Thursday, September 10, 2009
For Afghanistan, Obama depends on the GOP
by Jeff Jacoby
Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq and those who supported it made him the darling of the Democratic base, and turbocharged his drive to the White House. As a candidate for president, he repeatedly condemned the war as a fiasco and declared that President Bush's "surge" would not only fail to improve conditions in Iraq, but would actually make them worse. In August 2007, when his rival Hillary Clinton told the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the surge appeared to be working, Obama maintained that the war was as futile as ever. As The New York Times headlined its story the next day: "Obama Sees a 'Complete Failure' in Iraq."
But the antiwar liberals who adored Obama the candidate when he vowed to pull the plug on the war in Iraq are not nearly as enamored of Obama the president when he calls for enlarging the war in Afghanistan.
Last month, speaking once again to a VFW convention, Obama reiterated his commitment to a withdrawal from Iraq. The troops will be out by the end of 2011, he said, "and for America, the Iraq war will end." But he made clear that the war in Afghanistan, where American troops have been dying in record numbers, will go on. "This is a war of necessity," the president insisted -- "not only a war worth fighting," but one "fundamental to the defense of our people." He warned that "those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again," and that "if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans." Earlier this year Obama ordered 21,000 additional US personnel to Afghanistan. By year's end, troop levels there will be at 68,000 -- the most ever -- and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the theater commander, is widely thought to be on the point of asking for more.
But doubling down on the war -- in effect, committing himself to an Iraq-like "surge" -- will drive a wedge between Obama and the antiwar left that once acclaimed him. Two recent national polls show plummeting support for the war. In a Washington Post-ABC News survey, 51 percent of the public says the conflict in Afghanistan is "not worth fighting," and only 24 percent is willing to send more troops. A CNN/Opinion Research poll finds even wider opposition to the war -- 57 percent, the highest since US involvement in Afghanistan began.
Drill down into those numbers, however, and you find a gaping partisan/ideological divide. "Majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now . . . solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels," the Post observes. By contrast, Republicans and conservatives "remain the war's strongest backers." A majority of conservatives not only supports the war but even approves Obama's handling of it. The CNN poll puts Republican support for the war at 70 percent, as against the 74 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents who are opposed.
No surprise, then, that Democrats on Capitol Hill have begun to distance themselves from Obama on the war. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, claiming that "our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security," wants the troops withdrawn. Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern complained last week that "we're getting sucked into an endless war here." Two Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman, and Jack Reed of Rhode Island -- are signaling that any presidential request for more troops in Afghanistan "probably will run into resistance," the AP reported over the weekend.
Republicans, on the other hand, have publicly let the president know that while they may oppose him on other issues, he can count on their support if he pursues victory in Afghanistan. "Stand strong, Mr. President," proclaimed the Republican National Committee in a statement posted on its website and distributed by e-mail. Explain "why the voices of defeat are wrong."
The success of the Obama presidency likely depends on Afghanistan, and to achieve victory there the president will need the help of the very Republicans he and his backers so often attacked for pursuing victory in Iraq. Now those backers are backing away, while the GOP acts as an honorable and loyal opposition. Politics may not always be fair, but it sure is ironic.
Obama's dangerous strategy
The farce over doorknobs for centrifuges masks the fact that President Obama’s whole Middle East strategy is in the process of imploding. Obama has been pressuring Israel to freeze every brick and widow-frame of all settlement construction as a precondition for the US “getting tough” with Iran. This has caused Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to walk a diplomatic tightrope. But it is arguably President Obama who has the rope around his own neck.
Israel’s supposed policy of expanding the settlements was supposed to be the major stumbling-block to peace with the Palestinians and Arab support against Iran. This was absurd, and indeed Obama is now softening his stance.
Construction of new settlements has been frozen for years with no concessions from the Palestinian side. And the idea that Israeli concessions were needed to bring the Arabs on side against Iran was ridiculous. The Arabs are desperate for the Iranian nuclear threat to be removed because Iran is an overwhelming threat to their existence. The settlements are irrelevant to the Iran crisis — which has predictably become even more acute because Obama’s policy of appeasing the Arab and Muslim world has gone belly-up. In response to his hand of friendship, the Iranian regime rigged its election, tortured and murdered its internal opponents and turned even more extreme.
As for Israel, Netanyahu faced down Obama over his attempt to define Jewish houses in east Jerusalem as “settlements” and to freeze construction there, too. Having united virtually all of Israel against him (only four per cent of Israelis think Obama is pro-Israel) the US President grovelled to the Arabs for a sign of some move towards peace with Israel. They refused.
He begged the Iranians to “engage” with him. In response, they have now appointed as defence minister Ahmad Vahidi, a terrorist wanted for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires and who was also involved in the 2006 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex which killed 19 American soldiers. Meanwhile, Iran continues to develop the nuclear capability which threatens not just Israel but America and Europe.
In any event, Obama has already said that he will get tough with Iran if it remains intransigent by this autumn. So how could the settlement issue have been the clincher? And what does “getting tough” mean? Why, sanctions. The Iranians must be quaking in their boots. We can all write the script for that debacle already. Talk about shutting the stable door after the centrifuges have bolted. And then what? When Plan B fails, what is Obama’s Plan C? I think we know. It’s called “living with a nuclear Iran” or: the surrender of the West.
What Obama may yet come to realise is that he might need Israel to save him from electoral meltdown at home. With his ratings plummeting due to his domestic policies, he leads a country that, unlike Britain and mainland Europe, understands the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear bomb. The failure to stop Iran going nuclear on his watch could destroy his presidency. We may find, therefore, that the attitude towards Israel of the most hostile President in living memory soon undergoes rapid reprogramming.
President Obama is now between a rock and a hard place. An Israeli strike on Iran would utterly destroy his strategy and possibly draw the US willy-nilly into a wider war. On the other hand, it could just be that to save his political skin at home Obama will find himself sweating upon Israel taking out the Iranian nuclear threat. He thus faces a possible choice between war against Iran and a mortal threat to his presidency.
Such is the outcome of denial, the river that runs through the Oval Office.
The K Street Tax Cheat Who's Lobbying to Save Obamacare: "Tom Daschle is the human toe fungus of Washington -- a persistent infection that may disappear from time to time, but always comes back with a vengeance. Despite abandoning his secretary of health and human services nomination in disgrace in February 2009, the K Street tax cheat who evaded IRS rules for years remains a top White House confidante and policy strategist. In fact, he's leading the drive to save Obamacare. He climbed up from under the bus back into the Oval Office and onto the sets of "Meet the Press" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" to offer his rescue plan. It's Daschle's idea to morph the unpopular "public option" into nonprofit "health care co-ops" that will almost certainly receive government funding, support and tax advantages over private insurers. Old colleagues on both sides of the Senate aisle are now promoting his alternative. Last week, he penned a Do It for Teddy Kennedy pep rally op-ed in The Wall Street Journal urging Democrats to go it alone and depend on the backroom Senate reconciliation process if necessary to get a deal done."
Listening to a liar: "The most important thing about what anyone says are not the words themselves but the credibility of the person who says them. The words of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff were apparently quite convincing to many people who were regarded as knowledgeable and sophisticated. If you go by words, you can be led into anything. No doubt millions of people will be listening to the words of President Barack Obama Wednesday night when he makes a televised address to a joint session of Congress on his medical care plans.”
Federal program rejects 'card check' effort: "While the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress press to allow private-sector workers to unionize by signing authorization cards instead of voting by secret ballot, the government's legal-aid program for the poor has declared the so-called "card check" strategy "unreliable" and rejected an effort by some of its own workers to organize that way. The Legal Services Corp., a congressionally chartered, taxpayer-funded entity, even hired a law firm to rebuff the efforts of workers in its oversight offices to gain union representation by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), forcing the workers to conduct a vote by secret ballot later this week. The LSC's decision has prompted concerns on Capitol Hill that the government may be trying to impose a solution on private businesses that its own agencies and panels are reluctant to follow."
China raises the money-printing alarm: “A hugely important story from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph that China is alarmed by U.S. money-printing has helped drive the dollar price of gold over $1,000, at least temporarily, and drive down the exchange rate of the greenback. Other commodities like oil and copper have also rallied today. At a conference in Lake Como, Italy, a leading Chinese economic spokesman — Cheng Siwei — criticized Ben Bernanke’s loose monetary policy. ‘If they keep printing money to buy bonds it will lead to inflation,’ said Cheng, ‘and after a year or two the dollar will fall hard.’ Cheng went on to say that China was diversifying its roughly $700 billion of U.S. foreign-exchange reserves into gold.”
The jobless recovery: "The jobless-recovery theme re-emerged on Friday with the arrival of a disappointing employment report. The daunting number was the unemployment rate, which jumped from 9.4 percent in July to 9.7 percent in August. This is a big-versus-small-business issue. Sort of the haves versus the have-nots. The large companies are gradually recovering as a result of major cost-cutting, inventory reduction, and a lean-and-mean return to profitability and high productivity. So the payroll survey registered a 216,000 job loss, the smallest drop in over a year. However, the household survey, which picks up small, owner-operated, LLC/S-Corp-type businesses, registered a devastating 392,000 job loss, which follows losses of 155,000 and 374,000 in the prior two months. This is the source of the unemployment-rate jump, as 466,000 newly unemployed were scored in the report. So while the big companies are getting healthier, the smaller firms are being left in the dust. Unfortunately, small businesses provide most of the new job creation in the United States.”
Leftists are not interested in seeing the reasons behind poverty: "A member of my family, of known collectivist leanings, once told me: ‘Do you think that I am satisfied that so many people stay worldwide in the most utter poverty? Don’t you think that I’m against raising their living standard?’ To which I replied: ‘Well, then you have to tell me why do you insist in adhering to political and economic ideologies that originate and sustain the economic and social stagnation that condemns so many people to live as paupers.’ She mumbled that she believed what collectivists promised and added that hunger and despair is the result of greedy capitalists grabbing all of the world’s wealth while socialism, if it were only allowed to act, could easily remedy this situation.”
UN may up ante in nuclear dispute with Iran: “Iran veered closer toward the possibility of being slapped with tough new international sanctions Monday after its president refused to stop enriching uranium and the U.N. nuclear watchdog warned of a ’stalemate’ with the country. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran is ready to talk with world powers about unspecified ‘global concerns’ — but he insisted his government will neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights.”
The burden of liberty: "Freedom means not only choice but also responsibility. Free men and women have to face up to the fact that it is up to them to do the right thing, to find out what that is and to make the effort to do it. The zillions of small and large decisions made by them all require some attention, although because people can cultivate habits — like the habit of driving carefully, of working out, or of being polite to neighbors and such — it isn’t always terribly burdensome to have to choose. They can, with admitted initial difficulty, commit themselves to a wise and prudent course and then stick to it and that way not need to handle every choice anew. Still, the very prospect of being able to go wrong with how one acts can be frightening, so many folks escape into mindless routines or accept other people’s rule over them.”
GOP all talk: "We must not wait for the mis-named ‘Republican’ party to get its act together. It never will. If they sold us out in good times, welshing on their promises after 1994, growing the power and scope of government, not only refusing to reign in the ATF and the FBI BUT GROWING THEIR POWER AND LENGTHENING THEIR LEASHES, what may we expect for them in bad times but ineffectual excuses? The Tea Parties did not come from the GOP, as much as the Dems might wish to imagine it. People are flooding into the streets and the public meetings precisely because they have concluded that the ’system,’ as they have understood it, no longer protects them. Thus, they will make their own arrangements.”
Is America ready to admit defeat in its 40-year War on Drugs?: “Is the ‘war on drugs’ ending? The Argentinian ruling does not stand alone. Across Latin America and Mexico, there is a wave of drug law reform which constitutes a stark rebuff to the United States as it prepares to mark the 40th anniversary of a conflict officially declared by President Richard Nixon and fronted by his wife, Pat, in 1969. That ‘war’ has incarcerated an average of a million US citizens a year, as every stratum of American society demonstrates its insatiable need to get high. And it has also engulfed not only America, but the Americas.”
Governments are the real monopolists: "Federal and state antitrust laws generally forbid any ‘monopolization’ of commerce. Yet, ironically, the City of Vero Beach, Florida (where I live) has maintained a State authorized unregulated electric utility monopoly for decades. And like all government protected monopolies, the City’s electric utility rates (prices) to its captive customers have proven to be far higher than those charged by its nearest potential competitor. Florida Power and Light, which serves adjacent geographic areas (and could serve Vero Beach) charges rates that are dramatically lower than Vero Beach Utilities. For example, FPL’s current total price including tax is $114.06 per 1,000 kwh while Vero Electric charges County customers $180.69 per 1,000 kwh, an incredible 58% more. Thus someone with an electric bill from the Vero Beach Utility monopoly for, say, $400 per month would pay only $253 to FPL for the very same product.”
Labor’s day is over: "U.S. labor union leaders see themselves as champions of the American worker, but their movement has become largely irrelevant to most workers enjoying this Labor Day holiday. For the small and declining share of Americans who still work in unionized industries, the movement has proven to be a job killer. From their zenith in the 1950s, labor unions have witnessed a relentless decline among non-governmental workers. Fifty years ago, about one in three Americans working in the private sector belonged to a labor union. Since then, ‘union density’ in the private sector has declined steadily to less than 8 percent today. Labor leaders blame the decline on union-busting corporations, years of hostile Republican rule in Washington, and a flood of imports from low-wage countries such as China, but the main reason behind the decline of private sector labor unions in recent decades is the anti-competitive nature of unions themselves.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:02 AM