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How bad is the situation in Iraq? How much worse is it likely to get?

The answer to the first question is pretty bad. With more than 130 dead in sectarian clashes throughout the country and several dozen Sunni mosques set afire in retaliation for the destruction of one the Shi’ite s holiest places, the Askariya Shrine, many are saying that Iraq is close to a sectarian civil war.

Which brings us to the second question; is a civil war possible and how likely is it?

Bill Roggio gives us some leading indicators to watch for regarding the probability of full scale conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites:

• The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.
• Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.
• Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.
• Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.
• Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
• Major political figures – Shiite and Sunni – openly call for retaliation.
• The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.
• Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol.
• Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.
• Iraqi Security Forces begins severing ties with the Coalition, including:

o Disembeddeding the Military Transition Teams.
o Requests U.S. forces to vacate Forward Operating Bases / Battle Positions in Western and Northern Iraq.
o Alienates Coalition at training academies.

Bill lists several other signs including the Shi’ite dominated military and police standing by while the violence against Sunnis escalates, the mobilization of Shi’ite militias, and the active participation of military and police units in the violence against Sunnis.

Outside of the main Sunni political alliance withdrawing from talks to form a government (something they have done before), none of Bill’s other criteria for civil war are being met. There have been scattered reports of security forces joining in the destruction of Sunni mosques but these reports are unconfirmed and there appears to be no widespread action by the army or police against Sunnis.

No major political figures – including the man who is considered most responsible for the anti-Sunni violence Muqtada al Sadr – have called for violent retaliation. Sadr’s militia which is composed mostly of street thugs and unemployed youth have apparently taken it upon themselves to carry out retaliatory raids without the blessing of their leader.

This is to be expected at least for the moment. Sadr still wants to be a player in the government and any outward call for violence on his part would scuttle his hopes. That is, unless the violence continues in which case he and his militia could emerge (as Bill points out) as the sharp end of the stick in the kind of street fighting that would erupt in a full scale civil war. For the moment, his followers seem to know what to do without him saying a word. His position could actually be strengthened if he can reign them in after a couple of days at which point he could proclaim himself a peacemaker of sorts.

In this charged up atmosphere, both sides are seeking to blame the US. The Sunnis say our troops are standing by while their mosques are being burned and people are slaughtered. The Shi’ites complain that because we’ve restrained them in the past when Sunnis were slaughtering Shi’ites, outrages like the destruction of the shrine became more likely.

One could say as long as they are blaming us, they’re not going at each other full bore, which is cold comfort given the circumstances. That could change in a matter of hours.

Other Shi’ite leaders including the influential spiritual leader Ayatollah al-Sistani have called for “peaceful protests” and eschewed violence. And as the site Healing Iraq points out, the Sunnis have been strangely quiet:

So far, there has been no retaliation by any Sunni groups. There was news of a bombing at a small Shi’ite shrine in the Karrada district called Maqam Sayyid Edriess, but no details on that. A couple of insurgent groups with ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, notably the Mujahideen Council, have denied any responsibility of the Samarra attack. This leads us to wonder, if the Sunni groups have been planning to start a civil war all along, as many analysts have claimed, why are they so silent now? Where is Zarqawi? I am actually baffled by the lack of reprisals or any other response from the Sunni community. That could be the only glimmer of hope we have now. For how long, though? Friday prayers are tomorrow, and that is bad. But then again, maybe there won’t be any Friday prayers, as it looks like most of the mosques are either closed or taken over by Mahdi militiamen, at least in Shi’ite and mixed areas.

One other hopeful sign; there apparently are many mixed Sunni and Shi’ite neighborhoods where residents are working together to protect Sunni lives and property. And there are many ordinary Shi’ites who vigorously condemned the attacks on Sunnis:

Still, the neighborhood itself did not divide along sectarian lines: Shiite residents also condemned Wednesday’s assaults. Neighborhoods all over Baghdad reported similar camaraderie.

“As a Shiite, I do not accept this,” said Saadiya Salim, a 50-year-old homemaker. “These acts will lead to violence, because the Sunnis will attack” Shiite mosques.

As the afternoon dragged on and law enforcers were nowhere to be seen, neighborhoods seemed to shrink into themselves, setting up makeshift roadblocks out of the trunks of palm trees and, pieces of castaway metal stoves.

It was behind such a barricade that a frightened group of Sunni men took refuge, blocking off the entrance to their mosque, Malik bin Anas, in Al Moalimin district. Men with machine guns stood on the roof, their faces wrapped in scarves.

Will we look back and recall the destruction of the Shrine as Iraq’s Fort Sumter, the start of a bloody civil war? Or, will we mark it down as more of the same sectarian bloodletting that has plagued this tragic country since the overthrow of Saddam?

The US believes that the institutions of government in Iraq are strong enough to confront this crisis and overcome the violence. This may be true although other, unforseen circumstances could change that in a hurry. The point being, it is not likely that the destruction of the Shrine presages an all out civil war.

A more apt analogy than Fort Sumter where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired would be what became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 that divided an unorganized territory into two potential states, settlers poured in because of a rider to the Act that allowed for “popular sovereignty” to decide the slavery question. Northern abolitionists sponsored settlers opposed to slavery while southern groups sent their supporters into the territories in order to vote for slavery. What started as a land rush became a bloody mess as Missouri “border ruffians” clashed with free state “Jayhawkers” all over the Kansas territory. When the pro-slavery groups sacked and burned the town of Lawrence, Kansas in 1856, retaliation came in the form of a wild-eyed Ohioan named John Brown who dragged 7 men and boys out of their houses and hacked them to death with broadswords.

The sacking of Lawrence and Brown’s retaliation was the catalyst for a bloody cycle of violence that became known as “Bleeding Kansas” which was to plague the state until the end of the Civil War and after.

The parallel to Iraq is obvious. And the danger is the same as well. Bleeding Kansas is considered one of the causes of the Civil War. And while the destruction of the Askariya Shrine will probably not be the immediate cause of a civil war in Iraq, it could nevertheless initiate a cycle of violence that once started, may be impossible to turn off.

This is the biggest test so far for the Iraqi government. It remains to be seen whether they have the strength and will to meet it.

By: Rick Moran at 7:50 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

Fly At Night linked with The Turkey Factor
The Liberal Wrong Wing linked with More Chaos in Iraq

The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category is A Dialogue by Gates of Vienna. Finishing second was SHAME, GUILT, THE MUSLIM PSYCHE, AND THE DANISH CARTOONS by Dr. Sanity.

Finishing on top in the non Council category was The Big Pharoah for The 10 Commandments.

If you’d like to participate in the weekly Watchers Council vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 5:32 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


Okay…we’re back.
Did you miss me?
Aw, C’mon! It’s only been a week!
Jeez…even us Carnival folk need a vacation now and again.
And no, the site was not hacked by some wild-eyed bloodthirsty jihadist.
It was simply a matter of my ISP going wacky on me.
So I’m sorry for not doing the Carnival last week.
Do you forgive me?
If not, go here and put a sock in it.

We’ve got a huge variety of cluebats for your reading pleasure this week. Some old, some new, some borrowed, some definitely blue. I mean, how would you feel if everyone was pointing a finger at you and laughing? I know I’d be pretty depressed about the whole thing. Come to think about it…I’ve been on that side of the fence quite often. Like when I lost my swim suit in high school when I was swimming the 400. I swam nearly 300 yards with my swim suit around my ankles.

You can bet that the next race I swam that suit was tied so tight it almost strangled my small intestine.

So maybe I should ask people to have pity on these cluebats. Maybe we should show a little empathy and understanding. Maybe we should apply a little “live and let live.” Maybe we should give them a great big collective pat on the back and say “Fagettiboutit, pal. We all make mistakes.”...


“Of all follies there is none greater than wanting to make the world a better place.”

“Holy Moley! You could be Chairman of the Democratic Pary!


Beth at MVRWC returns to the Carnival with a vengeance as she takes on Andrew Sullivan and slaps the former blogger around for his loony Cheney bashing.

Holy Aho gives us an update on the planned draft dodger memorial in Canada. She has an artist’s rendering of the proposed statue that made me laugh when I saw it.

Speaking of laughing, Pat Curley has the Cheney story entirely in pictures. This should have received wider distribution among blogs – it’s that good.

Our lovely Pamela at Atlas Shrugs has a some thoughts on the recent out of control Muslims rioting over the toon caper while highlighting the total cluelessness of a San Francisco (where else?) Supervisor who doesn’t think that the US needs a military.

Those Presidential Pachyderms at Elephants in Academia have a little President’s Day present of Cluebat Hall of Famer Jimmy Carter.

Speaking of the worst ex-President in history, Miriam has “9 Things I Hate About Jimmy Carter.” I’m sure she could have found a few more if she tried.

Ferdy the Cat is thinking extremely deep thoughts this week (methinks someone slipped some ginseng in his cheeseballs) about moral relativism regarding Iran and Israel. We all know that this kind of thinking is unusual for cats, the creatures being much more linear in their thinking usually…as in “Feed Me! Pet Me! Clean my Litterbox, fool!”

Fred Frey asks some prescient questions of Muslims about the Mohamed cartoons.

AJ Strata skewers the idiot judge that approved the ACLU lawsuit granting them access to details of the NSA intercept program.

Here’s your dose of Carnival satire from the usual suspects:

Mr. Right has the skinny on the long anticipated “Bush purge.”

Buckley F. Williams strips Willy Nelson of his cowboy charter for writing a song about gay cowboys.

Our favorite hippie chick Peace Moonbeam was protesting the “bloodthirsty” Dick Cheney with a rather unique idea.

“Bitter the jest when satire comes too near truth and leaves a sharp sting behind it.”
(Publius Cornelius Tacitus)

Kender just can’t watch Bryant Gumbel after the clueless one complained about a “lack of color” at the Olympics. Well Jee-Suz Bryant! Whaddya expect with all that snow on the ground?

Jack Cluth has some pretty funny thoughts on the similarities between Enron and al Qaeda.

Jay at Stop the ACLU is calling for a special counsel to investigate the so-called rights group. About time.

Bob at Either Orr knows exactly what Dana Milbanks was doing dressed up in that ridiculous hunting outfit when he appeared on Olberman’s show.

Batya is saddened by the state of affairs in Israel and how some clueless folk just can’t see the danger.

DL at TMH Bacon Bits calls out Hillary Clinton for some of her more clueless recent comments.

The Gajin Biker goes after Robert Wright’s clueless op-ed in the New York Times about the cartoon jihad. Never cross someone with a Samurai sword in their hand.

Iris Blog brings us up to date on the world’s first legitimately elected terrorist government and shows how the cluelessness of some people about their intentions can be hazardous to a lot of people’s health.

Josh Cohen asks Ann Coulter to stop being so helpful to the conservative cause.

Mark Coffey has the “Stupidest Column of the Year.” Since it was written by Richard Cohen I’d say that’s spot on.

More commentary from Philomathean who reminds us of the timeless adage followed by Cohen and others of his ilk; ignorance is bliss.

XYBA writes about the incredible cluelessness at the University of Washington who want to deny WW II hero Pappy Boyington his rightful place as an American hero.

David Porter asks “Are Realtors going to become extinct?” (I think David took a wrong turn at Poughkeepsie and ended up at this Carnival rather than the Carnival of the Capitalists.)

Finally, here’s my piece on a story that got little attention this week. IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei is backing down on sanctions for Iran.

By: Rick Moran at 3:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

Blog Carnival linked with Blog Carnival index: CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #33: THE KISS AND MAKE-UP EDITION
Multiple Mentality linked with Carnivalized!
MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy linked with Carnies
Watcher of Weasels linked with Weekly Roundup of Weekly Roundups
Kenders' Musings linked with Carnival of the Clueless is Up....
Brainster's Blog linked with Carnival of the Clueless is Up!

The backlash against the incompetent and cavalier manner in which the Bush Administration has handled the DPW port sale imbroglio has spawned its very own hysterical opposition – much of it from those who should know better. And I can assure these holier than thou hysterics that the way to make friends and influence people is not by calling them bigots or questioning their patriotism.

I don’t like waking up in the morning and discovering that I’m an “Islamaphobe” or “Un-American” for calling the Administration a bunch of rabbit heads for the way they’ve managed the unveiling of this idiocy. To tell you the truth, I resent it. It bespeaks a certain kind of intellectual laziness when the best one can do to counter an argument is to indulge in an orgy of name calling and finger pointing. Better to have the facts at one’s disposal and try and counter an opponent’s argument in a logical and rational manner.

The funny thing is, no one is disputing the basic facts that the Administration is using to justify the sale. Nobody is claiming the DPW isn’t competent enough to handle the management of the six ports in question. No one is arguing that the UAE isn’t a friend of the United States. Nobody is making any grandiose claims that our security will be compromised although dismissing security concerns out of hand reminds me of a pre-9/11 outlook on defending the homeland more worthy of the mindless mouthings of the John Kerry’s of the world. Nobody is saying that the deal doesn’t make good business sense.

What those of us who oppose this deal are criticizing is the way in which the decision was reached in the first place and that the decision has to be looked at in the much broader context of the cavalier way in which this Administration has handled some – not all – key homeland security issues that call into question whether or not we are doing all that is humanly possible to prevent a repeat of 9/11.

September 11, 2001 is the elephant in the room that refuses to get up and leave. The left has tried to sweep that date from the historical record because it disadvantages them politically. The date reminds voters (and they need little or no help from the Administration to have their memories jogged) that there is a difference in the way the two parties have responded to the challenges posed by the attacks on America: One party has responded by taking down two murderous thugocracies, pursuing the perpetrators of 9/11 all over the planet, attacking their financial infrastructure, and generally making life miserable for terrorists everywhere – even in this country.

The other party has whined incessantly about the Administration using the attacks to gain a political advantage and resurrect the Third Reich . Outside of that, there have been no concrete proposals for fighting terrorists save arresting them after they’ve committed a crime. The unspoken denouement to that little scenario is, of course, lots of dead voters which may explain why the majority of Americans trust the left with our national security just about as far as they can throw that elephant in the room.

But some of the critiques on homeland security from the left have been spot on. And one of their more prescient arguments is that our ports are wide open to attack because the Administration has failed to adequately plan and fund a comprehensive security program that would inspect more than the 10% of the 9 million containers that arrive by ship in this country every year as we do currently.

Yes, much has been done especially in upgrading our capability to detect nuclear materials and some bio threats. And we have also done much in concert with our trading partners to increase security generally at ports around the world. But more than 4 years after that awful September day, the Republican Congress and Administration have failed to give our ports the attention they deserve and have left us vulnerable to the kind of WMD attack that would make 9/11 seem mild by comparison.

And lets not even get started on illegal immigration. The attitude of the Administration and many in Congress toward the flood of lawbreakers who cross our borders with impunity is maddening. It isn’t just the illegals themselves. The megatonnage of drugs that cross our borders every year could someday be matched by a similar megatonnage in a nuclear blast effect given the ease with which both drug dealers and terrorists can enter the United States.

That’s why this argument is not taking place in a vacuum. And to accuse those of us who see this deal as one more piece of evidence that the Bush Administration is not doing enough to protect the homeland of ethnic hatred or betraying the “values” of America is pure bunk.

Is Michael Ledeen an Islamophobe:

This is the foreign-policy equivalent of the Harriet Meiers nomination to the Supreme Court, isn’t it? Just as her wit and wisdom were beside the point, so Homeland Security’s careful negotiations with the new owners have nothing to do with the main issue, which is that only a tone-deaf bureaucrat would turn over the operation of our ports to a company from Dubai. Not only does it add new security burdens to an agency already overwhelmed by its impossible mission, but it puts one of Iran’s closest partners in a most sensitive position inside the United States. As I’ve had occasion to note over the past few years, Dubai is home to billions of mullahdollars, and the black market through which all manner of illegal arms shipments and money-being-laundered have passed. I’m sure it will have the same outcome as the Meiers fiasco. Faster, please.

As I mentioned briefly in my post yesterday, Dubai has been a major financier in the export of the Saudi brand of Wahhabist Islamism to the west.

Alex Alexiev:

From the very beginning in the 1970s, the UAE has been a key source of financial support for Saudi-controlled organizations like the Islamic Solidarity Fund, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), World Council of Mosques, and the Muslim World League (MWL) as documented in The Muslim World League Journal, an English-language monthly. The IDB alone, for instance, spent $10 billion between 1977 and 1990 for “Islamic activities” and at least $1 billion more recently to support terrorist activities by the Palestinian Al Aqsa and Intifada Funds.

One of the most successful Islamist operations in the U.S. early on involved the Wahhabi ideological takeover of the Nation of Islam after the death of its founder Elijah Muhammad. Of the $4.8 million “presented” to W. D. Muhammad, Elijah’s son and successor, in 1980 alone, one million came from UAE’s president Sheikh Zayad, according to the August 1980 issue of the MWL Journal.

Why is this important? Could it be because DPW is a state owned company? I am puzzled when I read the argument made by those who downplay the security angle to this deal that other countries have terrorists operating inside their borders but we don’t penalize them for it.

Jim Geraghty:

“Much of the operational planning for the World Trade Center attacks took place inside the UAE.” Well, the Hamburg cell planned a lot in Germany. Are we to distrust German companies? Does this fact outweigh the fact that our military leaders credit the UAE for cooperation and help in the war on terror, and call them “very, very solid partners”? Do we suspect that Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace are lying, and putting American lives at risk because they really want to see this deal go through?

First, German companies are not under the thumb of their government like DPW is with Dubai which is ruled by a Medieval autocrat named Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Sheik Mo rules the Rhode Island sized city-state with a combination of “hail fellow well met” casualness and a draconian application of Middle Eastern thuggery. His cronies and, more importantly, his family owns and operate all major businesses including most of the locally owned banks that coincidentally handled much of the financial arrangements for the 9/11 hijackers. To this day, those banks are conduits for terrorist financing. Also, it has been charged but never confirmed that Sheik Mo participated in one or more of those famous “hunting trips” with Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar prior to 9/11.

What we do know is that the Sheik bankrolls the “hate the west” religious instruction taught in the Madrasses set up by the Wahhabi sect all over the world, including America. For that reason alone, the state owned DPW should be denied the contract.

But Geraghty brings up a good point about Rummy and Pace. Of course they don’t want to put American lives at risk. But perhaps Geraghty would like to explain why those two esteemed gentlemen were never briefed prior to the CFIUS Committee giving the go ahead on this deal.

While he’s at it, maybe he could include an explanation as to why President Bush himself was kept out of the loop.

This is the point of my critique. I asked yesterday, “How could DPW being in charge of the management of our ports facilitate a terrorist attack on the United States? Do you want to find out?”

It’s never been my contention that this deal is bad on its face. The problem I have with it has been that in the Age of Terror, from the bureaucrats who sit on the CFIUS all the way up to the President himself, there have been several blind spots relating to our security. By not engaging the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the outset on this issue, it is one more indication to me that there is too much business as usual, too much bureaucratic inertia that makes it appear that too many in the Administration take our security for granted.

In short, I just don’t trust them.


After having her site criminally hacked and put out of commission, Michelle Malkin is back this afternoon – with a vengeance.

Malkin’s post starts much as mine did – castigating the tone and language of supporters of this deal. She then rips their arguments to shreds with devastating clarity and without calling them nasty names:

Many retreating politicians, pundits, and bloggers are all too eager to overlook the dubious business-as-usual approval process that supposedly vetted the deal’s risks thoroughly. The supporters of, and retreaters on, the deal are also silent about the unprecedented, Islamic law-compliant funding scheme that allowed state-owned Dubai Ports World to force its more experienced rival to drop its bid for P&O. (The underwriters of Dubai Ports World’s $3.5 billion Islamic financing instrument called a “sukuk”—Barclay’s and Dubai Islamic Bank—were both cited as probable conduits for bin Laden money.)

Read the whole thing.

By: Rick Moran at 8:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (23)

Hard Starboard linked with Upon Further Review
Right Voices linked with RV Poll #6 - Do you believe the U.S. should have approved the UAE port deal?
Macmind - Conservative Commentary and Common Sense linked with More Port "Absurdity" III
All Things Beautiful linked with Dubai Ports - The Bigger Picture
Palmetto Pundit linked with Standing Firm on Port Sale
Michelle Malkin linked with PORTGATE AND THE RUBBER-STAMPERS
TMH's Bacon Bits linked with Bacon Break — Heavenly Harbors
The Moderate Voice linked with Ports Plan Critics Pile On Bush Administration Amid Some Softening Signs (UPDATED)

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River.

This is the story of what could be the greatest day of the greatest American who ever lived. It originally appeared in The American Thinker on February 22, 2005 and was the very first article I wrote for that fine publication. And since today George Washington would be 274 years old, I thought it appropriate to re-publish it.

I realize that most tributes to Washington were done on Monday which is commonly called “Presidents Day” but, as the article makes clear, is actually the lawful holiday for Washington’s birthday. My point is that our first President deserves to have the actual day of his birthday recognized rather than the closest Monday on which it falls. If any American deserves this singular honor, it is Washington. Quite simply, there would not be a United States of America without him. And even if there were, it would certainly be a much different place.


This article originally appeared in The American Thinker.

The year was 1783. While formal hostilities had virtually ceased between the Crown and the American colonies, peace talks continued to drag on in London. The Congress was broke and in serious debt even though the Articles of Confederation, which required individual states to contribute funds to the Congress, had been approved two years earlier.

The Continental Army was restless. Many of its officers hadn’t been paid in months. Promises made by Congress at the time of their enlistment regarding reimbursement for food and clothing, pensions, and a pledge to give the officers half pay for life were either not being honored or were rumored to be withdrawn. Petitions by groups of officers to Congress asking them to redress these and other grievances either went unanswered or were brushed aside.

As a result of these indignities, a cabal of officers headed up by Colonel Walter Stewart and Major John Armstrong, an aide to George Washington’s chief rival Horatio Gates, were making plans to march to Philadelphia at the head of their men to force Congress to deal with their demands. The implication was clear; if Congress would not address their concerns, the men would enforce their will at the point of a bayonet.

The plotters believed that General Washington would be forced by their actions to become a reluctant participant in a military coup against the government. They believed that by presenting a united front composed of the senior officers in the army, Washington would have no choice but to back them.

To that end, they scheduled a meeting on March 10 of all general and field officers. With the invitation to the meeting, a fiery letter was circulated calling on the soldiers not to disarm in peace and, if the war were to continue, to disband and leave the country to the tender mercies of the British Army.

Washington got wind of the meeting and was deeply troubled. He issued a General Order canceling the gathering and instead, called for another meeting on March 15 ” of representatives of all the regiments to decide how to attain the just and important object in view.” The next day, another letter was circulated by the plotters that implied by issuing the General Order, Washington agreed with their position.

With the army teetering on the edge of revolt and the future of the United States as a republic in the balance, Washington stood before the assembled officers and began to speak. He started by saying he sympathized with their plight, that he had written countless letters to Congress reminding them of their responsibilities to the soldiers, and begged the officers not to take any action that would “lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained.”

At that point, Washington reached into his pocket and withdrew a letter from a Congressman outlining what the government would do to address the soldiers grievances. But something was wrong. Washington started reading the letter but stopped abruptly. Then, with a sense of the moment and flair for the dramatic not equaled until Ronald Reagan became President, Washington slowly reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a pair of spectacles. There were gasps in the room as most of the officers had never seen their beloved General display such a sign of physical weakness in public. As he put the glasses on, Washington said “Gentlemen, you’ll permit me to put on my spectacles, as I have grown not only old but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Witnesses say that the officers almost to a man began to weep. This powerful reminder of the nearly eight years of service together and their shared sacrifices and hardships won the day. The revolt died then and there.

It could be argued that this was the greatest day of the greatest American who ever lived. And the fact that we no longer officially celebrate Washington’s birthday on February 22 as a national holiday is a travesty that makes this and other deeds of George Washington seem like mere footnotes on the pages of history.

In fact, the third Monday in February is still designated as Washington’s Birthday, not “President’s Day” as it has come to be known. As Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation points out, several times, legislators have introduced legislation to direct all federal government entities to refer to the holiday as George Washington’s Birthday but to no avail. President Bush could issue an executive order to that effect but has failed to do so.

This doesn’t address the issue of celebrating February 22-no matter what day of the week it falls on-as a national holiday. The argument that no other American is so honored just doesn’t hold water. The fact is, there wouldn’t be any other Americans to honor if it weren’t for the character, the purposefulness, and the determination of George Washington.

For long stretches during the Revolution, Washington was the government; the only recognizable entity for people to rally around. Couple that with Washington’s superhuman efforts in molding and shaping the Presidency and then exhibiting the sublime understanding to step down after two terms to cement the foundation of the new republic to the rule of law and not of men, and you have a strong case to make an exception to the rule of honoring individual Americans.

Currently, Martin Luther King is the only individual American who is honored with his own holiday. And the Fourth of July and Veterans Day are the only federal holidays covered under the Monday Holiday Law passed in 1968 that are celebrated on the day of the week regardless of whether or not it falls on a Monday (Thanksgiving’s date changes yearly. Christmas and New Years day may be celebrated on either Friday or Monday depending on what day of the week they fall on in a given year). Designating February 22 as a national holiday to celebrate the life of someone called “the indispensable man” of the American founding by his outstanding biographer James Thomas Flexner would seem to be fitting and proper.

We owe so much to Washington that it seems almost trivial to deny him this singular honor.

By: Rick Moran at 7:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

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CATEGORY: Politics

What a political clusterf**k for the Bush Administration.

There really is no other way to describe the monumental stupidity, insensible decision making, and PR disaster that the sale of port management responsibilities to DP World has become for the the rabbit heads at the White House.

I’d ask what were they thinking but posing such a question assumes that there are at least two working brain cells among officials in the entire executive branch of government. And judging by what we’ve heard in justifying this decision the last few days, I may be giving them more credit than they deserve in the localized distribution of neurons.

No less than 12 agencies and departments signed off on this idiocy including our Homeland Security Department but not, evidently, the people who would have to go to war if this decision blows up in our faces and something catastrophic happens; the Department of Defense:

In a press briefing today, Secretary Rumsfeld revealed that he was not consulted about the decision to transfer operations of six key U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates, a country with troubling ties to international terrorism.

QUESTION: Are you confident that any problems with security — from what you know, are you confident that any problems with security would not be greater with a UAE company running this than an American company?

RUMSFELD: I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.

A small detail of note is that Rummy’s Defense Department is supposed to be part of that Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) that voted “unanimously” to okay the transfer to DPI. Would someone like to explain how the Secretary was not informed or briefed on this decision until this past weekend?

On its surface, there really is little to be upset about with allowing the Dubai based company to handle the management of the ports. DPW has contracts at ports all over the world and has proved itself competent enough. There would be a minimal change in employees at the six ports in question. Ships would still have to be offloaded by the Longshoremen, as patriotic and security conscious bunch as there is in the United States. And as AJ Strata rightly points out, actual security of the ports would still be in the hands of the Coast Guard and the Port Authority.

So what’s the problem? The problem is in the atmospherics of this deal.

The problem is with the tone deaf bureaucrats of CFIUS who okayed this deal in the first place. They may have gotten some DoD flunky to vote for it in Committee but not bothering to brief the Secretary of Defense or the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff about it only contributes to the notion that they are not taking port security very seriously.

The problem is with the incompetence (or arrogance) of the supposedly vaunted White House political operation in treating this deal like a routine transaction when the involvement of a Middle Eastern country whose toleration and support for the Wahhabi brand of Islam was sure to cause trouble on the Hill. Then there’s also the minor matter involving the UAE being a banking Mecca for terrorism. I find it more than a little ironic that monies we’re pouring into the banking system of that country could be used to plan and carry out attacks against our own country.

The problem was in not recognizing that the deal would give your ravenous and out of control enemies on the left and in the press a great big T-Bone steak of an issue to chew on in the immediate aftermath of the Cheney debacle. These are people who were gnawing on your leg while bodies were still floating in the floodwaters of New Orleans. Just what in God’s name were they thinking?

The problem is that given the lukewarm response of our government to the cartoon jihad, the President’s strongest and most vocal supporters would see this deal as one more nod, one more cave-in to Muslim sensibilities rather than the good business deal it almost certainly is. Taking the base for granted in anything is bad politics. In this case, it demonstrates an ineptness that would be troubling if we weren’t getting used to it by now.

Finally, the problem is President Bush. One of the major reasons we went to war in Iraq and have sacrificed so much was based on the idea – a good one – that after 9/11 we couldn’t take the chance that Saddam would make common cause with al Qaeda and supply them with weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t important how likely that possibility was at the time. The point was that we just couldn’t take the chance.

And now here we are 3 years later and we are taking what I believe is a similar chance that a company owned by a state that has refused to recognize Israel, that acted as a waystation for al Qaeda in the lead-up to 9/11, and despite protestations to the contrary, is run like a Medieval fiefdom with trafficking in white slavery, illegal arms, and drugs some of its more unseemly activities. It is “stable” only as long as Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum – “Sheik Mo” as he is called by his subjects – can keep the lid on the resentments of the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who live in virtual slavery and who do the scut work that the natives and western contractors don’t feel like doing.

But here is the President yesterday showing that now famous obstinacy that serves him well at times but in this case only makes him look arrogant and disconnected from reality:

President Bush said this afternoon that he would veto any legislation seeking to block the administration’s decision to allow a state-owned company from Dubai to assume control of port terminals in New York and other cities.

Mr. Bush’s rare veto threat came as Republican leaders and many of their Democratic counterparts called up today for the port takeover to be put on hold. They demanded that the Bush administration conduct a further investigation of the Dubai company’s acquisition of the British operator of the six American ports.

“After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward,” Mr. Bush told reporters who were traveling with him on Air Force One to Washington, according to news agencies. “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, ‘We’ll treat you fairly.” ‘

The President wishes an explanation why a Middle Eastern country should be held to a “different standard” than the Brits? Is he kidding?

How could DPW being in charge of the management of our ports facilitate a terrorist attack on the United States? Do you want to find out? And therein lies the problem for the President. He and the CFIUS could give us assurances from here to doomsday but the fact remains the possibility is there. And if our security is all about not taking chances – which I believe is a sound policy – then this deal is a slap in the face to the men and women who overthrew Saddam Hussein and are working their tails off to make Iraq into something resembling a democracy.

The only way to salvage the situation now is for the White House to agree to hold hearings on the matter, let the politicians grandstand to their heart’s content, and then quietly kill the deal when the hubbub dies down.

Otherwise, the President is going to find himself alone at the end of a very short plank. And Republicans are not going to join him in walking it.


I find it laughable that the left is waving the flag on this issue. If they showed one tenth the outrage at illegal immigration – a problem that poses a security risk 100 times more serious than the ports issue – then they might have some credibility when it comes to talking about “playing politics with our security.” Opinion Journal:

As for the Democrats, we suppose this is a two-fer: They have a rare opportunity to get to the right of the GOP on national security, and they can play to their union, anti-foreign investment base as well. At a news conference in front of New York harbor, Senator Chuck Schumer said allowing the Arab company to manage ports “is a homeland security accident waiting to happen.” Hillary Clinton is also along for this political ride.

So the same Democrats who lecture that the war on terror is really a battle for “hearts and minds” now apparently favor bald discrimination against even friendly Arabs investing in the U.S.? Guantanamo must be closed because it’s terrible PR, wiretapping al Qaeda in the U.S. is illegal, and the U.S. needs to withdraw from Iraq, but these Democratic superhawks simply will not allow Arabs to be put in charge of American longshoremen. That’s all sure to play well on al Jazeera.

Why do liberals believe that gimmicky stands on issues like this will prove to people that they are to be taken seriously when it comes to the security of the nation?

Talk about tone deaf….


AP is reporting that President Bush didn’t know about the ports deal until it had already been approved by the CFIUS:

While Bush has adamantly defended the deal, the White House acknowledged that he did not know about it until recently.

“He became aware of it over the last several days,” McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, “That’s correct.”

“The president made sure to check with all the Cabinet secretaries that are part of this process, or whose agencies or departments are part of this process,” the spokesman said. “He made sure to check with them — even after this got more attention in the press, to make sure that they were comfortable with the decision that was made.”

“And every one of the Cabinet secretaries expressed that they were comfortable with this transaction being approved,” he said.

Ooookay…How these guys figured that this wouldn’t be a huge todo in the media and the Congress is beyond me. They didn’t even think that it was worth briefing the President before the Committee took a vote to get his input?

Bush seems to me to becoming more disinterested in what’s going on lately. He may have “hit the wall” as marathon runners say in that the constant warring may be contributing to some kind of Presidential burnout. The same holds true for his staff. Would they have made this kind of gigantic miscalculation in Bush’s first term?

I wonder…


Michelle Malkin on the security angle:

The issue is not whether day-to-day, on-the-ground conditions at the ports would change. They presumably wouldn’t. The issues are whether we should grant the demonstrably unreliable UAE access to sensitive information and management plans about our key U.S ports, which are plenty insecure enough without adding new risks, and whether the decision process was thorough and free from conflicts of interest.

The Journal and the Bush administration make no persuasive case that it was.

Michelle is talking about the WSJ editorial I linked to above that actually supports the deal.

By: Rick Moran at 6:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (29)

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Fictional presidents don’t usually come off very well in Hollywood. Martin Sheen’s vapid portrayal of Jed Bartlett (Jed? Would America ever vote for a guy named Jed? Or Jeb?) is so off kilter that one wonders how the republic could survive him. And poor Geena Davis. With Hillary plummeting in the polls, it appears that Commander in Chief is headed for that big Nielson graveyard in the sky.

But the Dream Factory does alright when filming portrayals of the real thing. Henry Fonda’s Young Mr. Lincoln is a particularly good example of Hollywood’s fine treatment of a real life President.

Other notable examples of good historical takes on Presidents by Hollywood is Gregory Peck’s Lincoln in The Blue and the Gray miniseries, William Devane as President Kennedy in The Missiles of October, and Ralph Bellamy’s Tony Award winning portrayal of FDR brought to the screen in Sunrise at Campobello.

Without a doubt, my favorite historical treatment of a president is Charlton Heston’s Andrew Jackson in the Yul Brenner classic pirate movie The Buccaneer. Only Heston could have played “Old Hickory” with the kind of larger than life panache that truly captured Jackson’s persona.

But unless Hollywood has a real life character to model, they fail miserably in capturing the essence of the man’s relationship with the office and how time and circumstance affect the decisions made that make history. Because they fail at this, fictional presidents come off as either stilted caricatures like Bill Pullman in Independence Day or insipid liberal whiners like Michael Douglas in The American President.

Then there are times when Hollywood comes up with a gem of a presidential character that fits so perfectly into the plot and the tenor of the show that we are sucked into the drama despite being repulsed by the fictional chief executive. Consider our friend President Charles “Jellyfish” Logan on 24. Has there ever been a wimpier, a more pathetic creature to portray an American President?

I’m sure the writers are having loads of fun writing lines for Logan. Jellyfish is so bad he can easily be called the “anti-President.” Take everything that Americans want and need in a chief executive and turn those qualities 180 degrees in the opposite direction and you end up with Logan. One wonders how he got as far as he did in politics until you think of his wife. Martha Logan, even though she’s as nutty as my Aunt Hilda’s yuletide log, has a clear moral compass and a ton of intestinal fortitude. These are two qualities her simpering husband totally lacks.

I think we should start a write in campaign with Fox to elevate Martha to President. It’s been done before. When Woodrow Wilson had a stroke, his wife Edith took over the day to day tasks of the Presidency. Maybe the writers could make Jellyfish fall into a catatonic state as he freezes up over some big decision. And into the breach steps Martha to save us all.

I like it. Martha for President! Pass the word…


The pace of the show is quickening noticeably as we catch up with Ivan the Terrorist at their super secret terrorist hideout. We are finally introduced to The Mastermind, the terrorist who will match wits with Jack and CTU for the rest of the show (I think). It will be hard for the writers to top last year’s creepy jihadist Marwan but this fellow appears much more cold blooded as he personally punishes Ivan for getting the Americans angry by showing the doomed thug just how far a three inch blade can be shoved inside a body.

The Mastermind hits back at his American conspirators who double crossed him by taking out Nathanson’s band of traitors one by one. As the terrorists close in, Nathanson beats a hasty retreat.

Fat Hobbit Lynn gets in touch with his junkie sister and asks her to return his CTU magic decoder card. One wonders how he was able to re-enter CTU headquarters last week after getting mugged in the parking lot without the card but thankfully, the writers know that we’re all a bunch of stupid morons and would never notice such a small detail. Is his sister’s low-life boyfriend a part of the plot? Or is he an opportunist who will use his connections in the drug world to seek out the terrorists and sell the card to them? My money is on the latter which means junkie sister is going to find herself kidnapped by the terrorists who won’t hesitate to put pressure on the Fat Hobbit to get CTU to play ball.

Jellyfish gets on the horn to the Fat Hobbit and stomps his foot demanding success. He points out that Lynn is his man and that if he can’t do the job, he’ll get someone who will. The next time that Jellyfish pulls this stunt, I want you to watch Mike Novik’s face and tell me that he’s going to stick it out with Logan for the entire day. Novik will have his fill of this lickspittle and be on his way out, probably sooner rather than later.

The pressure on the Hobbit is intensifying, making him probably wish he was back climbing the steps up to Mount Doom carrying his buddy Frodo. At least he could deal with that kind of heat. What with his sister’s shenanigans and the President’s petulance, the poor Shireling must think his brain is on fire. He tears into his employees at a staff meeting demanding that Jack be brought back in irons and generally makes a total ass of himself. We’ve all had bosses like this guy and the best thing to do when they get like that is stay the hell out of their way.

As Curtis reluctantly arrests Jack, Nathanson calls Audrey. His desire to speak to Jack “off the books” is either just another plot device to get Jack on the run from literally everybody – the terrorists, CTU, and the government – or it’s just as Nathanson says; there are more traitors that have to be ferreted out and dealt with. Later, when Chloe is having trouble with the chip Jack gets from Nathanson, we discover that the information is formatted to be read by a Department of Defense hard drive. Could someone close to Audrey be the traitor? It’s definitely someone in DoD. And of course, Nathanson informs us that “Walt Cummings isn’t the only one behind this operation who works inside government.”

Jack cold cocks Curtis and apologizes profusely as he applies a choke hold that cuts the oxygen off to Curtis’ brain knocking the burly CTU operative out. Thus Curtis follows in a long line of Jack’s partners who too late, discover not only how really dedicated Jack is to the job, but also how very nice he can be when he’s clobbering you.

Here also begins “The Great Hobbit Runaround” as first Audrey, then Chloe, then Bill, and finally most of CTU is helping Jack “off protocol” while the Fat Hobbit frets, steams, and then explodes as the pressure to find the cannisters gets to him. In any other context, it would be great comedy. Except of course, several hundred thousand American lives are at stake not to mention Fox’s continuing efforts to out draw the drunk skiers, crying skaters, crazy snowboarders, and loony lugers on NBC.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jellyfish receives a courtesy call from The Mastermind informing our President that he’s the man the government should now be looking for and oh…by the way, may I please have the motorcade route of the Russian President to the airport as well as any other important security details you can give me?

At first, Jellyfish asks Mike to tell The Mastermind that he can’t come to the phone right now because he’s washing his hair: “I-I-I-I’m not talking to a t-t-t-terrorist. You talk to him. Y-Y-Y-ou find out what he w-w-w-w-wants.” Mike disgustedly hands the phone to Jellyfish reminding him (and the rest of us) that yes, he is in fact President of the United States and that the terrorist will only talk to him.

Nathanson watches as Jack arrives at the meeting place. Before he and Jack can meet, we glimpse the dreaded Black Helicopter – a sure sign that either terrorists are coming or the worst nightmares of the militia men and survivalists have come true and Jack is about to be whisked away to that detention camp in Utah the government has just built.

It’s the terrorists. And as Nathanson runs for his life, offing two of his adversaries in the process, we know that this is not going to end well for the traitor/patriot. Sure enough, Nathanson makes it to the roof where another Black Helicopter starts spraying the area with automatic weapons fire. Before Jack can cripple the 2 ton helicopter with his magic handgun, Nathanson is badly hit. Before dying himself, the ex-spook gives Jack a chip that may help track the cannisters.

At the ranch, Jellyfish gives in and decides to supply the terrorists with the motorcade route of President Suburov despite Mike trying to talk him out of it. Martha comes in late to the conversation and, recognizing the symptoms in her husband (quaking knees, dry lips, avoiding eye contact), peremptorily orders Mike out of the room while she confronts her spineless husband:

MARTHA: What are you saying? That we are going to stand in front of the entire world with the Suburov’s? You’re going to look him in the eye, shake his hand, knowing you’re sending him -

LOGAN: If we were in Russia and Suburov got the ultimatum, do you think he would spare us?

MARTHA: I am not talking about Russia. I am not talking about Suburov. I am talking about you! I am talking about the President of the United States of America! MY GOD CHARLES…YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT MURDER!

LOGAN: Martha, my back is against the wall. Give me another solution.

MARTHA: Stand up to them. Refuse to negotiate with them. Isn’t that the policy of this country. Isn’t that the point of the treaty you just signed?

LOGAN: It’s not that simple, Martha. It never is.

Excuse me, oh Wishy-Washy One but the answers to Martha’s questions are yes and yes. See? Sometimes it is that simple.

“The Great Hobbit Runaround” reaches its zenith when Jack calls Audrey about the chip that Nathanson gave him while Lynn is standing directly behind her. Thinking quickly, she transfers Jack to Chloe who gives Bill the high sign. Bill then goes into action, distracting the Fat Hobbit while Chloe and Audrey work on trying to hack the files on the chip, exchanging IM’s on the matter. (Did anyone else notice how boring those IM windows are? You’d think they’d have American flags and stuff on there like I do or maybe a cute little kitty cat for the girls, yes?).

Chloe works some geek magic and is able to access files on the chip. One file from an ominous sounding company called “Omicron” (all companies beginning with “O” are evil) rings a bell with Jack who knows one of the directors. And from the tone of his voice, this Christopher Henderson fellow is either someone he shot a long time ago or else they were college roommates who didn’t get along very well. Stay tuned.

The Hobbit finally loses it and arrests Bill. He informs the entire staff that all workstations will now be mirrored and monitored from his screen high atop the work floor.

And Martha, seeking to avoid catastrophe, bravely gets in the Russian’s car forcing Jellyfish to make a choice – her or the terrorists. Will Logan be able to decide? Or will he simply dissolve into a puddle of shapeless, formless goo leaving the US leaderless in the midst of a horrific crisis?


A bad hour for terrorists and traitors. Ivan’s boys off two of Nathanson’s cohorts. Ivan himself gets whacked. Ditto Nathanson but not before taking one terrorist with him to hell. Jack adds two notches to the old gun.

JACK: 12

SHOW: 53

Long time reader Bill emailed me and pointed out I included the suicide of the baggage inspector in the body count from week one. Rather than take a body off our Blood-O-Meter, I have added two more suicides – Walt’s and the terrorist from last week.

By: Rick Moran at 8:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (23)

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Leave it to Mohammed ElBaradei to make the world safe for Iranian nukes.

Scurrying hither and thither like some kind of peripatetic Energizer Bunny, the head of the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nobel Peace Prize winner has been a busy little bee since breathing fire and talking tough a few weeks ago regarding Iranian nukes. At that point, 27 out of 35 nations voted to take Iran to the Security Council woodshed so that economic sanctions could be considered.

Not so fast says our fearless watchpuppy:

TEHRAN, Feb. 20, 2006 (UPI)—The head of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency claims the threat of sanctions against Iran will make the current nuclear program standoff worse.

Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said threatening sanctions on Iran for operating a uranium enrichment plant will make matters worse and in the end won’t work because China and Russia—two veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council—oppose sanctions.

ElBaradei also said Iran has a sovereign right to operate the plant and feels the course to go is strike a deal to limit enrichment, Itar-Tass reports.

Please note first how we have gone from trying to prevent Iran from enriching uranium to limiting their enrichment. In other words, instead of allowing their centrifuges once fully operational to enrich enough uranium to make 30 nuclear bombs a year, maybe we should only allow them the ability to create 20 ten kiloton nuclear warheads.


This is the same Mohammed ElBaradei who leaked the bogus information about missing explosives from al Qaqaa one week before the US presidential election in 2004 trying to influence the outcome. It’s the same Mohammed ElBaradei who allowed Saddam Hussein to keep 500 tons of yellowcake uranium at a nuclear site in Iraq called Al-Tuwaitha until the US military carted away the fissile material in disgust following the fall of Baghdad. This is the same Mohammed ElBaradei who insisted that North Korea’s nuclear program was peaceful. Ditto for ElBaradei regarding Iran.

And now that every country on the planet knows that Iran is working as fast as it can to gather enough enriched uranium to blow Israel off the map (and God knows who else) we have our brave UN Nuclear Enabler-in-Chief backing down from his original position of trying to beat some sense into the radioactive mullahs in Iran. So what has changed since earlier this month? It appears that ElBaradei, like most bureaucrats, hates confrontation – despite the fact that part of his job description is confronting rogue nuclear states – and doesn’t want to “make things worse.”

Excuse me, would someone please bop the Nobel Prize winner on the head and ram a steel rod up his backside to stiffen his spine just a touch? This is what President Ahmadinejad has been counting on all along; that the UN and the west just don’t have the stomach for this confrontation. Couple that with the machinations of the inscrutable Chinese and the extraordinary cynicism of Russia and you have the recipe for a full fledged meltdown of international will when it comes to placing a stop order on the desires of the fanatics in Tehran to get their hands on the ultimate defense against cartoon blasphemy.

At least western Europe appears to be waking up and may be willing to initiate some kind of sanctions regime with the US even if China and/or Russia veto such a proposal in the Security Council. And even if they don’t veto it, watch for the proposal to be so watered down as to be almost meaningless anyway.

When the history of the beginning of the 21st century is written – if we are vouchsafed such a luxury – let it be said that the international institution whose primary responsibility it was to prevent the one country in human history with a desire to bring about Armageddon failed miserably to stand up and be counted when it counted the most.

By: Rick Moran at 8:22 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

CATEGORY: Middle East

Francis Fukuyama used to be one of the seminal neoconservative thinkers of our time.

Now he’s just a seminal thinker, having abandoned what he terms the “militaristic” excesses and unrealistic goals of the neocons in favor of a “realistic Wilsonian” approach to American foreign policy.

In a lucid, richly textured argument in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, Fukuyama takes Neoconservatives to the woodshed and delivers a beating from which they may not recover. The piece is a devastating critique of policies advanced by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle (who although out of government is generally credited with wielding considerable influence on the Neoconservatives in the Defense Department) and others which include pre-emptive wars of self defense, promotion of human rights and democracy, a belief in the moral purposes of American foreign policy and of a kind of “benevolent hegemony” by America that could remake the world.

Fukuyama rejects all of those tenets as unrealistic and damaging to our long term foreign policy goals. What he proposes as a replacement is a little muddled but would be something that Henry Kissinger would have no trouble recognizing; a kind of realpolitik light that would feature some of the taste but none of the heft contained in Kissinger’s hard eyed calculations of the application of American power.

Kissinger was an actor in a bi-polar world who, in my opinion, is not given enough credit for guiding American foreign policy through the most turbulent period of the 20th century. It wasn’t just the war in Southeast Asia that presented a challenge to US foreign policy. There was a whole subset of extraordinary historical undercurrents at work in the world that Kissinger was able to recognize and respond to.

A quarter century after the end of World War II Western Europe had finally recovered both psychologically and economically from the almost total destruction wrought by that conflict and began to challenge the United States in competing for overseas markets and exercising influence. There was also the emergence of economies in East Asia as well as the awakening of China that had to be dealt with by Kissinger. I’m sure I’d get a good argument from Christopher Hitchens who believes the former Secretary of State should be tried as a war criminal, but the fact is Kissinger navigated those perilous shoals and brought America safely through with a competence that has been sorely lacking in most of his successors.

As a conservative, I’ve always viewed some of the neocon’s enthusiasms with a jaded eye, having lived long enough to see American idealism regarding our ability to remake the world flounder on the rocks of realism and the limits placed on our exercise of power by a domestic isolationist tradition that spans the ideological spectrum. Peter Beinhart of the New Republic recently wrote that historians would not see September 11 as the beginning of a new, more muscular American foreign policy but rather the apex of an old one. Beinhart correctly viewed the interventionist policy of Bill Clinton as a continuation of the internationalist policies carried out by every President since World War II. Whether 9/11 will be seen as the beginning of the end of that policy is what concerns Fukuyama:

The reaction against democracy promotion and an activist foreign policy may not end there. Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy. They don’t want to abandon the president in the middle of a vicious war, but down the road the perceived failure of the Iraq intervention may push them to favor a more isolationist foreign policy, which is a more natural political position for them. A recent Pew poll indicates a swing in public opinion toward isolationism; the percentage of Americans saying that the United States “should mind its own business” has never been higher since the end of the Vietnam War.

Fukuyama argues that a turn toward isolationism would be a tragedy. I say it is simply an impossibility. American hegemony runs the gamut from military domination to what detractors call a “cultural imperialism” that has overlaid American aspirations for technological modernity over the rest of the world. Fukuyama recognized this in his book The End of History and the Last Man where he saw the people of the world yearning not so much for democracy but rather the accoutrement’s of modern living. Give them flush toilets and electric lights and democracy naturally follows would be an oversimplification of his argument but accurate nonetheless.

The political ramifications of isolationism is that after years of war and domestic political conflict, the American people may indeed be ready for some kind of a “return to normalcy” which was a phrase used by President Warren G. Harding in 1921 to describe how his administration would take America back to the time before World War I so rudely interrupted the march of progress. I wrote last summer (and written about recently by Slate’s Mickey Kaus) that if the Democrats were smart, they would run their 2008 presidential campaign using some variation of that slogan. The return, of course, would be to a pre-9/11 world; something that people may devoutly wish for but which could never be done. In that sense, Fukuyama rightly points out that isolationism would be a trap in that it would make the world more dangerous if America gave up her mission to promote democracy and human rights just at the time her support is most needed. He sees the problem in terms of the innate cautiousness of the American people and their “staying power” in maintaining any kind of hegemonistic foreign policy:

Another problem with benevolent hegemony was domestic. There are sharp limits to the American people’s attention to foreign affairs and willingness to finance projects overseas that do not have clear benefits to American interests. Sept. 11 changed that calculus in many ways, providing popular support for two wars in the Middle East and large increases in defense spending. But the durability of the support is uncertain: although most Americans want to do what is necessary to make the project of rebuilding Iraq succeed, the aftermath of the invasion did not increase the public appetite for further costly interventions. Americans are not, at heart, an imperial people. Even benevolent hegemons sometimes have to act ruthlessly, and they need a staying power that does not come easily to people who are reasonably content with their own lives and society.

Fukuyama’s critique of Neoconservatism is devastating not because he faults the people who are carrying out the policies (as most critics from the left demonize the neocons) but because he sees the policies themselves as classic overreach:

The Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters did not simply underestimate the difficulty of bringing about congenial political outcomes in places like Iraq; they also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. Of course, the cold war was replete with instances of what the foreign policy analyst Stephen Sestanovich calls American maximalism, wherein Washington acted first and sought legitimacy and support from its allies only after the fact. But in the post-cold-war period, the structural situation of world politics changed in ways that made this kind of exercise of power much more problematic in the eyes of even close allies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol and Robert Kagan suggested that the United States would use its margin of power to exert a kind of “benevolent hegemony” over the rest of the world, fixing problems like rogue states with W.M.D., human rights abuses and terrorist threats as they came up. Writing before the Iraq war, Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded, “It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power.”

Other neocon writers such as Max Boot have made similar miscalculations about “benevolent hegemony,” Mr. Boot going so far as to advocate embracing our role as an imperial power largely because of our “moral authority.” Other countries don’t concern themselves much with morality. Their power calculations regarding America are based much more on how much and how fast our military could show up at their front door. “Morality” is something they play at when making speeches in the UN General Assembly and other inconsequential places.

In the end, Fukuyama’s reasons for parting company with the neocons has more to do with a recognition that policies he thought wrong headed in the first place were carried out incompetently:

Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed that the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent as well. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case that the United States was not getting authorization from the United Nations Security Council, but rather on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading Iraq in the first place and didn’t know what it was doing in trying to democratize Iraq. In this, the critics were unfortunately quite prescient.

The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally. The misjudgment was based in part on the massive failure of the American intelligence community to correctly assess the state of Iraq’s W.M.D. programs before the war. But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war’s supporters did. Overestimation of this threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping.

Fukuyama makes an excellent point about the competency of those charged with both explaining and carrying out policy. But is there really “misjudgment” and “overestimation” of the threat posed by radical Islamism?

Here’s where Fukuyama is dead wrong. The Ivory Tower he is living in may be a nice perch to view the world and sagely comment on American policy and the Neoconservative movement. But at that height, he appears to have difficulty resolving how truly menacing the fanatical Islamists are and their potential to destroy America and the west.

What Fukuyama misses is that it only takes one – one maniac with one WMD (leaving aside chemical weapons in that calculation) purchasing or acquiring it from one rogue state, and used on one American city. The resulting reaction by the US would likely lead to our own use of WMD not to mention a further loss of civil liberties. Whether or not Iraq would have been that “one state” is beside the point. The real question, unasked by Fukuyama and unanswered by most of the left in this country, is how in good conscience can the United States take the chance that Iraq wouldn’t be that “one?”

Fukuyama optimistically (hopefully?) points out that Saddam could have been contained with “no fly zones” and UN inspectors. As I’ve written on numerous occasions, the pressure to lift sanctions on Iraq and bring them back into the community of nations would have been irresistible without the intervention of 9/11. Along with Saddam’s organized bribery (that Fukuyama fails to mention), the idea that containment of Iraq could have been continued indefinitely makes no sense whatsoever. The very same people who are using this anti-war argument today were yelping the loudest to lift sanctions and stop bothering Saddam with our bellicose “no fly zones” before 9/11. Saddam was already fooling the UN inspectors badly as we’ve recently seen. For Fukuyama to adopt this meme lock, stock, and barrel is a curious example (but not the only one) of leaving out inconvenient facts that get in the way of his critique of the war.

As far as Saddam making common cause with the radicals, he already had arms length relationships with several terrorist groups in the region and was exploring the idea of developing closer ties with al Qaeda. This is the minimum of what we know at the moment. Further information about Saddam’s ties to terror could be brought to light in the nearly 2 million pages of documents that fell into our hands after the fall of Baghdad and are still unexamined.

Knowing all of this, the divide between pro-war and anti-war Americans is still a question of risk: Should we have taken the risk that Saddam would not reconstitute his WMD program and find a way to use them on America or should we pre-emptively attack? Fukuyama believes the risk was acceptable. George Bush did not. History will prove that one of them was wrong.

Fukuyama inadvertently strengthens the neocon’s case by pointing out the recent ascendancy of Shi’ite fundamentalists in Iran and Iraq as well as the victory by Hamas and the political re-emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. What Fukuyama fails to point out is that these radicals all have an enormous problem; their anti-modern politics will clash with the desires and aspirations of their own peoples. Fukuyama is hopeful that the exigencies of governing will moderate Hamas’ bellicosity toward Israel. If so, it may also be possible to expect Iraqi Shi’ites to act more like nationalists than pawns of Iran.

As for Iraq, there is still hope that more secular parties, who received a strong plurality of the vote in January, will have a moderating influence on the Shi’ite majority. Fukuyama may not be aware that the main reason for the success of the Islamic Party was the fact that it had been in existence since the late 1970’s and had been planning for that election for nearly 30 years. With offices in Syria and Iran, the party was able to build up its grassroots organization and hit the ground running when Saddam was toppled. This gave them a huge advantage over other, more broadly based secular parties.

At bottom, Fukuyama proposes that instead of a Neoconservative, unilateralist approach to Islamism, that we adopt what he calls a “Wilsonian realist” approach that will not necessarily include the UN (thank goodness) but more often what he terms “multi-multilateral” groups. He points to Bosnia as an example where a Russian veto blocked UN action but America acted in concert with its NATO allies. Sounds a lot like a Coalition of the Willing” but, of course he doesn’t call it that. It sounds more like a tepid version of Clintonian internationalism.

In an age where there are not only state supporters of terrorism but elements within other, friendlier governments that support our enemies (Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services for example), it is unclear how this idealized Wilsonianism will help protect us. Fukuyama wishes to strengthen and increase funding for USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (which played a key role in bring down the Iron Curtain) and other internationalist agencies including the State Department itself. While there is much to be said against a purely unilateralist foreign policy, to place any faith in those institutions to head off al Qaeda is dangerously wrong. They are not equipped to deal with or understand the fanaticism that goes to the heart of Islamic radicalism. As such, they may in fact act as a brake instead of facilitating action when the time comes.

I sympathize with much of what Fukuyama is rebelling against. I agree with much of his critique. But when it comes to his prescriptions, I find them lacking in depth and wrong headed in totally abandoning some of the more idealistic aspects of the Bush foreign policy. In short, he wants to throw the baby out with the bath water.

And I also believe he tragically underestimates the threat of Islamism both from a domestic political point of view and a real world miscalculation of their intentions. This is nothing new for intellectuals who have throughout history underestimated fanatics and their determination to achieve their goals. While the necons may be dead wrong about any number of things, their decision to go to war in Iraq and their belief that democracy in the Middle East will eventually make us safer still sounds like the correct policy to me.


I’m glad to see James Joyner has taken on Fukuyama as well:

Realism has long been the natural voice of the foreign policy establishment. Neoconservatism was derided from the beginning. That said, the idea that we are better off supporting authoritarian thugs rather than risking the election of those whose goals are different than ours is short sighted. We have learned time and again that dictators’ aims are almost always out of synch with ours and that their promises are worthless. Further, when and if popular sovereignty emerges—even in the form of a revolution that installs a new dictatorship as in Iran—a history of supporting the previous regime will work against U.S. interests.

Mr. Joyner make many of the same points I do, although he appears to be a little more in step with the neocons than myself. Read the whole thing for both some first class thinking as well as a nice roundup of opinion on what I think will be a blow from which the necons will have a hard time recovering their equilibrium.


Greg Djerejian links to an excellent counterpoint to Fukuyama’s argument about democracy not being a solution to extremism in the Middle East from Secretary Rice:

Let me take this opportunity to say something about what we’ve just been through, because I’m reading a lot in the papers these days about how—“Well, you know, you made this mistake, you thought democracy could take hold in the Middle East, you supported elections and what have you done? You’ve supported elections that brought to power Islamists or extremists or in the case of Hamas, a group that you consider a terrorist group. Aren’t you sorry that you supported these democratic processes?”
Absolutely not. It was the only thing to do. It was—first of all, from the point of view of the United States, the only moral thing to do. The idea that somehow, it is better for people to lack the means and the chance to express themselves, that it’s better to support that and to, therefore, support dictatorship or oppression or authoritarianism where people don’t have a voice—it’s, I think, morally reprehensible. People have to have a way to express themselves or, if they don’t have a legitimate way to express themselves, they express themselves through extremism.

Rice made the remarks to a group of Arab print journalists. Her remarks can be found in their entirety here.

By: Rick Moran at 9:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

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This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Every once and a while over the last few years, I have come very close to saying to hell with it and tossing George Bush and the Republicans over the side. That’s when the left comes to Bush’s rescue and proves all over again why even allowing them to get a whiff of regaining power is extremely hazardous to the collective health of the west not to mention the personal safety and well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

The problem with liberals isn’t only Bush Derangement Syndrome. If that were the case, they would be easy to dismiss. The ragamuffins who mindlessly mouth their hatred of all things Bush and the intellectual dilettantes who enable them have become caricatures, cardboard cutouts of a political opposition. They are as relevant to the political debate in America as a flight of quacking ducks.

The real problem with serious leftist critiques of the Administration is that they actually get some things right – but start from the cockeyed premise that America’s response to 9/11 has made things worse.

I sympathize with some of these critiques on a couple of levels. The choices made by the Bush Administration have indeed sharpened sectarian tensions between Shias and Sunnis in the Middle East, provided fodder for radical Islamists to preach their vision of Holy War against the “Crusaders,” given Iran an opening to acquire influence in the region, and threatened the stability of the corrupt, autocratic regimes who are sitting on top of about 20% of the world’s oil.

All this may be true to one degree or another. The problem with these critiques is that they fail utterly and completely to address in any sane or rational way what else could have been done in response to 9/11.

By sane or rational, I’m talking about the curiously myopic notion advanced by liberals that if only we had done exactly the same things to prevent terrorism after 9/11 as we had done before, none of the problems brought about by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq would have happened. The belief by the left that the Clinton/Albright law enforcement approach – treating terrorists as criminals – could have been sustained in the face of Bin Laden’s massive success on 9/11 shows that liberals have learned absolutely nothing from that event and indeed, continue to downplay its significance or ignore it altogether.

For example,to say that Iraq was an “elective” war is correct. But by struggling to effectively refute the idea that our liberation of Iraq was the next logical step in the war against the Islamic radicals, their criticism only points to the overarching problem with all serious liberal analyses of the War on Terror; either 9/11 for all intents and purposes didn’t happen or we have “overreacted” to that seminal event.

This is the “We are doing exactly what Osama wants” critique which may be satisfying on a political level in that it makes for an excellent-sounding riposte to Administration arguments. But deluded enemies often wish for disastrous confrontations. Think of the Japanese militarists who pushed for a knockout blow with the Pearl Harbor attack. They wanted war, but they didn’t suspect our strength of resolve.

Osama’s learning the truth of the old infidel saw: be careful what you wish for.

By any yardstick, Bin Laden has been hurt and hurt badly over the last 4 years. His ranks have been thinned considerably. His financial resources have been targeted relentlessly (one of the most underreported successes of the war). His operatives have been killed or captured in dozens of countries. According to recent polls, his popularity has waned considerably throughout the Muslim world. The fact that he himself is still alive and kicking (we think) is almost irrelevant. I say almost because obviously, killing or capturing the maniac would be a victory of sorts. Whether our liberal friends would recognize it as such is doubtful even though they themselves, by their criticism of the Administration for not capturing him, have set the destruction of Bin Laden as a major benchmark in judging the success of the war.

But beyond what we’ve done to him, are we really doing what Bin Laden “wants” or are we doing what he predicted would happen?

The proof is in the pudding. As a terrorist, Bin Laden may be a mastermind. But as a strategic planner, he is an utter failure. While predicting some of the reactions in the Middle East to American countermeasures against terror, he failed to see a host of other, more detrimental outcomes which are in the process of making his dream of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate less probable and in fact, a pipe dream.

While Bin Laden foresaw the overthrow of the old order in the Middle East as a result of American policies, the forces at work to affect change are not of his making or choosing. In fact,they are the antithesis of of what he desired. Even with an ascendant Hamas on the West Bank and a powerful Hizballah in Lebanon, radical Islamists are being either contained or defeated elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, and even Syria. And the admittedly dangerous situations in Iraq and Lebanon – where sectarianism threatens the tiny steps made toward democracy – nevertheless ignores the huge opportunity to deal Bin Laden’s dreams a death blow from which he could not possibly recover.

Where the left correctly sees chaos and confusion, there are also tidal historical forces at work that regardless of what kind of governments emerge in Iraq and a Lebanon, are going to change the face of the Middle East to the detriment of Bin Laden and his plans. In the short term, he may gain from the violence and despair wrought by both the resistance of the old order and his al Qaeda minions. But in the end, he loses due to either the emergence of a new kind of Arab nationalism friendly to democracy and democratic countries or a new kind of hybrid government with a justice system based mostly on Sharia law but also containing elements of western democracy like freedom of the press and tolerance for secular political parties.

In the end, Bin Laden may indeed have “wanted” the kind of response from America to 9/11 but I doubt very much he’s sitting in his cave gloating.

Don’t tell that to Simon Jenkins of the Times Online. Jenkins has written a scathing critique of the Bush/Blair Axis of Evil. And while making some salient points (many of which I outline above), Jenkins analysis suffers from a breathtaking naivete that more than 4 years after 9/11 sounds almost quaint in its old-fashioned, ostrich-like tendency to belittle the impact of 9/11 as well as criticize the American response to it:

On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat.

Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over-reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden’s intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over-reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.

Every liberal canard about the War on Terror is contained in those two paragraphs. Despite the rest of Mr. Jenkins’ article which accurately sums up many of the problems engendered by our response to 9/11 (sans his statements about “latent authoritarianism” in democratic leaders), his only alternatives – “restraint” and “policing” – precisely proves my point: That the left has learned nothing from 9/11 and that following the lead of Jenkins and others of his ideological ilk would be extraordinarily dangerous.

For at bottom, the “alternative strategy” being pushed by Jenkins and most of those on the left is one of reaction – waiting for the terrorists to strike before committing ourselves to countering them. In an era where weapons of mass destruction are becoming more widespread and easier to manufacture and/or acquire, this policy is not only suicidal, but morally reprehensible. It condemns hundreds perhaps thousands of innocent people to death all in the name of a simpering kind of internationalism, a belief that most countries are on the same page when it comes to combating terrorism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many countries – Russia and China come to mind immediately – that would not be averse to seeing a catastrophic attack on America. Mr. Jenkins and his reactive strategy would make such an attack more likely by several degrees of magnitude. I daresay that Beijing especially wouldn’t mind seeing America severely weakened as it would probably mean affecting our ability to block their designs on Taiwan and establishing economic hegemony over the rest of East Asia.

September 11, 2001 has become a date that marks a great divide in American politics. The fact that we are arguing about its significance more than 4 years later should not be surprising given the polarization of our politics. But what is surprising is that the only conclusion the left seems to have drawn from that awful day is that everything the Administration has done after it has been wrong headed and only made the situation worse.

That’s not much of a critique. But given the paucity of ideas coming from liberals about how to stop the terrorists from destroying us, maybe it shouldn’t really surprise us after all.