Washington’s foolish approaches to the Islamic State will not destroy them or discourage others from following in their footsteps. Angelo Codevilla’s advice: Get Your Heads Out of
Your Ass The Sand
“As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem.”
Angelo Codevilla writes: The American people’s reaction to Muslim thugs of the “Islamic State” ritually knifing off the heads of people who look like you and me boils down to “let’s destroy these bastards”—which is common sense. But our ruling class, from President Obama on the Left to The Wall Street Journal on the Right, take the public’s pressure to do this as another occasion for further indulging their longtime preferences, prejudices, and proclivities for half-measures in foreign affairs—the very things that have invited people from all over the planet to join hunting season on Americans.
“We need to crush ISIS and not work on arming more Islamic radicals. Just what would arming these people accomplish?”
– Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran
This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.
[Check out Angelo Codevilla's book "To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations" at Amazon.com]
The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”
Irresponsibly Avoiding Debate
Our Constitution prescribes that war happens subsequent to votes by elected representatives. By debate and vote, presumably they reconcile the war’s ends with the means to be employed. But to reconcile ends and means is to banish illusions and pretenses. Read the rest of this entry »
Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee offered eight ways that the Obama administration is “blocking information” at a recent joint meeting of news editors.
1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.
2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. Think about the message that sends other nations about how the world’s leading democracy deals with the media: Keep them out and let them use handout photos.
3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. So at hearings, we can’t follow what’s happening. We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing.
4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.
5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.
Buzbee also criticized the current administration for making Freedom of Information Act requests “slow and expensive.” Journalists are then forced to sue the government to force officials to respond, she said. Read the rest of this entry »
That’s Show Business: Harry’s Cynical plot to keep the Senate
Everything you’ll see from the Senate in the next few weeks will be complete bullshit. POLITICO grinds out the story on the Senate leaders’ familiar playbook. Here’s the money quote:
Reid has scheduled votes on a politically populist agenda devised by Schumer aimed at forcing Republicans to block bills aimed at wooing students, women, seniors and the middle class. Democrats have repeatedly put forth bills that have little chance of passing — like on increasing the minimum wage, gender pay equity, contraception access and student loan assistance. And even when there are efforts they actually support — such as Obama’s executive action on immigration — Democratic leaders have lobbied the White House to punt on the issue to avoid hurting their vulnerable incumbents and candidates in red states. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House and Pentagon have scurried this week to insist there is no hint of dissent in the ranks, though in some cases their efforts have focused only more attention on the issue.
“Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility. We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”
– Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis
WaPo‘s Craig Whitlock reports: Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship.
“I think it’s very important that he does follow the advice and counsel that he receives, the professional advice of the military. They are the ones best suited to do that.”
– Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president’s approach against the Islamic State militant group.
“There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy.”
– Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served under Obama until last year, became the latest high-profile skeptic on Thursday, telling the House Intelligence Committee that a blanket prohibition on ground combat was tying the military’s hands. “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” he said. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Madison Paradox and Obama’s Constitution Day Stealth Comment: Referring to Our Constitutional Rights as ‘Privileges’Posted: September 18, 2014
Maybe James Madison was right. Maybe the Bill of Rights wasn’t just unnecessary, it was a bad idea, destined to be viewed in the distant future exactly the wrong way
For United Liberty, Jason Pye catches Obama’s shaded wording, and writes a welcome blast of corrective historical clarity. Though I can’t resist including my own comments in the margins, the piece stands as testament to the power of word choices. Pye writes:
…In his presidential proclamation marking Constitution Day, President Barack Obama offered some insight into how he views the Bill of Rights. “Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society,” Obama said in the release. “It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
“It secures the
rights privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
Given that this White House is known for its expansive view of executive power, the assertion that the rights guaranteed and protected under the Bill of Rights, the fact that President Obama views these fundamental liberties to be “privileges” isn’t too terribly surprising. After all, President Obama treats the legislative branch — which, again, is supposed to be a co-equal branch of the federal government — as an afterthought as it arbitrarily changes statues and even refuses to enforce laws.
But words matter. To say the rights secured by the Constitution are “privileges” implies that they can be revoked. Let’s put this another way: a high school-aged kid is given the privilege of taking their father’s car out to go hang out with friends, that is until they abuse it by getting caught speeding or into a car accident. The disappointed father would, no doubt, take away the privilege.
Rights and liberties, however, are based on a solid foundation. They can’t be taken away by some paternalistic president. The view of the framers was that the rights protected under the Bill of Rights existed before the formation of the federal government under the Constitution. In short, they were natural rights.
In fact, James Madison believed that a list of specific rights was unnecessary.
Though we celebrate the ratification of the Bill of Rights, I can’t help but interrupt to expand on Jason Pye‘s oversimplification — Madison didn’t believe that a list of specific rights was unnecessary, Madison and others believed listing individual rights would set a dangerous precedent. As illustrated in my half-remembered reading of Joseph J. Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” the dissenters wisely understood that making a special top-ten list of rights could lead to a troubling misperception that individual rights are limited, reducible to a specific list. Which could then be used to mislead future generations into accepting false limits.
It’s federal powers that are finite, narrow, and limited. So limited you could number them. (enumerated powers) Individual rights, as conceived by the founders–aren’t limited, they’re virtually infinite. Not reducible to a list. Enshrining some of them in a list would lead to, well, exactly the misunderstanding that persists to this day. The argument resisting an enumerated “Bill of Rights” wasn’t perfect, but it had merit. It showed foresight.
Jason Pye continues:
Thankfully, George Mason and others, to ensure ratification, convinced Madison to come up with proposals, ten of which were passed by Congress and approved by at least three-fifths of the states. Read the rest of this entry »
Americans haven’t suddenly turned interventionist. They’re moved by the Islamic State’s particular evil.
Peggy Noonan writes: President Obama would have been rocked the past few months by five things. One is the building criticism from left and right about his high need for relaxation—playing golf while the world burns. Another is that he misread the significance and public power of the beheadings of American journalists. Third, he has been way out of sync with American public opinion on Islamic State, which must be all the more galling because he thought he knew where Americans stood on the use of military force. Fourth, with his poll numbers declining (32% approval for his handling of foreign policy, according to The Wall Street Journal and NBC), it has probably occurred to him that he is damaging not only his own but his party’s brand in foreign affairs. (Yes, George W. Bush did the same to his party, but Mr. Obama was supposed to reverse, not follow, that trend.) Fifth, he surely expects he is about to take a pounding from the antiwar left.
“Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics who would normally back strong military action were relatively silent in 2013. Why? I think because they were becoming broadly aware, for the first time, of what was happening to Christians in the Middle East.”
Most immediately interesting to me is the apparent change of mind by Americans toward military action in the Mideast. The president’s long-reigning assumption is that a war-weary public has grown more isolationist. But, again according to the WSJ/NBC poll, more than 6 in 10 back moving militarily against Islamic State. Politicians and pundits believe that this is due to the gruesome, public and taunting murders of the U.S. journalists—that Americans saw the pictures and freaked out, that their backing of force is merely emotional.
I think they’re missing a big aspect of this story. Read the rest of this entry »
An interview with historian Victor Davis Hanson
Directed and Edited by: Joshua Hamilton
Interview and Writing by: Evan Carter
Camera Two: Anders Kiledal
Published on Sep 10, 2014
The CIA said Thursday that the number of Islamic State fighters has grown to as many as three times previous estimates; a day after President Obama announced he is drastically expanding the U.S. military campaign against the militants.
“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence.”
A spokesperson for the agency told Fox News that new assessments show that the militant group can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria.
“The new numbers are a big jump from the agency’s previous estimate that there were at least 10,000 Islamic State fighters.”
The spokesperson said the new figures were determined after a review of “all-source intelligence reports” on the group from May to August. Read the rest of this entry »
“Facts are stubborn things.”
After Carney had offered a favorable take on his former boss’s speech, Senator McCain took issue with Carney’s claim that the moderate Syrian opposition, which the president tonight proposed to arm, is stronger and more easily identifiable than it had been over the past couple years, during which time McCain had called for arming moderate rebel groups but President Obama had refused.
No serious expert on the matter thinks the moderate rebels are stronger now than they were earlier in the war, McCain pointed out. Read the rest of this entry »
From The Corner, Daniel Pipes: In a televised address on how to address the Islamic State this evening, President Barack Obama declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be “not Islamic.”
“Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic.”
In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children “a terrible perversion of Islam.”George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”
None of the three has any basis for such assertions. Read the rest of this entry »
The drop in confidence in Mr. Obama’s oversight of foreign policy has reached into his core supporters
For WSJ, Janet Hook and Colleen Nelson write: Foreign policy has catapulted to the center of the U.S. political stage just two months before the 2014 midterm elections, raising fresh questions of whether President Barack Obama‘s perceived weakness on the issue will hurt his party’s electoral chances.
“That’s going to be a drag on Democrats, there’s no way around that.”
– Former aide to President Clinton
Mr. Obama’s approval rating has been at or near record low for months, a concern for many Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign season as presidents with low approval ratings typically see big losses for their parties in midterm elections.
“Right now Democrats are in tough shape to hold the Senate, and the events of the next seven weeks could be quite important. This could be the defining moment.”
– Peter Fenn, Democratic political consultant.
The dynamic put added pressure on Mr. Obama’s Wednesday speech detailing his strategy for confronting Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS and ISIL. The prime-time speech was designed not just to explain Mr. Obama’s goals but also to reclaim the mantle of authority after months of being buffeted by world events. Read the rest of this entry »
For Defining Ideas, Victor Davis Hanson writes: Will the United States in its near future be hit again in the manner of the 9/11 attacks of thirteen years ago? The destruction of the World Trade Center, the suicide implosions of four passenger airliners, and the attack on the Pentagon unfortunately have become far-off memories. They are now more distant from us than was the Vietnam War was from the Korean War.
“Drone strikes continue at a vastly accelerated pace under President Obama, but they also raise existential hypocrisies about our approach to terrorism.”
Two questions will determine whether radical Islamic terrorists will attack us once more: one, are the post-9/11 anti-terrorism protocols that have so far stopped major terrorist attacks still viable and effective, and, two, is Al-Qaeda or an analogous Islamic terrorist organization now still as capable as were Osama bin Laden’s henchmen in 2001?
Unfortunately, the answers to those two questions should raise great concern. Take the current status of the so-called war on terror in all of its manifestations. The southern border of the United States is less guarded than at anytime since 9/11.
For all practical purposes, enforceable immigration laws simply no longer exist. The result is that we have no idea who is crossing into the United States or for what purposes.
“The President’s six years of concentrated Islamic outreach has not won over the Muslim Middle East.”
Some of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols are still in operation—renditions, preventative detention, the Guantanamo detention center, and the Patriot Act. However, the NSA, IRS, and VA scandals, along with the Edward Snowden and Wikileaks revelations, have created an understandably strong public backlash against government surveillance, which will lead to new protocols limiting our ability to monitor terrorist suspects. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick O’Connor reports: When President Barack Obama addresses the nation Wednesday to outline his plan for combating Islamic militants destabilizing the Middle East, his audience will have a stronger appetite for foreign engagements than it did back in the spring.
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 27% of registered voters would like to see the U.S. play a more active role in world affairs, up from 19% back in April. A plurality of 40% still believes the U.S. should be less active on the world stage, but that is down from 47% in April.
Full results of the poll will be released at 6:30 p.m ET Tuesday.
Republicans, in particular, are decidedly more inclined to support a more robust foreign policy. In April, 45% of self-identified Republicans wanted the U.S. to be less active in the world, while 29% said the country should be more active. In the September survey, Republicans wanted the U.S. to play a greater role in world events by a margin of 41%-34%.
Similar swings occurred among conservatives and people with post-graduate degrees. Read the rest of this entry »
It seems to be an increasingly rare moment in American politics when Left and Right agree, but the poles appear to agree on one thing: President Obama is a cynical politician. Liberal criticism of the president comes on the heels of the president’s announcement that he plans to delay his proposed executive order on immigration until after November’s midterm elections.
“Republicans have long been aware that the president’s policy decisions are dictated by political considerations. It’s nice to see liberals coming to the same realization.”
The political calculation that prompted the decision is obvious: A constitution-bending order that legitimizes millions of illegal immigrants is not a decision red-state Senate Democrats in tight races want to have to defend. A Republican Senate (along with a Republican House) would mark the effective end of the Obama presidency. Read the rest of this entry »
Incomes fell for most families in past three years, while top 10 percent prospered
For the Washington Times, Jennifer Pompi reports: Under President Obama, the richest 10 percent were the only income group of Americans to see their median incomes rise, according to a survey released this week by the Federal Reserve.
“The wealth share of the top 3 percent climbed from 44.8 percent in 1989 to 51.8 percent in 2007 and 54.4 percent in 2013. … The share of wealth held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33.2 percent in 1989 to24.7 percent in 2013.”
The Fed data covered the years 2010-2013, during which period Mr. Obama constantly campaigned against income inequality and won re-election by painting his Republican rival as a tool of Wall Street plutocrats.
“One of our biggest concerns is who is the candidate’s economic team, because if the present economic team doesn’t change, you are going get the same results.”
– AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
“Data from the 2013 [Survey of Consumer Finances] confirm that the shares of income and wealth held by affluent families are at modern historically high levels,” the report said in noting that the median income fell for every 10-percent grouping except the most affluent 10 percent.
“The 2013 SCF reveals substantial disparities in the evolution of income and net worth since the previous time the survey was conducted, in 2010,” the report stated. The SCF is conducted by the Federal reserve triennially and compiles information about family incomes, credit use, net worth and finances. Read the rest of this entry »
I have a theory that a journalist could begin an article, or headline, with “Obama Blames…” and write a new story every week, and never run out of body copy. Andrew Johnson’s headline identifies Obama’s primary target of blame: American citizens. We just don’t get it. So he must act alone, because we’ve failed him. But it goes further than that. Consider this: Every time Obama says the word “Congress”, or “Republicans in Congress”, replace that word with “The American voters”. Members of Congress didn’t get there by accident, they didn’t ascend to power in a bloody coup, or arrive in a spaceship, they got elected.
If Congress is blocking the president’s agenda, pursuing an opposing agenda, ignoring his mocking insults and wounded complaining, or being uncooperative and combative, that’s because they were elected to do exactly that. They represent the people. Elections have consequences.
Don’t like it? Then make your case, Mr. President, and help Democrats win back the House. You tried that, and it failed? That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise. When Obama blames Congress? He’s not talking about his political opponents, he’s talking about you.
New Meet the Press host Chuck Todd pushed back against President Obama’s claims that his decision to delay taking executive action on granting legal status to people in the country illegally wasn’t motivated by the upcoming midterms elections. “It looks like politics, it looks like election-year politics,” Todd interjected at one point.
“But if the public’s not behind you, you’re not taking it? That sounds a little bit — that the public wouldn’t support what you did?”
One of the reasons the president claims he delayed action was to make sure all the “t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted,” but also pointed to the recent surge of unaccompanied children on the border complicated the matter. Read the rest of this entry »