Tuesday, June 30, 2009

# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOSE GOP CONGRESSMEN ARE TRAITORS! TRAITORS! Andrew Stuttaford remembers the good old days when liberals defended the president's critics from accusations of deficient patriotism, or even treason. Normally, I wouldn't call out Paul Krugman twice in one day, but this exception is worth it. Krugman writes,
As I watched the deniers [who voted against the Waxman-Markey climate change bill] make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
Surely the good Prof. Krugman doesn't mean that literally. His words must be a clever amalgam of sarcasm and irony. Then again, this is how his column ends:
Is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.
In theory, bloggers are the ones who don't understand civil debate, whereas professional journalists are above name-calling. Yet this is nothing new for Krugman. Earlier this month, Krugman was telling us that mainstream Republicans are no different than black-helicopter conspiracy theorists.

I don't think the GOP will suffer any because of Krugman's distemper, but it would help those of us with a serious interest in climate change if prominent writers focused a little more on substance. There are certainly some facts in Krugman's column, but he seems far more interested in exposing alleged extremists than he is in talking about policy.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Monday, June 29, 2009

# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READ MY LIPS, (ALMOST) NO NEW TAXES: This post is addressed only to those readers who earn less than $250,000 per year. George Stephanopoulos was doing his best yesterday morning to figure out if President Obama really meant it when he promised not to raise taxes on you. Steph put the question to David Axelrod:
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to show our viewers something the president said during the campaign back in September.


OBAMA: I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Not any of your taxes, a firm pledge. Does that mean the president will veto any health care bill that includes a tax increase on people earning less than $250,000 a year?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, George, let's make a few points. The president has said whatever is done has to not add to the deficit. So that's one of the prerequisites for this bill...

[The President] has proposed a plan that would be in keeping with the promise that he made, to cap deductions for the wealthiest Americans on their taxes.

He still believes that's the way to go. And he has made a strong case to the House and the Senate on it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he also said this week he was open to compromise on this. And as you know, the Senate is looking especially at this issue of capping the deductions for health care that employers and employees now get. That would get -- would be a tax increase for many families earning under $250,000.

But the president said he was open to it. So that means that the tax pledge he made back in September is no longer operative?

AXELROD: Well, George, first of all, there are a lot of different formulations of that plan. The president had said in the past that he doesn't believe taxing health care benefits at any level is necessarily the best way to go here. He still believes that...

We've gotten a long way down the road and we want to finish that journey.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you're open to tax increases for people under $250,000, that means that the pledge he made last September in Dover is no longer operative.

AXELROD: George, I think the president has made clear the way he feels this should be funded. And certainly is consistent with what he said during...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's not drawing a line in the sand.

AXELROD: ... the campaign.


AXELROD: Well, you know what? The -- one of the problems we've had in this town is that people draw lines in the sand and they stop talking to each other. And you don't get anything done. That's not the way the president approaches us.
Sort of funny, isn't it. Obama kept drawing that same line in the sand almost every day during the campaign. No taxes if you earn under $250,000! I guess when you want change something from a "pledge" into something more malleable, you call it a line in the sand.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAN: ENGAGEMENT WILL GO FORWARD. Laura Rozen rounds-up the think-tank zeitgeist on Obama's intentions toward Iran. The conventional wisdom is that Tehran's brutal crackdown has just about terminated Obama's plans for engagement. Rozen's sources say Obama will hold off for a while because it would be unseemly to engage now, but engagement will go forward because Iran is weaker and may have to accept a non-proliferation. Color me curious but skeptical of whether the Supreme Leader is looking for a deal.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMBASSADOR BIDEN? Peter Feaver ponders the news that the Vice President will now serve as America's unofficial point man in Iraq. With good reason, Peter asks exactly how this set-up will work and what Biden's relationship will be to our actual ambassador, Chris Hill, and our 'war czar', Lt. Gen. Lute.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONDURAS: CAN YOU HAVE A DEMOCRATIC COUP? I'd like to complicate the way that we're talking about what is democratic and what's a coup. So far, one side has been saying that if the Honduran military gets rid of the president, it's bad, it's undemocratic and it's a coup. The other says that if the military is acting to restore democracy, it isn't a coup.

Instead of seeing this as either/or, I'd prefer to think in terms of a spectrum of legitimacy that has a gray center in between the white pole of democracy and the black side of coups. In principle, there is some point at which any democratic military has an obligation to defend the constitutional order from illegal threats. The real question is whether Honduras reached that point, or whether the military acted prematurely.

Among American commentators (at least that I've read), there is a consensus that President Manuel Zelaya was openly threatening the constitutional order of Honduras by defying the supreme court and holding a referendum the court had declared illegal.

Yet I still find it very disturbing that the crisis had to be resolved by the Honduran military, even if it was acting on the orders of the court. The absence of other law enforcement bodies capable of upholding the orders of the court is deeply problematic.

The WSJ reports,
The Obama administration and members of the Organization of American States had worked for weeks to try to avert any moves to overthrow President Zelaya, said senior U.S. officials. Washington's ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, sought to facilitate a dialogue between the president's office, the Honduran parliament and the military.
That was certainly the right approach. It would have been better for everyone involved if this crisis were resolved without camouflage uniforms on the street.

The behavior of the military since its removal of Pres. Zelaya suggests that it is sincerely interested in upholding the democratic order. That does not necessarily justify the removal, however.

The behavior of Pres. Zelaya before his removal from power suggests that he has a deeply flawed view of democracy, one that is influenced by the authoritarian ways of Hugo Chavez and his allies in the hemisphere. That, however, does not justify the removal either.

Once the military has left the barracks, the potential exists for the situation to spin out of control, regardless of the good intentions of everyone involved. Without knowing more about Honduran politics, I cannot say whether the military demonstrated sufficient patience. My sense is that Pres. Zelaya's behavior represented an extremely serious threat to Honduran democracy, yet there may have been a safer way to remove him from power.

Moving forward, I hope that the US, the OAS and the new Honduran government work toward a resolution that is legal, democratic and acceptable to a strong majority of Honduran citizens.

Cross-posted here and here.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT SO MANY LIBERALS DON'T UNDERSTAND ABOUT ADULTERY: On ABC, Paul Krugman effectively summed up what many liberals are saying about Sanford-gate:
If a liberal sees somebody who talks about moral values and does something like this, and they call it hypocrisy. A conservative looks at it and says, well, but at least he stands up for moral values.
As Krugman's tone of voice made very clear, his comment about conservatives was meant to be derisive. Back when I was in college, I felt the same way. We all know politicians will sleep around. So in the end, talking about family values will achieve nothing except raising the hypocrisy quotient. Democrats seem to understand that.

But there's something deeply flawed about that kind of thinking. Culture matters in politics. Millions of voters want to elect leaders who set a certain standard for individual behavior. When individuals like Mark Sanford fail to live up to that standard, you shouldn't vote for them a second time. But there will be new candidates who live the values, and they will get elected. Although it's inevitable that some leaders will be exposed as hypocrites, that is no reason for other leaders to give up on the cause of promoting ethical behavior.

For many liberals (and libertarians), the idea that we should care about what a politician does in the bedroom is deeply problematic. Putting personal behavior -- and especially sex -- at the center of politics -- promotes intolerance and creates massive diversions, such as the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Why not be more like the Europeans, who understand that powerful men are simply going to have mistresses? Let's just get on with making better policy.

That position isn't intrinsically wrong, but it avoids addressing the role that culture does play in creating the social conditions that necessitate better policy. Poverty, public health and many related issues are affected by our collective standards for sexual behavior. Not unreasonably, a lot of voters want politicians to set an example that leads us in the right direction. Can you measure how much a good example contributes to addressing social issues? I doubt it. By the same token, it is both premature and self-destructive for Krugman and liberals who think like him to dismiss the family values agenda as nothing more than the hand-maiden of hypocrisy.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Friday, June 26, 2009

# Posted 6:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEY IRAQ, HOW'S THAT WITHDRAWAL GOING? Peter Feaver, formerly of the NSC, has some sharp analysis over at Shadow Government, including an improbable comparison of Hillary Clinton to Dick Cheney:
These [recent] attacks may simply be what Secretary Clinton has called "a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction." This sounds eerily like the much-derided claim by Vice President Cheney that similar attacks back in 2006 were a sign of "desperation" on the part of terrorists. It may have been a sign of desperation, but, at least in 2006, the terrorists were able to use them to seize the initiative.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 6:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GLOBAL WARMING FOR AMATEURS: Amateurs like me. If you're not a scientist, how much can really you know? Even if you are a scientist, how much can you really know?

This week, the New Yorker has a profile of James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, written by Elizabeth Kolbert. When I saw, something rang a bell. Two weeks ago, the Weekly Standard ran a piece on Hansen called The Man Who Cried Doom, written by Michael Goldfarb.

Hansen has a penchant for absurdity, so it isn't too hard to argue he's an extremist. For example, he wants the CEOs of ExxonMobil and other energy firms tried for "high crimes against humanity and nature." (Ever the attorney, my wife was quite curious about what counts as a crime against nature.)

Hansen also testified on behalf of six Greenpeace activists who caused $60,000 of damage to a coal plant in England. Ever the pragmatist, Hansen wants to shut down every coal-fired energy plant in the world in the next 20 years.

All right, so how is the New Yorker going to convince me that Hansen is actually a hero instead of crank? To the credit of Elizabeth Kolbert, she actually begins the article by compiling many of the same absurdities that Goldfarb catalogued. But she also devotes a lot of space to lavish praise of Hansen's scientific work by many of his prominent colleagues. He may sound like Chicken Little, they say, but his warnings up until now have been prophetic.

Goldfarb covers some of the same terrain (although his word limit was much lower). His piece quotes two other NASA scientists, including one of Hansen's former supervisors, saying that Hansen's ideological commitments have warped his climate models.

So what's a layman to do when confronted by dueling scientists? In some cases, the scientists with better credentials are all on one side of the debate. You certainly get that impression from Kolbert's article, which does not include any substantive criticism of Hansen's climate science.

Then I came across an interesting column in this morning's WSJ. Kimberly Strassel writes that the number of top scientists critical of global warming predictions has grown significantly.

In spite of what you hoped, I'm not going to end this post with any sage advice about how a layman can have informed opinions about matters scientific. But as someone used to studying the radical uncertainty of foreign policymaking, it's very interesting to watch a debate in which both sides believe they know something like objective truth.

UPDATE: I see Tyrone also has a post about the WSJ column mentioned above. One of the comments points to a post at TNR which says that Sen. Inhofe's alleged list of 700 scientists skeptical of man-made warming, cited by the WSJ, is a farce.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

# Posted 5:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T CRY FOR HIM, ARGENTINA: I can't believe Joe didn't make that joke in his first post about Mark Sanford's extra-marital adventures. Nor did Patrick or any of the commenters. Has America lost its sense of humor?

In the blogosphere, it shouldn't be long before this becomes a story that is more about the media than it is about Sanford. There will be an avalanche of coverage and we'll have to ask whether the media should waste so much time on a sex scandal while Tehran is burning.

A bit of speculation: The first complaints about excessive media coverage will come from Republicans. Democrats will respond that Democratic governors also became instant sensations when caught with their pants down. Republicans will remind Democrats of their own complaints about excessive coverage and claim a double standard. Democrats will say the real double standard is all the GOP blather about family values, which clearly means nothing to elected officials. And so on.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

# Posted 3:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBAMA TAKES A PAGE FROM JIMMY CARTER'S PLAYBOOK: In today's news conference, President Obama came down hard on the Iranian regime for its failure to respect its citizens' universal rights. At the same time, the President insisted that he was absolutely, in no way, not at all meddling in Iran's internal affairs. In his words:

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs...If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion.
So the United States is not meddling, but it is threatening to make Iran's position abroad dependent on its actions at home.

Obama's paradoxical statement on this subject reflects a much deeper and enduring tension in the liberal approach to international politics. On the one hand, liberals cherish non-intervention. On the other hand, they cherish human rights. Is there any way to reconcile the two?

Jimmy Carter tried, but wound up offering nothing more coherent than Obama has today. At a news conference during his first year as president, Carter asserted:

Our statements concerning human rights, I think, have been well received around the world. We have not singled out the Soviet Union for criticism, and I have never tried to inject myself into the internal affairs of the Soviet Union...

If [the American approach] the Soviet Union and they interpret it as intrusion, so be it. But we have tried to make this a broad-based approach.
I'm guessing Brezhnev wasn't persuaded.

On a related note, Carter often tried to assert that focusing on human rights is not intervention, because international law recognizes human rights. Thus, in his first address to the UN General Assembly, Carter insisted:
All the signatories of the U.N. Charter have pledged themselves to observe and to respect basic human rights. Thus, no member of the United Nations can claim that mistreatment of its citizens is solely its own business.
Yet in another prominent address on human rights, Carter stated,
In the life of the human spirit, words are action, much more so than many of us may realize who live in countries where freedom of expression is taken for granted. The leaders of totalitarian nations understand this very well. The proof is that words are precisely the action for which dissidents in those countries are being persecuted.
So words represent a dangerous threat to totalitarian governments, but they are not a form of intervention. Got it?

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 3:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBAMA'S CATALOG OF UNIVERSAL RIGHTS: The president's news conference this afternoon provides much food for thought (transcript here). The president has been very careful until now about asserting that democracy and human rights are universal values. Yet today, he said once, and then repeated twice that:
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech.

If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion.
Obama's language today was much more forceful than it was in Cairo. The biggest change, however, is Obama's insistence that the international community's respect for Iran depends directly on its acceptance of the Iranian people's universal rights.

There was absolutely no suggestion in Cairo that a democratic deficit is grounds for exclusion from the international community. Yet now Obama has taken a position increasingly reminiscent of his predecessor, whose name escapes me at the moment.

It is also worth observing which right the President did not attribute to the people of Iran. Although he spoke extensively in Cairo about freedom of religion, he made no reference to it today. Perhaps that was unintentional, or perhaps it reflected the belief that demanding freedom of religion from a theocratic dictatorship would be too provocative.

In conclusion, let me just say "bravo" to President Obama.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Monday, June 22, 2009

# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  


Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.

CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?

Zakaria: No, I don't mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may -- I certainly hope it will -- but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.
Was it a fatal wound, or simply one visible to the outside world? One could argue as well that the regime died from tens of millions of pinpricks, as the people of Iran lost faith in the regime over the past three decades. In some respects, what happened last week was only possible because Khomeini's ideology was already dying.

On a related note, Zakaria may have meant to say that Shi'ite theocracy, not Islamic theocracy, is breathing its last. In the Sunni world, from Gaza to Islamabad, religious extremists are gaining ground.

Anyhow, I think Zakaria is very right to say that the Iranian regime may survive for a very long time.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KENTUCKY FRIED BEEF? KFC's new grilled chicken is made with rendered beef fat and plenty of MSG (monosodium glutamate).

There are two ways you can find this out. First, you can read the 37-page long list of ingredients in all of KFC's products. Or you can read this post by Laura McClure on Kevin Drum's blog.

Thanks for nothing, guys. Now I can't tell my wife I'm being healthy when I get grilled chicken from KFC.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 7:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHOULD WESTERN FIRMS SELL SPYWARE TO IRAN? Unquestionably, it's pretty shameful for Nokia and Siemens to help the Iranian government monitor dissidents online.

It's one of those rare cases where private firms really should forego profits in the name of the public good.

On the other hand, the sale of monitoring capabilities may have lulled Tehran into believing it had the situation under it control, which it clearly didn't.

Is there a third way? Nokia and Siemens could have consulted their respective governments before making the sale, to find out what the potential impact of their decisions would be.

Incidentally, Michael Goldfarb points out that Eli Lake of the Washington Times broke this story two months ago, but the Wall Street Journal somehow forgot to mention that fact in its own coverage this week.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 5:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT ABORTIONIST KILLERS BELIEVE: What are the beliefs that motivate extreme anti-abortion activists to murder the doctors that perform abortions? My friend and colleague Jon Shields provides careful answers to a question that usually provokes little more than partisan rhetoric.

Jon, now a professor at Claremont McKenna, recounts the influence on the extremist movement of violent activist Michael Bray.
There is little in Michael Bray's early life to suggest that he would become the spiritual leader of the violent fringe. At Bowie High School in Maryland, he was a football player and state wrestling champion. He was an Eagle Scout. Following in his father's footsteps, he earned a spot at the U.S. Naval Academy.

But Bray dropped out of the academy and hitch-hiked across the country seeking adventure and direction. In Orlando he attended a Baptist tent revival and began thinking seriously about a life of faith. His search for God included flirtations with Mormonism and the Conservative Baptist Association. Under the influence of Schaeffer's writings, however, Bray was drawn to major figures of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, especially John Calvin and John Knox.

Calvin emphasized the biblical doctrine of predestination, that God determined who would be saved and damned before the creation of the world. Not only are the "elect" chosen by God for salvation, but, according to Calvin, they should also govern. Only public officials, however, could legitimately use force to punish crimes.

Knox disagreed. He suggested that any member of the elect, not just public officials, could use force to achieve God's justice...Knox's teachings convinced Bray that "it was appropriate for the godly man to take the law into his own hands, because his hands were the tools of the Lord." Indeed, Bray actually "came to believe John Knox was speaking to him across the centuries, telling him that it was his duty as a Christian to fight abortion by any means necessary."

Bray soon began orchestrating clinic bombings, for which he would serve time in prison. In 1984 he and his impressionable protégés Michael Spinks and Kenneth Shields (no relation to the author) helped set an annual record for bombings that stands to this day. Abortion facilities were bombed in six cities in the Washington, D.C., region. These early attacks, however, were successfully timed to avoid human casualties.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Friday, June 12, 2009

# Posted 7:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE REIHAN SALAM THAN YOU CAN HANDLE: Reihan has a new blog at NRO called The Agenda. If you want to feel more educated, read Reihan's book, just out in soft-cover.

Personally, I'll always think fondly of Reihan because he introduced me to Yes, Minister, the greatest political satire in history (and a better explanation of how bureaucracy works than any political science treatise I've read).

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 6:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOTH SIDES CLAIM VICTORY IN IRAN: Ahmadinejad and Mousavi both say they've won. What would a victory for either man mean for US-Iranian relations? Michael Singh has many good thoughts, including this one:

It is vital to keep in mind that Iran’s presidential elections are not about the United States. As with elections everywhere, foreign policy will be only one element of voters’ decisions, and it will likely take a back seat to more pressing economic and social issues. Thus, while the results will have consequences for the United States, Washington should not fall prey to solipsism by reading them simplistically as a referendum on bilateral relations.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly

UPDATE: On a related note, see Dan Drezner's comments on the election.
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# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMEMBER IRAQ? The excellent Kori Schake explains why we should be paying more attention to Iraq, even though a reduction in bloodshed has removed Iraq from the headlines.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIGHT THE SMEARS! Remember when "Fight the smears!" was the Obama campaign's rallying cry? It's a lesson Paul Krugman should learn. Krugman writes, "Whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased." The recent murders of an abortion provider and a Holocaust Museum guard supposedly prove his point.

But that kind of logic only holds up if you are wearing a very big set of partisan and ideological blinders. As Robert points out below, Jeremiah Wright is once again trafficking in crude anti-Semitic conspiracies. By Krugman's standards, this would show that there is no dividing line between Jeremiah Wright and mainstream Democrats like President Obama, a longtime friend and congregant of the anti-Semitic reverend. (Actually, the connection between Obama and Wright is far more direct than the illusionary ties that Krugman identifies between the Holocaust Museum attack and conservative pundits.)

Now, if you want to compare murder to murder, you can compare the Holocaust Museum attack to the fatal shooting of a soldier by a Muslim extremist at a recruiting station in Arkansas. One more murder, and by Krugman's standards we'd be facing an epidemic of left-wing extremist violence.

So then, I disagree fundamentally with Kathy that the right has a "head in the sand attitude" about extremism. The problem is the smears, not the response.

Cross-posted at The Moderate Voice
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

# Posted 8:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSERVATIVES VS. THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION: George W. Bush is gone. There is no more pressure on conservatives to support Bush's call for a two-state solution.

Bibi Netanyahu is prime minister. Conservatives who oppose a two-state solution no longer have to explain why they reject the approach favored by Israel's own government.

Barack Obama is throwing his weight behind the two-state solution. Conservatives have every incentive to show that Obama's approach is misguided.

I have always considered myself a strong supporter of the two-state solution. But I have gradually given in to the argument that Israel can't negotiate peace when there is no one to negotiate with. So what can America do?

In the new issue of Commentary [subscription only], Hillel Halkin and Caroline Glick both advance their own plans as an alternative to the two-state solution. Halkin calls his approach the "Federation Plan" and Glick calls hers the "Stabilization Plan".

Yet the word "plan" generates confusion because neither Halkin nor Glick thinks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved, only managed. Halkin writes, "There will be no negotiated two-state settlement in the years ahead." Glick says of the conflict, "It cannot be resolved. It can only be stabilized."

A very different approach to the conflict was articulated by the Kansas Republican, Sen. Sam Brownback, in a recent speech to the Heritage Foundation. Brownback wastes no time in dismissing everything since Oslo as a failure. I don't agree, but I am more in sync with Brownback's ideas about where to go from here:
First and foremost, I strongly believe that the goal of peace process should be to ensure that every Palestinian possess civil and political rights.

These rights are foundational to society, to any society. Exercised properly and they allow citizens to shape society in the form desired by the majority, but with the input and protection of the minority. Without such a process, individuals are unable to articulate their vision of self determination on a personal or collective basis. In short, we cannot be sure of what the Palestinians truly want unless and until they have the chance to express it themselves openly and honestly, something that is never taken without fear or retribution by armed extremist groups.
Brownback clearly anticipates the main objection to this approach: giving the Palestinians what they want means giving them Hamas. Bush tried that approach and he failed. Brownback counters:
I reject any assertion that the election of Hamas, a rocket-firing, Iranian-backed militia represents the articulation of Palestinian self-determination. Hamas rules by the sword, not by the consent of the governed. With the objective of improving the lives of the Palestinians, therefore, any Middle East peace process must first and foremost provide for these basic freedoms to allow for the true articulation of Palestinian self-determination to blossom.
Yet what if the Palestinians still want Hamas, even when they have sufficient freedom to make a true choice between alternatives? Perhaps the good senator from Kansas doesn't want to be too downbeat or undiplomatic. But if Hamas is what the Palestinians want, Israel will batter Hamas relentlessly. Not because that is a path to peace, but because it is a means of survival.

Is it still worth building up a more effective, accountable and legitimate order in the West Bank and Gaza if Hamas has a chance of coming to power? I say yes. I never supported elections in the Palestinian territories because I thought that a single election would deliver the peace. Rather, Palestinians must be allowed to choose a government that rejects Israel and rejects peace. If they like what that government delivers, they can elect it again. When they are ready for peace, they can elect a different government.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 5:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Understanding the Hobbesian nature of international relations fundamentally grounds conservative foreign policy in reality.
That quote is from John Bolton's op-ed in today's Washington Times.

Does Bolton's description accurately characterize George W. Bush's foreign policy? What about Dick Cheney's? Hawkish policymakers like Cheney and Bolton certainly emphasize the Hobbesian nature of international relations. Yet there is a strong element of moral relativism in the Hobbesian approach that is at odds with Bush's democracy-promoting idealism.

In a Hobbesian world, conflict is the inevitable result of clashing interests and aspirations. It has little to do with right and wrong. In contrast, Bush asserted that conflict is the result of evil and aggression.

Bolton writes that
Conservative foreign and national-security policies do not need remaking, rebranding or remessaging. They need not be escorted by prefixes or adjectives, nor do they need "moderating."
I'm inclined to say that there is no consensus right now on what counts as a conservative foreign policy. And for as long as the economy is issue number one, leading conservatives may not even think much about where conservative foreign policy needs to go in the Age of Obama.

CLARIFICATION: The following sentence appeared at the end of this post when originally published:

"In particular, conservatives reject the idea that America's actions are the foundation for most international discord, and that it is our deviation from international "norms" that must be 'corrected' for the natural state of harmony to return."

That is a quote from the Bolton op-ed mentioned above, not my own words. Because of a faulty cut-and-paste on my part, it showed up in my post with no indication of where it came from.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 5:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICA DOESN'T DESERVE BARACK OBAMA: What can a responsible satirist satirize at a time when America is blessed with a President who transcends irony and sarcasm? The American people, of course:

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 5:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY TIANNANMEN STILL MATTERS: While I was away, the 20th anniversary of the Tiannamen Square massacre on June 4, 1989 was observed (except in China). Dan Twining has a great post on why Tiannamen still matters today. Here's his starting point:

We should start from the premise that the crackdown, and China's subsequent rise as an authoritarian rather than a democratic superpower, was not inevitable. We know from both The Tiananmen Papers and Zhao Ziyang's memoirs that the Communist Party leadership was split on whether to use force against the protestors. There is little question that China's regime was under threat -- mass protests had erupted not only in Beijing but in more than 180 cities across China, endangering the regime's survival.
Go read the rest.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORANCE IS BLISS: In my eight lackadaisical days on St. Kitts, I didn't pick up a single newspaper. I saw a handful of headlines while checking my e-mail, but didn't read any full stories. Once in a while, CNN would be turned in one of the bars where I was having a drink.

In short, I simulated the diminished state of news-awareness experienced every day by tens of millions of Americans, who need to focus on keeping their jobs, taking their kids to school, etc. I know a lot of educated people who look down on the average American as pathetically ignorant. And the truth is, the average American knows very few facts about politics. Yet somehow, democracy works quite well regardless.

I think the really interesting question is what facts and opinions sink in even when someone absorbs information in a haphazard or accidental manner. The entire debate about media bias would change if we actually understood a little more about how media are consumed.

In St. Kitts, the only story that was (re)played enough to grab my attention was about North Korea's latest nuclear test. All I really picked up was that North Korea did something bad and a lot of countries are angry. That's very little information, but it reinforces a very specific narrative in which North Korea wears the black hat and is opposed by the global community, as opposed to just the United States. Is that the same narrative that I would've picked up if I lived in Europe or South Korea? I don't know. But I could imagine how this is the level of understanding at which the media have the greatest impact.

Anyhow, so much for ignorance. Now back to the world of blogging and news junkies.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Saturday, June 06, 2009

# Posted 10:38 AM by Patrick Porter  

D-Day, 65 YEARS ON: Its probably a good day to listen to the men who were there:
“I came face to face with a German, and I beat him to the draw. I killed him. I sat on the grass and was sick and I cried … he was some mother’s son.”…

The veterans talk of the noise, “big battleships firing, rocket ships firing, mortars landing, planes strafing, floating artillery and the Germans were totally unsociable about it, they were firing back at us, so there was a hell of a lot of noise there,” recalls Rosier.

They are lighthearted at times, citing the fact that British troops are renowned for their humor — even in the darkest hours. But it is impossible to gloss over the horror and the danger they faced.

Standing together in one of the landing crafts at the D-Day museum in Portsmouth, England, Rosier described what it was like to approach Gold beach.

He spoke of the bullets thundering into the sides of the craft, a ramp on one side hitting a mine and being disabled, and the knowledge that when the front ramp was dropped, the troops inside would be peppered with machine gun fire.

He and his infantry were lucky that day – making it onto the beach with minimal loss. But as he told me later, of the 800 men in his infantry, only five survived the war unharmed, “the rest were killed, missing or wounded.”

Rosier, who fought with the 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, bears the visible scars of battle. He lost an eye to a shrapnel wound — a ‘Blighty one,’ meaning that he was taken home to recover in Britain — and has had to live with the psychological trauma of facial disfigurement.

But it’s the pain of the ones they left behind that hurts the most.

“There was no time to mourn, you didn’t have time to mourn,” said Tuckwell. “And the worst thing about later battles was that when you lost people, you normally had to bury them yourself. You couldn’t leave the bodies on the ground, there was nowhere else to put them.”

Rosier added: “When your best friend gets killed it is surprising how hard you can become on a battlefield, I think you switch your mind off. My best friend, we called him Smokey Joe, Battersea boy, London boy, he was 18 years when he died.

“At the time I just said ‘oh Reggie is gone,’ but … I will be going back to Normandy and I will see his grave and cry. I have never figured out why I a mourn him now and not at the time. To lose a brother is a terrible thing and he was a brother. I lost two actual brothers in the war, but I miss Reg a lot.”

There was so much pain, so much suffering and such massive loss of life. Was it worth it? Rosier’s response is emphatic.
“Yes, every minute of it. We go back to Europe quite frequently, and even in Germany people say to us ‘thank you for our freedom’. It is only in recent years that I have realized how important freedom really is, you can’t taste it, you can’t feel or hear it. But it is so important to be free.”

Thanks indeed.
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# Posted 3:45 AM by Patrick Porter  

MR PRESIDENT, YOUR WAR IS TOO BIG: In a celebrated and impressive speech in Cairo, President Obama identified this as the simple aim of the war in Central Asia:
We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

Granted, Obama was addressing Islamic audiences and trying to spell out a clear and honourable casus belli and to deny the charge of American imperialism. But Americans and their allies are listening too. And it sounds like a continuation, in less abrasive rhetoric than Bush, of absolute, messianic and unmeasured war aims.

Is it America’s war aim, to ensure that there are no more violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan intent on slaughtering Americans? Because if so, those troops will be there for a very long time indeed. For many interlocking reasons, radical and nihilistic forms of religious extremism cannot be eradicated by a grand liberal project of nationbuilding. At least, not one we can afford.

Violent extremism is not inherent anywhere. But for the moment, it is deeply embedded in places where conflict and fear are widespread, where conspiratorial and paranoid ideas can breed, where wars (such as the Soviet Afghan war) generated a radical clergy that is powerful and influential, and where radicals believe they can base themselves.

We can’t purge radical extremists from these countries. (Without indulging in the glib pieties of Michael Moore politics, if we try too strenuously, with indiscriminate drone strikes or counter-narcotics efforts, we can set conditions that are hospitable for more extremists). And we shouldn’t try.

Our best bet is to go for a more modest and achievable goal: to help make the place a dangerous one for Al Qaeda. The frontier areas of Pakistan and the weak central state of Afghanistan may remain a long-term haven for dangerous folk who wish to bring apocalypse to America. But we can make it far more difficult and lethal for them, and force them to spend much of their time and energy trying to stay alive. We will find, too, that there are people in those countries who may not like America but who develop a shared strategic interest in combating the bloodstained forces that kill and oppress other Muslims. Provided we do not interfere disastrously in the cycle, it should work something like this: the more endangered they are, the more their ability to operate as global terrorists is curtailed, and the more it is curtailed, the more politically irrelevant they will become.

I’m not sure the alternative, of potentially trillions of dollars spent on trying to forge a strong, centralised, incorruptible, opium-free state in Afghanistan, is something we can afford, even if it ultimately succeeds. In his exchanges with General Petraeus during the General’s testimony to Congress, Obama stressed the need to manage, contain and limit Al Qaeda in Iraq, not to try and eliminate it outright. This same logic applies here, in the war that will form Obama’s own legacy.

Cross-Posted at Kings of War
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