“The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” said Chambliss, who recently golfed with the president, in a statement. > more ... (1 comments)
Yes, Pat Buchanan! From a lengthy and righteous diatribe against universally hated WaPo troll Jennifer Rubin:
On Monday, Rubin declared that America’s “greatest national security threat is Iran.” Do conservatives really believe this?
How is America, with thousands of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, scores of warships in the Med, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, bombers and nuclear subs and land-based missiles able to strike and incinerate Iran within half an hour, threatened by Iran?
Iran has no missile that can reach us, no air force or navy that would survive the first days of war, no nuclear weapons, no bomb-grade uranium from which to build one. All of her nuclear facilities are under constant United Nations surveillance and inspection.
And if this Iran is the “greatest national security threat” faced by the world’s last superpower, why do Iran’s nearest neighbors — Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan — seem so unafraid of her?
Citing The Associated Press and Times of Israel, Rubin warns us that “Iran has picked 16 new locations for nuclear plants.”
How many nuclear plants does Iran have now? One, Bushehr.
Begun by the Germans under the shah, Bushehr was taken over by the Russians in 1995, but not completed for 16 years, until 2011. In their dreams, the Iranians, their economy sinking under U.S. and U.N. sanctions, are going to throw up 16 nuclear plants.
Sadly, the answer to his first rhetorical question is completely obvious. But the article just goes on like this, brutally destroying her (but not only her) entire argument from the ground up, scorching it with logic and context. Read the whole thing. It’s great.
Recall that, just last year, the president touted the “Arab Spring” – which any high school history buff could have predicted would devolve into the utter chaos it has – as “an extraordinary change taking place,” wherein, “Square by square, town by town, country by country, the [Muslim] people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.” (You know, like the Quran-given right for Muslim men to beat or kill women and homosexuals with impunity; or like the human right for both Iran and the Palestinian Authority to “wipe Israel from the face of the earth.”) Whether due to naiveté, foolishness or pure dishonesty, President Obama’s bungling of the Middle East crisis – let alone his unprecedented attacks on our constitutional freedoms stateside – has disqualified him to lead the free world. And so, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped forward to answer the call. He has become de facto leader of the free world – chief defender of Western civilization. [emphasis mine] As America’s light fades under the Obama regime, Israel has become – for now at least – “the shining city on the hill.” With a nuclear Iran perhaps only months away, Western civilization needs defending now more than ever. Israel needs defending now more than ever. Consider these words from top Hamas cleric Muhsen Abu ‘Ita: “Annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine.”I realize this is Bircher claptrap to the extreme, but sometimes you just have to take a step back. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Iran is indeed close (only months away!) from acquiring a nuclear bomb that can be delivered by a missile. Which is not at all the interpretation supported by the facts we know, but okay. Apparently pledging to use force only in the event that Iran acquires one single nuclear weapon not only makes Obama weak, incompetent, practically Carter-like, but also apparently an enemy of freedom itself? Only by being willing to use force well ahead of the development of such a device counts as strong, patriotic, and freedom-loving? I guess, by this logic, George W. Bush not only revoked his leadership in the fight for freedom when North Korea developed nuclear weapons, but he very nearly destroyed the whole free world, leaving such freedom-loving patriots like China President Hu Jintao to assume the heavy burden of leading the free world. Right? Also, while I’m hardly going to waste my time thoroughly fisking this thing, it’s worth noting that the Qu’ran does not, actually, give men the right to beat women. Muhammad did, in fact, believe in gender equality to a striking degree for someone who lived 1300 years ago. Clearly his own view isn’t carrying the day among many of the supporters of the faith he founded, but neither have Jesus’s invocations to live in peace with your neighbors and to help the poor. Not entirely fair to hold those guys responsible for what people make of their message over a millennium later, now, is it? As with many things, the problem with domestic violence in the Middle East isn’t a “values” problem, it’s a poverty problem. Being poor with little work, less opportunity and no way to change it typically leads to free-floating anger and violence of many kinds, including violent crime and domestic violence. This is such an obvious point it shouldn’t be necessary to cite something, but here’s something anyway. In general, generalizing the behavior of poor people as some broader indication of local attitudes is silly–humans are humans and the pathologies are the same everywhere. The caricature of a liberal would say not to judge people under those circumstances, which is incidentally always good advice. But unless you’ve seen just how crushing poverty can be to people–and my experiences are admittedly limited to only a couple of weeks in my own lifetime–it’s rather icky for well-heeled pundits to talk about other people as if they have a clue who they’re talking about. Poor people are just as much an abstraction to Barber as Muslims are.
- Some might pillory Jessica Simpson for her homage ripoff of Demi Moore’s naked pregnant portrait, but I disagree. In fact, I detect a strange kind of integrity to it. Ms. Simpson scored her greatest successes by, well, let’s just say reinterpreting worn-out, overplayed radio hits from decades earlier. If you factor that in, it makes perfect sense that she’d rip off an overdone idea from the early ’90s for a picture. And given her general lack of success since 2005-ish, it would also make sense that she doesn’t know how to give people what they want, since I can’t imagine who is clamoring for this.
- Dear Netflix: what the hell is the matter with you? Seriously. Making a bet on known schmuck Brannon Braga is not going to go well. Also, maybe you should actually try to accomplish just a single one of your goals (like expanding your streaming selection!) before moving on, ADHD-like, to some other flight of fancy that will be abandoned in a few months.
- I really, really, really hate this point by David Axelrod. I can’t say really enough times. Really. Really. It’s wrong on so many levels. For one, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not an autocrat, he’s a figurehead for the Mullahs who occasionally deludes himself into thinking he is an independent actor. He’s not, and a former adviser to the president should know this. For another, it’s a fatuous comparison, as Romney has done nothing but froth at Iran in particularly scary ways this whole cycle. The problem isn’t that Romney lacks the balls to stand up to A-jad, it’s that thanks to his campaign he lacks the political space to do anything else. And, finally, the notion that “standing up to Ahmadinejad” is a necessity in office sounds a lot more like John McCain circa 2008 than the candidate that I voted for, who argued with absolute correctness that negotiations were the right way to go, who refused to sign Joe Lieberman’s Iran Amendment in 2007, and who at least seems reluctant to strike first. That Democrats have so deeply internalized the rhetoric of the hawkish right on this–and that close advisers of the president now sound indistinguishable from the war-hungry alternatives that were seemingly banished in 2008–is depressing beyond measure, and leaves me feeling more than a little betrayed. I’ll readily admit that a lot of people projected their own stuff onto Team Obama in 2008 and their disappointment was their own fault. I don’t think this is that.
- I think I want to learn how to play the guitar just to play this song:
You’ve probably heard the news that the Administration is negotiating with the Taliban to end the Afghan War. On the whole, I think this is a very good thing. Yeah, they’re scumbags. We all know that. But thanks to a number of reasons (read: seven years of ineptitude from the Bush Administration), they’re there and they’re not going away, and we can’t defeat them without a WWII-level deployment (and probably not even then). I truly wish Bush had been happy with his one war and had focused like a laser on wiping out the Taliban back when he could, but he didn’t and here we are. And given these parameters, the best case scenario is some kind of negotiated compromise to end the fighting. The media doesn’t seem to know what the big issues are–apparently the Administration has insisted on a few preconditions related to human rights and accepting the Afghan Constitution–and so it’s too early to tell if the ultimate agreement will be any good (or if it’s likely). Still, the prospect of ending the war quickly is tempting, and I could see it being a sleeper issue against Mitt Romney, who has argued many times that we should basically stay in Afghanistan forever. Talk about a good possible contrast for November…
This, though, is another interesting step:
Iran has said it has agreed to talks with six world powers on its controversial nuclear programme, days after the UN confirmed Tehran was producing 20% enriched uranium.
Visiting Turkey, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said he had accepted Ankara’s offer to try to restart the talks.
Negotiations have stalled since a meeting in Istanbul a year ago.
I’m absolutely certain that this will bring up another round of Republican hawks spreading alarmism, accompanied by the public roundly ignoring them and favoring negotiations 2-to-1 in the polls. Still, it’s an interesting situation, and it’s possible that Iran might actually want a deal. Now that they can produce 20% enriched uranium, they have some amount of leverage to get a deal to their liking. And they have some things they definitely want, like lifting of the embargo. Of course, if the hawks are correct and Iran really cares for nothing more than wiping out Israel, they wouldn’t trade anything for their ability to have nuclear weapons, though if that were the case why waste time on discussions? I guess we’ll find out if Iran hawks know what they’re talking about (who wants odds?). In any event, after the recent threats against the Strait of Hormuz, it’s a much better sign, and since both sides have things that they really want and have leverage over the other, who knows?
It’s too early to tell if any of this will go anywhere, but it’s something to hope for. And it’s worth remembering that nothing would come of either in a Romney Administration. I can only hope his obnoxious hawkishness wears poorly with the electorate, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it diminishes once the primary contests are over. I hope Obama makes the most of these chances, and successful diplomacy would help build on one of his strengths, and whatever risk needs to be taken is worth it.
Love him or hate him, Ron Paul is one feisty SOB. I am going to need to buy some Costco-sized popcorn if the next several months are going to be filled with such delicious intra-GOP snipe-fighting.
Rep. Ron Paul said Wednesday that rival Newt Gingrich was a “chickenhawk” for voting to send American troops into war while never having served in the military himself.
Paul was responding to a question from CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on the program “Starting Point” about Gingrich’s assertion that the Texas congressman would be a “dangerous” candidate.
“You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to serve us in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that and got deferments and didn’t even go,” Paul said. “Right now he sends the young kids over there and the young people come back and the ones in the military right now, they overwhelmingly support my campaign.”
“We get twice as much support from the active military personnel than all the other candidates put together. So Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he is putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a ‘chickenhawk’ and I think he falls into that category.”
In his second inaugural address in January 2005, President Bush declared that America would no longer “tolerate oppression for the sake of stability.” Mubarak responded nine days later by charging the country’s leading opposition figure, Ayman Nour, with forgery. But, at least initially, the Bush administration did not blink. On June 30, Condoleezza Rice traveled to the American University in Cairo and delivered a speech outlining Bush’s freedom agenda. “The Egyptian Government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people—and to the entire world—by giving its citizens the freedom to choose,” she said. “Egypt’s elections, including the parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.” A few months later, in September, Mubarak waltzed to victory over Nour in a sham presidential election. [...] The first round of the elections was relatively free, but in the second and third rounds, the national police ambushed ballot stations and used tear gas on crowds of voters. Some supporters of opposition candidates took to climbing on ladders to the second floor of polling stations because the police had blocked the entrance on the first floor. In the face of this repression, the response from Washington was muted. The State Department spokesman at the time, Sean McCormack, said he had “seen the reports” of voter intimidation, but did not condemn the regime directly.It’s difficult to get around this fact: “Like Obama now, Bush was relying on despots across the Middle East to fight a war on terror. How could Bush simultaneously ask for favors from these leaders in the fight against Al Qaeda while also undermining them with his freedom agenda?” Indeed. I feel like Obama doesn’t get enough credit for the way his administration (and particularly Secretary Clinton) have dealt with foreign policy crises, even though he routinely gets high marks from the voters in that area. The irony of Obama’s political situation is that it’s indistinguishable from what you’d expect from a Republican president’s during a time of economic downturn: he’s highly rated on foreign policy and lags on domestic policy. So it might seem a little silly to say that his administration’s foreign policy handling is underrated, since it is already highly rated. But I think it is nevertheless underrated. Foreign policy is, in my opinion, easily the most complicated part of a president’s job description. It’s also the one least amenable to simple black-white distinctions. More often than not, those distinctions hurt more than help, as the nuances and details are critically important (which is not to say that morality doesn’t enter into it!). If you want to know why such absolutely insane notions of foreign policy have proliferated on the right in the last decade or two, it helps to realize that it’s a function of the limitations of total black/white, right/wrong thinking. What happens when you try to have theory strong enough on foreign affairs that it covers all the major facts on the ground, but also provides didactic, right/wrong appraisals for every single idea in foreign policy? You get John Bolton, of course! Never mind that he’s completely insane, that’s what you have to do to square the peg, as it were. It’s amazing that the party that produced Richard Nixon has lost the ability to understand any of this, because I consider Nixon’s successful overtures to China a brilliant example of rejecting the analysis that because a country is bad, so therefore we should never deal with that country ever. If not dealing with a country could bring about a greater degree of justice, it would make sense to explore it, but frequently it doesn’t. So where do you go next? Obama, of course, does not think like this. He is, like myself, an avid student of Reinhold Niebuhr, whose Irony Of American History is still the definitive text for anyone who tries to apply conscience to the real-world grubbiness of foreign affairs. From that, you get some pretty good insights: preemptive war is a terrible idea because one never knows what will happen and alternatives can be found, intervening in a foreign conflict might well make it worse despite any intentions, and once war is begun it takes a course of its own and is impossible to predict or control. He also talks about how a country that the act of exercising national power invariably diminishes it, since you have less power to do other things. Perhaps the most important principle he gets across is that nations just aren’t like people. It’s considered morally abhorrent to, say, walk by somebody being beaten up or raped and not at least call the cops. Similar analogies are often invoked by hawks, to varying levels of effectiveness, in justifying foreign invasions. But the analogy falls flat because, if you were to try to intervene in crime in that way, you are consciously putting your existence on the line for someone else, possibly sacrificing yourself for them. In international politics, nations will never do this. They’ll never let themselves be destroyed just to save another country. America didn’t in World War II, we waited until we were attacked ourselves to get involved. Good or bad, it is what it is. If self-sacrifice is an unacceptable option in foreign affairs, clearly the ethics and morality of this arena will play out differently than it would in individual affairs. An individual has the right to put his or her life on the line to protect others, but putting others’ lives on the line is a very different question, and analogizing the two often leads to tragedy. As for comparing and constrasting the two, I think Obama would like the world to be free every bit as much as Bush did. But it’s not a matter of just having the same goals–the very assumptions one makes about the world are important here. The Bush Administration was such a failure because it really did believe it could impose a liberal democratic order from on high. It always acted as though there were a morally acceptable (to them) way out of any crisis or problem, and frequently found itself faced with humiliating failures when those choices didn’t pan out (like the PA elections that put Hamas in charge). Its dealings with figures like Mubarak couldn’t help but look impotent next to its grand statements enjoining against the dread “rewarding bad behavior” toward dictators, which Lake notes. Throw in some off-base neocon assumptions about The Soul Of Humanity and freedom, and you have a recipe for a series of complete disasters. Obama, on the other hand, has acted prudently in the cases of unrest in Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt. Wrenching as it might be for some to accept that less is more when it comes to these scenarios–does anyone seriously doubt McCain would have cheered on all of these uprisings like the neocons wanted, and might even have sent in troops to “stabilize” the situation?–Obama, Clinton, and their team have made as few moves as possible in all of these situations, all of which have been calculated to avoid compromising the organic nature of the uprisings–deploring the violence, refusing to defend the dictators, and so on. If one considers Middle Eastern dictatorship an inherently unstable situation, and if one sees humankind as particularly valuing stability, and if democracy is the most stable of all possible governments, it is only a matter of time before things get there. Letting them happen organically, even if they don’t always take hold, will make the movements more powerful. (Iran will likely require a few more pushes before turning over.) I like that Obama has said stuff like this before, but I like it more that his team acts like it’s true. Put another way, the way Obama’s Administration is playing out, it’s looking a lot like how Dwight Eisenhower’s time in office went. Eisenhower was criticized for not backing the Hungarian Revolution with military force, and for years his reputation was quite poor on account of “not doing anything” while in office. Of course, his “not doing anything” kept us out of war with China, Vietnam (for a time) and the Soviet Union. Of all modern presidents, Eisenhower’s term most reflected a Niebuhrian sense of humility with power, of the cost of war. Obama seems to understand these things too, and I couldn’t imagine better company for our current president.
According to the model, Iran, Sri Lanka, Russia, Georgia and Israel are the five countries most likely to face “political violence” between 2011 and 2014. Russia was the target of a major terrorist attack on Monday. Other countries on the top 25 list include some surprising predictions — the Czech Republic (#10), Italy (#12), Jordan (#17) and Ireland (#21) alongside Colombia (#13) and Tunisia (#25), which has seen major protests against the government in the last few days that included occasional violence. Egypt, however, only ranked 36.
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