Monthly Archives: March 2010

Our First Post-American President

John Bolton, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says the Israeli government’s strategy towards Obama is flawed:

Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as Israeli prime minister collapsed in 1999 in part because he had an unhappy relationship with President Bill Clinton. It is understandable then that Mr. Netanyahu’s current government had, until last week, strived to stay close to President Barack Obama.

That strategy would have been entirely sensible if Mr. Obama were simply another president in the long line since Franklin Roosevelt who vigorously asserted U.S. national interests, championed our friends (especially beleaguered ones), and kept alliances strong. But Mr. Obama is different. He is our first post-American president. He looks beyond American exceptionalism and believes that our role on the world stage should be merely one nation among many. Mr. Netanyahu’s strategy is therefore out-of-date and flawed…

Mr. Netanyahu’s mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

What’s more, Mr. Obama is also unwilling to let anyone else, namely Israel, act instead. That means that if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems.

We are moving inexorably toward, and perhaps have now reached, an Israeli crisis with Mr. Obama. Americans must realize that allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons is empowering an existential threat to the Israeli state, to Arab governments in the region that are friendly to the U.S., and to long-term global peace and security.

Mr. Netanyahu must realize he has not been banking good behavior credits with Mr. Obama but simply postponing an inevitable confrontation. The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel’s deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel’s support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president…

And Yossi Klein Halevi, writing in the New Republic lays the blame for the Obama-Israeli crisis squarely where it belongs:

…The answer [to what caused the crisis] lies not in Jerusalem but in Washington. By placing the issue of building in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem at the center of the peace process, President Obama has … challenged the Palestinians to do no less…

Every Israeli government over the last four decades has built in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem; no government, let alone one headed by the Likud, could possibly agree to a freeze there. Obama made resumption of negotiations hostage to a demand that could not be met. The result was that Palestinian leaders were forced to adjust their demands accordingly…

The Gitmo Bar

Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn on the Gitmo Bar:

…We obtained Justice Department accounts of some of those [Gitmo lawyers’ antics] under a Freedom of Information Act request. Examples included an incident in which a lawyer sent his detainee client the transcript of a virulently anti-American speech that compared military physicians to Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor of Auschwitz, called DOJ lawyers “desk torturers” and suggested that the “abuses carried out by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib . . . could involve the President in the commission of war crimes.”

Other incidents listed in the FOIA material included: a lawyer who was caught in the act of making a hand-drawn map of a detention camp’s layout, including guard towers; a lawyer who sent a letter to his detainee client telling him that “we cannot depend on the military to do the right thing” and conveying his message of support to other detainees who were not his clients; lawyers who posted photos of Guantanamo security badges on the Internet; lawyers who provided news outlets with “interviews” of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organization; and a lawyer who gave his client a list of all the detainees…

The attorney general has the right to select whomever he chooses to work in his department, and to set policy as he sees fit. He does not, however, have the right to do it in the dark. The policies he advances must face the scrutiny of the American people, his No. 1 client.

The public has a right to know, for instance, that one of Mr. Holder’s early political hires in the department’s national security division was Jennifer Daskal, a former attorney for Human Rights Watch. Her work there centered on efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, shut down military commissions—which she calls “kangaroo courts”—and set detainees who cannot be tried in civilian courts free. She has written that freeing dangerous terrorists is an “assumption of risk” that we must take in order to cleanse the nation of Guantanamo’s moral stain. This suggests that Ms. Daskal, who serves on the Justice Department’s Detainee Policy Task Force, is entirely in sync with Mr. Holder and a White House whose chief counterterrorism official (John Brennan) considers a 20% detainee recidivism rate “not that bad.”

It is entirely legitimate to ask who else among Mr. Holder’s hires from the Gitmo bar is shaping or influencing national security policy decisions. Meanwhile, the public can decide whether the [lawyers]… who are volunteering at Guantanamo are an example of the legal profession’s noblest traditions…

No Apology Necessary

Melanie Phillips:

The New York Times reports that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah have dedicated a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history:

The woman being honored, Dalal Mughrabi, was the 19-year-old leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children, according to official Israeli figures. Ms. Mughrabi and several other attackers were killed.

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism. But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

‘We are all Dalal Mughrabi,’ declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. ‘For us she is not a terrorist’, he said, but rather ‘a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.’

Note in particular the last three words. This man is talking about Israel: not the West Bank, not Gaza, but Israel. It was, of course, not her land and never was, not at any time throughout history; nor were the West Bank or Gaza. The only people for whom this ever constituted their national homeland were the Jews. But it is that land, Israel, a state that was actually established by international agreement, that Fatah wants. In other words, it wants Israel destroyed: and that is the one and only cause of this conflict. This is not a boundary dispute. Fatah wants Israel destroyed – as its leaders have said over and over again down the years.

And she makes clear Israel has nothing for which to apologize:

…The key point is that there was actually nothing to apologise for, since it was explicitly agreed between America and Israel that, as a concession to kick-start peace negotiations, Israel would stop building in the West Bank although it would continue to build in east Jerusalem. Indeed, Hillary Clinton herself, no less, praised Israel for this agreement.

America has thus effectively unilaterally repudiated that agreement. In other words, this whole uproar has been artificially manufactured by America to produce a crisis with Israel – while refusing, astonishingly, to condemn the Palestinians at all for their refusal to enter peace talks, their honouring of one of their worst terrorists by naming a square after her, their violent attacks on the Temple Mount in recent days, and so on…

What If They Defended An Anti-Abortion Activist?

Ann Coulter unloads, quite correctly, on the “steaming pile of idiocy” surrounding the attack on Liz Cheney for asking for the list of Justice Department lawyers who defended terrorists:

A group of “leading conservative lawyers” — a phrase never confused with “U.S. Marines” — has produced an embarrassingly pompous letter denouncing Liz Cheney for demanding the names of attorneys at the Justice Department who formerly represented Guantanamo detainees.

The letter calls Cheney’s demand “shameful,” before unleashing this steaming pile of idiocy:

“The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’ representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre.”

Yes, but even John Adams didn’t take a job with the government for another 19 years after defending the British guards — who, in 1770, were “the police.” He also didn’t take a position with the U.S. government that involved processing British murder suspects.

I’d be more interested in hearing about the sacred duty of lawyers to defend “unpopular clients” if we were talking about clients who are unpopular with anyone lawyers know…

At least 34 of the 50 largest firms in the United States have performed pro bono work on behalf of Guantanamo detainees…

We only hear paeans to the “American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients” when it’s being used to defend causes popular with liberals — serial killers, terrorists and a horny hick who promised to save partial-birth abortion [read: Bill Clinton].

Lawyers want to be congratulated for their courage in defending “unpopular” clients, while taking cases that are utterly noncontroversial in their social circles.

They’d be scared to death to take the case of an anti-abortion activist. Defending the guy who killed George Tiller the Baby Killer won’t make them a superstar at the next ABA convention…

And the Wall Street Journal weighs in:

…while the tone of Ms. Cheney’s ad is unfortunate, the call for transparency is entirely reasonable. The public has a right to know the identities and records of the lawyers Mr. Holder has hired to serve it. Ms. [Jennifer] Daskal, for example, argued that detainees who have not been charged with a crime should be set free, even though “some of these men may cross the border and join the battlefield to fight U.S. soldiers and our allies.”

She made this case in a 2008 Human Rights Watch report—which is to say that she was representing not a client but her own opinion. The Administration is entitled to employ people who hold such views, but it has no right to do so in secret…

Ms. Cheney’s critics on the left are also guilty of more than a little duplicity. Many of them called for the disbarment of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, and for Judge Bybee’s impeachment, because of legal advice they gave when they worked for the Justice Department. Many liberals seem to believe that while it was a war crime to agree with Dick Cheney’s antiterror methods, it is somehow a lawyer’s patriotic duty to defend terrorists. This is the mindset that these columns describe as that of the anti-antiterror left…

What Have They Done To Deserve It?

Melanie Phillips on the “deserving” (according to Joe Biden) Arabs:

…Biden … said:

“the Palestinians deserve a ‘viable’ independent state with contiguous territory.”

Why? What have they done to deserve it? In what other conflict in the history of the planet have people who have waged a war of annihilation for eight decades and continue to do so been considered to ‘deserve’ anything, let alone an ‘independent’ existence the sole purpose of which is a military beach-head to finish the job and which would slice its victim in half?

To put it another way, why does Joe Biden think that Israel ‘deserves’ to surrender?

And why, once again, is a final solution being imposed by America upon democratic and beseiged Israel, while the administration of which Biden is such an ornament refuses to take any effective measures against the genocidal Iranian regime which is already responsible for countless American deaths and of which Israel is the present and potentially future victim, and which threatens the safety of the western world against which it has long declared war?

Life In the Vale of Howevers

Charles Krauthammer demystifies the seemingly contradictory poll results for Obamacare:

…in his summation [at the recent “health care summit], Obama was reduced to suggesting that his health care reform was indeed popular because when you ask people about individual items (for example, eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions or capping individual out-of-pocket payments) they are in favor.

Yet mystifyingly they oppose the whole package. How can that be?

Allow me to demystify. Imagine a bill granting every American a free federally delivered ice cream every Sunday morning. Provision 2: steak on Monday, also home delivered. Provision 3: A dozen red roses every Tuesday. You get the idea. Would each individual provision be popular in the polls? Of course.

However (life is a vale of howevers) suppose these provisions were bundled into a bill that also spelled out how the goodies are to be paid for and managed — say, half a trillion dollars in new taxes, half a trillion in Medicare cuts (cuts not to keep Medicare solvent but to pay for the ice cream, steak and flowers), 118 new boards and commissions to administer the bounty-giving, and government regulation dictating, for example, how your steak was to be cooked. How do you think this would poll?

Perhaps something like 3-1 against, which is what the latest CNN poll shows is the citizenry’s feeling about the current Democratic health care bills…

No One Left To Stick It To

Mark Steyn sees us trying to catch up with the Greeks in the race over the cliff:

While Barack Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand new, even more unsustainable entitlement at the health care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split-screen – because they’re part of the same story. It’s just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They’re at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is further upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided, instead, that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter 20 (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter 17 or 18.

What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 – or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: 10 grandparents have six kids have four grandkids – i.e., the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility – the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared with Spain and Italy, Greece has the least-worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe…

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less-profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out, anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick Americans with their defense tab. And, in America, Obama, Pelosi and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?