The prime lesson of the last 100 years for political leaders and heads of government is: if you go left you will take your country to economic failure.
It is a lesson that President Obama either has not learnt, or has learnt well and wants just that result.
At his second inauguration (painful words!), “the apostle of the ever-expanding state” delivered “an ode to collectivity”. So Charles Krauthammer writes.
The media herd is stunned to discover that Barack Obama is a man of the left. After 699 teleprompted presidential speeches, the commentariat was apparently still oblivious. Until Monday’s inaugural address, that is.
Where has everyone been these four years? The only surprise is that Obama chose his second inaugural, generally an occasion for “malice toward none” ecumenism, to unveil so uncompromising a left-liberal manifesto.
But the substance was no surprise.
After all, Obama had unveiled his transformational agenda in his very first address to Congress, four years ago. It was, I wrote at the time, “the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president.”
Nor was it mere talk. Obama went on to essentially nationalize health care, 18% of the U.S. economy — after passing an $833 billion stimulus that precipitated an unprecedented expansion of government spending.
Washington now spends 24% of GDP, fully one-fifth higher than the postwar norm of 20%.
Obama’s ambitions were derailed by the 2010 midterm shellacking that cost him the House. But now that he’s won again, the revolution is back, as announced in Monday’s inaugural address.
It was a paean to big government. At its heart was Obama’s pledge to (1) defend unyieldingly the 20th century welfare state and (2) expand it unrelentingly for the 21st.
The first part of that agenda — clinging zealously to the increasingly obsolete structures of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — is the very definition of reactionary liberalism.
Social Security was created when life expectancy was 62. Medicare was created when modern medical technology was in its infancy. Today’s radically different demographics and technology have rendered these programs, as structured, unsustainable. Everyone knows that without reform they’ll swallow up the rest of the budget.
As for the second part — enlargement — Obama had already begun that in his first term with ObamaCare.
Monday’s address reinstated yet another grand Obama project — healing the planet. It promised a state-created green energy sector, massively subsidized (even as the state’s regulatory apparatus squeezes fossil fuels, killing coal today, shale gas tomorrow).
The playbook is well known. As Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus once explained, environmentalism is the successor to failed socialism as justification for all-pervasive rule by a politburo of experts. Only now, it acts in the name of not the proletariat but the planet.
Monday’s address also served to disabuse the fantasists of any Obama interest in fiscal reform or debt reduction. This speech was spectacularly devoid of any acknowledgment of the central threat to the postindustrial democracies (as already seen in Europe) — the crisis of an increasingly insolvent entitlement state.
On the contrary. Obama is the apostle of the ever-expanding state. His speech was an ode to the collectivity. …
For Obama, nothing lies between citizen and state. It is a desert, within which the isolated citizen finds protection only in the shadow of Leviathan.
Put another way, this speech is the perfect homily for the marriage of Julia — the Obama campaign’s atomized citizen, coddled from cradle to grave — and the state.
In the eye of history, Obama’s second inaugural is a direct response to Ronald Reagan’s first. On Jan. 20, 1981, Reagan had proclaimed: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
And then he succeeded in bending the national consensus to his ideology — as confirmed 15 years later when the next Democratic president declared, “The era of big government is over.”
So said Bill Clinton, who then proceeded to abolish welfare. Obama is no Clinton. He doesn’t abolish entitlements; he keeps old ones and creates new ones to pursue a vision of a more just social order where fighting inequality and leveling social differences are government’s great task.
Obama said in 2008 that Reagan “changed the trajectory of America” in a way that Clinton did not.
He meant that Reagan had transformed the political zeitgeist, while Clinton accepted and validated the new Reaganite norm.
Not Obama. His mission is to redeem and resurrect the 50-year pre-Reagan liberal ascendancy.
And take it as far left as he possibly can. To mold a poorer, more subservient, more weakly defended, mediocre America under dictatorial government.
How far will Americans let him take them in that direction?
Bill Clinton claims that he feels your pain. Do you believe him? Do you think it possible?
Michelle Obama, self-titled “the mom-in-chief”, wants you to understand that her communist-born-and-bred, Islam-promoting husband – incredibly the president of the USA! – should govern you because he’s a loving sort of a guy, and he cares about you:
I see the concern in his eyes … and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle … it’s not right. We’ve got to keep working to fix this. We’ve got so much more to do.”
Do you believe he cares about each one of you? Like the Christian god is alleged to do? Do you think that even if Obama did, even if it were possible which it is not, it would be a good reason why he should govern you?
Do you think you should be loved by your government, even if it were possible for a government to love, which it is not?
Should a government act as if it were loving? Should citizens be nurtured by their government? Should we all be kept on Social Security, fed by food stamps, cured by a national health service, taught what to know and believe by a government department of education? Do you want to to be rocked in the arms of the state?
Do you want to live under Socialism?
Socialism (political pornography!) is secularized Christianity.
Christianity (moral pornography!) commands you to love everybody. Do you think you could? Or should? Would it be just to love bad people? Would behaving towards them lovingly instead of punitively dissuade them from doing harm?
Might you not, perhaps, feel filthied and abased by a politics slimed with such hypocrisy, affectation and sentimentality?
If so, you may appreciate the fable of the Tsoig, which now follows.
The Tsoig is unique as a species in that it is both animal and plant, and also sapiens: animal in its beginning, plant in its maturity, and in both conditions able to think and talk much like us.
Tsoigs had been known on the Mainland for centuries, but at last one came to the Island.
It arrived on some raft, it was thought, since though Tsoigs can walk until the age of about one hundred they cannot swim; and had this one merely been cast on the waves, the tides would have carried it in quite a different direction. So from the very beginning, one must assume, this particular Tsoig had a positive intention of coming there – a design on the Island, one might say.
On arrival it walked at once to what it judged to be the center of the Island, and there sent down its roots which were already fairly well grown and needed only to be burrowed in for the Tsoig to attain a firm grip and commence its thenceforward vegetable life, spreading very slowly at first.
Contrary to many a tale now told of it, it never did demand that it be ‘worshipped like a God’. To attribute such an idea to it is to give it at once a totally mistaken character. It never ‘demanded’. It never ordered. It had no peremptoriness, no shortness of tone, no sharpness of expression. It had so much self-confidence that it never needed to resort to a commanding or an oracular manner. It always used a tone of gentle persuasion; it wooed, it soothed, it sympathized. There was a touch of the mournful in it at all times, to the point at last of reproachfulness, but never the least trace of insistence or officiousness.
‘Confide in me,’ it would plead, in a rather bland, not very deep voice. ‘Let me be a comfort to you in your trouble.’ That sort of thing. ‘You can rely on me.’ ‘Come and tell me all about it.’ And when you had told it what you had to tell, when you had confided in it, it would say little but ‘There, there, I am sorry.’ For it was not a solution-giver. It hardly seemed to want troubles to end or ills to be cured. Indeed, some biologists are of the opinion that Tsoigs need human sorrow for survival as they need air, water, light and the salts of the earth: that they thrive on sadness, regret, heartbreak; that human sighs are the food of its spirit. And of course if a Tsoig by its spiritual nature could take in our unhappiness, transmute it, and give out happiness, as by its ordinary vegetable nature it takes in the carbon-dioxide of our breath and changes it daily into the oxygen we need, the species would surely be among the most valuable of earthly creatures. However, they do nothing of the kind.
Still, this particular Tsoig was much valued for its mere willingness to absorb whatever was complained to it. Valued by women, that is. Men did not take to it.
The women liked to sit on its root-humps, leaning up against the rather soft ‘bark’ of its trunk (known in the timber and hide trades as Sorgderm, or, more colloquially, Soigeen), and telling it all sorts of nonsense that women can fortunately seldom find anyone to listen to. What the Tsoig gave them, apart from soothing sounds and plenty of attention, were its flowers – rather small, of a dullish pink, and of a slightly unpleasant scent if any at all. It shed them lavishly on these ladies, who persistently expressed their gratitude and insisted to their indifferent husbands that it was ‘a kind old thing’.
But most of all it was sought by the children. And to confound the theories of biologists it seemed to require nothing of children but their delight. It tossed them in its branches, gently and tirelessly, and set them down again lightly on the ground. ‘Climb me, jump on me, play all over me,’ it invited them, and they did. ‘I love, love, love you, little ones,’ it would say, in a phlegm-thick voice, so that it sounded like ‘I l-huv, l-huv, l-huv you, l-hittle ones’.
And on them it showered its all-the-year-round fruits, luscious things, over-ripe as soon as formed, full of juice (known as Tsoigdrain), thin of skin, so that they always burst, you could never find one whole, and the flavour was sickly-sweet, relished by children – and at first by the women, who soon got tired of it. Certain medicinal properties were attributed to Tsoigdrain, but were never proved. The children would overeat of course, and sometimes get sick on the stuff. And all of them, as they grew up, would begin to find the fruit too cloying, and it was seldom that anyone over the age of fifteen would touch Tsoigsimmon (as the fruits of the Tsoig are called).
And when a boy reached the age of fifteen or thereabouts – a little later if he was backward, a little sooner if he was forward – he would not only stop eating the plenty which the Tsoig provided, but would even start shunning the tree, as he might an aunt who continued to treat him as a child too long: and even perhaps developed some sort of unconfessed fear of the thing – its reaching branches, its spreading roots, its ‘come hither’ tones, its ‘I I-huv you so, why don’t you come close and let me I-huv you, I don’t ask anything of you but that you let me l-huv, l-huv, l-huv you’. It moaned too, and got rather moist round the joins where the branches came out of the bole, and gummy in the ‘eyes’ where lesser branches had dropped off.
But the children continued to play on it, and women to confide in it until the men began to notice that the Tsoig was spreading too far and taking up too much space.
‘You must stop spreading,’ they told it, ‘or you will grow right into and through and over our houses, and take up so much of the land that we shall not be able to use it.’
‘I only want to please you all,’ it replied in a hurt tone, ‘and protect you all, and shelter you all, and feed you all … if you have me to do all this for you, you do not need houses or land.’
‘Stop!’ they begged it. But the Tsoig shed gummy tears, and spread a little further, saying, ‘Why do you retreat from me, and speak to me so roughly? Why do you want to hurt my feelings? I only wish for your good. I do everything for you. I l-huv you. Come near and let me embrace you. Here, here, here are flowers for you. Here is fruit – eat, eat!’
‘Just don’t go too far,’ the men said, who didn’t really want to be hard on the Tsoig. And grumbling a bit they went away and left it to the women and children.
But the Tsoig spread further yet, and went on spreading, until at last the men had to tell it, ‘You must go. Get up if you can, and leave the Island. If you can’t we’ll help you. But you must let go with your roots, and take them up, and let us lift you and put you on a raft and take you to the Mainland. There is not enough room on the Island for you and us. Either you must go or we must go, and as we are many and you are one, we suggest that you go somewhere else, where there is more space for you.’
The tree moaned and wept. But it told the Islanders that it would forgive them their cruelty. And the children were full of compassion for the Tsoig, and sat in its branches, and leant their cheeks against its soggy derm, and stroked the oozy bumps and humps of the good old Tsoig.
So the tree stayed, and spread. And it shed so much fruit on the earth that the rank smell of the Island was detectable far out at sea, and even on the Mainland.
‘The Island has been cursed with a Tsoig,’ the Mainlanders said. ‘They should have killed it before it rooted itself firmly. Once a Tsoig has established itself there’s no way to destroy it. The Islanders will soon be putting out to sea.’
‘Tsoig,’ the people of the Island pleaded – this time the women too, ‘please, please go, or else we must leave our homes, and leave the Island, and leave you here all alone. We know that you like to be where there are people. You love people, don’t you? Well, if you went to the Mainland and took root there, all the people of the Mainland would come and see you, and there are many more people there than here, and plenty of room for all. You could spread and spread for another hundred years. And you would not be lonely. But on the Island there is not enough room for you and us. We are many and you are one. You should go. If we go we shall be scattered, separated from one another. We shall have to go to strange new lands and work hard for years to build new houses and recover what we have lost. And we shall be lonely, and homesick for the Island we were born on.’
But the Tsoig only wept, and spread faster, further and further, and splattered its round wet fruits on them.
Then the women took the children into the houses and shut the doors and drew the curtains and the men fetched axes and saws. Ignoring the sobs and cries of the old tree, they hacked furiously at it. But they soon found there was no way of cutting it down or cutting it back; for as fast as a Tsoig is wounded it heals itself, and as fast as its limbs are cut off it grows more, stronger than before, and it had grown too tough to be poisoned. Whatever was poured on its roots and leaves seemed only to nourish it.
So the people had no choice but to get into boats and put out to sea.
Because of the tides those who left from one side of the Island never again found those who left from the other side. Families were broken, and friends lost each other. And worst of all some of the smaller children were snatched up at the last moment by the Tsoig, swung up high, and held fast and unreachable in the embrace of the tree they had trusted. Their parents could not rescue them, and had to abandon them to the Tsoig.
To these young children, clasped helplessly and desperately weeping in the coils of the wet, fruit-erupting branches of the ever more lovingly, closely holding, the ever growing, ever more tightly tangling tree, the Tsoig expounded the moral of its story: ‘L–huv Conquers All.’
The pointless Israeli-Palestinian talks proceed. Or maybe not.
Tuesday the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, stormed out of a meeting with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon. The cause of his fury? He proposed that there should be a Palestinian state in which only Arabs and no Jews would be allowed to live, and a second Palestinian state - where the State of Israel with its mixed population of Jews and Arabs now exists – in which Jews would be allowed to go on living. At least some Jews. For a time. Perhaps.
Ayalon rejected the proposal.
So if the talks that were started without any remote chance of bringing any result whatsoever break down despite all Obama’s pressure to keep them up, it will be Israel’s fault.
It’s always Israel’s fault when the dear old talks break down.
Bill Clinton now blames Natan Sharansky for the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian talks held under his auspices at Camp David in 2000, when Prime Minister Barak made an extremely generous offer to Arafat, which Arafat turned down.
[Foreign Policy magazine] claimed that Clinton talked about a conversation that he had with Natan Sharansky, who, according to Clinton, was the only Israeli minister to reject the comprehensive peace agreement Clinton proposed at the Camp David Summit in 2000.
“I said, ‘Natan, what is the deal [about not supporting the peace deal],’” Clinton was quoted as saying. “He said, ‘I can’t vote for this, I’m Russian… I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.’”
Sharansky … denied Wednesday that the alleged conversation ever took place. “A report of President Clinton’s comments has been brought to my attention which I hope is inaccurate.”
“However, as to the basic facts, I was never at Camp David and never had the opportunity to discuss the negotiations there with President Clinton,” said Sharansky.
I suppose it depends on what “said” means. If Sharansky “said” no in Clinton’s imagination, does that mean Clinton is lying?
Good grief! Would Bill Clinton lie?
A nice column by John Stossel at Townhall explains what a libertarian is/believes.
We think it likely that most of our regular readers are, like ourselves, libertarians, and need no such explanation.
Still, the column is a good read. Here’s a taste of it:
Libertarians want government to leave people alone — in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don’t hurt anybody else.
Ironically, that used to be called “liberal,” which has the same root as “liberty.” Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.
I wish I could call myself “liberal” now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth. …
When I first explained libertarianism to my wife, she said: “That’s cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?”
For my FBN [Fox Business Network] show tomorrow, I ask some prominent libertarians that question, including Jeffrey Miron, who teaches economics at Harvard.
“It might in some cases be a little cruel,” Miron said. “But it means you’re not taking from people who’ve worked hard to earn their income (in order) to give it to people who have not worked hard.”
But isn’t it wrong for people to suffer in a rich country?
“The number of people who will suffer is likely to be very small. Private charity … will provide support for the vast majority who would be poor in the absence of some kind of support. When government does it, it creates an air of entitlement that leads to more demand for redistribution, till everyone becomes a ward of the state.” …
David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, took the discussion to a deeper level.
“Instead of asking, ‘What should we do about people who are poor in a rich country?’ The first question is, ‘Why is this a rich country?’ …
“Five hundred years ago, there weren’t rich countries in the world. There are rich countries now because part of the world is following basically libertarian rules: private property, free markets, individualism.” …
Before the New Deal, people of modest means banded together to help themselves. These organizations were crowded out when government co-opted their insurance functions, which included inexpensive medical care.
Boaz indicts the welfare state for the untold harm it’s done in the name of the poor.
“What we find is a system that traps people into dependency. … You should be asking advocates of that system, ‘Why don’t you care about the poor?’”
I agree. It appears that when government sets out to solve a problem, not only does it violate our freedom, it also accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.
It should be taken as a general rule that everything government does it does badly. Even the one thing it alone can and must do – protect the nation and the individual – it messes up. The less we allow government to do, the better for all of us.
As for helping the helpless (other than privately), here’s an idea. Why not shift all responsibility for welfare on to the churches? After all, Christians claim that their earthly mission is indiscriminate loving, giving, caring. The churches will need much more money than their congregations willingly give, but they can easily raise it from liberals, from innumerable Bill Clinton types who say they feel the pain of others, from all who sigh for the poor because it makes them feel they’re good persons – a numerous crowd in every Western nation. Let the churches have the honor of being the soul distributors of such prospectively vast funds to those condemned to be, through no fault of their own, at the receiving end of charity; and also – because they’ll not be able to avoid it – to those who’ll demand a share whether they need it or not.
Here’s a happy snap: the Clintons with the Godfather of Terrorism
There’s an old quip about the British Foreign Office, that just as the Ministry of Defence is for defence [British spelling], the Foreign Office is for foreigners. Another in similar vein: They found a mole in the Foreign Office – he was working for Britain. And who can forget if he’s once seen it the episode of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ in which an especially slithery FO official, informed by the PM that he’s being posted to Israel, protests, ‘But you know I’m on the Arab side!’ and the PM retorts, ‘I thought you were on our side.’
Career diplomats, at least in the First World, tend to lose sight of what their job is really all about – to look after the interests of their country in dealings with other countries – and instead come to believe that their high, almost priestly, calling is to maintain amicable relations with their foreign counterparts; so as soon as a conflict of interest arises, they are ready to negotiate the terms of their surrender. In Britain this standard maneuver is called the pre-emptive cringe.
A perfect illustration is the US State Department’s transactions with the Taliban. The history is related in some detail by Michael Rubin in Commentary (Taking Tea with the Taliban, February 2010). ‘The story the documents tell,’ he writes, ‘is one of engagement for its own sake – without any consideration given to the behavior or sincerity of an unambiguously hostile interlocutor.’
The exercise in futility, a dialogue of the credulous and the cunning, began in February 1995 when US diplomats met seven Taliban spokesmen in Kandahar. The diplomats wanted information. They got none. Therefore they reported that ‘the Taliban appeared well-disposed toward the United States’.
‘Later the same week, another US diplomat met a Taliban “insider” who told the official what he wanted to hear: the Taliban liked the United States, had no objection to elections in Afghanistan, and were suspicious of both Saudi and Pakistani intentions. This was nonsense, but it was manna for American diplomats who wanted to believe that engagement was possible.’
America wanted the Taliban to stop sheltering Osama bin Laden. When the Taliban took Kabul and became the de facto government of Afghanistan, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas W. Simons, met with Mullah Ghaus, who bore the title of Foreign Minister, to ‘discuss the fact’ that they were giving safe haven to terrorists. Ghaus said there weren’t any terrorists, but if the US would give the Taliban money, they might possibly be ‘more helpful’ to the US. What could he have meant – that they’d find some terrorists lurking about after all? Clarification was not requested, however, and by this hopeful suggestion Simons apparently felt much encouraged.
Even without getting American aid, the Taliban had scored a success. They had violently seized power, but were being negotiated with by the US State Department as a legitimate government. It was enough and more than enough to gratify them, and they had achieved it without making a single concession: they still sheltered bin Laden, and could carry on savagely torturing prisoners and making the lives of Afghan women unrelenting hell without it costing them anything at all.
The US was grateful to the Taliban just for being willing to talk, and the Taliban were grateful to the US for being willing just to talk – because they knew that as long as the talk went on, the Americans would do nothing else. It was a match made in diplomat’s heaven. But what the State Department or President Clinton thought they now had to bargain with, only heaven could tell.
In 1997 Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State and was eager to continue the engagement. ‘Diplomats met Taliban representatives every few weeks … What resulted was theater: the Taliban would stonewall on terrorism but would also dangle just enough hope to keep diplomats calling.’
The very refusal on the part of the Taliban to expel bin Laden seemed to the Clinton administration a compelling reason to go on talking. Not to talk to them would ‘isolate’ them, and that, the National Security Council reckoned, would be a dangerous consequence. Instead they were to be shown yet more goodwill by the US: they were given the money they’d asked for. Of course the funds were carefully labeled: this for providing schools for girls; this for sowing new crops in the fields that had hitherto grown only poppies for the heroin trade. The Taliban took the money, spent it on arms or whatever they liked, continued to deny education to girls, left the poppies in the fields, and pocketed the lesson that the more obstinate they were the more they’d get from the United States.
The US had no compunction about leaving the Northern Alliance isolated, ‘the group of one-time rebels and chieftains that constituted the only serious resistance to the Taliban’. In April 1998 the American ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, went to Afghanistan and deceived himself into believing that he brokered a cease-fire between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, while in fact the fighting between them intensified and continued until the US invasion three years later.
For yet more talks, the Clinton administration then welcomed Taliban delegates into America. The issues were again the treatment of women and terrorists using Afghanistan as a base. An ‘acting minister of Islam and culture’ explained that it was Islamic custom to treat women the way the Taliban did, implying that in the name of the American idea of multicultural tolerance Americans could raise no objection to it. As for bin Laden, they promised to keep him isolated and subdued.
So subdued was he kept that shortly afterwards, in August 1998, his al-Qaeda terrorists carried out their plots to attack the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Clinton retaliated by having a factory flattened in the Sudan, destroying a terrorist training camp with a cruise missile in Afghanistan – and continuing diplomatic engagement with the Taliban.
The Taliban were furious about the training-camp. Mullah Omar, ‘spiritual head’ of the Taliban, phoned the State Department and complained angrily about it. The plots had not been hatched in Afghanistan he insisted, and it was grossly unfair of the US to avenge itself on his country. But he was open to dialogue, he conceded – to the relief of Madeleine Albright. The Taliban’s ‘foreign minister’ Maulawi Wakil Ahmed, met the US ambassador to Pakistan, William B. Milam, and reiterated that they would not expel bin Laden, whose presence in Afghanistan he referred to as a ‘problem’, by which he might have meant for the Americans than rather than the Taliban, but the word made Milam feel hopeful. The ‘diplomatic pressure’, he concluded, was working, and must be kept up. So the talks continued.
When a court in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan found bin Laden not guilty of being involved in the East African attacks, a suspicion rose in the mind of Alan Eastham, a diplomat in the Islamabad legation. “It is possible that the Taliban are simply playing for time,” he wrote; but nevertheless he thought “it is at least [also] possible that they – some of them – are serious about finding a peaceful way out.” [My italics]
Unable or unwilling to see that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were two claws of the same beast, and disregarding all proofs that the Taliban were acting in bad faith, the Clinton State Department insistently proceeded with its pointless, fruitless, self-defeating dialogue. The Taliban and al-Qaeda ‘exploited American naiveté and sincerity at the ultimate cost of several thousand [American] lives.’ For while the talks were proceeding, bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were putting their heads together in Tora Bora to plot 9/11.
When George W. Bush became president, the talks were broken off. And when, after 9/11, America struck at Taliban-ruled, al-Qaeda-harboring Afghanistan, it won a swift military victory – but then lingered on to try and transform the primitive tribal nation with a long history of unremitting internecine strife into a peaceful democracy.
The Taliban fought back, and are winning. And President Obama is returning to the policy of engagement. His administration has revived the fiction that there is a good Taliban and a bad Taliban, and in their desperation to end the war without seeming to be beaten, they are trying to include the Taliban in the farcical ‘democratic’ government that has been established under American auspices. It’s a weird concept: you win a war if you empower your enemy, pretending that he has been born again as your friend.
Now General McChrystal will try to persuade America’s allies at a London conference that the surge he is planning with 30,000 extra troops will lead to a negotiated settlement. But the Financial Times of January 25, 2010, reports that the general acknowledges his ‘growing skepticism about [winning?] the war’.
This seems to be the best he is hoping for: ‘By using the reinforcements to create an arc of secure territory stretching from the Taliban’s southern heartlands to Kabul, Gen McChrystal aims to weaken the insurgency to the point where its leaders would accept some form of settlement with Afghanistan’s government. … But the general warned that violence would rise as insurgents stepped up bombings to try to undermine his strategy.’
The allies he needs to persuade at the conference ‘suffered a 70% rise in casualties last year ‘ and they doubt the credibility of the Afghan government. No wonder there is not much vigorous, confident hope to be detected in the general’s expectations of his allies’ response or in his own strategy if the FT report is to be trusted. It conveys deeply dispiriting indications of McChrystal’s state of mind. The one thing it claims that he and the Taliban agree on is that ‘110,000 foreign troops should go home’. The Afghan government, it says, has ‘little incentive to alter the status quo while atop a lucrative war economy’. And ‘with Barack Obama planning to start withdrawing US troops in mid-2011, the Taliban may believe it has far more resolve than the west’ – meaning, presumably, that it has only to wait and the whole country will be back in its bloodstained hands again.
McChrystal bears the responsibility of saving Obama’s face, which unfortunately is also America’s face. For this desperate if not entirely ignoble purpose the lives of brave soldiers in the magnificent fighting forces of the United States are now being hazarded.
Meanwhile bin Laden apparently lives and al-Qaeda grows, and they continue to plot death and destruction. It seems that diplomacy is not after all the most effective means of stopping them.
Jillian Becker January 26, 2010
It is extremely bad for poor people to become dependent on hand-outs from government. It is also extremely bad for poor nations to become dependent on hand-outs from rich nations. Haiti is a case in point. It is a country of despair, and foreign aid has helped to make it so.
From the Wall Street Journal, by Bret Stephens:
It’s been a week since Port-au-Prince was destroyed by an earthquake. In the days ahead, Haitians will undergo another trauma as rescue efforts struggle, and often fail, to keep pace with unfolding emergencies. After that—and most disastrously of all—will be the arrival of the soldiers of do-goodness, each with his brilliant plan to save Haitians from themselves.
“Haiti needs a new version of the Marshall Plan—now,” writes Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald, by way of complaining that the hundreds of millions currently being pledged are miserly. Economist Jeffrey Sachs proposes to spend between $10 and $15 billion dollars on a five-year development program. “The obvious way for Washington to cover this new funding,” he writes, “is by introducing special taxes on Wall Street bonuses.” In a New York Times op-ed, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush profess to want to help Haiti “become its best.” Some job they did of that when they were actually in office.
Kindness comes to Haiti, but too much kindness can kill.
All this works to salve the consciences of people whose dimly benign intention is to “do something.” It’s a potential bonanza for the misery professionals of aid agencies and NGOs, never mind that their livelihoods depend on the very poverty whose end they claim to seek…
For actual Haitians, however, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity. It will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise. And it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break.
How do I know this? It helps to read a 2006 report from the National Academy of Public Administration, usefully titled “Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed.” The report summarizes a mass of documents from various aid agencies describing their lengthy records of non-accomplishment in the country.
Here, for example, is the World Bank—now about to throw another $100 million at Haiti—on what it achieved in the country between 1986 and 2002: “The outcome of World Bank assistance programs is rated unsatisfactory (if not highly so), the institutional development impact, negligible, and the sustainability of the few benefits that have accrued, unlikely.”
Why was that? The Bank noted that “Haiti has dysfunctional budgetary, financial or procurement systems, making financial and aid management impossible.” It observed that “the government did not exhibit ownership by taking the initiative for formulating and implementing [its] assistance program.” Tellingly, it also acknowledged the “total mismatch between levels of foreign aid and government capacity to absorb it,” another way of saying that the more foreign donors spent on Haiti, the more the funds went astray.
But this still fails to get at the real problem of aid to Haiti, which has less to do with Haiti than it does with the effects of aid itself. “The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape,” James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist, told Der Spiegel in 2005. “For God’s sake, please just stop.”
Take something as seemingly straightforward as food aid. “At some point,” Mr. Shikwati explains, “this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the U.N.’s World Food Program.” …
A better approach recognizes the real humanity of Haitians by treating them—once the immediate and essential tasks of rescue are over—as people capable of making responsible choices. Haiti has some of the weakest property protections in the world, as well as some of the most burdensome business regulations. In 2007, it received 10 times as much in aid ($701 million) as it did in foreign investment.
Reversing those figures is a task for Haitians alone, which the outside world can help by desisting from trying to kill them with kindness. Anything short of that and the hell that has now been visited on this sad country will come to seem like merely its first circle.
And from Slate, by Anne Applebaum :
Outside expertise will be unacceptable to many Haitians, who will see it as a colonial imposition, unwarranted interference in local affairs, cultural imperialism. Armed U.S. Marines may wind up in fire fights with .. violent gangs. Local elites—those who remain—may plot to swindle the aid missions out of their food and money.
I hope I am wrong. I am sure there are optimists out there, people who think this is Haiti’s chance to reconstruct itself, literally and figuratively, to rebuild government institutions, to attract donors and investment. Bill Clinton is such an optimist, and I am very, very glad that he and his wife spent their honeymoon in Haiti. How fortunate, at this moment, that the country has such powerful friends. Yet I also know that a successful recovery and reconstruction will require not just friends, not just money, and not just optimism, but a profound cultural and political change, the kind of change that normally takes decades. And Haiti does not have decades, it has days—maybe hours—before fresh disasters strike.
Among the Democrats most guilty of causing the world-wide economic crisis by forcing financial institutions to provide mortgages to folk who couldn’t afford them – a roll of dishonor that includes Bill Clinton and Barney Frank - is Senator Chris Dodd.
What other bad decisions has he made? Here’s an interesting snippet of information from the Washington Examiner:
Now that our attention is focused on airline security measures thanks to the failed airline attack on Christmas Day, it’s worth mentioning that one senator took money away from aviation security to line the pockets of a constituency that supported his presidential campaign in a big way.
Back in July, Senator Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed an amendment reducing aviation security appropriations by $4.5 million in favor of firefighter grants — a notoriously inneffective program. In fact, the money was specifically “for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems.” The amendment was also sponsored by Sen. Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Carper, D-Del., but Dodd deserves to be singled out here because the firefighters union is a pet constituency of his. In 2007 he campaigned all through Iowa with the firefighters union. It was one of the few distinguishable features of Dodd’s ill-fated presidential bid.
How much harm he did by this may not be measurable, but his doing it is a measure of the man.
David Horowitz knows the left from the inside, as he was once passionately part of it. He changed to become a great campaigner for freedom.
What he tells us about the left is to be trusted.
These paragraphs by him are from his blog at FrontPageMag:
Bill Clinton is not like those who worship him, corrupting himself and others for a higher cause. Unlike them, he betrays principles because he has none. He will even betray his country, but without the slightest need to betray it for something else – for an idea, a party, a cause. He is a narcissist who sacrifices principle for power because his vision is so filled up with himself that he cannot tell the difference.
But the idealists who serve him — the Stephanopoulos’s, the Ickes’s, the feminists, the progressives and Hillary — can tell the difference. Their cyncism flows from the very perception they have of right and wrong. They do it for noble ends. They do it for the progressive faith. They do it because they see themselves as gods, as having the power — through correct politics — to redeem the world. It is that terrifyingly exalted ambition that fuels their spiritual arrogance and justifies their means.
And that is why they hate conservatives. They hate you because you are killers of their dream. You are defenders of a Constitution that thwarts their cause. They hate you because your “reactionary” commitment to individual rights, to a single standard and to a neutral and limited state obstructs their progressive designs. They hate you because you are believers in property and its rights as the cornerstones of prosperity and human freedom; because you do not see the market economy as a mere instrument for acquiring personal wealth and stocking political war chests, but as both means and end.
Conservatives who think progressives are misinformed idealists will always be blind-sided by the sheer malice of the left — by the cynicism of those who pride themselves on their principles; by the viciousness of those who champion sensitivity; by the intolerance of those who call themselves liberal; and by the ruthless disregard for the well-being of the poor on the part of those who preen themselves as their champions.
Conservatives are surprised because they see progressives as merely misguided, when they are, in fact, morally – and ontologically — misdirected. They are the messianists of a false religious faith. Since the redeemed future that justifies their existence and rationalizes their hypocrisy can never be realized, what really motivates progressives is a modern idolatry: their limitless passion for the continuance of Them.
For years now North Korea has been hoping for direct talks with the US. By granting ex-president Clinton the release of two illegally held American journalists that he had to come and beg for, Kim Jong Il now gets just what he wanted. The one-on-one negotiations will legitimize the North Korean regime. (They ought to delegitimize the Obama presidency.)
Hillary Clinton lies about what happened. Is anyone taken in? Is anyone surprised?
From the New York Post
One week after North Korea released two imprisoned American journalists, the Obama administration announced its willingness yesterday to hold direct talks with the rogue nation over its nuclear weapons. ”The ball is in their court,” said America’s UN ambassador, Susan Rice, on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with the rest of the administration, insisted that former President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea to secure the release of the two journalists was not a negotiation with the country, led by dictator Kim Jong Il, but she said she hoped it would improve relations with them. ”What we’re hoping is that maybe, without it being part of the mission in any way, the fact that this was done will perhaps lead the North Koreans to recognize that they can have a positive relationship with us,” Secretary Clinton said on CNN’s “GPS.”