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Another Story Having Nothing To Do With Islam

We’re all for peace and love and understanding and all that jazz, but even so, there was something awfully grating about President Barack Obama’s visit to a mosque on Wednesday.
Pretty much everything about it was grating, for that matter. There was the dreary familiarity of the whole presidential-mosque-visit thing, which has been a regular ritual ever since George W. Bush first felt the obligation to pay his respects in the aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that the perpetrators swore-to-Allah had something to the do with Islam, along with the usual rote incantations about how Islam had nothing to do with it. This was all the more grating after so many years when the dreaded anti-Islam backlash has yet to materialize, and when Jews remain the most likely targets of hate crimes and yet the only times the president ever shows up at a synagogue is to insist that despite all appearances he’s a steadfast friend of Israel, but even that wasn’t the worst of it.
There was also the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore for the visit, which had been under federal investigation after one of its worshippers was arrested for a terrorist plot, and with ties to both the unabashedly Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood and a Virginia mosque that once featured the sermons of radical jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood has been well-known ever since he invited its leaders to the front row for his famous Cairo address about peace and love and understanding, and was confirmed by his efforts to usher them into power in Egypt, and high-level appointees with Muslim Brotherhood ties, and his indulgence of the offshoot Hamas terror gang that is devoted to the destruction of his friends in Israel, but it does seem strange given that the American citizen al-Awlaki was killed by an Obama-ordered drone strike. In any case, it’s an odd venue to give yet another lecture about how self-proclaimed Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.
There was also some blather about how mean old right-wing Hollywood has been whipping up anti-Islamic hatred with its depictions of murderous Muslims, even though almost all of the action-adventure flicks have light-skinned and blue-eyed villains, except for such such fact-based flops as “13 Hours,” with its unnecessary depiction of that better-unmentioned Benghazi fiasco that was all the result of an anti-Islam video on “YouTube,” and how television sit-coms should all feature a lovable Muslim-next-door character. We note that the homosexual-next-door character has been a staple of sit-coms for a decade or so now, and eagerly await the first homosexual-Muslim-next-door character on the small screen, as we expect politically-correct “intersectionality” should cause a few heads to explode. We’d settle for any sort of a pop cultural depiction of a Christian-next-door who isn’t bitterly clinging to his guns and religion, but we aren’t holding our breath for a presidential visit to a low church on any Sunday mornings soon.
Most grating of all, though, was when Obama took the opportunity to liken himself to President Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t Jefferson’s ruthless and successful war against the Islamic pirates who had been seizing American vessels and the Tripolitan potentate who justified it by citing the Koran that Obama had in mind, which would have been obviously immodest, but rather that “Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim, so I was not the first.” He’s apparently referring to Jefferson’s writings on religious liberty, wherein he stressed how radical he was about it that he would even tolerate what was then called Mohammadism, and how some of his foes were indeed not willing to go far, but he didn’t mention that Jefferson never spoke of the Muslim call to prayer as the “most beautiful sound” or invited the Muslim Brotherhood to the front row of his speeches and certainly never regarded small-town American Christian folk as bitter-clingers to God and guns or urged them to get off their high horses and repent for the Crusades.
The president needn’t worry that we’re going to rush out and commit any hate crimes against any group unfairly underrepresented on America’s bigoted sit-coms or Hollywood’s xenophobic yet international-market-oriented action-adventures, and we certainly won’t be ordering any drone strikes, but he should be advised that we’re not the only ones tiring of this nonsense. The president barely rates a mention these days in the news, which is preoccupied with all the alarming tough talk by his would-be Republican successors and the the Democratic race where the self-described socialist and the former Secretary of State with the Muslim Brotherhood-tied confidant who would both rather talk about income inequality and student debt and anything else, so it takes something this grating to get back in the headlines.

— Bud Norman

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A Good Time For a Sex Scandal

Now would be the perfect time to make a full confession of our lurid sex scandal, if only we could muster the energy to have one. There are so many stories of earth-shaking significance afoot at the moment that even the most Clintonian sorts of escapades would attract little notice, and by the time anyone got around to paying heed we could dismiss the whole mess as old news and utterly irrelevant to our candidacy for philosopher king or whatever office we might be seeking. Summertime is when the living is easy, according to the usually reliable lyrics of Gershwin music, but this summer we’re finding it hard to keep up with the headlines.
There is still fierce fighting in Ukraine and Syria and Iraq and probably a few other places that have escaped our attention, but of course all the news is about the relatively limited conflict between the humane and democratic state of Israel and the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang Hamas. For some reason or another Muslims can kill one another by the hundreds of thousands and the toll will be mentioned in the fifth and final paragraph of a story buried as deep as you can bury a story in today’s thin newspapers, but when a few million Jews from a humane and democratic state excruciating limit Muslim casualties in response to the thousands of rockets fired at its civilian population by a genocidal and totalitarian terror gang it warrants more prominent scrutiny. Despite the tsk-tsking of polite opinion we’re firmly on the side of the humane and democratic state, and hope they persist in the fighting long enough put a permanent stop to those rockets and the rest of the deadly threats to its people, but our country’s State Department seems to be siding with the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang. Israel being forced to defend itself against genocidal and totalitarian enemies is nothing new, but the United States’ new policies regarding the conflict are a worrisome twist on an otherwise familiar plot.
Polling indicates that a reassuring majority of Americans share our preference for the humane and democratic state over the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang, and the administration seems just as indifferent to the public opinion regarding the recent invasion of the United States by the unaccompanied minors of gang-ridden Central America. A percentage of Americans that a red-state Democrat would regard as overwhelming are wanting to send the urchins back home to the embracing of their dubiously loving families as soon as possible, but the administration is sending signals that it intends to welcome them into the arms of a deficit-spending welfare state and offer millions the very amnesty deal that provoked the invasion. The Congressional response is far too convoluted to recap here, involving as it does such arcane parliamentary maneuvers as “waiving the tree” and the bizarre mix of fecklessness and incompetence that too often characterizes the House Speakership of Rep. John Boehner, but suffice to say that it’s all been scuttled for now by a torrent of public outrage and the sensible stand of Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions is our very favorite Senator, and we think he’d be a front-running presidential candidate if he didn’t sound so very much like an Alabaman.
The immigration story is going loom large through the mid-term elections, and the administration’s preference for genocidal and totalitarian terror gangs over humane and democratic states might prove an issue in some districts, so it’s easy to lose sight of such an intriguing story as the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that Obamacare should be enforced according to the language in the bill rather than the language that it’s dwindling number of supporters would prefer. The bill’s dwindling number of apologists insist that that subsidies shouldn’t be paid only to people who singed up in the 14 states that were willing to set up their own exchanges, but their efforts have only added to a growing number of reasons to believe that was the explicitly stated intention of the people who passed the law without reading it so they could find out what was in it. This doesn’t mean that a Supreme Court Justice would want to uphold the plain language of the law, but it makes it slightly more likely that Obamacare and all its embarrassments will remain in the news through the fall.
There’s that Argentinian default and the country’s rather comely but entirely incompetent president blaming it all on America, and the big drop in the stock market that might have been caused by the relatively good news about Gross Domestic Product that might just result in a 2.3 percent growth rate after that the dip in the last quarter, and something about some homosexual football player and some ex-coach who said something about him. Just the links that Matt Drudge daily provides about the border invasion are all too exhausting, and trying to figure out the administration’s apparent belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is crucial to world peace is downright vexing, so we’re wishing we’d spent the time on a good lurid sex scandal.

— Bud Norman

Of Metal Detectors and Failed Policies

Secretary of State John Kerry was subjected to a metal detector before seeing the Egyptian President and military dictator General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday, just like any schlub trying to pay a parking ticket at Wichita City Hall. Some lingering sense of patriotic pride is offended by the obviously deliberate insult to America’s highest-ranking diplomat, but when America’s highest-ranking diplomat is John Kerry it seems almost appropriate.
One labors mightily to imagine any previous Secretary of State being subjected to such taunting treatment, much less accepting it from the military dictator of a second-rate power with an apologetic “tweet” instead of a vigorous protest, but so much of America’s recent foreign policy is unprecedented that nothing really surprises any more. Kerry’s stop in inconsiderate Cairo was part of a trip to the Middle East to attempt negotiation of a cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas terror gang of Gaza, and nothing about it makes sense. The mission is unlikely to succeed, would be harmful to the region’s chances of lasting peace if it did, and will further weaken America’s standing the world in the process.
The Hamas terror gang, which makes no secret of its genocidal intentions toward world Jewry, has lately been murdering Israeli teenagers and launching thousands of deadly rockets randomly into Israeli territory. Israel has been able to keep its civilian casualties low by use of its remarkable “Iron Dome” missile defense system, but has responded by striking carefully targeted retaliatory strikes at the launch sites after warning the civilian to evacuate the areas, and has more recently launched a ground assault under unusually strict rules of engagement against the elaborate network of tunnels that Hamas has created since Israel’s evacuation of Gaza. Any previous Secretary of State would have ventured to the region only to offer unequivocal support for Israel’s restrained response, and urge that it continue until Hamas’ ability to kill innocent Israeli civilians had been thoroughly degraded, but Kerry is heading there to urge further restraint and end Israel’s efforts before they are satisfactorily concluded.
The effort also takes Kerry though Egypt, where his rude reception was predictable after America’s flailing foreign policy regarding that troubled land. Readers who have been sufficiently distracted by that homosexual football player and that racist basketball team owner can be forgiven for having forgotten, but President Barack Obama launched America’s bold new foreign policy in the Middle East by flying to Cairo for a much-ballyhooed speech offering an olive branch to the Islamic and insulted the then President and military-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak by insisting that the radical Islamist group The Muslim Brotherhood be given a seat of honor at the front of the audience. There’s no telling what Obama’s oration had to do with it, but a popular uprising backed by the Obama administration toppled Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood briefly seized power in the country. When the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule predictably proved devastating to the country’s economy and freedom the Obama administration continued to back it with both words and money, even after a military dictatorship that reverted to support for Israel and opposition to Islamist radicalism reasserted itself. Despite its many flaws, being a military dictatorship chief among them, the Egyptian military dictatorship has been laudably firm against a Hamas terror gang that is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it cannot be expected to extend the usual diplomatic protocols to a Secretary of State that represents America’s recent peculiar policies.
Kerry can expect more polite treatment from the Israelis on his next stop, but he shouldn’t expect them to take him any more seriously. The administration has been making all the obligatory statements about Israel’s right to defend itself against a terror gang that rains down rockets on its people, but the Israelis are savvy enough to have noticed all the added language about restraint and all the other code words for capitulation. Despite their extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties even at the risk of Israeli soldiers, the Israelis are no doubt well aware that Kerry was overheard during a broadcast on the Fox News network sneering that their response was “A hell of a pinpoint operation.” The official line was that it the outburst was entirely inadvertent, as if such an experienced hand as Kerry would let loose in front of the microphones and cameras of the hated Fox News network, but in any case it is clear that he expects the Israelis to be even more restrained in their response to the thousands of rockets being lobbed into their country. They’ll also note that the Obama administration continues its generous subsidies to the Gaza government, even after the Hamas terror gang joined it as a partner, and that Kerry blamed the israelis for making his unlikely peace treaty “go poof” after Hamas become involved, and they could also be forgiven for subjecting him to a humiliating step through a metal detector.
Kerry might well claim that he’s going by that “international test” that he so ruinously proposed during his ill-fated presidential campaign, but at the moment he’s lagging well behind international opinion. Such fashionable western powers as France have expressed stronger support for Israel’s right to self-defense, and the kristallnacht-like rioting against the local Jewish populations seems only to have strengthened its resolve, and even the Sunni Arab countries are all offering off-the-record support for Israel’s against a terror gang backed by the Shi’ite Persian country of Iran that is cruising without meaningful American interference toward a nuclear bomb that will forever change the precarious balance of power in their powder keg regions.
None of these threatened countries will be reassured by America’s less-than-stalwart defense of its oldest allies, and none of America’s enemies will be placated. The Egyptians might as well have asked Kerry to empty his pockets, because America has relinquished its influence in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood.

— Bud Norman

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

The Obama administration has offered an “open hand” to the mad mullahs running Iran, a friendly “re-set” of relations with the kleptocracy in charge in Russia, and F-16s to the Muslim Brotherhood, but warned those pesky Republicans that “If they bring a knife to a fight, we bring a gun.”
We can’t recall the last occasion when any Republican brought a knife to a political dispute, or even any rhetorical sharpness, but such an unaccountable inconsistency is a peculiar characteristic of the modern progressive movement. In the properly progressive view of things any foreign foe is merely a insufficiently placated friend, no matter how theocratic or kleptocratic or female-genital-mutilating it might be, while anyone who espouses certain ideas about balanced budgets or individual liberty or the advisability of letting Kathleen Sebelius micro-manage America’s health care system is to be regarded as a dangerous lunatic and treated accordingly. This is a common refrain of our liberal friends and fellow bar patrons, who will wax poetic about the sincere religious convictions and ancient cultural authenticity of the fellow who is swinging a scimitar around his head and shrieking “Allahu Akbar” but worry that the lawn-mowing Baptist down the street is plotting a fascist conspiracy, and for the past five years or so it has been a consistent policy of the government.
Lately the administration has been talking tougher to America’s geo-political foes, but only because it has become necessary given the failure of all that open-handedness and re-setting friendliness to sufficiently placate them into friendship, and we don’t expect that our foes are any more impressed by the bluster than we are. Secretary of State John Kerry just assured the Israeli-American Public Affairs Council that “We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, period,” but even the Iranians are well aware that his boss used the same emphatic “period” to assure Americans that if they liked their health plan they could keep their health plan, and that it turned out to be as reliable as his declaration of a “red line” against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Similarly tough talk has been deployed against Russia after its annexation of a large chunk of Ukraine, which has re-re-set relations with that old adversary to Cold War days, but it’s all about standing with the international community and imposing sanctions and ignoring the reality that the relevant members of the international community won’t go along with sanctions because they’re more reliant on Russian natural gas than on America’s gaseous promises. There’s no longer any talk of supplying the Muslim Brotherhood with advanced military aviation, Allah be praised, but only because a military coup has conveniently removed them from power in Egypt.
However weak the Obama administration might seem in foreign affairs, however, any domestic opponents should remained warned that it is far more ruthless in domestic matters. There are no rhetorical open hands or offers of a re-set to the Republicans, who are routinely derided for wanting dirty air and water an the worst possible outcomes for the poor, and of waging a war on women that stops just short of clitoridectomies but will go so far as to withhold subsidies for contraception. Although the administration eschews any of Nicolo Machiavelli’s pragmatic prescriptions for foreign affairs it eagerly embraces Saul Allinsky’s even more ruthless “Rule For Radicals” when dealing with domestic matters, and anyone who makes a sizeable donation to a Republican candidate or reports a story unfavorable to the administration is likely to soon hear from the Internal Revenue Service o the Department of Justice or some suitably scary regulatory agency.
The IRS operative who has invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid nosy questions about her agency’s harassment of Ocala’s political opponents is being called back to a congressional hearing this week, and although we’ll be interested to hear to what she will or won’t say we expect it will be largely overlooked by a media suddenly interested in events abroad. This seems a shame, as her testimony or lack thereof will likely shed light on how very imposing the administration can be when it puts its mind to it. When Obama unleashes the IRS on Vladimir Putin or the Iranians or any of the other increasingly troubles regimes abroad it will suggest that he’s at last ready to rumble.

— Bud Norman

A Fine Mess

The world was so much simpler just five years ago. Back in that heady era of hope and change all the smart people assured us that any unpleasantness anywhere in the world — but especially with those nice folks in the Islamic world — was surely the fault of George W. Bush and the mean old western civilization that he had somehow come to lead, and all could be put right simply by smarter and more soft-spoken and culturally sensitive diplomacy. The mere presence in the White House of Barack Hussein Obama, by virtue of his dark hue, exotic nomenclature, Islamic education, and soaring oratory, was all that was needed to usher in a new age of global cooperation.
Things are now more complicated, judging by a cursory glance at the latest headlines. In the very same Cairo where President Obama gave a much-ballyhooed speech that was supposed to solve everything there is a sort of civil war underway, with forces of the military regime killing hundreds of backers of the recently deposed democratically-elected government that took power after Obama helped bring down a longtime dictator. It all sounds very much like a simple case of authoritarian forces crushing the legitimate aspirations of the freedom-yearning people, just the sort of clear-cut good-versus-evil scenario that Obama was elected to rectify, but the democratically-elected government was run by a fanatical Islamist group with no intention of allowing anything like a real democracy to exist and even while out of power is on a murderous rampage against the country’s Christian minority and anyone else that opposes its unrestrained power. The American response has been similarly muddled, with Obama condemning only the Egyptian government’s actions but refusing to call it a military coup and continuing to offer it substantial aid, and the result has been that both sides now regard America as the bad guy.
Further complicating the situation is the continued deterioration of the entire region. An all-out civil war continues to rage in Syria despite the American president’s insistence that country’s odious dictator must step down and despite American aid to the equally odious Islamist nutcases who are fighting him. A slightly different variety of Islamist nutcases in Iran continue their steady progress toward acquiring a nuclear weapon they have vowed to use against Israel, which is shrewdly bolstering its missile defenses even as it releases terrorists to play along with the latest American goose chase after an elusive peace accord with the Palestinians, who have no unified government to negotiate with and are quite uninterested in peace in any case. Yet another collection of Islamist nutcases are biding their time until a promised American withdrawal from Afghanistan to re-assume power in that troublesome country, while still more Islamist nutcases are causing so much mischief in Iraq that its government is asking America to reconsider its arbitrary withdrawal of troops from that nation. Emboldened by the various American retreats and strangely resistant to American efforts to “reset” relations, Russia has further roiled the region with its meddling on behalf of Syria and Iran and its newfound friendship with a meddlesome Saudi Arabia. Oh, and we’re pulling people out of embassies across the region for fear of terrorism, too.
We offer no easy solutions to this mess, nor do we ascribe the greatest measure of blame to any party except for the Islamist nutcases who are intent on imposing a totalitarian theocracy on the region and eventually the world, but that is our point. The naïve idealism of five years has been exposed as a dangerous lie, and the administration’s unwillingness to repudiate it is making a sensible response impossible. At this point only bad guys and bad options are available, and the least worst of these should be chosen without regard to any five-year-old fantasies about soft power and America’s supposed sins. Letting the Egyptian military rout the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood while maintaining peace with Israel and protecting the country’s Christians might well prove in America’s interests, no matter how brutal the methods, and the administration’s absurd fiction that those Islamist nutcases represent democracy should not trump such considerations. There is an understandable temptation to simply stand back on the let the entire Islamic world descend into the murderous madness that it seems to relish, with the secular west satisfied to let the region’s dwindling numbers of Christians and Jews suffer whatever fate that entails, but even if America’s conscience were to be untroubled by the slaughter the economic consequences would be harder to ignore. America could mitigate the economic calamity of the Middle East’s oil production shutting down by more fully exploiting its own energy resources, but the administration’s naïve idealism about carbon footprints and big oil wouldn’t allow that.
Still, we are assured that peace is at hand because “that’s what our democracy demands,” so all that unseemly and provocative defense spending can thus be used to fund Obamacare and other programs that will transform American into utopia. The same western left that condemns its own civilization for its racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance hails as democracy the rise of an Islamist movement that condones slavery, subjects its women to genital mutilation, and executes homosexuals by the most brutal methods, and openly declares its murderous intent against infidels. Let the Islamists have the Middle East and they will leave us alone, we are told, just as the British and French were told that the Nazis would be satisfied with the Sudetanland. In a simpler world, it would all be true.

— Bud Norman

Huma Nature

Of all the weird things about Anthony Weiner’s scandal-plagued run for mayor of New York City, and there are many of them, perhaps the weirdest is the adulation that has been heaped upon his wife.
Some sympathy for a wronged woman is understandable, even if such chivalry is in short supply when conservative women are being slandered by political opponents and foul-mouthed comedians, and any man with a cheating spouse will be ridiculed as a cuckold, but the kind words for Huma Abedin have gone far beyond supportive. Mika Brzezinski at MSBNC tweeted a paean to Abedin’s bravery, Slate magazine wrote of her dignity, and countless commentators tried to outdo one another in praising the extraordinary intelligence of a woman who married a high-tech flasher and national punch line. Perhaps the most worshipful Abedin coverage of all came from New York magazine, where Mark Jacobson wrote that “It was quite possible that she was the most cosmopolitan human being on Earth” and gushed that “Her brown eyes were pools of empathy evolved through a thousand generations of what was good and decent in the history of the human race.”
Aside from the obviously overblown writing, the likes of which has not been since Barack Obama’s first campaign for the presidency, this hyperbole requires a willful ignorance of some basic facts. One need go only one generation in Abedin’s lineage to find some far less than good and decent. Abedin’s father was a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization whose motto declares that “jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope,” and was a longtime editor of its al Qaeda-financed Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. Abedin’s mother was also a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, a remarkable feat given the organizations medieval misogyny, and assumed control of the JMMA after her husband death’s as well as running an organization called the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child which was tied to a designated terrorist group calling itself Union for Good.
Lest one think that we are visiting the sins of the father upon the daughter, to paraphrase another religion, Huma Abedin was an executive editor of the JMMA at the same she served as an intern in the Clinton White House — insert your own intern in the Clinton White House joke here — and was an executive board member of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Muslim Students Association while a student at George Washington University.
This resume didn’t keep Abedin from obtaining the necessary security to become an assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom she had a famously close relationship, and although it might be entirely coincidental the State Department became ever more accomodationist with the Muslim Brotherhood. The same president that has lately banned College Republicans from his speeches insisted that the Brotherhood be present for his much-hyped oration in Cairo, the organization was effectively ushered into power briefly after Obama insisted that the generally pro-American former dictator Hosni Mubarak resign from office, and Clinton personally intervened to reverse a Bush-era rule prohibiting the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s grandson from entering the country, among other Brotherhood-friendly moves by the administration.
All of which is considered impolite to mention by the pundits who are going on at such length about Abedin’s beauty, bravery, brains, and all-around awesomeness. Aside from the assumed Islamophobia of such quibbles, there’s also Abedin’s famously close relationship with Clinton to consider, after all. Still, we thought it worth mentioning.

— Bud Norman

Anti-Americanism in the Age of Obama

“Wake up, America,” said one of the signs waving amidst Sunday’s massive protest on in the streets of Cairo, “Obama backs up a fascist regime in Egypt.”
Outraged anti-Americanism has long been a staple of these Middle Eastern protest movements, and such slogans, always written in English for the benefit of an American audience, are usually easily ignored. This time around is different, though, because now the sloganeers are right. President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed government is indeed a fascist regime, at least in the sense that it is totalitarian and supremacist and imposes its will with a vicious brutality, and it is indeed backed up by Obama, at least in the sense that he ushered it into power by withdrawing support from the previous Hosni Mubarak government, offered rhetorical support and official recognition of the succeeding Morsi government, and has provided it considerable financial and military support. The hundreds of thousands of protestors who filled the streets of several Egyptian cities on Sunday clearly believe the American policy is harmful to their country, and it is hard to see how it is doing ours any good.
Although one must concede the possibility that it was all well-intentioned, and based on the most admirably anti-colonial and sensitive idealism, the administration’s Egyptian policy has been a series of catastrophic missteps. Mubarak was a dictator by any definition, and the same sorts of slogans as we cited above would have undoubtedly appeared in the inevitable protests if America had continued its support of his regime, but he was relatively benign by regional standards, kept the country’s hopelessly inefficient economy more or less afloat, and was resigned to a tense peace with Israel, so at least the Arab street would have been angry at America for acting in its national interest. By pushing Mubarak out and helping to usher in the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that proudly proclaims “Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations,” the administration now has the Arab street hating us for supporting a government that also hates us.
This was also entirely predictable and widely predicted. The Muslim Brotherhood’s program of religious fanaticism, bellicose xenophobia, and medieval nostalgia was never going to modernize Egypt’s moribund economy or corrupt social institutions enough to provide a tolerable life for its citizens, making the current uprising inevitable, and no amount of American money or appeasement could have prevented the country’s slide into its current sorry state. The current protests might be brutally squashed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s famously vicious thugs or perhaps the country’s seemingly ambivalent military, with America getting much of the blame in either case, or it will lead to a new government that comes into power with a deep-seated mistrust of America’s promises. There’s no guarantee that any new government will not be any friendlier to western interests, as the current unrest is due to economic conditions and an Islamist party with promises of hope and change and a stimulus package might win the day, and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll fare any better than their predecessors.
There was no course Obama might have steered that would endeared America to Egypt’s unfortunate citizens, but he should have figured that out back when he was constantly criticizing the Bush administration for every anti-American sign that was waved in a Middle Eastern protest rally. At least America was hated for acting in its own self-interest in those dark days, and not for its ill-advised support of a government that hated us all along. Wake up, America, indeed.

— Bud Norman

Bad Guys, Worse Guys, and the Middle East

Perhaps there is some coherent reasoning behind America’s recent foreign policy, which now finds the country backing a bunch of al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist nutcases in the bloody Syrian civil war. If so, it would be nice if someone from the Obama administration could provide the explanation.
To be fair to the Obama administration, not backing the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist nutcases was also a bad option. The Assad regime that the rebels are trying to overthrow is also quite nasty and a threat to American interests, its continued survival would strengthen the position of a troublesome Iranian regime that is rapidly closing in on a nuclear weapons capability, Assad’s use of chemical weapons has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, and after Obama’s declaration of a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons inaction would further erode America’s credibility in a region where it has already been ceding influence. At this point, with no good guys left in the fight, backing a bunch of al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist nutcases is arguably the least-worst option.
Lest one be too fair, though, it should also be noted that it was a series of blunders that led us to this point. The Obama administration spent years that could have been used bolstering a more democratic and pro-western resistance in a futile attempt to flatter Syria into compliance with international standards of behavior, with the past Secretary of State praising Assad as a “reformer,” which was part of an equally futile effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions by the force of sheer niceness, and the “red line” declaration was a bit of too-little, too-late bluster that only boxed the administration into its current lousy options. An conspicuously equivocal relationship with Israel, precipitous withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, the betrayal of a friendly regime in favor of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the “lead from behind” toppling of a dictator who had already bowed to American in Libya, the tragic debacle that followed in Benghazi, and a generally apologetic tone all further encouraged defiance from the likes of Assad, and all of the tinpot satraps of the Middle East are probably as a confounded by American foreign policy as we are.
It could get even worse, of course, if American aid to the rebels fails to topple Assad and he and his Iranian allies are able to trumpet their victory over the imperialist crusaders. It could also get worse if the rebels prevail, and they provide yet another model to provoke Islamist uprisings elsewhere and provide state support to terrorism against their former imperialist crusader allies. Things might get better, we suppose, but it’s hard to see how.
There will be the inevitable “wag the dog” theories that Obama is concocting a foreign military adventure to distract attention from the myriad scandals that have suddenly beset his administration, but as much as we are inclined to believe the worst of him it seems implausible. Something is always going on to justify such speculation, which arises with every foreign crisis, and Obama is at least shrewd enough to realize that another war won’t placate a left-wing base smoldering over revelations of an invasive National Security Administration and backing a bunch of al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist nutcases won’t please a right-wing opposition infuriated by the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment. After winning re-election on the argument that al Qaeda has been routed, and telling an audience at the National Defense University that the war on terror is winding down because “That’s what democracy demands,” we suspect that Obama would prefer a juicy celebrity scandal as a distraction rather than another war.
As appealing as the conspiracy theories might be, the more likely explanation is that a combination of bad luck, bad choices, and the inherently dangerous nature of the world have led us to this unpleasant situation. We’ll hope it all works out, somehow, but that’s not how we’ll bet.

— Bud Norman

National Insecurity

President Barack Obama delivered a lengthy address on national security issues Thursday, and we are left feeling rather insecure.
There were a few lines in the speech calculated to curry favor with conservatives, including a nostalgic paean to the “long twilight struggle of the Cold War” that actually sounded pleased with the outcome, a much overdue acknowledgement that the Fort Hood shootings were an act of terrorism rather than “workplace violence,” and a humble admission that there are some crazy people out there who are eager to kill Americans even if Barack Hussein Obama is the president, but otherwise it was clearly intended to mollify the left. Much of the speech was devoted to same sneering criticism of the George W. Bush administration that used to wow the crowds back in the ’08 election, as well as some dishonest preening about how he has differed from his predecessor, such as laughable claim that he has “expanded our consultations with Congress,” and the headline-making announcements that he once again hopes to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, will be cutting back on his aggressive use of targeted strikes by armed drones, and has declared something akin to victory in the war against Islamist terrorism and will be winding it all down because “That’s what our democracy demands.”
Less clear is why the president feels the left needs mollification, given that it has thus far been willing to go along with anything he does. There has been some grumbling about the more robust aspects of Obama’s foreign policy at the furthest fringes of the left, such as the founder of the Code Pink group of peaceniks who interrupted the speech with some characteristically rude heckling, prompting the president to assure her that she would be quite satisfied with what he had to say once the speech proceeded, but they are an infinitesimal constituency and cannot be mollified by anything short of complete capitulation to America’s enemies. Perhaps the president simply wanted to talk about something other than scandals swirling around his administration, although he did end up mentioning the Justice Department’s scandalous probe of several organizations because of its putative ties to national security leaks and there was a desperate attempt to blame the Benghazi fiasco on budget problems.
Most lefties who manage to slog through the speech will be pleased with it, we suspect, but anyone a notch or two to the right of Code Pink will find a great deal to argue with. Obama once again asserted that the Guantanamo Bay detention center is provokes such outrage among Muslim moderates that it is causing more terrorism than it prevents, but he did not explain why incinerating a terrorist with a missile from a drone is less offensive to Islamist sensibilities nor did he answer any of the questions about what to do with the detainees that have kept the center open since he signed an executive order to close it way back in ’09. Obama’s schizophrenic indictment and defense of his own drone policy wasn’t convincing, either as an indictment or a defense, and because of his high-minded aversion to detaining or interrogating terror suspect it raised the question of what, if anything, he will be doing instead. He called for an increase in foreign aid, perhaps to further enrich the treasuries of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and similar emerging theocracies, but he was not specific.
Most worrisome was the part about how “This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.” The terrorists who are intent on striking at America see their efforts as just the latest skirmish in a war against the infidels that has raged since Muhammad launched his first jihad more than 1,400 years ago, but they are notoriously indifferent to history’s advice and at this point it seems unlikely they will end it just because that is what our democracy demands. There is always a way for one side of war to end it unilaterally, an old technique called surrender, and we hope that is not what the president has it mind.

— Bud Norman

Falling Up the Stairs

One should always be careful about what one wishes for, because one might just wind up with John Kerry as Secretary of State.
We ruefully admit that we hard ardently wished to see Hillary Clinton extricated from that post, even long before her inept involvement in the fiasco that led to the death of an ambassador and three other Americans in Libya on Sept. 11 or her scandalous behavior in the aftermath, and our wish was granted when she announced her long anticipated resignation. Then we wished that United Nations ambassador Susan Rice wouldn’t get the job, partly because of her own dissembling regarding the Libya deaths and partly because of everything else about her personality and foreign policy philosophy, and our luck continued when she withdrew her name from consideration rather than subject her president to weeks of damning headlines about Libya. We would have much preferred that she be denied the promotion after the weeks of damning headlines, all in a futile hope that the public could be convinced to care about the incompetence, dishonesty, and disregard for American principles that characterized the sordid affair, but by then our luck had run out.
Which leads us to the likely nomination of John Kerry, and his likely confirmation by his collegial colleagues in the Senate, and then on to the inevitable catastrophes that will result from his stewardship of the State Department.. Few things in life are reliable, but John Kerry has been wrong about every single foreign policy decision of his career.
The youngsters who only recall Kerry as the noble war hero who was “reporting for duty” as the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2004 might not be aware that he first intruded into public life as the shaggy-haired leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Reasonable people will disagree about the wisdom of that group’s position, if not the haircut, but it is worth noting that Kerry was opposed not only to the Vietnam War but America’s resistance to communism. In Kerry’s now infamous testimony to the Senate in 1971, when he argued the people of South Vietnam had no opinion regarding what political and economic system they should live under, he scoffed at “the mystical war against communism” and added that “we cannot fight communism all over the world, and I think we should have learned that lesson by now.” With the sarcastic certainty of the young, which was so especially pronounced during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Kerry went onto dismiss the entire Cold War by sneering that “I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.”
Such insouciance about a totalitarian system that had hundreds of nuclear missiles pointed at the United States naturally earned Kerry one of Massachusetts’ seats in the Senate, where he continued to get the Cold War entirely wrong. He was not the least concerned about the Soviet Union establishing a puppet state in Nicaragua, and was one of the most outspoken critics of the Reagan administration’s covert effort to supply guns to a resistance movement there. Kerry has been less vocal about the current administration’s covert effort to supply guns to Mexican drug gangs, but that is another matter. The Senator also led the opposition to the war against another Soviet puppet state in Grenada, but because the war latest only a few moments the movement never gained much steam. A cheerleader for the European “nuclear freeze” movement that opposed Reagan’s introduction of short-range nuclear missiles to the continent, Kerry introduced a Comprehensive Nuclear Freeze Bill in 1985 and constantly fought against the Strategic Defense Initiative, notions he still clings to with a quaint nostalgia.
After the short-range missiles and so-called “star wars” program played a crucial role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and America’s complete triumph in the Cold War, Kerry turned his uncannily unreliable foreign policy knack to the new challenge of radical Islamism. He voted to authorize an invasion and occupation of Iraq, as did the person that Obama had previously chosen to be Secretary of State, but Kerry quickly resorted to his old ways and became an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war right through the implementation of the ultimately successful “surge” strategy. Although reasonable people can disagree with Kerry’s vote for the war, as he does, there is little doubt that if America had pulled out at the time Kerry demanded it the results for both America and Iraq would not have been as satisfactory.
More recently, Kerry has been meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood and offering reassurances that they’re really a very peaceable and democratic lot. Subsequent events in Egypt have proved otherwise, of course, but given Kerry’s history the outcome was drearily predictable. We suppose it should have been predictable, too, that such an unblemished record of wrongness would culminate in Kerry becoming the Secretary of State.

— Bud Norman