The Bookworm Beat 12-17-15 — the “speed writing” edition

Woman-writing-300x265Are you familiar with speed chess? I learned about it when I was at Cal. Since I worked at the Bancroft Library, I had access to an employee break room. Every day at lunch, two men would sit there, chess board in front of them, timer at their side, and make lightning swift moves, wrapping up a single game in minutes, not hours. What I’m going for here is speed blogging. I’ve got more than 20 links, and I’m going to try to share them with you in less than half an hour of writing. Here goes….

In 2006, Thomas Lifson wrote what I think is one of the best political articles ever.  In it, he explained that there are two seasons in American politics — Attention Season and Inattention Season.  The former has a remarkable way of concentrating American minds.  Right now, with the election nearing and terrorism within our borders again, Americans are starting to shift from Inattention to Attention.  I suspect this will change the polling dynamics substantially in the next few weeks.

Trump is the bad boy of this political season, by which I mean that he’s the cool guy in the leather jacket that all the girls want to date and to domesticate. Eventually, though, the girls discover that a bad boy may have a James Dean charm about him, but he’s still bad, meaning he’s bad for the girl (and he’s equally bad for the guys who want to run with his pack).  Kurt Schlichter perfectly articulates why  Donald Trump is one of those bad boys, and explains that he’s going to be a heart breaker for those conservatives who think that this lifelong Democrat is someone to hold on to during trying times.  Rubio and Cruz are probably the best choice for the nice steady boys who will come in and save the day.

If you’d like a short but deep run-down of the last Republican debate, and one with which I happen to agree, check out Seraphic Secret’s post about the debate.

Millennials are not the next greatest generation:  they want to see American troops defeat ISIS; they just don’t want to be among the troops doing the defeating.  Having said that, I’m in no position to sneer.  I am an armchair warrior at best and a coward at worst, and have always been incredibly grateful that there are men and women who are willing to do the necessary fighting that I’m scared to do.

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Tuesday afternoon round-up (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesThis is one of those days where my day totally didn’t go as planned . . . but for good reasons.  How often can one say that?  Plans or no plans, though, the news marches on and there’s so much interesting stuff I want to share with you.


When Rep. Louis Gohmert (R.) pointed out to Eric Holder that Holder seemed remarkably unfazed by the fact that Congress had held him in contempt, Holder, showing remarkable contempt for Congress, snapped ““You don’t want to go there, buddy! You don’t want to go there, okay.”

If it were me, I’d hold Holder in contempt just for that — that is, for the gross disrespect with which he spoke to a Congressman while actually appearing before Congress.  Certainly, if this had been a courtroom and Holder had  spoken that way to a judge, Holder would instantly have been cooling his heels in a jail cell.  Holder also seems to have forgotten that Holder’s an appointee (a mere employee), while Gohmert is a representative of the people.

Aside from the obvious crude, vulgar conduct, what’s noteworthy is that Holder insists that, while he’s personally pained that he was held in contempt for refusing to turn over Fast and Furious documents, he still has no intention of turning over the documents.  Holder’s arrogance tells you a lot about the state of Washington, D.C. today.  Holder knows that, because he and his boss are black, Congress will do precisely nothing to force him to abide by Congress’s demands and his constitutional obligations.


May I speak frankly? John Kerry is a brainless, cowardly, dishonest, antisemitic cancer infecting the American body politic. To the extent he’s also Secretary of State, I’d say that his particular disease is widespread in American politics and comes from the top. Just sayin’.


I already heard from a reliably Leftist friend why we shouldn’t believe data showing that health insurance premiums have skyrocketed since Obamacare went into effect: Because insurance brokers are facing competition from Obamacare, the sampling of 148 insurance brokers must be discounted on the presumption that those queried were lying when they provided insurance pricing information. The friend implied that a larger sampling would have made a difference, but that’s a sop to the stupid.  If he thinks brokers are inherently dishonest because they don’t like Obamacare, then it’s irrelevant how many one surveys.

I see things a little differently. I’m pretty damn sure that, if you force everybody to buy over-the-top insurance that exceeds what most people want, and make half of the purchasers pay for the other half, premiums are going to go up quickly and frequently.


Still on the healthcare front, this is exciting news: four men with severely damaged spinal cords are able to move their legs again thanks to electrical stimulation that may be retraining both brain and spinal cord. That’s just totally freakin’ amazing and I hope it’s something real and not just anomalous.


I had a whole bunch of links and arguments lined up to discuss the ironic news that the CEO of OKCupid, the company that started the witch hunt against Brendan Eich, is on record as having donated to a pro-traditional marriage politician (more than one, in fact, if you count his 2008 donation to Barack Obama). Then I read Ace and realized I didn’t have anything to add to the subject.


Dennis Prager explains why the Mozilla boycott is important and, more than that, necessary to preserve American liberties (emphasis mine):

As Princeton professor Robert George warned on my radio show, today the Left fires employees for opposition to same-sex marriage. Tomorrow it will fire employees who are pro-life (“anti-woman”). Then it will be employees who support Israel (an “apartheid state”).

The reason to boycott Firefox is not that it is run by leftists. Nor is the reason to support the man-woman definition of marriage. It is solely in order to preserve liberty in the land of liberty.
If Mozilla doesn’t recant and rehire Eich as CEO, McCarthyism will have returned far more pervasively and perniciously than in its first incarnation. The message the gay Left (such as the Orwellian-named Human Rights Campaign) and the Left in general wish to send is that Americans who are in positions of power at any company should be forced to resign if they hold a position that the Left strongly opposes.

And right now that position is opposition to same-sex marriage.

Think about that. In the United States of America today, the belief that marriage should remain defined as the union of a man and woman is portrayed as so vile by the Left that anyone who holds it is unfit for employment.


The battle over Firefox is the most important battle in America at this particular moment. If you use Firefox, uninstall it, and use Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, or Safari. For Windows, try Pale Moon, which is based on the Firefox engine and will import all of your bookmarks; for mobile devices, you can try Puffin.

America can have liberty or it can have Firefox. Right now, it cannot have both.


Victor Davis Hanson details how, in just five years, Obama has destroyed the world order as it existed since 1942, one that saw America use a variety of strategies to encourage countries that support individual freedom and to isolate, weaken, and perhaps destroy those that don’t. Obama has not retreated to the isolation America embraced after WWI, when it left the world alone and asked the world to leave it alone. Instead, Obama is very deliberately cultivating or encouraging freedom’s enemies, while manifestly abandoning freedom’s (and America’s) allies.

Funnily enough, Obama’s official foreign policy on behalf of the United States of America precisely tracks the legal definition of treason (18 U.S. Code § 2381):

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Allow me to channel Elmer Fudd: “Be afwaid. Be vewy, vewy afwaid.” And as Fudd wouldn’t have said, the Pax American is officially over; let Armageddon begin.


Obama and his minions are gloating about Obamacare’s 7.1 million enrollments. They seem to have lost sight of the fact that forcing people into a government program is entirely separate from the government program’s actually functioning. Michael Ramirez hasn’t forgotten that little detail.


Maybe none of this is surprising considering that the mayor’s name is “Outlaw”:

One-thousand “brothers in blue” came to pay their respects this afternoon to Officer Alexander Thalmann, 22, killed in the line of duty in New Bern, N.C., last week.

Thalmann’s partner, Officer Justin Wester, 23, is recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg from the shootout that left convicted felon, Bryan Stallings, 35, dead.

The incident happened March 28, in the housing projects known as Craven Terrace.

The town’s grief was made even more painful by the local administration’s handling of events following the young officer’s death.

For unknown reasons, newly elected, Mayor Dana Outlaw chose to attend Thursday’s funeral of the career criminal.

Adding insult to injury, last night’s planned memorial for local citizens to say “goodbye” to Alexander Thalmann was cancelled by the mayor’s office.

It was alleged that two of the city’s aldermen had invited relatives of the killer to attend the vigil. Rather than rescind the invitation, the city chose to cancel the event.


You actually don’t have to go any further than the title to Daniel Greenfield’s post to know that he’s written something good and important: Islam Is What Happens When Civilization Loses.


I’ve mentioned before the main reason an Ivy League liberal I know refused even to consider Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate, despite reluctantly conceding that (a) she had more governing experience than Barack Obama in 2008 and (b) she would have been an apprentice, if she won, not the main player. That was all irrelevant. What matter was that Palin, unlike prep school, Ivy League communist Obama, “is not one of us.” I thought of that liberal when I read about Kathleen Parker’s unconscionable snobbery.


Have you registered yet for American CurrentSee, a free online magazine that seeks to give a voice to conservative American blacks? I hasten to add here that the magazine is not limited to black writers or black issues. In other words, it’s a magazine that’s truly diverse, rather than a monolithic magazine that simply pays lip-service to some abstract “diversity.” The magazine examines politics and social issues that affect blacks, but that also affect all of us who want a strong, unified, freedom-loving country. So far, I’m pleased that I signed up.


And finally, I continue to be completely impressed by Amy Purdy’s turn on Dancing With The Stars (this time with a new partner for the week):

A little of this and a little of that

I’ve been cleaning out my email box, a process that always involves my apologizing to lots of people for appearing to have ignored their emails to me.  I haven’t ignored them, which implies a deliberate effort to pretend they’re not there.  Instead, I have done what I so often do:  fallen behind.

The cool thing about going through the email box is finding all these gems.  Some of them go back in time a while, but they’re still good opinion pieces or news stories, so I offer them to you now.

Back in August, Sultan Knish imagined what Obama’s obituary would be like were he to die in the year 2038.  My only quibble is that, to the extent that Obama is exactly my age, I don’t like seeing him die at a mere 77 years.  Our generation was meant to live to be older.  Of course, what with Obamacare and all, maybe in 2038, a man of 77 will be freakishly old.

Rich people can be nice too:  Helen Rosburg, a Wrigley Heiress, paid for a Marine’s dogs to be flown across country in a private charter when a commercial airline said the dogs were too big to fly to the Marine’s new base.

Plastic comes from oil, so it makes sense that a good way to recycle is to turn it back to oil.  My only problem with this is that, because it comes from “United Nations University,” I’m assuming that it takes more electricity (i.e., coal- or oil-derived energy) to convert than each bottle actually yields.  (Yes, I am cynical.)

As Americans are being pushed onto Obamacare will-she-nil-she, Congress is busy exempting its own people from the law’s increasingly onerous burdens.  Maybe we ought to have a clean-slate election:  everybody in Congress is automatically booted all at once, and we start from scratch.

Now that there’s no recourse, the Obama cheer-leading rats are scrambling off the ship.  This time it’s David Ignatius looking at Obama’s abysmal foreign policy failures.  Of course, all these people are still rats, because they knowingly deceived us, the were complicit in massive fraud (unless they were dumb as turnips when it came to the manifest failures driving Obama’s foreign and domestic policies), and the gosh-darned ship of state is still sinking.  They’re running for high ground, while the rest of us are drowning . . . thanks to them.

Isn’t it good to know that a Homeland Security adviser thinks America is a Muslim county?  Moreover, the Constitution is “Islamically compliant.”  Well, that’s quite a trick considering that the Constitution is about small government and individual freedom, including freedom from state interference with religion, while Islam is predicated upon complete submission to the religious state.

Morning roundup — and Open Thread

My very strong sense is that the shutdown will reveal how much of our federal government is inessential.  I’m not the only one who feels this way.  And no wonder, because the shutdown reveals waste everywhere.  This shouldn’t be a surprise.  Monopolies are invariably poorly managed and unchecked bureaucracies invariably grow.

PowerLine takes on a disgusting piece of revisionist history.  (I’d seen the underlying grotesque revisionism myself, but hadn’t had the time to challenge it.)

When it comes to Obamacare, is the government shutdown both a means and an end?  Buzzfeed thinks that the shutdown on its own, without any specific defunding measures, will damage Obamacare quite badly.  Considering Obamacare’s disastrous first few hours, Buzzfeed may be right.

Even in my most atheist days, I recognized that religion, whether or not there really was a God, is a moral necessity.  Dennis Prager’s challenge to Richard Dawkins hones in on that fact.

Britain’s NHS continues to show us just  how coercive government-run healthcare is.  I’m no fan of smoking, but this type of bullying is sickening.

As we already saw in the Balkans, when it comes to Islam, the call to jihad always trumps all other loyalties.

Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell — sort of.  I actually think there’s a malevolent consistency running through it, which sees Obama’s hierarchy:  Most favored are Muslim tyrannies; second place to Muslim nations; third place to Leftist tyrannies; fourth place to socialist nations; fifth place to free countries and traditional American allies.

Did I mention bullying somewhere above?  Why, yes I did, in connection with Britain’s NHS.  The fact is, though, that leftists are always bullies, as Christian troops in the American military are discovering to their cost.  The First Amendment promises religious freedom.  America hasn’t always been true to that, as with her attack on Mormon polygamy.  (I hold no brief for polygamy, but it was a core Mormon doctrine.)  There are certainly practices one can quarrel with.  For example, I don’t think the First Amendment should extend to human sacrifice.  To the extent, though, that heterosexual marriage is one of the core doctrinal concepts in all of the world’s religions, and that it reflects biological and reproductive reality, the bullying and coercion from the left is unconscionable.

Arthur Laffer (the repeatedly proven Laffer Curve) and Stephen Moore write Obamanomic’s epitaph.  (And one should add that Obamanomics, which is simply Marxist economics has already been repeatedly proven . . . as a failure.)

This is an open thread, so please add anything you’ve found that’s interesting.

Obama says that he would like to see more Americans die in terrorist attacks

That headline is not a lie.  The greatest orator since Abraham Lincoln had a serious policy discussion with . . . wait for it . . . Jay Leno.  During that serious, I mean really serious, talk, Obama explicitly stated that it was unfortunate that Americans were less likely to die in a terrorist attack than in a car accident.  Really:

POTUS said the U.S. was not overreacting.

POTUS said people can still take vacation, just do so in a “prudent way” by checking on the State Department Websites for up-to-day information before making plans.

“The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately.”  (Emphasis added.)

You and I both know that President Silvertongue was trying to say something along the lines of this:  “The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident.  While we’d like to see both types of statistics drop, it’s useful to put terrorism’s risk into perspective.”

But that’s not what Obama said.  What he said is that it’s unfortunate that the average American faces a lower risk of dying at a terrorist’s hands than he does of dying in a car accident.

What’s really funny about all this is that Obama’s disastrous foreign policies are such that it’s entirely possible that he’ll ensure that, without the number of fatal car accidents decreasing, Americans really will end up dying in ever greater numbers at terrorist hands.  Perhaps President Malaprop speaks the truth after all.

Hollywood may inform Obama’s Washington more than we realize — all theater, no substance

Sometimes one reads something and thinks “That’s it!  That explains what’s been going on.”

I do believe that Elliott Abrams is on to something when he discusses the administration’s approach to Syria, and his point is much larger than the already ugly fact that the president may have misspoken American right into a war.  (Which kind of makes Bush’s gaffes, malapropisms, and linguistic mangles seem a whole lot less significant, right?)

Abrams points out that the New York Times report revealing that Obama’s red line was an ad lib, and a dangerous one at that, also reveals that the White House never actually had a plan.  Here’s what the Times reports:

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

But they concluded that drawing a firm line might deter Mr. Assad. In addition to secret messages relayed through Russia, Iran and other governments, they decided that the president would publicly address the matter.

After a detour to note how ironic it is that the same President who established an “Atrocities Prevention Board” a few months ago (“‘never again’ is a challenge to nations”) now has people saying “What do we care?”, Abrams gets down to the nitty-gritty of Obama’s approach to foreign policy — it’s all theater:

Second, the issue of bluffing. It is noteworthy in the Times story that the administration officials were dealing with words, with lines, with messages—never it seems with tougher decisions about actions. This is of course a huge mistake, as just about everyone now acknowledges, though how it comes to be made in year five of an administration is more mysterious.

Abrams contrasts this superficiality — figuring out how to sell an attitude, without having an actual attitude — with what went on under Reagan when the Soviet Union wanted to send advanced fighter planes to Nicaragua.  Abrams was the assistant secretary of state for Latin America, so it was up to him to read formally to his Soviet counterpart the administration’s stand:  “there was a unanimous view that we would not permit Russia to put advanced combat jets into Nicaragua and change the power balance that had existed in the region since the Cuban missile crisis. Everyone agreed.”

That’s what played out in the world.  But what Abrams remembers is that this is also what played out behind closed doors:

But what preceded such talking points was the NSC meeting. There, after everyone said yes, let’s deliver that message, James Baker spoke up. As I recall it, Baker said something like this: Look, we are not agreeing here on sending a message. We are agreeing now that if they act, we will act. We’re not going to come back here in a month or three months or six months and say, gee, now what do we do? If you are agreeing on taking this line and sending this message to the Soviets, you are agreeing now, today, that if they put those jets in, we will take them out. That’s what we are agreeing. Today.

Although Abrams says he wasn’t then and isn’t now a Baker fan, he was then and is now a fan of that type of sober, realistic thinking.  Abrams’ conclusion about the administration’s hollow, theatrical approach to the rapidly unfolding disaster in Syria applies with equal force to every single foreign policy situation Obama has faced.  As you read the words below, think not only about Syria, but about Libya, the Arab Spring, the Israeli/Palestinian debacles, etc.:

It seems there was no one at these Obama administration meetings wise or experienced enough to say “Hold on, what do we do when they call the bluff?” My boss back in the Reagan years, Secretary of State Shultz, was, like Baker, an ex-Marine and a serious guy. At these White House meetings on Syria this year and last, was there one serious guy? Seems not, and seems that that problem has not been solved.

Of course Obama will take the low road; he has no high road

Karl Rove has written a WSJ op-ed, the title of which is “Obama’s Campaign Will Take the Low Road.”  I haven’t even read Rove’s piece — which I’m sure is good — but I already know he’s right.  Obama’s campaign will take the low road because there is no high road.  After almost three and a half years in office, he doesn’t have a record on which to run.  Wait.  That’s untrue.  He does have a record on which to run.  It’s a record pitched to a narrow demographic that would take pleasure if Obama gave the following speech:

My fellow Americans, I’m proud to come here before you and to tell you what I’ve done so far as President and what I plan to do if you elect me again.  On the economic front, I’ve increased America’s debt more than any other president in history.  I’m proud of that, and I hope to beat my own record in my second term. Working with a compliant Congress, I’ve also put into place policies, including ObamaCare, that ensure frightened employers who will not hire, a stagnant economy, and a shrinking labor force.

If the Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare, you can be sure that I will continue to attack religious institutions, to drive private doctors and hospital out of business, and to work hard to make sure that Americans enjoy the same glorious health care that our Cuban friends now rejoice in.  If the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare, I promise two things:  court packing and renewed efforts to socialize America’s health care system in a way that will pass muster from my new 14-justice Supreme Court (10 of whom are guaranteed to be bona fide Progressives).  I have been assured that a properly constituted Court will be able to reconcile ObamaCare with the “accommodations” that religious organizations must necessarily make to ensure free health care for all Americans, including free and full contraception, abortion, and euthanasia.

On the energy front, I’ve worked hard to ensure that ordinary Americans will pay $5.00 per gallon of gas, and I promise to double that amount if you reelect me.  I’ll also ensure that more and more taxpayer funds are diverted to subsidize cars and solar panels that only rich people can afford, to provide loans to windmill and solar companies that I guarantee will stay in business for at least three months after spending these monies, and to help countries such as Brazil engage in massive oil drilling activities, creating a reserve that Americans can import at great expense at some later date.  I also promise that America will never be tainted by cost-effective Canadian oil.  I’m sure that the Chinese, when they purchase that oil, will not use it in a way deleterious to American interests.  In my second term I will also continue my current policy of barring any drilling and exploration whatsoever on federal lands.  I also will work to make fracking illegal.

I’m especially proud of my record on race relations.  During my presidency, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally corrected the pendulum swing that started in the Jim Crow south, with the government persecuting blacks; that then hovered in a meaningless middle where the government tried to treat races equally; and that is now heading to its correct position, one that sees African Americans as a permanently protected government class, with a secondary protected class of some Hispanics (not Cuban-Americans), and a tertiary class of remaining non-white people who are not conservatives.  I promise you that, in my second term, with my new 14-justice Progressive Supreme Court, the Constitution will be correctly interpreted to mean, as the Founders undoubtedly intended, that all Americans are equal, but some Americans of color are more equal than others.  The current hostility between races is merely a necessary by-product of this constitutional correction.

We’ll also see even more foreign policy successes in my second term.  I will not flag in my efforts to realign American foreign policy around a Turkish-American alliance.  The Arab Spring is currently progressing as I had hoped, with the Muslim Brotherhood making significant political strikes throughout the Muslim world, especially in Egypt.  I optimistically predict that, in my second term, Israel, should she still exist, will be prevailed upon to return to her 1947 borders and to hand Jerusalem over to combined UN-Egyptian control.  This move should effectively neutralize the nuclear threat that Iran poses to Israel (should she still exist).  I have assured European leaders that this realignment, along with Israel’s retrenchment within her original borders, will placate Iran, making any concerns about Iran’s long-range nuclear weapons unnecessary.

I’m happy to report that European leaders are fully supportive of my efforts regarding Israel (should she still exist).  Iran has also assured me that, with Israel disabled or gone, and with the world increasingly independent on Middle Eastern oil, Iran and other Muslim countries will subsidize the European economy in exchange for some small religious and civil concessions.  My dear friend Vladimir Putin has also promised that, in return for America’s agreeing to give him a free hand when it comes to the Eastern European countries, he will not attempt to repeat the Soviet takeovers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, or other Eastern Bloc, er, democratic nations.

I also promise that, in my second term, I will keep America’s southern borders open.  I know, and you know, that there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant.  There are only future Progressive voters, and we’ll work hard to make America an inviting place for these new non-legal, voting citizens.  To that end, I will continue to send hand guns over our Southern borders to the drug cartels and to ignore the rising tide of Communism in certain Latin American countries.  Doing so will ensure that Latin America continues to be an impoverished, unstable continent that, rather than keeping its citizens at home, provides America with a steady supply of exploitable cheap labor and assured Democrat votes.

To those of you who have been disappointed with my performance during my first term, I can promise you that, if you give me a second term, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Thank you, and Allah, er, Marx, er God Bless America.


Obama’s foreign policy in no more than two or three sentences

Rush let ‘er rip against the media this morning regarding its utter failure to investigate any aspect of Obama’s life, even as it subjects Republican candidates to the most invasive investigations and demeaning tactics imaginable.   It’s a long riff, but every bit of it is interesting, and you’ll probably be nodding your head and saying “amen” as you read it.

From there, Rush went on to the usual double standard, which is that Republican candidates have to have “think tank” level knowledge of every subject, including foreign policy, whereas Obama got, and continues to get, a free pass.  It was with regard to that free pass that Rush posed this question:

Can somebody tell me in one or two sentences what Obama’s foreign policy doctrine is?  I’m serious.  Can anybody call this program at 800-282-2882 and tell me what Obama’s foreign policy is?  What is the guiding principle of Obama’s foreign policy?  What are our nation’s objectives in Obama’s foreign policy?  Does anybody have the slightest clue?

Rush, I’m not going to call, but I am willing to take a stab at the guiding principle behind Obama’s foreign policy, and I’ll do so in two sentences:  Obama’s foreign policy principle is to weaken and demean America, while overtly and covertly supporting both Leftist and Islamic regimes.  Because ordinary Americans would be repulsed by this policy, he hides it behind an amalgam of passivity, on the one hand, and ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, on the other hand.

That was fun.  Do you guys want to give it a try?

The view from the Gulf

One of the things we frequently bemoan here is the fact that American foreign policy tends to be naive.  Perhaps because our culture is a fluid melting pot in which citizens, until quite recently, willingly changed themselves to assimilate into the broader culture, we’re very poor at understanding that other cultures not only have different behaviors, which is a superficial thing, but different mores and values, many of which run almost intractably deep.

The Obama administration has added to that already dangerous naiveté a definitely anti-American bent.  First, Obama seems to care very little for foreign policies that, no matter how misguided, are at least intended to advance American interests abroad.  Second, Obama has abandoned an American foreign policy goal that goes back almost one hundred years, which is to advance individual freedom abroad.  Advancing individual freedom rests upon two prongs, the first of which has an airy-fairy, elementary school sweetness, and the second of which is grounded in hard common sense.  On the sweet side, valuing our own freedom, we like to share it with others.  More pragmatically, nations that rank high on the individual liberty scale seldom go to war with other, similarly situated nations.

The Bush administration perfectly exemplified both America’s traditional goal of pushing freedom and her naiveté.  The Bush crowd understood that free nations are stable nations, and they truly wanted to see the Iraqi and Afghani people freed from tyranny.  As history shows, however, the Bushies had absolutely no idea how very different Middle Eastern culture and values are from those in the West.  They assumed that, if we gave Middle Eastern Muslims freedom, they’d act like free people.  Boy were they wrong.  It turns out that, while people may value freedom, older, more firmly entrenched behaviors (tribalism, misogyny, religious fervor) will trump nascent democracies just about every time.  Change, if it comes, is gradual, often at a glacial pace.  Nor did the Bushies seem to understand that we were able to rush the freedom process in Germany and Japan only because we reduced them to rubble, rebuilt them from the ground up, and then stuck around for 60 years to keep an eye on things.

All of which gets me to a fascinating article from Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News, which a friend sent me.  Although most decided a Muslim country, Bahrain is also moderate by Muslim standards, and it prides itself on that fact.  I doubt I’d be comfortable living there, but it’s no Saudi Arabia or Iran.  Iran, however, would like it to be an Iran.  The article focuses on Bahraini fears that Iran is attempting to control it, and to bringing it in line with Iran’s fanatic, medieval Shia practice of Islam:

BAHRAIN is a victim of Iran’s expansionist policies, which will not be allowed to succeed, it was declared last night. It has been the ideology of Iran over the last many centuries to interfere in the affairs of its neighbours and pursue its policies of suppression, said Akhbar Al Khaleej Editor-in-Chief Anwar Abdulrahman.

He said 65 per cent of the people in Bahrain were the “moderate silent majority” who did not speak while 35pc were the “vocal anti-government” people who shouted and their voices were heard.

“We are one people and we are moderates. There is no way we can be violent and there is no way we can be like Iran,” said Mr Abdulrahman.

The article goes on to complaint in greater length about the risk an expansionist Iran poses for the Gulf states, and I urge you to read it.  Two things in the article really jumped out at me, one about the nature of Iran, and the other about the nature of America:

“These policies have been with the Iranians since 600BC, even though the regimes and rulers have changed,” said Mr Abdulrahman.

“There were all kinds of rulers, but they have always been dictators who have repeatedly suppressed their own people.


He also spoke about the US role in the region and about its double standards.

“They have a policy to play a role in every part of the world, regardless of how disastrous it might be,” said Mr Abdulrahman.

“Whether it was Vietnam in the 60s or in the modern-day Iraq and Afghanistan, they have never won. It is only a matter of time they will withdraw from Afghanistan as well.

“Wherever they go, it turns into a disaster. Their policies are like fast food – they change every day.”

Mr. Abdulrahman is right on both counts.  Unlike America, which is a new nation, old nations have deeply entrenched behaviors.  Iran, whenever it’s had strength, has sought regional domination, whether the ruler was Darius, Xerxes or the Mullahs.  (In the same way, Russia, the Soviet Union and now Russia again, have always sought warm water ports.  It’s just what the rulers of that land do.)

As for Abdulrahman’s complaints about America, he’s right on that too.  America has always had a tug of war between isolationists and those who seek to advance freedom and democracy.  World War II put us firmly on a democracy seeking path right through 1968.  It was then that the McGovern/Obama wing of the Democratic party denounced America as a country too evil to offer salvation to other nations.  Since then, we’ve see-sawed back and forth between government powers that have viewed America alternately as a Lightbringer and as Satan incarnate — all with a good deal of naiveté thrown in to keep things interesting.

Mark Steyn at his inimitable best on Obama at his inimitable worst

Much as been written by many great writers in the past few days about Obama’s extraordinary foreign policy, one that sees him crudely alienating old allies, while pandering to every totalitarian leader who comes along.  Mark Steyn sees Obama’s approach as part of a larger Leftist syndrome, inflated by Obama’s cold, self-centered personality:

As to Canadian funding of Third World abortion, the secretary of state was simply defaulting to her own tropes: If she sounds more like the chair of Planned Parenthood than the principal spokesman for American foreign policy, well, hasn’t she always? In a 2003 autobiography almost as long and as unreadable as the health-care bill, she offered little on world affairs other than the following insights: France’s Bernadette Chirac is “an elegant, cultured woman.” Nicaragua’s Violeta Chamorro is “an elegant, striking woman.” Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto is “a brilliant and striking woman.” Canada’s Aline Chrétien is “intelligent, sharply observant and elegant.” But Russia’s Naina Yeltsin is merely “personable and articulate.” Alas, since taking office, the Obama administration hasn’t found Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper, Binyamin Netanyahu, Nicolas Sarkozy, Václav Klaus, or Manmohan Singh the least bit elegant, cultured, striking, elegant, brilliant, elegant, striking, elegant, sharply observant, elegant, or even personable and articulate.

One of the oddest features of the scene is attributed to the president’s “cool,” which seems to be the euphemism of choice for what, in less stellar executives, would be regarded as an unappealing combination of coldness and self-absorption. I forget which long-ago foreign minister responded to an invitation to lunch with an adversary by saying “I’m not hungry,” but Obama seems to reserve the line for his “friends.” Visiting France, he declined to dine with the Sarkozys. Visiting Norway, he declined to dine with the king at a banquet thrown explicitly in Obama’s honor. The other day, the president declined to dine with Netanyahu even though the Israeli prime minister was his guest in the White House at the time. The British prime minister, five times rebuffed in his attempt to book a date, had to make do with a perfunctory walk ’n’ talk through the kitchens of the U.N. Obama’s shtick as a candidate was that he was the guy who’d talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Instead, he recoils from all but the most minimal contact with the world.

Treat yourself well today and read the rest here.

Bret Stephens writes an unusually elegant takedown of Obama’s foreign policy

I always like the way Bret Stephens thinks, but I’ve seldom even noticed how he writes.  He’s a great writer — clear and concise — but he’s never struck me as a particular luminous writer.  I think he must have been inspired when he wrote about the rebirth of the neocon movement, in large part because the bad guys are still here, but Obama is remarkably feckless when it comes to dealing with them.  How else to account for the lovely prose and imagery I quote below:

My answer [to a French journalist asking about the rebirth of neoconservatism] was that the neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.


As for Russia, its ambassador to the U.N. last week bellyached that the U.S. “continues to be a rather difficult negotiating partner”—and that was after Mr. Obama cancelled the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Thus does the politics of concession meet with the logic of contempt.

All this must, at some level, come as a surprise to an administration so deeply in love with itself. “I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world,” Mr. Obama told the U.N.’s General Assembly last week with his usual modesty. He added that those expectations were “rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.”

Yet what sounds like “hope” in, say, Toronto or Barcelona tends to come across as fecklessness in Warsaw and Jerusalem. In Moscow and Tehran, it reads like credulity—and an opportunity to exploit the U.S. at a moment of economic weakness and political self-infatuation.


Where neocons do put their faith is in American power, not just military or economic power but also as an instrument of moral and political suasion. Disarmament? The last dictator to relinquish his nuclear program voluntarily was Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, who did so immediately following Saddam Hussein’s capture. Democratization? Contrary to current conventional wisdom, democracy is often imposed, or at least facilitated, by U.S. pressure—in the Philippines, in the Balkans and, yes, in Iraq. Human rights? Anwar Ibrahim, the beleaguered Malaysian opposition leader, told me last week that “the only country that can stand up” to abusive regimes is the United States. “If they know the administration is taking a soft stance [on human rights], they will go on a rampage.”

Treat yourself well and read the whole thing.