Sunday, December 18, 2011


MUDD: Do know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb Five?
SPOCK: The guilty party has his choice. Death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging...
MUDD (interrupting): The key word in your entire peroration, Mister Spock, was, d-d-death.
-From the Star Trek episode I, Mudd

Osama bin Laden's fate was sealed as soon as his exact whereabouts became known to the U.S. military (thanks in part to intelligence obtained from the waterboarding of 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed). Unlike a convicted citizen of Deneb Five, the "choice" of the means of death would not be bin Laden's. The President of the U.S. would decide whether it would be a missile strike or execution by special ops. There is no mainstream politician in America (Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul don't count) who would have spared bin Laden. Yet Obama uses the bin Laden case to fend off criticism that he's an appeaser - "Ask Osama bin Laden...whether I engage in appeasement..."
Actually, it would be more revealing to ask Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Hugo Chavez or Kim Jong Il that same question. (It would also be much more likely to receive any response. Recall Obama's comment in a 2008 Memorial Day speech -
"On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes – and I see many of them in the audience here today..."
Apparently, not only can Obama see dead people, he wants to talk to them).

Sorry Barack. If there's one word that most closely describes your foreign policy, it's appeasement. And what has it accomplished? In the case of Iran, Charles Krauthammer explains,

For his exertions, Obama earned (a) continued lethal Iranian assistance to guerrillas killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, (b) a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a Washington restaurant, (c) the announcement just this week by a member of parliament of Iranian naval exercises to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, (d) undoubted Chinese and Russian access to a captured U.S. drone for the copying and countering of its high-tech secrets.

How did Obama answer that one?

On Monday, he politely asked for the drone back.

On Tuesday, with Putin-like contempt, Iran demanded that Obama apologize instead. “Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane,” reveled the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Just a few hours earlier, Secretary Clinton asserted yet again that “we want to see the Iranians engage . . . we are not giving up on it.”

Tough talk indeed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Losing Iraq

One of these guys looks very happy (thinking he's picked up some votes, no doubt) - the other, not so much.

Fouad Ajami in today's WSJ explaining what Obama squandered in Iraq.

Also this from the (recently) late, (somewhat) great Christopher Hitchens writing in The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2004, considering a question that the Left (understandably) wants left unexamined - what would be the state of Iraq and the Middle East had Saddam Hussein remained in power?

A few more years of Saddam Hussein, or perhaps the succession of his charming sons Uday and Qusay, and whole swathes of Iraq would have looked like Fallujah. The Baathists, by playing off tribe against tribe, Arab against Kurd and Sunni against Shiite, were preparing the conditions for a Hobbesian state of affairs. Their looting and beggaring of the state and the society—something about which we now possess even more painfully exact information—was having the same effect. A broken and maimed and traumatized Iraq was in our future no matter what.

Obviously, this prospect could never have been faced with equanimity. Iraq is a regional keystone state with vast resources and many common borders. Its implosion would have created a black hole, sucking in rival and neighboring powers, tempting them with opportunist interventions and encouraging them to find ethnic and confessional proxies. And who knows what the death-throes of the regime would have been like? We are entitled, on past experience, to guess. There could have been deliberate conflagrations started in the oilfields. There might have been suicidal lunges into adjacent countries. The place would certainly have become a playground for every kind of nihilist and fundamentalist. The intellectual and professional classes, already gravely attenuated, would have been liquidated entirely.

All of this was, only just, averted. And it would be a Pangloss who said that the dangers have receded even now. But at least the international intervention came before the whole evil script of Saddam's crime family had been allowed to play out. A subsequent international intervention would have been too little and too late, and we would now be holding an inquest into who let this happen—who in other words permitted in Iraq what Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and Kofi Annan permitted in Rwanda, encouraged by the Elysee. . . .

I hope I do not misrepresent my opponents, but their general view seems to be that Iraq was an elective target; a country that would not otherwise have been troubling our sleep. This ahistorical opinion makes it appear that Saddam Hussein was a new enemy, somehow chosen by shady elements within the Bush administration, instead of one of the longest-standing foes with which the United States, and indeed the international community, was faced.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Obama's Class Warfare

President Obama's latest divisive campaign speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last week has drawn some pointed critiques. The best of these were written by Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn and Rich Lowry. Links and a few excerpts follow.

Where to begin? A country spending twice as much per capita on education as it did in 1970 with zero effect on test scores is not underinvesting in education. It’s mis-investing. As for federally directed spending on innovation — like Solyndra? Ethanol? The preposterously subsidized, flammable Chevy Volt?

Our current economic distress is attributable to myriad causes: globalization, expensive high-tech medicine, a huge debt burden, a burst housing bubble largely driven by precisely the egalitarian impulse that Obama is promoting (government aggressively pushing “affordable housing” that turned out to be disastrously unaffordable), an aging population straining the social safety net. Yes, growing inequality is a problem throughout the Western world. But Obama’s pretense that it is the root cause of this sick economy is ridiculous...

...In Kansas, Obama lamented that millions “are now forced to take their children to food banks.” You have to admire the audacity. That’s the kind of damning observation the opposition brings up when you’ve been in office three years. Yet Obama summoned it to make the case for his reelection!...

...This is populism so crude that it channels not Teddy Roosevelt so much as Hugo Chávez. But with high unemployment, economic stagnation, and unprecedented deficits, what else can Obama say?

He can’t run on stewardship. He can’t run on policy. His signature initiatives — the stimulus, Obamacare, and the failed cap-and-trade — will go unmentioned in his campaign ads. Indeed, they will be the stuff of Republican ads.

What’s left? Class resentment. Got a better idea?

The president of the United States came to Osawatomie, Kan., last week to deliver a speech of such fascinating awfulness archeologists of the future sifting through the rubble of our civilization will surely doubt whether it could really have been delivered by the chief executive of the global superpower in the year 2011...

...His opponents, he told us, “want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess . . . . And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules . . . . It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” He blamed our present fix on “this brand of ‘you’re on your own’ economics.”

This is a deliciously perverse analysis of the situation confronting America and a fin de civilisation West. In what area of life are Americans now “on their own”? By 2008, Fannie and Freddie had a piece of over half the mortgages in this country; the “subprime” mortgage was an invention of government. America’s collective trillion dollars of college debt has been ramped up by government distortion of the student-loan market. Likewise, health care, where Americans labor under the misapprehension that they have a “private” system rather than one whose inflationary pressures and byzantine bureaucracy are both driven largely by remorseless incremental government annexation. Americans are ever less “on their own” in housing, education, health, and most other areas of life — and the present moribund slough is the direct consequence.

The federal government already runs a sprawling, massively redistributionist system of taxes and benefits. The top 1 percent earns about 17 percent of all income and pays about 37 percent of all federal income taxes. By the reckoning of Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, the welfare system has paid out roughly $16 trillion since the beginning of the War on Poverty.

But President Obama implied that some people are poor because other people are rich, an assumption of class antagonism antithetical to the American idea and tenuously connected to the evidence. Consider a concrete example. The president’s former top budget official, Peter Orszag, departed the administration to work at Citigroup for $2 million to $3 million a year. Putting aside the seemliness and the merits of Orszag’s pay and that of his cohorts on Wall Street, how does his paycheck make it harder for anyone else to get ahead? Orszag’s income doesn’t increase out-of-wedlock childbearing, incarceration, or lack of work effort — all significant obstacles to advancement up the income scale.