Monday, September 07, 2015

Cruising the Web

Matthew Continetti evaluates the results of Obama's foreign policy.
Objectively, however, the result of Obama’s foreign policy is to empower America’s adversaries. This has been, in its conduct and consequences, an anti-American White House.

I am not saying that the president or the Democratic Party is anti-American in ideology or rhetoric or intent. What I am saying is that the net effect of President Obama’s actions has been to legitimize, strengthen, and embolden nations whose anti-Americanism is public and vicious and all too serious.

Iran is an obvious example. The anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism of the regime is inescapable. Not even Obama, who has gone out of his way to defend the Iranians as rational actors, can ignore it. How has Iran’s “power position” been affected by this White House? In 2009, when the regime faced its most serious challenge in years, the president was silent. In 2011 and 2013, when urged to act against the regime’s closest ally in Syria, the president did nothing.

Why? To speak out in favor of protesting students, to support the Syrian rebels, to punish Bashar al-Assad for violating red lines the president himself had drawn—these acts would have jeopardized the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The outcome of those negotiations was a deal in which the Iranians agree to suspend some elements of their nuclear research for about a decade in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. So a fundamentalist theocracy whose leaders chant “Death to America” and whose self-identity is based on a revolutionary challenge to the United States and Israel has been endorsed as a quasi-member of the “international community,” and will receive an infusion of much needed cash.

The Iranian leadership is strengthened, the Iranian economy is strengthened, the Iranian paramilitaries and terrorist affiliates—active in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and beyond—are strengthened, all in the fissiparous hope that decades from now this deal will result in Iran’s liberalization. Oh, and at the end of the decade, Iran retains the capability to build an atom bomb. How powerful, how dangerous, will Iranian anti-Americanism be then?

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Republican strategist has some good advice to the other GOP candidates about how to beat Donald Trump. One piece of advice that makes a lot of sense is that they have to get their message out to where low-information voters get their information. Too much of this discussion is being conducted by bloggers or on cable news. That's just not where a lot of people are focused. If they can find the right venue for getting their message out, she recommends on focusing on his support for socialized medicine and point to all his bankruptcies and how those resulted from taking on excessive debt. That might take some of the shine off of his braggadocio about what a successful businessman he is.
They don’t need to view him as a failure; they just need to come to view him as substantially less of a winner than they do now.

This will be a pretty major feat, but it is doable. According to CNN Money, “no major US company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years.”

In order to pay creditors, he has had to give up everything from yachts to airlines to his stake in hotels. The 2004 bankruptcy seems to have stemmed from excessive debt. It’s not hard to speculate that Trump-inclined voters might have reservations about electing a guy with that particular blemish on his record given their likely worries about the size of the national debt.

A bonus to pulling it off is that The Donald tends to fly off the handle and say over-the-top things when his business record is criticized. That is a Trump characteristic that we know Republican primary voters, including those who are otherwise Trump-favorable, are concerned about.

I was reading the transcript of Donald Trump's interview with Hugh Hewitt that made headlines last week because he didn't seem to be familiar with some of the most infamous leaders in Middle East terrorism. I wasn't so bothered about his not knowing the names of the leaders, though Stephen Hayes points out that Bret Baier had asked a question about General Suleimani during the August debate and Trump had given a very vague answer what he'd do - just bragging about how much better he'd be than Obama. But he never says anything except that he'd be wonderful dealing with all the problems in the Middle East. It's not enough to criticize the present situation and Obama's strategy in the region; I'd like to hear a real strategic answer from the candidates. I don't need them to lay out exactly what they'd do, but we need to hear more than criticism of Obama. The new president will come into office with the problems of Obama's leadership already baked in. So what should our strategy be going forward? And this sort of answer from Trump is just arrogant puffery.
DT: And you know what? In that case, first day in office, or before then, right at the day after the election, I’ll know more about it than you will ever know. That I can tell you.

HH: Oh, I hope so. Last question, so the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?

DT: It will when it’s appropriate. I will know more about it than you know, and believe me, it won’t take me long.

HH: All right, that, I believe.

DT: But right now, right now, I think it’s just something that, and you know what, if you ask these candidates, nobody’s going to be able to give you an answer. I mean, there may be one that studied it because they’re expecting a fresh question from you. But believe me, it won’t matter. I will know far more than you know within 24 hours after I get the job.
Does anyone really fall for that - that within 24 hours, Trump will know more than anyone else if he gets elected and then it won't take him long to come up with ideas? I find that offensive to have a candidate for the presidency wants us to just rely on his bragging when it comes to national security.

By the way, it is worth reading the transcript from Hewitt's interview. He asked a lot of other questions and they weren't the same sort of questions Trump has been getting from other journalists. And I was glad to have someone ask him some solid policy questions instead of just allowing him to spill out his standard comments. Instead of asking him about the other candidates, Hewitt asked him other questions about his business decisions and foreign policy. Good for him to ask different sorts of questions. Anyone who listened to the interview or read the transcript would have a better sense of Trump's approach to foreign crises and it's not encouraging. As Noah Rothman points out, Trump mixes "hawkish rhetoric on China" with "utter ignorance." When asked what a President Trump would do if China sunk a Filipino or Japanese ship, his response is that he doesn't want to let the Chinese know because he needs to continue to be unpredictable. And by the way, he's ahead in all the polls. FOr Trump, his plans for unpredictability disguise that he doesn't have a clue what his approach would be.
The celebrity candidate attempted to mask his lack of background knowledge by pretending that he was maintaining operational secrecy and unpredictability in the event of a crisis. That’s fine for a commander-in-chief, but it is utterly insufficient in a candidate. If Trump had some command of the subject matter upon which he was asked to opine, which he does not, he would have been perfectly at ease discussing the diplomatic and economic consequences for Chinese aggression. If he wanted to divulge a possible military dimension to America’s response to a provocation from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), he might have talked about the nature of interdiction warfare and what a limited-scale and contained intervention against Chinese assets in places like the Middle East and Africa would look like. But Donald Trump didn’t know what he was talking about.

This is not a hypothetical situation. The scenario Hewitt was discussing has essentially already occurred. In early August, two Vietnamese fishing vessels were pursued, rammed, and attacked with water cannon by a PLAN ship. It occurred following Beijing’s announcement of snap naval exercises in the contested waters off its southern coast. The artificial island military bases that China has spent the last year developing in the Spratly chain are nearing operational capacity. It is believed that the PLA can already project force out from these islands, and that this power projection capability will be many times greater than today by the first year of the next president’s first term in office.

This is not a part of the world of which an American commander-in-chief can afford to be ignorant. “The oil transported through the Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is more than six times the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and 17 times the amount that transits the Panama Canal,” Robert Kaplan observed in a 2011 piece for Foreign Policy. “Roughly two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and about 80 percent of China’s crude-oil imports come through the South China Sea. What’s more, the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a potentially huge bounty.” The sheer volume of trade and energy reserves that pass through these sea lanes renders them a flashpoint, and China has made it clear that it will fight for primacy over them.

For those who would ignore the realities of the modern globalized world and who hope that America that can retreat back into its fortress, a citadel that never really existed but which retains its mythic appeal, the Chinese would disabuse them of the idea that a return the status quo ante 1945 is achievable. “Five Chinese navy ships are currently operating in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, marking the first time the U.S. military has seen Chinese naval activity in the area,” the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

The five vessels consist of Chinese combat ships and amphibious landing craft – a naval armada that just happened to arrive in Alaskan waters at the same time that the President of the United States was making a historic visit to the Frontier State. There are no coincidences.

If the Obama presidency has demonstrated anything, it is that there is no room for on-the-job training when it comes to matters related to national security and foreign policy. The idea that a President Trump would surround himself with figures well versed in military affairs is betrayed by the fact that he can only identify them from the Sunday morning news programs on which he has seen them appear. And if you happen to ask those martial men if they have had much of any interaction with Trump in the past, they’ll say they have not.

The overwhelming evidence that one must ignore in order to remain convinced that Donald Trump can serve as President of the United States requires a commitment to self-delusion that is nothing short of remarkable.
As Jonathan S. Tobin compares Trump to Herman Cain, it's not enough to brag about how great he will be when it comes to foreign policy.
Trump’s insistence that he will simply order things to be done right and that magically all will be well may impress his fans. But saying, as he did, that “I will be so good at the military, your head will spin,” is no substitute for actually knowing you’re talking about.

What’s odd about this is that competence and smarts are supposed to be at the core of Trump’s appeal as he rises above career politicians who have lost our collective confidence. But you can’t be competent or smart without knowledge. It’s one thing to pose as an economic expert on domestic issues, but though this is often forgotten in presidential campaigns where all candidates pretend that presidents can control the economy, foreign policy is the one aspect of our government on which they more or less have carte blanche.
You know who else gave us such breezy assurances that he could fix all sorts of foreign policy problems solely through the force of his personality? Barack Obama.
Obama also told us that he could fix the world without supplying too many details. Granted, Trump hasn’t yet told us that he will turn back the oceans as Obama did but when you listen closely to the Donald blithely speaking of building walls and making other countries pay for them or that he will simply out-negotiate the Chinese or order the Middle East to behave properly, it’s another version of “hope and change.” Trump is a different kind of messiah but his mantra about greatness isn’t much different than Obama’s empty promises. At the bottom of both is a belief that ego-driven pronouncements count more than intractable facts.

Trump doesn’t appear bothered by his latest foolishness and, given his success in spite of previous and perhaps even worse mistakes, who can blame him? But the Hewitt interview ought to scare him. It’s a long campaign, and anyone that believes they can blow smoke the whole way without paying a price is bound to eventually learn that doesn’t work. Trump is no Herman Cain, but he may be another Obama. But unlike Obama, Trump doesn’t have the luxury of an adoring press corps that will cover for him. Will conservatives who wish reporters would be tough on Obama continue to echo mindlessly Trump’s insults of journalists likes Hewitt and Megyn Kelly who try to hold him accountable? Maybe. But those who complain about “gotcha” questions when they are exposed as blowhards don’t always get away with it. Obama fooled the American people, but he had other historic reasons for voters to embrace him. They may not fall for it again.
Josh Rogin found it notable that Donald Trump's answer is that he'd find someone like Douglas MacArthur to run his national security.
Trump said he would eventually find someone like General Douglas MacArthur to handle national security. That's revealing, in as much as it shows that Trump doesn't think of himself as a strategist or even a deep thinker when it comes to foreign policy.

Hewitt didn't ask Trump if he would have fired MacArthur for pushing to bomb China during the Korean War, as President Harry Truman did in 1951. MacArthur is also the principal author of the constitution that Japan implemented after World War II, a document Trump has indirectly criticized for preventing Japan from fighting wars away from its shores. Trump lashed out at the U.S.-Japan alliance treaty, which was signed in 1951, during his stadium speech last month in Alabama....

More likely, the truth is that Trump has no defined worldview, does not understand how diplomacy or warfare works, and has no real plans to solve the world’s problems. Other Republican candidates similarly have little foreign policy experience, but at least they are trying to study up. When Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press" asked who he consults on foreign policy, Trump replied that he watches "the shows."

Now that polls show he is soundly the Republican front-runner, the free pass he has been given on these issues may be finally ending. His stumbling on foreign policy questions, combined with his disdain for greater knowledge, are clear indications he is not up to the job as Leader of the Free World. It's 3 a.m. in Donald Trump's campaign, and he isn't ready to answer the call.
It will be interesting to see if Trump has boned up on foreign policy by the CNN debate or if he'll continue to blow smoke up our collective rear ends when asked questions about foreign policy.

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Alan Reynolds looks at Hillary's plan to raise the top ta rate on capital gains that are cashed in within two years. Reynolds pointed out that FDR tried something like in 1938 and the results weren't auspicious.
It didn’t take long for economic consequences to bubble up: In the 12 months between February 1937 and 1938, the Dow Jones Industrial stock average fell 41%—to 111 from 188.4. That crash presaged one of the nation’s worst recessions, from May 1937 to June 1938, with GDP falling 10% and industrial production 32%. Unemployment swelled to 19% from 14%.

Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter, in his 1939 opus “Business Cycles,” noted that “the so-called capital gains tax has been held responsible for having accentuated, if not caused, the slump.” The steep tax on short-term gains, he argued, made it hard for small or new firms to issue stock. And the surtax on undistributed profits, Schumpeter wrote, “may well have had a paralyzing influence on enterprise and investment in general.”

More recent research confirms these insights. A 2011 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that monetary policy tightening, contrary to received wisdom, can’t explain the 1937-38 recession. “The 1936 tax rate increases,” they concluded, “seem more likely culprits in causing the recession.” Higher taxes on investors tended to fall on the more affluent individuals that supply capital to new firms.
Why would anyone be surprised that Hillary endorses policies that have already failed?

Nina Burleigh, the reporter who infamously said of Bill Clinton that she would "be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal" and recommended that women line up on their "Presidential kneepads" to show their gratitude, now turns to defending Hillary Clinton and to explain why voters find her "inauthentic" and don't trust her. It's all because she's a woman.
But no one knows how a woman with real power is supposed to speak or look to be “authentic,” for the simple reason that women haven’t held much power. As arguably the most powerful political female in the United States, Clinton is sui generis. There’s never been another woman—an avowed feminist, no less—this close to running the only global superpower. She treads uncharted ground every day, making it up along with her legion of advisers. And commentators and viewers apply their own meaning to every move she makes.
Got that? It's just sexism that makes people not trust her. And the media contribute to this perception by rolling out supposed body language experts just for Hillary, but not for the male candidates. Interesting that Burleigh doesn't examine whether Carly Fiorina is getting the same treatment. Perhaps people don't trust Hillary because we've experienced her deceptions since she came on the national scene in 1992.

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Apparently, Ben Carson's talent for surgery stems from his mad skills at Foosball.

Anne Applebaum excoriates the hypocrisy we're seeing about refugees from Syria.
Picking apart the layers of irony and hypocrisy that surround the European refugee crisis is like peeling an onion without a knife. At a train station in southern Moravia, Czech police pulled 200 refugees off a train and marked numbers on their arms. On its eastern border, Hungary is building a barbed-wire fence to keep out refugees, remarkably like the barbed wire “iron curtain” that once marked its western border. Choose whatever image you want — ships full of Jews being sent back to Nazi Europe, refugees furtively negotiating with smugglers at a bar in Casablanca — and it now has a modern twist.

As happens so often, crocodile tears are falling. The Sun, a British tabloid, has spent a decade railing against immigrants of all kinds. Not long ago, it told the British prime minister to “Draw a Red Line on Immigration — Or Else.” Now, after the publication of photographs of a dead Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, it wants him to “Deal With the Worst Crisis Facing Europe Since WW2.” Having just declared that there was no point in accepting “more and more refugees,” poor David Cameron has now declared that, actually, Britain would accept more and more refugees. His aides hurriedly explained that “he had not seen the photographs” when he made the original statement.

More layers of hypocrisy: Although the photographs are indeed terrible, they aren’t actually telling us anything new. Refugees have been crossing the Mediterranean for months. Hundreds have died. Also, if we are disturbed by a dead child on a beach, why aren’t we disturbed by another dead child in a bombed-out house in Aleppo, Syria? What’s the distinction?

Even now, almost all of the slogans being bandied about as “solutions” are based on false assumptions. Nations should accept real refugees but not economic migrants? For one, it’s rarely easy to tell the difference. More to the point, the number of potentially “legitimate” refugees is staggeringly high. As of July, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had registered more than 4 million Syrian refugees, of whom well over a million are in Turkey and 1.5 million are in Lebanon, a country of only 4.8 million people. That’s not counting Iraqis, Libyans, Afghans and others who have equally suffered political or religious persecution, or even the millions of displaced Syrians still in Syria. Exactly how many of them will Europe take?

....Here is what no one wants to say: This is, in essence, a security crisis. For years now, Europeans have chosen to pretend that wars taking place in Syria and Libya were somebody else’s problem. It’s also a foreign policy crisis: At different times and for different reasons, all of the large European states — Britain, France, Italy, Germany — have blocked attempts to create a common foreign and defense policy, and as a result they have no diplomatic or political clout.

They haven’t wanted European leadership, and most of them wouldn’t have wanted U.S. leadership either, even if any had been on offer. The richest economy in the world has a power vacuum at its heart and no army. Now the consequences are literally washing up on Europe’s shores.
I wonder if those Europeans who, for decades, criticized Israel for not giving up the West Bank to the Palestinians while ignoring the Arab states who have treated the Palestinians as refugees since 1948, will perceive the irony of this moment.

Isn't this typical?
Not all of us will be mourning 9/11 victims and their families this Friday on the 14th anniversary of the attacks. Hundreds of college kids across the country will instead be taught to sympathize with the terrorists.

That’s because their America-hating leftist professors are systematically indoctrinating them into believing it’s all our fault, that the US deserved punishment for “imperialism” — and the kids are too young to remember or understand what really happened that horrific day.

Case in point is a freshman-level English class taught at several major universities across the country called “The Literature of 9/11” — which focuses almost entirely on writings from the perspective of the Islamic terrorists, rather than the nearly 3,000 Americans who were slaughtered by them.

The syllabus, which includes books like “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Poems from Guantanamo: Detainees Speak,” portray terrorists as “freedom fighters” driven by oppressive US foreign policies.

Even highly ranked University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has adopted the curriculum. The 9/11 seminar is taught by UNC associate English professor Neel Ahuja, who specializes in “post-colonial studies.”

In Ahuja’s twisted worldview, al Qaeda terrorists are the real victims. “Abu Zubaydah’s torture may be interpreted as simply one more example of the necropower of US imperialism, the power to coerce and kill targeted populations,” Ahuja recently wrote in an academic paper criticizing the war on terror.
Recently, in a class discussion on Guantanamo with my 10th graders, several students asked questions about wasn't it true that we had waterboarded all those prisoners. Remember that these are mostly 15-year olds who weren't cognizant of 9/11 and this is now what they think.