Tag Archives: Foreign Affairs

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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It’s easy to hate soccer

So it’s the World Cup, where third-world nations and Euro-trash get to rejoice at their superiority, in at least one realm, over America (and the politically-correct media like the New York Times and ESPN get to lament how uncouth Americans are for not getting with the program, at least until immigration takes its toll and we come to cherish mamacita and fútball and empañadas).  Fine, let ’em have their diversion.  We loathe soccer:

1. It is utterly corrupt at every level, from selection of the World Cup hosts to officiating in matches to recruiting players. This is not surprising when you give huge sums of money to unaccountable bureaucracies staffed by hacks, Eurocrats, and self-styled dealmakers with third-world values. We are certain that every purchasing and hiring decision make by FIFA and national organizations is completely corrupt. In fact, the entire enterprise is an embodiment of a third-world mentality.  One has to love how Sepp Blatter, the blowhard head of FIFA whose tone deafness makes Hillary Clinton seem like Zubin Mehta, talks about how he wants to be re-elected so that he can clean up the corruption in the organization.  Memo to Sepp:  you’ve been at the helm for 16 years.

Countries and individuals that can ill afford it spend way too many intellectual and economic resources pursuing soccer. No doubt productivity will be even lower in Brazil during the World Cup than it normally is (to the extent that that’s even possible), as rabid followers care more about the game than about feeding their families.  Dictatorships like Russia squander national wealth just for the ego-boost of hosting the tournament. Rich third-world countries like Qatar import players from war-torn countries and give them passports to play on the national team. Yet, amusingly, these teams still lose, because they fail to grasp that to build a culture of success requires strategic thinking, long-term planning, and patience—virtues that such countries are incapable of adopting—by building an infrastructure to identify and cultivate talent from a young age. (We suppose it’s reassuring that soccer victory is one outcome for which money cannot buy quick-fix success.)

Of course, all of these follies parallel those of the “Olympic movement.”

2. It inspires thuggery. “Soccer hooligan” is a redundancy. If only fans would devote as much energy to intellectual pursuits—or to going to work—as they do to following their teams at the pub and the stadium, world GDP would be higher. Crazed fans murder players who make mistakes. Riots at and after games ensnare innocent bystanders. Players shamelessly and comically “flop,” and get away with it, as an epidemic. The cringe induced by a grown man diving to the ground, clutching some body part and wailing in faux pain, then popping his head up to see if a penalty was called if he is brushed in the slightest by an opposing player is enough reason to turn the TV off right away.  Players adopt the same banal celebration every time they score:  running wild, with a grin like a five-year-old who just stuck his face into a huge bowl of chocolate pudding.  We prefer the advice from our little-league coach:  Act like you’ve been there before.

It’s amusing—though parallel to the priorities of universities, government agencies, and similar politically-correct bureaucracies—that FIFA cares more about fans chanting “racist” slogans than about corruption.  They even punish national teams or federations for their fans’ words, as if they are responsible.  It’s a convenient distraction from the real rot wrought by FIFA.

3. The formats are stupid. In the World Cup and Olympics, the first round is round-robin (three games per team) and the successive rounds of the tournament are single-elimination. This is contrary to every other sport, in which a team has to win the same number or more games in later rounds (e.g., baseball, in which the first wild-card game is single-elimination, then the division series is best-of-five, then the league championship and world series are best-of-seven). Soccer’s format makes less sense because a good team is less likely to lose in a fluke in a longer series, and you’d think that you would want your better teams to battle it out in a more legitimate test of superiority.  Not to mention that it would seem preferable to have more games when the quality of play is higher and when the teams at that stage have earned it.  (As an analogy, we have an infinitely higher probability of defeating Phil Mickelson in a single-hole golf match than in an 18-hole round.)

Many national and international series are best-of-two. Who ever heard of such a thing? The series invariably go to some absurd tiebreaker, like whichever team has the most natural-born citizens wins (actually, that would be a good one).

It’s the only sport in which the clock moves forward, not backward. Instead of the obvious logic of stopping it when there’s a break in the action, they keep it running and then add an arbitrary, and approximate, amount of time at the end to make up for the delays.  Meanwhile, the team that’s ahead stalls for time.  One never really knows how long the game will go. And there seems to be no mechanism to add more time in a second instance if time during the first extension is squandered.

When a game cannot end in a tie, such as an elimination game, each team gets a number of “shootout” kicks against solely the goalie.  This is also a silly way to end a game; 75% of such kicks are successful, so—speaking of flukes—the winner is basically the beneficiary of random chance.  Our solution would be to just keep playing until someone scores; perhaps remove one player from each team every 15 minutes.

They use stupidly ambiguous, unique, and highfalutin terms like “pitch” (for field); “match” (for game); “fixture” (for future game); “friendly,” which is supposed to be an adjective not a noun (for exhibition game), etc. ESPN.com seems to be trying too hard in calling the standings “tables.”  (ESPN, an American site, even writes its World Cup recaps in pretentious British English, with a healthy dose of overwrought floridity.)

4. It’s boring. Most “strategy” seems to involve keeping the ball away from the other team and hoping for a miracle goal, many of which come by own goals. Almost every game seems to end 0-0 or 1-0. The over/under on number of goals scored is two for every single game. (Betting the over and paying referees to gift goal opportunities is how fixers usually succeed—it would be simple to obviate this process by making it impossible to know in advance who the referees will be for a given game, but they don’t bother). When one points out the obvious tedium of the game, a self-righteous fan will inevitably respond that “you just don’t understand it.” These same pretentious lemmings call it “the beautiful game”; we prefer Steve Czaban’s moniker: “the dreadful game.”

But it’s true that we don’t understand soccer.  We actually don’t want to.  We don’t understand why coaches never replace a player with a yellow card (if he gets a second yellow card, then the team has to play short-handed for the rest of the game and the player has to sit out the next game), or why they never replace the goalie with a striker when they’re down 1-0 at the end, or why they never seem to play with any urgency even when they’re behind.  We don’t understand why, after the goalie gets possession after a stopped goal attempt, he usually launches the ball three-quarters of the way down the field—giving his team a 50/50 chance of picking it up—instead of dumping it off to one of his own defenders and ensuring that his team keeps possession.

Soccer is an animalistic affair. The game’s premise is to nullify one of the key evolutionary advantages—manual dexterity derived from bipedalism—that separates humans from other land mammals. Feral thug Luis Suarez exemplifies how the game turns men into lower animals by repeatedly biting his opponents.

Very few states of affairs console us about United States culture to a greater extent than do our poor soccer results and indifference about the game.

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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 more interested in promoting its agenda than reporting on the Catholic Church in article about papal succession

The breathless lead headline in today’s New York Times refers to “a Church at a crossroads”:  the article cites “a succession battle” and “a struggle between the staunchest conservatives, in Benedict’s mold, who advocated a smaller church of more fervent believers, and those who feel the church can broaden its appeal in small but significant ways. . .”
This is quintessential Times “reporting.”  Nowhere does the article substantiate that the selection of a new pope would be an actual “battle” or “struggle,” much less among these supposed factions—namely, those who hold mainstream Catholic beliefs versus the editorial board of the New York Times.  In fact, a paragraph late in the article counters the Times‘ own alternate reality: “Nearly all of the 117 cardinals who will vote for the new pope were appointed by Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, both strong traditionalists, and it is likely that the next pope will share their vision and doctrine.”
The Times‘ hyperbolic characterization of legitimate challenges that face the Church as amounting to a “crossroads”—and its focus as much on leftist social causes like ordination of women as on the real issues like sexual abuse, bureaucratic corruption, and declining adherence in Europe—reflects its usual fervor to skewer “conservative” straw men instead of reporting the facts.  Apparently, the reporters aren’t keen observers of the church and didn’t talk to any for the story.  Just another case of the paper imposing its heavy-handed world view on a news story.

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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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Movie depicts Muslims as buffoons preoccupied primarily with pillaging and murdering. Muslims display their consternation by. . . pillaging and murdering

We don’t get it.  Is it really that easy to manipulate the Islamic world?  Where are the Islamic leaders saying, “this movie is a piece of garbage produced with the express purpose of riling us up—let’s not play into its hands.”  Have any mainstream Muslim leaders said, “gee, guys, there is absolutely no reason to get angry over this trivial ‘film,’ and by doing so we are only confirming the stereotypes that the West has about us”?

We suppose that this type of sentiment is impossible for most Muslims to grasp.  Islamic societies don’t have much of a track record on pluralism and tolerance.  Islam, certainly in the Arab world, infantilizes its followers.  Reading the English-language press in the region (e.g., Qatar [PDF]) illustrates that even mainstream imams don’t seem capable of considering that maybe societies that value free expression might be onto something.  Of course, the Obama administration has never made this point, either, much less purported to summarily end any argument over this film by mentioning the sanctity of our country’s most important value.

This reminds us of our less mature days at university, where the conservative newspaper would deliberately print incendiary material to inflame racial tensions.  It would work every time—we’d print an article, and black students would protest and burn copies of the paper on the quad, demand that the newspaper be banned, and threaten death to the authors.  They never seemed to realize how much fun we had, though it became too easy after awhile.

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