By Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal
The other day I was asked by a writer for a mainstream French newspaper to say something about the "return" of the neoconservatives. His thesis seemed to be that the shambles of Barack Obama's foreign policy had, after only nine months, made what was thought to be the most discredited wing of an ostensibly brain-dead conservative movement relevant again. And France—no longer straining at the sight of Michelle Obama shopping in Paris's 6th arrondissement—is taking notice.
My answer was that the neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.
Instead, the presents have been of a different kind. North Korea claims to be in the final stages of building a uranium enrichment facility—its second route to an atomic bomb. Iran, again caught cheating on its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, has responded by wagging a finger at the U.S. and firing a round of missiles. Syria continues to aid and abet jihadists operating in Iraq. NATO countries have generally refused to send more troops to Afghanistan, and are all the more reluctant to do so now that the administration is itself wavering on the war.
As for Russia, its ambassador to the U.N. last week bellyached that the U.S. "continues to be a rather difficult negotiating partner"—and that was after Mr. Obama cancelled the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Thus does the politics of concession meet with the logic of contempt.
All this must, at some level, come as a surprise to an administration so deeply in love with itself. "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world," Mr. Obama told the U.N.'s General Assembly last week with his usual modesty. He added that those expectations were "rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change."
Yet what sounds like "hope" in, say, Toronto or Barcelona tends to come across as fecklessness in Warsaw and Jerusalem. In Moscow and Tehran, it reads like credulity—and an opportunity to exploit the U.S. at a moment of economic weakness and political self-infatuation.
For those much-scorned neocons, none of this comes as a surprise. Neoconservatives generally take the view that the internal character of a regime usually predicts the nature of its foreign policy. Governments that are answerable to their own people and accountable to a rule of law tend to respect the rights of their neighbors, honor their treaty commitments, and abide by the international rules of the road. By contrast, regimes that prey on their own citizens are likely to prey on their neighbors as well. Their word is the opposite of their bond.
That's why neocons have no faith in any deals or "grand bargains" the U.S. might sign with North Korea or Iran over their nuclear programs: Cheating is in the DNA of both regimes, and the record is there to prove it. Nor do neocons put much stock in the notion that there's a "reset" button with the Kremlin. Russia is the quintessential spoiler state, seeking its advantage in America's troubles at home and abroad. Ditto for Syria, which has perfected the art of taking credit for solving problems of its own creation.
Where neocons do put their faith is in American power, not just military or economic power but also as an instrument of moral and political suasion. Disarmament? The last dictator to relinquish his nuclear program voluntarily was Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who did so immediately following Saddam Hussein's capture. Democratization? Contrary to current conventional wisdom, democracy is often imposed, or at least facilitated, by U.S. pressure—in the Philippines, in the Balkans and, yes, in Iraq. Human rights? Anwar Ibrahim, the beleaguered Malaysian opposition leader, told me last week that "the only country that can stand up" to abusive regimes is the United States. "If they know the administration is taking a soft stance [on human rights], they will go on a rampage."
None of this is to say that neoconservatism represents some kind of infallible doctrine—or that it's even a doctrine. Neocons have erred in overestimating the U.S. public's willingness to engage in long struggles on behalf of other people. They have erred also in overestimating the willingness of other people to fight for themselves, or for their freedom.
But as the pendulum has swung to a U.S. foreign policy based on little more than the personal attractions of the president, it's little wonder that the world is casting about for an alternative. And a view of the world that understands that American power still furnishes the margin between freedom and tyranny, and between prosperity and chaos, is starting to look better all the time. Even in France.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
By Bret Stephens
Posted by Falling Panda at 6:04 AM
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
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Less than a year ago, Barack Obama was being hailed as "post-partisan." Now, he seems to exemplify the slippery partisan. George Will describes Obama's recent actions here, but had he not mentioned Obama by name the following piece could easily be used as a case study in examining why Americans don't trust politicians.
George F. Will
Mitch McConnell Smiled?
The President is CPR for the GOP.
Published Sep 12, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Sep 21, 2009
Mitch McConnell, the taciturn Kentuckian who leads Senate Republicans, usually resembles Samuel Beckett's character Watt, who "had never smiled, but thought he knew how it was done." Last week, however, careful observers detected a trace of a hint of a shadow of a smile. Congressional Democrats were still at daggers drawn with one another, and the president's rhetoric was becoming CPR for the Republican Party.
On the 233rd day of his presidency, Barack Obama grabbed the country's lapels for the 263rd time—that was, as of last Wednesday, the count of his speeches, press conferences, town halls, interviews, and other public remarks. His speech to Congress was the 122nd time he had publicly discussed health care. Just 14 hours would pass before the 123rd, on Thursday morning. His incessant talking cannot combat what it has caused: An increasing number of Americans do not believe that he believes what he says.
He says America's health-care system is going to wrack and ruin and requires root-and-branch reform—but that if you like your health care (as a large majority of Americans do), nothing will change for you. His slippery new formulation is that nothing in his plan will "require" anyone to change coverage. He used to say, "If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period." He had to stop saying that because various disinterested analysts agree that his plan will give many employers incentives to stop providing coverage for employees.
He deplores "scare tactics" but says that unless he gets his way, people will die. He praises temperate discourse but says many of his opponents are liars. He says Medicare is an exemplary program that validates government's prowess at running health systems. But he also says Medicare is unsustainable and going broke, and that he will pay for much of his reforms by eliminating the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud in this paragon of a program, and in Medicaid. He says Congress will cut Medicare (it will not) by $500 billion—without affecting benefits.
He says the nation's economic health depends on controlling health-care costs. Yet so important is the trial bar in financing the Democratic Party, he says not a syllable in significant and specific support of tort reforms that could save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing "defensive medicine" intended to protect not patients from illnesses but doctors from lawyers. He has said he will not add a dime to the deficit when bringing 47 million people into government-guaranteed health care. But Wednesday night, 17 million went missing: "There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." Almost 10 million of the uninsured are not citizens, and most of them are illegal immigrants. Presumably the other 7 million could get insurance but chose not to. Democrats propose fines to eliminate that choice. He suggests health-insurance companies are making excessive profits. But since 1996, profits of the six such companies in the S&P 500 have been below the 500's average. He says a "public option"—a government insurance program—would not be subsidized to enable it to compete unfairly with private insurers. (The post office and the government's transportation -"public option," Amtrak, devour subsidies.) He says the public option is vital for keeping health insurers "honest"—but that it is only a wee "sliver" of reform. About that, Nancy Pelosi -disagrees.
She is liberalism's Dolores Ibárruri, a.k.a. La Pasionaria—the Passion Flower. An anti-Franco orator during the Spanish Civil War, Ibárruri gave the Loyalists their battle cry, "¡Nopasarán!"—"They shall not pass!" Franco's forces did pass, but Pelosi has vowed that a reform plan lacking a public option shall not pass the House. But Montana Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, says a public option cannot pass the Senate.
McConnell of the Mona Lisa smile says Congress will pass something because Obama will sign anything. McConnell notes, however, that never in his 25 Senate years have Republicans polled close to Democrats when the question is: Which party do you trust most to deal with health care? Until now. Last week's polling: Democratic Party, 41; Republican Party, 39—a statistical dead heat. On a generic ballot question—which party do you intend to vote for?—the GOP has gone from down 12 points to dead even since November. Independents defected in droves from the GOP in 2006 and 2008, but today only one third of them view Obama's handling of health care favorably.
He says "the time for bickering is over." Presidents of both parties disparage as mere bickering all inconvenient arguments about what government can and should do. Americans "didn't send us here to bicker," said George Herbert Walker Bush, in the first 15 minutes of America's most recent one-term presidency.
Posted by Falling Panda at 7:53 AM
Thursday, September 10, 2009
First, let me start by saying that Rep. Joe Wilson’s interruption of President Obama last night was completely inappropriate. Regardless of how vehemently one disagrees or even despises a president, we must return to the traditions of political discourse in which a certain reverence for the office of the presidency is exhibited by our elected officials. I condemned poor behavior exhibited by Democrats when they treated President Bush in a similarly rude manner and every conservative should do the same with Wilson.
That being said, President Obama’s speech was viciously partisan and angered a great many of us on the right. We do in fact believe that President Obama is guilty of misrepresenting various elements of his plan to the American people. If Mr. Obama is going to continue to call those opposed to this plan “liars” then we as conservatives have every right to set the record straight if the president himself is pushing talking points that don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Obviously illegal immigration is a sensitive topic in this country and the idea that a government run health care plan such as the public option, would allow illegal aliens to receive coverage, is simply unacceptable.
Real questions remain as to how the current House bill treats illegals.
There is indeed a provision in the House bill, which states that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for the public plan. However, unlike Medicare and Medicaid, the pending legislation currently contains no provision that would require proof of citizenship when an individual attempts to sign up for the program. In fact, Democrats killed a GOP sponsored amendment that would have mandated that individuals show proof of citizenship in order to be eligible for the plan. This means that while illegals would be breaking the law by signing onto the plan, no effort would be made to prevent them from doing so. If an individual had no qualms about entering the country illegally in the first place, what reason is there to believe that they would not do so again in helping themselves to taxpayer funded health care?
Now, perhaps I’m not as familiar with the legislative process as I should be. If someone could assure me that there are provisions which would ensure that the legal status of those who signed up for the plan would be checked, and that this is something that will be added by government bureaucrats upon the bills passage, then I will happily cede the point to the president. But when compounded with the misleading statements that have already come from the president, such as his claim that the plan would not add to the deficit. Or his insistence (up until last night when he carefully changed his phrasing) that if you like your current plan, you can keep it, puts me in the company of a great number of Americans – including Rep. Wilson – who are increasingly skeptical as to whether this president is being honest with us when it comes to the very important subject of health care reform.
Again, the president can’t have it both ways. If he is going to chastise opponents of his plan for peddling “misinformation,” then he must be completely upfront in his own selling of the plan to the American public.
I never believed George W. Bush lied to the American people. At this point I would not go as far as to say that Barack Obama has done so either, but it appears that he is coming dangerously close. Dishonesty from our president is just as inappropriate as any disrespectful outburst made towards the Commander In Chief by a member of Congress.
Posted by Falling Panda at 6:48 AM
Sunday, September 06, 2009
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Communist, Truther, Race-Baiter. I miss Van Jones already.
But apparently the MSM hadn't even heard about him until today. Here's a list of the coverage they gave the guy prior to his resignation:
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the New York Times: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the Washington Post: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on NBC Nightly News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on ABC World News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on CBS Evening News: 0.
Posted by Falling Panda at 1:52 PM