Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fight Back with Humor

Jed Babbin (see previous post) has some thoughtful suggestions on how to combat the mainstream media’s (MSM’s) assault on Republicans:

• Media involvement in the Dems' campaigns is something Americans sense but can't pin down. It's a fact of life that, if exposed, works wonders for Republican candidates.

• Renounce any idea of using the power of the government against the press. The New York Times should be publicly ridiculed, not prosecuted. Remember the best lesson we can learn from Rush Limbaugh: You can do much more political damage with humor than with insults.

• Produce a series of television ads going after the [MSM]. Expose who they are and show how the typical newsroom is more like a dysfunctional, liberal family than a business run by adults.

• It's time for the Vice President to give a speech taking the press to task. He should name names. If Pinch Sulzberger wants to be a political activist instead of a publisher, why not call him on it?

• Get Republican congressmen and senators to write letters to their local papers and local network TV affiliates. Ask how they can pretend to be fair if they have nothing but liberals in the newsroom? Why did Clinton crony George Stephanopoulos get a big show on ABC?.

• Get your best joke writers to study everything they can about the worst of the 527 Media and let 'em rip. I can just hear Mr. Cheney tut-tutting about the New York Times' stock collapse and comparing it to the dividends of, say, Halliburton.

Americans are aching for someone to take on the media and do it in a way that will relieve some of the daily stress we all feel. So Katie Couric and Brian Williams walk into a bar, and the bartender says...

Friday, August 25, 2006

U.S. Politics: GOP v. MSM

Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the Bush 41 administration. In a piece for Real Clear Politics, Babbin asserts, as has this blog, that the mainstream media, not the Democrats, are the Republicans’ real opposition:

The Democrats ran out of ideas the night Bobby Kennedy died, and since then the media have become the primary source of Democrat ideas and policy.

Babbin adds:

the media are more than just the Dems' think tank. . . Think of what George Soros could do if he had a global news network that could produce multi-million dollar attack ads every day, and then you'll know what some mainstream media outlets have become. Rightly or wrongly, given their history with CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and lately, AP, some conservatives classify them among the worst offenders.

. . . essentially political activists[, t]hey are in the campaign business nearly as much as they are in the business of reporting the news these days. They will be tossing October surprises at Republicans all day every day from September 5, when Katie Couric takes over at CBS, until the election returns are certified.

. . . the Republican base is practically begging to be fired up about the [media's] political activism. They know something is badly wrong with the guys, but they can't quite put their finger on it. The problem began in the Clinton years when the media gave the administration a pass on the growth of terrorism, on Iraq and on the mountains of non-Monica corruption the Clintons lived in. By turning a blind eye to the Clintons' problems, the [media] became intellectually corrupt, more interested in political success for the Dems than the truth.

Americans knew they'd heard something important last year when Washington Post editor Marie Arana said, "The elephant in the newsroom is our narrowness ... If you work here, you must be one of us. You must be liberal, progressive, a Democrat. I've been in communal gatherings at the Post, watching election returns, and have been flabbergasted to see my colleagues cheer unabashedly for the Democratic candidates."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Two Choices

Arnold Kling, writing on the blog TCS Daily, helps me when he digests popular views on the war against terrorism as gravitating “toward one of two positions:”

1. The Middle East is a hopeless cauldron of hatred. We should focus on homeland security, stay out of the Middle East, and have as little interaction with the Muslim world as possible; or

2. A major war is inevitable, so that we need to get ready for it. Nothing else will stop Iranian aggression, and nothing else will stifle the funding, sponsoring, and glorification of terrorists.

In 2008, I believe that either a Republican running on (1) as a platform or a Democrat running on (2) as a platform could win broad bipartisan support. However, my guess is that the Democrats are likely to come closer to representing (1) in 2008, and as of now my sense is that (1) is more popular than (2).

I don’t think a major war is inevitable, recalling that the Cold War ended without a major hot war. But the situation is just as serious as it was during the height of the Cold War, and really more comparable in the case of Iran to 1938, when we should have known better about where Hitler was headed, but were afraid to act.

Those holding view (1) are like the British appeasers of 1938, or the American isolationists of 1941. They are wrong.

Monday, August 21, 2006


On August 20, 1953, 53 years ago this past Sunday, the CIA restored Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the throne the British had first put him on in 1941. Iranian nationalists had taken power democratically in 1951, and promptly alienated the British by nationalizing the British-controlled oil industry. Back on the Peacock Throne, the Shah proved to be a loyal ally of both Britain and the U.S. for a period of over 25 years, or until his overthrow in January 1979.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini triumphantly returned to Iran from exile on February 1, 1979, to begin the rule of the Shiite mullahs over Iran that has now lasted over 27 years. The mullahs are still going strong under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured), who replaced Khomeini in 1989. Under the mullahs, Iran humbled the U.S. during the 1979-81 hostage crisis, then turned back Saddam’s well-equipped army when Iraq, with Saudi and Western support, invaded Iran in 1980. Iran has backed Hezbollah in Lebanon from its founding in 1982, and is closely associated with that terrorist group’s killing and kidnapping successes. Iran now also benefits from the U.S. destruction of Iran’s old enemies in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since President Bush first identified Iran as one of the three “Axis of Evil” powers in 2002, Iran has continued to gain in strength and influence. It has the world’s third largest oil reserves, at a time when demand for oil has driven oil prices to all-time highs. It has great influence over its Shiite-dominated neighbor Iraq, due to Iraq's movement toward democracy. It has nearly 70 million people, over half under 25, a population larger than that of Nazi Germany at the onset of World War II. It has an almost-unstoppable program to develop nuclear weapons, and under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seems to have a leader who would either use nuclear weapons or ease them into the hands of terrorists who would.

Shiite and allied with other Shiites, Iran is truly a threat to peace.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dealing With Syria

Dennis Ross played a central role in Arab-Israeli policy under Bush 41 and under Clinton. He sees, correctly I believe, an opening for improving relations in the region by working through Syria. Excerpts from his Washington Post commentary follow:

Implementation of the [Lebanon ceasefire] resolution will depend to a large degree on the Syrians . . . The more determined Syria is to frustrate implementation of the resolution, the more the international force will need a capability and a mandate to be aggressive in stopping efforts to get arms to Hezbollah and in preventing its restoration as a fighting force. . .

[T]here should be no illusions. History is full of good resolutions on Lebanon that have not been implemented because the Syrians had the power to block them. . .

[We should] take advantage of the new basis that exists to exercise much more leverage on Syria this time. Consider that the French and other Europeans will now be putting forces on the ground in Lebanon. If Hezbollah is being resupplied with arms and can be reconstituted militarily, those forces will become very vulnerable. That gives the French a powerful stake in preventing Hezbollah from rearming.

Working in tandem, the Bush administration and the French should try to change the Syrian calculus. Syria sees Hezbollah as a card -- something to be exploited to make Syria a factor in the region or to be traded in the right circumstances. We should create a one-two punch with the French to make clear that Syria has something significant to lose by not cutting off Hezbollah, and that it has something meaningful to gain from changing course. . .

In such a scenario, the European Union would be Act 1. Act 2 would involve the United States. The Bush administration, which has expressed an interest in weaning Syria away from Iran, won't be able to do that without talking to the Syrians. . .

[T]he Syrians would want to know what they'd get from such cooperation. They should be told that the page can be turned in our relations, that economic benefits could be forthcoming, and that even a resumption of the peace process between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights could be in the offing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Bush Doctrine

Norman Podhoretz has written a long article in Commentary worth reading in its entirety. In it, he defends the “Bush Doctrine,” which he says is built on four pillars:

1. Rejection of the kind of relativism (“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”) that had previously prevailed in the discussion of terrorism.

2. A new conception of terrorism asserting that terrorists should be regarded as the irregular troops of the nation states that harbored and supported them.

3. Determination to take preemptive action against an anticipated attack, because “unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons or missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.”

4. The election of “new leaders” in Palestine, “who would embark on building entirely new political and economic institutions based on democracy, market economics, and action against terrorism.”

To further summarize, the Bush Doctrine’s four pillars recognize that: 1) terrorism is evil; 2) terrorism includes the nation states that back it; 3) we must take the fight to terrorist nations before terrorism strikes us, and; 4) terrorism centered in the Middle East requires a democratic Palestine to counter it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Westernization Victorious

Louis Menand, in the May 17, 2004 New Yorker, wrote a thoughtful critique of Samuel P. Huntington’s recent book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. Huntington, a Harvard political science professor, is a Big Thinker whose 1993 Foreign Affairs article on “The Clash of Civilizations” correctly predicted that the next major conflict would divide the world along cultural lines—such as Muslim v. The West.

Key points from Menand’s critique of Huntington:

Huntington’s name for ideology is “culture.” . .Culture, ultimately, is everything that is not nature. American culture includes American appetites and American dress, American work etiquette and American entertainment, American piety and American promiscuity—all the things that Americans recognize, by their absence, as American when they visit other countries. . . “America’s core culture” . . . includes, he says, “the Christian religion, Protestant values and moralism, a work ethic, the English language, British traditions of law, justice, and the limits of government power, and a legacy of European art, literature, philosophy, and music,” plus “the American Creed with its principles of liberty, equality, individualism, representative government, and private property.” . .

[Huntington] thinks that the erosion or diffusion of any cluster of collective ideals, whatever those ideals may be, leads to weakness and vulnerability. . . The defeat of Communism did not mean that everyone had become a liberal. A civilization’s belief that its values have become universal, he warned, has been, historically, the sign that it is on the brink of decline. [Huntington] therefore appealed . . . to people outside the West who wanted to believe that modernization and Westernization are neither necessary nor inevitable.

The bad guys in Huntington’s scenario [are] intellectuals, people who preach dissent from the values of the “core culture.” . . bilingualism, affirmative action, cosmopolitanism . . . pluralism . . .and multiculturalism . . .

Huntington [is also worried about] globalists [including] transnational businessmen. These are, in effect, people without national loyalties at all, not even dual ones, since they identify with their corporations, and their corporations have offices, plants, workers, suppliers, and consumers all over the world. It is no longer in Ford’s interest to be thought of as an American company. Ford’s market is global, and it conceives of itself as a global entity. These new businessmen “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function now is to facilitate the elite’s global operations,” Huntington says.

Huntington’s understanding of American culture would be less rigid if he paid more attention to the actual value of his core values. One of the virtues of a liberal democracy is that it is designed to accommodate social and cultural change. Democracy is not a dogma; it is an experiment. That is what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address—and . . .Multiculturalism, in the form associated with people like Clinton and Gore, is part of the democratic experiment.

The people who determine international relations are the political, business, and opinion élites, not the populace. It is overwhelmingly in the interest of those élites today to adapt to an internationalist environment, and they exert a virtually monopolistic control over information, surveillance, and the means of force. People talk about . . . terrorist groups as representatives of a civilization opposed to the West, but most terrorists are dissidents from the civilization they pretend to be fighting for. . .[revealing] the nonexistence of any genuine alternative to modernization and Westernization. . . There are no aboriginal civilizations to return to. You can regret the mess, but it’s too late to put the colors back in their jars.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Terrorism Victorious

Aaron David Miller calls himself “an advisor to six secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.” In the LA Times, he has a pessimistic essay on future events in the Middle East. Excerpts follow:

Iran's inclination to meddle — mostly as a way of reminding the Sunni Arab world, Israel and the U.S. that Tehran has cards to play and can inflict pain — will not go away. And ongoing turmoil in Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza will ensure that when Iran next chooses to meddle, it will have fertile ground in which to do so.

Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 and from Gaza in September 2005 may have benefited Israel politically (both domestically and around the world), but it also emboldened Hezbollah and Hamas. . . [and] is a powerful inspiration to a younger generation of Arabs and Muslims looking for ways to counter their perceived humiliation at the hands of Israel. . .

Unless Israel wins a decisive victory over Hezbollah (which seems increasingly unlikely), it is almost unimaginable that any Israeli government would consider significant unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank in the near future. . .

The power of Hamas and Hezbollah to affect events highlights a trend that has been building in the Arab world for some time. Iraq [too]: Every day, small armed groups challenge the Iraqi central authority and the U.S. with impunity. . . [A]rmed groups with social and economic agendas usurp the power of the state and create their own fiefdoms. Indeed, Hamas actually serves as the state and the opposition.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Friedman's "Plan B": Exit from Iraq?

Tom Friedman has received a lot of attention for his column “Time for Plan B,” which says about our involvement in Iraq, “Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons, it is not happening, and we can’t throw more good lives after good lives.”

In fact though, Friedman’s Plan B isn’t “cut and run.” He wants an international conference to move Iraq’s democracy forward, a step similar to U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s proposed conference “in cooperation with the United Nations, to develop an international compact, which will commit Iraq to key reforms in exchange for assistance.”

Friedman is tiring of having to explain why he isn’t a Bush supporter, even though he believes that America benefits from Iraq’s becoming a democracy. He’s now so tired of it that he hints he no longer supports America’s effort in Iraq.

But like Tony Blair, who is under similar pressure from friends and colleagues to disassociate from Bush, Friedman knows how crucial it is that good people stand up to Muslim extremism, and fight back effectively in defense of what Blair calls “tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity,” and Friedman calls democracy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blair's "Iron Curtain" Speech: An Arc of Extremism...

For Prime Minister Tony Blair, it’s about a year before he gives up the office. So thinking Big Picture, he delivered an important speech in Los Angeles last week that has apparently resounded with the sound of one hand clapping. Hardly what Blair would have wished for. The PM spoke in language that recalled a speech given 60 years ago by Winston Churchill, a year after Churchill was forced out as prime minister. Blair followed Churchill’s pattern of seeking to influence America by delivering his speech here.

Here’s what Blair said in 2006:

There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region.

And here’s Churchill in 1946:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the Continent.

Churchill spoke in Fulton, Missouri because his specific target was President Truman, from Missouri.

Blair spoke in Los Angeles because he wanted to elicit support from Jewish Americans, so powerful in the LA-based entertainment industry.

Other quotes from Blair’s address:

[W]e must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us.

To defeat [extremism] will need an alliance of moderation that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other.

[W]e will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.

What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred?

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.

For them, what is vital is that the struggle is defined in their terms: Islam versus the West; that instead of Muslims seeing this as about democracy versus dictatorship, they see only the bombs and the brutality of war, and sent from Israel.

[S]o much of Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault. . [It is] rubbish to suggest that it is the product of poverty. It is true it will use the cause of poverty. But its fanatics are hardly the champions of economic development. It is based on religious extremism. . . a specifically Muslim version.

Why are we not yet succeeding? Because we are not being bold enough, consistent enough, thorough enough, in fighting for the values we believe in.

First, naturally, we should support, nurture, build strong alliances with all those in the Middle East who are on the modernising path.

Secondly, we need. . .to re-energise the [peace process] between Israel and Palestine; and we need to do it in a dramatic and profound manner.

Third, we need to see Iraq through its crisis and out to the place its people want: a non-sectarian, democratic state.

Though Left and Right still matter in politics, the increasing divide today is between open and closed. Without hesitation, I am on the open side of the argument.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Iraq Security Situation: Bad in Baghdad

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)

2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 48
July: 44

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (weekly average)

1965:* 30
1966: 97
1967: 177
1968: 263
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Note please—the Vietnam KIAs are weekly, not monthly, averages.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar: 2.50
Goal: 2.50
actual: 2.22 (7/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,500 (7/06)

“Do you think Iraq today is generally headed in the right direction or wrong direction?” (Asked of Iraqis, June 2006)

Right: 41% (up from 30%, March 2006)
Wrong: 30% (down from 52%, March 2006)

July brought a slight deterioration in Iraq’s oil production, while electricity production and U.S. killed in action totals stayed constant. Iraqis polled in June—the month of Zarqawi’s death, Maliki’s completing his cabinet, and Bush’s surprise visit to Baghdad—were understandably more optimistic than in March.

But July was a terrible month for sectarian violence in Iraq and particularly Baghdad, where Maliki had earlier pledged to improve the security situation. We now know that Shiite extremist Muqtada al-Sadr, backed by Iran, is at the center of much of Baghdad’s violence, and that if he is not controlled in the near future, the Iraqi democratic experiment may indeed fail.