Re-Negotiating the Cold War

America’s declaration of victory in the Cold War might have been premature. Cuba is still communist, and by the time its upcoming negotiations with President Barack Obama are concluded it’s likely that impoverished and totalitarian worker’s paradise will have the last laugh.
Cuban dictator Raul Castro has opened the bargaining about normalization of relations with demands that include America’s withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay and reparations for the past 55 years of American embargo and assorted other imperialist sins, and it strikes us as a shrewd negotiating tactic. Castro has apparently been watching America’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and realizes how very generous our president can be when he’s eager to strike a deal, and he’s no doubt aware that Obama is a pure product of an American left that has always been sympathetic to Cuba’s communist dictatorship. We keep reading that Obama surely won’t cede to such outrageous demands, but we’re not at all confident that he won’t seize such a ripe opportunity to finally be rid of that Guantanamo Bay detention camp and spread some American wealth to an especially sleazy portion of the third world and prove his Nobel Peace Prize-winning solidarity with the oppressed workers of the world in the process.
Obama has already made a significant concession by telling the leaders of 35 nations at Summit of the Americas that “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.” This is an apparent reference to the Monroe Doctrine, which through 192 years of Democratic and Republican administrations successfully kept the European powers from meddling in Latin American affairs, then guided our efforts to keep the Soviet Union from meddling in the hemisphere, and has more lately prompted resistance to Iranian and Chinese meddling. The American left has long hated the Monroe Doctrine, especially when it was employed to thwart Soviet meddling, and will now be quite happy to leave all the meddling to Iran and the Chinese.
The Cubans will be eager to continue their own meddling in other Latin American countries, of course, and if they get another one of their demands met they’ll be able to do so without being included on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring governments. “We indeed have acted in solidarity with many peoples that may be considered terrorists” under the view of “imperialism,” Castro told the assembled leaders at the summit, adding that he was “referring to Cuba’s humanitarian missions in various developing countries.” These humanitarian missions have involved fomenting Marxist revolutions throughout Central and South America as well as Africa, and we suppose he’d also regard the Cuban dictatorship’s invitation to launch Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba as humanitarian, but almost all of it has met with favor from the American left and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. The promise that America won’t counter-meddle already constitutes a major victory for the Cuban dictatorship, and one can hardly blame them for pressing for further concessions.
The equally odious government of Venezuela, which was Cuba’s most important post-Soviet benefactor until America’s fracking boom lowered the price of crude oil and brought its economy to a Cuban level of despair, is also demanding an obsequious apology for all those years of Monroe Doctrine, but it seems they’ve already got that. So far Obama is insisting that there will be disagreements with Cuba and demands for greater freedom in prison nation, but except for Cuba’s horrific treatment of homosexuals we can’t see him finding much fault with the rest of its present system of governance. Obama also spent some of his time at the Summit of the Americas that domestic criticism of his negotiations with Iran “It needs to stop,” so the Cuban dictatorship’s habit of quashing dissent surely won’t be objectionable. There’s that communist economic system and all the material deprivation that it has imposed on the Cuban people for the past 55 years, but Obama will likely be obliged to note equality of all that poverty, and of course there will be frequent mention of the universal health care they’ve got down there. Castro has already absolved Obama of America’s sins, and Obama is likely to regard that as ample compensation for any concessions he might make.
Whatever problems Marxism has thus far encountered in Latin America, American meddling will no longer be one of them. Which is not to say that the commies will get the very last laugh in the western hemisphere. Whatever Obama wants to do will meet fierce resistance in Congress, even from some Democrats with large constituencies of refugees from Latin American Marxism, and even an American public grown inured to the administration’s obsequiousness will surely balk at paying reparations to the commie Cubans who stole legally contracted American holdings in Cuba and then pointed nuclear weapons at us. The green light for foreign meddling in Latin America might encourage the Marxists who are tyrannizing their own countries and supporting the terrorist assaults on freer nations in the hemisphere, but none have ever worked out, and none ever will. Even the most abject American apologies and bone-headed agreements won’t change that.

— Bud Norman

A Bad Deal Back in the News

The American public’s memory is short, and until Wednesday it had likely forgotten the name of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
He was briefly a celebrity last year when he was released from Taliban captivity in exchange for five high-ranking terrorists being held at the Guantanamo Bay in a deal brokered by President Barack Obama, complete with a Rose Garden news conference featuring Bergdahl’s teary-eyed parents and assurances from the White House that the freed prisoner had “served his country with honor and distinction.” There was a brief controversy about it, given that the five high-ranking terrorists were certain to return to their murderous ways, the teary-eyed father’s remarks in English and Arabic and Pashto at the news conference revealed he was a Taliban-sympathizing nut, and the soldiers who served with Bergdahl were telling anyone who would listen that he was a deserter and collaborator, and the Government Accountability determined the president’s deal had violated federal law, but it soon passed.
Until Wednesday, when the Army announced that Bergdahl would be court-martialed on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Even Bergdahl’s brief celebrity is enough to interest the media in a trial, so we can expect extended coverage of the evidence brought against him, and one can only hope that it will rekindle some of the public outrage that attended his release. Five high-ranking terrorists were released for him, a trade that looks even worse as the tide of war continues to not recede, Bergdahl’s Taliban-sympathizing nut of a father will likely become an annoying presence on the nation’s newscasts, and the president’s tendency to go beyond the traditional legal restraints on executive power has continued to prove troublesome, so perhaps the outrage will be even greater this time around. Should one of those five released high-ranking terrorists be able to claim credit for notably deadly attack Americans might grow greater yet, although the scant coverage of the terrorism committed by other prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay suggests it will have to be something spectacular.
There’s no getting those terrorists back, and little hope of persuading the current administration to capture and incarcerate any more of them, but the public outrage might do some good. The Bergdahl trade was one of several briefly outraging stories over the past many years that have steadily eroded the president’s support on foreign policy, and the public’s discontent has emboldened members of both in Congress in to resist the president’s effort to negotiate a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. So far the administration has declined to offer any details about what they’re offering, asking that the public trust its good intentions and expertise, but it’s hard to trust anyone who would swap five high-ranking terrorists for a deserter to make a deal with the likes of the Iranian government.
Much of the media will be looking for something else to talk about other than nuclear bombs and what might happen if Iran gets some, and the Bergdahl story could prove a distraction, and there will certainly be some stories about the poor young man caught in George W. Bush’s war who reached out to the enemy, but it won’t help with the president’s public relations efforts.

— Bud Norman

A Minor Victory Among the Major Defeats

The Obama administration has been in desperate need of some good news lately, and seems to have at last made some with the capture of one of the terrorists involved in the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Even the administration’s harshest critics will be pleased that somebody might held to account for the tragedy, while the administration’s most fawning admirers at The Washington Post are calling it a “major victory,” but it raises questions that are likely to mitigate the good feelings.
Surely the administration would have preferred to tout some accomplishment that didn’t require a reference to Benghazi, which remains an undeniable deadly screw-up that was followed by blatant lies that made a mockery of the First Amendment by the terrorists who seek to deter any criticism of their deranged religious beliefs. The “leading from behind” toppling of the Libyan government that preceded the tragedy, and that country’s descent into murderous anarchy since, are also necessary background information that the administration would just as soon go unmentioned. These issues never provoked the widespread public outrage we thought they deserved, but they’re still proving troublesome for past Secretary of State and presumptive next president Hillary Clinton on her recent book tour and campaign launch, and the capture of just one middle-management terrorist involved in the fiasco is not likely to quell the controversy.
A casual news reader might also wonder why it has taken so long to bring any of the terrorists to justice, especially one who has been available to numerous western journalists for interviews in which he boasted of his high profile. Those interviews have also had the captured terrorists echoing the administration’s laughable line that the terrorist attack was a spontaneous reaction to an obscure YouTube video and not a coordinated attack, so the more cynical sorts will naturally wonder if that might be why he’s the only involved in the attack that has been captured.
The terrorist will be given an opportunity to tell that improbable story under oath in an American courtroom, as the administration is planning on trying him in the American justice system as an ordinary criminal rather than in a military tribunal as an enemy combatant. That raises questions, too, about the administration’s broader approach to what it still refuses to call a war against Islamist terrorism. With harsh interrogations ruled out the terrorist won’t provide any useful intelligence, he’ll be housed in an American prison next to some nervous community rather than in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp that that the administration is so eager to empty that it recently released five of its most dangerous inmates in exchange for a soldier who seems have to deserted, and a shrewd defense attorney will demand more evidence about the investigation and capture than the national security agencies will want to divulge, and as the story plays out over the coming months or years it will lead to debates the administration should lose.
It’s a good news story for now, though, and the administration is probably willing to swap future embarrassments for a bit of positive press now. The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s political foes is becoming harder to ignore now that some potentially damning e-mails have suspiciously gone missing, the recent release of those five terrorists for the alleged deserter still leaves the terrorist ranks ahead by four, America’s foes are making land-grabs from Ukraine to the China Sea, the brave soldiers who fought against America’s foes are still stuck on waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals, the economy is still weak and lately showing worrisome signs of inflation, so the capture of one terrorist can be touted as a “major victory” and provide a brief distraction.

— Bud Norman

Afternoon Delight

Most soap operas hold no fascination for us, but the occasional presidential news conferences make for riveting afternoon fare. In the latest installment of this long-running series our hunky hero’s torrid love affair with the press runs into some unexpected trouble.
The story opens with the president giving the honor of the first question to the out-going president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, which recently made a point of laughing at all the president’s jokes during its annual dinner and celebrity love-fest, and he assures the reporter that “I’m not mad at you.” After assuring the president that he also isn’t angry the reporter proceeds to ask about the “red line” that the president had declared against Syria’s use of chemical weapons and if it might “risk U.S. credibility if you don’t take military action.” The question seemed quite carefully put, as we would have demanded to know what in the world the president was thinking when declaring an ultimatum he had no intention of ever enforcing, but the president nonetheless seemed rather offended as he launched into a long-winded oration about how Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be a “game-changer” but that “By game changer, I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.” One can only imagine the terror this must have struck in the hearts of the Syrian dictatorship that almost certainly has been using chemical weapons, but the press was too shaken to ask any follow-up questions.
Another reporter was so impertinent as to ask the death of an ambassador and three other Americans in a Libyan embassy that had repeatedly been denied requests for added security, specifically about the widely-reported allegation that whistle-blowers who survived the terrorist attack have been prevented from coming forward, and the president cut the conversation short by explaining that “I’m not familiar with it.” He could have reprised his former Secretary of State’s sneering reply that “What difference, at this point, does it make,” which won rave reviews from the press, so we suppose this claim of ignorance represents an improvement in administration policy.
Although the president was clearly annoyed by such pesky questioning, another reporter requested a response to Republican criticism that the government had been insufficiently vigilant in following up on Russian warnings about one of the men suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon. “It’s not as if the FBI did nothing,” the president huffily replied, “They not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother.” Satisfied that law enforcement could not have done more, the president set to wondering “was there something that happened that triggered radicalization and actual — an actual decision by the brother to engage in the attacks that we — the tragic attack we actually saw in Boston, and are there things — additional things that could have been done in that interim that might have prevented it?
After a lengthy discourse along these hard-to-parse lines, the president yielded to another question. More pestering ensued, with another reporting noting the legislative butt-kicking the president had received on his gun control efforts and wondering if “you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this congress?” Many commentators were immediately reminded of the “Are you still relevant?” question posed to Bill Clinton back in the golden age of presidential soap operas, and the president seemed rather testy when he responded that “If you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home.” To quickly dash the hopes of many Americans, the president during the nervous laughter that “As Mark Twain said, you know, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.” The president added the “little” and “at this point” to Twain’s witticism, but he made it clear that he still had enough breath for a lengthy gripe about those darned Republicans. Insisting that “right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill,” the president went on to blame the opposition for the great pain caused by the “sequester” budget cuts, the public’s failure to adequately feel the pain, and their inexplicable resistance to his demands, all seemingly to remind the press that they have no suitable alternative suitors.
The president also renewed a long un-kept promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, insisted that all is well the Obamacare program despite its author’s claim of a “train wreck,” expressed hope that millions of illegal Mexican immigrants will soon be able to vote for his party, and offered praise for some little-known, bench-sitting basketball player who has publicly announced his homosexuality. There wasn’t any time for economic questions, the president’s golf-and-party schedule being so very tight, but even without the always-hearted financial arguments the story book romance with the media was clearly strained. Can the relationship be saved? We’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment to find out.

— Bud Norman

The Power of Life and Death

Throughout the Bush years we were subjected to constant warnings about an impending totalitarian dictatorship. The Patriot Act, the indefinite detentions taking place at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, and the drone strikes against terrorists were all cited as evidence of a presidency that had dangerously exceeded its constitutional limits and posed a threat to the civil liberties of every American.
For some reason or another all of these fears seem to have been allayed during the Obama years. The Patriot Act was renewed by congress and re-signed by Obama, but with little comment from the previously offended left. The president’s self-righteously proclaimed promise to close Guantanamo Bay has been more or less officially abandoned, with the detention of its prisoners as indefinite as every, but without any noticeable protest. The drone strikes have continued with even greater frequency and ferocity, again with a deafening quiet from the erstwhile critics, and now there is more silence about the remarkable revelation that the current administration claims a legal right to kill any American it suspects of terrorist activity without so much as an indictment.
While it must be conceded that the story broke at NBC News, which is ordinarily as obeisant to Obama as any of the media, the president’s claim to absolute power of life and death over American citizens hasn’t generated the same outraged coverage that was given to far more constrained policies just an administration ago. Thus far we have not heard anyone on the left attempt a defense of the policy, except for White House spokesman Jay Carney, who has a professional obligation to describe it as “legal,” “ethical,” and “wise,” but with few exceptions we have not heard any denunciations.
As with Obama’s expansive use of executive orders, “czars” appointed without Senate approval, and as his more-than-regal lifestyle, the left seems quite comfortable with him assuming powers that they would never entrust to a Republican president. Although we would object to such policies in any case we would actually trust a Republican more, not because a member of that party is any less likely to be corrupted by absolute power, but because the power of the press and public opinion would restrain him even if the Constitution did not.

— Bud Norman