Margherita Stancati reports: Afghanistan’s most prominent peace envoy held secret talks with former Taliban officials in China last week, accelerating regional efforts to bring the insurgency to the negotiating table, according to individuals briefed on the matter by the warring parties.
The two-day meeting, which took place in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, was aimed at discussing preconditions for a possible peace process, those people said.
“These were talks about talks,” one diplomat said.
The meeting was significant for another reason: It was facilitated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency in an apparent show of goodwill aimed at a negotiated solution to the insurgency. Read the rest of this entry »
(WASHINGTON)—The United States is sending a disaster response team and $1 million in aid to Nepal following a devastating earthquake that shook three countries.
The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry are offering condolences along with pledging the support.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake outside the capital Kathmandu killed more than 1,000 people in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. It also toppled buildings and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest.
Kerry says in a statement that the United States stands with the people of Nepal and sends heartfelt sympathies.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan says the U.S. stands ready to provide further assistance in the region.
The debate over religious liberty has brought out some odd readings of American history
Fred Bauer writes: A number of forces are fueling the current debate about religious liberty in the United States: among them, good-faith efforts to promote the continued improvement of the Union, senses of cultural grievance, anti-religion paranoia, ignorance, self-righteousness, opportunism, partisanship, and new-wave authoritarianism. However, it might be helpful to see this debate as taking place against the backdrop of a clash between two different views of the role of religion in public life. On one side stand sectarian secularists, who want to remove religion from public life altogether, and on the other stand pluralists, who support a more open society.
“Leaving aside the religious and political beliefs of Americans before 1776, appeals to the divine suffuse American culture and politics. Many of the Founders — along with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others — would have a bone to pick with those who say that our foundational rights do not come from God.”
Modeled in some respects on the French tradition of laïcité, sectarian secularism holds that appeals to religious ideas have absolutely no place in the public square, and its adherents will ridicule as out of bounds any appeal to the divine. This position goes well beyond a separation of church and state, which is about distinguishing the institutions of religion from those of governance, and instead suggests that the religious and the political should be entirely separate spheres. Unlike a more moderate and open-minded secularism, sectarian secularism seeks to police the bounds of public debate by rendering religious approaches to politics illegitimate.
“This sectarian-secularist approach seems to inform Chris Cuomo’s much-mocked declaration in February on CNN about the source of our rights: ‘Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country’.”
This sectarian-secularist approach seems to inform Chris Cuomo’s much-mocked declaration in February on CNN about the source of our rights: “Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country.” Particularly telling, and demonstrative of a sectarian-secularist viewpoint, is Cuomo’s insistence that it is somehow un-American to believe that our rights do come from God — that’s not “our country.” In a later Facebook post, Cuomo continued to insist that the language of the Declaration was not really part of American life: “Because the US does not draw on divine authority for recognition of rights.
“Particularly telling, and demonstrative of a sectarian-secularist viewpoint, is Cuomo’s insistence that it is somehow un-American to believe that our rights do come from God — that’s not ‘our country’.”
Founding documents were the beginning of course but the first amendment in that seminal constitution, which has infinitely more authority than the dec of indep obviously keeps faith out of government.” Cuomo is far from an outlier here. The past few weeks alone have offered numerous examples of attempts to stigmatize religious references in public debates. The sectarian secularists have defined once and for all what the U.S. is: a society where religion should be kept in the closet and not influence politics or policy-making.
“Pluralism offers a radically different account of the Republic. A pluralist welcomes all to the public square: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists alike.”
Pluralism offers a radically different account of the Republic. A pluralist welcomes all to the public square: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists alike. Pluralism does not seek to make the public square a hermetically sealed chamber, nor do pluralists ask believers to take off their faiths the instant they enter it. Indeed, pluralists believe that such a sealing off is practically and philosophically impossible.
“Pluralism does not seek to make the public square a hermetically sealed chamber, nor do pluralists ask believers to take off their faiths the instant they enter it.”
From a pluralist perspective, religion can perhaps never be fully separated from politics. Politics is shaped by broader philosophical principles about the ends of human existence, and one’s religious beliefs will undoubtedly influence one’s understanding of these principles. If one believes that all men and women are made in the image of a divine Creator, that will likely lead to a different set of principles from those that one would espouse if one believes that some people are innately better than others. Read the rest of this entry »
The Obama administration refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender to Iran be prematurely and fatally exposed.
“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”
Hardly more than a year later, on the eve of what might be deal-day, here is where those promises stand:
Fordo: “The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”—Associated Press, March 26.
Arak: “Today, the six powers negotiating with Iran . . . want the reactor at Arak, still under construction, reconfigured to produce less plutonium, the other bomb fuel.”—The New York Times, March 7.
Advanced centrifuges: “Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian news media reported Sunday, a development likely to add to Western concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.”—Reuters, March 3.
But the president and his administration made other promises, too. Consider a partial list:
Possible military dimensions: In September 2009 Mr. Obama warned Iran that it was “on notice” that it would have to “come clean” on all of its nuclear secrets. Now the administration is prepared to let it slide.
“It was never especially probable that a detailed, satisfactory verification regime would be included in the sort of substantive framework agreement that the Americans have been working for.”
— The Economist
“Under the new plan,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman reported last week, “Tehran wouldn’t be expected to immediately clarify all the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA in a 2011 report on Iran’s alleged secretive work. A full reckoning of Iran’s past activities would be demanded in later years as part of a nuclear deal that is expected to last at least 15 years.”
Verification: Another thing the president said in that interview with Mr. Saban is that any deal would involve “extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections.”
Iran isn’t playing ball on this one, either. Read the rest of this entry »
Time Magazine Parody cover by punditfromanotherplanet
From Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey:
Just how badly has Barack Obama and his administration damaged relations with our allies in the Middle East? NBC’s Richard Engel reports that the Sunni nations in the region have begun to fear that the Obama administration leaks intel to Iran as part of its efforts at rapprochement with the mullahs, which is why the US got blindsided by the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen. The White House’s “incoherence” in policy, Engel reports, has most of them losing confidence in American leadership, according to Engel’s contacts. (via Free Beacon):
Initially, this looked like material for an update on my earlier post regarding the Saudi-GCC coalition and its decision to work around Obama, but it deserves its own thread for a couple of reasons. First, Engel reported this for NBC, and on MSNBC, the “Lean Forward” cable channel that usually acts as a clearinghouse for Barack Obama apologists (and the occasional slam on Middle America). Engel’s not among the apologists; he’s a first-class foreign correspondent whose reports follow no partisan agenda, and whose sources have usually provided him with highly accurate reporting.
More importantly, Engel’s report advances this to an allegation of betrayal, not just incompetence. Clearly, Saudi Arabia has little confidence left in the Obama administration; that much is evident from their actions to cut the US out of the loop on this coalition. Read the rest of this entry »
State Dept. Again Refuses To Say Whether Clinton Signed Separation Agreement (March 16, 2015)
Iran unveils newly developed long range cruise missile called Soumar that looks like a reverse engineered KH-55
“Soumar long-range ground-to-ground cruise missile system has been designed and built by experts of the defense ministry’s aerospace industries organization,” Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan told reporters after the unveiling ceremony.
“The designing and building of this weapon whose navigation and propulsion systems and its structure enjoy complicated and new technologies is seen as a wide stride taken to enhance the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defensive and deterrence power,” he added.
Dehqan also announced the mass delivery of Qadr and Qiyam long-range ballistic missiles to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s Aerospace Force, and said these missiles are capable of destroying different types of targets under any type of conditions due to their tactical capability, sustainability in the battleground and radar-evading features.
He also announced that the defense ministry will deliver upgraded versions of these long-range and high-precision missiles to the Iranian military forces next year.
Also during the ceremony, IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh hailed Iran’s advancements in missile technology under the harshest sanctions imposed on the country, and underlined that Iran will never allow its defense program and cruise missiles become a topic in its negotiations with the world powers.
The Iranian Armed Forces have recently test-fired different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.
Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran’s wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.
Iran successfully tested second generation of Sejjil missiles and brought it into mass production in 2013.
Sejjil missiles are considered as the third generation of Iran-made long-range missiles.
Also, Iran’s 2000km-range, liquid-fuel, Qadr F ballistic missile can reach territories as far as Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House Portrait of a Crumbling Terror Group is Contradicted by Documents Seized in the Bin Laden RaidPosted: March 5, 2015
How America Was Misled on al Qaeda’s Demise
Stephen Hayes and Tomas Joscelyn write: In the early-morning hours of May 2, 2011, a small team of American military and intelligence professionals landed inside the high white walls of a mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The team’s mission, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, had two primary objectives: capture or kill Osama bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about the al Qaeda leader and his network. A bullet to bin Laden’s head accomplished the first; the quick work of the Sensitive Site Exploitation team accomplished the second.
“The leadership down at Central Command wanted to know what were we learning from these documents. We were still facing a growing al Qaeda threat. And it was not just Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq. But we saw it growing in Yemen. We clearly saw it growing still in East Africa…The threat wasn’t going away, and we wanted to know: What can we learn from these documents?”
— Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”
The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.
But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.
In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending.
“At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: ‘By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.’”
In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”
The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.
“This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.”
It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] State Department’s Harf: ‘We Cannot Kill Our Way Out of this War’ with ISIS, ‘We’re Not in a Time of War’ Says Eric HolderPosted: February 17, 2015
From Andrew Johnson:
…on last night’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf stopped by to argue that the solution to defeating the Islamic State is finding economic opportunity for young Muslim men, because “we cannot kill our way out of this war.”
“If I were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now. Nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.”
— Chris Matthews
Harf’s appearance came after a weekend that saw 21 Coptic Christians beheaded and a gunman open fire at a free-speech debate in Copenhagen, as Brendan notes. Matthews pressed Harf on the lack of a strong and meaningful response to the growing threat of Islamic extremism worldwide.
“If I were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now,” Matthews said. “Nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.”
— National Review (@NRO) February 18, 2015
While Harf assured viewers that “a lot” of Islamic State fighters have been killed, she also claimed that force isn’t the most effective strategy for combatting ISIS. “We cannot win this war by killing them — we cannot kill our way out of this war,” she said.
Instead, she argued that…(read more)
Holder: ‘We’re Not in a Time of War’
Brendan Bordelon has this:
With 10,000 American soldiers patrolling the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, thousands more deployed to Iraq, and U.S. military aircraft conducting daily strikes in both those countries and Syria, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed the nation is “not in a time of war.”
Holder made the comments Tuesday during a talk to journalists at the National Press Club, broadcast on C-SPAN. Asked about the Obama administration’s zealous prosecution of reporters for allegedly endangering national security by publishing sensitive material or refusing to reveal sources, the nation’s top law enforcement officer inadvertently provided insight into how the White House views America’s overseas engagements….(read more)
Chris Matthews: America Being ‘Morally Humiliated’ by ISIS
Brendan Bordelon has more:
Liberal cable news host Chris Matthews called out American apathy in the wake of the latest Islamic State massacre, saying the United States is being “morally humiliated” by the terrorists.
Islamists associated with the Islamic State murdered 21 innocent Egyptian Christians in Libya on February 15, filming their mass beheading and posting the video online. The Egyptian government responded the following day, with warplanes striking targets in Libyan cities controlled by the Islamic State.
“I know, we all know we need a plan. We need a route that takes us to a destroyed ISIS, because the alternative is too sick, too un-American, too un-human. We can’t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the sports page or the financial news or what’s at the movies or who’s going to win the Oscars and act like America, our country, is not being morally humiliated.”
Often skeptical of American intervention, on Monday night Matthews expressed his desire that the latest atrocity not go unpunished. “Can we do nothing?” Read the rest of this entry »
Byron York writes: Members of the House Armed Services Committee met with Jordan’s King Abdullah Tuesday not long after news broke that ISIS had burned to death a Jordanian pilot captured in the fight against the terrorist group.
“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen. He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”
— Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., who was in the meeting with the king.
In a private session with lawmakers, the king showed an extraordinary measure of anger — anger which he expressed by citing American movie icon Clint Eastwood.
“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,” said Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. “He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”
“He’s angry. They’re starting more sorties tomorrow than they’ve ever had. They’re starting tomorrow. And he said, ‘The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.”
Hunter would not say which part of “Unforgiven” the king quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood’s character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution. There is a scene in the picture in which Eastwood’s character, William Munny, says…(read more)
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 45 people, officials said.
Dozens more were wounded when the bomber, who was on foot and mingling with the crowd, detonated his explosives, said Mokhis Afgha, the spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition.”
He said the attack happened during an inter-district volleyball tournament attended by large crowed in Yahyakhail district late Sunday afternoon.
“We need urgent help from the central government because we might need to transfer wounded people to Kabul for treatment.”
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition,” Afghan said. Read the rest of this entry »
Max Boot writes: Last week brought a reminder of what the United States has lost since Bob Gates and Leon Panetta left the Obama cabinet. Both are straight shooters with a centrist, hardheaded sensibility.
“What happened? How did the centrist Obama of his early years in office give way to the dovish Obama of more recent times? “
Panetta has been making headlines with his criticism of Obama on 60 Minutes for pulling out of Iraq too soon (“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq”) and not doing more early on to aid the Syrian opposition (“we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS”).
“Obama suffers from the not uncommon defect of the intellectually able: He imagines that he is always the smartest guy in the room and thus has trouble taking advice that does not accord with his own predilections.”
Meanwhile, Gates has been critical of Obama for prohibiting U.S. “boots on the ground” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: “The reality is, they’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” he told CBS This Morning. “So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the United States won’t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”
[Check out Max Boot’s “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present” at Amazon.com]
In retrospect, it is clear, the first Obama term—when Gates was at Defense (followed by Panetta), Panetta at CIA (followed by General David Petraeus), Hillary Clinton at State, Admiral Mike Mullen at the Joint Chiefs, and retired General Jim Jones at the National Security Council—was a golden age (by Obama standards) when there were grown-ups more or less in charge of U.S. foreign policy. Obama at first tended to accede to the advice of his more seasoned foreign policy hands because as a first-term senator he was acutely aware of his own lack of experience or credibility in the field. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Fourier, the utopian socialist who lived from 1772 to 1837, has been on my mind. Long ago, Fourier was considered a deep, monumental, visionary thinker.
“Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking.”
His theories of social organization inspired the establishment of a communal society, the North American Phalanx, in Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1843. It collapsed a little more than a decade later.
Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking. “His temperament was too ardent, his imagination too strong, and his acquaintance with the realities of life too slight to enable him justly to estimate the merits of his fantastic views,” wrote the Scottish philosopher Robert Adamson.
As with Fourier’s North American Phalanx in the 19th century, so it is with the Juicebox Mafia Phalanx in the 21st. The Juicebox Mafia, of course, is the dismissive term assigned to the Beltway clique of twenty- and thirtysomething journalists known for their love of President Obama, their hatred of conservatives, their opposition to the war on terror, their quasi-religious faith in social science, and, above all, their earnestness.
“The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way.”
The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way. A larger government, universal health insurance, cuts in military spending, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization—bliss it should be in this dawn for these ardent temperaments, these possessors of strong imaginations, to be alive.
And yet, reading liberal websites and magazines over the last few months, one cannot help but think that their acquaintance with the realities of life is growing increasingly slight.
Someone is filling those juiceboxes with pink lemonade. Read the rest of this entry »
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama writes: The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.
The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.
In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.
But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.
The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.
Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government. Read the rest of this entry »
“To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready…would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale.”
The clip was taken from a 2007 press conference and features Bush warn that if the U.S. withdrew too early from Iraq, troops would eventually have to return to face a stronger enemy.
“It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.”
Here at punditfromanotherplanet, a similar reference, with video, was posted three months ago. [Bush’s Prediction Comes True: Warned This Would Happen in Iraq if Troops Are Withdrawn Too Soon – June 16, 2014]
“It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Kelly aired the video ahead of a segment focusing on the growing threat from the Islamic State terror group. Read the rest of this entry »
“What is the flexible response doctrine, and why is it so important?”
— Joseph Miller
Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.
[Note: This is not a parody, satire, or reporting commented on by punditfromanotherplanet for humor purposes (yes we do that sometimes) this is from The Daily Caller, via Yahoo News, read the full report here.]
The report is in, and the review of the president’s foreign policy is clear: If there is not an immediate course-reversal, the United States is in serious danger.
In 2013, the United States Institute for Peace, “a congressionally-created, independent, nonpartisan institution whose mission is to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflicts around the world,” was asked to assist the National Defense Panel with reviewing the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The National Defense Panel is a congressional-mandated bipartisan commission that’s co-chairs were appointed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
“Given the current state of affairs and the threats posed to our nation, the panel felt that the two-war doctrine was still required to meet our nation’s national security challenges.”
On July 31, the National Defense Panel released its long-awaited report on the effects of the QDR and delivered its findings to Congress. The panel pulled no punches — its findings were a scathing indictment of Obama’s foreign policy, national security policy, and defense policy. The panel found that president Barack Obama’s QDR, military force reductions, and trillion-dollar defense budget cuts are dangerous — and will leave the country in a position where it is unable to respond to threats to our nation’s security. This, the panel concluded, must be reversed as soon as possible. Read the rest of this entry »
Good capture from The Blaze: Shepard Smith could not hide his disgust regarding how State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki began the agency’s daily press briefing on the heels of a Malaysian Airlines plane going down over Ukraine.
“Well this is just highly inappropriate I would say…”
Smith said. He was reacting to Psaki starting the press briefing going over normal business and talking bout elections in Afghanistan instead of starting with reaction to the breaking crash news.
“Each day the State Department has a briefing. Each day there are State Department reporters who are there, that is their beat, they are assigned to be there. And you get a long list of things that are going on over the world and then you get to ask questions…”
Kevin D. Williamson and George Will hit the nail on the head with columns questioning the outsized importance of the presidency. I’ve linked them together here because they share this theme, a subject that’s been on my mind. It’s particularly relevant today because of the Supreme Court’s decisive smackdown of presidential overreach.
It’s been observed, by Glenn Reynolds, P.J. O’Rourke, and others, that that life in America was better and freer when the Presidency wasn’t so important. It almost didn’t matter which gang of crooks ran the White House, because most politics was local, not national, and the limitations on Presidential power insured that not much damage could be done. The Federal government was distant, and wonderfully irrelevant to the daily lives of most Americans. Local government mattered. Presidents could occupy themselves with foreign policy, negotiating trade agreements, responding to national emergencies, and making occasional speeches. Most of the time, the country can run itself pretty much on its own.
In the last few generations, presidential importance and power has quietly increased. Then, exploded. Presidential elections are all-consuming, winner-take-all contests that consume enormous resources, and draw undue attention. There’s an unseemly preoccupation with presidential spectacle, the wonder and majesty of it all.
My personal rant: Since when are presidents are expected to set a national agenda, drive the country in important new directions, hatch important new plans? Since when are presidents measured by the success or failure of their grand vision for the country? (answer: the progressive era) Two phrases that illustrate this increasingly poisonous trend: “signature legislation”, and “historic legacy”. When we see or hear the phrase “signature legislation”, journalists and talking heads are stroking the president’s self-image, and indulging the malignant nationalist “great figure” hero fantasy. “Signature legislation” should be a banned phrase, it’s emblematic of this growing bubble of unrealistic expectations. As if the ego of the President is something we should all participate in helping to protect and preserve, for history. I’m sorry, but I’m not interested. Count me out.
That the presidency is increasingly imperial, and disturbingly monarchial, is not even a question. Economically, it’s self-evident. Kings and Queens live and travel more modestly than the president. Mark Steyn pointed out that the cost of presidential maintenance — Air Force One, the White House Staff, all the perks — now exceeds that of all the world’s monarchies combined.
Government service shouldn’t be so attractive, even at the executive level. President Clinton, when showing the Oval office to guests who had never seen it, jokingly referred to it as the “crown jewel of the American penal system”. Though Clinton enjoyed the benefits and survived the hazards of the outsized presidency, that was a rare moment of self-deprecating awareness about the burden of the presidency, and an appreciation for its limits.
I agree with Will, and Williamson. I’ve had my fill of presidential drama, give me a boring president. Please.
As I was lunching with a few conservative political types earlier this week, the subject turned, as it does, to the 2016 field. When the name of a highly regarded former governor came up, the judgment was unequivocal: “He’s just so . . . boring.” That was not intended as an endorsement.
It should be.
“What greeted Barack Obama during his ascent was excitement that bled into reverence — it is easy to forget, with the demigod in his now diminished state, that his admirers were literally singing hymns to him. Exciting, in the same way that a head-on collision in a speeding Cadillac is exciting…”
Barack Obama has been anything but boring. “May you live in exciting times” may be a fake Chinese curse, but the wisdom communicated therein is real. Thought experiment: Consider the presidency of Barack Obama from the point of view of the sort of person who is likely to support such men. Having vanquished George W. Bush, he has now given us: a military mess in Iraq complete with the deployment of U.S. troops and a mission that is probably unachievable; the continuing disintegration of Afghanistan and its reversion to a jihadist safe haven; an economy that is shrinking significantly and probably is dipping back into recession; a defense and intelligence apparatus that is abusing its powers and the trust of the American people in ways that are not obviously related to defeating terrorist plots; millions without health insurance; millions out of work; corruption in our public institutions, ranging from the IRS to our universities; a self-aggrandizing political elite that is busy enriching itself through the vulgar exploitation of political connections while incomes for ordinary Americans stagnate or decline; etc. There has been a great deal of excitement, but if you voted for Obama because you were angry about the wars, the surveillance state, and the economy, things aren’t looking any better at all.
[Kevin Williamson’s book “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure” is available at Amazon]
The most boring president of the modern era probably was Dwight Eisenhower, whose administration was marked by relative peace, prosperity, and confidence in the effectiveness and integrity of our institutions. The most boring president ever surely was Calvin Coolidge, who pinched pennies and kept at his plow, more or less leaving the country free to go about its own business, which turned out to be an excellent economic program. Our most exciting recent presidents? John Kennedy, who was privately corrupt and publicly inept; Richard Nixon, who was privately corrupt and publicly corrupt; Bill Clinton, who combined the worst features of Kennedy and Nixon, adding a distasteful dose of sanctimony to the mix…(read more)
“In a radio address to the nation, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Americans to tell him their troubles. Please do not tell me yours. Tell them to your spouse, friends, clergy — not to a politician…”
All modern presidents of both parties have been too much with us. Talking incessantly, they have put politics unhealthily at the center of America’s consciousness. Promising promiscuously, they have exaggerated government’s proper scope and actual competence, making the public perpetually disappointed and surly. Inflating executive power, they have severed it from constitutional constraints. So, sensible voters might embrace someone who announced his 2016 candidacy this way:
“I am ambling — running suggests unseemly ardor — for president. It is axiomatic that anyone who nowadays will do what is necessary in order to become president thereby reveals character traits, including delusions of adequacy and obsessive compulsive disorder, that should disqualify him or her from proximity to powers concentrated in the executive branch. Therefore, my campaign will initially consist of driving around the Obnoxiously Entitled Four — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — trying to interest their 3.8 percent of America’s population in a minimalist president. Read the rest of this entry »
“…he became much more of an accepted fellow’ than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times…”
For Fox News, James Rosen reports: U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, according to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News.
“…a member of the Haqqani network, said to be close to Bergdahl’s captors, reported that the American prisoner had declared himself a ‘mujahid’…”
The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.
The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.
The reports are rich in on-the-ground detail — including the names and locations of the Haqqani commanders who ran the 200-man rotation used to guard the Idaho native — and present the most detailed view yet of what Bergdahl’s life over the past five years has been like. These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe. Read the rest of this entry »