An insoluble mystery – or an unutterable solution? 1

What can explain the zeal with which Obama has empowered Iran, against all reason, against all opposition and difficulty – including the truculent and obstreperous behavior of Iran itself?

Obama ardently wants Iran to be a power in the world. Why?

Bret Stephens’s report yesterday at the Wall Street Journal on the progress of Iran towards nuclear arms under Obama’s patronage only deepens the mystery of the motive.

What diplomats call the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—known to the rest of us as the Disastrous Iran Deal—was agreed in Vienna a year ago this week. Now comes a status update, courtesy of our friends at the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV.

In its fascinating 2015 annual report, published late last month … there’s this:

The illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities [by Iran] in Germany registered by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution persisted in 2015 at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level. This holds true in particular with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology.

The report also notes …

a further increase in the already considerable procurement efforts in connection with Iran’s ambitious missile technology program which could among other things potentially serve to deliver nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.

The BfV report arrived days before Germany arrested a Pakistani national, identified as Syed Mustufa H., accused of spying for Iran. It also corroborates another German intelligence report, this one from the intelligence service of North Rhine-Westphalia, that Iran’s nuclear procurement efforts have increased dramatically in recent years, from 48 known attempts in 2010 to 141 in 2015. Seven other German states have reported similar Iranian procurement efforts.

This violates Iran’s explicit commitment to go through an official “procurement channel” to purchase nuclear- and missile-related materials.

There is such a channel open to Iran?

All this was enough to prompt Angela Merkel to warn the Bundestag last week that Iran “continued to develop its rocket program in conflict with relevant provisions of the U.N. Security Council”. Don’t expect German sanctions, but at least the chancellor is living in the reality zone.

As for the Obama administration, not so much. For the past year it has developed a narrative — spoon-fed to the reporters and editorial writers Ben Rhodes publicly mocks as dopes and dupes — that Iran has met all its obligations under the deal, and now deserves extra cookies in the form of access to U.S. dollars, Boeing jets, U.S. purchases of Iranian heavy water (thereby subsidizing its nuclear program), and other concessions the administration last year promised Congress it would never grant.

“We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support for terrorism, and for its ballistic-missile program, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions vigorously,” Mr. Obama said in January. Whatever.

The administration is now weighing whether to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization. That would neutralize a future president’s ability to impose sanctions on Iran, since WTO rules would allow Tehran to sue Washington for interfering with trade.

The administration has also pushed the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that enforces anti-money-laundering standards, to ease pressure on Iran, which FATF did last month by suspending some restrictions for the next year.

And then there’s the Boeing deal to sell $17.6 billion worth of jets to Iran, which congressional Republicans led by Illinois’s Pete Roskam are trying to stop. Iran uses its civilian fleet to ferry weapons and fighters to its terrorist clients in Syria and Lebanon.

“The administration is trying to lock in the Iran deal and prevent a future president from doing anything, including pushing back on Iran’s malign behavior,” says the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz, who knows more about Iran sanctions than anyone in Washington. “Instead of curbing Iran’s worst behavior, the administration effectively facilitates it.”

One last detail: In June, the Journal’s Jay Solomon reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency had discovered “traces of man-made uranium” at Iran’s military facility at Parchin. The agency reported this finding in a footnote to a report in December, but the administration made no comment then and now dismisses it as old news. The IAEA is no longer allowed to inspect Parchin, or any other military installation, under the deal.

So let’s recap. Mr. Obama says Iran is honoring the nuclear deal, but German intelligence tells us Tehran is violating it more aggressively than ever. He promised “snapback” sanctions in the event of such violations, but the U.S. is operating as Iran’s trade-promotion agent. He promised “unprecedented” inspections, but we’re not permitted to inspect sites where uranium was found. He promised an eight-year ban on Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles, but Tehran violated that ban immediately and repeatedly with only mild pushback from the West. He promised that the nuclear deal was not about “normalizing” relations with a rogue regime. But he wants it in the WTO.

Is Mr. Obama rationalizing a failed agreement or did he mean to mislead the American public? Either way, truth is catching up with the Iran deal.

Plainly Obama has misled the American public. What is the truth?

Iran has declared that it desires the annihilation of Israel. It has inscribed that aim on its missiles.

Is it illogical, or too far-fetched, to ascribe the same desire to the American commander-in-chief who is helping Iran become powerful enough to achieve its aim?

Posted under Commentary, Germany, Iran, Israel, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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One of the gang 1

Why did anyone expect James Comey to recommend the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for grave crimes that he himself enumerated?

Because “anyone” did not know or had forgotten that Comey is a member of Obama’s gang.

James Comey would not have been appointed head of the FBI had President Obama sensed the least trace in the man of that right-wing weakness called “objective judgment”.  

On June 13, 2013, when James Comey was nominated by President Obama to head the FBI, Bret Stephens wrote at the Wall Street Journal:

President Obama on Friday nominated James Comey to run the FBI, and the former prosecutor and deputy attorney general is already garnering media effusions reserved for any Republican who fell out publicly with the Bush Administration. Forgive us if we don’t join this Beltway beatification.

Any potential FBI director deserves scrutiny, since the position has so much power and is susceptible to ruinous misjudgments and abuse. That goes double with Mr. Comey, a nominee who seems to think the job of the federal bureaucracy is to oversee elected officials, not the other way around, and who had his own hand in some of the worst prosecutorial excesses of the last decade.

The list includes his overzealous pursuit, as U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, of banker Frank Quattrone amid the post-Enron political frenzy of 2003. Mr. Comey never did indict Mr. Quattrone on banking-related charges, but charged him instead with obstruction of justice and witness tampering based essentially on a single ambiguous email.

Mr. Comey’s first trial against Mr. Quattrone ended in a hung jury; he won a conviction on a retrial but that conviction was overturned on appeal in 2006. …

There is also Mr. Comey’s 2004 role as deputy attorney general in the Aipac case, in which the FBI sought to use bogus “secret” information to entrap two lobbyists for the pro-Israel group and then prosecuted them under the 1917 Espionage Act. The Justice Department dropped that case in 2009 after it fell apart in court — but not before wrecking the lives of the two lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman.

Or the atrocious FBI investigation, harassment and trial-by-media of virologist Steven Jay Hatfill, falsely suspected of being behind the 2001 anthrax mail attacks. Mr. Comey continued to vouchsafe the strength of the case against Dr. Hatfill in internal Administration deliberations long after it had become clear that the FBI had fingered the wrong man. …

Yet the biggest of Mr. Comey’s misjudgments are the ones for which he gets the highest accolades from his media admirers. In March 2004 Mr. Comey raced to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop his boss from signing off on a periodic reauthorization of the “warrantless wiretap” surveillance program authorized by President Bush shortly after 9/11. Mr. Comey’s hospital theatrics have since been spun — above all by Mr. Comey — as a case of a brave and honest civil servant standing up to an out-of-control White House seeking to take advantage of a sick man for morally dubious and even criminal ends.

Yet the reason the White House needed Mr. Ashcroft’s signature in the first place was that President Bush had subjected the surveillance program to a stringent 45-day reauthorization schedule (with the knowledge and approval of senior members of Congress), and Mr. Ashcroft had signed off on the same program multiple times before having an apparent change of heart shortly before the March incident.

None of this kept Mr. Comey from abusing his role as Acting AG implicitly to threaten the White House with the likely exposure of the classified program — all because his interpretation of the law differed from that of Mr. Gonzales and other government lawyers. …

Then there’s Mr. Comey’s role in the investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee. Mr. Comey first encouraged Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself in naming a special counsel on grounds that the AG could run into a conflict of interest if the investigation implicated Karl Rove.

Whereupon Mr. Comey gave the job to Patrick Fitzgerald, a close personal friend. Unlike independent counsels under the now defunct statute, a special counsel is supposed to be under the Justice Department’s supervision, and it would be interesting to hear Mr. Comey explain how appointing the godfather of one of his children to a high-profile job under his direction did not entail a conflict of interest.

Mr. Fitzgerald quickly found out that the leaker of Ms. Plame’s identity was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a fact Mr. Fitzgerald kept secret for years. Yet instead of closing the case down, Mr. Comey signed off within weeks on an expansion of Mr. Fitzgerald’s mandate. After a three-year investigation that turned up almost nothing new, the prosecutor tried to salvage his tenure with a dubious indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury.

Mr. Fitzgerald … supported by his superior Mr. Comey, also managed to land New York Times reporter Judith Miller in jail for 85 days for refusing to reveal her sources, and nearly did the same for Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper. With another FBI violation of internal Justice guidelines regarding media freedoms in the news, someone might ask Mr. Comey why he was prepared to resign on principle over surveilling terrorists, while doing nothing to stop Mr. Fitzgerald’s efforts to criminalize journalism?

None of this may stand in the way of Mr. Comey’s confirmation in a Democratic Senate. But before Senators yawn their way to rubber-stamping President Obama’s “bipartisan” pick, they should ask Mr. Comey some harder questions than the ones to which his media fan base have accustomed him.

No hard questions were asked. James Comey was appointed head of the FBI.

For about a year his investigators have been looking into whether Hillary Clinton had broken laws governing her communications as secretary of state, and they find that she had. Her aides were questioned, and it’s been found that they helped her break the laws. Finally, Comey had some of his investigators ask Hillary Clinton herself, in person, face to face, if she had intended to break the law. No, she said, she had not. (She was not under oath, so there was no risk that she might be accused of perjury. And no one will ever know what was said on either side because no record of the exchange was made.) Her denial of intent was all Comey needed. Although he is absolutely sure that she has indeed broken many laws, he has announced that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring any charges against her.      

In an article also at the Wall Street Journal, published yesterday (July 7, 2016), Kimberley Strassel recollects the instances Bret Stephens listed at the time of Comey’s appointment, and comments:

It was no surprise that Mr. Comey this week let Mrs. Clinton off, despite the damning evidence amassed by the FBI of gross negligence in her handling of classified material. A prosecutor — for this was the position Mr. Comey essentially assumed on Tuesday — who put the law above all else would have brought charges, holding Mrs. Clinton to the same standard as other officials convicted of similarly “extremely careless” handling of classified material. 

A prosecutor who had spent a lifetime with one eye on politics and one eye on his résumé would have behaved exactly as Mr. Comey did. He must have noticed that Mrs. Clinton, leading in the polls, had recently dangled a job offer in front of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He saw President Obama pressing not just his thumb, but his whole body, on the scales of justice. Reporters were on Mrs. Clinton’s side. Democrats were ready to be furious if he decided the wrong way.

We were among the ones who had, in foolish ignorance, supposed James Comey to be a man of integrity. As a result we were disappointed and angry at the miscarriage of justice.

Now that we know more about Mr. Comey … we are no less disappointed, and even more angry.


A political revolution 7

Former Governor Mike Huckabee told Fox News that Donald Trump’s success represents a peaceful “overthrow of the government” and that the Republican establishment should be glad it’s being achieved with “ballots, not bullets”. He added that the Trump phenomenon was a “political revolution in the Republican Party and in the country”. 


After Obama, and the utter failure of a Republican-majority Congress to oppose the evil that he has done, a political revolution is necessary, and Donald Trump – with all his faults that two of our readers insist on pointing out to us over and over again – has emerged as the leader of it.  


Joan Swirsky writes at Canada Free Press:

Sure enough, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump racked up impressive statistics in his Fox News debate tonight, effectively trouncing the competition that included Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Once again, however, Fox’s Megyn “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” Kelly ambushed Mr. Trump by falsely stating that the Better Business Bureau had given Trump University a D-minus rating, when in fact it’s rating is, as Trump asserted, an A! …

(Sorry about the small print. Efforts to make it bigger have failed.)


The same trouncing happened last week when Trump’s victories in the primaries garnered him the lion’s share of electoral votes by winning Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia, which, according to Philip Bump of The Washington Post, “no Republican has ever won going back to 1960”.

Both pundits and pollsters attributed the massive turn-outs to Mr. Trump’s having excited, inspired and therefore mobilized the electorate — in some cases well over 100% increase above the 2012 midterms. In one instance, Mr. Trump beat Sen. Cruz by 450,000 votes; in another he beat Sen. Rubio by over a million votes! …  Trump had “significant support across educational, ideological, age and income classifications”.

In his victory speech last week, looking and sounding presidential, Mr. Trump accurately proclaimed: “We have expanded the Republican Party.”

This ought to have been music to the ears of Republicans everywhere, especially “establishment” types who constantly seek to attract influential voting blocs comprised of African-Americans, Hispanics, and young people, all of whom — mysteriously, incomprehensibly, self-destructively — have huddled under the Democrat tent for decades, gaining not a micrometer of progress in their personal lives, wages, schools, crime rates, the pathetic list is endless. Trump, only nine months into being a politician, has accomplished this incredible feat. But the more he succeeds, the more the Grand Poobahs of the Grand Old Party, as well as the media (both right and left), have devolved into what appears to be a clinical state of hysteria.

Think about this. Barack Obama’s record violates every principle and value that Republicans and Conservatives claim they stand for … and yet those same Republicans and Conservatives — in full control of the Senate and House — have been notably absent in mustering up anything more than mild rebuke to counter Mr. Obama’s assaults on our country. But to them, Trump is the real threat!

That’s what the frenzied GOP, media, and also-rans are trying to do, figuratively closing any openings in what they believe is their own personal Ship of State now that the threatening weather called Donald Trump is upon them. …

Ironic, isn’t it. If any entity deserves a comeuppance, it is the very arrogant, go-along-to-get-along, ineffectual, leftist-whipped, emasculated, cave-to-Obama, bow-to-the-lobbyists, accommodate-the-Arab-lobby establishment! Impotent? Emasculated? Yes, money and power are mighty motivators, but it is a tacit acknowledgment of their own sissified selves that is now spurring Trump’s critics into action.

And they’re trying their damnedest! On March 2, a gaggle of Republican national security leaders — no doubt many of them members of the globalist Council on Foreign Relations whose animating raison d’être would be threatened by a Trump presidency — wrote an open letter to Trump expressing their “united opposition” to his candidacy. They don’t like his “vision of American influence and power in the world … advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars … rhetoric that undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism … insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border…,” on and on. Comical, isn’t it, that everything they’ve failed to address with any seriousness or success compels them to slam the guy who promises to address those issues and succeed.

On March 3, 22 Republicans declared that they would not vote for Trump.

August writers like the Wall St. Journal’s Bret Stephens have been apoplectic about Trump for months,sparing no slur or invective. Author and military historian Max Boot has dug deep into his assault repertoire to make sure no insult has gone unhurled. And the usually dazzling Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review Online is simply unable to contain his hostility to Trump’s candidacy, just as most of the other writers at NRO have jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon. And that’s not to omit the florid hysteria emanating from com.

We have often quoted Bret Stephens and Andrew C. McCarthy with admiration and respect – and will again – but they fail to understand what is happening in the country.

On March 4, desperate anti-Trump operatives pimped out good ole patsy Mitt Romney to go before a teleprompter and read the words written for him by an anti-Trump operative. …

But no one forgot that Romney, a lifelong liberal, lost both senatorial and presidential elections and that the last image of him — etched indelibly in the American public’s consciousness — was of him debating his rival for the presidency, Barack Obama, and simply folding like a cheap suit!

Romney — who The Wall St. Journal called “a flawed messenger” — didn’t look or sound like he had dementia, so it’s strange indeed that he barely mentioned the endorsement Trump gave him for his campaign for president, and the lavish praise he heaped upon Trump.

Romney’s hit job evoked the following 22-word, devastating and well-deserved tweet from Trump: “Looks like two-time failed candidate Mitt Romney is going to be telling Republicans how to get elected. Not a good messenger!”

All of the abovementioned people — and dozens I haven’t named — are growing frustrated that their old tricks of marginalizing and finally destroying the target in question haven’t worked. They long to emulate the JournOlist of 2007, when over 400 members of the leftist media colluded to quash any and every criticism or fact-based doubt about Mr. Obama’s Constitutional eligibility to hold office, to intimidate any critic into silence.

To this day, has anyone seen even one of Barack Obama’s college transcripts, his marriage license, a doctor’s evaluation? Now it’s the Republicans — actually those cocktail-swigging “conservatives” who routinely cozy up to the lobbyists they’re beholden to — who have gotten together to defeat Trump. These feckless so-called leaders decided that their target, a self-funded former liberal, was worth more of their negative, insult-laden literary output and passionate commentary than the Marxist-driven, jihadist-defending, anti-Constitutional, anti-American regime in power.

If you ever wonder how this could happen, why Republicans and self-described Conservatives could rebel so ferociously against a candidate who promises to strengthen our military, bring jobs and industry back to America, seal our borders against the onslaught of illegal aliens, and make America great again, wonder no more.


Doesn’t it always come down to money? Money leads to power and influence and control, all of which politicians — that too-often pliable and buyable species — lust for. It’s not only the ephemeral day-to-day power they fear losing, it’s the entire network they’re enmeshed in, which involves all the treaties and deals and “arrangements” they’ve signed onto and the pelf it promises to keep on yielding. (For Exhibit No. 1, see The Clinton Foundation and the mountain of cash it reaps.)

Imagine their fear of a president who actually cuts the pork, actually strikes deals that don’t line his own pockets, actually exposes the bad deals that have been made by the bad players in Washington, D.C. Imagine what Trump will learn about the massive under-the-table, self-serving deals that were made in the Iran deal and others.

The same lust for power applies to media moguls whose wealth is not limited to TV stations and newspapers but to the very deals made by government and on Wall St. No one knows this better than Mr. Trump, the author of the mega-bestseller, The Art of the Deal. That’s why his critics are so terrified. They pretend to be offended by the kind of comment or gesture that they themselves express routinely. But they’re really afraid of being in the presence of someone who is utterly immune to either their blandishments or strong-arm tactics.

As Mark Cunningham wrote in theNew York Post: “All the noise about Donald Trump’s ‘hostile takeover’ of the Republican Party misses a key point: Such takeovers only succeed when existing management has failed massively. And that’s true of both the GOP and the conservative movement. Trump’s a disrupter but most of the fire aimed his way is just shooting the messenger.”

Monica Crowley, editor of online opinion at The Washington Times, explains that the “emotionally fragile Republican ruling class” deluded themselves into thinking that Mr. Trump couldn’t possibly win. “Then actual voting began. And the first-timer, the brash anti-politician, began racking up resounding victories …”

In addition, Crowley writes: “Like his style or not, Trump is an in-your-face guy. Voters want that kind of guy taking it to President Obama’s record, to Hillary Clinton … and to the unbridled, destructive leftism that has rendered America virtually unrecognizable.”

And, I might add, taking it to the wimps in the GOP!

The taking down of America 18

President Obama believes that America is arrogant.* If his foreign policy can be explained by anything, it would be his intention to bring America down a peg or ten. Looked at like that, the disasters we see happening in many parts of the world are testimony not to  Obama’s failure, but to his success.

Not that President Obama can have any objection to arrogance as such. He is an arrogant man. He just doesn’t want America to be proud of its superiority. He hates the very idea that it is superior. But while he would not even acknowledge its political-moral superiority as a republic constituted for liberty, he cannot deny that it is economically and militarily stronger than any other country. So he’s been working to change that for the last six years.

The whole world is the worse for his efforts.

This is from Front Page, by Bruce Thornton:

The 6 years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy have seen American influence and power decline across the globe. Traditional rivals like China and Russia are emboldened and on the march in the South China Sea and Ukraine. Iran, branded as the world’s deadliest state sponsor of terrorism, is arrogantly negotiating its way to a nuclear bomb. Bloody autocrats and jihadist gangs in the Middle East scorn our president’s threats and behead our citizens. Countries in which Americans have shed their blood in service to our interests and ideals are in the process of being abandoned to our enemies. And allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia are bullied or ignored. All over the world, a vacuum of power has been created by a foreign policy sacrificed to domestic partisan advantage, and characterized by criminal incompetence.

Incompetence is what it looks like. But if failure is the aim, then either the incompetence is only an appearance, or it is a means to the end.

How we have arrived at this point, the dangers to our security and interests if we don’t change course, and what must be done to recover our international prestige and effectiveness are the themes of Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. …

A clear sign of American retreat is the precipitous decline in military spending. “In the name of budgetary savings,” Stephens writes, “the Army is returning to its June 1940 size,” and “the Navy put fewer ships at sea at any time since 1916.” The Air Force is scheduled to retire 25,000 airmen and mothball 550 planes. Our nuclear forces are being cut to meet the terms of the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, even as its nuclear arsenal has been increasing. Meanwhile Obama … issues empty threats, blustering diktats, and sheer lies that convince world leaders he is a “self-infatuated weakling”.

Unfortunately, 52% of the American people agree that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally”,  and 65% want to “reduce overseas military commitments”, including a majority of Republicans. This broad consensus that America should retreat from global affairs reflects our age’s bipartisan isolationism, the centerpiece of Stephens’ analysis. This national mood is not a sign of decline, according to Stephens, who documents the enormous advantages America still enjoys globally, from its superiority in research and entrepreneurial vigor, to its healthy demographics and spirit of innovation. But it does bespeak a dangerous withdrawal from the policies that created the postwar Pax Americana – even though this global order policed by the U.S. defeated the murderous, nuclear-armed ideology of Soviet communism, and made possible the astonishing economic expansion that has lifted millions from poverty all over the world. …

For Stephens, isolationism has not been the only danger to American foreign policy success. What he calls “the overdose of ideals”, specifically the “freedom agenda” of the sort George W. Bush tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, has misdirected our efforts and squandered our resources in the pursuit of impossible goals. The success of the Cold War and the subsequent spread of democracy and free-market economies suggested that the world could be not just protected from an evil ideology, but “redeemed” by actively fostering liberal democracy even in countries and regions lacking the necessary network of social mores and political virtues upon which genuine liberal democracy rests. But in attempting to redeem the world, Stephens notes, policy makers “neglected a more prosaic responsibility: to police it”.

The failures to create stability, let alone true democracy, in Iraq and Afghanistan have enabled what Stephens calls the “retreat doctrine”, one to be found in both political parties. Barack Obama is the master of this species of foreign policy, incoherently combining idealistic democracy-promoting rhetoric with actions that further withdraw the U.S. from its responsibility to ensure global order. Under the guise of “nation-building at home,” and in service to traditional leftist doubt about America’s goodness, Obama has retreated in the face of aggression, and encouraged cuts in military spending in order to fund an ever-expanding entitlement state.

But also, equally, in order to make America weaker.

Meanwhile, “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism’,  a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.”

The “retreat doctrine” is dangerous because global disorder is a constant contingency. The remainder of Stephens’ book approaches this topic first from the perspective of theory and history, and then from today’s practice. History teaches us that all the substitutes for a liberal dominant global power have failed to prevent the descent into conflict and mass violence. The ideas of a balance of power, collective security, or the presumed peaceful dividend and “harmony of interests” created by global trade did not prevent World War I or its even more devastating sequel. Nor are they any more useful in our own times.

As for today, Stephens identifies several challenges to a global order fragilely held together by the commitment to liberal democracy, open economies, and the free circulation of ideas and trade. The “revisionists” attack this model from various perspectives. Iran sees it as a fomenter of godlessness and hedonism, Russia is moved to oppose it by “revanchism and resentment”,  and China believes that it “is a recipe for bankruptcy and laziness”,  lacking a “sense of purpose, organization, and direction”.  All three see evidence for their various critiques in the failure of the U.S. to exercise its massive power in the face of challenges, and in the willingness of American elites to revel in guilt and self-doubt. These perceptions of national decline invite rivals and enemies to behave as if the U.S. is in fact declining.

The other international players that could worsen disorder are “freelancers” and “free radicals”.  The former include those countries like Israel or Japan who, convinced that America will not act in its own or its allies’ interests, will understandably take action that necessarily entails unforeseen disastrous consequences. Much more dangerous are the “free radicals”, the jihadist gangs rampaging across 3 continents, and the nuclear proliferators like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose collaboration with each other and rogue regimes like Venezuela endangers the world through provoking even further proliferation on the part of rivals, or by handing off nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. And then there are “free radicals” like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have undermined global order by publicizing the necessarily covert tools, practices, and institutions that undergird and protect it.

Finally, there are the structural weaknesses of the globalized economy and its continuing decline in growth, which may create “breaks” in national economic systems that “will be profoundly disruptive, potentially violent, and inherently unpredictable”. Add America’s retreat from world affairs and reductions in military spending, and in the “nearer term”, Stephens warns, “terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers, ‘whistleblowers’,  arms smugglers, and second-rate powers armed with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles will be able to hold the United States inexpensively at risk”,  provoking further American retreat from world affairs and the inevitable increased aggression by our enemies and rivals.

 So what can be done? In his conclusion Stephens applies to foreign affairs the “broken windows” tactics of urban policing that caused rates of violent crimes to plummet over the last few decades. Thus “the immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder”.

This foreign policy would require increasing U.S. military spending to 5% of GDP, with a focus on increasing numbers of troops, planes, and ships rather than on overly sophisticated and expensive new weapons. It would mean stationing U.S. forces near global hotspots to serve as a deterrent and rapid-reaction force to snuff out incipient crises. It would require reciprocity from allies in military spending, who for too long have taken for granted the American defense umbrella. It would focus attention on regions and threats that really matter, particularly the borderlands of free states, in order to protect global good citizens from predators. It means acting quickly and decisively when conflict does arise, rather than wasting time in useless debates and diplomatic gabfests. Finally, it would require that Americans accept that their unprecedented global economic, cultural, and military power confers on us both vulnerability to those who envy and hate us, and responsibility for the global order on which our own security and interests depend.

No matter how understandable our traditional aversion to military and political entanglements abroad, history has made us the global policeman, one committed to human rights, accountability, and political freedom. If we abdicate that position, there is no country powerful, or worthy enough, to take our place.

We agree with that.

And Thornton tantalizes us with this:

Stephens ends with an imagined “scenario” of how a serious global disruption could occur, one grounded in current trends and thus frighteningly believable.

When we’ve found out what that scenario is, which is to say when we’ve read the book, we’ll return to this important subject.


*  “In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.” – Mitt Romney, quoted by

Ignominy without umbrellas 5

Two admirable journalists write about the agreement reached last Saturday by the Great Powers (“P5+1”) with the evil Iranian regime, both comparing it to the agreement Neville Chamberlain thought he had secured with Adolf Hitler in 1938.

Bret Stephens writes at the Wall Street Journal:

To adapt Churchill : Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.

Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic. Yet neither Neville Chamberlain nor Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. “Peace for our time” it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 was a betrayal of an embattled U.S. ally and the abandonment of an effort for which 58,000 American troops gave their lives. Yet it did end America’s participation in a peripheral war, which neither Congress nor the public could indefinitely support. “Peace with honor” it was not, as the victims of Cambodia’s Killing Fields or Vietnam’s re-education camps can attest. But, for American purposes at least, it was peace.

By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

As for the Vietnam parallels, the U.S. showed military resolve in the run-up to the Paris Accords with a massive bombing and mining campaign of the North that demonstrated presidential resolve and forced Hanoi to sign the deal. The administration comes to Geneva fresh from worming its way out of its own threat to use force to punish Syria’s Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own people.

The Nixon administration also exited Vietnam in the context of a durable opening to Beijing that helped tilt the global balance of power against Moscow. Now the U.S. is attempting a fleeting opening with Tehran at the expense of a durable alliance of values with Israel and interests with Saudi Arabia. …

That’s where the differences end between Geneva and the previous accords. What they have in common is that each deal was a betrayal of small countries — Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, Israel — that had relied on Western security guarantees. Each was a victory for the dictatorships: “No matter the world wants it or not,” Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said Sunday, “this path will, God willing, continue to the peak that has been considered by the martyred nuclear scientists.” Each deal increased the contempt of the dictatorships for the democracies: “If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella,” Hitler is reported to have said of Chamberlain after Munich, “I’ll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach.”

And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

What will that look like? Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed “the arrangement with Pakistan.” Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.

As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah — Israel’s most immediate military threat — gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.

The article is valuable as an erudite and accurate assessment of the Geneva sell-out. But Stephens’s visualization of what the “after Geneva” Middle East will look like, bad though it is, is too mild. We predict that Iran will become armed with nuclear weapons and will use them.

Douglas Murray writes at the Spectator (UK):

America and Europe’s overwhelming desire to declare a deal meant that there had to be a deal to declare. The P5+1 countries, with the ludicrous Catherine Ashton speaking for Europe, have indeed made a historic and terrible mistake.

The mullahs did not come to Geneva because they wished to give up their capability. And they did not come to the table because after 34 years of revolutionary Islamic governance they have seen the error of their ways. They came because international sanctions were beginning to hurt. Those sanctions – which took years to put in place – have now fallen apart thanks to a few days of incompetent negotiating on the part of the P5+1 plus some simple common sense from Tehran. People tend to say at this stage that the Iranians are ‘master negotiators’. They aren’t especially. They are simply fortunate to be playing against Catherine Ashton and a generation of other weak and short-sighted American and British politicians.

The result is that the Iranian regime has managed to walk away with a deal to relieve the pressure of sanctions at the very moment that the pressure was working and the very moment that it should have been kept up and ultimately used to break them. They now have the breathing hole they need to reinforce their power at home and continue their search for nuclear weaponry.

At the root of this debacle is the fact that the Iranians went into the sanctions knowing exactly what they wanted: time and the bomb. The P5+1 countries, by contrast, were riddled by doubt and muddled thinking.

There should only ever have been two aims with regard to the Iranian regime.

The first is to ensure that it never ever gains the capability to develop nuclear weapons: not only to ensure that the world’s most destabilising regime never possesses the world’s most dangerous weaponry, but to ensure that it cannot precipitate a nuclear arms race across the Middle East.

The second aim, and one which appears to have slipped even further down any international agenda, is to see the end of the brutal rule of the mullahs. Sadly this does not even appear to be on the table any more. Ever since President Obama failed to come out in support of the brave Iranian protestors who rose up in 2009, the basic human rights of the Iranian people have been ignored utterly. So what that the regime promotes terror around the world? So what that it oppresses, rapes, tortures and executes its opponents at home? By negotiating with this regime and allowing it off the hook at this moment America, Britain and our allies have not only given a stay of execution to the mullahs, we have further undermined the hopes of any opponents of the regime inside Iran.

I was watching and listening to [British foreign secretary] William Hague earlier today and I must say that it was a pathetic experience: a diminished figure trying to persuade a sceptical nation to support a demeaning deal. All he lacked was a winged collar, a piece of paper and the slogan: ‘nuclear peace in our time.’

And the umbrella.

The art of tyranny and the heart of desire 3

Here is Bret Stephens delivering a captivating speech.

The video runs for over 40 minutes, and deserves to be watched for every moment of it.



Jillian Becker comments on just one point:

“It is a cruel misunderstanding of youth to imagine that the heart of man’s desire is to be free. The heart of man’s desire is to obey.”

Bret Stephens quotes this aperçu from Thomas Mann’s huge novel The Magic Mountain. It is spoken by one of the characters, and Stephens believes it to be true.

Yes, many people – even most perhaps – like to be told what to do. They seek leaders, authorities who can and will instruct and direct them, and take responsibility for what then happens; who will give them purposes and causes and reasons, a meaning for their existence.

But it is also true that there is in human nature a perpetual, irrepressible longing for freedom, for self-determination; an impulse to shake off shackles and restrictions, to spread wings and fly.

The contradictions within human nature contend with each other in The Magic Mountain. It is the great novel of the twentieth century, and I endorse what Stephens says about its relevance to our time. A monumental achievement, it is one of the rare works of fiction to which the word “profound” can be – must be – applied.

The story is set in and around a Swiss alpine sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis.

The most important themes Thomas Mann deals with are raised in a debate, carried on day after day through many seasons, between two men who have come to the mountain to be cured of the disease: an Italian rationalist named Settembrini and a Jewish Jesuit (sic) named Naphta. They argue in the presence of the protagonist of the novel, a young man who comes in good health to visit a cousin undergoing the cure at the sanatorium, but stays too long and becomes infected. Settembrini and Naphta vie with each other to win him over, each to his own vision. Their argument is a dialogue of reason with faith, of humanism with nihilism, of science with mysticism, of candor with dissimulation, of restraint with voluptuousness, of classical skepticism with romantic passion, of Life with Death. The statement Stephens quotes is made by Naphta. Youth “feels its deepest pleasure in obedience”, he opines. He means obedience not to the benign orders of a just elder, but to a sinister force: “The order for the day is terror.” Finally, their altercations and rivalry lead them to a duel with pistols. Settembrini, unwilling to kill, fires into the air, upon which Naphta is convulsed with fury and turns his gun on himself. It is the completely logical, only possible, denouement.

Naphta is not, of course, the author’s mouthpiece, though Mann provides him with powerful arguments. Settembrini’s case, though a far better one, is not allowed to be indisputably right in every respect – idealism and reality never being in perfect harmony.

The book ends with the outbreak of the First World War. The reader is brought to ponder the idea that that vast slaughter was an outcome of a deep Settembrini-Naphta conflict in the heart of European man. A failure of reason and an infection of incurable depravity prepared a feast for Death.

A final note:  Thomas Mann based Naphta on Georg Lukács, the Hungarian Communist, literary critic, theatre director, and Commissar for Education and Culture in the short-lived red republic set up in Hungary in 1919. In my own slight satirical novel L: A Novel History, I based my anti-hero Louis Zander also on Georg Lukács. My fascination with him was aroused in the first place by the character of Naphta. This post is linked to the Facebook page of L: A Novel History, where much more about the book may be found.

To bomb or not to bomb 0

Bret Stephens explains to a Wall Street Journal TV host the problems associated with the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb, and what Israel has to calculate in its thinking about how to deal with the threat.

The video is dated 8/10/2012


Posted under Commentary, Iran, Israel, United States, Videos by Jillian Becker on Monday, August 27, 2012

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The politics of pity 1

This post is about “the false and dangerous morality of pity”

The quoted words are those of Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor and foreign-affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He delivered a speech at Commentary’s annual dinner on June 4 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, from which these  extracts, from an adaptation of the speech at the Commentary website, are taken:

On the fourth of June, 1967, there were excellent reasons to side with Israel. It was a democracy besieged and assaulted by tyrannies. Its maritime rights had been violated by Egypt’s closure of the Straits of Tiran; international law was on its side. It had compelling reasons to believe it was under mortal threat. It made no territorial demands on its neighbors, much less call for their destruction. It was a net contributor, scientifically and culturally, to the march of civilization. Simply put, the Israelis were the good guys.

Yet the reason usually cited for sympathizing with Israel that fourth of June is that it was the underdog — the proverbial 98-pound weakling versus its big bullying neighbors. And this was true, albeit only partially true, because Israel quickly demonstrated that it wasn’t such a weakling after all.

And from the moment Israel won that war, thus securing its survival, it lost the sympathy of the world. We know that some newspapers had prepared Crocodile-tear editorials regretting the demise of a short-lived state of Israel. To feel for Jews suffering flattered the “feelers”; to feel for Jews triumphant did not.

It is to this deplorable weakness, this eroticism of the ego, that Christian morality and “social justice” advocacy – which means the entire ideology of the Left – pander.

Bret Stephens reasons:

But it’s hard to make a defensible case for siding with the underdog based on underdog-status alone. Was Saddam Hussein hiding in his spider hole a better man than he was in his palaces? Were the allies in 1945 less deserving of victory than they were in 1942? Was Israel’s cause less right on June 12, right after the war, than it had been on June 4? These are the kind of nonsense propositions you are bound to wind up with if you make moral judgments based on underdog – or overdog – status alone.

The instinct to side with the underdog arises, at least in part, from the guilty pleasure of pity — the feeling of superiority that the sensation of pity almost automatically confers. Pity, it turns out, is not a form of sympathy, or empathy, or a genuinely humane concern for the misfortunes of others. On the contrary, pity is really a form of self-congratulation, an act of condescension, a sublimated type of narcissism. Little wonder, then, that the politics of pity should thrive in … our culture of narcissism.

Consider the ways these politics plays out in our lives today. Remember that headline in Le Monde from September 12, 2001—“Nous Sommes Tous Américains”—“We Are All Americans”? Le Monde’s editorial pity lasted just so long as the wreckage of the Twin Towers smoldered in the ground, and then it was straight back to bashing the hyperpuissance. Or take the condemnation of the United States, by outfits such as Amnesty International, for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Poor Osama, defenseless before those marauding SEALs!

Yet nowhere do the politics of pity play out more vividly than when it comes to the Palestinians. How is it that, at least on the left, the Palestinians have become the new Chosen People? Part of the answer surely lies in the fact that Palestinians, uniquely, are the perceived victims of the Jewish state, and therefore another vehicle for castigating Jews. If you believe that Jews can do no right, you’re probably disposed to think that Palestinians can do no wrong — especially when they are attacking Jews.

But that’s not the whole answer. People who really aren’t anti-Semites or knee-jerk enemies of Israel nonetheless are disposed to make all kinds of allowances for Palestinians that can only be explained by the politics of pity. How many billions in international aid have been given to the Palestinians, and what percentage of those monies has been squandered or stolen? How often have Palestinians made atrocious political choices without ever paying a price for them in terms of international regard?

The reason Palestinians don’t have to earn global sympathy by showing themselves worthy of it is that they are the perceived underdogs and are therefore automatically entitled to the benefit of every doubt. And it is because “caring” for the Palestinians flatters the vanity of their sympathizers. I don’t think the world really loves the Palestinians. But … it does “love to love” them. Being pro-Palestinian, as that term is typically used, is not a testament to compassion. It is, more often than not, an act of self-love. It’s moral onanism.

Competing for the title of who is the most pitiable is shameful. Competing for the title of who is the more pitying is despicable. 

Bret Stephens warns mistaken friends of Israel from entering the pity-stakes:

In recent years, friends of Israel, and many Israelis as well, have sought to reengage the world’s affections by trying to portray Israel as the real underdog — in other words, to enter a contest of victimhood with the Palestinians.

Israel was not founded to serve as another vehicle for showcasing Jewish victimhood, but for ending it.

Right, right, right!

In order for one to deal effectively with the world, whether as individual or statesman, it is necessary to know the world as it is. It is a world full of danger, evil, and cruelty. Sentimentalizing it into something other than it is, pretending that human nature is “fundamentally good”, or can be changed by ideology, is to make a dumb mistake. Every human being suffers, and every human being inflicts suffering. The moral thing to do is to try not to harm others – a hard, if not impossible, task. 

Bret Stephens looks at what is happening in the world now with clear sight:

The world as we would wish it to be is not a world in which Syria is bleeding, the Chinese are increasing the rate of annual military spending by a double-digit percentage, the Arab Spring is turning to an Islamist winter, Europe is imploding economically, and Iran is brazening its way to a nuclear bomb. That world is the real world, and it is the world the rest of us inhabit: the world of the concrete fact, the world of the worsening circumstance. It is the world in which decisions are made harder, not easier, by delay, in which delay increases the chances of failure, and of death.

It is a world choked with pity, yet pitiless.

The whole speech as it appears in Commentary is well worth reading.