Tag 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 tropes on immigration obscure legitimate debate about trade-offs

We know, you could substitute virtually any issue for “immigration” in the title and the story would be valid.  But the mainstream media’s (and Republican establishment media’s) desperation in trying to stop Donald Trump have brought out the worst in our discourse.

The Washington Post cites a couple of legal scholars in the first few paragraphs of an article headlined “Experts: Trump’s Muslim entry ban idea ‘ridiculous,’ ‘unconstitutional,'” but then—in a juxtaposition certainly worthy of James Taranto’s “Two papers in one!” meme—adds, well, actually, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional:

Barring Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country may not violate U.S. law in the same way, the experts said, because the Constitution’s protections generally do not apply to people outside the nation’s borders.

Duh.

The Post article then cites a partial precedent, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was not found unconstitutional.  The article also repeatedly refers to “principles of international law and agreements the U.S. has signed with other nations” without specifying any of them.  One critic asserts, “I’m sure it would violate innumerable treaties if we suddenly started banning citizens of NATO countries, of Southeast Asian countries.”  Tell that to a Turk or Thai who has been denied a visa despite their countries’ close alliances with the U.S.

A point that the article, and most like it, fail to make is that the U.S., like any sovereign nation, has the right to grant or deny a visa to any individual, for any reason at all, and also to deny entry to anyone attempting to travel to the U.S., including those from countries whose nationals do not require a visa.

Meanwhile, Ben Shapiro, writing in The Daily Wire, brings out various straw-man arguments about American military members (which he rightly corrects in a later update clarifying that Trump was not referring to barring citizens) in characterizing Trump’s stance as “desperate.”  Um, Mr. Shapiro, Trump is leading in the polls, and his support has only increased since he called for more scrutiny of Muslims attempting to immigrate to the U.S.  The idea of trying to ban all Muslim immigration has wide support in polls.  Trump has made a policy proposal from a position of strength, not desperation.

Donald Trump did not call all Muslims terrorists.  He did not call for a database of Muslims living in the U.S., as the media was quick to accuse him after he didn’t forcefully reject a reporter’s suggestion to that effect.  Banning Muslim visitors is not at all like the internment of American citizens of Japanese and other origins in Axis countries during World War II, a comparison that the media has been quick to breathlessly make.

Attempting to ban all Muslim immigrants may or may not be a good idea.  It may or may not violate various treaties.  It would likely harm America’s standing in the world, victimize innocent people, and, above all, not be practical to implement.

However, none of these is reason to dismiss the merit of the proposal out of hand.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to bar foreigners who are obviously Muslim (Muslims often have names identifying them as such, as many countries list religion on their passports), who come from predominantly Muslim countries, and/or whose passports show visits to Syria, or Iraq, or Turkey (the gateway to ISIS-controlled territory).  Obviously such a ban would not catch everyone who is a threat.  We are not necessarily endorsing any such restrictions.

The real problem with the discussion about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from visiting the U.S. is that very few commentators acknowledge (1) we are at war and (2) there are always trade-offs in policy decisions.

Almost no one—including, we would venture to guess, Donald Trump—would like the idea of banning people of a certain religion from entering the U.S. in principle.  Plenty of Muslims contribute to American society; want to visit as tourists, students, or businesspeople; and wish no harm on the country.  However, since there is a significant population of Muslims who consider themselves at war with the U.S., we are right to consider trade-offs.  President Obama or the pontificators calling Trump’s idea “ridiculous” have not addressed the question of how many innocent Muslims can reasonably be barred the privilege of traveling to the country in exchange for keeping the country safe from terrorists.

 

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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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USAID running a military operation: What could possibly go wrong?

If Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was telling the truth at a House committee hearing yesterday that USAID is actually in charge of the 3,000 troops being sent to Liberia to deal (somehow) with ebola, then President Obama should be impeached for gross mishandling of the U.S. military, not necessarily in misusing military resources—for we could have, depending on what the actual mission is, a legitimate debate about whether ebola is a grave risk to the nation’s security—but in putting soldiers’ lives and limbs at risk under the direction of diplomats and bureaucrats.

Perhaps Lindborg was confusing or exaggerating her agency’s role, or relishing the chance to play Keystone Kop (and getting to use phrases like “command and control” in a Congressional hearing).  It can’t really be the case that a large-scale oversees military operation is being managed by the State Department?

If it is true, then we have a helpful preview of how the agency is likely to manage the mission.  Lindborg couldn’t answer basic questions about the composition of the force, timelines, or the equipment and training that they would be provided.  Hard to imagine (though not impossible these days) that an equivalent official in the Defense Department would be so cavalier in testifying before Congress about the parameters of a military deployment in a real war zone.

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