Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Does Obama’s “indecisiveness” on foreign policy imply “weakness”?

In a Fox News poll about foreign policy in October, 52% of voters said that President Obama is a “weak and indecisive leader,” compared to 32% who rate him “strong and decisive.”

This is a false dichotomy.  Obama, as Dinesh D’Souza aptly illustrates, is not always indecisive when it comes to the issues that are true to his heart.  There are plenty of stories of the faculty-style dithering that goes on in his administration, and it’s easy to see him as feckless, but it is important to understand that the president has a clear ideology related to American’s strength in the world—he despises it—and we read his foreign-policy agenda more as aggressively in pursuit of that ideology than as being overcome by events.

Donald Trump remarked, in the words of The Hill, that the deal was “so bad it’s suspicious”:

“It’s almost like there has to be something else going on.  I don’t think there is, I just don’t think they’re competent.”

As usual, Trump is at least partially correct in getting right to the heart of the matter.  Obama is the first ’60s radical to become president.  Anyone who attended an American university in the past half-century is very familiar the leftist discourse that holds (with a complete lack of irony as they owe their livelihoods entirely to the luxuries made possible only by western civilization and especially American values) that America is responsible for all of the ills of the world.  From “hey-hey, ho-ho, western civ has got to go” to multiculturalism to postmodern identity politics, these academics’ main premise is that imperialist west has subjugated the noble brown peoples of the world via colonialism, cultural domination, capitalism, and various other forms of oppression.

This is the worldview to which Obama gravitated at least since his university years, carried with him to community organizing and urban politics, and reinforced daily by mentors such as his wife, Bill Ayers, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

President Obama subscribes to an ideology in which anything that brings America’s global leadership down a peg is good, and anything that uplifts regimes of which America is perceived to have gotten the better over the years is fantastic.  Just as he removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House as one of the first acts of his presidency, and he conspicuously refuses to ascribe terrorists’ motivation to Islam—that quintessential antithesis of American values—he felt compelled to push through the aggrandizement of two of the most ideologically anti-Western regimes in the world.

It’s hard to see his unilateral attempts to appease Iran and Cuba as indecisiveness:  they were principled gambits to fulfill his ambition to make America weaker.  Ditto for his insistence to release Islamic terrorists from Guantanamo at all costs.  Thus Donald Trump is right in observing that the deal with Iran doesn’t really seem to have been much of a negotiation, though we would argue that it was “competent” in that it achieved his objective.  It’s clear that he and Secretary Kerry—who no doubt shares his passion to uplift those who  have been so aggrieved by the United States—were committed to give a victory to the Iranians.  The mullahs on the other side of the table knew that they weren’t required to give much in return, as evidenced by their actions afterward.

The Americans would have begun any serious give-and-take with Iran with something to the effect of, “The requirement that you release the Americans you are holding as political prisoners is not part of this negotiation.  It is a precondition of it; call us when they have left Iranian soil and then we’ll talk.”

Similarly, the Castros have also utterly refused t0 change their behavior after their gift from Obama.  One wonders if Obama and Kerry, as well as the deep pro-Castro contingent among the Democratic caucuses in Congress, feels silly at the aftermath.  (That’s a rhetorical question.)  One can imagine how Obama must have been fantasizing for decades about the prospect of talking politics on the Castros’ veranda in Havana.  It would make Bill Ayers proud.


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Media desperately attempts to search for the root of “radicalization”

It was surreal to see CNN the other night (12/07/15 EST) alternating headlines between revelations about how the couple behind the Islamic terror attack in San Bernardino were “radicalized for ‘quite some time'” and bashing Donald Trump for trying to address the problem of Muslim terrorist infiltration in the U.S.

MSM navel-gazing about how a Muslim could be mysteriously “radicalized”—as if entering a black box then emerging from it—is nothing more than a red herring, just another mechanism to obscure the linkage between Islam and terrorism.  It’s also consistent with the victimization narrative that so dominates our society:  the passive construction of the word “radicalized” implies that it creates victims who have had some vague action done upon them as opposed to having made their own decisions for which they are accountable.

To hear the media tell it (with due credit to South Park), some sequence of events like this occurs:

  1. Islam
  2. ??
  3. Radicalization
  4. Terrorism

While it’s trivial to observe that not all Muslims are “radical” in the sense that they wish to terrorize and kill non-Muslim populations or are sympathetic to those who do, it is also equally obvious that something inherent in Islam promotes “radicalization.”  Anyone who attended an Islamic school (i.e., almost everyone) in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, or the Palestinian territories—or any number of madrassas in many countries in the world—has been “radicalized.”

A better heuristic to understand the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism might be to explore how so many Muslims have become de-radicalized in light of the societies from which they have emerged.

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Only 6.8% of those released from Guantanamo during the Obama administration have returned to terrorism to far. Progress!

Cliff Sloan, the bureaucrat responsible for winding down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo for the past 18 months, takes to the pages of the New York Times to laud progress during his tenure and downplay the perceived challenges in finishing the job.

One of his main arguments suffers from some fatuous logic.  He cites former Vice President Dick Cheney’s report that 30% of those released are “confirmed” or “suspected” to have returned to Islamic terrorism after their release as a “deeply flawed” exaggeration because only half of those fall into the “confirmed” category.  Great, so only 15% of the released detainees certainly returned to terrorism!  (Thankfully, some of these have been killed or recaptured, and others have bounties on their heads, which should certainly give us pause in praising the wisdom of releasing anyone.)

He claims as some sort of success that fewer still of those more recently released have returned to the battlefield:

Of the detainees transferred during this administration, more than 90 percent have not been suspected, much less confirmed, of committing any hostile activities after their release.  The percentage of detainees who were transferred after the Obama-era review and then found to have engaged in terrorist or insurgent activities is 6.8 percent.

By definition, the more recent the sample size we are examining at any point in time, the lower the percentage of recidivism will be.  This obvious logic seems lost on Sloan.  Among terrorists who were released yesterday, the recidivism rate is zero!  Complete success!  Naturally it takes time for released terrorists to escape Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Qatar, or wherever they are sent from Guantanamo, be debriefed, reintegrate into the terrorist network to resume their calling to jihad, and come to the attention of our intelligence agencies.

Reasonable people can disagree about our Guantanamo policy.  There are legitimate arguments to be made about efficacy, cost, and even due process.  (Though Sloan’s quote from an anonymous “high-ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism” that “The greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantanamo” seems like a non sequitur.)

Most Americans probably agree with the maxim that it is “better for 100 guilty men to go free than for one to be wrongly convicted.”  But this applies to American criminal defendants subject to U.S. constitutional protections.  It is easy to make the opposite argument—or at least to prescribe the presumption of guilt—when it comes to foreign terrorists captured on the battlefield taking up arms against the U.S. and its interests.

In any event, the citation of 6.8% of those released having definitively returned to terrorism in a relatively short time should be a red flag, not a celebration of success.  Not only does all evidence and logic inform us that that number will necessarily increase as time goes on, but there is no doubt that a principle of diminishing returns applies.  Presumably the 127 Muslim terrorists still detained at Guantanamo are the most risky cases, which is why they haven’t been released so far.

Let’s not throw around small-sounding (and artificially deflated) numbers as a means to take credit for the perhaps relatively lower-hanging fruit in an effort to obscure the grave risks of releasing terrorists back into the war against our civilization.

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John Kerry joins the French on the “Daesh” bandwagon

At a meeting in Brussels among the 60 countries fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Secretary Kerry refers to the group as “Daesh.”

Some Arabic media, notably the Gulf News, Dubai’s flagship newspaper, added “Daesh”–which is sort of an acronym of the terrorist group’s name in Arabic—to its style guide in an obvious effort to obscure the “Islamic” element of the name.  The name hasn’t really caught on in the West, except, naturally, for the French, who object to associating Islam with a group that it claims, absent any evidence, that “the vast majority of Muslims finds despicable.”

We haven’t found an explanation of the usage from Sec. Kerry’s office, but we can assume that it’s due to the same concern for political correctness.

The U.S. government apparently hasn’t devised a consistent policy on the group’s name.  Rear Admiral John Kirby, Defense Department spokesman, usually refers to the group as “ISIL” (pronounced “eye-ess-eye-el”), for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  President Obama usually refers to the group as “ISIL” (pronounced “eye-sl”), probably choosing that moniker over “ISIS” to obscure the “Syria” element of the name, lest we be reminded that his bungling of the “red line” has been a major enabling force for the group.

None of this is to make light of our mandatory—existential—fight against the group and its enablers.  Let’s hope the Brussels meeting was productive.

At least the terrorists hate the name.




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Referendum vote showing the folly of British politics on all sides

We hope that Scotland secedes.  It won’t take long for the country to become a political and economic counterpart to the U.K. kind of like Ecuador is to the U.S.  It would be fun just to see what would happen (the idiocy of both sides’ appeals notwithstanding, there are some fascinating issues for political junkies to watch unfold), and if we’re lucky, it will become a cautionary tale, namely, that Anglo-Saxon values of capitalism, individual liberty, peace through strength, and (relative) fiscal restraint aren’t so bad.

The removal of the Scottish delegation will end Labor’s natural monopoly in the U.K. parliament, and improve the prospects for passage of a get-out-of-the-E.U. vote if it ever happens.  (Best case scenario: Prime Minister David Cameron resigns as a result of the vote, the Tories under Boris Johnson win the next election anyway, and they become capable of articulating a strong moral and economic argument against the E.U. that the more-favorable electorate then endorses in a referendum.)

It’s hard to sympathize with Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond, who is trying, absent all logic, to convince Scots that they can keep as much cake as they want and eat as much as they want too based solely on the fruits of the Scottish economy.  If the voters buy his cynical (bashing Westminster Tories as the cause of Scotland’s malaise), dishonest (downplaying the limitations of the reserves of oil in the North Sea), thuggish (threatening “unpatriotic” businesses who dare voice support for the union) campaign from the far-left playbook, then they will certainly get what they deserve.  Add demagogic to his tactics:  he has extended the franchise to children, apparently counting on their gullibility to his promises of bread and circuses; and to non-British E.U. citizens living in Scotland, probably figuring that they will relish the opportunity to poke a stick in the eye of Europe’s leading light on the world stage.

Salmond’s threats to “nationalize” BP—and the fact that he rationally thinks that this will resonate with voters—tells us everything we need to know about the minds of the Scots.  Pretty clever of him to appeal to the peacenik sentiment too, which is easy when he considers that he can just join the rest of Europe as free riders on the protection of U.K. and United States military power.

It’s almost as difficult to sympathize with Cameron.  He has long stood for nothing—from opposing the Iraq War because Tony Blair supported it, to trying to outflank Blair on the left on “global warming,” to his now-abandoned-in-name-but-not-in-practice “Big Society” (i.e., big government) nanny state.  His characteristically condescending promises to devolve more power to Scotland if it stays in the union, trotted out only when independence began looking possible in the polls, cannot be called anything other than pathetic.  He started with the arrogant assumption that independence would never come to pass, and has moved on to a ham-handed response when that assumption proved shaky.

We have only one question, however.  The standard media line is that Cameron will have to resign if the Scots vote for independence, but why is no one asking whether Salmond—who seems like a one-issue politician—must resign if they vote no?  Maybe because Cameron is a Tory and Salmond is a socialist?

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Scotland may not be able to join the E.U. if it secedes. Is that a threat or a promise?

So apparently all right-thinking people believe that Scotland should not secede from the United Kingdom.  The Brits are threatening that Scotland may not be allowed to use the pound (though it’s unclear why they would even need permission, especially since they’re using it already), and the European Union is “threatening” that it may not let an independent Scotland join.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the U.K.’s inertia prevented it from leaving the E.U. even though perhaps a majority would prefer to, while the naturally socialist Scots aren’t allowed to join even though membership is a better fit culturally for them?

This Anglophile would love to see the U.K. cast aside Scotland—which is kind of like our Puerto Rico but with (a little bit of) oil—and its near-unanimous delegation of Labor M.P.s, exit the E.U., and let the Scots try their like with membership and adoption of the euro.  England would only emerge stronger.

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Barroso’s overstepping could be the death knell of the European Union

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso might have given the greatest gift imaginable to British Euroskeptics—and reasonable people throughout Europe—in declaring that a federal Europe is inevitable, or, in Eurocrat speak, coming political changes will “transcend the limits of the intergovernmental method.”

Kudos to Barroso for articulating the elites’ objective so transparently. Luckily, the U.K., for one, is still a democracy, and there is a good chance that its citizens will say, not so fast. He goes downright Orwellian in his proclamations about the inevitable march of history: “If you believe in the democratic resilience of Europe, if you take Europe’s citizens seriously, you have to fight with rational arguments and unwavering convictions. . .” His assertion that all of polite society (“mainstream forces in European politics”) must agree sounds chillingly totalitarian.

Prediction: The U.K. will demand a scaling back of the country’s membership in the European Union in the upcoming referendum, sending the bloc into political turmoil. Let’s hope that they go all the way and exit.

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NYT gleefully belittles Netanyahu on Romney ties to help Israel opposition

An International Herald Tribune story on the day after the election, “Having bet on Romney victory, Netanyahu acts to repair ties,” breathlessly accuses the Israeli prime minister of “scrambling” to “repair his relationship” with President Obama after he had “bet heavily” on a Romney victory.  (A shorter version of the article appeared under the headline “Netanyahu Rushes to Repair Damage With Obama” in the domestic New York Times.)

The IHT/Times engages in its usual practice of projecting its own views on the subjects of its article—delving starting with the first paragraph (in the IHT version) into domestic Israeli politics and positioning Obama’s victory as a rebuke to the Israeli government and a benefit to the opposition.  By the fifth paragraph, the article cites an Israeli pollster saying that “Netanyahu is not the right guy” to “handle the U.S.-Israel relationship.”  The article quotes one opposition party statement after another:  “Fixing the damage caused due to his irresponsible behavior is Israel’s top interest.”; “I really hope that Obama will be generous enough so that Israel does not have to pay the price for that dangerous and failed gamble.”; Netanyahu’s “‘brazen involvement’ in the U.S. election was a ‘terrible mistake.'”

In the Times‘s alternate reality, Netanyahu endorsed Mitt Romney, forcefully campaigned for him, assumed he would win, and now must sheepishly save face by grovelling to the Obama administration (starting by “summoning the U.S. ambassador for a ceremonial hug”).

In the real reality, Netanyahu did nothing of the sort, despite his longtime association with Romney.   Of course, the article does not mention how exactly Netanyahu was guilty of any “brazen involvement” in the campaign; all that it could muster is that he was “seeming this fall to support” Romney.

Netanyahu was naturally very careful to avoid any statements or actions during the campaign to betray his preference.  Mitt Romney is his long-time friend, and he obviously would have preferred a Romney administration (more on that later), but he is way too smart to have “bet” on the election, made an endorsement, openly campaigned, or tilted any of his governance levers on the assumption of a Romney victory.  (He avoided that trap many times.)  He even was careful to moderate his criticisms of American foreign policy under President Obama, legitimate as they may have been.

The Times is all too eager to do the bidding of its dovish comrades in Israel and the U.S. to help the opposition score cheap political points by tying Netanyahu to Romney.  Such editorializing would have been more appropriate for the opinion page than the news page, though even there its sloppy conclusions wouldn’t meet much of a journalistic standard.

The article fails to consider an alternative explanation:  Netanyahu has said some of the same things as Romney, for example about Iran, because Netanyahu believes that he shares with Romney a vision for American foreign policy that is relevant to the survival of his country.

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Holbrooke: Spinning from the grave

This Washington Post excerpt of a book manages to advance a false left-wing narrative and do the late Richard Holbrooke’s bidding.  To hear Rajiv Chandrasekaran tell it, the stalwart, heroic Richard Holbrooke would have achieved peace in Afghanistan and reconciliation with the Taliban if only the petulant bullies and war-mongers (some of them holdovers from the Bush Administration) would have let him.

Except for one tiny detail, buried in the middle of the story:  “There was no clear path for Holbrooke to achieve peace talks. The Taliban had no office, mailing address, or formal structure. It was not clear that its leader, the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, wanted to talk—in 2009, the Taliban appeared to be winning—or whether he and his fellow mullahs would accept the United States’ conditions for negotiations: that they renounce violence, break with al-Qaeda and embrace the Afghan constitution.”

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What’s next, condemning the troops for mooning?

Erich Maria Remarque should have been dragged to The Hague . . . if there was such a thing after World War I.  We really don’t see the big deal with troops at war urinating on corpses.  The corpses don’t mind, after all, and this seems like a pretty harmless way for macho fighters to blow off a little steam in a war zone.  It is certainly morally superior to the way that our Islamic extremist enemies express their disdain for their opponents—i.e., burning down buildings and killing people.

If memory serves us correctly from high school, Remarque wrote charmingly in All Quiet on the Western Front about how the two sides would moon each other across the trenches.  We suppose that the Secretary of Defense would condemn that kind of outrageous behavior these days.

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