Monthly Archives: February 2007

Our Defenseless Allies

Military historian Max Boot explains why the United States must always act unilaterally: our “allies” don’t have serious military forces.

An excerpt:

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, defense budgets among NATO members, excluding the U.S., have fallen from 2.49% of gross domestic product in 1993 to 1.8% of GDP in 2005. Britain is actually above the norm, spending 2.3% of GDP, or $52 billion, on defense. Canada, with a defense budget of $13 billion, is below the norm, at 1.1%.

But all those expenditures fade into insignificance by comparison with the U.S., which spends $495 billion a year, or 4% of the world’s largest GDP, on its armed forces. That’s more than the rest of NATO combined, even though the other countries have, in aggregate, greater demographic and economic resources.

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Why Rudy's the Man

John Podhoretz explains why even conservatives like Rudy:

Many on the right profess amazement at the lead [Rudy’s] opened up among Republican primary voters, considering his pro-choice views and sloppy personal life.

Meanwhile, writers on the left express disbelief at the notion that a pro-choice Republican candidate might be able to win the GOP nomination. According to the best Leftist analyst of American politics, Michael Tomasky, abortion is simply “too fundamental an issue for most Republican caucus goers and primary voters (even in California, with its likely Feb. 5 primary) to work around.”

There’s a perfectly simple answer to the Rudy paradox. When Republican voters look at Rudy Giuliani, they know one key fact about him: They know he’s no liberal.

They may not exactly know why yet, but they know it.

… more than any other candidate in the race, Rudy Giuliani is a liberal-slayer. When he rejects liberal orthodoxy, which he does often, he doesn’t just oppose it. He goes to war with it – total, unconditional war.

He spent his political career chewing up liberal orthodoxy and spitting it out – and I think that somehow, in some way, voters in Oklahoma and Kansas get that about him even without knowing the specifics.

His success in turning New York around wasn’t merely a matter of changing policies. He had to sustain those policies when they came under deliberate, systematic and unrelenting assault by the city’s liberal elite.

In case after case, he refused to accept the veto of liberal public opinion. He drove porn shops out of residential neighborhoods, even though his administration had to fight more than 30 lawsuits on the matter. He crusaded against bilingual education, a disastrous policy that had gone unquestioned in this city for decades.

And most important, he stood up for the police department against any and all attacks – which were incessant and incredibly unjust. The race baiters and their shills at the Not-So-Great Grey Lady talked as though the NYPD was engaging in genocide when the opposite was the case – many thousand of people are alive today who would have died if the NYPD hadn’t taken on its newly aggressive posture under Giuliani.

Did Giuliani go too far in defending the police against charges that officers were trigger-happy and brutal? Sure he did, and some of his more aggressive efforts in this regard will also become campaign fodder over the course of the next year or more. But his defensiveness was nothing compared to the shameful and shameless effort to delegitimize his crime-fighting approach by slandering the NYPD as a bunch of goons and killers

He basically took the view that these 38,000 people were an army fighting an enemy, and that they were liberating the people of New York City from a reign of lawlessness.

And this, more than anything else, ties into the national sentiment about Rudy as the Hero of 9/11. He didn’t just represent New York to the nation and the world. He had, in fact, changed New York in a way that made this city’s response to 9/11 so astounding.

In September 2001, as his mayoralty was winding down, New York had achieved civic equilibrium. This was a city at peace with itself, no matter what Al Sharpton might have said. The New York of 1991 would not have responded with the calm dignity and sense of common purpose that the New York of 2001 did.

The New York of 1991 was a city governed by the liberal elite. The New York of 2001 had been changed utterly by an anti-liberal mayor.

Israel Prepares to Strike Iran

American and European leftists can stop wasting their time trying to pin down the Bush administration on its alleged plans to go to war with Iran. As I have thought for years, the pacifists don’t really have much of a say in this matter since Israel will never allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.

The Telegraph of London reports on Israel’s preparations to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities.

An excerpt:

Having already suffered a near-apocalypse in the form of the Holocaust, the Jewish people have no intention of being the hapless victims of Ahmadinejad’s genocidal designs. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, last month gave his most explicit warning to date that Israel was prepared to use military force to prevent Teheran from obtaining a nuclear weapon: “The Jewish people, with the scars of the Holocaust fresh on its body, cannot afford to allow itself to face threats of annihilation once again.”

That single sentence sums up the consensus among most of the Israeli people. If the wider world is not prepared to take pre-emptive action to stop Iran from fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, then Israel is ready to act alone.

Normally, in times of national emergency, such as the build-up to the 2003 Iraq War, Israel is bustling with precautionary activity – civil defence organisers handing out gas masks and ensuring the bomb shelters are ready.

But today there is scant evidence of anyone preparing for a potential war. The only gas masks on display are those used by children for fancy dress, while recent press reports that the super-rich residents of Herzliya were building their own state-of-the-art nuclear bunkers were greeted with derision by less well-off citizens.

In contrast, the country’s political, military and intelligence-gathering infrastructure has thrown all the resources it can muster at the challenge of neutralising Iran’s nuclear capability.

“The amount of effort we are putting into this single issue is unprecedented in the history of the State of Israel,” said a senior Israeli security official who works on the strategic committee that has been set up to deal with the Iran threat, which is personally chaired by Olmert.

The committee’s main function is to ensure the closest possible liaison on the latest intelligence and military developments. It is also responsible for maintaining a close dialogue with countries supportive of Israel’s concerns, particularly the United States, which has seconded officials to work alongside the Israelis.

The committee has yet to have any contact with Britain, although it is hoped that a dialogue will begin “in the not-too-distant future”.

Nor should anyone be in any doubt as to the extreme sense of urgency that is driving the Israeli government’s activity. To ensure that the country has the best available resources at its disposal, Olmert announced last week that Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, had been asked to postpone his retirement until at least the end of 2008.

You Can't Talk With a Fist in Your Mouth

With the constant threat of jihadist attack on the United States and the question of what to do in Iraq looming large, I tend to think that the Hillary-Obama-David Geffen unpleasantness is only slightly more important than global warming and Anna Nicole Smith.

But Peggy Noonan reminds me why we really, really don’t want the Clintons back in the White House. She also takes aim at Hillary hit-man Howard Wolfson who makes Karl Rove look like St. Francis of Assisi:

Mr. [David] Geffen should be braced for a lot of bad personal box office–negative press, searching profiles, strained relations. We’re probably about to see if the Clinton Machine can flatten him. Little doubt it will try. John Dickerson wrote in Slate this week of Bill Clinton’s generously sharing his campaign wisdom: “Your opponent can’t talk when he has your fist in his mouth.” Among some Democratic political professionals this kind of talk is considered tough and knowing, as opposed to, say, startlingly belligerent and crude.

But the outcome of the Geffen-Clinton episode is worthy of watching because it is going to determine whether it is remembered as the moment in the 2008 campaign when it became clear you are allowed to criticize Hillary–or as the moment it became clear you are not.

Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman and an emerging dark prince among political operatives–he is, in the strange way of Washington, admired by journalists for his ability to mislead them–quickly responded with a challenge: If Mr. Obama is a good man, he’ll renounce Mr. Geffen and give back the money he contributed in his famous Hollywood fund-raiser. This was widely considered a brilliant move. Is it? Now everyone who follows politics even cursorily will have to have an opinion on whether Mr. Obama should apologize, which means they’ll have to know exactly what Mr. Geffen said, which, again, boiled down, is: I’ve known them intimately for almost 20 years, and they’re bad people and bringers of trouble. It’s good for Mrs. Clinton that America is going to spend the weekend discussing this? It’s good that Mr. Geffen’s comments, which focused on the area on which she is most touchy and most vulnerable–the character issue–will be aired over and over again? Mr. Wolfson might have been better off with, “We’re sorry to hear it, as Mrs. Clinton thinks the world of David.”

…What Mrs. Clinton is trying to establish is this: to criticize her–to speak of her critically as a human being, as a person with a record and a history and a style and attitudes–is, ipso facto, to be dirty, and low, and destructive. To air and raise questions about who she is, how she operates, and what can be inferred from her past actions is by definition an unjust act.

I think that an overwhelming majority of the American people would support the idea that there be no more Bush and no more Clinton presidencies.

The Spanish Connection

Edward Jay Epstein, writing in the Wall Street Journal, exposes the tenuousness of the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that the attack had no support from countries like Iraq and Iran.

The Carelessness and/or Corruption of U.S. Intelligence

Mark Steyn, with typical clarity, describes what the “American people” are really entitled to in the CIA leak case.

Steyn first quotes from the report of prosecutor Fitzgerald’s summary to the jury in the Libby case:

“Mr. Fitzgerald said the disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s identity had left ‘a cloud over the White House over what happened’ as well as a cloud over Mr. Cheney because he had been behind the effort to counter Mr. Wilson’s charges… ‘Don’t you think the American people are entitled to a straight answer?’ Mr. Fitzgerald asked of the jury. He said that ‘a critic points fingers at the White House and as a result his wife gets dragged into the newspapers.’ “

“A cloud over the White House” is a very nebulous legal concept. So is “the American people”’s entitlement to a straight answer about why a finger-pointing critic’s wife got dragged into the newspapers. Some of the American people think they’re entitled to a straight answer from the finger-pointer about why he lied about what he was told in Niger, what he reported back to the CIA, and about how he got the mission in the first place. But, whether or not they’re entitled to a straight answer, they have no legal redress over the issue.

Some of the American people think the real scandal is not that Richard Armitage leaked the name of the wife who landed Joe Wilson the Niger job but the fact that she landed him the job in the first place. What that reveals about at best the carelessness and at worst the corruption of US intelligence on the critical issue of the day is very dispiriting. Yet that section of the American people also have no legal redress.

So the emptiness of Fitzgerald’s argument exposes the essentially political nature of his case. The Wilson story – in which one man publicly inserts himself into the biggest foreign policy debate of our time, inflates and mischaracterizes his role in it, and then demands legal action against those who dispute his self-inflation and mischaracterization – should be self-parodying.

Viva Le Code Napoleon!

The Europeans accuse the Bush administration of “human rights abuses” in the war against the jihadists, but Brett Stephens, writing in the print edition of the Wall Street Journal, reveals how unconcerned the French and British are about such “abuses” when it comes to defending themselves from jihadist attack.

Twenty-nine defendants went on trial last week in a Spanish courtroom for complicity in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 commuters and injured another 1,800. Among the accused: Jamal Zougam, a 33-year-old Moroccan immigrant who once ran a cellphone business. In June 2001, Spanish police raided Mr. Zougam’s apartment, where they found jihadist literature and the telephone numbers of suspected terrorists. But the Spaniards judged the evidence insufficient to arrest or even wiretap him. Today, the Moroccan is believed to have furnished the cellphones through which the trainbombs were detonated.

In raiding Mr. Zougam’s apartment, the Spanish were acting on a request from French investigative magistrate and counterterrorism supremo Jean-Louis Bruguiere. Earlier, Mr. Bruguiere had also warned the Canadian government about a suspicious Algerian asylum-seeker named Ahmed Ressam, but the Canadians took no real action. On Dec. 14, 1999 Mr. Ressam — a.k.a. the Millennium Bomber — was arrested by U.S. customs agents as he attempted to cross the border at Port Angeles, Wash., with nitroglycerin and timing devices concealed in his spare

It would be reassuring to believe that somewhere in the ranks of the FBI or CIA America has a Jean-Louis Bruguiere of its own. But we probably don’t, and not because we lack for domestic talent, investigative prowess, foreign connections, the will to fight terrorism or the forensic genius of a Gallic nose. What we lack is a system of laws that allows a man like Mr. Bruguiere to operate the way he does. Unless we’re willing to trade in the Constitution for the Code Napoleon, we are not likely to get it.

Consider the powers granted to Mr. Bruguiere and his colleagues. Warrantless wiretaps? Not a problem under French law, as long as the Interior Ministry approves. Court-issued search warrants based on probable cause? Not needed to conduct a search. Hearsay evidence? Admissible in court. Habeas corpus? Suspects can be held and questioned by authorities for up to 96 hours without judicial supervision or the notification of third parties. Profiling? French officials commonly boast of having a “spy in every mosque.” A wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies? France’s domestic and foreign intelligence bureaus work hand-in-glove. Bail? Authorities can detain suspects in “investigative” detentions for up to a year. Mr. Bruguiere once held 138 suspects on terrorism-related charges. The courts eventually cleared 51 of the suspects — some of whom had spent four years in preventive detention — at their 1998 trial.

In the U.S., Mr. Bruguiere’s activities would amount to one long and tangled violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. And that’s not counting the immense legal superstructures that successive Supreme Courts have built over and around the Bill of Rights. In France, however, Mr. Bruguiere, though not without his critics, is a folk hero, equally at home with governments of the left and right. The main point in his favor is that whatever it is he’s doing, it works.

“Every single attempt to bomb France since 1995 has been stopped before execution,” notes a former Interior Ministry senior official. “The French policy has been [to] make sure no terrorist hits at home. We know perfectly well that foreign-policy triangulation is not sufficient for that, [even if] it helps us go down a notch or two in the order of priority [jihadist] targets. So we’ve complemented our anti-U.S. foreign policy with ruthless domestic measures.”

That’s something that U.S. civil libertarians, who frequently argue that the Bush administration should follow the “European model” of treating terrorism as a law-enforcement issue instead of a military one, might usefully keep in mind. As lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey argue in the forthcoming issue of the National Interest, “the [Napoleonic] Civil Law system offers considerable advantages to the state in combating terrorism — especially in terms of investigative tools and a level of secrecy — that are simply unavailable in the ordinary Common Law criminal prosecution and trial, at least as governed by the United States Constitution.”

Again, review the contrasts between American and European practices. Except in limited circumstances, the U.S. does not allow pre-trial detentions. But according to figures compiled by the U.S. State Department, 38% of individuals held in Italian prisons in 2005 were awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal, while Spanish law allows for pre-trial detentions that can last as long as four years for terrorism suspects. In the U.S., the Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of the military in law-enforcement work, and paramilitary units are relatively rare. By contrast, most European countries deploy huge paramilitary forces: Italy’s Carabinieri; France’s Gendarmerie Nationale; Spain’s Guardia Civil.

Even Britain, which shares America’s common law traditions, has been forced by Irish and now Islamist terrorism to resort to administrative detentions, trials without jury (the famous Diplock courts) and ubiquitous public surveillance. Wiretapping is authorized by the Home Secretary — that is, a member of the government — rather than an independent judge. In the early days of the Northern Irish “troubles,” the government of Edward Heath placed some 2,000 suspects, without charge, in internment camps. Ironically, it was the decision to treat terrorists as ordinary criminals that led to the famous hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and his IRA crew.

All this calls into question the seriousness, if not the sincerity, of European complaints that under the Bush administration the U.S. has become a serial human-rights violator. Europeans have every right to be proud of civil servants like Mr. Bruguiere and a legal tradition that in many ways has been remarkably successful against terrorism. But that is not the American way, nor can it be if we intend to be true to a constitutional order of checks and balances, judicial review and a high respect for the rights of the accused. When President Bush declared a war on terror after 9/11, it was because he had no other realistic legal alternative. And when the rest of us make invidious comparisons between Europe and America, we should keep our fundamental differences in mind. There is no European 82nd Airborne, and there is no American Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

Throw Another Jew on the Fire

My theory of the bizarre Scooter Libby prosecution is that Patrick Fitzgerald needed a Jew- excuse me, a neocon- to throw to the “Jews got the dumb gentiles to go to war on phony intelligence for the sake of Israel” crowd.

Tom Maguire shows how the faulty memories and contradictory notes of a legion of journalists and government officials would seem to render a guilty verdict all but impossible from a jury of 12 sane people. (Which isn’t to say that a jury of 12 D.C. Democrats wouldn’t convict.)

Why Stop With Scooter?

Victoria Toensing says indict Fitzgerald, the CIA, Joe Wilson, Richard Armitage and a host of others in the Valerie Plame leak case.

She opens with:

Could someone please explain to me why Scooter Libby is the only person on trial in the Valerie Plame leak investigation?

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald charged Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff with perjury on the theory that Libby had a nefarious reason for lying to a grand jury about what he told reporters regarding CIA officer Plame: He was trying to cover up a White House conspiracy to retaliate against Plame’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson had infuriated Vice President Cheney by accusing the Bush administration of lying about intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Fitzgerald apparently concluded that a purported cover-up was sufficient motive for Libby to trim his recollections in a criminal way. So when Libby’s testimony differed from that of others, it was Libby who got indicted.

There’s a reason why responsible prosecutors don’t bring perjury cases on mere “he said, he said” evidence. Without an underlying crime or tangible evidence of obstruction (think Martha Stewart trying to destroy phone logs), the trial becomes a mishmash of faulty memories in which witnesses can seem as guilty as the defendant. Any prosecutor knows that memories differ, even vividly, and each party can be convinced that his or her version is the truthful one.

If we accept Fitzgerald’s low threshold for bringing a criminal case, then why stop at Libby? This investigation has enough questionable motives and shadowy half-truths and flawed recollections to fill a court docket for months.

And John Podhoretz wonders whether Tim Russert is credible.

"Whacky" Dixie Chicks

Those paranoid showbiz celebrities want us to believe the government is out to get them.