State of the Union

U.S. Foreign Policy on Trial, With Daniel McCarthy & Dinesh D’Souza


TAC editor Daniel McCarthy recently debated filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza at the annual FreedomFest gathering in Las Vegas. CSPAN was there to broadcast the trial-format debate, with witnesses including Grover Norquist, Steve Forbes, Brig. Gen. Michael Meese, and Doug Casey. Fox Business Channel’s Kennedy served as presiding judge.

Watch the debate here.

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Live Blog and Open Thread: The New Internationalism

Note: The conference is now over. Check back again soon for a full video. In the meantime, you can access the segments that have aired on C-SPAN here.

This morning, The American Conservative, in conjunction with The American Prospect and the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University, is convening many of the best foreign policy minds to sketch out a new foreign policy consensus, one fit to the challenges of the post-9/11, post-Afghanistan and Iraq wars world. For those unable to join the discussion in person at George Washington University, please join us on this thread, which I will updating throughout the conference. As the conference unfolds in the stream embedded above, please also join us in the comments below. For those on Twitter, please use the hashtag #newconsensus to participate in the conversation there.


8:30am Introduction: Charles L. Glaser, George Washington University Institute for Security and Conflict Studies and Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative

8:45am Threats and Responses: How the U.S. can maintain stability in the long term without war.

  • Daniel Drezner, Washington Post and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
  • William S. Lind, The American Conservative
  • Matthew Duss, Center for American Progress and The American Prospect
  • Daniel Larison, The American Conservative

9:45am The Case for Restraint: Barry R. Posen, MIT Security Studies Program, author of Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy.

10:45am Break

11:15am National Security State Overreach and Reform: Reclaiming civil liberties in the aftermath of the War on Terror.

  • Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
  • Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel
  • Adam Serwer,
  • Samuel Goldman, The American Conservative and George Washington University

12:15pm Political Realities: Prospects for realism and reform in the Republican and Democratic parties.

  • John B. Judis, The New Republic
  • Michael Cohen, Century Foundation
  • Christopher A. Preble, Cato Institute
  • Robert W. Merry, The National Interest

1:15pm Closing remarks: Maisie Allison, The American Conservative

The conversation will continue in the coming weeks thanks to our partners at Bloggingheads. Join us!

8:39: Charles Glazer opens the conference, noting that this conference “could not have come at a better time.”

8:44: TAC editor Daniel McCarthy takes the stage, declares this “a moment of profound reorientation in our country,” on the political and policy level. The past weeks have seen the foreign policy establishment hold conferences echoing their same consensus. This conference forges a new consensus that is wiser, more realistic, and better suited to the challenges of the day. Read More…

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ISIS May Expel Iraq’s Christians for Good

Mar Mattai monastery outside Mosul, continually inhabited by monks since the 4th century A.D. Chris De Bruyn / cc

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, has recently overtaken the major Iraqi city of Mosul, causing an exodus of more than 500,000 that took some of Iraq’s last remaining Christians with it. The city itself, mentioned in the Bible as Nineveh, has harbored Christianity since the very dawn of its tradition and was one of the last havens for Iraqi Christian communities.

Despite these deep roots, past U.S. policy has ignored the vulnerable position of Christians in the Middle East. Andrew Doran wrote a strikingly prescient piece for TAC almost exactly one year ago, saying:

[D]emocracy in the Middle East is proving less tolerant than the regimes it has succeeded. Unless swift action is taken, these democracies will evolve into bastions of intolerance and violence beyond our comprehension. These democracies will not march ineluctably toward liberty and pluralism, as some naïve optimists continue to forecast despite the evidence, but will end in the ordered barbarism of Saudi Arabia, where punishments include beheading and crucifixion[.]

As it so happens, ISIS is the jihadist organization renounced by al-Qaeda for its brutality. Maliki’s abusive government, propped up by $20 billion in American aid, allowed Mosul to be claimed with alarming ease. One CNN article reports that “[p]olice and soldiers ran form their posts rather than put up a fight, abandoning their weapons as they went. The militants took their place in the city’s boulevards and buildings.” Marc Lynch of the Washington Post argues that the Iraqi military isn’t resisting is because Maliki has lost its loyalty:

The most important answers lie inside Iraqi politics. Maliki lost Sunni Iraq through his sectarian and authoritarian policies. His repeated refusal over long years to strike an urgently needed political accord with the Sunni minority, his construction of corrupt, ineffective and sectarian state institutions, and his heavy-handed military repression in those areas are the key factors in the long-developing disintegration of Iraq.

If ISIS succeeds, the regnant regime will be the “ordered barbarism” Doran foretold. In the hierarchy of a new caliphate, there will be no room for diversity or religious tolerance; there will no longer be any room for Christianity. According to a World magazine report, most of the Christians, so long a presence in Mosul, have already been driven out:

“Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,” pastor Haitham Jazrawi said today following the takeover of Iraq’s second largest city—and its ancient Christian homeland—by al-Qaeda-linked jihadist militants.

Catholic Archbishop Amil Shamaaoun Nona is reported to have said that the decline has been occurring since the U.S.-led campaign began. “In 2003 there were still 35,000 faithful living in Mosul,” Nona said. “Three thousand were still there in early 2014. Now probably not one is left here, and that is tragic[.]” According to Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute notes that, once the Christians are gone, they may not be coming back:

When the army does eventually succeed in reversing jihadi control in Mosul, it may be too late for the Christians. Once Middle Eastern Christians flee to the West, they don’t return.

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Toward a New Foreign Policy Consensus

On June 17, The American Conservative will convene leading thinkers from across the political spectrum at George Washington University for a wide-ranging conversation about American foreign policy after the War on Terror.

The goal of the New Internationalism conference is to address America’s role in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq, and to discuss alternative visions for protecting America’s core security and economic interests in the new global framework.

The American Conservative and our co-sponsors The American Prospect and the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at GW will build on the emerging consensus that favors prudence, the rule of law, and diplomacy. We hope you can join us!

For more information and to register, visit The event schedule is after the jump:

Read More…

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Taiwan’s Protests Could Mean Trouble With China

Taiwan, the semi-autonomous nation not known for making waves, is erupting over a trade pact with China. Last week, hundreds of student protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s unicameral legislative body, demonstrating against the Guomindang’s (KMT) unilateral passage of a service trade agreement signed last year. According to CNN, protesters successfully blocked riot police from the Legislative Yuan with chairs, and have been seated both in and outside the building, singing, chanting, and holding up signs. Police have since used force to clear the Legislative Yuan, with the prime minister saying that the students were “paralyz[ing] our administrative workings,” according to a New York Times report yesterday.

The pact’s passage breaks the KMT’s promise to collaborate with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), staving off an inevitable conflict with the opposition over the pact. The DPP’s longtime stance is rooted in advocating full Taiwanese independence and dissolving ties with China, with much of its energy expended attacking the KMT for colluding with China against local Taiwanese interests. One of the DPP party slogans is, “sell Taiwan”, implying that the KMT is a cowardly puppet government with no interest in advocating for Taiwanese independence.

The protests come at the tail of a long decline in popular opinion of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-Jeou, whose conciliatory stance with China has incited a slow-burning resentment among his political opponents, and has even caused those within his own party to distance themselves from him. Ma’s approval ratings have dropped close to the level of disgraced former DPP prime minister Chen Sui-bian, who was convicted of money laundering in 2009.

One possible outcome of these protests, especially if the trade pact is derailed, is that formal relations across the strait could begin to deteriorate. Damon Linker in The Week speculates that if China were to take Taiwan, it would herald the end of American expansionism in the region. He argues that in spite of written agreements to help Taiwan defend itself, the United States would be unlikely to join in such a war. American neutrality in a hegemon-underdog dispute would bespeak our weakening global image as the world’s national guard, in Linker’s view. While logically sound, this perspective overlooks one important aspect of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations: The United States’s ability to influence Taiwanese relations with China or in the international community was never very strong to begin with. Read More…

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A Brief History of 2013, As Told Through Our Best Articles

Edmund Burke Illustration by Chris Morris

As the clocks click to close on another year, we take a brief glance back at the best we had to offer, judged by reader traffic and editor’s picks.

Alan Jacobs closed out 2012 by demanding peace from insufferable others in “Hey Extraverts: Enough is Enough.”

Andrew Bacevich kicked off the new year by calling for a “Counter-Cultural Conservatism” with less Ayn Rand, and more Flannery O’Connor.

In February, Rand Paul delivered the first major GOP foreign policy address post-November at the Heritage Foundation, articulating a Congress-centric realism drawn from George F. Kennan as the conservative alternative to Bill Kristol. In the lead-up to that address, he discussed his foreign policy ideas with Daniel Larison.

Pope Benedict then shocked the world by abdicating the Holy See. Daniel McCarthy called the decision a “salutary reform” to the rising celebrity status of the papacy, while Jonathan Coppage reflected on what it means to outlive a post meant for a lifetime.

That same month, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman broke open the conservative debate over same sex marriage by declaring, “Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause.” Our entire coverage of the issue was particularly strong, getting beyond the news cycle incriminations to grapple with the cultural implications of institutional change. Rod Dreher looked at the cosmological change of same-sex marriage in “Sex After Christianity”, before the Supreme Court’s decision, and and the uneasy prospects of religious liberty in “Does Faith = Hate?” after it.

In March, Rand Paul took to the floor of the Senate to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan to the CIA in protest over not receiving White House assurances over potential domestic droning powers. Jordan Bloom live-blogged the entire affair until Paul received his requested assurances from Attorney General Eric Holder, and the entire national drone debate had been changed.

When Cardinal Bergoglio was announced as the new Pope Francis, few could have expected how strongly he would capture the Western media imagination, left and right. Patrick Deneen recently issued the definitive defense of Francis from his Republican capitalistic critics.

The 10th anniversary of the Iraq War brought much retrospection, but none better than Daniel McCarthy’s account of how the botched war discredited the GOP in the same way as Vietnam culturally discredited Democrats. Andrew Doran then detailed how the Iraq invasion had vindicated the worst fears of Middle Eastern Christians in “How the Iraq War Became a War on Christians,” and how a Syrian intervention would only repeat it.

Then began the Summer of Snowden. During the initial onslaught of security state backlash against the NSA whistleblower, Philip Giraldi defended Snowden against treason charges. John Glaser explicated the dangers of a systematic project of secret laws and surveillance in “Obama’s Secrecy Agenda.” Tea Party congressman Justin Amash led an unlikely bipartisan coalition to break mass domestic surveillance, and almost won. He then took to our pages to explain explain his vision of Constitutional politics in “How to Keep the Constitution.”

Then came the sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria, and the Obama Administration’s subsequent attempted rush to war. Jim Antle set the stakes for whether Congress could resist being driven into another war on sketchy intelligence by the executive, and the political implications of its potential success in a piece that holds up very well in retrospect, “Can Congress Say No to a Syria War.” Eminent historian Philip Jenkins put the plight of the ancient Syrian Christian community in stark contect in “Syria’s Christians Risk Eradication.” Read More…

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How a Shopping Mall Becomes a Killing Zone

This really is frightening.

Terrorist incidents tell us nothing new about human nature. We already knew that people are capable of horrendous violence, especially when they have come to regard some other subset of human beings as unworthy of full human status. It’s not surprising, then, to see the terrorists of Somalia’s loathsome al-Shabaab movement violating all laws of humanity by slaughtering innocent victims of all ages. People can become monsters, and they did in the Nairobi mall attack that began on September 21.

What really is alarming, though, is to see terrorists create a radical new tactic against which there is no obvious response or defense. There was nothing surprising, for instance, in the idea that terrorists might hijack airliners, but only in 2001 did we realize that hijackers might use them for suicide attacks, turning those aircraft into deadly missiles. Nairobi has just shown us another horrible innovation. It might be that we won’t realize how effective this could be against the U.S. until we face yet another day when we are counting the dead in their hundreds. We have to confront this issue immediately.

Think about it. How would one attack a shopping mall, whether in Nairobi or Minneapolis? Presumably a number of pickup trucks draw up in the parking lot, and 20 or so armed men and women get out, carrying their weapons and ammunition. Then they enter the mall and begin killing until they can do no more harm. They are strictly limited by the number of bullets and grenades they can carry. When police and military forces arrive, the terrorists might hold out for an hour or two before being eliminated.

That’s one way to do it, but it’s clearly not what happened in Nairobi, where firefights were still in progress several days after the initial assault. Even more amazing, terrorists were still putting up resistance against strong Kenyan forces, reputedly trained and assisted by British and Israeli special forces.

How on earth did the terrorists do it? Why, they rented a store. Read More…

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The Navy Yard Names Lost in the Politics

Wednesday, much of Washington, D.C. was shocked by the news of a shooting at Navy Yard. Some buildings went into lockdown. At least one intern got a frightened call from her father. A fellow employee asked me if my husband was safe. But 12 people are dead, and their loved ones now mourn. It was shocking and tragic.

But from media, we hear a familiar regurgitation of anger and disdain. Every time there’s a tragic shooting, the pro-gun and anti-gun commentators raise their voices. The “I told you so!” messages ricochet off each other, with finger pointing and lambasting on both sides. Commentators respond to these deaths as they have to so many—at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and others—with an upsurge of political debate on gun control. In addition, there always seems to be an in-depth psychoanalysis— sometimes akin to morbid fascination—of the killer.

It is true that, in light of the tragedy, some consideration of gun policy is probably a matter-of-course. But to launch into this debate within hours of the shootings seems insensitive and careless. We forget that killing is messy and erratic, and killers even more frighteningly unpredictable. We forget that there is no way to stop all evil people from ever doing evil things, as long as the human mind is possessed with creativity and cleverness. We forget that guns can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and that something must be done to protect the vulnerable.

But most of all, we forget the killed: the people with mourning loved ones, lives cut short. There were 12 of them Monday—NBC News shared their names and stories:

Michael Arnold, 59
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathy Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Frank Kohler, 50
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Vishnu Pandit, 61
Arthur Daniels, 51
Mary Francis Knight, 51
Gerald L. Read, 58
Martin Bodrog, 54
Michael Ridgell, 52

Kenneth Proctor loved the Redskins. Vishnu Pandit was a native of Bombay, India, who “took great pride in being employed by the United States Navy.” Martin Bodrog had three daughters and taught Sunday School at church. Arthur Daniels’ wife and family shared their story on a local TV channel last night: “Priscilla says her husband Arthur had worked at the Navy Yard off and on as a handyman for 17 years. She says he left for work on Monday at 6:45 a.m. and wasn’t heard from again.” The couple had been married for 30 years, with five children and nine grandchildren.

There are responses to the shootings worth praising for their genuine concern. Rev. Andrew Royals at St. Vincent de Paul, blocks away from the Navy Yard, opened the church doors for mass. Attendees prayed for the victims.

In our democracy, we can be happy that public discourse and media give us the right to comment on important policy issues. But perhaps we need reminding that such a right comes with the responsibility to use it well, for the sake of all those who grieve today.

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Why You Should Go to 2013 Front Porch Republic Conference

The estimable Front Porch Republic will host its upcoming conference, titled “City People, Country People: Being a Localist In the Megalopolis,” in Claremont, California. Event speakers include TAC contributors Bill Kauffman and Jeremy Beer. The conference will also contain a screening of recent Maxwell film Copperhead (reviewed by TAC contributor Jordan Bloom in June).

The conference will explore the ideas of place and community in a growing urban and suburban landscape, and strive to determine how people “enmeshed in a massive (sub)urban expanse” can cultivate community and live sustainably. As co-sponsors of the event and friends of FPR, we strongly encourage you to attend.

Here is the program:

Friday, September 20

7:30 p.m. Screening of Copperhead followed by Q&A with screenwriter Bill Kauffman (Rose Hills Theater)

Saturday, September 21

8:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast (Rose Hills Theater Lobby)

9:00 a.m. Introduction (Rose Hills Theater)

Susan McWilliams, Pomona College

9:15 a.m. “The Good Twenty-First-Century City” (Rose Hills Theater)

Chair: Lily Geismer, Claremont McKenna College

Panelists: Phillip Bess, University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; Peter Dreier, Occidental College; Ted McAllister, Pepperdine University

10:45 a.m. “The Possibilities of Work in the New World” (Rose Hills Theater)

Chair: John Seery, Pomona College

Panelists: Susan McWilliams, Pomona College; Andrew Yuengert, Pepperdine University; TBD

12:15 p.m. Lunch and Keynote Address  (Rose Hills Theater and Lobby)

“I Can’t Believe You’re From L.A.: Los Angeles as a Cultural Center”

Speaker: Dana Gioia, author and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts

2:00 p.m. “Food in the Megalopolis” (Rose Hills Theater)

Chair: Jeff Polet, Hope College

Panelists: Nancy Neiman Auerbach, Scripps College; William Barndt, Pitzer College; Jason Peters, Augustana College

3:30 p.m. “Philanthropy, Localism, and Hypermobility” (Rose Hills Theater)

Chair: William Schambra, Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal

Panelists: Jeremy Beer, American Philanthropic; David Bosworth, University of Washington; Alicia Manning, Bradley Foundation;

4:45 p.m. Closing Remarks (Rose Hills Theater)

Mark T. Mitchell, Patrick Henry College

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What’s a Law to an Executive?

Late yesterday, the Treasury Department announced that it will be delaying the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by one year. Treasury’s ostensible reason is to simplify reporting requirements, but Josh Barro explains that is either lame or fake. In short, the Obama Administration is having difficulty implementing its signature legislative achievement, and so is pushing it back to try and ward off some of the consequences of a bungled law.

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned a federal law (DOMA), which having declared it unconstitutional, the Department of Justice had already refused to defend in court. The Court simultaneously denied standing to a California group seeking to defend ballot initiative Proposition 8, which had amended the California constitution to ban gay marriage. The California executive had refused to defend that popularly passed measure, and so the amendment was defeated by ultimate default after being struck down by a lower court.

What these have in common is an executive tradition with an ever increasing sense that it is not only the executor of the laws, but the legislator and judge as well.

In the latest issue of National Affairs, Tevi Troy detailed how Team Romney planned to implement their “pledge to repeal Obamacare.” Troy acknowledged that “even in the optimistic scenarios that had Romney winning the Presidency,” the GOP would lack full control of the Senate, and so “a straight-up, all-out repeal was unlikely.” As Jordan described previously, their strategy was: “eat away at enough of the the thing that collapse is inevitable and repeal seems like the better option to Senate Democrats.”

Because of the great “leeway” given to the HHS in making key decisions about Obamacare, Romney’s team of experts concluded that, “in the hands of an administration eager for repeal,” it would be possible “to effectively nullify the new system through a carefully choreographed series of executive actions.” Troy says “the regulatory rollback would have been so complete that we were confident Obamacare never could have gotten off the ground,” and a better designed system could be pushed to replace it.

Such an initiative would have come under great contumely, and provoked a great outcry from Democratic circles and the media, who would have rightly called it a breach of the principle that the executive should enforce Congress’s duly passed laws. Congress has abdicated so much legislative authority to the executive branch, however, that it has enabled any arbitrary implementation and enforcement of its laws that satisfy any executive’s political concerns.

In related news, the Dodd-Frank financial system reform still has significant regulations outstanding as pressure is brought on regulators to delay and water down another complex mess of well-intentioned legislation. And before the administration began its push for immigration reform, it ramped up enforcement of border laws so as to mollify conservative critics, but those same critics have no recourse if the administration should slack at enforcement after passage.

More, and more, it seems, laws are seen as a signals to the executive and bureaucracy of topics to take up and dispose of as they please, rather than specific instructions in need of execution. That should trouble all of us.

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