Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rand Paul Race Hysterics

I’d like the throw the full weight of my blog and its following (my parents) behind the candidacy of one, Rand Paul. Although far from the ideal Senator, his election is just what America needs.

Over the past year, the Left has been peddling the message that the millions of Americans with a particular political persuasion, namely Tea Party supporters, are generally crazy, racist extremists (right wing terrorists, remember?). Short of shamelessly hypocritical name-calling, no other repudiation has really stuck.

Democrats think they finally found a chink in the Tea Party’s armor in Rand Paul and are eager to take down the nascent movement. They argue, illogically, that a man with no history of any discriminatory leanings and with a clearly defined political philosophy is crazy, racist and an extremist unfit for holding office. Bill Clinton, Harry Reid and the Reverend Al Sharpton all have rap sheets way longer than Rand’s, but that doesn’t seem to matter much.

First, we should frame the issue: Rand Paul is a Libertarian. His political philosophy is one that holds personal freedom in the highest regard. All Americans should appreciate his honest adherence to his convictions, a departure from your average politico.

A prime example of his philosophy is his position that the American government overextended its constitutional privileges in one of ten Titles in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title II outlaws discrimination by businesses with the exception of private clubs, which Paul believes infringes upon free speech. He maintains, however, that he would have voted for the bill because of its overall worthiness and despite his objection. Anyone who supports the law but thinks that the private club exemption is ludicrous knows exactly how he feels.

Rand applies the very same criteria to national safety standards and education, two contentious areas he thinks should also be outside of centralized government authority. His point of view is consistent and clearly rooted in a well-defined political philosophy, not bigotry or extremism as liberals are claiming. Few may stand by such staunch advocacy of Libertarianism, but there is logic to his thinking rarely seen in politics today.

A noteworthy exception is his opposition to gay marriage, a long held Libertarian position. His vexing view is likely pragmatic, similar to those of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Both were officially against full equality for the LGBT community despite their wide gap on the political spectrum. Both also neatly punted the issue while in office to avoid controversy. Rand Paul ran as a constitutional conservative, so he’s not betraying his cause as blatantly as the current President. But it would be nice to see him fully embrace Libertarian platform, especially if he’s going to hold his ground on civil rights.

Like his father, Rand Paul is close to being a pure Libertarian. His spot on the political spectrum, however, hardly renders him unfit for office. Judging by Ron Paul’s presidential run in 2008 and Rand’s landslide victory in Kentucky, sizeable numbers of Americans feel that heart and soul Libertarians have a place in Congress.

One Senator amongst ninety-nine others cannot do much on his or her own. Other legislators will have to accommodate his concerns to win his vote, just like major parties absorb third party issues to bring them into the fold. Some of his platform may blow against the prevailing winds of the electorate, but those idiosyncrasies will shape debate for the better.

Rand’s Civil Rights Act comments offer food for thought despite being politically polarizing. On an obvious level, the role of government in private enterprise is an important quandary in an age of bailouts, omnipotent lobbies and cozy relationships between regulators and the regulated.

On a deeper level, I think Rand questions the effectiveness of a government mandate as a vehicle for social change. America has horrendous race relations because, intuitively, people can’t be simply instructed to abandon racism. Achieving social equality is nothing more than a big “gotcha” game these days, with liberals sitting on their pedestal levying accusations on a Right scared senseless. Minorities themselves are caught in the middle, reduced to their ethnicity and quite often the victims of the same race baiters who supposedly defend them.

Example: Progressives think that Hispanics should be offended by illegal immigration legislation. The implication is that there’s no difference between Hispanics and illegal aliens. That’s racist. Rand Paul appears radical at first glance, but he brings up an important point that merits discussion and not hysteria.

We need people like Rand in Congress. His unapologetic defense of personal freedom will amplify the political diversity of Washington, something all Americans can appreciate. He is clearly unafraid to speak his mind and will very likely infuse our politically correct Senate with a breath of honesty and forthrightness. Attempts by Democrats to delegitimize the Tea Party via Rand, or vice versa, are baseless and overblown political rhetoric.

Our Democratic government grows larger and hungrier by the day. After a year of massive nationalizations at the expense of the unaffiliated individual, a Libertarian is quite frankly just the start of what we need. That’s why I am endorsing Rand Paul for Kentucky Senate.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Requiem for Pax-Americana

Obama threatens world stability by taking a shotgun to the American nuclear umbrella.

Since World War II, nuclear non-proliferation has been largely predicated on an American promise to defend allied states in the event of such an attack. While never proven or even necessarily possible, plenty of countries (any with nuclear energy but no weapons program) decided to invest their money elsewhere. Certainly, the incredible price of acquiring a nuclear weapon was an important disincentive in the first place. America’s bomb, however, made the cost of bringing war to our allies and country prohibitive. Our posture prevented conventional war also, evidenced by China’s frustration with tiny Taiwan. Those times have ended.

Stalled negotiation attempts with Iran reveal that under our current leadership, the nuclear umbrella is little more than imaginary. China and Russia play their two-step repeatedly, while the United States dutifully responds by diluting sanctions further. Meanwhile, Iran gleefully announces its own nuclear summits, threatens Israel, and increases its capacity to produce weapons-grade fissile material. Merely turning a blind eye to proliferation is enough to perforate America’s defensive posture because it undermines the credibility of retaliation.

Although Israel may not qualify as a protected country under the American umbrella, the message to those who do is evident: the US will not stand with its most loyal ally against an existential threat. We refuse out of fear of attacks against soldiers that are targeted daily by the very same instigator, Iran. A closer ally could not exist; a worse excuse is hard to find. America appears willing to swing into action only after a bomb is dropped, if at all. Don’t expect many others to leap at the opportunity for similar protection.

Iran differs from historical aggressors like the USSR because of its stated intention to annihilate Israel and its ability to do so indirectly through proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. Through these channels, war is waged against Israeli troops and civilians with any weaponry it can smuggle. A real possibility exists for Iran to clandestinely arm a third party in a way that never existed when any nuclear bomb not ours was Soviet.

The nuclear umbrella is therefore exposed as a fallacy. As our other allies accept this reality, those in troubled regions will likely question their own security and adjust accordingly. Colombia, Japan, Taiwan and Eastern Europe, a few examples, will recognize their perilous dependence on a fickle America. An independent nuclear deterrent is then the singular logical step for states facing well-armed and historically hostile aggressors. If the shade provided by the United States’ nuclear arsenal was responsible for the prevention of proliferation, then its absence would logically promote it.

Relative peace over the past century, the pax-Americana, fostered unprecedented growth and development around the globe. Like the pax-Britannica and pax-Romana before, military might has been an essential factor. But it wouldn’t have lasted long without the brains to match. America extends its military dominance beyond the reach of its armed forces by promising to defend key nations at key times and according to our interests, all of which requires careful political maneuvering. Threatening potential aggressors minimizes the frequency with which our posture is tested, prolonging peace and sparing American lives. Our nuclear umbrella did just that.

If Iran proves our promises are empty, our military reach will retreat to its physical limits, and our ability to maintain global peace will all but disappear, much to America’s detriment. World War I and II had nothing to do with a 20th century, isolationist United States, but we were involved regardless.

Obama subscribes to a post-modern global perspective that faults America and our allies for today’s crisis instead of the obvious Islamist perpetrators. Minimizing America’s profile, he presumes, will protect our borders and promote prosperity. Back on Earth, this is nothing short of comprehensive nuclear weapons proliferation

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

America's Moment for Honesty

In light of flared tensions between the United States and Israel, the time has come to remove the political mask behind which our nation has been hiding. We have the option to simply abandon Israel in exchange for a temporary relaxation of tensions with Iran. Our historical support for the Jewish state has brought upon us a cornucopia of costs and benefits, which should never be taken for granted; this much is valid. But whatever course of action we choose as a nation, the decision should be made honestly and openly. The President, however, has already decided in favor of appeasing Iran, while simultaneously blaming Israel for not cooperating in what amounts to its own demise. Obama’s is an insidious betrayal surpassed only by his cowardice.

Under Mr. Obama’s leadership, the United States is surreptitiously selling Israel out while rejecting any responsibility. Meanwhile, supporters of the administration are desperate to convince themselves that they are saving, not betraying, Israel. Obama brings to the Presidency a combination of oratorical aptitude and a legal mind capable of rationalizing this incongruity. A closer inspection of the President’s logic illuminates a different story all together. His insistence on the UN as the sole means to preventing Iranian nuclear acquirement, accusations of Israel for sabotaging the peace process and inflaming regional tensions, and pro-Israel credentials all fail the smell test.

Mr. Obama has argued that the only diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions is through tough sanctions backed by international support. Multilateralism, the antithesis of the Bush approach, capitalizes on our smart power, not just brute military force.

But to believe that the United Nations is a vehicle for international consensus in defense of Israel is to deny decades of history. While the UN did declare Israel the Jewish State over 60 years ago, much has changed. This is the same institution that published the Goldstone Report, whose accusations have been contradicted with photographic evidence and whose bias was systemically incorporated. Desmond Travers, a retired Irish colonel, accused Israel of murdering a dozen of his fellow soldiers in cold blood before being selected to co author the report. The General Assembly accused Israel 22 times in 2006 of human rights violations but failed to mention Sudan once. Durban I and II, UN conferences against racism, were ironically boycotted by the US among other nations for rank anti-Semitism. The United Nations, today little more than a platform for tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to spew hateful rhetoric, is now being lauded as the last hope for curbing Iran’s ambitions and saving Israel. This does not make sense.

The more likely scenario is that Obama’s end is to avoid confrontation at any cost. Delay through the United Nations advances his goal while providing an adequate cover to avoid responsibility. If talks fail and sanctions are not implemented, who will be blamed when Iran tests its bomb? Not Obama, because he went through the primary diplomatic channel the left deemed appropriate. Accused of inaction and internal bickering, the United Nations will instead take the fall. In turn, China and Russia will share responsibility for the UN’s failure, having defied the international consensus and prevented meaningful resolutions. The burden of responsibility will be conveniently born by countries that have been consistently honest in their rejection of sanctions. Obama’s approach allows Iran the time it needs to mature into a nuclear power while subtly shifting the blame he deserves.

Another duplicitous position Obama takes is that Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians generates anti-American sentiments. The President has called on the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to make significant concessions to demonstrate its commitment to peace.

Closer scrutiny reveals ill-disguised contradictions with disturbing consequences for Israel. Since the declaration of Israel’s independence, there have been three invasion attempts by its Arab neighbors who continue to deny its right to exist. Despite insatiable Arab aggression, Israel has agreed repeatedly to comprehensive peace agreements with any willing party, including the Palestinians. A divided Jerusalem and sovereign West Bank and Gaza have been the centerpieces of Israeli peace initiatives in the 1993 Oslo Accords and Camp David Summit of 2000. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered as the same during Bush’s second term, and Netanyahu reversed his opposition to an independent Palestinian state just last year. His words were backed by a temporary settlement freeze that Obama demanded in defiance of his right-wing coalition, a bold act which threatened to topple his government. These offers have been rejected and in many cases, forgotten.

According to the administration, a more recent example of Israeli obstruction is the announcement last week of 1600 new housing permits in a heavily Jewish area of East Jerusalem. The devil is in the details. Aside from the fact that the projects are still 2-3 years from construction, the neighborhood in question is entirely Jewish and has never been considered in any proposal to divide Jerusalem, Israeli or otherwise. The Obama administration’s gross public overreaction to the non-incident has implicitly threatened the existence of Israel’s fragile governing coalition. Israelis face a choice between vital American support or their Prime Minister.

That marks two times that Obama has attempted to take down Israel’s government while justifying his actions with arguments that don’t hold water. There are benefits for the change he seeks. First, it protects Iran by minimizing the probability of an Israeli attack. A divided Israel would likely lack the national consensus necessary for a daring military strike in the face of international objection. Second, Netanyahu would leave office bearing the burden of responsibility for having halted negotiations, aggravated the international community, and by extension, strengthening Iranian resolve. If sanctions fail to materialize in the UN, it will likely be argued that Israeli intransigence spoiled international consolidation. As an added benefit, Netanyahu’s likely replacement would be the left-leaning Tzipi Livni.

With an Israeli descendent for Chief of Staff and strong backing by the Jewish pro-Israel lobby J-Street, Obama supposedly qualifies as a friend of Israel by his associations. In a free society, not all Jews or their friends have to agree on Israeli policies, just like not every critic is anti-Semitic. Again, Obama’s position bends logic to hide treachery.

Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and George Soros are all associates of Obama and openly anti-Semitic. If his Jewish associations are enough to prove that his policies undeniably favor Israel’s security, then these individuals are enough to prove the opposite. Failure to recognize this contradiction upholds a double standard that miraculously whitewashes the President’s actions in the Middle East. Liberal Jews aid tremendously by condoning his policies, but their support does not prove Obama’s commitment to Israel either. Judaism has a tumultuous history reflected in diverse expressions of loyalty that is self-defeating in many cases. For example, the aforementioned George Soros is Jewish and faults Jews themselves for anti-Semitism. A new pro-Israel lobby, J-Street, is shunned by Israel and receives approximately 10% of its funding from pro-Iranian sources. Even in World War 2, ghettos were policed by Jews working for the Nazis. Obama’s anti-Israel amnesty is unwarranted and carries important implications.

First, he has political cover to pursue a policy that discretely advances Iran’s ultimate goal of destroying Israel without being bothered by critics who point it out. Americans would not likely stand with Obama if it became apparent he were undermining the Jewish state, which majorities support. Another significant accomplishment is the rift created between American Jews and Israel, which is vital if he intends to abandon our ally. Many Jews in America hold the liberal platform in such high regard that they refuse to leave the Obama camp on any issue. Consequently, AIPAC’s tensions with J-Street flare at a time when solidarity couldn’t be more important. Obama takes full advantage of his political leeway by attempting to strong arm Israel while offering meager verbal support for its security in return.

Take a step back and remove Obama’s web of implausible arguments. What cannot be denied is that Iran, who threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is being given ample time to develop a bomb while the United States restrains Israel. This is somehow justified by the insane hope that the entire world unites behind Obama so that Iran changes the direction its leadership has maintained for decades. But when anti-government riots sprung miraculously at the perfect moment, the President immediately deemed supporting the opposition counterproductive. Given the current strategy has absolutely no hope of success and is riddled with contradictions, it is quite clear that Obama has every intention of allowing the Mullahs a nuclear arsenal. Israel’s hope then depends on the mercy of a nation that has threatened its very existence and is already waging a proxy war on two fronts.

It is therefore a blatant lie to say that the United States is absolutely committed to Israel’s security, as Hillary Clinton and countless other American diplomats have done. On the contrary, Israel has never been in a less secure position and has Obama alone to thank. The President means to appease the Iranians by backing out of the way and allowing their opportunity for annihilation, even as Jews support him and each individual action is cleverly argued. In effect, Obama is holding Israel’s hand while whispering reassurances in her ear as he seals her doom. He will not, however, admit to the fact because he is terrified of being held responsible for such a heinous betrayal. I hope beyond hope that Israel takes charge and assures its own future instead of staking its existence on the grand plan of Barack Obama.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Climategate and the Self-Righteous Left

Confirming long held suspicions as to the validity of AGW, Climategate has redefined the debate and left environmentalists shaken. Researchers from the world-renowned East Anglia University lamentably chose to manipulate data to fit their own predictions of Armageddon. The plan backfired when e-mails documenting the fraudulent activity were made public, stripping environmentalists of their empirical support. Oddly, the assumed protectors of Gaia didn't seem to notice. They march on with their eyes closed and fingers firmly jammed in their ears. Environmentalists and any who refuse to reconsider their positions on climate change are as equally guilty of intellectual corruption as the scientists themselves.

Painfully exposed, environmentalists have responded with a united front against the devastating news: denial. Other investigations have proven that global warming is caused directly by humans, they claim. They also like to remind you that everyone agrees with them (it’s actually around 30%, according to the latest polls). And, naturally, they never mention the elephant in the room.

Simply put, had man’s effect on global warming been so apparent, fraud would have been completely unnecessary. The data would have showed it directly and had there been a mistake in this particular set, peer reviews would have determined why. Instead, researchers deleted their data and threatened to blacklist anyone who questioned their methods. Hiding evidence is a clear indication that these results were viewed as accurate, contradictory, valid, and therefore threatening by leading experts in the field, of all people. East Anglia researchers ignored their own data to avoid facing the hard truth that their doomsday predictions were scientifically baseless. Environmentalists are doing the same, and they’re not alone.

So if science can’t implicate man for climate change, what makes "believers” so sure they’re right? The answer is nothing, they just know. What’s most obnoxious about this particular group of would-be fascists is their unwavering sense of self-righteousness. It’s so acidic that protection of the Earth, home to hippies and capitalists alike, has become an extreme position without broad consensus. Demonstrating this arrogance with crystal clarity is the administrator of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, who recently blessed the public with these sagacious words on her newly proposed CO2 emission controls:

“These are reasonable, common-sense steps … without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.”

She then said that she would still prefer if congress were to act before she did.

In case you missed it, that’s an unelected official of a government agency threatening the members of our representative Congress with an ultimatum. Either they impose tougher emissions standards or she will. Jackson knows what’s best for you, the United Sates of America, and most of all, Planet Earth. Based on what, you may ask? Scientific fraud, hot air. She just knows and you just have to trust her. The administrator has also taken the liberty of assuming she understands the entire breadth of our economy, determining what the better parts consist of, and evaluating all the possible impacts of her proposed strategy. Worse, the governing left fully embraces this attempt to coerce and re-balance gubernatorial powers. Senator John Kerry said that this was a clear indication to congress that it should get moving and Barrack Obama has again said nothing. His silence implies consent.

Hypocrisy has been hemorrhaging from liberals ever since Climategate. After criticizing Bush for never admitting he was wrong over the better part of a decade, Obama, climatology zealot Al Gore and media pundits have refused to acknowledge that AGW may be even a little over hyped. The former Vice President and fellow talking heads are making media rounds employing the denial strategy and Obama is in Copenhagen pushing for new restrictions based on old information. The President has the perfect opportunity to show he is the anti-Bush, made easy by the fact that his missteps yielded few consequences thus far. The majority of Americans, similarly misled, would not find it difficult to empathize with him. But instead of admitting to error, he continues unabashedly pushing national policy based on fraudulent scientific information, equally dishonest in and of itself.

The President’s sense of urgency is completely reversed. If it were ever prudent to slow down, extend deadlines, and conduct careful policy it would be now. Global warming is a slow, ambiguous process that won’t potentially nuke a neighbor next year. This is the situation that calls for continued negotiations, Ad-hoc committees, and cabinet-level security assessments that last 3 months. Conduct a full review of the data to determine the extent of corruption and the real scope and size of climate change. Make it transparent and reviewable, then base policy on the facts as they truly are. Curbing Escalade emissions may be pointless in our eventual efforts to mitigate man’s deleterious impact on the planet, and there’s no reason for Cadillac to bare that burden.

Common sense says that Earth cannot be infinitely exploited. We cannot continue our current pace of consumption and growth without inflicting damaging and potentially fatal changes to the planet that gave us life. Nevertheless, any steps that we take globally must be done in a deliberate and clearheaded manner, not just in response to the same shrill doomsayers that have been around for millennia. Scientists from East Anglia University deceived the entire world and did a huge disservice to the environmentalist movement. It can only be salvaged if proponents lift their heads and admit that the scientific landscape has changed. While extremists on the fringe probably never will, more moderate elements and particularly politicians at the helms of policy must respond with greater honesty. Simply denying fraud has occurred is as egregious as the fraud itself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Cares if Nidal Hasan is a Terrorist?

Is Nidal Hasan a terrorist? We can continue the underlying national discussion on racial profiling endlessly, but who cares? The debate is completely irrelevant, and the argument that political correctness killed thirteen people in Fort Hood is reflexive, not discerning. What’s really important, and frankly unnerving, is how Hasan slipped through the fingers of our national intelligence services given the highly controlled environment in which this atrocity occurred.

A cold-blooded murderer connected to proponents of violence against the United States murdered thirteen servicemen in a shooting rampage. Any investigation, regardless of whether it is initially categorized as homicide or treason, will include a thorough analysis of the events, communications and decisions that preceded the massacre. With or without consensus on his terrorist label, correct steps will be taken.

Authorities will inevitably flush Hasan’s extremist and social networks, including a closer inspection of even more Muslims. This is not very PC. Columbine is an analogous case from the perspective that yearns to attribute Fort Hood to a disgruntled, isolated soldier. In response to the shootings, police increased their presence in schools and paid closer attention to students. Adolescents were profiled, yet there was little uproar because of the logic behind this response to an act where potential perpetrators were so clearly identifiable. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies will respond in the same way to Fort Hood despite predictable cries of prejudice. Whether Hasan is ultimately judged as a terrorist will not change this outcome.

Conservatives have a point when they say that Nadal is the terrorist that no one wants to acknowledge, but they're wrong to fret about it. Similarly misguided are the right's frivolous accusations that “the system” is to blame, bound and crippled by excessive political correctness.

Desperate attempts to spin the story by the left, lead by many in the media, have only lent credibility to these claims. The New York Times may never concede that Hasan is a terrorist unless he says it outright or it finds a way to blame Bush. Obama and his administration “don’t want to go there” either, despite his quick dives into the racial fray in the recent past. His personal interest in not labeling the Fort Hood incident as an act of terrorism is blatant and has little to do with cultural sensitivity. Jihad back on US soil, less than one year after Bush leaves office? If the public reaches this conclusion, his presidency is nuked. He's not alone under the microscope, either. Also on trial is the modern progressive platform that Obama has wholeheartedly embraced. Regardless of these political maneuverings, Hasan was not the result of a porous defense against terrorism, weakened by our own moral qualms as some may believe.

A component of “the system” is “society” as a whole, which has been criticized for taking political correctness too far. This was allegedly evidenced by the failure of Hasan’s peers at Walter Reed to report his extremist views for fear of being accused of racism. While probably true to a certain degree, whose responsibility is it to root out and thwart terrorist plots in the first place? We don’t live in Nazi Germany and the CIA is not the SS. Intelligence assessments should not be based on personal accusations, and thankfully they’re not. The public and its sensitivity to perceived offense are not to blame.

Only homeland security, the CIA and FBI policies are relevant, and there is little to implicate these institutions of PC extremism. Guantanamo is packed with Muslims, as are CIA and FBI wanted lists, so if any group is getting a free pass it’s certainly not the Islamic community. In any case, Hasan did make the lists and had been the topic of discussion amongst his superiors. Up until that point, domestic counterterrorism measures worked and a potential extremist was identified. What happened, insofar as we can see, is that there was never enough evidence to nail him. Either the intelligence was weak or Hasan planned Fort Hood on his own without leaving a trail. Senator Joe Lieberman’s investigation and Hasan’s eventual interrogation will reveal important details as hindsight shifts into focus.

What’s really important about the Fort Hood massacre is that it occurred within the tightly controlled military environment and what that implies.

All of this reflects extremely poorly on the military and intelligence agencies, particularly since similar incidents have recently occurred. While it is exceptionally difficult to catch a lone wolf would-be assassin, there is an entire counterespionage infrastructure to prevent this possibility. If Hasan can rise through the ranks of the military, what’s to stop him from ascending further and passing information instead of killing people directly? Consider if Hasan had waited until deployment. Thirteen may pale in comparison to the potential damage dealt from within bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Counterintelligence is facilitated within the ranks of the Armed Forces by the closer inspection permitted of its members; truncated civil liberties come with the job. Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of Hasan’s attack is that the inability of more invasive government to prevent terrorist attacks undermines the basic premise of the Patriot Act.

Passed by a Republican congress then extended by a Democratic majority, the Patriot Act reflects the American population’s consensus to sacrifice personal liberties for security. So far, the decision has proven wise. While coming at a steep price, one difficult to reconcile with our national character and values, there’s just no better way to fight terrorism domestically. This may seem a bit cynical, but at least information-gathering methods today are minimally intrusive. Police still need warrants to search, and there have been no credible cases of abuse of the Patriot Act. What makes the law tolerable is its track record.

Incidents like Fort Hood will erode support for the Patriot Act. Individual human errors have the capacity to kill a general strategy that has proven successful and has no adequate substitute. For this reason it is of the utmost importance that the military, CIA, and FBI get their houses in order and keep the record clean. If military personnel who live under much greater scrutiny cannot be protected, then the American population cannot be expected to continue sacrificing its privacy.

Essentially, the protection we are paying for with liberty isn't what we expected it to be. Members of the armed services give up more than we do, but it's still not enough. So why pay in the first place?

Political correctness is just public relations. Terrorism or not, it’s a moot point as long as the appropriate authorities make meaningful improvements. Hasan is actually less effective as a terrorist if we don’t label him as such. The hypocrisy of this tragedy is that our free and open society is what protects attitudes like Nadir Hasan’s and allows them to foster. It’s that same society these men seek to destroy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friendly Fire

The standard concession to Obama, squeezed through clenched teeth by conservative critics, is that the man is a gifted politician. Back-handed complement? You bet.

But politiquing really is a vital skill for any politician, lest he or she wants to be trampled by craftier peers. Little doubt remains after his spectacular campaign that the President is well-aware of this, as Hillary, McCain and a wake of fallen veterans can attest. While Obama uses his full war chest against domestic opposition, he appears unwilling to advance American foreign policy with equally shrewd vigor.

As an example of his domestic approach, take the recent row with Fox News who he claims via proxies is the research branch and voice box of the GOP. The President himself, smartly, has attempted to remain above the fray by making only oblique references on the matter. What Obama wants is to isolate and marginalize the opposition in order to undermine their message and, hence, erode support. All this while not appearing petty and partisan. Good politics all around.

Another of Obama’s domestic fronts is being waged against the surprisingly flexible Chamber of Commerce. These two were once on the same side; Obama received support for his stimulus package, which was unusual from the typically conservative body. Problems arose when the business federation fell out of step and opposed the proposed health care overhaul. In retaliation, the President circumvented its leadership by holding meetings directly with top business executives. Nike and Apple both left the Chamber soon after, at which point Obama’s aide Jarrett wryly observed that “it seems as though their members are disengaging”. Again, the President’s moves were deftly designed to literally dismantle dissenters.

Obama is not limited to overt coercion and has proven quite apt at forcing opponents’ hands with much more subtlety. By reframing the debate and generating a lose-lose conundrum for congressional Republicans, the so-called “Party of No” finds itself between acceptance of the most progressive legislation of their political careers and accusations of obstruction. Either take the bait and acquiesce, or accept the partisan label with its associated consequences. Olympia Snow and a handful of Republican senators complied on the stimulus package, and Obama passed his legislation.

The President was not the sole architect of this strategy nor can Miss Snow and company’s motives be reduced to a mere reaction to an implicit threat. Nancy Pelosi and fellow liberals deserve their due credit, and Republicans who broke with their party obviously had personal interests in the benefits bestowed upon the keystones of compromise. Regardless, results speak: Republicans have been unable to shed their reputation as knee-jerk nay-Sayers, and those who rebelled would not have risked their own political careers by supporting the stimulus had the public not been primed. Such is the price extolled for being outmaneuvered by Obama and his Democratic party.

In less than one short year in office, Obama’s accomplishments stem from political victories against domestic opponents earned playing “Chicago-style hardball”. His nose for blood and affinity for pressure points have yet to be displayed, however, on the international stage.

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than with Iranian relations. In order to garner Russian support for implementing sanctions, the president removed the missile shield bargaining chip from the table. Reciprocation was implicitly sought by taking initiative, demonstrating good will and flexibility. The efficacy of such diplomacy is debatable, but it is undoubtedly passive. Pressure was not exerted, generated or implied, while the only consequences threatened were a heavy conscience and perhaps a reproachful Obama.

Towards the Iranian leadership, Obama implements the same strategy in his refusal to criticize its totalitarian crackdown. The exchange is silence, offered again preemptively, for greater cooperation in nuclear negotiations. No compromise, no discussion, only unilateral concessions made in good faith to a partner one would hardly describe as honest. Such actions are in no way politically astute, and the complete lack of progress thus far offers testament to that assessment.

Elsewhere, one sees more of the same.

Latin American support has been sought by easing trade limitations with Cuba, allying with Chavez on Honduras, and a stop on his immense apology tour. Obama may not have a clear idea of what he wants support for, but he does seem willing to offer payment in advance, just in case.

Diplomatic neutralization of terrorism has also included apologies, distancing from Israel, promises to exit Iraq and a general strategy of eliminating perceived sources of Islamist ire. None of these actions limit the options, change the cost/benefit equations, or qualify as a nudge for those with foreign policy goals in conflict with our own. Rather, they involve sitting and waiting for a response.

Obama simply doesn’t apply pressure in his foreign policy. He prefers, instead, over-reliance on the carrot without use of the stick. There is a perceivable fear of angering the opposition, which seems unfathomable domestically. Could you imagine Obama worried about angering Rush, Fox, or Republicans? How much success would he have had in passing the stimulus package had he sacrificed health care reform, the biggest sticking point between the GOP and Democrats? Bad analogy? Choose another: taxes, welfare, Medicare spending, gay rights, or climate change.

What Obama’s foreign policy strategy amounts to is the following: be nice and hope people are nice in return. Maybe naïveté pays off for him in the future, but so far the results are scant to none and historical precedent is none too favorable. Either way, the President doesn’t seem to think the policy is worth pursuing at home and in no way does it amount to politiquing. A simple trade, referred to as appeasement in many circumstances, works extremely rarely and only when mutual compliance is completely assured. Perhaps if Obama applied his political approach to Republicans abroad, he’d begin to garner the bipartisan respect he desires and shed his reputation as a doormat.