Iran's Wednesday response to Western negotiators in Vienna is not public yet, but the New York Times reports Iran has rejected the deal to ship out 3/4 of its declared uranium stockpile to be further enriched in Russia. Here is the best part of the NYT piece:
In fact, the Iranians found something to like in the Vienna deal. It essentially acknowledged their right to use low-enriched uranium that Iran produced in violation of three Security Council agreements. The Obama administration and its allies were willing to create that precedent because the material would be returned to Iran in the form of fuel rods, usable in a civilian nuclear plant but very difficult to convert to weapons use.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks seemed to extend Iran’s two-track public position on the nuclear dispute, offering a degree of compliance while also insisting that there were limits to its readiness for cooperation.
“As long as this government is in power, it will not retreat one iota on the undeniable rights of the Iranian nation,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “Fortunately, the conditions for international nuclear cooperation have been met. We are currently moving in the right direction and we have no fear of legal cooperation, under which all of Iran’s national rights will be preserved, and we will continue our work.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad also suggested that Iran expected Western countries to honor payments for nuclear assistance it made before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran paid more than $1 billion to help build a French reactor in return for access to that reactor’s fuel. After the revolution, France reneged on the contract.
“We have nuclear contracts,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “It has been 30 years, we have paid for them. Such agreements must be fulfilled.”
Iran has re-affirmed--for the trillionth time this decade--its determination not to give up any part of its nuclear program. Robert Kagan doubts President Obama can beat Iran at poker (or Moscow)--this applies equally, by inference, to chess.
Bottom Line. Persians play chess, and knights can jump over pieces and fork king & queen, even checkmate a cornered king. The West had better stop playing checkers.
Terrorist attacks and Taliban repositioning, using smarter, more sophisticated tactics, have figured prominently in the campaigns by Islamists to disrupt the November 7 Afghan election and to destabilize the Pakistani government, which is mounting a serious sustained offensive in South Waziristan against Taliban strongholds.
Afghanistan. The Afghan election authorities have rejected a UN proposal for the November 7 election re-run. Strategic analyst Andrew C. Bacevich calls for setting strategy first, before committing more troops in Afghanistan. Historian Walter Russell Mead argues that dealing with bad guys--including drug lords--may be necessary to prevail in Afghanistan. Washington Post pundit David Ignatius reports on his latest visit there and says we must try to make the McChrystal strategy work.
Pakistan. SecState Hillary Clinton expressed disbelief speaking to Pakistani audiences, concerning lack of cooperation in a war effort that is is, she said, Pakistan's parallel interest (with the US) to win. The Washington Post reports:
"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," she told a group of newspaper editors during a meeting in Lahore.
"Maybe they are not 'get-at-able'. I don't know," she said.
Clinton's pointed remark was the first public gripe on a trip aimed at turning around a U.S.-Pakistan relationship under serious strain, but bound in the struggle against religious extremism.
"I am more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States," Clinton said, ""but this is a two way street.
"If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together" then "there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment."
Bottom Line. It remains in America's strategic interest to prevent Islamist triumph in both countries. But at times, one is tempted to throw up one's hands, and fall back on the password used by the the robbers in "The Hot Rock" (a 1972 Robert Redford - George Segal caper flick): "Afghanistan Bananistan." We are trying to create stable and less corrupt governance in a singularly unpromising area. But for now try we must.
Legal Ace Andy McCarthy explains how if Guantanamo detainees are shipped into the US, "lawfare"-oriented judges will surely release some into our communities. Ex-special forces officer Gordon Cucullu explains why sending Gitmo detainees north will create a security nightmare for the local citizenry. And as Gitmo prepares to move north, the New York Times reports that civil libertarians are drawing a bead on FBI counter-intelligence activities.
Bottom Line. The bad guys come here, so we stand down. Is there something wrong with this picture?
The House bill, being put online--all 1,990 pages of it--will not, Speaker Nancy tells us, "add a dime to the deficit." Indeed, it will, our Lady Legislator says, reduce the deficit. Sure, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will convert to Judaism today and begin observing strict Shabbat at sunset Tehran time. As for keeping the bill under 2,000 pages, a monumental feat the nation's foresters, forests and overworked inkjet & laser printers will appreciate....
Pundit Robert Samuelson calls ObamaCare's "public option" fakery. He notes that Medicare's alleged efficiency advantage--3 cents versus 13 cents on the dollar--over private insurance ignores cost-shifting & accounting legerdemain:
As for administrative expenses, any advantage for the public plan is exaggerated, say critics. Part of the gap between private insurers and Medicare is statistical illusion: Because Medicare recipients have higher average health expenses ($10,003 in 2007) than the under-65 population ($3,946), its administrative costs are a smaller share of total spending. The public plan, with younger members, wouldn't enjoy this advantage.
Likewise, Medicare has low marketing costs because it's a monopoly. But a non-monopoly public plan would have to sell itself and would incur higher marketing costs. Private insurers' profits (included in administrative costs) also explain some of Medicare's cost advantage. But profits represent only 3 percent of the insurance industry's revenue. Moreover, accounting comparisons are misleading when they don't include the cost of Medicare's government-supplied investment capital. A public plan would also need investment capital. And suppose the public plan suffers losses. Congress would assuredly bail it out.
RS adds that such fakery is stifling the real debate: government versus market as supplier of health care. American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks sees ObamaCare attacking three core American values:
Regardless of how President Barack Obama's health-care agenda plays out in Congress, it has not been a success in public opinion. Opposition to ObamaCare has risen all year.
According to the Gallup polling organization, the percentage of Americans who believe the cost of health care for their families will "get worse" under the proposed reforms rose to 49% from 42% in just the past month. The percentage saying it would "get better" stayed at 22%.
Many are searching for explanations. One popular notion is that demagogues in the media are stirring up falsehoods against what they say is a long-overdue solution to the country's health-care crisis.
Americans deserve more credit. They haven't been brainwashed, and they aren't upset merely over the budget-busting details. Rather, public resistance stems from the sense that the proposed reforms do violence to three core values of America's free enterprise culture: individual choice, personal accountability, and rewards for ambition.
Read in full his op-ed.
Wall Street Journal pundit Kim Strassel sees the public option as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recipe for diverting attention from the real bad stuff in the health care legislation, that just might pass:
Better yet, by turning the public option into the big, bad bogeyman, he makes it more likely he'll snag those swing-state votes in the end. Nebraska's Mr. Nelson, Arkansas's Blanche Lincoln, Indiana's Evan Bayh—they can all claim victory for stripping the bill of a national insurance plan, then feel comfortable voting for all the tax hikes and Medicare cuts that remain.
Speaking of tax hikes, premium jumps and Medicare cuts, notice how nobody is today talking about them? Mr. Reid surely has. The public option might be controversial in D.C., but the majority leader knows most of the country doesn't understand it, or assumes it doesn't apply to them. Most Americans already have health care that they like, and polls show their real fear is that this experiment will leave them paying more for less. This, not the public option, is ObamaCare's exposed jugular.
The insurers get this, which is why (as they now try to bottle the genie they helped loose) they are issuing reports on how "reform" will double or triple premium prices. It is why America's Health Insurance Plans, the lobby group, has run ads in swing states warning about huge cuts to Medicare Advantage. Some of the grass roots get it, too, which is why Americans for Tax Reform is now live on TV in Nebraska noting Sen. Nelson has signed its taxpayer pledge and that he'd violate it by voting for the bill's nearly $500 billion in tax increases.
If Mr. Reid had pulled the plug on the public option, these highly unpopular policy issues would be front and center. As it is, the public-option sideshow is sucking up all the air, and will continue to. It even overshadowed liberal divisions, such as union pushback on Cadillac-plans taxes. Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Reid likes it that way.
Bottom Line. Beware of entrance into ObamaCare....
Manhattan Institute scholar Judith Miller writes of the "Mexicanization" of US law enforcement: drug lords are sending corruption north from Mexico, which increasingly resembles a narco-state. An excellent article well worth a read. George Will surveys US and global drug war efforts and offers this downer:
In 1998, the United Nations, with its penchant for empty grandstanding, committed its members to "eliminating or significantly reducing" opium, cocaine and marijuana production by 2008, en route to a "drug-free world." Nowadays the United Nations is pleased that the drug trade has "stabilized."
The Economist magazine says this means that more than 200 million people -- almost 5 percent of the world's adult population -- take illegal drugs, the same proportion as a decade ago. The annual U.S. bill for attempting to diminish the supply of drugs is $40 billion. Of the 1.5 million Americans arrested each year on drug offenses, half a million are incarcerated. "[T]ougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars," the Economist said in March.
"There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer." Do cultural differences explain this? Evidently not: "Even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates."
Bottom Line. Drugs are primarily a demand-side problem, for which there are no known effective remedies today. Supply-side efforts cannot carry the day. Bad news all around, save for drug kingpins & narco-states.
4 posts: (1) Flying on the Deck: A Pilot's-Eye View--Us v. Them; (2) Micro Air Vehicles: Urban War Future--Us v. Them; (3) A Soldier Speaks--The Home Front; (4) A Hero Passes On--The Home Front.
Wall Street Journal pundit John Fund informs us that Maine & Washington State voters heavily favor initiatives placing limits of state spending. Despite ferocious opposition from the usual gaggle of unions, spendthrift pols, etc., voters in these two liberal states may impose TABOR--Taxpayer Bill Of Rights--upon state governance, to rein in runaway tax & spend governance. Fund notes (correctly) that much of this reflects loss of trust in politicians in both parties, due to serial massive failures of governance.
Evidence of how lacking trust in governance is nationwide comes from a Gallup poll taken 8/31-9/2/09. Asked how much of every government dollar is wasted at each level of government, the mean (average) response (sample: adults 18 & over) was 50 cents for the feds, 42 cents for state and 37 cents for local government. Digging down into the data, an identical 42 percent of adults residing in states with Democratic governors and those living under GOP executives.
This Fox News recent video clip (3:05--the real stuff starts at 1:46) recounts the confrontation between ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper & White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Tapper pressed hard on asking since when any White House could claim the right to define who is a a bona fide news organization and who is not. Gibbs referred to the Glenn Beck & Sean Hannity programs as evidence, but Tapper would have none of it, noting thousands of people work for Fox News. Fox News 6 o'clock anchor Bret Baier notes that CNBC lefty opinion-meisters are welcome at the White House. (As for Beck & Hannity, both openly state that their shows are opinion, and not news shows.) Moderate Democrats in Congress oppose the White House's campaign too, calling it overkill.
Charles Krauthammer (who appears frequently on the weekday 6 PM Fox news program), writes that the White House has gone too far in attacking Fox. CK writes:
The White House has declared war on Fox News. White House communications director Anita Dunn said that Fox is "opinion journalism masquerading as news." Patting rival networks on the head for their authenticity (read: docility), senior adviser David Axelrod declared Fox "not really a news station." And Chief of Staff Emanuel told (warned?) the other networks not to "be led (by) and following Fox."
Meaning? If Fox runs a story critical of the administration -- from exposing White House czar Van Jones as a loony 9/11 "truther" to exhaustively examining the mathematical chicanery and hidden loopholes in proposed health care legislation -- the other news organizations should think twice before following the lead.
The signal to corporations is equally clear: You might have dealings with a federal behemoth that not only disburses more than $3 trillion every year but is extending its reach ever deeper into private industry -- finance, autos, soon health care and energy. Think twice before you run an ad on Fox.
At first, there was little reaction from other media. Then on Thursday, the administration tried to make them complicit in an actual boycott of Fox. The Treasury Department made available Ken Feinberg, the executive pay czar, for interviews with the White House "pool" news organizations -- except Fox. The other networks admirably refused, saying they would not interview Feinberg unless Fox was permitted to as well. The administration backed down.
CK then links the controversy to the idea expressed by "Father of the Constitution" (and of the Bill of Rights) James Madison, who wrote in Federalist 10 that a multiplicity of factions would leaven governance and obviate the temptation towards tyranny, with everyone given a seat at the table, so to speak. Wesley Pruden sees Third World governance in Team Obama's war against critics.
Mark Steyn sees Team Obama tougher on Fox than on our enemies--think Tsar Vlad the Bad, Mullah Ahmadinejad the Real Bad:
At a superficial level, this looks tough. A famously fair-minded centrist told me the other day that he'd been taken aback by some of the near parodic examples of Leftie radicalism discovered in the White House in recent weeks. I don't know why he'd be surprised. When a man has spent his entire adult life in the "community organized" precincts of Chicago, it should hardly be news that much of his Rolodex is made up of either loons or thugs. The trick is identifying who falls into which category. Anita Dunn, the Communications Director commending Mao Zedong as a role model to graduating high school students, would seem an obvious loon. But the point about Mao, as Charles Krauthammer noted, is that he was the most ruthless imposer of mass conformity in modern history: In Mao's China, everyone wore the same clothes. So when Communications Commissar Mao Ze Dunn starts berating Fox News for not getting into the same Maosketeer costumes as the rest of the press corps, you begin to see why the Chairman might appeal to her as a favorite "political philosopher".
So the troika of Dunn, Emanuel and Axelrod were dispatched to the Sunday talk shows to lay down the law. We all know the lines from "The Untouchables" – "the Chicago way," don't bring a knife to a gunfight – and, given the pay czar's instant contract-gutting of executive compensation and the demonization of the health insurers and much else, it's easy to look on the 44th president as an old-style Cook County operator: You wanna do business in this town, you gotta do it through me. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago out of the community organizer.
The trouble is it isn't tough, not where toughness counts. Who are the real "Untouchables" here? In Moscow, it's Putin and his gang, contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) they're still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it's Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were told that Obama would use "soft power" and "smart diplomacy" to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama's soft power is so soft it doesn't even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders' very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama's "smart diplomacy" is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention?
Bottom Line. Presidents who assail media critics more often than not diminish themselves and their governance. This goes double when the critics are presenting facts. Fabulists can be ignored. But it is a measure of telling and accurate criticism that Presidents open fire. With two wars underway, a nuclearizing Iran, a renegade North Korea & Venezuela, trillions in deficits as far as the eye can see, and economy whose recovery is far from certain, one would think that President 44 has far weightier fare on his plate.
October 28, 2009 in Class & Crass: Culture Vultures; Vultures' Culture, The Home Front | Permalink | Comments (0)
New York State Governor David Patterson has a headache hard to imagine: Truckers using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation are crashing into bridges. The reason: They use GPS to find routes that save time, but are not truck-safe--at times, even when carrying hazardous materials. In the past 15 years, New York State has seen an astounding 1,4000 bridge accidents due to trucks (to be fair, GPS is of more recent vintage, so many, perhaps most, of the crashes were pre-GPS). This is 93 bridge hits annually, nearly two per week.
A GPS fix would be to program, state by state (it happens elsewhere, too), restrictions into route options, so that truckers cannot find the routes. This might help, but experienced drivers would still find the routes. Criminal prosecution of anyone caught knowingly transporting hazardous materials along prohibited routes might help more.
Two foreign policy mavens, David Feith & Bari Weiss, detail in a Wall Street Journal op-ed how the State Department is cutting off funds for Iran's democratic opposition. The money paragraphs:
Some—including Mr. Obama—claim that the U.S. would taint and implicate Iranian democrats by supporting them openly. To this argument, says Iranian democracy activist Roya Boroumand, "Ask yourself why Iranians who protest in the street write things in English. They're not just practicing language skills."
Ignoring activists who exemplify American ideals raises moral questions about U.S. foreign policy, but there is also a key practical question: Will the Obama administration likely succeed in ending Iran's nuclear-weapons program? What, after all, could Iran's mullahs get at the negotiating table that they would value more than the regional power and religious affirmation represented by a revolutionary Islamic nuclear weapon?
Mr. Obama's approach also reduces the chances that, if Iran does get a nuclear weapon, the internal opposition will be healthy enough to check the regime, challenge its adventurism, and champion a better future for the Iranian people.
The Obama team has long called itself pragmatic, open to altering its policies as realities shift. But its approach to Iran has remained unchanged since Mr. Obama was a presidential candidate, despite the Green Revolution.
"Before June's election," says former student leader Akbar Atri, who fled Iran in 2005, "the Obama administration was determined to negotiate about the nuclear issue because it assumed there was no strong democratic opposition inside the country. That was a wrong assumption. The election showed the Iranians want a different approach. They want to live in peace and freedom."
Read the rest of the op-ed for full detail.
Bottom Line. Foggy Bottom at its worst is selling out human rights for the illusory notion than a tyrannical regime, on the cusp of nuclear club membership and the vast increase in power it will thus gain, will somehow bargain away such benefit. Fat chance.
Nuclear Update. A Wall Street Journal editorial casts a gimlet eye at the Vienna negotiations between Western powers & Iran:
One sign that an adversary isn't serious about negotiating is when it rejects even your concessions. That seemed to be the case yesterday when Iran gave signs it may turn down an offer from Russia, Europe and the U.S. to let Tehran enrich its uranium under foreign supervision outside the country. The mullahs so far won't take yes for an answer.
Tehran had previously looked set to accept the deal, which is hardly an obstacle to its nuclear program. A Democratic foreign policy shop called the National Security Network heralded the expected pact in a blast email this week as "Engagement Paying Dividends on Iran." But now Tehran may be holding out for even more concessions, as Iranian news reports suggest Iran wants to be able to buy more enriched uranium from a third country to use in a research reactor for medical use—as opposed to shipping its uranium to Russia for a roundtrip.
Nor, the WSJ editors state, should the deal under consideration be viewed as a bargain:
Claims by Western officials that Iran can't convert the uranium enriched abroad for military use are less than reassuring. Though encased in a fuel rod in France, the more highly-enriched uranium returned to Iran would be simple to extract, using something as basic as a tin snipper to force open the fuel cladding, and enrich further.
"With 19.75 enriched feed"—as opposed to the 3.5% that Iran now manages—"the level of effort or time Iran would need to make weapons grade uranium would drop very significantly," from roughly five months today "down to something slightly less than four weeks," says Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.
Iran may also welcome the Russian-enriched uranium because its own technology is less advanced. The October 8 edition of the trade journal Nucleonics Week reports that Iran's low-enriched uranium appears to have "impurities" that "could cause centrifuges to fail" if Iran itself tried to enrich uranium to weapons-grade—which would mean above 20% and ideally up to 90%. In this scenario, the West would be decontaminating the uranium for Iran. Along the way, Iranian scientists may also pick up clues on how to do better themselves.
Military Option Update. David Kay, chief weapons inspector inside Iraq for much of the 1990s, assesses striking Iran as an option. Kay sets the stage:
Iran has achieved the effective status of a nuclear-weapons capable state. No matter what American policy makers want to believe, Iran has built a uranium-enrichment establishment, procured a workable design for a weapon, carried out work to enhance and validate that design, and developed longer-range missile-delivery systems. The revelation of the clandestine Qum enrichment plant strikingly demonstrated that there is more to the Iranian nuclear program than what we knew and what inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been able to discover during the past four years.
American policy sounds like a broken record, repeating over and over and over again that more and stricter sanctions will reverse these facts on the ground and Iran will be forced to give up its nuclear ambitions. The fact is, Iran’s nuclear program has progressed considerably beyond where it was when President Bush first uttered what would become a useless policy prescription, and is now at a point where only a severely intrusive on-the-ground inspection regime—at least as tough as the one we carried out from 1991–95 in Iraq—could have any hope of verifying that Iran’s nuclear program has stopped. Do American policy makers not recognize that Iran has cheated for more than twenty years on its nonproliferation promises and continued to refuse full and meaningful cooperation with international inspectors? No one should believe that the Islamic Republic would accept the type of inspections that would be required to provide confidence that it had walked away and surrendered its nuclear ambitions.
Kay then explains that sanctions with real bite are a mirage, and that the only way to possibly halt Iran's program is to make clear that pursuing nukes will place the regime's survival at stake:
This is an outcome that threatens neither the United States or Israel, but puts in question the very survival of more than the Islamic Republic of Iran but the survival of the nation of Iran itself. No one should doubt that the most dangerous situation a state can face is to deploy a small, and untested, nuclear force, against a state that has a much larger and more capable, nuclear force and views its survival to be at stake. Iran is embarking on a course where any crisis, destabilizing action or even heated Iranian political rhetoric would place Israel and the United States under considerable pressure to take preemptive military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and its political leadership. Given the potential consequence of failure of such a military action, prudence would demand that the force used be overwhelming and broadly destructive.
Bottom Line. The Mideast nuclear atomic clock ticks, faster and faster....
Here are Vice-President Joe Biden's October 22 Warsaw remarks and his October 23 Bucharest remarks. Both were issued in conjunction with Joint Statements with each of the country leaders. Here is his October 23 address at Central University Library, Bucharest, to students.
After presenting the administration's position as to why the new missile defense proposal is better than the one Team Obama scrapped, Biden spoke bluntly about accusations that America appeased the Russians:
Some -- maybe even understandably -- jump to the conclusion that this new missile defense approach was meant to appease Russia at the expense of Central Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is absolutely wrong. Missile defense is not about Russia. Our approach is driven by security requirements of the United States and our NATO allies, period. Period.
What is true is that we are working to strengthen our relationship with Russia. We believe that a more constructive relationship with Russia will benefit all. But we’re not naïve. The truth is we share some common interests: cutting the arsenals of nuclear weapons; securing vulnerable nuclear materials; stabilizing Afghanistan; preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
And we also continue to have disagreements with Russia on matters of basic principle. In February, in Munich, Germany, in the very first major foreign policy speech of our administration, I enunciated our administration’s outline for foreign policy, and I made clear our core principles. The United States stands against the 19th century notion of “spheres of influence.” We will not tolerate it, nor will we be co-opted by it.
We stand for the right of sovereign democracies to make their own decisions, to choose their own alliances, without the right of any country to veto those decisions. We will never make a deal about anything with anyone above your heads or behind your backs. The maxim we live by is clear: nothing about you without you, nothing about you without you. And I would argue, look at our track record, look at our track record.
Biden then offered warm tribute to Eastern Europe's achievements since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989:
There’s an old Romanian proverb: “The cheapest article is advice. The most valuable is a good example.” You are the “good example.” Twenty years ago, the people of Central Europe took the world history that they inherited, and willed it in a new direction toward greater freedom, justice, and fairness. The odds were stacked against you. We know from history that destroying old oppressive regimes is a great deal easier than building new flourishing democracies. But you’ve delivered on the promise of your revolution. You are now in the position to help others do the same.
Speaking to our Congress 20 winters ago, Vaclav Havel pointed to a special sense of empathy and imagination the people of Central Europe share. Years of subjugation, he said, “have given us, however unintentionally, something positive: a special capacity to look somewhat further than someone who has not undergone this bitter experience.” He went on to say: “A person who cannot move and live a normal life because he is pinned under a boulder has more time to think about hopes than someone who is not trapped in this way.” He was right.
Now you have the freedom to act on those hopes, and you are. And I believe together we can turn that hope that we shared into a history we can be proud of. This is the moment. You students, if we are smart, brave, and lucky will be able to tell your grandchildren you were present at the creation of a new Europe, a new security, a new era of peace, because you were bold enough to seize that moment. Be like those in ‘89. Be bold. Exercise your leadership. You have a history, and you have a tradition. You can make a gigantic difference. And we’ll stand with you.
Because Biden is playing a "Cheney-lite" role in the administration, his trip deserved more attention than it got. Prior to Biden's visit, Vaclav Havel gave an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (3:04), in which he defended the missile defense move as normal for a new administration, and said he expected Biden to reassure Europe as to America's commitment.
Havel, perhaps for reasons of tact, simply ignored the promise--recently broken--that President Obama made in his April 5 Prague address not go to over the head of the Czechs and determine their destiny without their having a seat at the table:
To provide for our common security, we must strengthen our alliance. NATO was founded 60 years ago, after Communism took over Czechoslovakia. That was when the free world learned too late that it could not afford division. So we came together to forge the strongest alliance that the world has ever known. And we should -- stood shoulder to shoulder -- year after year, decade after decade –- until an Iron Curtain was lifted, and freedom spread like flowing water.
This marks the 10th year of NATO membership for the Czech Republic. And I know that many times in the 20th century, decisions were made without you at the table. Great powers let you down, or determined your destiny without your voice being heard. I am here to say that the United States will never turn its back on the people of this nation. (Applause.) We are bound by shared values, shared history -- (applause.) We are bound by shared values and shared history and the enduring promise of our alliance. NATO's Article V states it clearly: An attack on one is an attack on all. That is a promise for our time, and for all time.
Bottom Line. Biden's Bucharest speech was wonderful. And Havel stressed the longer relationship. While it is a plus that Biden reaffirmed America's commitment and intent to keep Moscow at bay, the precipitous recent decision by Team Obama to negotiate with Moscow on the original missile defense system--decided over the heads of the Poles & Czechs, notwithstanding President Obama's April 5 promise--may make Biden's proclamation a hard sell.
Claudia Rosett assays the UN diplomatic & financial balance sheet and finds little to have celebrated on Saturday, Oct. 24, declared UN Day. CR sees Brownian motion at the UN. Such motion is seemingly random, but with an underlying complex set of motion mechanics. My vote is for the UN representing an alternate quantum universe. Only then can the diplomatic surrealism there be adequately described.
Try this latest UN news item, courtesy of the Washington Times--per humorist Dave Barry, I am NOT making this up. A new UN report identifies as a terrorist threat----discrimination against...transexuals. Consider these paragraphs from the WT editorial:
The 23-page document is the ultimate politically correct guide to combating terrorism. It is based on the work of U.N. special rapporteur Martin Scheinin, who notes that "immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion." The impact on transvestites (cross-dressers) and "intersex" individuals (those in the midst of a sex change) is even more dramatic....
The U.N. report explicitly argues for a return to the previous failed framework, recommending that states "abandon the use of a "war paradigm" when countering terrorism because of the "adverse impacts" it has on "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals."
Bottom Line. The Turtle Bay Fun House continues to reach for new frontiers of fecklessness.
SecState Hillary said that Iran & North Korea must curb their nuclear ambitions. In the same speech, she said that the US must abandon Cold War thinking and reduce its nuclear stockpiles. She does not grasp that if we move towards zero every proliferator in the world gets more bang for the buck in its nuclear arsenal. But Iran's Atomic Energy Orgamization chief said yesterday that Iran reserves the right to enrich uranium fuel beyond commercial grade, no matter what agreement it makes in talks.
Ex-CIAer Robert Baer writes in TIME that ethnic strife is Iran's biggest worry. Another regime thorn is a prominent opposition cleric in Tehran going public, as reported by the New York Times. The cleric, who ran third in the June 12 fraudulent election, has aired politically incorrect truths about torture of protesters:
Mr. Karroubi works from a villa on a quiet street in Tehran that ends at a rundown palace once occupied by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It is one of the many symbols of his standing among the revolutionary elite. He was jailed nine times by the shah and spent years in prison, where he grew close to inmates of widely different political persuasions: nationalist, socialist, Islamist, said Rasool Nafisi, an Iran expert based in Virginia.
“These forced companionships, Karroubi wrote in his autobiography, made him aware of the pain of the others, and relieved him from sectarian behavior,” Mr. Nafisi said.
After the overthrow of the shah, Ayatollah Khomeini put Mr. Karroubi in charge of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee and the Martyrs Foundation, two of the nation’s most important and wealthiest institutions. He also served twice as speaker of Parliament, where he earned a reputation as a conciliator; served on the powerful Expediency Council; and was appointed adviser to the subsequent supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
So it was hard for the leadership to brand him an enemy of the state when he posted on his Web site last month an impassioned, unyielding and damning letter to the nation, written in response to the judicial finding that his allegations of the rape of imprisoned protesters were unfounded.
“The ugliness has reached the point that instead of the perpetrators and propagators and people behind this oppression, it is Mehdi Karroubi whom they want to put on trial,” he wrote. “I take refuge with you, oh God, from these catastrophes which some are causing and are not only a disgrace to the Islamic republic, but a disgrace to Iran.”
Michael Ledeen sees Iran as America's worst enemy. He sees massive, disciplined domestic opposition to the regime inside Iran & argues for a stronger US commitment to helping the dissenters.
Bottom Line. The failure of Teams Bush 43 & Obama 44 to promote regime change in Iran is the great missed strategic opportunity since September 11, 2001.
The New York Times report on the draft agreement reached in Vienna between Iran and negotiators acknowledges that Iran would be delayed a year in making a nuclear bomb only if: (a) it does not have undeclared stocks of enriched uranium; (b) timing of the agreement is critical (no pun intended):
The energy agency’s experts said Iran would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year after a shipment to Russia. But if the 2,600 pounds of fuel was shipped out of Iran in small batches instead of all at once, the experts warn, Iran would be able to replace it with new fuel almost as quickly as it leaves the country.
Also of concern is the possibility that Iran might have more nuclear fuel in its stockpile than it is letting on. The agency’s estimate that it has 3,500 pounds of low-enriched uranium “assumes that Iran has accurately declared how much fuel it possesses, and does not have a secret supply,” as one senior European diplomat put it on the sidelines of negotiations in Vienna.
Ultimately, Mr. Obama would have to get Iran to agree to give up the enrichment process as well. Otherwise, the fuel taken out of circulation in the draft accord would soon be replaced.
The Times article asserts that because Russia will return the 1,200 kilos (2,600 pounds) of enriched uranium (medical grade--19.75 percent, far higher than 3.5 percent commercial enriched fuel) in the form of metal rods the product cannot be diverted into nuclear weapon fuel. I will seek verification on this technical point, and post an answer in a future LFTC. (In all, Iran has 1,600 kilos--3,500 pounds--of enriched uranium.)
Another New York Times piece explores the "generational chasm" between the young and elderly in Iran. The problem is that the regime change that might bring younger, liberal leaders to power has been undermined by Team Obama's flaccid temporizing since the June 12 elections. As only regime change can secure the future for Iran as a peaceful Mideast power, only rapid change can save the day. But the regime will not give in easily. One son of a Revolutionary Guard member, the Times story notes, was tortured to death after protesting the June election, as step which his father defends, as needed to protect the regime.
Bottom Line. In chess a gambit is the sacrifice of one or more pieces to gain advantage in longer term position. If, as is likely, Iran has clandestine, undisclosed facilities enriching uranium, the Vienna accord would buy Iran precious diplomatic time and freeze Israel's military option. As the mullahs' Iran has never kept any agreement it has made there is no reason to anticipate that they will honor this one. Only regime change will prevent Iran from nuclear weapons and regional hegemony. The clock keeps ticking, and time is on Iran's side.
Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens excoriates President Obama's dismal human rights policy. He covers China, Iran, Sudan and, finally, Burma. In each case the President has put negotiations and "engagement" above all else, no matter how odious the regime. Read the column in full, but here is a tart condemnation, speaking of Burma and Sudan--far smaller players on the world stage than China and Iran:
Yet as with Sudan, the administration's new policy is "engagement," on the theory that sanctions haven't worked. Maybe so. But what evidence is there that engagement will fare any better? In May 2008, the Burmese junta prevented delivery of humanitarian aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some 150,000 people died in plain view of "world opinion," in what amounted to a policy of forced starvation.
Leave aside the nausea factor of dealing with the authors of that policy. The real question is what good purpose can possibly be served in negotiations that the junta will pursue only (and exactly) to the extent it believes will strengthen its grip on power. It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama's engagement except to seek their own advantage.
It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that "interferes" with America's purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them. Yet that is exactly the record of Mr. Obama's time thus far in office.
The following essay co-authored by Stratfor founder/CEO George Friedman is reprinted by permission from Stratfor:
The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan
By George Friedman & Reva Bhalla
October 20, 2009
The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.
After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called “right war” derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called “wrong war.” But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.
Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political — and financial — accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase — aka the surge — was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.
It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies’ security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies’ security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal’s strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys — like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province — and opening bases in more densely populated areas.
McChrystal’s strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal’s forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.
It should be noted that while McChrystal’s traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.
There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.
Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal’s strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.
In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition’s main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.
McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day.”
This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.
One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is radical departure in U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.
Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers — normally artillery and airpower — capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal’s strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.
Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can’t protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.
The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership — with their own excellent intelligence capabilities — changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.
But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban’s ability to identify, locate and liquidate defenders. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.
Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn’t ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different — and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.
Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.
The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.
Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.
If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn’t split decisively.
On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower’s use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.
The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.
The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.
In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.
Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.
Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.
The New York Times breathlessly reports in a front-pager that in the Mideast force trumps diplomacy. The Los Angeles Times reports in a front-pager that Iran warned Western negotiators on the cusp of Vienna talks that it will restart uranium enrichment at home if it does not get its way:
The talks opened with new acrimony as Tehran threatened to "retaliate" against the United States and Britain after Sunday's suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed six commanders in the Revolutionary Guard.
The Sunni Muslim militant group Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack, which also killed 36 other people. Iran maintains that the organization has "direct ties" to U.S., British and Pakistani intelligence services. All three countries have denied the accusations.
"If the Vienna talks fail to satisfy Iran, a letter will be written to the International Atomic Energy Agency to announce that Iran will take the necessary action to supply nuclear fuel to the Tehran reactor," Ali Shirzadian, spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency, told reporters. "Iran can enrich uranium at 20%, and it will do so, if needed, to provide fuel for the reactor."
Makes one wonder if the Iranians get an early copy of the New York Times each day....
Meanwhile, John Bolton warns that President Obama fails to grasp that Iran will not give up its nuclear program at the bargaining table, under any circumstances:
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells NRO that President Obama is living in a “virtual reality” if he believes that the talks this week in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program will yield any significant results. The meetings, hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are aimed at convincing Iran to ship low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for more processing, in order to prevent Iran from enriching uranium on its own. “Obama’s intent for direct interaction is just read as weakness by Tehran,” says Bolton.
“President Obama doesn’t understand the nature of the regime he’s facing,” says Bolton. “He doesn’t understand the determination of the Iranians to get nuclear weapons, and he doesn’t understand the risk that a nuclear Iran poses to the region. On all three critical points, he fails.”
“The president, so intent on rejecting the eight years of Bush, is ignoring important history,” says Bolton. “On Iran, Bush policy is indistinguishable from Obama policy. They are both based on the idea of negotiations and threatening sanctions, all of which have failed for years. That strategy will not work now, either.”
Bolton says that at this late juncture only force will stop Iran's nuclear quest.
Bottom Line. As noted in Monday's extensive "Iran Uranium Enrichment Snag?" post (scroll down to yesterday's LFTC posts), talks will fail, sanctions come too late and the clock is running on a nuclear Iran. Force becomes the only viable quick option, carrying huge risks including those of failure, because feckless diplomacy delayed imposition of strong sanctions when they might have worked, instead of weak ones imposed too late. Regime change is the only other option, and might well have worked given time that now likely we do not have. Such are the grim wages of appeasement.
Judge Michael Mukasey, Bush-43's last Attorney-General, argues that civilian courts are poor venues for terror trials. His superb op-ed offers a long list of how our criminal justice system is a poor vehicle for trying terrorists, despite noteworthy convictions. Problems of protecting intelligence, absurdly compassionate juries, procedural sleight of hand, etc. gum up the works. Read his excellent op-ed, which ends with this delicious (if sad) nugget:
Nevertheless, critics of Guantanamo seem to believe that if we put our vaunted civilian justice system on display in these cases, then we will reap benefits in the coin of world opinion, and perhaps even in that part of the world that wishes us ill. Of course, we did just that after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific, and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
In return, we got the 9/11 attacks and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents. True, this won us a great deal of goodwill abroad—people around the globe lined up for blocks outside our embassies to sign the condolence books. That is the kind of goodwill we can do without.
The Washington Post reports that terror recruitment in the West is on the rise, with more Americans & Europeans attending terrorist training camps. More recruits are actual recruits rather than volunteers:
In the past, such volunteers were largely self-motivated and had to find their own way to South Asia. Today, however, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have developed extensive recruiting networks with agents on the ground in Europe, counterterrorism officials said. The agents provide guidance, money, travel routes and even letters of recommendation so the recruits can join up more easily.
A worthwhile read.
Sarah Palin urges that we should drill offshore for petroleum in an NRO piece. Her full op-ed length piece is worth reading, but here is the key part:
My home state of Alaska shows how it’s possible to be both pro-environment and pro-resource-development. Alaskans would never support anything that endangered our pristine air, clean water, and abundant wildlife (which, among other things, provides many of us with our livelihood). The state’s government has made safeguarding resources a priority; when I was governor, for instance, we created a petroleum-systems-integrity office to monitor our oil and gas infrastructure for any potential environmental risks.
Alaska also shows how oil drilling is thoroughly compatible with energy conservation and renewable-energy development. Over 20 percent of Alas ka’s electricity currently comes from renewable sources, and as governor I put forward a long-term plan to increase that figure to 50 percent by 2025. Alaska’s comprehensive plan identifies renewable options across the state that can help rural villages transition away from expensive diesel-generated electricity — allowing each community to choose the solution that best fits its needs. That’s important in any energy plan: Tempting as they may be to central planners, top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions are recipes for failure.
For the same reason, the federal government shouldn’t push a single, uni versal approach to alternative-powered vehicles. Electric cars might work in Los Angeles, but they don’t work in Alaska, where you can drive hundreds of miles without seeing many people, let alone many electrical sockets. And while electric and hybrid cars have their advantages, producing the electricity to power them still requires an energy source. For the sake of the environment, that energy should be generated from the cleanest source available.
Natural gas is one promising clean alternative. It contains fewer pollutants than other fossil fuels, it’s easier to collect and process, and it is found throughout our country. In Alaska, we’re developing the largest private-sector energy project in history — a 3,000-mile, $40 billion pipeline to transport hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas to markets across the United States. Onshore and offshore na tural gas from Alaska and the Lower 48 can satisfy a large part of our energy needs for decades, bringing us closer to energy independence. Whether we use it to power natural-gas cars or to run natural-gas power plants that charge electric cars — or ideally for both — natural gas can act as a clean “bridge fuel” to a future when more renewable sources are available.
In addition to drilling, we need to build new refineries. America currently has roughly 150 refineries, down from over 300 in the 1970s. Due mainly to environmental regulations, we haven’t built a major new refinery since 1976, though our oil consumption has increased significantly since then. That’s no way to secure our energy supply. The post-Katrina jump in gas prices proved that we can’t leave ourselves at the mercy of a hurricane that knocks a few refineries out of commission.
Bottom Line. Sarah Palin is sensibly Green, unlike the ideologically Green purity of this administration.
AEI financial regulation scholar Peter Wallison explains why government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs--Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.)--were major players in the financial meltdown. His article merits a full read, but here is the juiciest part:
....Who wanted these dicey loans? The data shows that the principal buyers were insured banks, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the FHA—all government agencies or private companies forced to comply with government mandates about mortgage lending. When Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the government in 2008, more than 10 million subprime and other weak loans were either on their books or were in mortgage-backed securities they had guaranteed. An additional 4.5 million were guaranteed by the FHA and sold through Ginnie Mae before 2008, and a further 2.5 million loans were made under the rubric of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required insured banks to provide mortgage credit to home buyers who were at or below 80% of median income. Thus, almost two-thirds of all the bad mortgages in our financial system, many of which are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.
The role of the FHA is particularly difficult to fit into the narrative that the left has been selling. While it might be argued that Fannie and Freddie and insured banks were profit-seekers because they were shareholder-owned, what can explain the fact that the FHA—a government agency—was guaranteeing the same bad mortgages that the unregulated mortgage brokers were supposedly creating through predatory lending?
The answer, of course, is that it was government policy for these poor quality loans to be made. Since the early 1990s, the government has been attempting to expand home ownership in full disregard of the prudent lending principles that had previously governed the U.S. mortgage market. Now the motives of the GSEs fall into place. Fannie and Freddie were subject to "affordable housing" regulations, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which required them to buy mortgages made to home buyers who were at or below the median income. This quota began at 30% of all purchases in the early 1990s, and was gradually ratcheted up until it called for 55% of all mortgage purchases to be "affordable" in 2007, including 25% that had to be made to low-income home buyers.
Bottom Line. Barney the Dinosaur & Chris Doddering were key players in blocking financial reform as they helped shove mortgages by the carload out the door to unqualified buyers, setting the stage for the housing price collapse that fueled the balance-sheet asset-side collapse at major banks.
Rush Limbaugh's Wall Street Journal op-ed neatly sums up how libel cost him a possible ownership share in the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise. The Race Card, it seems, while of diminished utility in the Era of Obama, retains some utility. (A white beauty queen who won a contest at a predominantly black college encountered race card protests, too.) James Taranto's interview with Internet newsie Andrew Breitbart shows how new media can circumvent liberal bias at times--in this case, over the abuses at ACORN, an outfit that is no stranger to playing the race card. Those who spread such racial poison seem either not to know or not to care that in doing so they poison themselves as well. Mark Steyn compares the reaction of the mainstream media (MSM) to the quotes fabricated at Rush's expense to MSM's silence on White House communications director Anita Dunn praising Mao Zedong before a student audience, noting that praising a mass murderer--of the Left, only--is permissible in liberal quarters, but not racist statements:
Well, so what? All those dead Chinese are no-name peasants a long way away. What’s the big deal? If you say, “Chairman Mao? Wasn’t he the wacko who offed 70 million Chinks?”, you’ll be hounded from public life for saying the word “Chinks.” But, if you commend the murderer of those 70 million as a role model in almost any school room in the country from kindergarten to the Ivy League, it’s so entirely routine that only a crazy like Glenn Beck would be boorish enough to point it out.
Which is odd, don’t you think? Because it suggests that our present age of politically correct hypersensitivity is not just morally unserious but profoundly decadent.
On September 30, 2009 I gave a talk in Seattle, entitled "Nuclear Arms: Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon". My topic then is a first airing of the subject matter of my second book, which I aim to complete in time for publication next fall. I begin with an historical overview of 64 years 1945-2009, the Nuclear Age. I then use country studies, so to speak, to illustrate the problems of nuclear proliferation & arms control. Russia presents problems of big power linkage, in which arms control is conjoined with a host of other problems Russia poses; Iran represents the problem of an aspiring regional hegemon, with perhaps still a messianic streak that makes deterrence exceptionally problematic; North Korea is the "crazy aunt in the attic"--a rogue proliferator; Pakistan presents problems of command & control of its growing nuclear arsenal; the United States faces the problem of negotiating agreements with disagreeables.
The talk runs about 20 minutes. It is followed by a Q&A of about twice that length.