January 4, 2010

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Fouad Ajami looks back at a disastrous year in American foreign policy, and some of the consequences.

With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. …

…It is different today, there is a cold-bloodedness to American foreign policy. “Ideology is so yesterday,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed not long ago, giving voice to the new sentiment.

History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama’s will. He had declared a unilateral end to the “war on terror,” but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues. …

…Under Mr. Obama, we have pulled back from the foreign world. We’re smaller for accepting that false choice between burdens at home and burdens abroad, and the world beyond our shores is more hazardous and cynical for our retrenchment and our self-flagellation.

Marty Peretz says that Obama may not be able to look past his ideological bias, but the American people will.

…I believe that it is Obama’s perception of Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” that is the real source of the intelligence calamity so dramatically revealed in this case. It is true, of course, that this dispiriting intelligence failure goes back to the Clinton and Bush years, even though Bush did almost uniquely grasp the very essence of the holy Muslim terror. But what the president has done is to wrap the Islamic orbit in a sweetly scented cashmere afghan (if you’ll permit this ironic choice of words) that disguises the reality of the real Islam of this world. Obama has done this grandly several times, most especially with his addresses in Istanbul and Cairo, but also in his more quotidian remarks. The failure of the CIA and the other alphabet agencies to connect the dots is a methodological failure. The president’s failure to grasp the realities is an ideological and psychological failure. In a top-down structure, the top always has the advantage.

It is a thorny matter to design grand tactics for both the world as it is and the world as Obama imagines it. Yes, the president’s representatives and, to some extent, he himself are now talking factual essentials. Already during the campaign, he liquidated the war on terrorism. It was not apt. It was diversionary. And, oh, what a relief this was to his ecstatic crowds.

But for what are we mobilizing in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and apparently now also in Yemen, other than war against the terrorists of Islam? In Pakistan, in a little village called Shah Hassan Khel, the Taliban struck a volleyball game–an innocent volleyball game, for God’s sake–played and attended by altogether harmless and guiltless men and boys. Deutsche Presse Agentur says that no fewer than 95 dead were left on the ground. …

In the Corner, Andy McCarthy posts on several aspects of the latest terrorist “case”.

…Finally, behold, yet again, the folly of President Obama’s law-enforcement approach to terrorism. Not only has the assignment of counsel in the criminal case denied us whatever intelligence Mutallab could be giving us about Yemen. The criminal case is complicating the President’s ability to do his jobs as president and commander-in-chief.  This morning, Obama declared flatly that Mutallab conspired with al Qaeda in a heinous attempted terrorist attack. It was refreshing to hear the president not hedge with “alleged” this and “alleged” that. FDR never suggested that the “fear itself” we needed to fear was “alleged.” But, of course, defense counsel will now claim the president is hopelessly prejudicing Mutallab’s ability to get a fair trial — in Detroit or anyplace else — by smearing him in the press and eviscerating the presumption of innocence.  The usual judicial reaction to such claims is not to dismiss an indictment but (a) to postpone the trial indefinitely until the negative (to the defendant) publicity dies down, and (b) to direct the executive branch to stop making statements that prejudice the case (on pain of having the indictment dismissed due to “government misconduct”).

The Mutallab case is an unnecessary, insignificant distraction from the real business of protecting the United States. And it is all so unnecessary.  It will be forever until we can have a trial of Mutallab, anyway:  From here on out, everytime something happens in Yemen, Mutallab’s lawyers will try to use it to their litigation advantage, repeating that the president has so tied Mutallab to terrorism in Yemen that there is no prospect of a fair trial.  So why not transfer him to military custody as an enemy combatant, detain and interrogate him for as long as it is useful to do so, and then, in a year or three, either charge him with war crimes in a military tribunal or, if you insist, indict him the criminal justice system? There is no reason to have a criminal case pending right now — it will only tie the president’s hands and be grist for judicial criticism of Obama while he has a war to fight. He doesn’t need that in his life right now.

Mark Steyn comments on Andy McCarthy’s post and adds his thoughts.

…Whom should the traveling public thank for these impositions? The 9/11 killers were mostly Saudi. But the Shoebomber was a British subject. So were the Heathrow plotters. And the Pantybomber was educated in British schools – first in Togo; then at University College, London – and there is plenty of evidence he was radicalized while in the UK. So three of the four circles of homeland security hell with which the public are tortured are British in origin. …

…Even if that’s true (and it’s by no means clear that it is), is that enough? I said a few years back that Britain had been so hollowed out by Islamic radicals that it was becoming Somalia with chip shops. Mr Abdulmuttalab supposedly got the ol’ jihad fever while at university. I see The New York Times reports the remarkable statistic that one-fifth of students at British universities are Muslim. As Professor Garton Ash would say, most British Muslims most of the time will be most unlikely to self-detonate over most American cities. So that’s okay, right? Up to a point. A poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that one-third of Muslim students in Britain believe killing in the name of religion is justified and are in favor of a global caliphate. That’s a lot of potential airline tickets.

And perhaps the saddest comment of all on America’s principal supplier of transformative terrorist incidents is this – from my old colleagues at The Spectator in an aside on that New York Times story:

There is a lot in the article that is worth commenting on. But sadly Britain’s libel laws make discussion of the contents of this article almost impossible.

If you can’t even discuss a problem, what are the chances you can fix it?

Jennifer Rubin discusses how the Obami’s rebranding of the war is not playing well, even with the Obami faithful.

As this Politico story notes, the Christmas Day bombing plot has shaken the Obama administration and his supporters, leaving the latter flummoxed. They can’t seem to understand the president’s clueless reaction, which verged on peevish resentment over the interruption to his vacation:

Over the course of five days, Obama’s reaction ranged from low-keyed to reassuring to, finally, a vow to find out what went wrong. The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism, hardly a small part of the presidency, and the moment at which yet another of the old political maxims that Obama had sought to transcend – the Democrats’ vulnerability on national security – reasserted itself.

…Arrest him, book him, Mirandize him, call the FBI — what’s the big deal? It is not a mystery at all as to why Obama behaved as he did. This is his anti-terror policy on full display. What we now see (and what the “shocked, shocked to see there is cluelessness” crowd is reacting to) is what that bizarre stance toward the war on terror looks like up close and in real time when played out in the context of actual events. Think it’s odd for the president to call Farouk Abdulmutallab a “suspect”? Think it’s weird that the terrorist isn’t being interrogated but has lawyered up? Well, that’s the Obama anti-terror policy. It isn’t supposed to be a big deal when these events occur. For if it were, we wouldn’t be treating the terrorists like criminal suspects.

It turns out that the Obami’s approach is entirely off-putting and inappropriate to virtually everyone. That the media has finally clued in to just how politically untenable it is, tells us something about the media’s own willingness to ignore the implications of Obama’s declared policy and previous rhetoric. The solution is not to make sure after the next incident that the president puts on a tie, drops the grumpy-guy demeanor, and orders Janet Napolitano to stay off the air (although all that would be swell): it is to get a new policy on the war on terror – a policy that regards these incidents with the gravity they deserve and employs responses appropriate to the war in which we are engaged.

In Powerline, Paul Mirengoff posts on a welcome change from one branch of the government. Chief Justice John Roberts isn’t asking for any more of your money.

Among the many excellent qualities of Chief Justice John Roberts is his judiciousness, not a bad quality for any judge to possess. It was on display again in his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary.

According to the Washington Post, every year since 1970, the Chief Justice’s annual report has called for bigger salaries for federal judges. In my opinion, it’s a more than reasonable recommendation; federal judges are significantly underpaid by the standard of their profession and of their employer.

Obviously, judges can’t be paid what partners at major law firms make, even though their work is more important and they are often better lawyers. But they can and should be paid more than junior associates at these firms, government trial lawyers and senior government bureaucrats, and senior law professors.

Unfortunately, they are not. Moreover, their salaries have declined in real terms by 25 percent since 1969. During this period, real compensation for lawyers has risen substantially.

This year, however, Chief Justice Roberts declined to renew what is presently a futile plea for an increase in judge’s salaries. He wrote:

In the past few years, I have adhered to the tradition that Chief Justice Burger initiated and have provided my perspective on the most critical needs of the judiciary. . . This year, however, when the political branches are faced with so many difficult issues, and when so many of our fellow citizens have been touched by hardship, the public might welcome a year-end report limited to what is essential: the courts are operating soundly, and the nation’s dedicated federal judges are conscientiously discharging their duties.

As far as I can tell, the state of the economy — i.e., of “our fellow citizens” — has not caused many in the private or public sector to shy away from special pleading, including special pleading that lacks justification. We are fortunate to have a Chief Justice who has the decency and good judgment to provide an exception.

In the Washington Examiner, Mark Tapscott blogs about another area where Obami marketing has failed.

End-of-year media pieces tend to be boring rehashes but occasionally a thoughtful person will use the opportunity for some genuinely original and useful thinking about the most recent past. Such is Micah Sifry’s powerful and significant post on Personal Democracy Forum’s Tech President, “The Obama disconnect: What happens when myth meets reality.”

Remember how the Mainstream Media endlessly told us in 2008 that the Obama campaign was blazing new trails by raising millions of dollars of campaign donations and creating the first-ever bottom-up, people-driven Internet-focused presidential campaign apparatus?

Sifry’s post is a must-read for those across the political spectrum who seek to understand why the truth about the Obama campaign in 2008 was almost exactly the opposite of that mythic rendition at the heart of the conventional Mainstream Media wisdom. …

Houston Chronicle has a good piece on climategate.

Now that Copenhagen is past history, what is the next step in the man-made global warming controversy? Without question, there should be an immediate and thorough investigation of the scientific debauchery revealed by “Climategate.”

If you have not heard, hackers penetrated the computers of the Climate Research Unit, or CRU, of the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, exposing thousands of e-mails and other documents. CRU is one of the top climate research centers in the world. Many of the exchanges were between top mainstream climate scientists in Britain and the U.S. who are closely associated with the authoritative (albeit controversial) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Among the more troubling revelations were data adjustments enhancing the perception that man is causing global warming through the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Particularly disturbing was the way the core IPCC scientists (the believers) marginalized the skeptics of the theory that man-made global warming is large and potentially catastrophic. …

Investor’s Business Daily provides us with another cartoon review. These are all by Michael Ramirez. He picks his favorite ten.

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