The Bookworm Beat 11-29-15 — the “tidy office-tidy mind” edition

Woman-writing-300x265Inspired by Marie Kondo’s advice that true organization begins with throwing out everything that is neither useful nor sentimental, I am continuing to plow through every nook and cranny in my house. This is the first organization system that’s made sense to me, which is why I haven’t already given up and relapsed into my usual vaguely tidy-looking mess. My mind is also a vaguely tidy-looking mess, but  it’s still yielded these interesting links:

Ignore people who tell you Cruz is divisive and uncooperative

According to those rooting for candidates other than Ted Cruz, he’s an arrogant blowhard who won’t play well with others.  In fact, Cruz’s work history proves that the opposite is true:

At the FTC, Cruz’s agenda could have been written by Milton Friedman.

Cruz promoted economic liberty and fought government efforts to rig the marketplace in favor of special interests. Most notably, Cruz launched an initiative to study the government’s role in conspiring with established businesses to suppress e-commerce. This initiative ultimately led the U.S. Supreme Court to open up an entire industry to small e-tailers. Based on his early support of disruptive online companies, Cruz has some grounds to call himself the “Uber of American politics.”

Moreover, and perhaps surprising to some, Cruz sought and secured a broad, bipartisan consensus for his agenda. Almost all of Cruz’s initiatives received unanimous support among both Republicans and Democrats.

Ted Cruz a consensus-builder? He was, at the FTC.

Read the rest here.  Cruz has the chops to make the best kind of President:  True conservative values, love for America, phenomenal intelligence, and the ability to work and play well with others.

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Stuck on Stupid: Progressive Facebook edition (Part 2)

facebook-thumbs-downIt’s not a very deep dive to plumb the depths of Leftist intellectual positions on most issues, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise to expose the fallacies that they use to try to dominate the debate on pressing issues — with the most pressing issue being whether to admit Syrian refugees.  The easiest place for me to find examples of Leftist thought is my Facebook feed. Because I’ve spent my life in Blue enclaves, almost all of my friends — and they are really nice people in day-to-day interactions — are Progressives.  It gives me pleasure to deconstruct some of their more foolish or vicious posters:

I have to admit that these first two posters are my favorite “stupid Progressive Facebook” posts.  Because Thanksgiving is coming up, both chide anti-refugee conservatives for forgetting that the first Thanksgiving came about because the indigenous people in North America extended a welcoming hand to European immigrants.

Whenever I’ve seen one of these posters pop up on my Facebook feed, I’ve left a polite comment to the effect that we all learned in public school (thanks to Howard Zinn and others) that the Europeans, once having gotten a foothold in North America, promptly turned around and murdered as many Native Americans as possible. If they couldn’t murder them, they dispossessed them of their land and otherwise marginalized them.  There’s certainly a lesson to be learned here but the lesson isn’t to welcome refugees, it’s to cry out “For God’s sake, don’t let them in!”

Indians refusing pilgrims

Pilgrims should be supportive of immigration

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The Wall Street Journal’s hatchet job on Ted Cruz

Ted CruzI’ve made no secret of the fact that I support Ted Cruz. I realize he’s not perfect, but no candidate is. What matters to me is that his political values most closely align with mine, that he’s not scared of a fight (and, especially, he’s not scared of the media), and that he is truly smarter than just about everyone else out there. I learned yesterday, though, that Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal most definitely does not like Cruz. She wrote a savage hit piece on him essentially blaming him for ISIS’s ability to spread throughout the United States. (That spread, of course, has nothing to do with Obama’s open borders policy and the contempt he shows for every person and idea that suggests that Islam might have a problem.)

But before honing in on her perception about Cruz’s alleged security failures, Strassel first lambastes him as a rank opportunist who cares only about self-aggrandizement and refuses to take care of the GOP’s needs:

The senator’s supporters adore him because they see him in those moments when he has positioned himself as the hero. To them he is the stalwart forcing a government shutdown over ObamaCare. He’s the brave soul calling to filibuster in defense of gun rights. He’s the one keeping the Senate in lame-duck session to protest Mr. Obama’s unlawful immigration orders.

Mr. Cruz’s detractors see a man who engineers moments to aggrandize himself at the expense of fellow conservatives. And they see the consequences. They wonder what, exactly, Mr. Cruz has accomplished.

ObamaCare is still on the books. It took the GOP a year to recover its approval ratings after the shutdown, which helped deny Senate seats to Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Mr. Obama’s immigration orders are still on the books. The courts gained a dozen liberal judges, all with lifetime tenure, because the lame-duck maneuver gave Democrats time to cram confirmation votes through. Mr. Cruz’s opportunism tends to benefit one cause: Mr. Cruz.

So it’s Cruz’s fault we have Obamacare and it’s his fault because . . . he took a principled stand against it?  (I admired that stand when he took it and I still do.) The fact is that Cruz is one of the few Republicans in Congress who actually stood by the party planks and actual promises he and other alleged conservatives made to voters since 2008. He is the only one in Congress on the right who shows the slightest bit of spine. So when Strassel writes, “but Obamacare is still on the books,” the real question shouldn’t be “How do we blame Ted Cruz?”  Instead, the real question should be “How did this happen when Republicans control Congress and the purse strings?”

Strassel’s claim that, following Cruz’s principled stand, it took Republicans “a year to recover,” is patently ridiculous. Republicans have enjoyed greater electoral success in the past six years than the party ever has — and she is going to blame defeats in Virginia and Massachusetts on Cruz. That is infuriating.

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The Bookworm Beat 11-18-15 — “the mother of all round-ups” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265I have been collecting links for days and will try to share them all with you. Here goes:

Only conservatives are paying attention

In an attempt to deflect attention of Muslim depredations in Paris, the Left and its foot soldiers (all of whom seem to be my Facebook friends) immediately attacked Americans and other Westerners for failing to pay attention to a bombing the day before in Lebanon (an ISIS v. Hezbollah bombing, so it was Horrible People v. Horrible People). I eventually got tired of commenting on their posts to the effect that I have been paying attention to all of these attacks, primarily because they are all different manifestations of a single radical Islamic entity, and I’ve been trying to get everyone to pay as much attention as I do.

Emma Kelly says what I was too polite to say explicitly to these Leftists: The reason you didn’t know about these other attacks isn’t because the newspapers didn’t report them, it’s because you weren’t paying attention.

I’ll add something that Kelly didn’t, though: You weren’t paying attention because American and European media outlets don’t want you to see that Islam is a problem, so they report on these incidents, but downplay them. Meanwhile you get loud noise about Ben Carson’s alleged lies, Hillary’s brilliance, Republicans’ meanness, Donald Trump’s hair, and Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy.

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A few comments about the President’s speech regarding the Islamic State

The media ditches the halo illusion for Obama and goes for the horns

The media ditches the halo illusion for Obama and goes for the horns

Before I even get to Obama’s speech, a word about nomenclature. Most Americans refer to an organization called “ISIS” (“Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”). Obama refers to an organization called “ISIL” (“Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”). The latter encompasses more territory, so Obama is actually being more accurate about the group’s geographic aspirations. I, however, will in future refer to the group as the “Islamic State” which, as Obama himself acknowledges, is the group’s own preferred label.  To the extent Obama made a weak declaration of half-hearted war, it seems to me that it’s much easier to wage war against a self-declared state than against a disparate bunch individuals diffused throughout myriad civilian population.

And now to the speech, which I’ll simply annotate:

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

[As I said above, to the extent the Islamic State describes itself as a nation in control of defined territories, let’s do the same. It makes for a better target.]

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

[I understand Obama’s need to preface his speech with puffery and boasting. He’s got to establish his bona fides. However, I don’t see the American people finding any of this reassuring. They’ve never perceived either Somalia or Yemen as direct threats to America, and they understand that knocking out a person or two in those places over the course of a few years has been ineffective in stemming the continued growth of Islamic terrorism. After all, if Obama’s pinprick tactics worked, Islamic radicalism wouldn’t be resurgent all over the world. Indeed, one could say that, rather than wiping out Islamic radicalism, Obama’s tactics merely maddened it, in much the same way that a picador’s non-deadly spear-work serves to madden a bull for the fight.]

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

[All true truisms.]

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

[Wow! Where in the Constitution did Obama get the power to define what does and does not constitute a religion, or to tell a faith’s most fervent practitioners that they’re doing it wrong? You all have commented here, as have others around the blogosphere, that these so-called “radicals” are actually practicing Islam as written, as Mohamed practiced it, and as self-identified Muslims practiced it for hundreds of years. The religion is all about “the killing of innocents”:

The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.

Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text. They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Quran.

Go to this link to find all the instructions to violence against the innocent — instructions that Imam Obama claims do not exist.

Muslims took a hiatus from practicing Islam as written only when they were finally stopped at the Gates of Vienna by a Europe grown increasingly wealthy, stable, and Enlightened. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as the West has destroyed its own wealth, damaged it’s stability, traded gold for Arab oil, and retreated from a world-view that acknowledged both the exceptionalism of Judeo-Christian culture and the benefits of Americanism, that hiatus has ended.

What Obama should have done was to have simply identified the Islamic State as a self-declared enemy of America, of Christians, of Israel, and of peace and stability in the world — all of which are true statements — and gone on from there. He weakened everything else he said by trying to be President Imam offering an exposition about the nature of true Islam.]

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

[Correct. I would have preferred, though, a little more outrage about the fact that two Americans were slaughtered in the most brutal way possible to send a message to our country. When Obama included Foley and Sotloff in his speech, he didn’t make it sound like the culmination to a series of outrages. The way he slipped them in there, they sound like an “oh, and don’t let me forget” afterthought.]

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners -– including Europeans and some Americans –- have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

[Correct and it needed to be said, so I’m glad Obama said it. Now let’s see what Obama plans to do about it.]

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we’ve conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have also helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

[Once again, Obama’s not going to war. Once again, he’s just a picador. So far, what he’s done has been neat, clinical, and somewhat helpful, but it’s long-term efficacy is dubious. Also, does the last sentence — about lives saved — remind you of anything? It reminds me of the administration’s utterly unprovable claim that the stimulus “saved or created” thousands of jobs. In fact, we’ve lost jobs and lost workers on Obama’s watch, the stimulus notwithstanding.  More of this picador stuff, and those lives “saved” may be lost in the long-term regardless.]

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. And that’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

[Mr. President, are you listening to yourself?  First you destabilize Iraq and then you insist on a stable Iraq before you’ll extend any help to fight a enemy that (a) your administration says is like nothing we’ve seen before and (b) that poses an imminent threat to our own well-being thanks in significant part to your decision to destroy the American border. Yeah, that’s going to go well.]

Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.

[Why did he have to say “degrade” first? Doesn’t someone issuing a battle cry just say “destroy”? Why do I think this war will end with a few high profile bombings, an announcement that the degradation is complete, and yet another wave bye-bye to Iraq?]

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

[I have a notoriously bad memory, but doesn’t this sound precisely like “Shock and Awe”? That ended with the troops hanging a “Mission Accomplished” banner on a ship for George Bush’s visit, creating an image that haunts him to this day. What ultimately subdued the enemy in Iraq was old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground fighting. It seems to me that we’re just going down a path we know in advance will fail. (Which may explain why the military offered different advice which Obama, the politician, ignored.]

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.

[See above comment, including the link to Obama ignoring the military’s advice.]

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

[As others have commented, this is the same Syrian opposition that Obama’s ignored for three years. Not to mention the fact that it’s entirely possible that Obama was using Libya to arm the opposition to the opposition — and the ones he may have armed went on to form the Islamic State. It’s all very confusing, and I’m not sure Obama is the chess master he thinks he is, one who’s capable of handling this game. Having said this, when it comes to Syria, I’m not sure there’s much else Obama can do.]

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

[All good . . . except for that bit about the UN. If Obama thinks the UN will help, maybe there’s still time for me to sell him a nice bridge too.]

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

[I like the sentiment, but I doubt Obama will have any success preserving these Christian and religious minority lives and homelands unless Obama has a nice big stick he’s carrying to back up his promises. So far, I see him pursuing a strategy that failed once before, making demands upon a country he abandoned once before, insisting on aid from Muslim states that have concluded he’s a weak horse, and looking to the weakest reed of all for help — the UN.]

So this is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity. And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

[Wouldn’t you feel better if Obama could name a single partner in this broad coalition? Turkey’s already said no, as has our once-upon-a-time partner, England. As for the Muslim states, they like strong horses and leaders they can trust. Obama fails on both counts. Why in the world should they help him, then, against a fellow Muslim force, no matter how malignant it might be? The above paragraph sounds like a wish-list, not a plan.]

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

[He has bipartisan support? Really?  Again, this is a wish-list, not plan. It’s clear that Americans, including American politicians, are concerned about the Islamic State, but it’s unclear to me that there’s strong support for any single approach. Conservatives, having learned the Iraq lesson, know that pinpoint strikes won’t work. Libertarians are divided between isolationism and Rand Paul’s sudden hawkishness. Democrats have a peace party going on, as usual (I saw some of them already protesting at the old-age home in Mill Valley). The only thing that Congress seems to agree about is the fact that, if this is war, Congress should have a say in it, rather than Obama going it alone, again.]

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

[See all my points above. This is Obama’s delicate way of saying “shock and awe” combined with a little of this and a little of this . . . none of which will inspire any shock and awe in a crazed religio-military force that likes to drink its victims’ blood for breakfast.]

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks, through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back, America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

[Blah, blah.]

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched. Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day –- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

[Blah, blah, blah.]

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America –- our scientists, our doctors, our know-how –- that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

[The first sentence was true in January 2009. It is no longer true. No one trusts Obama. Everything else is blah, blah.]

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.

[Wow! That sounds like American exceptionalism talk. Except we know that Obama doesn’t think America’s any more exceptional than any other nation. Let’s say I’m not buying this new, full-throated patriotism. Combined with his defense of Islam, his plan to repeat George Bush’s mistake, and his failure/inability to name any coalition partners, let’s say that I’m not convinced he’s really feeling it.]

Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform –- pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and servicemembers who support our partners on the ground.

[Is it just me, or does he sound as awkward as a rapper trying to make a formal speech to the DAR?  The rest is blah, blah.]

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for –- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

This year’s Nakba commemoration coincides with slightly changing attitudes towards Israel in the Middle East

Israeli flagToday is Nakba Day, the day Muslims the world over violently commemorate the “disaster” that was Israel’s creation. (JoshuaPundit explains what nakba is really about and why it is such a loathsome commemoration.)

But here’s something interesting: Even as anti-Israel sentiment burns ever brighter on America’s college campuses, most recently at UCLA, there’s a different narrative shaping up in the Middle East. I have three (admittedly small) pieces of evidence to support my contention that some Arabs are very cautiously changing their attitude towards Israel. It gives me hope that, if Israel can survive the Obama administration, she may be entering a second golden age, this one without a uniformly genocidal Muslim world taking aim at her existence.

The first interesting thing is an opinion piece in the Arab News (a Saudi publication, I believe), telling Arabs it’s time (1) to learn the real truth about the 1948 war, (2) to get over the Nakba, and (3) to start accepting Israel’s existence within their midst. My first thought was that the author, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, is an incredibly brave man. I still think that’s true, but I had a companion second thought that’s a bit more Machiavellian. Could it be that Saudi Arabia is laying the groundwork for some sort of formal recognition of Israel as a counterweight to a nuclear Iran?

The second interesting thing is that a Syrian rebel contends that the rebels should ally themselves with Israel, which is their only stable, true friend in the region. I commented on this piece before, noting that it’s nothing more than a reasonable extension of the old Arab doctrine that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In other words, it reflects precisely what I think might be going on with Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it represents a new age in Arab-Israeli relationships because, before this explicitly expressed desire for a partnership with Israel, Egypt, way back in 1977, was the only Arab nation ever to contemplate that there could be a benefit, even a short-term one, to working with Israel.

And the third interesting thing is a report from the Gatestone Institute saying that more and more Arabs in surrounding nations are envious of Israel’s criminal system, one that is willing even to prosecute politicians. Looking at Israel and then looking at their own countries, they realize that their countries suffer badly from the comparison.

As I said, these are all little bits of data, but I certainly hope that the shifting allegiances in the Middle East — all related to Iran, whether her nuclear ambitions or her proxy war in Syria — will work to Israel’s benefit.

Andrew Sullivan’s marvelously misguided theory about how Obama played Putin when it came to Syria

If you’re a true believer, it’s very hard to admit that your idol has feet of clay. For some, it may be impossible. Andrew Sullivan currently falls into the latter category. He has written an almost pathetic post assuring his followers that Obama cleverly baited a trap for Putin and Putin, that preening fool, fell into it.

According to Sullivan, everything we think we know about Obama’s apparently feckless Syria policy is wrong. Sullivan is willing to concede that Obama was careless when, a year ago, he mentioned a “red line” about Syria. Once Obama had done that, however, Sullivan assures us that Obama instantly knew that he had the perfect bait with which to hook his fish.

In Sullivan’s world, Obama wasn’t flailing when he said that he intended, on his own executive initiative, to bomb Syria. He wasn’t being a rank amateur when he announced the intended date, time, and location of his “muscular,” yet delicate, attack.

Obama wasn’t backtracking when he abruptly announced that, despite the urgent need to bomb Syria, he would wait until Congress convened, deliberated, and voted on an attack. Obama also wasn’t prevaricating (some might say “lying”) when he explained that he hadn’t drawn a red line; the world had drawn a red line, and he was simply helping the world enforce it.

Likewise, Obama wasn’t guilty of rank hiring malpractice when he put before the world a Secretary of State who announced that any US attack against Syria would be so infinitesimally small that a toddler could withstand its impact. That same potential malpractice was inapplicable when that same Secretary of State remarked, to the administration’s explicitly expressed surprise, that Bashar al Assad could make everything good by turning over his weapons which, said Secretary of State hastened to add, could never actually be done.

And of course, no one in the administration was made to look like a fool when Russian President Vladimir Putin instantly announced that he had brokered an agreement with Assad by which Assad agreed that he’d be pleased to turn over all his nasty weapons, at a date, time, and location of his and Putin’s determining. In the same vein, Obama didn’t look like a fool when he went before the American people on Tuesday night and said that war was the only answer, except that he’d be happy to wait on Putin’s proposed peace plan.

Finally, says Sullivan, there was no humiliating slap in Obama’s face when Putin hired a PR firm that wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which Putin threw all of Obama’s words back into his face, including Obama’s 2009 statement that there was nothing exceptional about America.

Instead, according to Sullivan, everything went according to Obama’s carefully laid scheme. America hasn’t bowed out of being the top power broker in the Middle East, and Putin hasn’t leveraged his Third World nuclear power into being the Big Dog in a region that responds well to loud barks. Obama won! We’re just too stupid to recognize victory when it’s clothed in such subtle garb.

Here’s what Sullivan says really happened: Obama engaged in a strategic game that would have made Machiavelli proud. He’d cleverly figured out that Syria is unsalvageable, so he’s now foisted responsibility for it onto Putin. You heard me. That’s what Sullivan says:

If the end-result is that Putin effectively gains responsibility and control over the civil war in Syria, then we should be willing to praise him to the skies. Praise him, just as the far right praises him, for his mastery of power politics – compared with that ninny weakling Obama. Encourage him to think this is a personal and national triumph even more than he does today. Don’t just allow him to seize the limelight – keep that light focused directly on him. If that also requires dumping all over the American president, calling him weak and useless and incapable of matching the chess master from Russia, so be it. Obama can take it. He’s gotten used to being a pinata.

All this apparent national humiliation is worth it. The price Russia will pay for this triumph is ownership of the problem. At some point, it may dawn on him that he hasn’t played Obama. Obama has played him.

It’s now all so clear. The Great and Powerful Obama willingly put his credibility and America’s stature on the line in order to lure Putin closer and closer to the Middle Eastern tar baby. Obama understood that it was never in America’s interest to go in. Being wise beyond all mortal recognition, however, he also understood that America, because she’s got the best military in the world, was always expected to go in. The only way Obama could avoid that horrible fate (a fate, incidentally, that the vast majority of American people think is a lousy idea), was to appear like a bumbling, incompetent idiot, thereby inveigling Putin to step in. Well played, Obama! Well played!

Sullivan’s theory about Obama’s wonderfulness is really quite perfect, until one realizes that he’s wrong about a central fact: Putin’s and America’s goals are different. Unlike Obama, with his anti-American “responsibility 2 protect” doctrine (America can only step into another nation’s war if it’s not in America’s interest to do so), and unlike the American people, who have soft hearts, and hate to see innocents massacred, Putin doesn’t care at all if Syrians engage in a slaughter that leads every man, woman, and child to the grave.

What Putin cares about is (a) humiliating Obama, which he did magnificently; (b) humiliating America, which I’m sorry to say he also did magnificently; (c) becoming a player in the Middle East for the first time since the Cold War, another magnificent accomplishment; and (d) finally, having access to Syria’s chemical weapons, while keeping Russia’s arms market afloat by selling to Syria and Iran.

Put another way, Obama was no Machiavelli. He was one of those dumb dogs playing poker with a master strategist and tactician. As for Sullivan, he’s got his head so far up . . . well, you know, that he’s blinded by the light shining through Obama’s tonsils every time the President opens his mouth to spout another lie or prevarication.

Vladimir Putin bitch slaps Obama in the pages of the New York Times

Some people are gracious winners. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not one of those people. After humiliating President Obama before the world when he pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire regarding Syria (a move, incidentally, that turned a leader of a third-world nuclear nation into a Middle Eastern power broker), Putin took to the pages of the New York Times to rub Obama’s face in his embarrassing failures.

In stilted, but still effective language, Putin chastised Obama for his bullying and his ignorance, and even managed to throw Obama’s own words back in his face.

First, Putin gave the United Nations’ loving Obama a little history lesson:

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter.


Next came a veiled threat about the imminent collapse of world stability should Obama continue to ignore the United Nations (something, incidentally, that George Bush never did):

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. [Paving the way, Putin implies, for World War II.]

Putin takes Obama’s “humanitarian plea” (e.g., we’ve got to do it to save the children of Syria) and turns it upside down, by reminding him that escalating a war ends up with more deaths rather than less:

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.

(Incidentally, while Putin is correct, sometimes a nation, fighting in its own defense, needs to inflict punishing damage against its enemy in order to save itself. Here, of course, Obama only half-heartedly and belatedly made the argument that America has a dog in the Syrian fight.)

After giving a rundown on the Syrian war, Putin puts himself and Russia on the moral high ground, without bothering to mention that he’s pouring money into Russia’s empty coffers by selling weapons to Assad’s government:

Obama and Putin 3

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.

Having established to his own satisfaction Russia’s subordination to the rule of law, Putin goes in for the kill, castigating Obama’s American policies in the harshest terms. There can be no mistake but that Putin is saying that Obama is simply a repeat of George Bush, the man against whom Obama is still running, five years after the 2008 election:

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

Obama and Putin 4

I think the expression that applies here is “bitch slap.” President Putin just bitch slapped the president of the United States of America.

Putin wraps up his peroration about both international law and order and about Obama’s failure to meet those norms by throwing Obama’s own insulting language about American exceptionalism right back in Obama’s face.

Back in 2009, while speaking at a NATO summit, Barack Obama completely trashed the notion of American exceptionalism:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

In his schizophrenic speech on Tuesday night, which was part war mongering and part pathetic gratitude to Russia, Obama sang a different tune:

America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Obama and Putin 2Putin sneers at Obama’s reference to American exceptionalism, and does so in words that must deliberately echo Obama’s earlier snide and dismissive take on America’s unique devotion to the cause of freedom:

I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

And that’s a KO in the final round, folks. Putin’s practical and rhetorical victory over Obama is complete. For an pathologically egotistical American president who has long believed that he has only to speak magic words to make things happen, to have Russia’s leader (and, increasingly, its dictator) run rings around him on the ground and in the war of words must come as a horrifying shock.

That the White House doesn’t know how to deal with this reality is reflected in its tepid official response to the opinion piece: “That’s all irrelevant.” Right, because it never matters when the American President demeans himself and the nation before an opponent delighted to glory in his victory.

(This piece originally appeared in slightly different form at Mr. Conservative.)

A few articles that I’d like to recommend about Obama and Syria — and why I’m no hypocrite when it comes to supporting Iraq and not Syria

Peggy Noonan, who can be very good, talks about how Obama got us into this mess and the contortions in which he engage to save face.

Peter Wehner talks about just how bad this mess really is, even with Putin having given Obama an out.

A Politico article about the debacle in Washington and the apathy on American streets.

Jonah Goldberg brings his wry wit to the great communicator’s disastrous communication about Syria.

All I can think of is Hitler playing Neville Chamberlain.  After that humiliating debacle, England managed to make a wonderful showing during WWII.  Since then, however, she’s been a broken country, both morally and economically.  In other words, she never recovered from Chamberlain’s naive inability to stop Hitler when it would still have made a difference.

While I’m waffling on about Syria, I’d like to excuse myself of hypocrisy when it comes to not wanting the war in Syria, while supporting the war in Iraq.

First of all, I wasn’t that interested in politics during the lead-up to the Iraq War.  I didn’t have much of a position going in.  Once we were in, though, I said what I’m saying now:  Just showing up at a war is not enough.  Instead, merely showing up without planning to win is terribly dangerous.  Once in a war, you fight to win.  If you don’t win, you’ve lost.  It’s that binary.  Kerry’s statement that any American action would be “unbelievably small” reveals what a disaster we were headed to.  There is no “unbelievably small.”  There is just win or lose.  Bush may have underestimated Iraqi resistance, but his “shock and awe” approach had the right idea — you fight to win, especially in Arab lands, where the population is always drawn to the strong horse and willing to savage the weak horse.

Second, had I been more interested in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, I guess I would have felt that the proximity to 9/11 made a difference.  From the beginning, Bush argued that Iraq was a direct threat to the United States.  Whether that argument was correct is irrelevant here.  That was the argument made, based upon the best available information about chemical weapons, Hussein’s known animosity to the United States, and his support for terrorism and terrorists.  In the case of Syria, Obama hasn’t even tried to argue that the situation in Syria puts America at risk.  Instead, he’s using the “responsibility to protect” doctrine that’s the brainchild of anti-semite Samantha Powers to say that Syria presents the only time America ever should go to war:  when it’s a purely altruistic act that sees her expending blood and money without any benefit to the United States.

Third, Iraq was a population under a dictator’s heel.  Bush bet — and correctly — that many Iraqi’s would see America as a liberator, not a conqueror.  We were the good guys, fighting on behalf of the Iraqi people against the bad guy and his administration.  In Syria, Obama is trying to drop America into one of the bloodiest civil wars in our lifetimes.  Both sides are equally barbaric, unprincipled, immoral, and steeped in hatred for America.  No good can come of sending American money and, as Obama’s mission creep illustrated, American troops into this bloodbath.

Fourth, I trusted Bush and I thought his advisers were intelligent men.  Obama is a liar on a heroic scale, so I reflexively disbelieve everything that comes out of his mouth.  Add to that the fact that he has assembled a collection of hacks, buffoons, racists, and antisemites to advise him, and that he pretty much refuses to talk to people with military expertise, and you can see that I don’t want to follow him into battle.  Nor do I want America to follow him into battle.

Please feel free to call me on this (politely, of course), or to offer further distinctions between Then and Now.

“That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into” — two good articles analyzing how Obama got us to this point

In case you hadn’t already seen them, I wanted to bring to your attention two excellent articles about Obama’s Syria implosion and the untenable position in which he’s placed America.

The first is from my friend Thomas Lifson, writing at American Thinker:  Why Obama Is Floundering.

The second is from Victor Davis Hanson, who explained that, Obama being who he is, If It Wasn’t Syria, It Would Have Been Something Else.