or the Department of Defense any other unit of government, those lawyers are no more than advisers. Neither Barack Obama nor any other POTUS needs even one lawyer to bless what he's done or opine that it's okay — and that doesn't vary a whit based on whether the POTUS is or isn't also a lawyer. It's not that something becomes legal just because the POTUS says so. But the decision of the POTUS is the decision of the executive branch because the Constitution puts the POTUS at the head of that coordinate branch of government — whether the POTUS is backed up by 500 lawyers, one lawyer, or no lawyers at all.

If Ackerman can't grasp and apply the distinction between counselor and principal, he shouldn't be teaching law school — not even at Yale. As another Yale law grad with whom I'm familiar wrote a few days ago:

The President gets to make these calls [as to which lawyers, if any, he chooses to rely upon]. Of course, when the President makes this sort of a call, in a war that never had any sort of Congressional approval, it’s pretty risky — or, if you prefer, “gutsy” — but that choice is the President’s to make, and the political risks are his to run.

Exactly. Obama's taken the position that his administration isn't violating the War Powers Resolution — not because it's an unconstitutional infringement on the POTUS' constitutional responsibilities and powers as commander in chief, but because our military forces supposedly aren't involved in "hostilities." The voters who consider his reelection bid can and should hold him accountable for that ridiculous position (and the overweening vanity which permits him to insist upon it), regardless of whether that position was or wasn't blessed by the particular number and brand of orthodox legal priests upon whom Ackerman thinks all presidents should rely.

Posted by Beldar at 09:13 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beldar faults Kurtz' blind spot on U.S. interests in Libya

I commend to you this Stanley Kurtz post on the Middle East and Libya at The Corner. Mr. Kurtz is thorough-going in his grimness, to the point that I think he's self-blinded to the opportunities that may inhere (even if they don't preponderate) in times of transition. But the scenarios he presents, if tending toward worst-case, are nevertheless entirely plausible and ought be taken seriously.

Mr. Kurtz' premise is in his second paragraph (emphasis mine):

While there is clearly some war fatigue on the right at the moment, the deeper doubts about our war policies are driven by the flux and uncertainty sweeping over the Middle East, as well as a sense of overstretch catalyzed by President Obama’s postmodern interventionism in Libya. Fundamentally, the current moment of uncertainty about our wars in the Middle East is an appropriate response to the tumult reshaping the region. What Republicans need most now is a more accurate assessment of what is happening in the world. Only on the basis of such an assessment can a policy for the future be shaped.

Mr. Kurtz devotes most of the balance of his essay to specific observations that he believes ought to be given weight in such a reassessment. All of his observations are thought-provoking, but one — which I've read him make repeatedly before — I particularly disagree with. He writes, in reference primarily (I think; it's a bit unclear) to the Libyan intervention:

For President Obama to choose this moment of overstretch and crisis to commit us to a supposedly humanitarian intervention in a land with no vital American interests at stake is little short of madness....

The middle of that sentence is a ridiculous overstatement. Of course America has at least some vital interests in Libya. The question is what they are, and how they weigh compared to other places, other conflicts, and other interests.

Thus my comment there, which I reprint here (without blockquoting, and slightly edited for clarity):


Mr. Kurtz, you continue to assert that the U.S. has no vital interests in Libya.

Kadafi has a proven history of exporting international terrorism and pursuing WMDs — aggressively, successfully, and with the U.S. as his favored target. He abandoned WMDs when Saddam was captured, but he will surely return to them now. Libya's oil wealth still gives its ruler the realistic ability to buy WMD technology and materials. And apart from its use to fund world terrorism, Libya's substantial share of the world's oil production gives Libya independent economic power (especially over our traditional European allies) in strategically significant amounts.

So you'd put Libya in what, the same class of strategic importance as the Congo?

Yeah, we need to be realistic. And yeah, there's lots wrong with what Obama is doing and saying (which don't quite match). And yeah, the options are bleak and the long-term prospects daunting.

But pretending that Libya is no big deal for the U.S. is unworthy of your intelligence, sir.

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beldar agrees with Yoo on War Powers Resolution

I don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and thus can't get past its pay-wall to read Prof. John Yoo's op-ed today about the Libyan conflict and the War Powers Resolution. But I certainly agree with the summary he's posted at The Corner:

The treatment isn’t to force everyone to obey an unconstitutional law, the War Powers Resolution, that is both untrue to the Framers’ original understanding and unsuited to the exigencies of modern war. The New York Times’s [editorialists'] solution is the equivalent of using leeches on a patient with the common cold. The right constitutional answer (as I explain in this morning’s Wall Street Journal) is to toss the empty symbolism of the Resolution and meaningless lawsuits aside and let them fight it out using their own powers — commander-in-chief versus the purse — in the political process.

That's exactly right. The War Powers Resolution is the equivalent of Congress stamping its feet and shouting, "I'm Congress, dammit!" It's drama without substance.

The Constitution expressly gave Congress ample push-back power against the Executive through the power of the purse. If Congress wants to induce different (and better) behavior from the Executive, it can de-fund what he's doing. But if that imposes costs on Congress, in the form of political capital spent and political risks undertaken if Congress has misread the public, then Congress must bear those costs.

The Constitution is much more clever and much more subtle than the War Powers Resolution. And it's the Constitution, and the structure it creates with the intentional and continuous dynamic interplay inherent in that structure, that ultimately matters.

Posted by Beldar at 01:36 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Law (2011), Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Beldar on Emanuel on Obama on Israel's future

If you're Barack Obama, then by the time you've run and won a presidential election campaign, you know better than to defend your disastrous Middle East policies with the old cliché, "Some of my best friends are Jewish!"

Instead, you get your loyal vassal and bannerman — until recently your chief of staff, now returned to your and his hometown cesspool of politics, Chicago — to declare, "Hey, I'm a Jew, and Barack Obama's one of my best friends!"

That's the entire explanation for, and most of what you need to know about, Rahm Emanuel's WaPo op-ed this week. Emanuel would have had the same concluding paragraph no matter what:

As an American and a Jew, however, I am grateful that this president has not given up trying to find a path that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table. I applaud his continued effort to work on and invest himself in this increasingly vexing and dangerous conflict. All who care about a safe and secure Jewish state of Israel should as well.

Emanuel has seen Obama up close, he assures us, and then lists several Obama decisions that can be spun as pro-Israel. Trust me, Emanuel is saying, Obama's really not as anti-Israel as his history and his words and his deeds all indicate.

Uh-huh. But what of the contrary evidence, the calculated undercutting of Israel's negotiating position in Obama's May 19th speech to the State Department?

Emanuel simply pretends that that speech was pro-Israel. 

He (or the editorial staff of the WaPo) helpfully included a link to the May 19th speech. And Emanuel quotes what he calls the "one sentence" of Obama's that has "received the most attention," viz — "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." He insists that prior American presidents and Israeli governments have dealt with the notion of swapping land for peace, and that Obama wasn't tilting American foreign policy away from Israel, so this is all much ado about nothing.

But he completely ignores what Obama said immediately after that controversial sentence (emphasis mine):

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The policy that Obama announced on May 19th was "Borders first, Jerusalem/right of return later." No other interpretation of Obama's words is possible. And no American president had ever before proposed that.

In responding to Emanuel's op-ed, was Roger L. Simon hyperbolic in this comparison?

[W]hen we are reading Emanuel’s piece, we are doing more than running our eyes rapidly down another dull oped. We are taking a time trip back into the 1930s when Jews made all kinds of rationalizations for all kinds of behavior. We all know the results of that.

Perhaps so. Obama's not rounding up Jewish families and putting them on trains to death camps, so the behavior that Emanuel is rationalizing isn't as noxious as the Nazi's.

But then again, Mr. Simon's implied (and more apt) comparison is not Obama & Emanuel to the Nazis, but Obama & Emanuel to the American leaders (including American Jews) of the 1930s and 1940s — leaders who took a "hands off"/"It's their problem" attitude over what Germany was doing to its Jews for years before war broke out. I don't think Godwin's Law applies when one's talking about the consequences of the actual Holocaust, including the origins of and the continued need for the State of Israel.

I'm willing to grant that Emanuel is a smart guy. How else (*cough*cough*) could he have turned a degree in ballet from Sarah Lawrence College, with no experience in business or finance, into a post-Clinton investment banking job at a branch office of Wasserstein Perella which netted him more than $18 million in just over two years? And I'm in no position to pass any judgment as to whether Emanuel is compromising his faith or his family or his heritage in his unswerving and, apparently, entirely uncritical support of Barack Obama.

But I'm very, very sure that Barack Obama is trying to turn America away from its best ally in the Middle East. And when someone like Rahm Emanuel tries to deny that, or distract attention from it, by saying, "Trust me, I'm a Jew" — I'm not impressed by that argument. I don't trust Rahm Emanuel, nor his liege-lord either.

Posted by Beldar at 04:22 PM in Foreign Policy, History, Obama, Politics (2011), Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ryan on American exceptionalism

Referring to Paul Ryan's detailed and thoughtful speech on Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society — in which Ryan used historical parallels to reaffirm the critical importance of American exceptionalism in the modern world — the esteemed Michael Barone asks (rhetorically but pointedly):

By the way, how often do House Budget Committee chairmen give speeches about foreign policy?

(Hat-tip Instapundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 03:01 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Despite history, a Ryan presidential candidacy from the House makes sense for 2012

I commend to you this thoughtful and articulate post (including its comments) by my blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards. Dafydd considers my arguments in favor of drafting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, but finds himself unpersuaded.

One of Dafydd's minor points is a better-argued variation on a theme that's been sounded fairly frequently about presidential candidates who are sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including such recent historical footnotes as John Anderson and Dennis Kucinich (Dafydd's boldface & italics omitted here):

Look, I like Paul Ryan, and I love his plan to rescue the budget and economy. But I'm nervous about him being the GOP standard bearer next year — given that the last time anyone went directly from the House to the White House was James Garfield in 1880.

A representative running for president was of course far more common in the nineteenth century, and the House was held in much higher regard than now. Too, Garfield was a nine-term congressman first elected during the Civil War; and he served for five years as Appropriations Committee chairman. But in 2012, Ryan will be a seven-term congressman who will have served as Budget Committee chairman less than two years....

(Dafydd's post continues with a series of other well-made arguments that I think are more specific to Chairman Ryan. I've addressed some of them briefly in comments on his blog, and I may eventually expand on those arguments, or address other points, in future posts here. I intend to confine this post, however, specifically to the argument that Ryan's poorly situated to run from the House.)

For several reasons, I'm less impressed by this "nobody's won from the House in decades" argument in this particular year. For one thing, we don't have a GOP candidate with high federal executive experience this cycle — none of the three theoretically eligible GOP ex-Veeps (Quayle, Cheney, and yes, think about it, Bush-41) are plausible candidates. The two most recent GOP presidential nominees drawn from the Senate, Dole and McCain, ran awful campaigns that made everyone wonder why we couldn't find a better nominee. Rick Santorum is running on the strength of his two terms in the Senate, but he was defeated in 2006. And since John Thune's decision not to run, no sitting GOP senators have been overtly preparing for the race or even generating any buzz — and no one seems to regret that at all this year.

State governors at least have executive experience, but not at the federal level. There are vast differences between governing even a very large state and serving as POTUS, and state governors almost inevitably lack even the foreign policy experience of the lowliest Congressman, who's at least had occasion to consider and vote on foreign policy legislation. But I agree with Dafydd that there are several plausible candidates, existing or rumored, who have as strong credentials as any state governor is likely to ever have, and they're serious candidates. (They'd also nicely balance Ryan's federal legislative experience if one of them were his Veep nominee; or, I concede, vice versa.)

Nevertheless, and more importantly, I believe we are on the cusp of an electoral revolution comparable to that which the Reagan-Bush ticket accomplished in their 1980 defeat of the Carter-Mondale ticket. Certainly several sitting state governors are playing high-profile roles in dealing with their respective states' analogs, at the state level, to the federal problems being hashed out in Washington. But as a direct consequence of the 2010 off-year elections — in which the White House was not in dispute, and the GOP failed to recapture the Senate, but quite dramatically regained control of the House — the House has been where the action's been since January 2011. The Senate, by contrast, continues in near paralysis.

Up through and including the November 2012 election, the House GOP members will continue to apply essentially all of the pressure which will drive (or undo) potential compromises elsewhere. Indeed, conservatives have to depend on the House GOP members to keep the pressure up on not only Senate Dems and Obama, but on Senate Republicans.

For the 2012 election, then, more than most others, I think it makes particularly good sense to consider, and properly appreciate, the leadership Ryan has shown, and continues to show daily, from the House. You find your most effective leaders by going where the conflict is most stark and checking to see who's following whom. For this cycle, the most critical action is in the U.S. House, and in overwhelming numbers the House GOP members are following Paul Ryan's lead.

Posted by Beldar at 12:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Foreign Policy, History, McCain, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God save the Queen

This is painfully funny — at "life imitating 'Saturday Night Live'" levels:

I suppose we should be grateful that Obama didn't confront the Brits over their bizarre rudeness in interrupting his speech with that instrumental version of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Gutsy toast, though.

Posted by Beldar at 11:43 PM in Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Foreign Policy, Humor, Obama | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Nato we sail, across a wide sea, to thank Nato's leaders (but kill not Kadafi!)

After reading Jake Tapper's report (h/t Instapundit) of the Obama Adminstration's position on its compliance (or non-) with the War Powers Resolution with respect to the kinetic non-war in Libya — as announced today in a late-Friday-afternoon news-dump — I should very much like to know:

Exactly where is this nation called "Nato"? Because I would like to visit its leaders to thank them for taking over the responsibility for leading this coalition. Do the Natonians permit Americans to visit?

I don't think the War Powers Resolution is constitutional. But as a legal argument, if Tapper's summary is correct and the quotes he includes are accurate and in context, then this attempted side-step by Obama is beyond pathetic, to the point of being insulting.

I'm looking for a link to the letter itself, and might have more to say after reading it in full.


UPDATE (Fri May 20 @ 10:55pm): What Tapper describes sounds like a variation on an ancient legal doctrine: "De minimis non curat lex," meaning "the law does not concern itself with trifles." I don't know exactly what U.S. forces are still involved, but they are concededly significant enough to include ships and helos for "search and rescue operations," "aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses," and "unmanned aerial vehicles."

In other words, those assets all by themselves exceed the projectable military capabilities of almost every other nation on earth. De minimis, uh-huh. So I want to see the letter in full-text, to see if anyone from the Administration had the temerity to use that little bit of Latin to describe our non-war war.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 12:55am): Mm-kay, here's the letter. It mentions the War Powers Resolution not at all by name, and references it only indirectly (and that with plausible deniability) in the language about "our on-going consultations." That doesn't matter; the timing makes self-evident that this is intended to address those issues. Friday was the 60th day after Obama triggered the Resolution by "introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." Since Congress hasn't given its blessing, Friday therefore was the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces."

But to call this a "legal argument" would be far too generous. To call it a "credible excuse" would be a fantasy. This letter is worse than "the dog ate my homework." My paraphrase:

We've sorta kinda un-introduced those armed forces, mostly, because, see, they aren't really as involved, y'know? I mean they're still armed and everything. But you know, they're not, umm, leading or anything like they were at first. Follow? And okay, so "armed" yes, but "forces"? They aren't trying to be very forceful. We've talked about that. We've cut way back on that. Way back. Really. Back. Not very forceful, even though armed, yes. I mean, they could be forceful if I told them to — you saw what I did with those SEALs, yeah? you see that? — but seriously, I've told them: Not very forceful. Mostly not.

Yeah, I thought you'd agree, and, umm, so never mind that the Resolution says by Friday the president "shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces," because you see, these really aren't any-any forces to speak of, you know — kinda like Roman Polanski didn't really commit rape-rape? It's just some planes and some ships and some junk, really, and — What? Well, yeah, there are some helicopters too, but most of the time they just stay on the boat and the pilots are down having chow and standing by. They have good chow on those Navy boats, I see to that, but that does not mean we're at war in Libya. That's a false choice, between good chow and war. Let me be clear about that.

And you know, that word "shall," that word sometimes really means "maybe." Like if I say to you, I go, "Shall we go to the park?" And then, like, you go, "Naw, I dun wanna." Then that's totally okay and we don't have to go! So it's really like, okay, well, "maybe" we should have terminated by now. Maybe. May. Be. And you know they really are "terminated," kinda — well not "them" but the missions, I mean. Mostly anyway. Unless like a plane crashes or we need to blow up some SAM sites and stuff. I can't control that. You know I can't control that, 'cause I did not put those SAM sites there.

Mostly we just talk on the phone and the radio a lot, really, and we wave at the British and the French and we go, like, "Hey dudes from Natonia, thumb's up dudes!" Seriously! I swear! Then they go blow stuff up and we go, like, "Yay! WTG dogs!" And they go, like, "Yeah! We're from Natonia, and we baaaad."

Oh, but hey, while we're talking about this, um, would you, like, sign this permission slip anyway for me? 'Cause I mean, it's no biggy, but like, I would really just want it for, like, y'know ... back-up? If there were ever some kind of impeachment thingy? Mm'kay, thx, bye!

Yes, Obama is now urging Congress to go ahead and give him permission for this not-war that the War Powers Resolution — if there is one, which we're not quite admitting there might be, but just, if there were, y'know, and if it were constitutional, which we're not denying or admitting today since we're not admitting that one exists — otherwise made illegal effective at the end of Friday.

President Gutsy!


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 1:55pm): I'm reprinting here (without block-quoting it) a comment I left on Patterico's blog on a post by his contributor Aaron Worthing, who's been following the whole War Powers issue diligently and thoughtfully (although I respectfully disagree with Aaron's ultimate conclusions in some important respects that aren't pertinent today):

The War Powers Resolution can be complied with even without ever saying its name. Obama’s letter from yesterday afternoon, for example, nowhere references 50 U.S.C. §§ 1541-1548, but it’s no coincidence that the letter was sent on the same day that section 1544(b)’s 60-day period expired. I believe that in this respect, that letter is fairly typical of what previous administrations have done while attempting to comply without admitting or implying any need to comply.

Obama’s March 21 letter to Congress did include a specific reference to the Resolution at its very end, but linked to an assertion of presidential authority:

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.

“Consistent with” is a carefully chosen qualifier, intended to acknowledge the Resolution without implying or conceding its binding authority. I have no particular fault to find with that, and prefer its honesty to the kabuki show of pretending the Resolution isn’t on the books.

Yesterday’s letter, though, isn’t actually even in compliance with anything in the Resolution. Rather, it’s a pathetic argument that might excuse non-compliance, and it includes (finally) a plea for Congress to give retroactive blessing.

In general, I’m content for the constitutionality of the Resolution to remain a matter of dispute, of continuing to-and-fro, push and push-back, between congressional and administrative branches without involving the judiciary. There are very good reasons why this hasn’t been litigated, and indeed, the whole system of checks and balances depends (counter-intuitively but undeniably) on some of its vague presumptions that never get tested. (To paraphrase Stalin’s comment about the Pope, “How many divisions does the Supreme Court command?”)

Obama could have mounted a serious, sustained, but quiet effort through bipartisan proxies in Congress to get a resolution passed that would bless what’s been done so far well before the 60-day deadline expired. He’s only doing that just now. Friends and neighbors, that delay is legal malpractice on behalf of those advising and representing the Executive. It may not turn out to be consequential malpractice — Obama may still get his retroactive blessing, which would moot the controversy as a practical matter — but it’s stumbling into a constitutional showdown, one that presents a relatively bad set of facts (from the Executive’s point of view) from which to establish a binding, precedential resolution of the Resolution’s constitutionality. And it’s inexcusable because the Administration damn well knew in March that this wasn’t going to be done by May 20.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 7:15pm): I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.


UPDATE (Sun May 22 @ 8:15pm): I'm flattered that this post has been linked by both Instapundit and Ace, among others (and I'm no less grateful for links from blogs that lack the traffic of those two). Ace is wrong in guessing that my concerns about the constitutionality of the Resolution are limited to "overbreadth" arguments, but again, I really don't want to hash out that question in this post. It's a subject that's been debated, without closure, for literally my entire adult life — and I'm 53. (In assuming that the Resolution gives the POTUS 60 days plus an additional 30 days, I believe, for reasons I've explained in comments on Patterico's blog here and here, that Ace has simply misread the Resolution.)

However, it's worth mentioning that the Obama Administration's emphasis on the involvement of NATO allies in some sort of leadership role, and on the U.N. Security Council's blessing, may be explained by, or at least related to, 50 U.S.C. § 1547(b), which reads:

Nothing in [the War Powers Resolution] shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to November 7, 1973, and pursuant to the United Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date.

If Obama plans to mount a defense for his non-compliance with the Resolution based on section 1547(b), though, that's a very stupid plan.

NATO certainly qualifies as a "high-level military command," and it was established prior to November 7, 1973, by a treaty ratified by the U.S. before then. But Section 1547(b) only means the POTUS doesn't need Congressional approval under the Resolution merely for "participat[ing] jointly" with NATO members in NATO's "headquarters operations." So boots on the ground in Brussels are okay, even if those Natonians get to arguing and tussling there at NATO headquarters; the War Powers Resolution didn't require the U.S. to pull out of NATO, in other words. There's no way, however, that dispatching a U.S. Navy F/A-18 to blow up a SAM site in Libya during a civil war there amounts to participation in NATO "headquarters operations."

Nor does section 1547(b) mean all U.N.-blessed action is okay. Rather, the reference to the U.N. is simply to make clear that the "participa[tion]" in "headquarters operations of high-level military commands" may include such high-level military commands as were established pursuant to the U.N. Charter prior to November 7, 1973, instead of pursuant to a prior treaty ratified by the U.S. (I'm thinking that was intended as a carve-out for some of the existing peace-keeping operations when the Resolution was passed, but I haven't checked the historical context.) It certainly can't include anything the U.N., much less just the U.N. Security Council, has done since 1973, however.

One would have to be a shockingly incompetent lawyer to claim that this section exempts what Obama's doing from War Powers Resolution coverage. I'm very much afraid, however, that this administration includes some shockingly incompetent lawyers.

Posted by Beldar at 09:33 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Petty POTUS tilts against Israel

Regarding President Obama's speech at the State Department yesterday regarding the Middle East and North Africa:

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

I have no problem at all with the final sentence in that paragraph. I have no problem at all with Obama taking fair credit for authorizing the mission to kill bin Laden, and I commend him in particular for accepting the greater risk to our forces and our national interests from sending in the SEALs, instead of doing nothing or relying on a JDAM or cruise missile. (He managed to take advantage of hindsight to avoid repeating Bill Clinton's now-obvious mistakes, in other words, and for that I am glad.) It was certainly an event worth including in any look back at the last ten years. And it's still topical and fresh, so I don't even mind that Obama then goes on for another two paragraphs just about bin Laden.

But only a petulant jerk would ignore the fact that American and British forces defeated Saddam's army and deposed his regime in three weeks. Or the fact that coalition forces continue to come home from Iraq, on a timetable negotiated by Bush-43 and the Iraqis, precisely because they've generally succeeded in their multi-year counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism missions in Iraq. And between 9/11/01 and year-end, American special forces working with Afghan allies deposed the Taliban's regime, driving it from power into an exile (from which it continues to fight, but without the same ability it had to provide safe haven for bin Laden, al Qaeda, and others who'd export international terrorism). Multiple elections have been held in both countries — elections made possible only by the spilled blood of coalition forces fighting alongside natives committed to their countries' freedom too. 

Those weren't just George W. Bush's accomplishments, no more than killing bin Laden was solely Barack Obama's accomplishment. They were America's accomplishments. But in his pique, his reflexive spite for his predecessor, Obama simply has to paint the things that America accomplished during Bush's presidency in bleak terms if he mentions them at all. Deposing a monster just as evil and cruel as bin Laden, but who as a head of state killed hundreds of thousands more people than bin Laden did, becomes merely "years of war in Iraq"; the monster's name is not even mentioned.

Isn't Obama's one-sentence write-off of everything done in Iraq before he took office just exactly what a politician might say if Saddam had beaten us, instead of Saddam ending up swinging at the end of a rope?

John Kennedy didn't treat Eisenhower like that. Nixon didn't treat Johnson like that, and Bill Clinton didn't treat Bush-41 like that. But much more importantly, to my knowledge, no American president has been so dismissive of the accomplishments on the field of battle of its armed forces from before he became Commander in Chief. Indeed, a key reason why John Kerry didn't ever occupy that position was precisely because upon his return from Vietnam, he'd done exactly that — disparaging our warriors — even while basking in glory for having been one of them. I concede that ignoring their accomplishments is better than telling lies that paint them as war criminals. But it's still wrong, ungracious, unpresidential.

I cannot like this man. I cannot re-kindle a liking for him. I would not like to have dinner with him or shake his hand. And although I would shake his hand if it were offered, or stand upon his entrance to a room I was in, I'd do that from respect for his office and not for the man who presently holds it.

He is petty, about little things and big things both. Were we ever to meet, I could no longer find it in myself to be magnanimous to him.


Many of the following paragraphs, in which Obama discusses what's been sometimes called "the Arab Spring," are entirely satisfactory to me. As many, many pundits of both the left and right have noted, they read very much like many speeches George W. Bush gave regarding the spread of democracy in the region. But then, suddenly — jarringly — everything once again has to be all about Obama:

But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

As is said on the prairies of West Texas whence I sprang: "Do whut now?"

What part of deposing the Taliban's or Saddam's national governments, or the aftermaths of those events in Afghanistan and Iraq, was "accepting the world as it is in the region"? What decades is he talking about — 1820-1850?

Why does he have to pretend that he's the first person to have said these same things? Why does he have to pretend that what he's saying in this speech about America encouraging democracy is some big policy change — when actually all that's changed is that he's no longer criticizing Dubya's rhetoric but parroting it?


When he promised an additional $2 billion in loan guarantees and debt forgiveness to Egypt, I wanted to hear Obama also say "if its government doesn't include elements of the Muslim Brotherhood or other organizations with a history of supporting violence and international terrorism."

Nothing like that was said. 


But then to Israel and the Palestinians:

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

Since Truman, American presidents, and the diplomats who serve at their pleasure, have displayed this sort of parallelism, this drawing of comparisons in a way that presumes and implies comparability and even equivalence.

It's time to stop that nonsense. The thieves, cut-throats, and thugs who purport to speak for the Palestinians aren't interested in taking "yes" for an answer from the Israelis. Only the Palestinian leaders are at fault for the fact that they do not already have a viable independent state. It was on the table for them to take, and Arafat walked away from it; his successors have never even seriously tried to get back to that point, preferring instead to squabble, snipe (figuratively and literally), and wallow in victimhood and violence. And it's not only dishonest to pretend that they and Israeli leaders are equally to blame for this state of affairs, it's very bad diplomacy. There are indeed disputes in which only one side is at fault, and however this one began, that's what this one has been for a long, long time.

But Obama doubles down:

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

So as soon as Israel rolls over completely and throws away all of its most valuable bargaining chips for nothing in return, then we'll all have a "basis for negotiations."

If you think I'm misinterpreting the sequencing here, Obama will correct you:

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Territory is real. Security is flexible and temporary, and depends on the continued good faith of both sides. Why would Israel give up something real for something flexible and temporary? How could Obama possibly think they're that foolish?

This amounts to "1967 borders today, guys, and then we'll all return next week to decide precisely how badly you Israelis will fare on Jerusalem and the 'Palestinian right of return.'" I wonder whether Obama actually ever did any actual negotiation as a lawyer/community organizer. I've never had a negotiation in which I've persuaded one side that it ought agree today to a deal that exposes it to increased depredation by its opponents just so it can come back to the bargaining table later to arrange its further capitulation on its top "hot-button" issues.

Why should we ever think this will ever possibly happen? Obama answers:

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”

More shameful drawing of moral equivalents between things that are not at all morally equivalent.

Israel does not try to target little boys and girls, ever. Its opponents do, always. When Palestinian children are killed in collateral damage from Israeli responses to rockets and bombs, Israelis mourn and resolve to try harder to limit collateral casualties in the future. When Israeli children are killed in intentional damage from Palestinian suicide bombers (or rockets or mortars, both highly indiscriminate), Palestinians celebrate and resolve to kill more innocents the next time.

Yes, hate is caustic, but it's a whole lot more justified when directed toward deliberate murderers. And forgiveness is divine, but forgiveness is not absolution from responsibility. Whether they hate or forgive, both these fathers should hold responsible the Palestinian leaders who perpetuate this system and feed off these deaths.

Why does an American president treat these things as if they're the same? How does that lie advance the peace process?

President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as they walk from the Oval Office to the South Lawn Drive of the White House, following their meetings, May 20, 2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama did not repeat this particular position on sequencing of negotiations, the 1967 borders, or the "right of return" in his joint press conference today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But neither did Obama retract the new position, and indeed its timing was obviously intended to present the Israelis with a fait accompli.

That's our President Gutsy.

Nevertheless, today Bibi politely but firmly responded to what Obama said yesterday, and he categorically rejected the notion of either a return to 1967 borders or the return of Palestinian refugees into Israel (as opposed to a proposed Palestinian state). I accord him high marks for self-restraint and statesmanship, because nowhere in his remarks did Netanyahu slip and use the Hebrew word "meshuga" (or its Yiddish cousin, perhaps better known here in the U.S., "meshugana").


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 3:10pm): Reading about Obama's speech at the State Department from Thursday, I've found a very, very wide range of interpretations about what Obama said and what it means. They range from "this is no more than business as usual, consistent with past U.S. policy," to "the sky is falling."

Gaza-Strip-West-BankI am taking Obama exactly at his word, and giving him and his administration every benefit of every doubt. I'm not accusing him, for example, of already breaching promises made by the United States to Israel regarding borders. I'm giving Obama full credit for the broadest, and most Israel-friendly interpretation of, the phrase "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" in order to keep that consistent with previous proposals that have involved some sort of land-for-peace deal. I'm not assuming that Obama is committing the U.S. to support only a return to precisely the 1948 truce lines; if you read his speech that way, then this is an incredibly perfidious betrayal of Israel, not just a "tilt."

Likewise, I'm not jumping to conclusions from such things as his reference to a "contiguous" Palestinian state, which could be read to mean a corridor between the West Bank and Gaza that bifurcates Israel entirely (in the manner Germany was split by the Danzig Corridor after WW1).

For an example of an extremely critical interpretation, read Caroline Glick's analysis; I respectfully disagree with her in many respects, and with Power Line's Scott Johnson, who characterizes Glick's commentary as "shrewd." I'd say it's frankly alarmist, albeit with some considerable justification, and I fault Ms. Glick in particular for not making exactly clear which parts of her analysis are based on inference rather than actual quotes from the speech.

But there is no possible interpretation of Obama's speech which ignores its commitment to borders now, Jerusalem/return later. And that itself is a significant and extremely unfortunate tilt.

Posted by Beldar at 08:01 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, April 25, 2011

WaPo chronicles Obama's serial blundering over Gitmo

"The executive order promising to close Gitmo's detention facilities within a calendar year was never anything more than BHO-monogrammed bovine excrement so naïve and silly that it exploded violently on every contact with reality."

That's my 35-word précis of this 4300-word WaPo article entitled "Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility."

However, whoever crafted this intended spin-imparting summary paragraph near the top may not have actually read the rest of the article, or else comprehended its cumulative import not at all:

For more than two years, the White House’s plans had been undermined by political miscalculations, confusion and timidity in the face of mounting congressional opposition, according to some inside the administration as well as on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the failed effort to close Guantanamo was reflective of the aspects of Obama’s leadership style that continue to distress his liberal base — a willingness to allow room for compromise and a passivity that at times permits opponents to set the agenda.

Instead of this mushy half-hearted defense of their hero, how about some plain English that's much more consistent the rest of the facts reported? Why pretend anything needed "undermining" when it never stood on its own to begin with? Why use the words like "miscalculations, confusion and timidity" as a substitute for "consistent bold stupidity"?

I'd re-write that summary paragraph thusly:

"Despite Obama's unconditional and unequivocal promises as a candidate, it became increasingly obvious, more blindingly obvious with every day of his new presidency, that closing Gitmo anytime soon would be a Very Bad Idea for a Whole Buncha Reasons. It became obvious to most serious grown-ups in America — and even to the large majorities of senators and congressmen from Obama's own party who want to be re-elected, regardless of their seriousness and maturity — that Obama's executive order couldn't actually be implemented without monumental, unacceptable risks and a momentous public backlash that would rival, and perhaps exceed, the Tea Party backlash against Obama's fiscal profligacy. Indeed, even the administration official who was designated to fall on his sword — ex-White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, about whose resignation Beldar wrote at his usual tedious length here back in 2009 — appears to have painfully hoisted himself off that blade and climbed back down to reality."

Overall, this is probably the most damning reporting on Obama's fundamental incompetence that the WaPo has yet published. Nothing in it makes Obama look even marginally competent or principled. Yet despite their claim to have based this report on "interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists," WaPo staffers Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut don't produce anything amounting to a scoop. The only thing about their report which surpised me is that apparently everyone in Washington who doesn't list 1600 Pennsylvania as his or her current primary work address now seems to agree that Obama spectacularly mismanaged this entire issue.

I'll continue to stick with my description of the Obama Administration back in that post from April 2009:

"Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

If anything, that assessment may have turned out to have beeen overly generous.

Posted by Beldar at 12:16 AM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Beldar assesses risk to the GOP from a government shutdown to be lower now than in 1995

I've previously argued here, and in comments I've left on other blogs, that the House GOP ought not force a government shutdown over whether an interim funding bill includes controversial de-funding of particular programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS/NPR) or Planned Parenthood. Rather, my advice has been to defer those measures to the fight over the FY2012 budget. Some have misunderstood me to be suggesting we delay those fights until some time in calendar year 2012, but that's not at all what I've said or meant.

Rather, since the premiere this week of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) amazingly ambitious budget for FY2012 (which starts on October 1, 2011), we're already embarked on that fight — and that fight is vastly more consequential in the big picture than anything that is going to be done through interim spending bills. Insisting on cutting those controversial programs now gives the Dems undeserved and repeated opportunities to demagogue, and that may permit them to repeat their political triumph from the government shutdown in 1995 (which effectively guaranteed Bill Clinton's reelection).

Instead, the time to fight those fights — and they'll always be controversial, I don't dispute that — is as part of the fight on the FY2012 budget that, if handled right, will produce hundreds of billions of cuts in current spending, and trillions over the next decade. There are a lot of voters who will swallow hard at GOP cuts to programs those voters personally favor, but who will nevertheless choke them down if and only if they're part of a big dose of essential medicine that will genuinely restore financial sanity to our government. And you can't win over those voters through a hostage-taking strategy that shuts down the government over only a few billion dollars.


What Speaker Boehner and the House GOP are doing now, however, isn't necessarily inconsistent with my proposed strategy. Indeed, he's right not to back off on those hot-button issues until he's used them to extract every penny of spending cuts he can through these stopgap funding bills. The one-week extension passed through the House today is consistent with that strategy. And ultimately, if a few tens or even hundreds of millions in continuing expenditures on noxious programs is the cost of another $8-$10 billion in cuts above the $33B the Dems are already on board with, that's a very good trade in the short term.

However, you can't push to the limits at the negotiating table unless you're genuinely serious about facing the possibility of a shutdown. There's reason to hope that we're better prepared for that now than we were in 1995 (when it seemed we were completely, and recklessly, unprepared). But neither side knows, nor can know, how the public will react, and what political risks for November 2012 that presents. To extend my poker metaphor from last week, we've seen the flop, but we're still waiting for the turn and the river.

I'm no pollster, and in fact I'm intensely skeptical of public opinion polling as a proxy for the only polls that count — electoral polls on election day. But I think there are two fundamental differences between now and 1995 that both reduce the political risk to the GOP now, as compared to then:

First, notwithstanding what the public opinion polls may say about the number of "independents" or "swing voters," America is more polarized now than it was in 1995. That's the result of the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 election contest, the anti-war protests during the eight years of strong leadership on the Global War on Terrorism that George W. Bush gave us, and — more than all of the above put together — the systematic, unrestrained, and rapacious looting of the public fisc in which Barack Obama and the Democrats have been continuously engaged since January 2009. I just don't think there will be as many voters swayed by a shutdown as there were in 1995 — and of those who may be, quite a large percentage of them are Obama voters from 2008 who've since already realized that his halo is made of tin foil.

Second, although one can correctly point to a long list of contributing causes, any third-grader should be able to understand that the most obvious and direct cause — what lawyers would call the "proximate cause" — of a shutdown now would be the Democrats' explicable and inexcusable inability just to do their damn jobs last year.

Not a single voter sent Obama and his partisans to Washington with a mandate not to pass a budget for FY2011. The Dems controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress until January 2011 and yet couldn't pass a budget; indeed, they didn't even make a serious attempt. And that's just dirt-simple, and as obvious — and as obviously embarrassing — as a loud fart in church.

I will grant you that there are millions, and probably tens of millions, of voters who don't meet my hypothetical "any third-grader" standard in their political sophistication.

But they're already part of the Democratic base anyway.

Posted by Beldar at 08:05 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beldar on Welch on "Obama's Doctrine of Preemptive War"

I like Matt Welch, the editor in chief of He's funny and perceptive, and right more often than wrong. He's not someone who I typically find to be guilty of fuzzy, confused writing or speaking. But his essay on Obama's Doctrine of Preemptive War (h/t Instapundit) is, in important respects, an exception.

Suppose in 2003, after seeing us take down Saddam, Kadafi's reaction had instead been to re-double his own WMD program. It's easy to imagine how that might have justified a preemptive war if other means failed to dissuade him from that course. (Of course, it's also easy to imagine how it might have been fumbled: for examples we need look no farther than North Korea, and now Iran.)

But that's not what happened. Instead, after he saw Saddam pried out of his spider hole, Kadafi voluntarily gave up his WMD program and restrained the degree and severity of his export of terrorism. As a consequence, the war in Libya now is by no means the same kind of preemptive war that we waged in Iraq in 2003 — one in which we fired the first shots because we were convinced we were going to be in a fight soon anyway, and a much worse fight than if we hadn't waited. What we're "preempting" now in Libya is not a threat to the United States, but to Libya's citizen population, including but not at all limited to the very substantial fraction of it who were actively demonstrating against Kadafi. Deciding when, and how much, war is justified in those circumstances is also quite controversial and difficult, but it's a different kind of controversy and difficulty than those which attend the question of starting a genuinely preemptive war.

Kadafi broke parole. The forebearance he'd bought by cooperation after his past acts of international terrorism, he forfeited when he started using heavy weapons indiscriminately on his population — but not because that put us at risk in the U.S. in any direct or immediate way.

What makes Libya a country of strategic importance to America — why military intervention to depose Kadafi now is justified strategically, when military intervention to depose many other dictators committing attrocities isn't justified strategically — is indeed a common factual thread with the Iraq situation. In neither country could America afford to see a return to active WMD development and production, active export of international terrorism, or active shelter of international terrorists because those countries' bad acts could be multiplied and magnified by their oil money.

Much of Welch's criticism of the Obama Administration's badly mixed messages is spot on, and similar to what I (and many others) have been saying. (Obama doesn't like to talk about Libya's oil, a naive self-imposed blindfold of political correctness which ends up hampering his explanation of America's genuine strategic interests.) But the mere fact that there is a common strategic thread with the Iraq War — which is that terrorism-exporting WMD-seeking countries with oil money are extra dangerous and therefore extra important to the U.S. — still doesn't turn this intervention in Libya into a "preemptive war."

This isn't a war we started. Kadafi started it, against his own civilians. Given that, strategic interests now have to be considered in deciding upon what we should do, it's true. But the whole debate about whether the grave and gathering dangers are sufficient to wage a preemptive war became moot once Kadafi started the shooting. At that point, the question wasn't war versus peace, but war with or without our involvement. Welch does no one any favors by confusing that point.

And contra Welch, my concern is not that Obama is too committed now to the doctrine of preemptive war. My concern — see, again, Iran — is that he's already effectively ruled it out when we certainly shouldn't.

Posted by Beldar at 06:45 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Beldar admits error on whether there's a constituency that favors Kadafi's survival

In my reactions to Pres. Obama's speech on Libya on Monday night, I disputed — but didn't discuss at much length — the president's assertion that that "[i]f we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter." My reaction was:

Not if you did your job properly. Not even the Arab League wants to see Kadafi left alive. What's making them nervous is the collateral damage from the airstrikes you're already doing, not concern for Kadafi.

In some lunchtime political debate Tuesday, I pointed out this line to a liberal friend as yet another example of dishonesty in Obama's speech. "There is no constituency for Kadafi's survival anymore, not anywhere," I insisted to my friend, "and there is simply no one who will be sorry to see him killed."

Later, driving away, I mentally footnoted that: "Except, maybe, for the grifters, thugs, mercenaries, sycophants, and (broadly defined, to its dirtiest outer limits) 'service industry' people, somewhere in the world, on whom Kadafi, if he survives, will continue spending those many tens of billions of dollars he's stashed. Those parasites would rather see him in a lengthy and profitable-for-themselves exile."

I now find that I was both wrong and right, at the same time.

Kadafi does indeed still have a constituency, someone willing to go to bat for him — and it consists of Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas from Nicaragua:

A former Nicaraguan leftist foreign minister who has been a sharp critic of U.S. governments will represent Libya at the United Nations after its delegate was denied a visa, Nicaragua said on Tuesday.

As governments and international bodies agreed to press on with a NATO-led aerial bombardment of Libyan forces, Nicaragua said Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who once called former U.S. President Ronald Reagan "the butcher of my people," would replace senior Libyan diplomat Ali Abdussalam Treki.

The government of leftist President Daniel Ortega, a former U.S. Cold War foe who has forged ties with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said it had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to inform him of the decision.

The Nicaraguan government said in a statement that D'Escoto has flown to the U.N. headquarters in New York to "support our Libyan brothers in their diplomatic battle to enforce respect for its sovereignty.

Mind you, this D'Escoto is so incredibly steeped in international radicalism that even Reuters found it essential to begin pointing out his background in the lead paragraph of this news report.

Miguel D'Escoto and a really good friend embrace at the U.N. As for Ortega, that murderous Fidel Castro wannabe, the last time he was discussed here on the pages of BeldarBlog was during the 2004 election, when I pointed out, as an example of John Kerry's extremely poor judgment, that he had believed, endorsed, and heavily promoted Ortega's false promises to reform his communist government in Nicaragua if only America would stop funding the Contras. Suffice it to say that it was only Ronald Reagan and Nicaragua's lack of massive oil resources that has prevented Ortega from becoming the same kind of tyrant as Kadafi himself.

So that's how I was wrong in my assertion there's no constituency for Kadafi's survival anywhere. How, then, was I simultaneously right? I'm saved by my mental footnote, and this report that "[t]he South American state [i.e., Nicaragua] has been identified as a potential safe haven for Gaddafi should he seek exile from Libya."

Brilliant! Kadafi's political constituency is also his graft constituency! Isn't it great when ideology and commerce work together so closely?

Obviously, however, I still think Obama's assertion — that our coalition would shatter if we committed to taking out Kadafi by force — was completely false. Whatever coalition Obama has managed to assemble, it's never included Daniel Ortega anyway, and it certainly ought not.

Posted by Beldar at 03:53 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Regarding our POTUS, and the portion of the American public which absolutely insists that we "go it alone" and "bear all the burden ourselves"

My eye keeps being drawn back to one particularly gutless, dishonest sentence in Obama's speech from last night:

Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves.

Leave aside that both Bush-41 and Bush-43 assembled broader international coalitions in 1990-1991, 2001, and 2003. Tell us, Mr. President, who these people are! Who exactly are the "some" who "claim" that American leadership is "a matter of going it alone and bearing all the burden ourselves"? Point to one such person, so we can join you in mocking him or her, and thank you properly for saving us from such misguided views!

But it is effectively a null set: There is no such "some."

Our POTUS fabricates imaginary straw-men as reflexively as he breathes — not just when speaking off the cuff or on the stump, but in prepared, polished speeches with the entire world as his audience. The only way he can seem reasonable or competent is in comparison to fictional fiends who do not exist, so he makes them up.

He does this over and over again, and no reporter has the guts to say to his face: "Would you please name one person, Mr. President, who's claimed that we should, quote, 'go it alone,' unquote? Or who's claimed that we should, quote 'bear the entire burden,' unquote?" How are those possibly not legitimate questions? Jake Tapper? Anyone?

Barack Obama simply is not an honest man, even by the loose standards to which we unfortunately tend to hold our politicians.


What must one imagine went on in 2003, for instance, in order for Obama to assert that there were "some" who wanted America to "go it alone" and "bear all the burden ourselves"?

DUBYA: Oh, no, mon amis from NATO, heh, heh, put away your wallets! Your Euros are no good here! We insist on paying the full cost of the liberation of Iraq! After all, we are the rich, rich Americans!

CHENEY: Yes, we insist on doing it all ourselves. No, no, Afghanistan doesn't count, we insist on paying for every bit of that too. Just send us your receipts, we'll get you reimbursed. We'll put it on a pre-paid debit card — it's really cool, you can spend it anywhere. [Studio audience coos appreciatively.]

DUBYA: In fact, from now on, the "No-Fly Zone" we're enforcing over the entire continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa will include British and French aircraft too. [Audience applauds.]

CHENEY [stage whisper]: Because we can't afford the risk that they might accidentally help us! Ahhh-hah-hah-hah! You know those eager-to-help Europeans! [Audience laughs and applauds.]

DUBYA: And by the way, we just sunk that joke of a French aircraft carrier. It was in our parking spot! [High-fives Cheney. Audience cheers.]

CHENEY: Who let all those little countries in? What a buncha poodles! Send 'em home! [Cheney pretends to sweep with imaginary broom. Audience laughs and claps.]

DUBYA: Flyin' solo like the bald eagle! Uni-lateral is the only -lateral for us, baby! Yee-haw! [Cue balloon drop and country-western song celebrating the repression of Palestinians. Bitter, racist, but cheering audience members, clutching their guns and Bibles, storm the stage in triumph.]

The only two choices are these: (1) Barack Obama thinks we're all stupid enough to believe this actually happened (and yes, unfortunately, some of us are, but not very many); or (2) he thinks it actually happened. I'm going with choice (1), on the theory that I ought never attribute to psychosis that which can be adequately explained by mere political venality.

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beldar backtalks Obama on Libya

From the full "as prepared for delivery" version of President Obama's speech tonight, with my snarky backtalk interlineated in brackets and green text:

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people [I'm one such], and do whatever it takes to bring down Gaddafi and usher in a new government. [But that's an overstatement of our arguments. We're not suggesting tactical nukes, for example. We're suggesting that if we get a chance to end this through regime decapitation, we should take it, and indeed we should try to create such chances. Typical Obama straw-man argument, one of his favorite techniques.]

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. [That only works on dictators who are unwilling to shoot up their own population to stay in power.] But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. [See, it's our mission, just not our "military" mission. Brilliant! Let's set a goal, and then rule out the most effective means of achieving it! Because the only thing we use force for is, umm, to blow stuff up to protect people from the guy we're carefully not targeting. Yeah, that's very clear now, thank you Mr. President.]

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. [Yes, and that U.N. Security Council resolution authorizes "all necessary means" so long as they don't involve opening a chow hall on Libyan dirt. For whatever it's worth, we have ample U.N.S.C. authorization to effect regime change by means that include regime decapitation. This is a victory your minions fought for and won at the U.N. — why aren't you using it?] It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. [The rebels asked us not to kill Kadafi? No, this is just a brazen misrepresentation by you, Mr. President. I think they would be very, very happy if we managed to kill Kadafi.] If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. [Not if you did your job properly. Not even the Arab League wants to see Kadafi left alive. What's making them nervous is the collateral damage from the airstrikes you're already doing, not concern for Kadafi.] We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. [This from President Attack Drone?!? Seriously? And U.N.S.C. Resolution 1973 authorizes troops on the ground so long as they're not "occupying."] The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. [Not if you do your job properly, they would be lessened and the danger period shortened.] So would the costs [nope], and our share of the responsibility for what comes next [nope, either way, if America doesn't make it happen, nothing very good is going to happen].

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. [Oh come on. Why not just chant "BusHitler! Cheney! Halliburton!" This passes for reasoned argument? That's not "blunt," it's imbecilic.] Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. [And you were wrong, wrong, wrong in everything you said or did about Iraq before you actually got into the Oval Office, Mr. Obama. Thank God for George W. Bush, but God forbid you might include his name in your thanks as you're taking credit for his results.] But regime change there took eight years [actually a bit more than three weeks, from March 20-April 15, 2003; it was not regime change, but the aftermath that took eight years], thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. [An amount which is less than you've increased just our budget deficit just for one year.] That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya. [What we cannot afford is seeing Libya, with its oil wealth, return to sponsoring world-wide terrorism and the pursuit of WMDs. We can't afford a nuclear 9/11.]

At least he did not repeat — as a quote-unquote "guarantee" — a promise that Kadafi will not be targeted. But that's still the net effect.

Pres. Obama at the White House today (official WH photo) There are a lot of other stray remarks from the speech that I hated. "I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power." The colossal narcissism of this dude is still breathtaking; he's deeply, deeply invested in the grandeur of those new clothes. He took a gratuitous shot at Bill Clinton and our NATO allies in an obvious attempt to try to excuse his own dithering: "To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians." I'm sure the SecState was thrilled with that line.

I think he did a fairly good job of summarizing the humanitarian reasons for intervening. But he made only a feeble effort to claim a strategic reason by arguing that Kadafi was threatening to (further) destabilize neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, without bothering to explain why the U.S. has vital strategic interests in those countries. (We do in Egypt, not because of oil money that might again be misspent on terrorism (as in Libya), but because of the Suez Canal, the Aswan Dam, its borders and history with Israel, and the sheer size of Egypt's population. But frankly, we don't have vital strategic interests in Tunisia.) Thus, although I think there are very good answers to the question "Are we going to intervene everywhere else where a dictator is committing indiscriminate massacre of civilians," Obama didn't really even try to address that subject.

So I'm entirely unpersuaded by any of the excuses Obama offered for his policy of not killing Kadafi even if we get him cleanly in our sights. It makes zero sense. And I'm still at a complete loss to figure out who Obama thinks he's pleasing with that policy, unless it's just that he's trying to avoid further aggravating and Code Pink and the Hard Left.

Posted by Beldar at 08:40 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Due credit to Obama for negotiating an advantage at the U.N.S.C., but brickbats for not using it

I have been supportive of the Obama Administration's original announced goal of forcing Kadafi out of Libya, but I have been highly critical of most aspects of its implementation of that goal. Nevertheless, I will give a gold star to whoever was responsible for the wording of the key paragraph in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. In pertinent part, it —

Authorizes Member States ... to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in [the state of Libya], while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory ....

The obvious success was in getting broad authorizing language — "all necessary measures" — which is inherently subjective but intentionally open-ended. There is no civilian anywhere in Libya who's not at least "under threat of attack" by Kadafi each and every minute he stays in power.

The United Nations complex on Manhattan's Turtle BayThe more impressive success, however, is non-obvious: The definitional scope and power of the resolution are helped a great deal, actually, by the specific exclusion. Sometimes a very bright line, definitively placed on a far-away horizon, is useful to remind you of just how much space you can cross before you even get close to the line. Anything which isn't "a foreign occupation force of any form" can be argued very persuasively to be within "all necessary measures." So if it doesn't involve setting up a new chow hall anywhere on Libyan dirt, it's authorized. I'm pretty sure the Joint Chiefs can work with that.

As I've pointed out before, Resolution 1973 certainly includes within its potential scope all forms of regime change, including decapitation. And indeed, if we could pull it off, regime decapitation would be the single most effective way to protect threatened civilians at the lowest cost in Libyan or coalition blood and treasure.

I vehemently deny that the U.S. has any obligation to get U.N. or U.N.S.C. approval to take steps in its legitimate national interest, but neither do I fault Obama for consulting with the U.N. And certainly whenever we're successful in gaining support there — as we have been here! — we should make good use of that support.


That's why it continues to baffle me that Obama is treating Resolution 1973 as if it limits the previously announced Obama Administration policy of regime change for Libya. It just doesn't.

Rather, since the Obama Administration obviously planned and fought for, and won, U.N.S.C. approval for approval of anything up to (but not including) an occupation force, we should certainly stop talking and acting as if we're somehow shackled by Resolution 1973. Can we maybe find whoever it was who negotiated that language, and let him or her run the show while Obama goes back to playing golf and watching basketball? Because what he's saying in public doesn't make a damn bit of sense, and this bit of Turtle Bay diplomatic agility has been about the only sign that anyone in the whole Administration has managed to buy a clue.

And I can't figure out who Obama is trying to please by pretending that we're not really engaged in regime change. The only people I can think of would be pacifist absolutists and, I guess, the entirety of Obama's Hard Left base, including and Code Pink and those folks. So we're to put Libyans' and coalition warriors' lives at continuing grave risk, rather than choose the quickest, safest solution, just to make sure the Hard Left won't stay home on Election Day 2012? That is an ugly possibility to contemplate, and I'd really like some "progressive" to point me to another, better explanation.

The American government needs to be making urgent, quiet plans for what to do as Kadafi leaves and after he's gone. That bad men bid to follow him we must expect and beware, so we'll have to plan for that now, and deal with that too in its time. But let's leave for another day the argument at the U.N. about post-Kadafi Libya. And let's quit wasting the authorization we've already gotten there, and get things right with our own Congress, and then deal with Kadafi once and for all.

Posted by Beldar at 11:39 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In six weeks, Obama fails miserably at what Bush père did so very well in one

We're entering the sixth week of the Libyan crisis, and someone attempting to defend President Obama's feckless handling of it might point out, correctly, that there was very much an element of unexpected emergency created by Kadafi's decision to start shooting his own citizens when they started protesting on February 15th. So it's only fair to judge President Obama's reaction in that context. Certainly it takes time to consult allies, to nudge into motion giant bureaucratic agencies like the U.N. or even multi-national military ones NATO, and to formulate a clear national and international position with clear goals unequivocally communicated to friend and foe alike. 

So let's consider another recent (in historical terms) and unexpected emergency in the Middle East — Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, which came as an utter surprise to the entire world, and America's response, which was called "Operation Desert Shield."

Pres. George H.W. Bush addressing the country on August 8, 1990 In less than one week — by August 8, 1990 — Pres. George H.W. Bush had already gotten resolutions from the U.N. and the Arab League comdemning the invasion, along with U.N. Security Council Resolutions establishing economic sanctions and authorizing a blockade of Iraq to enforce them. He had exhausted both formal and back-channel negotiations seeking a voluntary Iraqi pull-back. He had started the deployment of American air and ground forces to defensive positions in Saudi Arabia (which in turn required the most delicate of negotiations to reconcile those troops' presence with the Saudis' keen sensitivities as guardians of Islam's most holy cities). He had consulted with both parties' leaders in Congress to their general satisfaction — even though he wasn't (yet) sending troops or even aircraft into combat. (Eventually he'd come back to them for, and win, a formal Congressional vote authorizing that.)

And in a straight-forward but powerful speech to America and the world on the evening of August 8, he laid out exactly what he had done, was doing, and promised to do about Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

It was an expanded version of the same message he'd had since his very first public statements on the crisis: "This will not stand." No bluster, nothing grand, and certainly no diplomatic double-speak, but just the kind of grim and absolutely credible determination the American men of his generation were known for.

It was as graceful and swift and deft and brilliant an exercise in international diplomacy as this planet has ever seen. It was a symphonic ballet of practical, urgent diplomacy — with Jim Baker and Bush both working the phones, and Bush jotting hand-written notes to world leaders he'd known and dealt with for decades. It was followed up with sustained performance throughout the fall and into what eventually became Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — a diplomatic accomplishment so total that there were even Syrian and Egyptian tanks helping us and the Brits and the French (and a bunch of other countries) liberate Kuwait.

Throughout, Pres. Bush-41 was gracious and tactful in sharing credit with all of our allies, some of whom were even persuaded to kick in for some of the cost! But never, ever, did he shrink from America's essential role, nor pretend that we could fool the rest of the world into thinking anyone else could replace us in it.

Which is to say: 

George H.W. Bush's performance in beginning Desert Shield had almost nothing in common with Barack Obama's performance now. And that's unfortunate for the latter — and the country.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ 2:10am): Now that he's fresh and well-rested from his South American vacation and he's found an unlocked door to get back into the Oval Office, it appears that The One "will deliver an address to the nation on Monday with an update on the situation in Libya, the White House announced Friday evening."

No sooner because, you know, there are games this weekend. We're talking the Elite Eight here, baby — Butler versus Florida! Virginia Commonwealth versus Kansas! — just so you understand the priorities.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ wee-smalls): Okay, here's the hold-up. The administration is having a vigorous internal debate over whether to arm the Libyan rebels with sophisticated western technology, although we're apparently not sure whether that should be pepper spray or TOW anti-tank missiles:

Gene Cretz, the recently withdrawn U.S. ambassador to Libya, said administration officials were having "the full gamut" of discussions on "potential assistance we might offer, both on the non-lethal and the lethal side," but that no decisions had been made.

So apparently the Obama Administration is already committed to the notion that Libya needs more weapons with less accountability. But we wouldn't want to rush into any decisions on Stingers versus Tasers until we've actually ruled out the entire line-up of Nerf weapons, some of which, I think you'll agree, are pretty formidable.

I'll tell you who ought to get to answer that question: Somebody at about the major or lieutenant colonel level in, say, the 101st Airborne, who more than likely is going to have some percentage of the weapons we hand out now pointed back at his troopers within days, weeks, or months. So I'm actually going with the Nerf line-up, if I get a vote.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ wee-smallers): Oh, yes, I definitely saw this coming:

President Barack Obama told congressional leaders there are no plans to use the U.S. military to assassinate Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi — despite the administration’s policy of seeking regime change in the North African country — according to sources familiar with a Friday White House Situation Room briefing.

“There was a discussion of how we have other ways of regime change,” Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told POLITICO. “It’s not our role to do anything at this point from a kinetic point of view. It is our goal for regime change, but we’re not going to do it from a kinetic point of view.”

So yeah, add that to Adm. Gortney's "guarantee" that Kadafi is "not on the target list" and I think you've pretty much got the picture here. We're going to keep all of our options right out on the table, including holding our breath until we turn blue and we get really dizzy. Except the one option which would really work, right away. That one we've ruled out repeatedly.

Kadafi's possibly the safest person in Libya, at least for tonight. He's got Obama's word on it. Even if Obama could just push the button and Kadafi would magically, instantly, disappear without a hair being harmed on any other Libyan's head, Obama wouldn't do it.

The Kadafi Box: A Parody of a (recent) Major Motion Picture

(But I wonder if Kadafi knows Geraghty's Law?)

Further prediction: If it's live and not a re-run tonight, Saturday Night Live will be all over "kinetic."

Further, further prediction: Obama will repeat this utter stupidity about not targeting Kadafi in his national address on Monday night. It will encourage Kadafi and confuse Americans and our main allies, including the Brits, who've quite wisely refused to rule out regime decapitation.

Posted by Beldar at 01:17 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Friday, March 25, 2011

A tale of two Teddys

I agree and associate myself with Dr. Krauthammer's remarks from yesterday, among them this one:

This confusion is purely the result of Obama's decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely "one of the partners among many," he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

To be clear (to use one of The One's favorite phrases): I support our President in the original goal he announced — forcing Kadafi from power — because I think that is in America's own interests. And I think that is also the best way to meet the U.N. Security Council's resolution authorizing member states to "take all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians who are "under threat of attack."

I support our armed forces, who are going to be doing most of the heavy lifting even if our President chooses to pretend otherwise and thinks he's ducked responsibility by farming this out to NATO (as if America weren't the senior and majority partner in NATO).

I support this and every POTUS' constitutional right and obligation to take appropriate action as commander in chief, and I support Congress' constitutional right and obligation to insist that only Congress has the power to declare war, so I am glad whenever the Hill and White House can get their acts together and consult appropriately. But that hasn't been done yet either.

And I am astonished and appalled at the stunning naïveté and sheer incompetence of the Obama Administration as it stumbles through this. This is like watching a very badly run junior high school student council trying to pretend like they're world leaders.

Shorter version:

Dear Mr. President: We need, from you, more Teddy Roosevelt right now, and less Teddy Ruxpin.

(Of course, T.R. was not only the namesake for all stuffed bear toys, but actually deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.)

President Obama Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Ruxpin

Posted by Beldar at 10:38 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bingaman, defending Obama through partisan blinders, is oblivious to his own prescription on energy

From the "'Green' blog" (I question both premises) in today's NYT (h/t InstaPundit) (bold-face mine):

But even while the president was under attack in the House, allies in the Senate rose to the his defense. Most notably, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, used a lengthy floor speech to rebut the claims.

Mr. Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, noted that at a hearing earlier in the week, a panel of energy experts collectively dismissed the claims that either climate policy or the pace of offshore oil permitting were driving gas prices higher.

“None of these experts highlighted the administration’s permitting process in the Gulf of Mexico as being a significant factor in world oil markets,” he said.

“Second, any anticipated Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at refineries was not included in any of the presentations as a driver behind the current increased in prices,” Mr. Bingaman added.

The crucial driver behind the price increase, he said, was the instability of world oil markets in the face of uprisings across the Middle East, particularly in Libya, where a popular revolt has effectively curtailed oil exports.

“When political unrest threatens major choke points in the world oil transit routes, world oil prices react, as they have,” he said. “When a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stops exporting oil, which has virtually occurred in the case of Libya, world oil markets react.”

“When there are fears that a nearby neighbor and close ally of Saudi Arabia, home to the world’s largest spare oil production capacity, might begin a series of political upheavals in the Persian Gulf region, world oil markets react as well,” Mr. Bingaman continued.

He closed by arguing that only reducing the country’s overall dependence on foreign oil would result in long-term relief at the pump.

Unless "experts" are asked to list all the things that don't exist, but that would reduce oil prices if they did, then their failure to discuss or consider the possible effect of a change in U.S. government energy policies (to something permitting safe but aggressive development) in their price inquiries would be quite predictably meaningless. And Sen. Bingaman should know that.

But what's appalling is how desperate Sen. Bingaman is to ignore what he clearly does know — indeed, what he recites himself in the same speech. "Instability in world oil markets" does indeed make a vast contribution to the rise in the market price of oil, and in the consequent price rises in gasoline and other products refined from oil, including plastics. Threats to international transport systems also raise prices. But U.S. government policies that permit the development of domestic oil, onshore and off-, add supplies to the market that are stable and that are less subject to disruption in a crisis.

Barrels of oil of a like quality (e.g., sweet intermediate crude) are indeed fungible once they're in-hand. But the addition of secure oil supplies reduces the overall volatility of the world market. The addition of new oil supplies that can't be denied to us by some despot or cartel during a world political crisis drives down the current world price of oil more than the addition of the same amount and type of oil supplies from, for instance, a new reservoir in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

So yes, changing U.S. government policy to permit development of our own onshore and offshore reserves is essential to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And reducing dependence on foreign oil in turn reduces market instability and our vulnerability in it.

Moreover, today's oil prices are predicated not only on existing supplies and their sources, but on the market participants' aggregate expectations about oil supply in the future. That's why opening the Strategic Oil Reserves would have only a limited effect on current prices (since its contributions to supply would be small at best and definitely limited in duration). But that's why changing U.S. government policies to permit — not even to encourage, but simply to permit — private development of our onshore and offshore resources, particularly in and around Alaska, would have a more profound immediate impact on current prices: It would tell the market something important about long-term supplies that can be predicted with confidence to become available for year after year in the future, supplies that are not subject to political blackmail or interruption at shipping choke-points.

So the fecklessness of the Obama energy policy will continue to hurt the United States for a long, long time. But it's hurting us today, too — at the gas pump, and at the cash register whenever we buy anything that's made from plastic or transported from a far-off place of manufacture. And the intrinsic indefensibility of Obama's policies is vividly illustrated by the fact that someone normally as plausible as Jeff Bingaman can't mount a defense of it on the Senate floor or in the NYT without immediately contradicting himself and undercutting his entire argument.

Posted by Beldar at 04:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, Energy, Foreign Policy, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The latest from Tripoli? From Cairo? Tehran? ... Philadelphia?

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.

When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.

When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.

Whence sprung these words? And when, and what did they portend?

Wait, wait — is this one of those Tea Party manifestos or somethin'?

These lines weren't penned in Tripoli or Cairo or Tehran, nor even in Philadelphia. Rather, they're from Washington — more specifically, Washington-on-the-Brazos — and their portent, and place in time, is found in the document's title:

The Unanimous Declaration of Independence made by the Delegates of the People of Texas in General Convention at the town of Washington on the 2nd day of March 1836.

But doncha know they could still say, in Egypt of Mubarak, or in Tehran of the Mullahs, or in Tripoli of Kadafi, just what these Texians said of the Mexican government in 1836 — that it "hath been, during the whole time of our connection with it, the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions, and hath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrannical government."

Shall it be said of the Egyptians and the Libyans and the Iranians that — as the Texians said of the fellow citizens they were leaving behind in Mexico — "We are, therefore, forced to the melancholy conclusion, that the Mexican people have acquiesced in the destruction of their liberty, and the substitution therfor of a military government; that they are unfit to be free, and incapable of self government."

It remains to be seen — sadly, to some extent, still even in Mexico.

Anyway, apparently someone finally told our esteemed Commander in Chief that in the Marines Hymn, there's already this line about the "shores of Tripoli," which goes back to this whole 1805 thing when Jefferson was President and he established the first Navy SEALS or something. So really, keeping all our carrier groups out of the Mediterranean hasn't really been all low-key and non-hegemonic the way you say you intended, and it hasn't been fooling anybody. It's just been America acting really stupid again, since sending ships to protect American interests in Libya is exactly the kind of thing the C-in-C has been calling on the Navy and Marines to do since decades before they took the wood out of that old ship that they used to make your very old desk, Mr. Obama. And yeah, then there was that more recent dustup involving some F-111s and Mr. Reagan, but that was during Barry O's hazy daze so he'd kind of forgotten them too (even though Kadafi has been using it as his #1 applause line in every rally during the twenty-plus years since the Infidels of that self-same U.S. Navy penetrated the Line of Death in the Gulf of Sidra).

Now you, Mr. Obama, have just given Kadafi's radical Muslim successors the applause line they will use: "Where were America's mighty aircraft carriers when Kadafi was calling in airstrikes on his own people?" Way to vote "present," Barry. I sure wish the Spirit of Independence Days' Past, in the form of Sam Houston, could pay a nighttime visit to Mr. Obama's dreams.

And I'm glad the Texians in 1836 didn't have to rely on support from someone like you in their efforts to break free from a corrupt and counter-constitutional military dictatorship. Happy Texas Independence Day! "[C]onscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations."

Posted by Beldar at 05:34 PM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama, Texas | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Liz Cheney parallels (but doesn't quite match) Beldar's prescription for what Obama should say about U.S. aid to Egypt

On this morning's "Fox News Sunday," Liz Cheney made a point very similar to the one I made in my post from last Friday (my transcription from DVR; boldface mine):

[Chris Wallace:] Would you like to see him [i.e., President Obama] openly support the freedom fighters, the protesters, in Iran?

[Liz Cheney:] Absolutely! He should have done it last June. Had he done it, frankly, in June of 2009, we might have a very different Iran today. I think that — you know, you have a situation where the [Obama] Administration is constantly playing catch-up. And one of the things that they clearly are going to be doing now is adding more money to the democracy programs. As they do that, they need to be held to account: Not a single taxpayer penny should go to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Administration so far has refused to declare their opposition to that. The Muslim Brotherhood is not democratic. They clearly support the imposition of Sharia law —

[Wallace:] — You're talking of course in Egypt —

[Cheney:] — and the return of the Caliphate in Egypt. But I think they'll face this issue across the region with Islamic organizations.

Of course no U.S. taxpayer money should ever go directly, or be permitted to be funneled indirectly, to the Muslim Brotherhood. And of course Obama should make that point clearly and publicly and now.

Liz Cheney on Fox News Sunday But it's not just the cash now that's important. It's the Egyptian people's understanding of the likelihood of a continuing sustained cash-flow in the future, the cash-flow they've been enjoying since, basically, the Camp David accords in 1978. With or without U.S. assistance, and indeed despite any efforts we might make to undercut their fund-raising elsewhere, the Muslim Brotherhood will find plenty of sources of cash that can be used to sway a "one man, one vote, one time" election.

But that's still chump change compared to the billions of U.S. aid dollars we've been sending to Egypt year in and year out. And the Egyptians who might be tempted by the Muslim Brotherhood's pitch, or intimidated by their threats and violence, need to understand that Uncle Sam's teat is going to be permanently withdrawn if the Muslim Brotherhood even shares power in a new Egyptian government.

(Postscript: While looking for a suitable photo to pirate "fair-use republish" for this post, I was amused to see that among the companies buying advertising bandwidth from is ... the New York Times. Oh, how the mighty are falling!)


UPDATE (Sun Feb 20 @ 4:15pm): This post from Andy McCarthy illustrates exactly why I think this message so badly needs to be sent, and without further delay (link his):

In another worrying sign, there are indications coming out of Egypt and Israel that the Egyptian military provided security for Qaradawi’s appearance before the throng. This, you might say, is to be expected in a potentially unstable situation with the government in flux and a throng of hundreds of thousands (at least) gathered in Tahrir Square. But the reports further suggest that the military let the Muslim Brotherhood take the lead in orchestrating Friday’s events and that opposition leaders who are not Islamists were not permitted to speak. I am not in a position to verify or disprove these reports, but if they are true that would be very ominous indeed.

It's the colonels and the generals who've been spending a whole bunch of that American foreign aid, and who need to be stripped of any illusions that it would continue if the Muslim Brotherhood were part of Egypt's new government.

Posted by Beldar at 12:55 PM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Religion | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Still more mush from the wimp — this time re the Muslim Brotherhood

I really, really hope that in his campaign for re-election, President Obama will make heavy use of that elder statesman of the Democratic Party, Jimmy Carter. After all, in what he has to say in general, and in what he has to say in particular about the Middle East, Mr. Carter is exactly as credible as Mrs. O'Leary's cow giving a lecture on fire prevention. Here's just the latest proof, as delivered by the old gasbag from the LBJ Library in Austin (bracketed portion mine, parenthetical by the American-Statesman; h/t InstaPundit):

[LBJ Library Director Mark] Updegrove, who characterized Carter as the president most associated with the Middle East, having helped to broker a peace accord between Egypt and Israel in 1978, asked the former president how the United States should view the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential group in Egypt that has ties to Hezbollah and may influence Egypt in the future.

"I think the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of in the upcoming (Egyptian) political situation and the evolution I see as most likely," Carter said. "They will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of desire for freedom and true democracy."

Yes, absolutely! We should no more fear the Muslim Brotherhood than we should fear, say, that a bunch of "students" might "spontaneously" decide to take over an American embassy and hold everyone there hostage for 444 days. Couldn't possibly happen, huh, Mr. Carter?

I know there are a few Democrats who occasionally see my blog. Are any of you willing to "associate yourself," as they say on Capitol Hill, with Mr. Carter's latest remarks? Any of you willing instead to admit that the old goat has become an international embarrassment — not just a bad one-term president, not just the worst president of the 20th Century, but absolutely the worst ex-president ever?

Posted by Beldar at 08:52 PM in 2012 Election, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama, Religion | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Obama ought say to Egypt

Obama should say — right away, and bluntly — “Lest there be a miscalculation from uncertainty about America’s position, Egypt should know that the day the Muslim Brotherhood becomes part of Egypt’s government is the day American foreign aid ends.”

But he won’t.


When Obama fails to do this, should then Boehner, as Speaker, say "I predict that the House won't appropriate money for foreign aid to Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood is part of the government"?

I think so. I think it would be a truthful prediction that would likely prove accurate. And it's within Boehner's institutional province so long as it's carefully phrased. But Boehner should privately twist Obama's arm first, to give him the opportunity to speak for America as its chief of state.

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Religion | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack