The view from the left 0

Hard as it is to believe, this Washington Post column by Fred Hiatt is not satire. He seems seriously to mean what he says.

Gays, immigrants, union leaders, budget hawks, campaign finance reformers, environmentalists, free-traders, human rights activists and civil libertarians all have had cause to wonder whether they were right to trust Obama. The list is familiar, but the explanation remains disputed.

My theory: The culprit is less ideology than Obama’s fidelity to a strategy he can’t, for tactical reasons, publicly acknowledge. Given the hand he was dealt, the evidence suggests he resolved that he had to choose only one domestic and one foreign objective for his first two years in office.

An ambitious set of goals motivated Obama’s candidacy, and early in his presidency the rap was that he was taking on too many. But the legacy of wars abroad and the Great Recession at home threatened his ability to accomplish any of them. Simply managing that bleak inheritance, he realized, might consume his entire term.

To avoid that trap, Obama had to govern with discipline. First, he would have to turn potential negatives into successes. At home, that meant not only engineering a stimulus program to end the recession but also designing financial reform to prevent a recurrence. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it meant charting a path to not just to withdrawal but stable outcomes.

Since both fronts would take enormous energy and political capital, Obama could not afford to squander whatever remained across an array of worthy electives. So over time he subordinated everything to just two: health-insurance reform and blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Anything else, no matter how popular or deserving, had to give way if it interfered with those.

Obama has put enormous energy into repairing relations with Russia, for example, and relatively less into ties with allies such as India, Mexico or Britain because stopping Iran would require Russia’s support of sanctions. Without a new START arms-control treaty, Russia would not play ball on Iran, so Obama worked assiduously to negotiate a new START. The nuclear summit he hosted in Washington this month; playing down trade tensions with China; the relative reticence on North Korea’s nukes; prodding Israel toward peace talks — all of these were crafted with an eye toward Iran.

At home, the mono-focus is more obvious. Obama would like to close the Guantanamo prison, curb traffic of assault weapons crossing the Mexican border, reform immigration laws and reduce carbon emissions. But each would have carried a political cost, to Obama or Democratic allies he needed on health care, so they all had to wait.

I don’t mean to suggest that Obama would go to any lengths to achieve the main objective. He bargained hard on START, for example, insisting that the treaty meet U.S. military needs as well as serve the larger goal.

And it’s not that he has abandoned everything else: Where he could advance other objectives at minimal cost, he has done so, usually by executive action. He wouldn’t fight for labor law reform, but he promulgated regulations that favor unions. He hasn’t replaced No Child Left Behind, but he allowed his education secretary to spur reform by judicious granting and withholding of stimulus funds. There’s no climate change legislation, but the Environmental Protection Agency hiked mileage standards for cars and trucks. And so on.

Obama can’t acknowledge all this. You don’t tell allies, whether gay rights groups or India, that they’ve slipped down your priority list. (That’s especially true now, before an election, as immigration, education and energy advocates jockey to go next.) And the best negotiating strategy to get things you want isn’t always to show how much you want them.

So we may have to wait until Obama writes his memoirs to discover why he elevated these two goals. Was he set on health reform from the start, for instance, or did congressional politics nudge that ahead of, say, coping with climate change?

Abroad, the strategy, with its hope of turning autocracies such as China and Russia into long-term partners, remains at best unproven. At home, it seems to be paying off, with major health reform approved and financial reform in sight. For those at the back of the line — such as the District last week — the opportunity costs are sharply felt. But even at such times, it’s hard not to admire Obama’s focus.

Every statement cries out for exegesis. Some of them – Obama’s “ending of the recession”, his financial reform, his “charting a path to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan” – need at least a paragraph each. But there’s one that clamors for objection above the rest.

“Blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons” has been Obama’s foreign policy priority? Everything else except health care has been subordinated to that goal? He’s focussed on it?

Strange – we haven’t noticed that he’s done a damn thing about it. It seems to us that he’s perfectly willing to let Iran become a nuclear-armed power. A series of  “deadlines” have been allowed to pass without there being any penalty for Iran’s ignoring them. Talk of sanctions has been nothing but talk, and those talked of have been steadily weakened. No military option is “on the table”. Obama has begged Ahmadinejad for his friendship, and the poisonous little dictator has gleefully said no over and over again. How come Mr Hiatt hasn’t noticed all that?

How has the START treaty affected Iran? Russia is still not willing to vote for sanctions. And what US military needs have been served by it?  It is plainly to the detriment of the US and the advantage of Russia. Relations with Russia are in no way “repaired”. If changed at all, they’re probably worse. Nor will China vote for sanctions. And Obama’s “reticence” on North Korea’s nukes has resulted in – what?  As for the nuclear summit, Iran wasn’t even mentioned. And “prodding” Israel – that has made the world safe from Iranian bombs? What it has really done is tell Israel that it has “slipped down the priority list”, along with India and Britain and a number of other allies.

Well, we’ve recovered from being flabbergasted by Mr Hiatt’s quaint perspective and now we find it amusing. And it’s gratifying to know that numerous bunches of lefties (but surely “free-traders” and “budget hawks” do not belong among them) feel disappointed by the president of their dreams. From our perspective he has gone fearfully far to satisfy them, with the “executive action” and “regulations” and so on that Mr Hiatt tells us were thrown to them as mere sops or stop-gaps. So apparently he might have gone further and done even worse.

The implication of Mr Hiatt’s apologia for his hero is that when he has succeeded with his two chosen “electives”, he will go further. Now the health care legislation has been forced through, but there still remains the other goal Mr Hiatt believes Obama is focussed on: stopping Iran going nuclear.

If Mr Hiatt is right and the achievement of that goal really stands between Obama and the rest of the far left agenda he’s expected to foist on us, then we can rest easy. Or could, if dread of those bombs wasn’t keeping us awake nights.

But what if Mr Hiatt is wrong? We’ll get the bombs and the radical left agenda.

Clear and present danger 0

Jennifer Rubin writes that Obama’s nuclear summit is not serious, since he will not address the truly serious nuclear threat – Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear summit is underway in Washington, D.C. An air of unreality pervades because the greatest nuclear threat of our time goes unaddressed. At times, the degree to which Obama evades the Iranian issue is jaw-dropping. This report explains:

“The central focus of this nuclear summit is the fact that the single biggest threat to U.S. security — both short term, medium term and long term — would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said Sunday afternoon. “If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically and from a security perspective would be devastating. And we know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”

Actually, the single greatest threat — and the most likely means for a terrorist organization to possibly obtain a nuclear weapon — is the mullahs’ nuclear program. About that, the president offers the moral power of example (i.e., our own disarmament) and watered-down sanctions.

She is right, of course.

But this report indicates that material to make “dirty” bombs is already in the hands of terrorists:

Five people suffering serious burns were hospitalized in West New Delhi this week from contact with radioactive material in a Delhi scrap market identified as Cobalt-60 which may be used for making a dirty bomb. Indian police cordoned off the 200 market stores and sealed nearby establishments up to a one-kilometer radius. Scrap dealer Deepak Jain and his helpers lost consciousness when they cut a piece of scrap metal. A white fluid oozed out causing the burns, Jain’s hair fell out and within minutes his skin turned black. His workers suffered and nausea.

All five are battling for their lives in hospital, setting off a security scare in the Indian capital, with prime minister Manmohan Singh briefed on the incident before leaving for Washington to attend the nuclear security summit which opened Monday, April 12.

Nuclear scientists from the Baba Atomic Research Center and Narora Atomic Power Plant identified the material and are working around the clock to investigate its source. …

Cobalt-60 is used in radiotherapy for treating cancer and welding steel. A US report last year recommended monitoring this material along with Caesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium to effectively counter nuclear terrorism. Unlike a nuclear bomb, a dirty bomb does not involve nuclear fission and can be used like a conventional weapon.

India has been warning that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are in danger of falling into the hands of the Taliban:

The day before the conference, the Indian prime minister met Obama and tackled him about Pakistan’s inaction against Muslim terrorists and exhorted him to jointly combat terror emanating from Pakistan as the most dangerous source of potential nuclear terror… Indian leaders as well as their military and intelligence advisers have repeatedly warned Washington that al Qaeda and Taliban were moving in on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities through their deep penetration of Pakistan’s intelligence service and may soon be in position to take over. …

As the “posture” Obama is taking with regard to nuclear deterrence is apparently proving more frightening than reassuring to Americans, what does the  State Department and the Pentagon have to say to dispel those fears?

Jennifer Rubin continues:

Neither Obama’s credibility nor America’s deterrent capability was enhanced by either the START treaty or the Nuclear Posture Review. So [Secretary of State} Hillary Clinton and [Defense Secretary] Robert Gates took to the airwaves Sunday to assure us that the Obami really weren’t doing great damage to our national security. Hillary seemed to fudge on the “no nuclear response to a NPT signatory’s attack” when she tried to bluster her way through her interview on Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER: Are non-nuclear weapons so good now, Madam Secretary, that we don’t have to rely on nuclear weapons anymore?

CLINTON: We rely on both, Bob. And I think that’s the point that Secretary Gates is making. We’ve maintained a strong, robust nuclear deterrent as set forth in the nuclear posture review. But we have also in this administration moved toward a global strike capability to enhance our conventional response.

And we have an enormous amount of firepower conventionally. And it is also clear that this is putting everybody on notice. We don’t want more countries to go down the path that North Korea and Iran are. And some countries might have gotten the wrong idea if they looked at those two over the last years. And so we want to be very clear. We will not use nuclear weapons in retaliation if you do not have nuclear weapons and are in compliance with the NPT.

But we leave ourselves a lot of room for contingencies. If we can prove that a biological attack originated in a country that attacked us, then all bets are off, if these countries have gone to that extent. So we want to deal with the nuclear threat first and foremost, because that’s the one that we face right today.

All bets are off? Well, the nuclear option is, if we believe the Nuclear Posture Review. But maybe it doesn’t say what we mean. Or maybe it’s getting increasingly hard to figure out whether we are serious about deterring rogue states or not. Indeed, the administration is increasingly flighty and obtuse, making it hard to parse the often inconsistent rhetoric. Iran’s nuclear bomb would be unacceptable, but maybe we can’t do anything about it. The greatest threat is a terrorist organization with a nuclear bomb, but we’re increasingly lackadaisical about denying one to the most active state sponsor of Islamic terrorists. We aren’t going to retaliate against an NPT signatory after a devastating chemical or biological attack, but who knows.

If there is any rhyme or reason to this, it no doubt eludes both friends and foes. It does, however, convince many that this president doesn’t really appreciate how to project American strength and keep our adversaries at bay. The summit, therefore, promises not only to be irrelevant but also counterproductive to our national-security interests.

Dreams of his mother 2

Obama has assured America’s enemies that they don’t have to fear nuclear retaliation if they attack the US, even if they use chemical and biological weapons. He’s pursuing his childish dream – one that his mother probably dreamt  in the late 1960s while she participated in the New Left’s drug-hazy pacifist love-in – of America teaching the world by example to throw away all those nasty nuclear weapons. (See the report of Obama’s new ‘posture’ on nuclear arms use in the New York Times.)

John Hinderaker writes at Power Line:

On its face, that is unbelievably stupid. A country attacks us with biological weapons, and we stay our hand because they are “in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty”? That is too dumb even for Barack Obama. The administration hedged its commitment with qualifications suggesting that if there actually were a successful biological or chemical attack, it would rethink its position. The Times puts its finger on what is wrong with the administration’s announcement:

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war.

That’s exactly right. The cardinal rule, when it comes to nuclear weapons, is keep ’em guessing. We want our enemies to believe that we may well be crazy enough to vaporize them, given sufficient provocation; one just can’t tell. There is a reason why that ambiguity has been the American government’s policy for more than 50 years. Obama cheerfully tosses overboard the strategic consensus of two generations.

Or pretends to, anyway. Does anyone doubt that the administration would use nukes in a heartbeat if it considered such measures necessary? I don’t. The problem is that when the time comes to actually use nuclear weapons, it is too late. The danger here is not that the Obama administration has really gone pacifist. On the contrary, the significance of today’s announcement appears to be entirely symbolic–just one more chance to preen. The problem is that our enemies understand symbolism and maybe take it too seriously. To them, today’s announcement is another sign that our government has gone soft, and one more inducement to undertake aggressive action against the United States. [All emphases are ours]

We are usually in agreement with the good guys at Power Line. And we agree that Obama is offering an inducement to America’s enemies to “undertake aggressive action”  (the part we have emphasized in bold).

But with those parts that we have italicized we disagree. We don’t think Obama is dumb, even though he is not exceptionally intelligent and is capable of acting stupidly and naively. We think he is ignorant and evil. Because we believe he is full of bad intent and deeply anti-American, we do indeed doubt that  his administration would use nukes, no matter what the circumstances. If he has his way there’ll be no American nukes to use. We don’t think he is just preening, preener though he is.

Could it be any more obvious that he is content to see Iran armed with nukes, but not America?

Could the implications of this be any more frightening?

Post Script: It should be noted that he excepts from his promise  of indulgence countries which are not in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Two countries that have refused to sign it are India and Israel. This means that for as long as America still has nuclear weapons, however few, however old, however degraded, if usable at all they could be used against those two erstwhile allies.

Ghana, stuck with the wind 6

The American Dictator (yes, he’s the one we mean) is doing his utmost to keep Africa in poverty and despair.

Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, writes today at Townhall:

I see Africa as a … partner with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children,” President Obama declared in Ghana last July.

However, three months later, the President signed an executive order requiring that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other federal agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their projects by 30% over the next ten years. The order undermines the ability of Sub-Saharan African nations to achieve energy, economic and human rights progress. 

Ghana is trying to build a 130-MW gas-fired power plant, to bring electricity’s blessings to more of its people, schools, hospitals and businesses. Today, almost half of Ghanaians never have access to electricity, or get it only a few hours a week, leaving their futures bleak.

Most people in Ghana are forced to cook and heat with wood, crop wastes or dung, says Franklin Cudjoe, director of the Imani (Hope) Center for Policy and Education, in Accra. The indoor air pollution from these fires causes blindness, asthma and severe lung infections that kill a million women and young children every year. Countless more Africans die from intestinal diseases caused by eating unrefrigerated, spoiled food.

But when Ghana turned to its United States “partner” and asked OPIC to support the $185-million project, OPIC refused to finance even part of it – thus adding as much as 20% to its financing cost. Repeated across Africa, these extra costs for meeting “climate change prevention” policies will threaten numerous projects, and prolong poverty and disease for millions.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 800 million people, 80% of whom live on less than $2.50 per day. Over 700 million people – twice the population of the USA and Canada combined – rarely or never have access to the lifesaving, prosperity-creating benefits of electricity …

Even in South Africa, the most advanced nation in this region, 25% of the populace still has no electricity. Pervasively insufficient electrical power has meant frequent brownouts that have hampered factory output and forced gold and diamond mines to shut down, because of risks that miners would suffocate in darkness deep underground. The country also suffers from maternal mortality rates 36 times higher than in the US, and tuberculosis rates 237 times higher.

And yet President Obama told his Ghanaian audience last July that Africa is gravely “threatened” by global warming, which he argues “will spread disease, shrink water resources and deplete crops,” leading to more famine and conflict. Africa, he says, can “increase access to power, while skipping – leapfrogging – the dirtier phase of development,” by using its “bountiful” wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels energy.

The President made these remarks before the scandalous “Climategate” emails were made public, and headline-grabbing claims about melting glaciers, burning Amazon rainforests and disappearing African agriculture were shown to be mere speculation and exaggeration from climate activists

Literally thousands of scientists disagree with claims that we face an imminent manmade global warming disaster, or that warming is connected to disease or harvests. Africa has faced drought, famine and disease since before Biblical times, and armed conflict is far more likely where a lack of electricity perpetuates poverty, scarcity and dashed hopes.

Wind and solar power are too costly, intermittent and land-intensive to meet the needs of emerging economies

That is why rapidly-developing nations like China and India are building power plants at the rate of one per week… Nearly all this electricity must be based on coal.

Wind power is constrained by high cost and limited reliability. Nuclear energy faces major cost and political obstacles. To electrify India in the absence of coal, the country would have to find 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, build 250 nuclear power plants, or construct the equivalent of 450 Hoover Dams, Penn State University professor Frank Clemente calculates. Those alternatives are unrealistic.

Blessed with abundant supplies of coal, South Africa has applied for a World Bank loan to continue building its 4,800-megawatt Medupi power plant. The Medupi plant would be equipped with the latest in “supercritical clean coal,” pollution control and “carbon capture” technologies. However, the project and loan have run into a buzz saw of opposition, led by the Center for American Progress, Africa Action, Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club. These radical groups claim to champion justice and better health for Africa, but oppose the very technologies that would make that possible…

The proposed Ghana and South Africa power plants already leapfrog dirtier development phases, by providing state-of-the-art pollution control technology. The energy alternatives President Obama envisions would do little to address the desperate crises that threaten Africans’ health, welfare and lives.

China and India are showing Africa the way forward. Those of us in already developed countries should support Africa’s aspirations – and help it address real health and environmental problems, by using affordable, dependable energy that truly is the lifeblood of modern societies, and the key to a better future for children everywhere.

Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010

Sacred custodians of the earth 0

Successive British governments have squandered huge sums of tax-payers’ money on nebulous schemes purporting to save the earth from climate change.

That the earth could or should be saved from its climate change is a spiritual, religious, and philosophical view’ of a ‘belief system’, to quote from the following report.

America too has ‘invested’ enormous sums in this thing of spit and cobwebs (see our post of that title, February 3, 2010). For the Western world as a whole the expense is astronomical.

Has there ever been a waste as vast as this?

From the Telegraph, by Christopher Booker:

In all the coverage lately given to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its embattled chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri [see our post The most powerful magician the world has ever known, December 21, 2009], one rather important part of the story has largely been missed. This is the way in which, in its obsession with climate change, different branches of the UK Government have in recent years been pouring hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into a bewildering array of “climate-related” projects, often throwing a veil of mystery over how much is being paid, to whom and why…

To begin with a small example. Everyone has now heard of “Glaciergate”, the inclusion in the IPCC’s 2007 report of a wild claim it was recently forced to disown, that by 2035 all Himalayan glaciers will have melted. In 2001 the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £315,277 commissioning a team of British scientists to investigate this prediction. After co-opting its Indian originator, Dr Syed Hasnain, they reported in 2004 that his claim was just a scare story

Three years later, however, when the IPCC produced its 2007 report, it endorsed Dr Hasnain’s claim without any mention of the careful UK-funded study which had shown it to be false. What made this particularly shocking was that in 2008 another British ministry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it had paid £1,436,000 to fund all the support needed to run the same IPCC working group which, as we now know from a senior IPCC author, had included the bogus claim in its report. …

In 2008 that Dr Hasnain was recruited by Dr Pachauri to work in his Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), where his spurious claim was used to win Teri a share in two lucrative studies of the effects of the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers. …

Why was UK taxpayers’ money being used to fund these projects?

Why in 2005, for instance, did Defra pay Teri for a study designed to help the Indian insurance industry make money out of the risks of global warming? Why was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) sponsoring a study into how Indian industry could make billions out of “carbon credits“, paid by Western firms under the bizarre UN scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism?

Typical of this curiously opaque world was a payment by Defra to fund the work of an unnamed “head of unit” on something called the IPCC Synthesis Report, of which Dr Pachauri was co-editor. This money was paid to Cambridge University (department unnamed), to be forwarded to Teri Europe, then sent on to the anonymous recipient in Delhi, whose email address was Teri India… (The IPCC itself meanwhile paid Teri a further £400,000 for its work on the Synthesis Report, although it was only 52 pages.)…

Why  have UK taxpayers shelled out £239,538 to unnamed recipients for a study of “Climate change impacts on Chinese agriculture”? Or £230,895 for a “research programme on climate change impacts in India”? Or £57,500 on the “Brazilian proposal support group”?

The largest single payment on Defra’s list, and almost the only recipient identified, was £13,315,168 given to the Hadley Centre itself for its [fraudulent, as the Climategate emails have shown] Climate Predictions Programme. This is just a tiny part of the money UK taxpayers have been contributing for years to assist the work of the IPCC: the Hadley Centre alone has been handed £179 million. …

Why should DfID have paid £30 million to assist “climate change adaptation in Africa“; or £2.5 million for the same in China?

Why in 2002 should UK taxpayers have given £200,000 to pay for delegates from developing nations to attend a “Rio Earth Summit” conference in Johannesburg, and another £120,000 for green activists to attend the same shindig – let alone £10,000 for a “WORKSHOP ON WOMEN AS SACRED CUSTODIANS OF THE EARTH”, to “explore the spiritual, religious and philosophical views concerning women and ecology and the policy implications of these belief systems”?

Only rarely do the government departments funding all these shadowy activities shout pubicly about how they are spending our money – as when last September DfID’s Douglas Alexander was happy to get publicity for flying to Delhi to give Dr Pachauri £10 million to pay for his institute to examine how India’s poverty could be reduced by “sustainable development”.

Similarly, in 2008, our then energy minister Malcolm Wicks flew to Japan to boast that the UK was “the world’s largest donor” to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, pledging another £2.5 million of taxpayers’ money, on top of £9 million Britain had already paid into this scheme since its launch in 2003. More than one ministry is responsible for funding this programme, as when DfID pays for a “research agenda on climate change and development”, while the FCO sponsors yet another study into “clean development mechanisms”.

Contemplating the impenetrable maze of payments made by various ministries to the UN, the EU, banks, research institutes, teams of academics, NGOs, environmental and industrial lobby groups and “charitable foundations” – often through chains of “funding vehicles” which may give only the most nebulous idea of their purpose – we can get little idea what is the total amount of taxpayers’ money flooding out from all our different branches of officialdom. The ministries involved have not seemed exactly keen to help sort out all these mysteries and confusions. What does seem clear is that our Government doesn’t really want us to know all the sums involved, who many of the recipients are or why most of these payments are being made in the first place.

Less free, therefore less prosperous 0

We agree wholly with the opinion we quote here, though the author does not seem to believe as we do that Obama does not want America to be free. He is a collectivist, a redistributionist, a socialist. To reduce individual freedom, to replace the free market with centralized control of the economy, to expand government is what he is about.

From the Washington Times:

Consider our recent economic policy. In late 2008, the specter of a financial meltdown triggered dangerous decisions under President Bush. He approved an unprecedented intervention in the financial sector – the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program – which actually fed the crisis. Instead of changing course, President Obama not only doubled down on those decisions, but went even further, in the belief that only bigger government can “lift us from a recession this deep and severe.” …

In December, the U.S. economy lost an additional 85,000 jobs. Despite all the bailouts and stimulus spending, the economy shed 3.4 million net jobs in 2009. But while employment has shrunk, the federal deficit has ballooned. One year after Mr. Obama took office, the deficit has grown to $1.4 trillion. His 10-year budget will add $13 trillion to the national debt by 2019. …

The bad news is that the United States is falling behind. The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, released Wednesday, finds that the U.S. experienced the most precipitous drop in economic freedom among the world’s top 20 economies (as measured by the gross domestic product). The decline was steep enough to tumble the U.S. from the ranks of truly “free” economies. We are now numbered among the ranks of the “mostly free” – the same as Botswana, Belgium and Sweden. Canada now stands as the sole beacon of economic freedom in North America, getting a higher score on the economic-freedom Index than the United States.

On the index’s 100-point scale of economic freedom, the U.S. fell 2.7 points. Canada’s score dropped, too, but only one-tenth of a point. Meanwhile, countries such as Germany, France, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia managed to maintain or even improve their scores, despite the economic crisis.

Why? In large measure, it’s because of the way Washington has exacerbated the financial and economic crisis since 2008. By June of last year, when we cut off data collection in order to begin our analysis, Washington’s interventionist policies had already caused a decline in seven of the 10 categories of economic freedom we measure. Particularly significant were declines in financial freedom, monetary freedom and property rights.

Conditions attached to large government bailouts of financial and automotive firms significantly undermined investors’ property rights. Additionally, politically influenced regulatory changes – such as the imposition of executive salary caps – have had perverse effects, discouraging entrepreneurship and job creation and slowing recovery. On top of this, we had massive stimulus spending that is leading to unprecedented deficits….

We are heading the wrong way. The index, co-published annually by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, has become a “leading indicator” of economic vitality, but other surveys also show that when economic freedom drops, falling opportunity and declining prosperity follow. Unless Washington takes steps to reverse the poor decisions it has made, Americans can expect a long and difficult time ahead.

The good news is that we’ve been here before, and we’ve turned things around before. There’s no reason we can’t do that again. Poll after poll demonstrates that the American people understand this, even if their politicians don’t. They clearly want Washington to gather up the political will to do things such as lowering taxes and reducing regulation and massive spending that feeds the federal debt. We need to unleash the power of the market to create jobs and to reclaim our competitive edge in the global economy. …

The less government intervenes in our lives and our economy, the freer and more prosperous we can become. The choices Mr. Obama takes in the future will determine whether America remains a land of opportunity and can reclaim its international reputation as “the land of the free.”

View the Index of Economic Freedom list here.

The blind cruelty of Greenpeace 4

We enraged a Greenpeace supporter with our posts The evil that Greenpeace does (1/16/2010) and The vast left-wing conspiracy (1/18/2010).

May this post horrify as many people of common sense as it can reach, even if it infuriates Greenpeace supporters to the point of apoplexy, exposing as it does the persistent, atrocious evil that Greenpeace continues to do, motivated by sheer doctrinaire bigotry, through decade after decade, in conspiracy with governments.

Denis Avery, who is Director for Global Food Issues with the Hudson Institute, and was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State, writes here:

We do know how to prevent 500,000 kids from going blind every year—and even dying—due to severe Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). But we’re not preventing the blindness or the deaths. Instead, we’re accepting the tragedy of millions of blind kids, plus the deaths of hundreds of thousands of pregnant women who die from needless birth complications, also due to VAD. …

We started trying to cure Vitamin A deficiency 20 years ago, after a Swiss government researcher bioengineered “golden rice”. The new rice contained a gene from the daffodil that codes for beta-carotene. The human body can then make Vitamin A out of the beta carotene. Kids in rich countries get most of their Vitamin A from meat, milk and eggs, but poor-country kids live mainly on such plant foods as rice, cassava and sweet potatoes. None provide much bio-available Vitamin A.

But Greenpeace and its eco-allies claimed — without evidence — that such genetic engineering is a “danger to the planet”.

Even after Syngenta developed a corn-based “golden rice II” with vastly more beta carotene — and offered it free to the Third World — Greenpeace still said no.

Only now, after 20 years of blockade and delay, are we finally seeing the dramatic benefits of growing Vitamin A crops in the local fields. In the Mukono District of Uganda, they’re growing bio-fortified sweet potatoes. Here, about 25 percent of the children used to be wan and sickly, prone to severe diarrhea, pneumonia, eye inflammations and blindness. Most of the kids are now healthy and vigorous. Pregnant women are thriving, along with their babies.

The difference? Orange-colored sweet potatoes, supplied by Uganda’s national agricultural research organization. They’re rich in beta-carotene, and they produce high yields because they resist local crop diseases. The germ plasm for the new sweet potatoes originated at HarvestPlus — Norman Borlaug’s international farm research organization that saved a billion people from starving in the Green Revolution of the 1960s.

“A danger to the plane”, of course, is what Greenpeace has called virtually every recent advance in global food production. At the same time, they claim the earth cannot sustainably feed the people already here. The European Union, to its shame, has backed up Greenpeace with threats to boycott the farm exports of any country which allows biotech plantings. In India, rice farmers protested plantings of the new rice, for fear the EU’s ban on biotech foods would block their exports of high-value basmati rice.

HarvestPlus finally decided to breed around the Greenpeace blockade. It took more than a decade of laborious test plots and back-crossing, but now cross-bred beta-carotene is being planted in farmers’ fields—and the Mukono mothers say their kids have become remarkably healthier. All it cost was 20 more years, 10 million more blindings, and millions of maternal deaths.

Busting Copenhagen’s phantom 0

From Investors.com (Investor’s Business Daily):

With less than two months to go before the big Copenhagen Conference on global warming, two major nations have said “no thanks” to the no-growth agenda. For that reason alone, so should we.

Following a deal signed late Thursday between China and India, anything we might agree to do in Copenhagen is likely moot anyway. The two mega-nations — which together account for nearly a third of the world’s population — said they won’t go along with a new climate treaty being drafted in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.

They’re basically saying no to anything that forces them to impose mandatory limits on their output of greenhouse gas emissions. Other developing nations, including Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, will likely reject any proposals as well.

The deal was already in trouble. Three weeks ago, the Group of 77 developing nations met in Thailand to discuss what they wanted to do about global warming. Their answer: nothing. …

They see clearly what the rest of us seem to miss — that, for all its bad science, the Copenhagen Conference is about the world’s Lilliputians tying down its Gullivers, not about global warming at all.

So, thanks to China and India, Copenhagen is dead — just as Kyoto was when it was signed in 1992, though no one knew it at the time. Without them, no global treaty on climate change will be workable.

The two nations are not only the world’s most populous (with, together, more than 2 billion people), they are also the fastest-growing major countries. China is now the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases, and India is catching up fast.

Even with their participation, Copenhagen should have been a non-starter for the U.S. Indeed, the main reason for the greenhouse gas deal, all but admitted to by its major participants, is to cripple the U.S. economy — the most successful economy in the world.

True enough, as green critics keep saying, we produce nearly 20% of the world’s CO2 and other greenhouse gases with just 5% of the world’s population. But our GDP of roughly $14 trillion is nearly 25% of the world’s total — in line with our gas output.

We provide jobs and consumption not just for Americans, but for tens of millions of people overseas whose livelihoods depend on satisfying the massive American market.

In case you’re still worried about warming, stop. Since 1998, the data show global temperatures have fallen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says this can’t be happening. None of the IPCC’s models shows a possibility of rising CO2 output and declining temperature.

But even Paul Hudson, the pro-warming-theory BBC climate correspondent, recently had to admit: “For the last 11 years, we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.”

Yet, the IPCC estimates that “remediation” of the warming trend will cost about 1.7% of world GDP. In the U.S., that’s about $240 billion a year. For the entire world, it’s about $1 trillion a year — or $71 trillion over the next 70 years or so.

Proposals to slash CO2 won’t work anyway. Department of Energy estimates indicate that 97% of all CO2 emissions would continue even if humans didn’t exist.

Even so, climatologist Chip Knappenberger estimates that laws like the recent Waxman-Markey bill would, if fully enacted, reduce future warming by just 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — not enough even to measure accurately.

Can the world really afford to give up $71 trillion in the coming decades to solve a phantom problem?

Given the shoddiness of the science behind warming claims and the refusal of the biggest CO2 emitters to play along with the climate change sham, it would be economically ruinous for the U.S. to do anything other than wish the rest of the world a nice day, and go about our business.

They wasted it, so give ’em more 0

AP reports:

The United States has long suspected that much of the billions of dollars it has sent Pakistan to battle militants has been diverted to the domestic economy and other causes, such as fighting India. Now the scope and longevity of the misuse is becoming clear: Between 2002 and 2008, while al-Qaida regrouped, only $500 million of the $6.6 billion in American aid actually made it to the Pakistani military, two army generals tell The Associated Press. The account of the generals, who asked to remain anonymous because military rules forbid them from speaking publicly, was backed up by other retired and active generals, former bureaucrats and government ministers.

At the time of the siphoning, Pervez Musharraf, a Washington ally, served as both chief of staff and president, making it easier to divert  money intended for the military to bolster his sagging image at home through economic subsidies.

“The army itself got very little,” said retired Gen. Mahmud Durrani, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. under Musharraf. “It went to things like subsidies, which is why everything looked hunky-dory. The military was financing the war on terror out of its own budget.” …

The details on misuse of American aid come as Washington again promises Pakistan money. Legislation to triple general aid to Pakistan cleared Congress last week. The legislation also authorizes “such sums as are necessary” for military assistance to Pakistan, upon several conditions. The conditions include certification that Pakistan is cooperating in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, that Pakistan is making a sustained commitment to combating terrorist groups and that Pakistan security forces are not subverting the country’s political or judicial processes…

The misuse of funding helps to explain how al-Qaida, dismantled in Afghanistan in 2001, was able to regroup, grow and take on the weak Pakistani army. Even today, the army complains of inadequate equipment to battle Taliban entrenched in tribal regions.

And about that ‘certification’: they would never deliberately lie, would they?

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Defense, India, Islam, jihad, News, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, October 5, 2009

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