State of the Union

How to Defeat the Islamic State

The decisions that determined the fate of the great nations and empires that failed to survive the 20th century are well known. For the Kaiser’s Germany, it was the “blank cheque” to Austria after Sarajevo. For Great Britain, the 1939 war guarantee to Poland. For the Third Reich, it was the June 1941 invasion of Russia. For the Empire of the Sun, the decision to attack Pearl Harbor. And for the Soviet Empire, it was the invasion of Afghanistan.

As for the United States, historians may one day concur with the late Gen. Bill Odom. For the lone superpower to survive that century, the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was the most disastrous blunder in its history. George W. Bush held out the promise of a peaceful Mesopotamian democracy as a magnet for all Arab nations. What we produced is a broken land awash in blood, a country severed by tribe and faith: a Kurdish north, Shia south and a Sunni west controlled by the savages of an “Islamic State” even al-Qaeda hates and fears.

In Syria, where the United States has been aiding rebels to bring down Bashar Assad, that Islamic State now controls the northern and eastern half of the country. In Libya, where we delivered the air and missile strikes to smash Col. Gadhafi’s forces, Islamist fanatics have gained the upper hand in the civil war for control of that country. In all three countries, the United States, which claimed to be battling dictatorship to bring democracy, helped to create the power vacuum these Islamists have moved to fill.

We are the enablers of the Islamic State.

How grave is the threat? ISIS is a “direct threat to our homeland” says Rep. Peter King. “An existential threat” echoes Sen. Lindsey Graham, “I think of an American city in flames.” The Islamic State “is beyond anything we’ve seen,” says Sec. Chuck Hagel, an “imminent threat to every interest we have.” America is “in the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in,” says Sen. Jim Inhofe, “They’re crazy out there. And they are rapidly developing a method to blow up a major U.S. city.”

Undeniably, these are bloodthirsty religious fanatics who revel in beheadings and crucifixions and have exhibited battlefield bravery and skill. But are 17,000 jihadi fighters in landlocked regions of Iraq and Syria really an imminent and mortal threat to an America with thousands of nuclear weapons and tens of thousands of missiles and bombs and the means to deliver them?

How grave is this crisis? Consider the correlation of forces. Who are the vocal and visible friends and fighting allies of ISIS? They are nonexistent. Read More…

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Bias and Recusal in Ferguson’s Investigation

Among the demands of the “protesters” in Ferguson is that the investigation and prosecution of police officer Darren Wilson be taken away from St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. McCulloch is biased, it is said. How so? In 1964, his father, a St. Louis police officer, was shot to death by an African-American. Moreover, McCulloch comes from a family of cops. He wanted to be a police officer himself, but when cancer cost him a leg as a kid, he became a prosecutor.

Yet, in 23 years, McCulloch has convicted many cops of many crimes, and has said that if Gov. Jay Nixon orders him off this case, he will comply. Meanwhile, he is moving ahead with the grand jury. As for Gov. Nixon, he revealed his closed mind by demanding the “vigorous prosecution” of a cop who has not even been charged and by calling repeatedly for “justice for [Brown's] family” but not Wilson’s.

What has been going on for two weeks now in Ferguson, with the ceaseless vilification of Darren Wilson and the clamor to arrest him, is anti-American. It is a mob howl for summary judgment, when this case cries out, not for a rush to judgment, but for a long tedious search for the whole truth of what happened that tragic day.

For conflicting stories have emerged. The initial version was uncomplicated. On August 9, around noon, Brown and a companion were walking in the street and blocking traffic when ordered by Wilson to move onto the sidewalk. Brown balked, a scuffle ensued. Wilson pulled out his gun and shot him six times, leaving Brown dead in the street. Open and shut. A white cop, sassed by a black kid, goes berserk and empties his gun.

Lately, however, another version has emerged.

Fifteen minutes before the shooting, Brown was caught on videotape manhandling and menacing a clerk at a convenience store he was robbing of a $44 box of cigars. A woman, in contact with Wilson, called a radio station to say that Brown and Wilson fought in the patrol car and Brown had gone for the officer’s gun, which went off. When Brown backed away, Wilson pointed his gun and told him to freeze. Brown held up his hands, then charged. Wilson then shot the 6’4,” 292-pound Brown six times, with the last bullet entering the skull. St. Louis County police then leaked that Wilson had been beaten “severely” in the face and suffered the fracture of an eye socket. Brown’s companion, Dorian Johnson, says Brown was running away when Wilson began to fire. But, according to the autopsies, all of the bullets hit Brown in the front. ABC now reports that Dorian Johnson has previously been charged with filing a false police report.

If the first version is true, Wilson is guilty. If the second is true, Brown committed two felonies before being shot, and Darren Wilson fired his weapon in defense of his life.  Read More…

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In Ferguson, Peace and Order First

“America is on trial,” said Rev. Al Sharpton from the pulpit of Greater St. Mark’s Family Church in Ferguson, Missouri. At issue, the shooting death of Michael Brown, Saturday a week ago, on the main street of that city of 22,000, a neighbor community to Jennings, where this writer lived in the mid-1960s.

Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, was shot multiple times by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer with an unblemished record in six years on the force in Jennings and Ferguson. From his patrol car, Wilson ordered Brown out of the street where he was walking and blocking traffic. A fight followed. Wilson appears to have been punched in the face. One police report says that there was a struggle for the officer’s gun. According to Brown’s companion, however, after he was first shot, he threw up his hands and yelled, “Don’t shoot. I surrender.” Then Wilson gunned him down. According to one of three autopsies, Brown was shot six times, once in the top of the head, which may suggest he was charging the officer when gunned down. A second St. Louis County autopsy found marijuana in Brown’s body.

What we are witnessing in Ferguson today, and nationally, is not only a collision of reported facts, but also a clash of visions about America. In Sharpton’s vision, America is a country where white racist cops harass, assault, and gun down young black males, and Brown’s execution is the latest outrage. Many media echo his indictment and accent the facts that support this preconceived narrative. Disrupting this portrait and particularly outrageous to Sharpton was the release by the Ferguson police chief of a videotape of Brown stealing a $44 box of cigars, 15 minutes before he was shot dead, and manhandling and menacing the store clerk trying to stop him. Brown was 6’4″ and 292 pounds.

Sharpton contends that officer Wilson did not know of the “shoplifting” that was irrelevant to the shooting, and that release of the tape was a moral atrocity to smear the character of the dead teenager. But while that tape may be unrelated to the shooting, it does testify to the mindset of Michael Brown that morning and to his respect for the rule of law. Ought we not know that?

Then there is the rival vision of America rooted in a separate reality. It is that in America today, police, like Darren Wilson, are the first responders and last line of defense, willing to risk their lives battling the criminal elements that threaten us and our free society. Read More…

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Congress Must Vote Before Iraq War III

gary718 / shutterstock

Last week, we were told there were 40,000 Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain facing starvation if they remained there, and slaughter by ISIS if they came down. But a team of Marines and Special Forces that helicoptered in has reported back that, with a corridor off the mountain opened up by U.S. air strikes, the humanitarian crisis is over. The few thousand who remain can be airdropped food and water. The rest can be brought out. The emergency over, President Obama should think long and hard about launching a new air war in Iraq or Syria. For Iraq War III holds the promise of becoming another Middle East debacle, and perhaps the worst yet.

America would be entering this war utterly divided. We are not even agreed on who the enemies are. Hillary Clinton thinks we should be tougher on Iran and that Obama blundered by not aiding the Syrian rebels when they first rose up to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Veteran diplomats Ryan Crocker, William Luers, and Thomas Pickering argue that Assad is not the real enemy. The Islamic State is, and we should consider a ceasefire between the Free Syrian Army and Assad.

“It makes no sense for the West to support a war against Assad as well as a war against the Islamic State,” they write, “Assad is evil but … he is certainly the lesser evil.” Crocker-Luers-Pickering also argue that the crisis calls for the United States to accept the nuclear deal with Iran that was on the table in July and work with Tehran against ISIS. Iranians and Americans are already rushing weapons to the Kurds, who have sustained a string of defeats at the hands of the Islamic State. ”A new strategic relationship between the United States and Iran may seem impossible and risky,” the diplomats write, “yet it is also necessary and in the interests of both. While an alliance is out of the question, mutually informed parallel action is necessary.”

If we could work with the monster Stalin to defeat Hitler, is colluding with the Ayatollah beyond the pale?

Other arguments shout out against a new American war. How could we win such a war without the U.S. ground troops Obama pledged never to send, and the American people do not want sent? Air power may keep ISIS from overrunning Irbil and Baghdad, but carrier-based air cannot reconquer the vast territory the Islamic State has occupied in Iraq. Nor can it defeat ISIS in Syria.

If Obama did launch an air war on ISIS in Syria, our de facto ally and the principal beneficiary of those strikes would be the same Syrian regime that Obama and John Kerry wanted to bomb a year ago, until the American people told them no and Congress refused to vote them the authority. For such reasons, the demand of Sens. Tim Kaine and Rand Paul—that before Obama takes us back to war in Iraq, or into a new war in Syria, Congress must debate and authorize this war—is a constitutional and political imperative.

The questions Congress needs to answer are obvious and numerous. Read More…

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What Kind of Conservatives Are the Warhawks?

Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

U.S. air strikes since Friday have opened a corridor through which tens of thousands of Yazidis, trapped and starving on a mountain in Iraq, have escaped to safety in Kurdistan.

The Kurds, whose peshmerga fighters were sent reeling by the Islamic State last week, bolstered now by the arrival of U.S. air power, recaptured two towns. But the peshmerga have apparently lost the strategically important town of Jalawla, 20 miles from Iran, the furthest east that ISIS forces have penetrated.

Last week’s gains by the Islamic State caused Republican hawks to flock to the Sunday talk shows. ”ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America,” said Rep. Peter King, John McCain called for bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But using air power to prevent ISIS from seizing the Kurdish capital of Irbil and Baghdad is not enough, said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “We need to go on offense,” he told FOX News, “There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power.”

The Islamic State is “an existential threat” to our homeland, Graham added, asking, “do we really want to let America be attacked?” Came then this warning from Sen. Graham: ”If he [Obama] does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they’re coming here. This is not just about Baghdad, not just about Syria. It is about our homeland.”

“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,” said Graham, “Mr. President … what is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland?” This semi-hysterical talk of an “existential threat” to the “homeland,” and the dread specter of “an American city in flames” is vintage war party, designed to panic us into launching a new war.

But before allowing these “Cassandras” to stampede us back into the civil-sectarian Middle East wars that resulted from our previous interventions, let us inspect more closely what they are saying. If ISIS’ gains are truly an “existential threat” to the republic and our cities are about to “go up in flames,” why did these Republican hawks not demand that President Obama call back Congress from its five-week vacation to vote to authorize a new war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

After all, King, McCain, and Graham belong to a party that is suing the president for usurping Congressional powers. Yet, they are also demanding that Obama start bombing nations he has no authority to bomb, as ISIS has not attacked us. King, McCain and Graham want Obama to play imperial president and launch a preemptive war that their own Congress has not authorized. What kind of constitutionalists, what kind of conservatives are these? Read More…

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Why the Democratic West Dreads Diversity

At the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote that our world may be at the “end of history” where “Western liberal democracy” becomes “the final form of human government.” A quarter century on, such optimism seems naive.

Consider the United States, the paragon of liberal democracy. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that only 14 percent of the people approve of Congress and only 19 percent approve of the GOP. Seventy-one percent believe America is headed in the wrong direction. Nor is this the exceptional crisis of a particular presidency.

JFK was assassinated. LBJ was broken by race riots and anti-war demonstrations. Richard Nixon, facing impeachment, resigned. Gerald Ford was rejected by the electorate. Ronald Reagan was highly successful—like Nixon, he won in a 49-state landslide after his first term—but during the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987 there was a real threat of a second impeachment. And Bill Clinton was impeached.

Our democracy seems to be at war with itself. Now there is talk of impeaching Obama. It will become a clamor should he grant executive amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants. Political science has long described what seems to be happening.

From the tribal leader comes the monarch, whose reign gives way to an aristocracy that produces a middle class that creates a republic, the degenerative form of which is that pure democracy of which John Adams wrote: ”Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” Then comes the strong man again.

Is that our future? Is Western democracy approaching the end of its tether, with the seeming success of authoritarian capitalism in China and Russia? Recent history provides us with examples.

World War I, begun 100 years ago, brought down many of the reigning monarchs of Europe. The caliph of the Ottoman Empire was sent packing by Kemal Ataturk. Czar Nicholas II was murdered on the orders of the usurper Vladimir Lenin.

Fighting off a Bolshevik invasion, Marshal Pilsudski rose to power in Poland. Admiral Miklos Horthy ran the communists out of Budapest and took the helm. Mussolini led the 1922 March on Rome. Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 failed, but his party utilized democracy’s institutions to seize power and murder democracy. Out of the Spanish Civil War came the dictatorship of Gen. Franco. And so it went.

Vladimir Putin may be the most reviled European leader among Western elites today, but he is more popular in his own country than any other Western ruler, with 80 percent approval, for standing up for Russia and Russians everywhere. Polls in France say that, were elections held today, Marine Le Pen would replace Francois Hollande in the Elysee Palace.

Eurocrats bewail what is happening, but, inhibited by secularist ideology, fail to understand it. They believe in economism, rule by scholarly global elites, and recoil at the resurgence of nationalism and populism. They do not understand people of the heart because they do not understand human nature. Read More…

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Remember What Nixon Accomplished Before Watergate

Nixon addresses the nation, April 29, 1974.

It has been a summer of remembrance.

The centennial of the Great War that began with the Guns of August 1914. The 75th anniversary of the Danzig crisis that led to Hitler’s invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The 70th anniversary of D-Day. In America, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And this week marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Once again, aging liberals will walk the children through the tale of that triumph of American democracy when they helped to save our republic from the greatest menace to the Constitution in all of history. Missing from the retelling will be the astonishing achievements of that most maligned of statesmen in the 20th century. And as this writer was at Nixon’s side for more than eight years before that August day in 1974, let me recount a few.

When Nixon took the oath in January 1969, more than 500,000 U.S. soldiers were in Vietnam or on the way, and U.S. casualties were running at 200 to 300 American dead every week. Liberalism’s best and brightest had marched us into an Asian war they could not win or end. Yet by the end of Nixon’s first term, all U.S. forces and POWs were home or on the way, and every provincial capital was in Saigon’s hands. Nixon had promised to end the war with honor. He had done so. Moreover, he had negotiated with Moscow the greatest arms control treaty since the Washington Naval Agreement of 1921-22: SALT I, setting limits on long-range ballistic missiles, and the ABM Treaty.

Nixon had gone to China and brought that enormous nation, then in the madness of its Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, out of its angry isolation. He would rescue Israel in the Yom Kippur War at her moment of maximum peril, with a massive U.S. airlift and warning to the Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev not to intervene as Moscow appeared about to do. At that war’s end, Nixon would pull Egypt out of the Soviet Bloc into America’s orbit, where Anwar Sadat would later negotiate a peace with Menachem Begin. Golda Meir called Richard Nixon the best friend Israel ever had.

Though he took office with both houses of Congress against him and the media loathing him, Nixon ended the draft as he had promised, created the successful all-volunteer Army, and extended the vote to all 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old Americans. When he took office, only 10 percent of Southern schools were desegregated. When Nixon left, the figure was 70 percent. Read More…

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Why We Must Stop Obama’s Amnesty

According to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Obama intends “to act broadly and generously” on behalf of the “millions and millions” of illegal immigrants in the United States today. Gutierrez, who meets often with the president, is implying that Obama, before Labor Day and by executive order, will grant de facto amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. They will be granted work permits and permission to stay. With his pen and his phone, Obama will do what Congress has refused to do.

There is a precedent. Obama has already issued one executive order deferring the deportation of “dreamers,” children brought into the United States illegally by their parents before 2007.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is on to what is afoot. “We must prevent the president’s massive amnesty from going forward,” he says, and urges legislation to block an executive amnesty. But this divided Congress is not going to pass any such law. Nor would Obama sign it. Still, would Obama dare deliberately ignite a nationwide firestorm by declaring an executive amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants?

Why not? Consider the risks—and the potential rewards. On the downside, an Obama amnesty would polarize the country, imperil red-state Democrats and cause even allies to conclude he had become a rogue president who adheres to the Constitution and rule of law only so far as they comport with his agenda. And what is his agenda? As he has said: to transform America.

Obama wants history to rank him among the transformational presidents like Lincoln, FDR and Reagan. And what better way to transform America than to ensure her evolution from a Western and predominantly Christian country into that multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, borderless land Teddy Roosevelt inveighed against as nothing but a “polyglot boarding house for the world”? Read More…

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Can a GOP Majority Handle Foreign Policy?

Sen. Bob Corker. Photo U.S. Embassy, Moldova
Sen. Bob Corker. Photo U.S. Embassy, Moldova

With the party united, the odds are now at least even that the GOP will not only hold the House but also capture the Senate in November. But before traditional conservatives cheer that prospect, they might take a closer look at the foreign policy that a Republican Senate would seek to impose upon the nation.

Specifically, they should spend time reading S. 2277, the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” introduced by Sen. Bob Corker on May 1, and endorsed by half of the Senate’s GOP caucus. As ranking Republican on the foreign relations committee, Corker is in line to become chairman, should the GOP take the Senate. That makes this proposal a gravely serious matter.

Corker’s bill would declare Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine “major non-NATO allies” of the United States, move NATO forces into Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, accelerate the building of an ABM system in Eastern Europe, and authorize U.S. intelligence and military aid for Ukraine’s army in the Donbass war with Russian-backed separatists. U.S. aid would include antitank and antiaircraft weapons.

S. 2277 would direct the secretary of state to intensify efforts to strengthen democratic institutions inside the Russian Federation, e.g., subvert Vladimir Putin’s government, looking toward regime change. If Putin has not vacated Crimea and terminated support for Ukraine’s separatist rebels within seven days of passage of the Corker Ultimatum, sweeping sanctions would be imposed on Russian officials, banks and energy companies, including Gazprom. Economic relations between us would be virtually severed.

In short, this is an ultimatum to Russia that she faces a new Cold War if she does not get out of Ukraine and Crimea, and it is a U.S. declaration that we will now regard three more former Soviet republics—Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia—as allies.

A small, weak country might accept this dictation from a superpower. But Russia, where anti-Americanism is virulent and rampant and the Russian people support Putin’s actions in Ukraine, would want him to tell the Americans just what to do with their ultimatum. And how Russia would respond is not difficult to predict.

Our demand that she get out of Crimea and leave her two-century-old naval base at Sevastopol in the custody of President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev and his U.S. allies, would be laughed off. Putin would tell us that Crimea has voted to return to Russia. It’s ours, and we’re going to keep it. Now deal with it.

To make good on our latest red line, we would have to start shipping weapons to Kiev, in which case Russia, with superior forces closer, would likely move preemptively into East Ukraine. What would our NATO allies do then?

The U.S. directive to the State Department to work with NGOs in Russia, blatant intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, would be answered with a general expulsion of these agencies from Moscow. We would not sit still for this kind of open subversion in the United States. What makes us think they would? Read More…

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Ukraine Has Never Been Worth War

In 1933, the Holodomor was playing out in Ukraine. After the “kulaks,” the independent farmers, had been liquidated in the forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture, a genocidal famine was imposed on Ukraine through seizure of her food production. Estimates of the dead range from two to nine million souls. Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who called reports of the famine “malignant propaganda,” won a Pulitzer for his mendacity. In November 1933, during the Holodomor, the greatest liberal of them all, FDR, invited Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov to receive official U.S. recognition of his master Stalin’s murderous regime.

On August 1, 1991, just four months before Ukraine declared its independence of Russia, George H. W. Bush warned Kiev’s legislature: ”Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.” In short, Ukraine’s independence was never part of America’s agenda. From 1933 to 1991, it was never a U.S. vital interest. Bush I was against it.

When then did this issue of whose flag flies over Donetsk or Crimea become so crucial that we would arm Ukrainians to fight Russian-backed rebels and consider giving a NATO war guarantee to Kiev, potentially bringing us to war with a nuclear-armed Russia? From FDR on, U.S. presidents have felt that America could not remain isolated from the rulers of the world’s largest nation.

Ike invited Khrushchev to tour the USA after he had drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. After Khrushchev put missiles in Cuba, JFK was soon calling for a new detente at American University. Within weeks of Warsaw Pact armies crushing the Prague Spring in August 1968, LBJ was seeking a summit with Premier Alexei Kosygin. After excoriating Moscow for the downing of KAL 007 in 1983, that old Cold Warrior Ronald Reagan was fishing for a summit meeting.

The point: Every president from FDR through George H.W. Bush, even after collisions with Moscow far more serious than this clash over Ukraine, sought to re-engage the men in the Kremlin. Whatever we thought of the Soviet dictators who blockaded Berlin, enslaved Eastern Europe, put rockets in Cuba and armed Arabs to attack Israel, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 1 all sought to engage Russia’s rulers.

Avoidance of a catastrophic war demanded engagement.

How then can we explain the clamor of today’s U.S. foreign policy elite to confront, isolate, and cripple Russia, and make of Putin a moral and political leper with whom honorable statesmen can never deal? What has Putin done to rival the forced famine in Ukraine that starved to death millions, the slaughter of the Hungarian rebels or the Warsaw Pact’s crushing of Czechoslovakia? Read More…

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