Though Barack Obama is widely regarded as a weak president, is the new world disorder really all his fault?
Listening to the more vocal voices of the GOP one might think so.
According to Sen. Lindsey Graham, Vladimir Putin’s move into Crimea “started with Benghazi.” ”When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression,” said Graham. Putin “came to the conclusion after Benghazi, Syria, Egypt” that Barack Obama is “a weak indecisive leader.”
Also blaming Obama for Crimea, John McCain got cheers at AIPAC by charging, “This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” This “blatant act” of aggression “cannot stand,” said McCain. How McCain plans to force Putin to cough up Crimea was left unexplained.
Now Marco Rubio seems to be auditioning to replace the retired Joe Lieberman as third amigo. His CPAC speech is described by the L.A. Times:
[Rubio] said that China is threatening to take parts of the South China Sea … a nuclear North Korea is testing missiles, Venezuela is slaughtering protesters, and Cuba remains an oppressive dictatorship. He added that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and regional hegemony and Russia is attempting to ‘reconstitute’ the former Soviet Union.
What all these countries have in common, said Rubio, is “totalitarian governments.” Rubio proposes a U.S. foreign policy of leading the world to “stand up to the spread of totalitarianism.”
Not quite as ambitious as George W. Bush’s “ending tyranny in our world,” but it will do.
Where to begin. Read More…
In assessing the motives and actions of Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton compared them to Adolf Hitler’s. Almost always a mistake. After 12 years in power, Hitler was dead, having slaughtered millions and conquered Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. And Putin? After 13 years in power, and facing a crisis in Ukraine, he directed his soldiers in the Crimea to take control of the small peninsula where Russia has berthed its Black Sea fleet since Napoleon. To the Wall Street Journal this is a “blitzkrieg.”
But as of now, this is a less bloody affair than Andrew Jackson’s acquisition of our Florida peninsula. In 1818, Gen. Jackson was shooting Indians, putting the Spanish on boats to Cuba and hanging Brits. And we Americans loved it.
Still, there are parallels between what motivates Putin, a Russian nationalist, and what motivated the Austrian corporal. Hitler’s war began in blazing resentment at what was done to Germany after Nov. 11, 1918. The Kaiser’s armies had defeated the Russian Empire, and the Italians at Caporetto, and fought the Western Allies to a stand still in France, until two million Americans turned the tide in 1918. When Berlin accepted an armistice on President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, not a single Allied soldier stood on German soil.
But, at Paris, the Allies proceeded to tear a disarmed Germany apart. The whole German Empire was confiscated. Eupen and Malmedy were carved out of Germany and given to Belgium. Alsace-Lorraine was taken by France. South Tyrol was severed from Austria and given to Italy. A new Czechoslovakia was given custody of 3.25 million Sudeten Germans. The German port of Danzig was handed over to the new Poland, which was also given an 80-mile wide strip cut out of Germany from Silesia to the sea, slicing her in two. The Germans were told they could not form an economic union with Austria, could not have an army of more than 100,000 soldiers, and could not put soldiers west of the Rhine, in their own country. Perhaps this Carthaginian peace was understandable given the Allied losses. It was also madness if the Allies wanted an enduring peace. Read More…
With Vladimir Putin’s dispatch of Russian troops into Crimea, our war hawks are breathing fire. Russophobia is rampant and the op-ed pages are ablaze here. Barack Obama should tune them out, and reflect on how Cold War presidents dealt with far graver clashes with Moscow.
When Red Army tank divisions crushed the Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956, killing 50,000, Eisenhower did not lift a finger. When Khrushchev built the Berlin Wall, JFK went to Berlin and gave a speech. When Warsaw Pact troops crushed the Prague Spring in 1968, LBJ did nothing. When, Moscow ordered Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski to smash Solidarity, Ronald Reagan refused to put Warsaw in default. These presidents saw no vital U.S. interest imperiled in these Soviet actions, however brutal. They sensed that time was on our side in the Cold War. And history has proven them right.
What is the U.S. vital interest in Crimea? Zero. From Catherine the Great to Khrushchev, the peninsula belonged to Russia. The people of Crimea are 60 percent ethnic Russians. And should Crimea vote to secede from Ukraine, upon what moral ground would we stand to deny them the right, when we bombed Serbia for 78 days to bring about the secession of Kosovo? Across Europe, nations have been breaking apart since the end of the Cold War. Out of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia came 24 nations. Scotland is voting on secession this year. Catalonia may be next.
Yet, today, we have the Wall Street Journal describing Russia’s sending of soldiers to occupy airfields in Ukraine as a “blitzkrieg” that “brings the threat of war to the heart of Europe,” though Crimea is east even of what we used to call Eastern Europe. The Journal wants the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush sent to the Eastern Mediterranean and warships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet sent into the Black Sea. But why? We have no alliance that mandates our fighting Russia over Crimea. We have no vital interest there. Why send a flotilla other than to act tough, escalate the crisis and risk a clash? Read More…
Whether saber rattling or not, word is out that the White House is “rethinking its options” on intervening in the Syrian war. The collapse of John Kerry’s Geneva II talks between the rebels and regime, the lengthening casualty lists from barrel-bomb attacks, and a death toll approaching 150,000, are apparently causing second thoughts. All the usual suspects are prodding Obama to plunge in, if not with troops, at least with a no-fly zone to prevent Bashar al-Assad from using his air power.
Our frustration is understandable. Yet it does not change the reality. This is not America’s war. Never was. As Obama said, it is “somebody else’s civil war.”
Still, the case against intervention needs to be restated. First and foremost, Obama has no authority to go to war in Syria, for Congress has never voted to authorize such a war. An unprovoked attack on Syria would be an impeachable act. Last August, the American people were almost unanimously opposed to intervention. The firestorm they created was why Congress ran away from the Obama-Kerry plan for missile strikes. So if Obama has no authority to attack Syria, and America does not want a war, why, after Iraq and Afghanistan, would Obama divide his nation and plunge his country into that civil war?
What are the arguments for intervention? Same old, same old. America has a moral obligation to end the barbarism. At the time of Rwanda we said, “Never again!” Yet it is happening again. And we have a “Responsibility to Protect” Syrians from a dictator slaughtering his own people. But while what is happening in Syria is horrible, all Middle East ethnic-civil-sectarian wars tend to unfold this way. And if there is a “moral” obligation to intervene, why does it not apply to Israel and Turkey, Syria’s nearest neighbors? Why does that moral duty not apply to the European Union, upon whose doorstep Syria sits? Why is it America’s moral obligation, 5,000 miles away? It is not. The Turks, Israelis, EU and Gulf Arabs who hate Assad would simply like for us to come and fight their war for them.
The Washington Post says we must address not only the moral “nightmare,” but also the “growing threat … to vital U.S. interests.” Exactly what “vital interests” is the Post talking about? Syria has been ruled by the Assads for 40 years. And how have our vital interests been imperiled? And if our vital interests are imperiled, how much more so are those of Israel and Turkey? Yet neither has chosen to invest the blood of their sons in bringing Assad down.
If we have an enemy in this fight, it is al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, all of which are terrorist and implacably anti-American. And who is keeping these enemies of ours out of Damascus? Assad, Hezbollah, Iran and our old friend Vladimir Putin. And who has been supplying the terrorists? Our friends in the Gulf, with weapons funneled through Turkey, our NATO ally. Read More…
“Religious Right Cheers a Bill Allowing Refusal to Serve Gays.” Thus did the New York Times‘ headline, leaving no doubt as to who the black hats are, describe the proposed Arizona law to permit businesses, on religious grounds, to deny service to same-sex couples. Examples of intolerance provided by the Times:
In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. In Washington State, a florist would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. And in Colorado, a baker refused to make a cake for a party celebrating the wedding of two men.
The question Gov. Jan Brewer faces?
Should Christians, Muslims, Mormons who refuse, on religious grounds, to serve same-sex couples—that photographer, that florist, that baker, for example—be treated as criminals? Or should Arizona leave them alone?
“Religious freedom,” said Daniel Mach of the ACLU to the Times, is “not a blank check to … impose our faith on our neighbors.” True. But who is imposing whose beliefs here? The baker who says he’s not making your wedding cake? Or those who want Arizona law to declare that either he provides that wedding cake and those flowers for that same-sex ceremony, or we see to it that he is arrested, prosecuted and put out of business? Who is imposing his views and values here?
What we are seeing in Arizona in microcosm is what we have witnessed in America for half a century: the growing intolerance of those who preach tolerance and the corruption of the concept of civil rights.
We have seen the progression before. In 1954, the Supreme Court declared that segregation in public schools was wrong and every black child must be allowed to attend his or her neighborhood school. By 1968, the court was demanding that white children be forcibly bussed across entire cities to insure an arbitrary racial balance. Under the civil rights acts of the 1960s, businesses were told that in hiring, promotion, pay, and benefits, black and white, men and women must be treated alike. Equality of opportunity.
But, soon, that was no longer enough. We needed equality of result. Corporations were ordered to maintain extensive records of the race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preferences of their entire work force to prove they were not guilty of discrimination. And if your work force is insufficiently diverse today, you are a citizen under suspicion in a country we used to call the Land of the Free. Consider how far we have come.
Virtually all decisions to hire, fire, promote or punish employees, to oversee the sale and rental of housing, to ensure that all minorities have access to all restaurants, hotels and motels, are under the jurisdiction of these minions who are right out of Orwell’s 1984. Scores of thousands of bureaucrats—academic, corporate, government—are on watch, overseeing our economy, patrolling our society, monitoring our behavior. Read More…
Richard Engel of NBC, reporting from Maidan Square in Kiev, described what he witnessed as the Feb. 19 truce collapsed.
Police began to back away from their positions in the square, said Engel. And the protesters attacked. Gunfire was exchanged and the death toll, believed to be in the dozens, is not known.
In short, the reality in Kiev is more complex than the black-and-white cartoon of Vladimir Putin vs. the freedom fighters drawn by our resident Russophobic elite. Perspective is in order.
First, though portrayed as a tyrannical thug, Viktor Yanukovych won the presidency of Ukraine in 2010 in what international observers called a free and fair election. He may not be Marcus Aurelius, but his remains the legitimate government.
Second, high among the reasons Yanukovych chose Russia’s offer to join its custom union over the EU is that Putin put a better deal on the table.
Moscow put up $15 billion in loans and cut-rate oil and gas. The EU offered some piddling loans and credits, plus a demand for reforms in the Ukrainian economy monitored by the IMF, but no commitment to full membership in the EU.
As for the “protesters” who came to Maidan Square in November, not all came simply to protest. Many set up tents and shacks, threw up barricades, seized government buildings, burned the headquarters of the ruling party, battled police and demanded the overthrow of the regime.
How many Western countries would permit a planned putsch in their capital city? Read More…
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has apologized for her undiplomatic “(bleep) the EU!” remark intercepted on her phone call with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Yet it appears that tens of millions of Europeans share her feelings about the European Union, which they believe has arisen to rule over them.
And Feb. 9, the Eurocrats heard a fire bell in the night.
In a referendum backed by the Swiss People’s Party, a clear majority voted to impose quotas on all immigration, even from other European nations.
Though Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it has signed the Schengen Agreement on freedom of travel across European borders. Now it wants to be rid of Schengen—and any more immigration.
The Swiss vote was not just a shocker for the champions of “one Europe.” It has given a tremendous boost to the populist parties on the continent. Hailing the Swiss vote, many are demanding similar referendums in their own countries.
Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, which wants a referendum to quit the EU entirely and is pressuring the Tories of David Cameron, hailed the referendum.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, is praising the “great courage” of the Swiss and has launched a petition drive to put a referendum on the ballot in France.
“Similar calls have come from the Dutch Freedom party leader Geert Wilders, who is ahead in several recent polls; the Austrian Freedom party, which showed strong gains in September’s national elections; the Danish People’s party … and Sweden’s Democratic party,” writes the Financial Times.
In Norway, the Progress Party, which is part of the government, is demanding a referendum on immigration.
What makes the Swiss vote explosive is that it comes three months before the May elections for the European Parliament, in which anti-EU parties were already expected to make strong gains.
If these Euroskeptic parties can fold into their campaigns for the European Parliament their campaigns for a national vote to restrict immigration, they could make dramatic gains, and send a shock wave across Europe and a message to the world that Europeans are rejecting the future being planned for them. Read More…
“There is no education in the second kick of a mule,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
With some such thought in mind, Speaker John Boehner strode to the floor of the House to offer a “clean” debt ceiling bill and relied on Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats to pass it. They did. ”Surrender” and “betrayal,” are among the epithets coming the Speaker’s way.
Yet Boehner was holding a losing hand. Had he added a GOP wish-list bill to the debt ceiling, Harry Reid’s Senate would have rejected it. President Obama would have denounced it as putting at risk the full faith and credit of the United States. Big Media would have piled on. The markets would have been rattled. The Dow would have begun to swoon. Corporate America, cash cow of the Republican Party, would have begun to howl. A clamor to pass a clean debt ceiling bill or risk a new recession would have arisen. And the House Republicans would have caved, as they finally had to cave on the budget bill last fall.
Rather than play Lord Raglan and lead his cavalry in another Charge of the Light Brigade, Boehner chose to withdraw to fight another day on another field. Yet, the Tea Party has a right to feel cheated. When does the Republican Party, put in power by the Tea Party, plan to honor its commitment to halt the growth of the Federal monolith and bring the budget back into balance? Is there is any hope things will be different, should the Tea Party help produce a GOP Senate in 2014? If the Tea Party is in some despair, is it not understandable? For while there are countless proposals and plans to cut back on federal spending, from Simpson-Bowles on, it is impossible today to see in either party the political will to do the surgery. Read More…
The Congressional Budget Office did not exactly say Obamacare would cost the nation 2.5 million jobs.
But what it did say is vindication of what conservatives have preached since Barry Goldwater stood in the pulpit 50 years ago:
The more liberal the welfare state, the greater the disincentive to work and the more ruinous the impact upon a nation’s work ethic.
The CBO has just given us a statistical measure of that truth.
The Obamacare subsidies, it said, will cause some to quit work, others to cut back on the hours they work, and others to hold off going to work, so as not to lose the benefits.
The cumulative impact of all these decisions will be equal to the loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2024. A devastating blow to an economy where the labor force participation is at a 30-year low.
The CBO has put a number on what everyone knows to be true: If people don’t have to work to provide the needs of their daily lives, some will drop out and become permanent charges on the public purse, deadbeats.
The father of modern liberalism, FDR, never disputed this. As he warned in 1935, welfare is “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”
This used to be called common sense. Growing up, we all knew or read that those who inherited great wealth often ended up never holding a “real job” and spent their days in a life of self-indulgence.
However, a related and larger question is raised by the CBO: If Obamacare alone will cost the equivalent of 2.5 million lost jobs to the U.S. economy, what is the impact of our entire welfare state on the vitality and dynamism of the U.S. labor force? Read More…
“If these negotiations [with Iran] fail, there are two grim alternatives,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, “a nuclear Iran, or war, or perhaps both.”
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham returned from the Munich security conference saying that even John Kerry agrees that President Obama’s Syrian policy has failed. They are urging another look at air strikes.
North Korea is warning that should the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises go forward in March, it could mean war, possibly nuclear war.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III this week compared his country’s situation to Czechoslovakia in 1938, and the disputed islets off his coast in the South China Sea to the Sudetenland. Like Hitler in Europe, Aquino is saying, China is on the march in Asia.
Aquino wants the world, i.e., us, to stand up to China.
At Davos, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared Japan’s clash with China over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea to German-British tensions on the eve of World War I. Though they were major trading partners, like China and Japan, said Abe, Germany and Britain went to war.
China’s foreign ministry charged Abe with “saying these things for the purpose of escaping Japan’s history of aggression.”
China was enraged by Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine where Japanese war dead are commemorated, including Hideki Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals.
Asia today is like “19th-century Europe, where military conflict is not ruled out,” said Henry Kissinger at Munich.
Cal Coolidge’s admonition not to panic—”If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you”—is often wise counsel. Yet, any of these five situations could bring about a war, a war involving us. For we are obligated by treaty to defend South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. And the Obama “pivot” to Asia is seen by Beijing as a U.S. strategic move to contain China’s rise to superpower status.
The possibility of America being dragged into a new war is growing. Read More…