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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beldar on Welch on "Obama's Doctrine of Preemptive War"

I like Matt Welch, the editor in chief of Reason.com. He's funny and perceptive, and right more often than wrong. He's not someone who I typically find to be guilty of fuzzy, confused writing or speaking. But his essay on Obama's Doctrine of Preemptive War (h/t Instapundit) is, in important respects, an exception.

Suppose in 2003, after seeing us take down Saddam, Kadafi's reaction had instead been to re-double his own WMD program. It's easy to imagine how that might have justified a preemptive war if other means failed to dissuade him from that course. (Of course, it's also easy to imagine how it might have been fumbled: for examples we need look no farther than North Korea, and now Iran.)

But that's not what happened. Instead, after he saw Saddam pried out of his spider hole, Kadafi voluntarily gave up his WMD program and restrained the degree and severity of his export of terrorism. As a consequence, the war in Libya now is by no means the same kind of preemptive war that we waged in Iraq in 2003 — one in which we fired the first shots because we were convinced we were going to be in a fight soon anyway, and a much worse fight than if we hadn't waited. What we're "preempting" now in Libya is not a threat to the United States, but to Libya's citizen population, including but not at all limited to the very substantial fraction of it who were actively demonstrating against Kadafi. Deciding when, and how much, war is justified in those circumstances is also quite controversial and difficult, but it's a different kind of controversy and difficulty than those which attend the question of starting a genuinely preemptive war.

Kadafi broke parole. The forebearance he'd bought by cooperation after his past acts of international terrorism, he forfeited when he started using heavy weapons indiscriminately on his population — but not because that put us at risk in the U.S. in any direct or immediate way.

What makes Libya a country of strategic importance to America — why military intervention to depose Kadafi now is justified strategically, when military intervention to depose many other dictators committing attrocities isn't justified strategically — is indeed a common factual thread with the Iraq situation. In neither country could America afford to see a return to active WMD development and production, active export of international terrorism, or active shelter of international terrorists because those countries' bad acts could be multiplied and magnified by their oil money.

Much of Welch's criticism of the Obama Administration's badly mixed messages is spot on, and similar to what I (and many others) have been saying. (Obama doesn't like to talk about Libya's oil, a naive self-imposed blindfold of political correctness which ends up hampering his explanation of America's genuine strategic interests.) But the mere fact that there is a common strategic thread with the Iraq War — which is that terrorism-exporting WMD-seeking countries with oil money are extra dangerous and therefore extra important to the U.S. — still doesn't turn this intervention in Libya into a "preemptive war."

This isn't a war we started. Kadafi started it, against his own civilians. Given that, strategic interests now have to be considered in deciding upon what we should do, it's true. But the whole debate about whether the grave and gathering dangers are sufficient to wage a preemptive war became moot once Kadafi started the shooting. At that point, the question wasn't war versus peace, but war with or without our involvement. Welch does no one any favors by confusing that point.

And contra Welch, my concern is not that Obama is too committed now to the doctrine of preemptive war. My concern — see, again, Iran — is that he's already effectively ruled it out when we certainly shouldn't.

Posted by Beldar at 06:45 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Beldar admits error on whether there's a constituency that favors Kadafi's survival

In my reactions to Pres. Obama's speech on Libya on Monday night, I disputed — but didn't discuss at much length — the president's assertion that that "[i]f we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter." My reaction was:

Not if you did your job properly. Not even the Arab League wants to see Kadafi left alive. What's making them nervous is the collateral damage from the airstrikes you're already doing, not concern for Kadafi.

In some lunchtime political debate Tuesday, I pointed out this line to a liberal friend as yet another example of dishonesty in Obama's speech. "There is no constituency for Kadafi's survival anymore, not anywhere," I insisted to my friend, "and there is simply no one who will be sorry to see him killed."

Later, driving away, I mentally footnoted that: "Except, maybe, for the grifters, thugs, mercenaries, sycophants, and (broadly defined, to its dirtiest outer limits) 'service industry' people, somewhere in the world, on whom Kadafi, if he survives, will continue spending those many tens of billions of dollars he's stashed. Those parasites would rather see him in a lengthy and profitable-for-themselves exile."

I now find that I was both wrong and right, at the same time.

Kadafi does indeed still have a constituency, someone willing to go to bat for him — and it consists of Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas from Nicaragua:

A former Nicaraguan leftist foreign minister who has been a sharp critic of U.S. governments will represent Libya at the United Nations after its delegate was denied a visa, Nicaragua said on Tuesday.

As governments and international bodies agreed to press on with a NATO-led aerial bombardment of Libyan forces, Nicaragua said Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who once called former U.S. President Ronald Reagan "the butcher of my people," would replace senior Libyan diplomat Ali Abdussalam Treki.

The government of leftist President Daniel Ortega, a former U.S. Cold War foe who has forged ties with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said it had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to inform him of the decision.

The Nicaraguan government said in a statement that D'Escoto has flown to the U.N. headquarters in New York to "support our Libyan brothers in their diplomatic battle to enforce respect for its sovereignty.

Mind you, this D'Escoto is so incredibly steeped in international radicalism that even Reuters found it essential to begin pointing out his background in the lead paragraph of this news report.

Miguel D'Escoto and a really good friend embrace at the U.N. As for Ortega, that murderous Fidel Castro wannabe, the last time he was discussed here on the pages of BeldarBlog was during the 2004 election, when I pointed out, as an example of John Kerry's extremely poor judgment, that he had believed, endorsed, and heavily promoted Ortega's false promises to reform his communist government in Nicaragua if only America would stop funding the Contras. Suffice it to say that it was only Ronald Reagan and Nicaragua's lack of massive oil resources that has prevented Ortega from becoming the same kind of tyrant as Kadafi himself.

So that's how I was wrong in my assertion there's no constituency for Kadafi's survival anywhere. How, then, was I simultaneously right? I'm saved by my mental footnote, and this report that "[t]he South American state [i.e., Nicaragua] has been identified as a potential safe haven for Gaddafi should he seek exile from Libya."

Brilliant! Kadafi's political constituency is also his graft constituency! Isn't it great when ideology and commerce work together so closely?

Obviously, however, I still think Obama's assertion — that our coalition would shatter if we committed to taking out Kadafi by force — was completely false. Whatever coalition Obama has managed to assemble, it's never included Daniel Ortega anyway, and it certainly ought not.

Posted by Beldar at 03:53 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Regarding our POTUS, and the portion of the American public which absolutely insists that we "go it alone" and "bear all the burden ourselves"

My eye keeps being drawn back to one particularly gutless, dishonest sentence in Obama's speech from last night:

Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves.

Leave aside that both Bush-41 and Bush-43 assembled broader international coalitions in 1990-1991, 2001, and 2003. Tell us, Mr. President, who these people are! Who exactly are the "some" who "claim" that American leadership is "a matter of going it alone and bearing all the burden ourselves"? Point to one such person, so we can join you in mocking him or her, and thank you properly for saving us from such misguided views!

But it is effectively a null set: There is no such "some."

Our POTUS fabricates imaginary straw-men as reflexively as he breathes — not just when speaking off the cuff or on the stump, but in prepared, polished speeches with the entire world as his audience. The only way he can seem reasonable or competent is in comparison to fictional fiends who do not exist, so he makes them up.

He does this over and over again, and no reporter has the guts to say to his face: "Would you please name one person, Mr. President, who's claimed that we should, quote, 'go it alone,' unquote? Or who's claimed that we should, quote 'bear the entire burden,' unquote?" How are those possibly not legitimate questions? Jake Tapper? Anyone?

Barack Obama simply is not an honest man, even by the loose standards to which we unfortunately tend to hold our politicians.


What must one imagine went on in 2003, for instance, in order for Obama to assert that there were "some" who wanted America to "go it alone" and "bear all the burden ourselves"?

DUBYA: Oh, no, mon amis from NATO, heh, heh, put away your wallets! Your Euros are no good here! We insist on paying the full cost of the liberation of Iraq! After all, we are the rich, rich Americans!

CHENEY: Yes, we insist on doing it all ourselves. No, no, Afghanistan doesn't count, we insist on paying for every bit of that too. Just send us your receipts, we'll get you reimbursed. We'll put it on a pre-paid debit card — it's really cool, you can spend it anywhere. [Studio audience coos appreciatively.]

DUBYA: In fact, from now on, the "No-Fly Zone" we're enforcing over the entire continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa will include British and French aircraft too. [Audience applauds.]

CHENEY [stage whisper]: Because we can't afford the risk that they might accidentally help us! Ahhh-hah-hah-hah! You know those eager-to-help Europeans! [Audience laughs and applauds.]

DUBYA: And by the way, we just sunk that joke of a French aircraft carrier. It was in our parking spot! [High-fives Cheney. Audience cheers.]

CHENEY: Who let all those little countries in? What a buncha poodles! Send 'em home! [Cheney pretends to sweep with imaginary broom. Audience laughs and claps.]

DUBYA: Flyin' solo like the bald eagle! Uni-lateral is the only -lateral for us, baby! Yee-haw! [Cue balloon drop and country-western song celebrating the repression of Palestinians. Bitter, racist, but cheering audience members, clutching their guns and Bibles, storm the stage in triumph.]

The only two choices are these: (1) Barack Obama thinks we're all stupid enough to believe this actually happened (and yes, unfortunately, some of us are, but not very many); or (2) he thinks it actually happened. I'm going with choice (1), on the theory that I ought never attribute to psychosis that which can be adequately explained by mere political venality.

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beldar backtalks Obama on Libya

From the full "as prepared for delivery" version of President Obama's speech tonight, with my snarky backtalk interlineated in brackets and green text:

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people [I'm one such], and do whatever it takes to bring down Gaddafi and usher in a new government. [But that's an overstatement of our arguments. We're not suggesting tactical nukes, for example. We're suggesting that if we get a chance to end this through regime decapitation, we should take it, and indeed we should try to create such chances. Typical Obama straw-man argument, one of his favorite techniques.]

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. [That only works on dictators who are unwilling to shoot up their own population to stay in power.] But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. [See, it's our mission, just not our "military" mission. Brilliant! Let's set a goal, and then rule out the most effective means of achieving it! Because the only thing we use force for is, umm, to blow stuff up to protect people from the guy we're carefully not targeting. Yeah, that's very clear now, thank you Mr. President.]

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. [Yes, and that U.N. Security Council resolution authorizes "all necessary means" so long as they don't involve opening a chow hall on Libyan dirt. For whatever it's worth, we have ample U.N.S.C. authorization to effect regime change by means that include regime decapitation. This is a victory your minions fought for and won at the U.N. — why aren't you using it?] It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. [The rebels asked us not to kill Kadafi? No, this is just a brazen misrepresentation by you, Mr. President. I think they would be very, very happy if we managed to kill Kadafi.] If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. [Not if you did your job properly. Not even the Arab League wants to see Kadafi left alive. What's making them nervous is the collateral damage from the airstrikes you're already doing, not concern for Kadafi.] We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. [This from President Attack Drone?!? Seriously? And U.N.S.C. Resolution 1973 authorizes troops on the ground so long as they're not "occupying."] The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. [Not if you do your job properly, they would be lessened and the danger period shortened.] So would the costs [nope], and our share of the responsibility for what comes next [nope, either way, if America doesn't make it happen, nothing very good is going to happen].

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. [Oh come on. Why not just chant "BusHitler! Cheney! Halliburton!" This passes for reasoned argument? That's not "blunt," it's imbecilic.] Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. [And you were wrong, wrong, wrong in everything you said or did about Iraq before you actually got into the Oval Office, Mr. Obama. Thank God for George W. Bush, but God forbid you might include his name in your thanks as you're taking credit for his results.] But regime change there took eight years [actually a bit more than three weeks, from March 20-April 15, 2003; it was not regime change, but the aftermath that took eight years], thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. [An amount which is less than you've increased just our budget deficit just for one year.] That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya. [What we cannot afford is seeing Libya, with its oil wealth, return to sponsoring world-wide terrorism and the pursuit of WMDs. We can't afford a nuclear 9/11.]

At least he did not repeat — as a quote-unquote "guarantee" — a promise that Kadafi will not be targeted. But that's still the net effect.

Pres. Obama at the White House today (official WH photo) There are a lot of other stray remarks from the speech that I hated. "I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power." The colossal narcissism of this dude is still breathtaking; he's deeply, deeply invested in the grandeur of those new clothes. He took a gratuitous shot at Bill Clinton and our NATO allies in an obvious attempt to try to excuse his own dithering: "To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians." I'm sure the SecState was thrilled with that line.

I think he did a fairly good job of summarizing the humanitarian reasons for intervening. But he made only a feeble effort to claim a strategic reason by arguing that Kadafi was threatening to (further) destabilize neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, without bothering to explain why the U.S. has vital strategic interests in those countries. (We do in Egypt, not because of oil money that might again be misspent on terrorism (as in Libya), but because of the Suez Canal, the Aswan Dam, its borders and history with Israel, and the sheer size of Egypt's population. But frankly, we don't have vital strategic interests in Tunisia.) Thus, although I think there are very good answers to the question "Are we going to intervene everywhere else where a dictator is committing indiscriminate massacre of civilians," Obama didn't really even try to address that subject.

So I'm entirely unpersuaded by any of the excuses Obama offered for his policy of not killing Kadafi even if we get him cleanly in our sights. It makes zero sense. And I'm still at a complete loss to figure out who Obama thinks he's pleasing with that policy, unless it's just that he's trying to avoid further aggravating MoveOn.org and Code Pink and the Hard Left.

Posted by Beldar at 08:40 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kudos to Frey and Stranahan on their collaboration at Patterico.com

Kudos to my blogospheric good friend and fellow Texas Law School alum Patrick Frey, the proprietor of Patterico's Pontifications, who has been far more industrious and creative a blogger than I've ever managed to be. He's experimented, with generally good results, with inviting others to post on his bandwidth and under his masthead — and now, in particular, he's invited someone whom he respects, but who has opposite views to Frey's own on a great many issues.

His latest experiment is a collaboration with leftie Lee Stranahan, who will, I'm sure, take a lot of flak from fellow travelers who will think he's bedding the devil; at best, they're likely to view Stranahan the way I view, say, David Brooks or David Frum and their engagement with reflexively left-wing media. (But at worst: How long before someone at dKos slaps him with an "Uncle Tom" label?) 

I frankly expect, however, to read — at Patterico.com — some punditry from Stranahan with which I strongly disagree, rather than just critiques of the left from the left. I certainly don't ever expect watered-down mush calculated to avoid offending anyone: That sort of bland and apologetic centrism is certainly not Frey's own style, and I can't imagine that he'd hit it off with anyone, even someone from the left, who embraced it either.

Stranahan's first post is up, and it effectively skewers Arianna Huffington and the HuffPo for their treatment of Andrew Breitbart. Stranahan's first-hand knowledge and liberal credentials add substantially to the post's throw-weight. But I hope, and fully expect, that in some number of his future pieces Stranahan will also provide an intelligent critique of the right on some of the issues that we disagree upon, and I look forward to debating him from time to time. This is a good thing.

Posted by Beldar at 06:20 PM in Mainstream Media, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Due credit to Obama for negotiating an advantage at the U.N.S.C., but brickbats for not using it

I have been supportive of the Obama Administration's original announced goal of forcing Kadafi out of Libya, but I have been highly critical of most aspects of its implementation of that goal. Nevertheless, I will give a gold star to whoever was responsible for the wording of the key paragraph in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. In pertinent part, it —

Authorizes Member States ... to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in [the state of Libya], while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory ....

The obvious success was in getting broad authorizing language — "all necessary measures" — which is inherently subjective but intentionally open-ended. There is no civilian anywhere in Libya who's not at least "under threat of attack" by Kadafi each and every minute he stays in power.

The United Nations complex on Manhattan's Turtle BayThe more impressive success, however, is non-obvious: The definitional scope and power of the resolution are helped a great deal, actually, by the specific exclusion. Sometimes a very bright line, definitively placed on a far-away horizon, is useful to remind you of just how much space you can cross before you even get close to the line. Anything which isn't "a foreign occupation force of any form" can be argued very persuasively to be within "all necessary measures." So if it doesn't involve setting up a new chow hall anywhere on Libyan dirt, it's authorized. I'm pretty sure the Joint Chiefs can work with that.

As I've pointed out before, Resolution 1973 certainly includes within its potential scope all forms of regime change, including decapitation. And indeed, if we could pull it off, regime decapitation would be the single most effective way to protect threatened civilians at the lowest cost in Libyan or coalition blood and treasure.

I vehemently deny that the U.S. has any obligation to get U.N. or U.N.S.C. approval to take steps in its legitimate national interest, but neither do I fault Obama for consulting with the U.N. And certainly whenever we're successful in gaining support there — as we have been here! — we should make good use of that support.


That's why it continues to baffle me that Obama is treating Resolution 1973 as if it limits the previously announced Obama Administration policy of regime change for Libya. It just doesn't.

Rather, since the Obama Administration obviously planned and fought for, and won, U.N.S.C. approval for approval of anything up to (but not including) an occupation force, we should certainly stop talking and acting as if we're somehow shackled by Resolution 1973. Can we maybe find whoever it was who negotiated that language, and let him or her run the show while Obama goes back to playing golf and watching basketball? Because what he's saying in public doesn't make a damn bit of sense, and this bit of Turtle Bay diplomatic agility has been about the only sign that anyone in the whole Administration has managed to buy a clue.

And I can't figure out who Obama is trying to please by pretending that we're not really engaged in regime change. The only people I can think of would be pacifist absolutists and, I guess, the entirety of Obama's Hard Left base, including MoveOn.org and Code Pink and those folks. So we're to put Libyans' and coalition warriors' lives at continuing grave risk, rather than choose the quickest, safest solution, just to make sure the Hard Left won't stay home on Election Day 2012? That is an ugly possibility to contemplate, and I'd really like some "progressive" to point me to another, better explanation.

The American government needs to be making urgent, quiet plans for what to do as Kadafi leaves and after he's gone. That bad men bid to follow him we must expect and beware, so we'll have to plan for that now, and deal with that too in its time. But let's leave for another day the argument at the U.N. about post-Kadafi Libya. And let's quit wasting the authorization we've already gotten there, and get things right with our own Congress, and then deal with Kadafi once and for all.

Posted by Beldar at 11:39 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In six weeks, Obama fails miserably at what Bush père did so very well in one

We're entering the sixth week of the Libyan crisis, and someone attempting to defend President Obama's feckless handling of it might point out, correctly, that there was very much an element of unexpected emergency created by Kadafi's decision to start shooting his own citizens when they started protesting on February 15th. So it's only fair to judge President Obama's reaction in that context. Certainly it takes time to consult allies, to nudge into motion giant bureaucratic agencies like the U.N. or even multi-national military ones NATO, and to formulate a clear national and international position with clear goals unequivocally communicated to friend and foe alike. 

So let's consider another recent (in historical terms) and unexpected emergency in the Middle East — Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, which came as an utter surprise to the entire world, and America's response, which was called "Operation Desert Shield."

Pres. George H.W. Bush addressing the country on August 8, 1990 In less than one week — by August 8, 1990 — Pres. George H.W. Bush had already gotten resolutions from the U.N. and the Arab League comdemning the invasion, along with U.N. Security Council Resolutions establishing economic sanctions and authorizing a blockade of Iraq to enforce them. He had exhausted both formal and back-channel negotiations seeking a voluntary Iraqi pull-back. He had started the deployment of American air and ground forces to defensive positions in Saudi Arabia (which in turn required the most delicate of negotiations to reconcile those troops' presence with the Saudis' keen sensitivities as guardians of Islam's most holy cities). He had consulted with both parties' leaders in Congress to their general satisfaction — even though he wasn't (yet) sending troops or even aircraft into combat. (Eventually he'd come back to them for, and win, a formal Congressional vote authorizing that.)

And in a straight-forward but powerful speech to America and the world on the evening of August 8, he laid out exactly what he had done, was doing, and promised to do about Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

It was an expanded version of the same message he'd had since his very first public statements on the crisis: "This will not stand." No bluster, nothing grand, and certainly no diplomatic double-speak, but just the kind of grim and absolutely credible determination the American men of his generation were known for.

It was as graceful and swift and deft and brilliant an exercise in international diplomacy as this planet has ever seen. It was a symphonic ballet of practical, urgent diplomacy — with Jim Baker and Bush both working the phones, and Bush jotting hand-written notes to world leaders he'd known and dealt with for decades. It was followed up with sustained performance throughout the fall and into what eventually became Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — a diplomatic accomplishment so total that there were even Syrian and Egyptian tanks helping us and the Brits and the French (and a bunch of other countries) liberate Kuwait.

Throughout, Pres. Bush-41 was gracious and tactful in sharing credit with all of our allies, some of whom were even persuaded to kick in for some of the cost! But never, ever, did he shrink from America's essential role, nor pretend that we could fool the rest of the world into thinking anyone else could replace us in it.

Which is to say: 

George H.W. Bush's performance in beginning Desert Shield had almost nothing in common with Barack Obama's performance now. And that's unfortunate for the latter — and the country.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ 2:10am): Now that he's fresh and well-rested from his South American vacation and he's found an unlocked door to get back into the Oval Office, it appears that The One "will deliver an address to the nation on Monday with an update on the situation in Libya, the White House announced Friday evening."

No sooner because, you know, there are games this weekend. We're talking the Elite Eight here, baby — Butler versus Florida! Virginia Commonwealth versus Kansas! — just so you understand the priorities.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ wee-smalls): Okay, here's the hold-up. The administration is having a vigorous internal debate over whether to arm the Libyan rebels with sophisticated western technology, although we're apparently not sure whether that should be pepper spray or TOW anti-tank missiles:

Gene Cretz, the recently withdrawn U.S. ambassador to Libya, said administration officials were having "the full gamut" of discussions on "potential assistance we might offer, both on the non-lethal and the lethal side," but that no decisions had been made.

So apparently the Obama Administration is already committed to the notion that Libya needs more weapons with less accountability. But we wouldn't want to rush into any decisions on Stingers versus Tasers until we've actually ruled out the entire line-up of Nerf weapons, some of which, I think you'll agree, are pretty formidable.

I'll tell you who ought to get to answer that question: Somebody at about the major or lieutenant colonel level in, say, the 101st Airborne, who more than likely is going to have some percentage of the weapons we hand out now pointed back at his troopers within days, weeks, or months. So I'm actually going with the Nerf line-up, if I get a vote.


UPDATE (Sat Mar 26 @ wee-smallers): Oh, yes, I definitely saw this coming:

President Barack Obama told congressional leaders there are no plans to use the U.S. military to assassinate Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi — despite the administration’s policy of seeking regime change in the North African country — according to sources familiar with a Friday White House Situation Room briefing.

“There was a discussion of how we have other ways of regime change,” Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told POLITICO. “It’s not our role to do anything at this point from a kinetic point of view. It is our goal for regime change, but we’re not going to do it from a kinetic point of view.”

So yeah, add that to Adm. Gortney's "guarantee" that Kadafi is "not on the target list" and I think you've pretty much got the picture here. We're going to keep all of our options right out on the table, including holding our breath until we turn blue and we get really dizzy. Except the one option which would really work, right away. That one we've ruled out repeatedly.

Kadafi's possibly the safest person in Libya, at least for tonight. He's got Obama's word on it. Even if Obama could just push the button and Kadafi would magically, instantly, disappear without a hair being harmed on any other Libyan's head, Obama wouldn't do it.

The Kadafi Box: A Parody of a (recent) Major Motion Picture

(But I wonder if Kadafi knows Geraghty's Law?)

Further prediction: If it's live and not a re-run tonight, Saturday Night Live will be all over "kinetic."

Further, further prediction: Obama will repeat this utter stupidity about not targeting Kadafi in his national address on Monday night. It will encourage Kadafi and confuse Americans and our main allies, including the Brits, who've quite wisely refused to rule out regime decapitation.

Posted by Beldar at 01:17 AM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Friday, March 25, 2011

A tale of two Teddys

I agree and associate myself with Dr. Krauthammer's remarks from yesterday, among them this one:

This confusion is purely the result of Obama's decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely "one of the partners among many," he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

To be clear (to use one of The One's favorite phrases): I support our President in the original goal he announced — forcing Kadafi from power — because I think that is in America's own interests. And I think that is also the best way to meet the U.N. Security Council's resolution authorizing member states to "take all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians who are "under threat of attack."

I support our armed forces, who are going to be doing most of the heavy lifting even if our President chooses to pretend otherwise and thinks he's ducked responsibility by farming this out to NATO (as if America weren't the senior and majority partner in NATO).

I support this and every POTUS' constitutional right and obligation to take appropriate action as commander in chief, and I support Congress' constitutional right and obligation to insist that only Congress has the power to declare war, so I am glad whenever the Hill and White House can get their acts together and consult appropriately. But that hasn't been done yet either.

And I am astonished and appalled at the stunning naïveté and sheer incompetence of the Obama Administration as it stumbles through this. This is like watching a very badly run junior high school student council trying to pretend like they're world leaders.

Shorter version:

Dear Mr. President: We need, from you, more Teddy Roosevelt right now, and less Teddy Ruxpin.

(Of course, T.R. was not only the namesake for all stuffed bear toys, but actually deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.)

President Obama Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Ruxpin

Posted by Beldar at 10:38 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Beldar on Simon on Kelly

Why would my friend Roger L. Simon — who's one of the most savvy "new media" practitioners around — wish such misfortune on Megyn Kelly?

Alternately phrased: Why would he wish such undeserved good fortune upon CBS?

Posted by Beldar at 08:00 PM in Current Affairs, Humor, Mainstream Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good parent, terrible wife/husband?

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds links this not terribly insightful piece from something called "Shine from Yahoo!®" called "Mom Confession: I'm a Terrible Wife." Its author writes, "I'm a very good mother. But I'm a terrible wife." By way of commentary, Prof. Reynolds adds:

Being a good wife is part of being a good mother. If you’re a terrible wife, you’re not actually being a good mother.

That bit of punditry should have come with a tsunami warning. Prof. Reynolds' remark is going to spark a lot of debate, including some very vehement disagreement.

By definition, his comment doesn't include ex-wives, nor husbands of any variety. But I would be inclined to amend his statement to broaden it to say instead:

If you're a parent, and your kid has another parent with whom you're regularly failing to cooperate, then neither of you is being a good parent — regardless of whether you are now, or ever were, married, and regardless of whether either of you is, or ever was, a good spouse.

I never do remotely as well, under my own metrics for judging my performance as a father, as I think I ought to do. I'm constantly aware of my own failings. But at a bare minimum, I expect myself to cooperate actively and continuously and creatively with my ex to promote the best interests of the treasure we continue to share.

Posted by Beldar at 07:36 PM in Family, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Watching the melt-down — no, not in Japan, in the Oval Office

It is absolutely alarming to watch President Obama flail about in increasingly desperate efforts to hand off or hand over the Libyan intervention.

It is like watching someone else having that dream — the one about going to high school and suddenly realizing that you forgot to put on any clothes that day, and you're in the middle of geometry, stark naked.

Gosh, it took longer than Joe Biden predicted, but we're finally in the moment when foreign enemies, neutrals, and friends are all putting the POTUS to the test. His teleprompter will not get him through this; he can't bow; he can't flash a grin and a wave, or toss a three-pointer. No, sir, it's exam time in the "Eek, I'm naked!" dream, and our POTUS is trying to make us believe the dog ate his homework, or he has a tummy-ache, or that for some other really good but unspecified reason we should actually call on the Sarkozy kid over in the next row.

It's the multi-car freeway pile-up you can't look away from, but they're all little bitty clown cars — Chevy Volts, I think. Obama seems to be trying to climb out of every one of them, but how is that even possible?

Posted by Beldar at 08:51 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Brits agree with Beldar: Don't rule out regime decapitation

According to quotations in the Daily Mail, the British government agrees with me, and therefore disagrees with the Obama Administration, that western governments should refuse "to rule out targeting Gaddafi." No. 10 has rebuked a British general who said precisely the same thing U.S. Adm. Bill Gortney was quoted as saying in Sunday's WaPo, and that SecDef Gates has since repeated.

Regime decapitation could indeed fall within the plain language of UNSC Resolution 1973, which —

Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory ....

(Boldface mine.) We could certainly kill Kadafi without imposing a "foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory." And once he's gone, so's the entire "threat of attack." So isn't the most effective, least bloody way of protecting civilians necessarily at least a part of the "all necessary measures" we could take?

(This whole discussion about whether regime decapitation would or wouldn't be within the scope of the current "mission" assumes, of course, that you need or even want the U.N.'s blessing anyway, which are questionable premises at best.)

Again, I'm not saying this should be announced as a policy goal. I'm saying we shouldn't rule it out in public statements. Because only some damn fool at his first damn rodeo would fail to seize the opportunity if it presented itself.

Posted by Beldar at 09:36 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Most interesting questions I've considered today

Paraphrased from an observation by Maetenloch in the "overnight" thread at Ace's:

Am I using text messaging as a way to modulate the intimacy of my relationships? Are the people who are texting me?

Posted by Beldar at 01:51 AM in Current Affairs, Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spectacular displays of naïveté in international affairs

Gentlemen do not read each other's mail.

— U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, explaining (in later memoirs) his 1929 decision to close down the "Cypher Bureau," which had been the U.S.' first peacetime cryptanalytic organization, just as fascist governments were seizing or consolidating power in the countries which would plunge us into the Second World War.

Despite a plume of smoke around one of Gaddafi’s compounds in Tripoli, U.S. officials said that they were not targeting the Libyan leader. “At this point I can guarantee he is not on the target list,” Gortney said. “We are not targeting his residence.”

— U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, as quoted in today's Washington Post, as coalition forces go in harm's way to enforce a U.N. resolution calling for the protection of Libya's civilian population from its mad despot, Kadafi. (Boldface mine.)


The probability that Adm. Gortney decided all on his own to implement this policy, or even to describe it using the word "guarantee" when speaking on the record to the WaPo, is zero. Barack Obama scripted this, unless he's completely abdicated all responsibility and oversight and the Joint Chiefs have mounted a secret coup.

Why would the U.S. Commander-in-Chief direct one of his military commanders to tell the world press to tell Kadafi that he's not being targeted? I'm genuinely baffled.

How does this possibly not encourage Kadafi to continue resisting? How does it possibly serve anyone other than Kadafi's interests?

Are we, and the world, supposed to believe that Barack Obama is willing to fade the heat from coalition forces inflicting collateral casualties that inevitably will include completely innocent women and children — and that he's willing to accept potential casualties among the coalition's own warriors — but that if we had a clean chance to decapitate the entire Kadafi regime without mussing the hair of another Libyan's head, we would ignore it?

In what bizarre parallel universe does Kadafi deserve this kind of deference — a "guarantee" which rules out the possibility of the exact same sort of airstrikes that Dubya ordered for Saddam's hide-outs in 2003, or indeed, that Reagan ordered for this self-same Kadafi in 1986 as part of "Operation El Dorado Canyon"? Killing Kadafi would shorten the dispute and save countless lives and treasure. So the reason we should take care now to guarantee to the world that Kadafi's not a target is ... what, exactly?

The naïveté, the incoherence, the inconsistency, and the obvious duplicity of Barack Obama and his administration as they stumble into this Libyan engagement — all in stark contrast to the awesome, deadly competency of our military as it follows whatever orders it receives — is absolutely unnerving even for those of us who think these military steps ought to have been taken weeks ago.


(Sun Mar 20 @ 9:15pm): More of this nonsense, from a SecDef who I will charitably assume is spouting a party line, not very adroitly, with which he "may or may not" agree:

Speaking from an unspecified U.S. military aircraft, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the coalition would be unwise to target the longtime dictator. “It is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve,” he was quoted as saying.

Seriously? In real life, we're reduced to the kind of question Jack Nicholson (as Col. Jessup) asked Tom Cruise (as Lt. Kaffee) — whether there's any other kind of danger besides the "grave" kind?

Are there any other kind of specific goals, Mr. Secretary, besides the ones you may or may not be able to achieve?

More to the point, with less snark: Giving Kadafi a guarantee that he's not targeted is not at all the same thing as making it a public goal to kill him. I'm not arguing that Obama should be shouting trans-Atlantic death threats. Speak softly, carry the big stick. But don't promise not to do something which, if we could do, we should do. Don't promise something that gives comfort to our enemy and dismays his enemies whom we would have as our friends.

Posted by Beldar at 06:06 PM in Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Bingaman, defending Obama through partisan blinders, is oblivious to his own prescription on energy

From the "'Green' blog" (I question both premises) in today's NYT (h/t InstaPundit) (bold-face mine):

But even while the president was under attack in the House, allies in the Senate rose to the his defense. Most notably, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, used a lengthy floor speech to rebut the claims.

Mr. Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, noted that at a hearing earlier in the week, a panel of energy experts collectively dismissed the claims that either climate policy or the pace of offshore oil permitting were driving gas prices higher.

“None of these experts highlighted the administration’s permitting process in the Gulf of Mexico as being a significant factor in world oil markets,” he said.

“Second, any anticipated Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at refineries was not included in any of the presentations as a driver behind the current increased in prices,” Mr. Bingaman added.

The crucial driver behind the price increase, he said, was the instability of world oil markets in the face of uprisings across the Middle East, particularly in Libya, where a popular revolt has effectively curtailed oil exports.

“When political unrest threatens major choke points in the world oil transit routes, world oil prices react, as they have,” he said. “When a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stops exporting oil, which has virtually occurred in the case of Libya, world oil markets react.”

“When there are fears that a nearby neighbor and close ally of Saudi Arabia, home to the world’s largest spare oil production capacity, might begin a series of political upheavals in the Persian Gulf region, world oil markets react as well,” Mr. Bingaman continued.

He closed by arguing that only reducing the country’s overall dependence on foreign oil would result in long-term relief at the pump.

Unless "experts" are asked to list all the things that don't exist, but that would reduce oil prices if they did, then their failure to discuss or consider the possible effect of a change in U.S. government energy policies (to something permitting safe but aggressive development) in their price inquiries would be quite predictably meaningless. And Sen. Bingaman should know that.

But what's appalling is how desperate Sen. Bingaman is to ignore what he clearly does know — indeed, what he recites himself in the same speech. "Instability in world oil markets" does indeed make a vast contribution to the rise in the market price of oil, and in the consequent price rises in gasoline and other products refined from oil, including plastics. Threats to international transport systems also raise prices. But U.S. government policies that permit the development of domestic oil, onshore and off-, add supplies to the market that are stable and that are less subject to disruption in a crisis.

Barrels of oil of a like quality (e.g., sweet intermediate crude) are indeed fungible once they're in-hand. But the addition of secure oil supplies reduces the overall volatility of the world market. The addition of new oil supplies that can't be denied to us by some despot or cartel during a world political crisis drives down the current world price of oil more than the addition of the same amount and type of oil supplies from, for instance, a new reservoir in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

So yes, changing U.S. government policy to permit development of our own onshore and offshore reserves is essential to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And reducing dependence on foreign oil in turn reduces market instability and our vulnerability in it.

Moreover, today's oil prices are predicated not only on existing supplies and their sources, but on the market participants' aggregate expectations about oil supply in the future. That's why opening the Strategic Oil Reserves would have only a limited effect on current prices (since its contributions to supply would be small at best and definitely limited in duration). But that's why changing U.S. government policies to permit — not even to encourage, but simply to permit — private development of our onshore and offshore resources, particularly in and around Alaska, would have a more profound immediate impact on current prices: It would tell the market something important about long-term supplies that can be predicted with confidence to become available for year after year in the future, supplies that are not subject to political blackmail or interruption at shipping choke-points.

So the fecklessness of the Obama energy policy will continue to hurt the United States for a long, long time. But it's hurting us today, too — at the gas pump, and at the cash register whenever we buy anything that's made from plastic or transported from a far-off place of manufacture. And the intrinsic indefensibility of Obama's policies is vividly illustrated by the fact that someone normally as plausible as Jeff Bingaman can't mount a defense of it on the Senate floor or in the NYT without immediately contradicting himself and undercutting his entire argument.

Posted by Beldar at 04:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, Energy, Foreign Policy, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A "reactive presidency," not a "strategic" one

This report (h/t Weekly Standard) from "Foreign Policy," titled "How Obama turned on a dime toward war," is very scary.

It advances the proposition that this intervention in Libya marks the end of the quiet coalition between SecState Clinton and SecDef Gates — who, together, have been running the guts of what passes for the Obama Administration's foreign policy. With them no longer in sync, Obama is unmoored:

"This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values," a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.

But Obama's stance in Libya differs significantly from his strategy regarding the other Arab revolutions. In Egypt and Tunisia, Obama chose to rebalance the American stance gradually backing away from support for President Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and allowing the popular movements to run their course. In Yemen and Bahrain, where the uprisings have turned violent, Obama has not even uttered a word in support of armed intervention - instead pressing those regimes to embrace reform on their own. But in deciding to attack Libya, Obama has charted an entirely new strategy, relying on U.S. hard power and the use of force to influence the outcome of Arab events.

"In the case of Libya, they just threw out their playbook," said Steve Clemons, the foreign policy chief at the New America Foundation. "The fact that Obama pivoted on a dime shows that the White House is flying without a strategy and that we have a reactive presidency right now and not a strategic one."

So basically Obama is now making this up as he goes. And if there's a higher principle at work beyond "lets not lose votes from our Hard Left Base in November 2012," no one can possibly discern what that might be, because what's being said, and more importantly what's being done, is varying wildly from day to day.

Posted by Beldar at 02:18 AM in 2012 Election, Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, March 19, 2011

WaPo falsely accuses Dubya of "disdain," then proceeds to belittle our allies itself

Today's Washington Post contains a news story (i.e., not an op-ed) headlined "U.S. actions may speak louder than words," but as I write this, the same story is linked from the WaPo's home page under the headline "U.S. plays down its role in assault." In it, WaPo correspondents Mary Beth Sheridan and Scott Wilson solemnly assert:

As much as Obama has sought to strengthen the international organizations that the previous administration disdained, the United States remains essential to the operation in Libya, despite the president’s and [SecState Hilary] Clinton’s efforts to play down the American role.

The prefatory portion at the beginning of that sentence is an outrageous lie. George W. Bush can be fairly accused of a few things, but he never showed anything remotely approaching "disdain" for "international organizations."

In the rest of this piece, however, Sheridan and Wilson proceed to express a whole lot of what may politely be called skepticism, but far more accurately might be called "disdain," for the idea that America's NATO allies France and Britain are remotely capable of going it alone: "U.S. warships fired more than 110 Tomahawk missiles into Libyan territory to disable air-defense systems," we're told. "And the French and British warplanes that began to enforce the emerging no-fly zone operate under U.S. command." The whole point of the article is to argue that whatever the Obama Administration or our allies would like to pretend to the contrary, nothing meaningful can be done without the U.S. to enable it. The article ends with:

Beyond public opinion, the Pentagon is also wary about the resources that a prolonged military operation in Libya will require and whether its current goal of protecting civilians will expand to include Gaddafi’s removal. Obama has said the Libyan leader “must leave.”

But for now, the U.S. military is in charge of the intervention in Libya.

International military forces are operating under the command of Gen. Carter F. Ham, head of the U.S. African Command. The Pentagon says command will be turned over to the coalition in coming days, although which country will lead it remains unclear.

Disdainful? Or just dismissive and patronizing? I'm having trouble figuring out this "smart diplomacy." And is this just the WaPo being overly blunt, or are they actually mirroring sentiments from their pals in the Obama Administration?

That the Post's conclusion is probably right, and that the Obama Administration isn't fooling anyone, is a different issue. I personally think that by being coy, Obama is putting British and French warriors' lives, and certainly the lives of hundreds of thousands of Libyans, unnecessarily at risk. Which are Kadafi's officers likely to hold out longer against: The British and French acting with only uncertain and indirect American support, or an overtly American-led coalition that also includes the British and French as well?

If this is to be done, then 'twould be well that it be done swiftly and unsubtly. But that would require an American president who believes in American exceptionalism and who is capable of actually leading. And that, alas, we no longer have.

Posted by Beldar at 10:14 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

BBC: What's the harm, when all of NPR's listeners already believe all Tea Partiers are hard-core racists anyway?

I was much amused this afternoon while listening to a reporter from the BBC News World Service — during its daily news broadcast for National Public Radio via NPR's local affiliate, KUHT-FM — interviewing an NPR exec (whose name I didn't catch) over the ouster of NPR CEO and president Vivian Schiller. Ms. Schiller was asked today to leave by NPR's board in the wake of Tuesday's release of, as NPR so mildly puts it, a sting videotape "of then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding."

Before she joined NPR in January 2009, Ms. Schiller was "senior vice president and general manager of" — drum roll, please, to heighten the suspense and enhance your surprise — "NYTimes.com."

What wasn't so funny was the NPR spokesperson's continued insistence in the BBC interview that NPR really isn't liberal, that it's "moderate" and "right down the middle," and that Ron Schiller's bigotry, odious opinions, and radical leftism isn't really representative of NPR as a whole. A joke told as often as that one has been just isn't funny any more.

In fact, the true reason why both Schillers had to be thrown under the bus is obvious, and it's obviously not because either of them was in any way out of step with the rest of NPR's leaders or its rank and file. Rather, it was because (a) he'd accidentally told truths that exposed his and NPR's biases, and (worse) been caught on videotape doing so, and (b) she hadn't been smart enough to prevent that, even in the wake of the disastrous publicity from Juan Williams' firing and James O'Keefe's previous video stings of (other) liberal monoliths like ACORN and Planned Parenthood. In this case, the Schillers are not being punished for the (still-continuing) crime, but for the failure of the (would-be perpetual) cover-up.

But I did laugh aloud at one incredulous question from the BBC interviewer, to the effect of (my close paraphrase, but not a direct quote): "Why should an NPR executive be fired, and another forced to quit prematurely, just because one of them said the Tea Partiers are all hard-core racists? Don't NPR's listeners all already share that opinion?"

Of course, my hearing it explodes the proposition.

And of course, even if all of NPR's listeners were already thoroughly indoctrinated in the Democratic Party's politics and world-view (including its love of class warfare, identity politics, and government spending/regulation) — even if it weren't NPR's goal to continue to indoctrinate, and to make new converts to their political cause — that still wouldn't make it okay for NPR to promote one side's politics with everyone's tax dollars. There's a word for that practice, a word every reporter for the BBC or NPR ought to already have in their active vocabularies: "corruption."

There's never been a time when I was so drunk that I no longer realized I was drunk, but these tools, these preening asshats, are so thoroughly self-besotted and self-deluded that they really can't tell when they're hallucinating anymore. And that, while sad, and even dangerous, can't help but be funny too.


UPDATE (Wed Mar 9 @ 6:40pm): I wanted to make sure I wasn't mischaracterizing the BBC interviewer's question, so I tracked down what's at least a temporary link to an .mp3 podcast of today's program. The segment on NPR begins at 23:20, and was hosted by BBC World News anchor James Menendez.

Listening to it again, I was struck by some earlier banter between Mr. Menendez and BBC Washington correspondent Paul Adams, who — when asked why Ms. Schiller had to be fired for Mr. Schiller's having been "unwise enough to give his candid opinion on some of these [incindiary] issues [like the Tea Partiers being racists]" — had this to say (beginning at 25:06; the transcription, and all bracketed portions [including the purely snarky Beldarisms, in green], are my own):

Well, because she [Ms. Schiller] has had a pretty difficult time. NPR, it has to be said [unsourced opinion disguised-as-news alert! because no, it doesn't have to be said, unless you have a point of view you're selling or a constituency to whom you're pandering], has been — and public broadcasting as a whole — a target of conservatives for a long, long time. Last autumn, she fired, somewhat summarily, an analyst and commentator, Juan Williams, over some comments that he made on the right-wing cable news channel, Fox News, in which he said he felt uncomfortable when he saw people dressed in Muslim garb on airplanes. And I think you'll detect here something of a common thread to this story — that it all — a lot of it seems to revolve around attitudes toward Muslims in American society today. [Oh, yeah, right. The "real story" is all about American Juan Williams' Republican racism! Squirrel!] She was much criticized over her handling of that affair, and it was clumsy to say the least. And so it's felt [another calculated passive-voice wimp-out] that this was really the last straw as far as she was concerned.

[BBC anchor Menendez]: So could this affair make it much harder for NPR to justify its funding?

[BBC correspondent Adams:] It could, and it comes at a time when Republicans are trying to do precisely that. In fact, a bill has already passed the House of Representatives which would remove federal funding from public broadcasting, including NPR. The Senate has yet to rule [sic] on that, it's not quite clear which way it's going to go. [We fought a revolution over that whole "ruler" thing, as you might think a British correspondent, stationed in the city named for the winning American general, would remember.]

And unfortunately one of the things that Ron Schiller said in that sting video was that he thought NPR could survive pretty well without federal money — words that may come back to haunt the organization because even though it's a relatively small part of their revenue, it is still something which they regard as extremely important. [Actually, Mr. Schiller said "it is very clear that [NPR] would be better off in the long run without federal funding," which undercuts the rest of Mr. Adams' spin.] And it is thought that [passive voice alert! often a signal that what follows is going to be someone's opinion, with the someone disguised] in the case of some of the rural NPR member stations, federal money can account for anywhere up to 50% of their operating costs, even though nationally, as an average, it's more like 10%. [This is simply repeating something Mr. Schiller also said at the lunch, when describing their "challenge right now" if they immediately lost federal funding and needed to turn, presumably, to other righteous sources ... like the Muslim Brotherhood.]

So there are serious issues involved for NPR, and it could well be that this will add fuel to the argument that it should be — that NPR should lose this money. [At last! Some of that famous British understatement!]

[BBC anchor Menendez]: And so what have the Republicans been saying about this?

[BBC correspondent Adams:] Well, so far, I think they regard this as confirmation of their view, which is that NPR is an inherently liberal organization, and that an organization like that, which displays its liberal bias, has no business receiving public money. [Literally rushes to add:] It has to be said [another unsourced opinion disguised-as-news alert!] — and I think anyone who's listened to NPR, I think, will echo this [again demonstrating a profound ignorance of the fact that even conservatives like me sometimes listen to NPR, because we are in fact interested in what liberals have to say] — you'd be hard pressed to find in America's overheated media environment a rather more straight-laced and moderate voice than National Public Radio.

It's folks like these who can say, and insist, with perfectly straight faces that Barack Obama is really quite moderate. [And to his credit, "rather straight-laced," at least for a former cocaine-snorter turned community organizer who still plays a lot of basketball and golf.]

But here's the exact question that prompted my post, and I've identified the person of whom BBC anchor Menendez asked it as being NPR ombudsman Alicia C. Shepherd (at 28:57; obvious vocal emphasis in original was his, but these italics and bold-facing are mine):

Is it just, though, a perception about where NPR's coming from? I mean: Is it not fair to say that lots of people — lots of listeners — would share some of Ron Schiller's views, particularly about the Tea Party, for example? [Menendez delivered the previous sentence's ending with what can only be described as a verbal smirk. These radio guys are so talented that way! Bloggers can't be so subtle.]

I thought, at first, that it was to Ms. Shepherd's credit that she didn't rush to embrace the implied accusation of racism implicit in the question, and that she didn't seem to be trying to deny the ugliness of what Mr. Schiller had been caught saying on video. And in fairness and for context, here's her answer to BBC anchor Menendez' question:

Well [obvious pause] may be. But that's really not the point.

NPR is a news organization just like the BBC. [That's true! but not in the way she meant it.] I'm sure there are reporters at the BBC who have personal biases or opinions, agendas, whatever. [This would be an example of that famous American understatement.]

But they're professionals, and that's the same thing with the journalists at NPR: You put aside those biases and you go out and you report the news. And you try to be accurate, thorough, fair, independent, transparent — all the values of journalism.

But then it struck me: What better way could Ms. Shepherd and the other executives still at NPR put on an appearance of being duly chastised — as part of their efforts to restore the fig leaf of a pretense that they're unbiased and objective — than by giving an interview to the BBC, in which they could rely on their British cousins like Adams and Menendez to testify on NPR's behalf, and to spin, for NPR's benefit, the very same odious talking points that Mr. Schiller had just been caught making?

And then you simply use your own network to re-broadcast, all across America — and yes, still using, in part, U.S. tax-payer dollars — Menendez' and Adams' dripping insinuations, barely concealed from being an outright accusation, that "All Tea Partiers really are racists"! Brilliant! Pathetic, and evil; but brilliant.

(The Beeb itself, and its World Service in particular, are under considerable funding pressure in the U.K., by the way, and their reliance on government funding is nearly total. An ethical journalist ought to have disclosed his own and his employer's own related interests as part of this report. An ethical journalistic ombudsman would have pointed the conflict out to her interviewer. Heh — maybe at journalism school, otherwise only in our dreams.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:34 PM in Current Affairs, Mainstream Media, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The latest from Tripoli? From Cairo? Tehran? ... Philadelphia?

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.

When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.

When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.

Whence sprung these words? And when, and what did they portend?

Wait, wait — is this one of those Tea Party manifestos or somethin'?

These lines weren't penned in Tripoli or Cairo or Tehran, nor even in Philadelphia. Rather, they're from Washington — more specifically, Washington-on-the-Brazos — and their portent, and place in time, is found in the document's title:

The Unanimous Declaration of Independence made by the Delegates of the People of Texas in General Convention at the town of Washington on the 2nd day of March 1836.

But doncha know they could still say, in Egypt of Mubarak, or in Tehran of the Mullahs, or in Tripoli of Kadafi, just what these Texians said of the Mexican government in 1836 — that it "hath been, during the whole time of our connection with it, the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions, and hath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrannical government."

Shall it be said of the Egyptians and the Libyans and the Iranians that — as the Texians said of the fellow citizens they were leaving behind in Mexico — "We are, therefore, forced to the melancholy conclusion, that the Mexican people have acquiesced in the destruction of their liberty, and the substitution therfor of a military government; that they are unfit to be free, and incapable of self government."

It remains to be seen — sadly, to some extent, still even in Mexico.

Anyway, apparently someone finally told our esteemed Commander in Chief that in the Marines Hymn, there's already this line about the "shores of Tripoli," which goes back to this whole 1805 thing when Jefferson was President and he established the first Navy SEALS or something. So really, keeping all our carrier groups out of the Mediterranean hasn't really been all low-key and non-hegemonic the way you say you intended, and it hasn't been fooling anybody. It's just been America acting really stupid again, since sending ships to protect American interests in Libya is exactly the kind of thing the C-in-C has been calling on the Navy and Marines to do since decades before they took the wood out of that old ship that they used to make your very old desk, Mr. Obama. And yeah, then there was that more recent dustup involving some F-111s and Mr. Reagan, but that was during Barry O's hazy daze so he'd kind of forgotten them too (even though Kadafi has been using it as his #1 applause line in every rally during the twenty-plus years since the Infidels of that self-same U.S. Navy penetrated the Line of Death in the Gulf of Sidra).

Now you, Mr. Obama, have just given Kadafi's radical Muslim successors the applause line they will use: "Where were America's mighty aircraft carriers when Kadafi was calling in airstrikes on his own people?" Way to vote "present," Barry. I sure wish the Spirit of Independence Days' Past, in the form of Sam Houston, could pay a nighttime visit to Mr. Obama's dreams.

And I'm glad the Texians in 1836 didn't have to rely on support from someone like you in their efforts to break free from a corrupt and counter-constitutional military dictatorship. Happy Texas Independence Day! "[C]onscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations."

Posted by Beldar at 05:34 PM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama, Texas | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack