Sunday, September 08, 2013

In 2011, Obama freed NSA from restraints on domestic spying that Dubya requested in 2008

You will search this WaPo story, entitled "Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011," without success for any mention of the Forty-Third President of the United States of America, even though his administration did not depart the White House until January 20, 2009. And yet:

The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.

In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

I think my post's headline above ought to have been the Washington Post's headline too — but surely somewhere in this report, they ought to have at least acknowledged the contrasting positions of the only two post-9/11 administrations.

Posted by Beldar at 03:40 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2013), Mainstream Media, SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Is Maj. Nidal Hasan cooperating with military prosecutors in an attempt to achieve "suicide by court-martial"?

Law enforcement officials are familiar with the typical pattern of "suicide by cop." But if accurate, this news article (which the Austin American-Stateman continues to update since I first saw it) suggests that Maj. Nidal Hasan may be trying to commit jihadi suicide by court-martial:

Maj. Nidal Hasan’s standby defense attorneys said Tuesday morning that they believe the accused Fort Hood shooter is "effectively acting in concert with prosecutors in achieving a death sentence."

In a motion filed late last night, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said that Hasan’s behavior during jury selection, when he made no effort to keep potential jurors who questioned the death penalty, as well as his opening statement in which he took responsibility for the shootings show that he is trying to "remove impediments and obstacles to the death penalty."

Poppe and the two other military appointed defense lawyers asked to be removed from the case, but said they also stand ready to represent Hasan "if he decides he wants to fight the death penalty." ...

In American law (including military law), the right to defend oneself — even when that's a stupid and even suicidal path to choose — is guaranteed under the Constitution. Hasan has invoked that right and has persuaded the presiding judge that he's competent to make that decision, so he's defending himself.

unidentified soldier at memorial to the victims of the Fort Hood massacreBut as would also be nearly universal even in the civilian criminal justice system, the judge appointed "standby counsel" who would observe the proceedings and continue to counsel with Hasan privately to whatever extent Hasan permits that. The notion is that their private advice — which will always almost certainly be, "You're screwing this up, you're going to get yourself executed, let me please take over as your advocate in court to try to save your life!" — might eventually be heeded. And then the standby counsel is as prepared as practicable to immediately step in as the defendant's active advocate(s).

My guess is that what's happening today is that the presiding judge, Col. Tara Osborn, is going to re-visit the subject of Hasan's competency to make the decision to continue to represent himself. If only for purposes of future appeals, the judge will want to make a record of having done that (although the jurors won't know anything about it).

This same sort of thing has happened in civilian death penalty cases before — albeit not usually with the same jihadi motivations that Hasan has. But neither the civilian or military justice systems permit defendants to "game" them by first insisting on self-representation and then later insisting that they should get a new trial because their trial counsel (i.e., they themselves acting as their own lawyers) rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance. Basically, if the record shows that the choice of self-representation was freely made by someone legally competent to make it, both trial and appellate courts will let the consequences of that choice lead in their natural direction — even though the result at least superficially looks like state-assisted suicide.

It's also interesting that the standby counsel are asking permission to withdraw from that role. That's their putting on record their recognition that Hasan is ignoring everything they tell him, and that he's making it impossible for them to do their job effectively, but they will leave to the judge's decision whether some replacement might be able to do better. That's the proper and ethical thing for them to have done.

My guess is that the judge will probably reconfirm her earlier ruling that Hasan is mentally competent to make the decision to represent himself. The judge will repeat, on the record, her previous cautions and admonitions and get Hasan to reconfirm his decision on the record — again, outside the jury's presence. The judge will then probably politely deny the standby counsel's suggestion that they be replaced and tell them to keep standing by and doing their best to make themselves relevant.

I am content in all of this. The wheels of justice are slow but grind exceedingly fine. And in this battlefield in the war on terror — and that's exactly how Hasan himself sees the courtroom he's in — the terrorist is once again eager to be killed. Unlike the battlefield soldier, the military judge and jurors presiding over Hasan's trial aren't eager to kill him, but rather to see justice done and be seen to be done. But the end result is going to be the same.

Posted by Beldar at 12:36 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2013) | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Friday, October 26, 2012

Speculations on the Benghazi terrorist attack's impact on the election

Most American presidential elections turn on domestic policy and issues, not foreign policy or war. Rare exceptions have included 1864, 1916, 1940 & 1944, arguably 1968, and 2004.

I do not believe that the Obama Administration's bizarre and sorry handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks that killed Amb. Chris Stevens and three other fine Americans will overshadow domestic issues in the upcoming election. This election is still going to be mostly about the economy for most people, and it should be.

But short of that, I think the Benghazi story is still having a serious impact on the election. I know a lot of good Americans who voted joyously for Obama in 2008, and whose second thoughts and sober reappraisals since have diluted a lot of their zeal. Some of them still have open minds enough to have realized — especially during the three presidential debates — that the synchronized media and Obama-Biden portrayals of Mitt Romney as some sort of scary boogeyman were always detached from reality. Obama basically decided to campaign against Mild Mitt as Lyndon Johnson campaigned against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter campaigned against Ronald Reagan in 1980. But when the other 80% of America who only pays attention during the last six weeks before Election Day opened their eyes, they suddenly realized why hard-core movement conservatives have never mistaken Mitt Romney for Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan!

Yet many of those voters still held onto considerable residual fondness for President Obama. They sympathized with him. They felt like they could share and appreciate his own frustration with just how hard his job turned out to be. Many of them were disappointed by what they perceived as his sell-outs — Gitmo's still open, we've still got troops in combat overseas, Drones R Us, etc. But they could mostly forgive Obama for that, and they still believed he was basically a good and honest and competent man who'd never put his political ambition ahead of what's noble and good.

It's just damned hard for anyone to square that with this slow-motion horror show. Just about every corner of the Administration's preferred narrative has completely unraveled; nothing's been repaired; on this entire subject, the Obama Administration is entirely in confused and reeling tatters.

I think it could cost President Obama a fair number of votes outright, but I think it's going to have a much more serious impact on Democratic turn-out.

Even those who still love him can't miss the fact that he's getting smaller every day. Even if they still like him, they just can't continue to pretend that he's earned their vote for a second term. They might very well not be able to bring themselves to vote for Romney. But they are already reconciling themselves to the possibility of staying home, or procrastinating until the polls are closed, or whatever else they need to do to preempt any last guilty sentiments.

I could be completely wrong about this. It's just my hunch. I'm even reckless enough to try a medical analogy, which any lawyer should know better than: This Libya business seems to me like an occult ruptured spleen, one that doesn't present with the usual signs and symptoms that would signal the docs that the patient needs urgent surgery, one that may come on seemingly spontaneously many hours or even days after the original trauma. One minute the patient looks pretty normal and alert, maybe just a bit pale; and the next, they've bled out internally and they're dead.

Posted by Beldar at 10:22 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, October 22, 2012

Leading from behind meant sending USN's carrier strike forces far from Libyan shores

If you're looking for cultural trivia clues to help you deduce how long the United States Navy and Marine Corps have been projecting power from the Mediterranean Sea — and very specifically, into what's now Libya — consider that the very first phrase of the Marines' Hymn refers to them fighting our country's battles all the way to "the shores of Tripoli." The Commander in Chief who dispatched those Marines there aboard warships of the U.S. Navy? That would be Thomas Jefferson. And the referenced action on those shores of Tripoli, the Battle of Derne in 1804, was the "first recorded land battle of the United States on foreign soil after the American Revolutionary War."

The U.S. Navy and the Marines it transports have been actively protecting American interests in the Mediterranean, and specifically in what's now Libya, for almost as long as those military services have existed. After Operation Torch and the successful North Africa landings during World War Two, the U.S. Navy gradually took over military dominance of the entire Mediterranean from the British. Throughout the entire Cold War, the Mediterranean was, in military terms, an American lake, actively patrolled at almost all times by at least one U.S. Navy carrier group. Those whose memories reach back to 1986 will remember Ronald Reagan deliberately flaunting Mumar Kadafi's cosmically silly Line of Death in the Gulf of Sidra to reassert and reestablish, in the only way meaningful, Freedom of the High Seas.

Does anyone doubt that if Ronald Reagan were alive and serving as POTUS during the "Arab spring," during the change in government of our economic and military client Egypt, during the civil unrest and rebellion in Syria, and during the ouster and killing of that same clown Kadafi, he would have done at least as much for the security of American assets in the Mediterranean area as the U.S. had done throughout the four-plus decades of the Cold War? Does anyone doubt that Ronald Reagan would have had a carrier strike group within overwatch and reaction distance before sending a U.S. Ambassador directly into harm's way in Libya on the anniversary of al Qaeda's greatest triumph?

We have eleven carrier strike groups. As best I can tell, on September 11, 2012, five of them were deployed: Three (Washington, Nimitz, and Stennis) were at sea in the Pacific, and two (Enterprise and Eisenhower) were at sea somewhere in the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility, which comprises the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. Not until its passage through the Suez Canal on October 15, 2012, did the Enterprise carrier strike group finally enter the Sixth Fleet AOR, which includes the Mediterranean Sea.

Ponder that. Then read this set of blunt questions and observations by military writer, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and USMC infantry officer (ret.) Bing West. Colonel West makes it clear that even with no carrier strike groups in range, President Obama had other military assets that could, and clearly ought, to have been employed. But carrier groups are also intended to deter as well as to respond. So how could it have failed to make a difference if a carrier strike group had been within rescue and response range during the many deadly hours of the Benghazi terrorist attack?

Posted by Beldar at 02:09 AM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why was almost nothing the Obama Administration initially said about the Libyan tragedy accurate?

I recommend to you Stephen F. Hayes' timely essay entitled "Permanent Spin." Key bit:

So we are left with this: Four Americans were killed in a premeditated terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and for more than a week the Obama administration misled the country about what happened.

This isn’t just a problem. It’s a scandal.

By all means, read the whole thing.

Bloody handprints on the walls outside the attack site in LibyaAt least it wasn't Jimmy Carter's administration who made up the fiction that the terrorists who stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage — a terrorist group whose members included the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — were "merely students." Carter just republished that fiction — and indeed, he relied upon it to pretend that Iran hadn't committed what would have been immediately recognized throughout human history as an unequivocal declaration of war through an armed attack. (And should have been so recognized then.)

We can argue about whether this Administration's misinformation was merely incompetent or actively deceptive (i.e., disinformation). Hayes makes, in my judgment, a strong case for the latter, whereas I'd argue it's a combination of both.

But no one can argue that the early information released by the Obama Administration about the Libyan tragedy has been accurate or trustworthy.

I hope that during the foreign policy debate, Gov. Romney spotlights this particularly ugly performance by the Obama Adminstration. That will probably be his best chance to cut through the mainstream media's too-willing fog on these issues. 

Posted by Beldar at 02:48 PM in 2012 Election, Global War on Terror, History, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On 9/11/01 plus eleven

As part of my private commemoration of the eleventh anniversary of 9/11/01, earlier this evening I finished reading No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, written under the pseudonym "Mark Owen" by a senior member of SEAL Team 6 (with assistance from an experienced military author who'd been embedded with American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kevin Maurer). It is a quick read, and it is written in the most plain and straightforward prose, but I nevertheless found it to be a very satisfying and timely read.

But today's news is full of ugly omens. The President of the United States has once again publicly brushed off the Prime Minister of Israel, who'd like to meet this week to discuss the completely unresolved problem of Iran's nuclear weapons program. American embassies are being assaulted in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that we're supporting with money borrowed from China nominally stands watching and secretly plots America's mortification.

Roughly half of America has nevertheless been lulled back into the most false sense of security in human history. The voters among them will vote for Obama, again.

But when the next attack comes, and when it is worse, they will be incandescent in their resentment and fury whenever anyone suggests to them that they were foolish back in the Novembers of 2008 and 2012, back when Iran's nuclear program could still have been stopped at less than the cost of an American city.


UPDATE (Sep 12 @ 5:40am): All Americans of every political stripe will be horrified by the awful news coming out of Libya this morning. I'm not yet prepared to comment on it, and when I am I'll do that in another post, so I'm simply going to close comments on this post for now.

Posted by Beldar at 11:05 PM in 2012 Election, Books, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Somalia rescue

I put aside for today the many faults I find with President Obama's handling of military and foreign policy, in order to state clearly and without further dilution the following:

God bless and keep the United States Navy and those Navy SEALs — again! — and everyone else in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic communities who in any way contributed to the successful rescue of American Jessica Buchanan and a Danish man, Poul Hagen Thisted, from kidnappers in Somalia. Due credit goes to President Obama at the top of that chain of command. His decision to authorize this, like the authorization of the bin Laden raid, was correct and fully justified.

That is all. Carry on.

Posted by Beldar at 07:15 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, January 16, 2012

Obama is signaling Iran that America will remain in a purely defensive mode, and will impose that on Israel, as Iran gets its Bomb

Teddy Roosevelt's prescription for effective diplomacy was "Walk softly and carry a big stick." It worked. By all accounts he was among the most successful foreign policy presidents ever. While simultaneously boosting American prestige and military credibility around the world, he kept us out of war, and he personally mediated the settlement of the hottest war then on-going (between Russia and Japan), actually earning a Nobel Peace Prize.

Then there's our Mr. Obama, who believes in setting the biggest stick in the history of the world off to one side, and then speaking loudly, inconsistently, and interminably.

I commend to your attention, from its first lines to its last, this tightly reasoned, cautiously stated, immaculately resourced essay from J.E. Dyer. The introductory paragraphs (boldface mine):

Is the Obama administration building up for a major war against Iran? No.

The administration appears to be doing what it thinks will avert one. Military force is playing a quiet and relatively minor role. There has been more “messaging” about force in the last few weeks than actual force activity. The administration is also trying to discourage Israel from mounting an independent strike on Iran, by frequently advertising US concerns about that possibility. Presumably the White House knows that this particular messaging campaign serves to keep Iran alerted. Ultimately, there is more talk than anything else. Military preparations, such as they are, are defensive in nature. That includes the acceleration of missile-defense sales to the Persian Gulf nations.

If you are like me, then your blood pressure will rise steadily as you read the evidence she marshals to support these conclusions. It's chilling.

So far as I know, Ms. Dyer is no close relation of mine, but I'm definitely among her fans. (She has, of course, her own blog, and in addition to being a regular contributor to HotAir's Green Room, she's also written for the Weekly Standard and Commentary.) As for whether she knows whereof she speaks, consider her perspective:

J.E. Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served around the world, afloat and ashore, from 1983 to 2004. Her last operations in the Navy were Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in 2003, and she retired at the rank of Commander. She lives now in the "Inland Empire" of southern California, where she writes for various blogs and is preparing a book on the Cold War.

If you're unconcerned by the prospect of Iran getting the Bomb, none of this will bother you. If you're concerned by that prospect but you're unconcerned by the Obama Administration's handling of this situation, you may be eligible for immediate promotion to Commanding General of the Unicorn Brigade.

Posted by Beldar at 05:57 PM in 2012 Election, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blogger Aaron Worthing's new novel, "Archangel," now available

My blogospheric friend Aaron Worthing, known to me (and perhaps you) as a regular guest-poster at Patterico's Pontifications and author of his own blog, Allergic to Bull, has self-published his own novel — "Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History" — on, where it's now available for painless and quick download to your Kindle or other e-book reader.

'Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History,' by Aaron WorthingI have today ordered a copy with an eye toward a potential review or note here, but I haven't yet read it, so all I can say for sure yet is that the premise is intriguing. However, Aaron's a good writer and keen observer of our times, well-read and clear-thinking.

I'm a fan of the new self-publishing paradigm; Knowing that my purchase price is going mostly to Aaron as the content-creator (rather than mostly to a big publishing company that thinks it and its fellows should be entitled to decide what we all get to read) pleases me.

And last but not least, Aaron's another lawyer-turned-novelist — a fairly common species that I (like just about every other lawyer I know) have often wistfully contemplated joining, but haven't yet gathered the diligence and creativity to manage.

Accordingly, I'm publishing a link to Aaron's book here. (If I've managed the link properly, it should also rebate a further small portion of the purchase price, at no additional cost to you, to Aaron's blog through the Amazon Associates program.) 

If you join me in buying Aaron's book as an impulse purchase, please feel free to leave your considered reactions in the comments to this post, or at Aaron's blog.

Good luck, Aaron!

Posted by Beldar at 06:02 PM in Books, Global War on Terror, History, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Obama's magic death ray

Covert operations involving drones, including targeted counter-terrorism assassinations, are something on which I'm inclined to give the POTUS, as Commander in Chief — whoever is in that office, even Obama — a lot of deference and discretion. But as suggested by this Wall Street Journal story entitled "Tensions Rising Over Drone Secrecy," this is turning into a situation from Marvel Comics: The only difference is that in the funny papers, it was always an orbiting death ray instead of an unmanned drone made out of composites, cameras, computer chips, and Hellfire missiles. As we use this power, it's increasingly going to motivate other countries and, yes, non-state actors like al-Qaeda, to want their own equivalent toys. But even before they can match our capabilities to use (and defend against?) such drones, there is going to be international attention and concern.

I hope and (must, for now) trust that the White House and the Pentagon and Langley have a cohesive, comprehensive, and wise plan for what America's going to do to moderate, channel, and otherwise affect the resulting change in international security affairs. This is already a bigger deal than most folks realize, and it's going to become a very, very big deal indeed.

But that hope and trust require me to assume, however, a degree of wisdom and simple competency that the Obama Administration has never displayed in anything else. Certainly its handling of the just-lost drone in Iran suggests that they're making up American diplomatic and military/operational policy as they go along, and that they're making it up not just on a day-by-day basis, but an hour-by-hour basis. And as the WSJ story points out:

John Bellinger, a top legal adviser for the State Department during the Bush administration, said the White House needs to start thinking about a legal framework that would define acceptable practices. He pointed to the risk that other countries will start using drones in ways that the U.S. may find objectionable.

"If Russia starts using drones to go after terrorists, will the U.S. look like we have a double standard if we criticize them?" Mr. Bellinger asked.

In short, the whole world, including his own legislators and constituents, is going to be listening more carefully to what Obama says (and doesn't say) about drones during the coming year, and comparing those words to what's actually being done (and not done) with the drones in actual practice, much of which will be covert.

The growing Congressional challenges to Obama's authority here — implemented so far only by demanding broader reporting to Congress, but likely to be subjected to more intrusive involvement, with associated security risks — suggest that I'm not the only one to have noticed this, or to have become concerned by it. Certainly the mainstream media is doing very little to put it on the voting public's respective radar screens. But even carefully targeted Hellfire missile strikes eventually demand attention; and any one of these strikes might trigger something quite unexpected, and potentially much bigger, as a counter-response by someone.

I'm perplexed at the silence of my liberal friends who, in theory, at least the last time we discussed such things in other contexts, don't share my views on the breadth of the Executive's authority to prosecute the war on terror and to defend the country from both foreign and domestic threats. How many layers of duct tape have they had to wrap around their heads to prevent them from exploding at the notion that, by executive order, the POTUS can now selectively vaporize almost any given roomful or carload of people, including U.S. citizens (at least while abroad)? The enormity of their double-standard has never been more obvious: If any Republican, and certainly if George W. Bush, had taken the same positions and engaged in the same volume of drone activities that Obama has, we'd be in the midst of full-blown impeachment proceedings by now.

Posted by Beldar at 03:18 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Obama, Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Federal courts refuse to hear challenge to Obama's Libyan intervention, but Congress should push back — with the power of the purse — over Obama's new Ugandan adventure

In a post about the Obama Administration's ridiculously stupid efforts to argue that the "kinetic military action" in Libya didn't trigger the War Powers Resolution and its associated reporting requirements and deadlines, I had this to say on May 21, 2011, immediately after "the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces" if the War Powers Resolution were constitutional and enforceable:

I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.

Today — on the very day the non-war war finally achieved the laudable (and bizarrely denied) goal of regime change via decapitation — in proceedings styled Kucinich v. Obama, it has turned out that my predictions about how the federal courts would refuse to even hear such a challenge were proved absolutely correct. From the Blog of Legal Times (link in original; hat-tip Above the Law and WSJ Law Blog):

A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a suit challenging the Obama administration's legal justification for military action against targets in Libya.

The suit, filed by a bipartisan group of congressmen in June in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sought a ruling that the U.S. military strikes are unconstitutional without a congressional declaration of war....

Responding to the suit, the U.S. Justice Department said the claims raise political questions that federal district judges are not authorized to entertain and that the plaintiffs do not have standing to sue in the first place.

Walton agreed, ruling that the lawmakers do not have standing. He rejected the alleged injury the lawmakers claimed—that they have been deprived the ability to vote on a war declaration.

In a footnote, Walton questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to sue given legal precedent, he said, that didn't bode well for the members of Congress.

“While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law,” Walton said.

Take a step back. Pretend we don't have "Republican" and "Democrat" labels here, or even "conservative" and "liberal" labels, and that we're just looking at this solely as a test of power between the respective branches of the federal government.

Looking at it as part of that big picture, today's ruling granting the Administration's motion to dismiss made no new law at all: It didn't weigh or decide any facts at all; it didn't endorse Obama's argument that the War Powers Resolution wasn't implicated. It just announced that this handful of Congressmen lacked standing "either in their capacity as Members of the House of Representatives or because of their status as taxpayers" to challenge Obama's actions in federal court, even if the court assumed that all the facts they alleged were absolutely true.

This exact result was a predictable outcome, one that I (and many others) had in fact predicted — so predictable that the federal district judge who first heard it became rather grumpy about having to waste his time on it. (Indeed, one of the prior precedents on which Judge Walton relied was a 2002 case in which this same lead plaintiff, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, had tried to sue President George W. Bush over the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty without Congressional approval.) But is either today's court result or Kadafi's death likely to result in a new extra-legal precedent, an unenforceable but nevertheless notable practical precedent in the grand interplay of constitutional checks and balances in the 21st Century?

Naw, not so much. The mild and short-lived court scuffle between Obama and a handful of Congressmen here was just an isolated example of something we already knew:

If Congress, acting as Congress (as opposed to acting through its individual members who're trying to be litigants in court), declines to exercise the express powers granted Congress by the Constitution — chief among them, the power of the purse — to protect other express privileges and responsibilities also conferred upon Congress by the Constitution, including the exclusive power to "declare war," then we're not seeing an actual constitutional confrontation.

With the opposition to Obama's Libyan adventure, then, in Obama's silly efforts to claim the War Powers Resolution didn't really apply, in the resulting Congressional grumbling, and in this lawsuit, we've only seen a kabuki show intended to fool the easily fooled. Obama calculated that he could get away with something like the Libyan adventure — and this time, Congress has clearly let him. That is the only important take-away message.


UgandaBut as I've said here earlier this week, I do not think Congress should continue to let Obama get away with sending American ground forces into conflict in Uganda with neither Congressional approval nor even the merest hint of a shadow of a whisper of a threat (imminent or even just gathering) to significant American strategic interests. Such interests do not exist in Uganda. No, this particular frolicsome detour — which is indeed likely to become extremely "kinetic" at some times and places (since that's part of what Special Ops guys are known for, after all, and they're being sent specifically to catch and kill tyrants) — cannot possibly be justified under any theory other than that America is the world's policeman.

If the GOP and those Dems who opposed the Libyan adventure voted together, they could certainly override even a presidential veto of legislation defunding this sub-Saharan Africa adventure. And the GOP by itself, with its majority in the House, could certainly refuse to include funding for it in their next appropriations bill.

This is a confrontation that needs to be had. Even though the scale and risks and expenses of the sub-Saharan Africa adventure may be smaller than what we're doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Libya, the Uganda operation pits the Executive's and the Legislature's respective responsibilities and powers against one another far more vividly: This isn't a Cold War-era "proxy war" like that conducted over Nicaragua in opposition to the Soviet Union's challenge to the Monroe Doctrine and American interests close to home. No one in Uganda is pursuing WMD capabilities or harboring and supporting terrorists; it has no oil wealth or other strategically important position or resources. It has nothing at all, in fact, except some very bad African men who are regularly and enthusiastically killing and terrorizing other Africans.

Ugandan flagIf Barack Obama wants to host a telethon to raise private contributions to help the victims, that would be peachy. If he wants to propose sanctions or other legislation, or encourage Congressional resolutions on relevant topics, or even to try to gather support from our allies and other countries whose interests are more directly involved, or who simply share our humanitarian concerns, I'll not say a word of criticism. And I am, in general, a strong supporter of a strong Executive Branch, with a great deal of practical and implied power to respond to emergencies, conduct American foreign policy, and direct the U.S. military as Commander-in-Chief both in and out of war.

But this is too much. This is genuinely unprecedented, and the practical precedent it threatens to set is a bad one. The GOP presidential candidates need to start talking about this, because it's a mark of how fundamentally flippant Barack Obama is when it comes to his execution of his Oath of Office and the Constitution. But Congress needs to push back, current electoral politics notwithstanding, because all of its members, Republican and Democrat, have an institutional duty to respect and preserve Congress' proper role in our system of checks and balances.

Posted by Beldar at 07:01 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Thumbs up from Beldar for James Hime's novel about 9/11, "Three Thousand Bridges"

There's considerable truth to the cliché that inside of every lawyer lurks a wanna-be novelist. Indeed, it's true even of tax and real estate lawyers. The surprise is when a lawyer actually manages to write a readable novel — much less a compelling and intensely authentic one!

Author James HimeBut the proof that can happen is "Three Thousand Bridges," a new novel by Jim Hime — with whom I worked when he was a very capable young tax and real estate partner, and I was a trial department associate, at Baker Botts in the 1980s.

I'd been pondering buying a Kindle for some time, and when I learned (via Facebook, from another Baker Botts alum) that Jim's new book is being released only as an e-book, my curiosity about both book and gadget crossed the tipping point, and "Three Thousand Bridges" became my first Kindle purchase through

(Of the Kindle, I'll say this: I like it better than I thought I would, and getting used to it was easier than I expected. The good things about it — price; capacity; ease of content delivery; spectacular battery life; and superb text legibility on a screen that doesn't tire your eyes — are very good indeed. In other ways, it very much reminds me of an Apple Macintosh computer circa 1986: its technology and interface both seem reasonably elegant but seriously dated. I suspect the Kindle is better adapted for the simple and singular task of serious and sustained reading than an iPad or other comparable device, but I haven't owned one of those yet, so I'm just guessing based on my limited experience trying to read other novels on my very-good-quality desktop LCD monitor. Reading on the Kindle beats that by a wide margin.)

Hime is, and writes like, a native Texan who's also grown wise in the ways of the world outside the Lone Star State. "Three Thousand Bridges" weaves a tale that incorporates some very powerful and poignant recent history of our state and our country. Here's an accurate blurb from biographer Hershel Parker, as reprinted on Hime's website:

The mystery writer James Hime made his mark with The Night of the Dance (an Edgar finalist) and Scared Money, both heralded by other novelists and reviewers for memorable characters, taut prose, and a comedic take on how things and people work. Hime nailed dialects as if no one else had ever listened to Texans talk, and readers settled back to await more adventures of Jeremiah Spur and Clyde Thomas. Adventures will follow, we are assured, but Three Thousand Bridges is of a different order of achievement, not a mystery novel but a novel with mysteries. Its unlikely and at first unlikable hero, a Viet Nam veteran, is the outrageous and outraging Texas oil supply man, Cole Simms — a belated cousin, we recognize, of Mark Twain's Pap Finn. In sculpted prose, pacing his revelations, Hime traces his bedeviled hero's journey across the South just after 9/11, toward Ground Zero and toward self-insight. Hime, who escaped from the South Tower of the World Trade Center with a printout of The Night of the Dance after witnessing the crash of American Flight 11 into the North Tower, has created a classic narrative of transforming American experiences, personal and national. After its wide initial popularity, I predict, Three Thousand Bridges will endure in college classrooms as a powerful, accessible testimony about an unthinkable time.

And I enjoyed, and agree with, Arden Ward's review of the book and interview with Hime, which includes some marvelous facts and factoids like these (bracketed portions in original):

Hime was halfway through his descent, on floor 35 or 36 he recalls, when the building rocked violently — "Almost enough to knock you off your feet," he remembers. Still, he kept walking, finally reaching the street.

"That was the first time I saw the gaping hole in 1WTC [the north tower of the World Trade Center] and the fire blazing out of 2WTC at just about the level we had been at maybe 30 minutes earlier." ...

Hime began wondering about his father, who hadn’t known he was in New York City at the time of the attack. "I was fascinated by the premise of what it would have been like to be a father whose son goes missing in New York City on that day. Suppose that no one knew why he was there to begin with, and you wake up on the morning of 12 September and know only that he was missing. What would you do?"

It's pretty much impossible to write about Texas without bumping into stereotypes and clichés. My favorite thing about this book, I think, is the way Hime embraces those — and then proceeds to bend and twist them to one degree or another, in ways that turn out to be quite funny. "Three Thousand Bridges" gets the Beldar Stamp of Texas Authenticity. It's a danged good book, and I'm proud of my friend for writing it.

Posted by Beldar at 02:27 PM in Books, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Texas | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 9/11/01 plus ten

For four and one-half year, including the four football seasons from Fall 1975 through 1979, I had the honor of playing trumpet in the Showband of the Southwest, the University of Texas Longhorn Band. Beginning with a summer band concert in June 1975, and on several other occasions afterwards, I had the thrill of playing the Carmen Dragon arrangement of "America the Beautiful," which is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful versions of that song I've ever heard.

Here's the current LHB, with a re-arrangement of Carmen Dragon's arrangement done for LHB by my good friend and KKY brother Randol Bass, from last night's tribute (at the BYU vs UT halftime) to 9/11's victims and those who've defended our country before and after. It still sends chills up my spine and brings tears to my eyes, and yes, I gave in to the immediate compulsion to get out my trumpet so I could play along at home with the brass triplets at the ending:

I am a man of words. But today I'm going to let this music — played by these college-age men and women, in a tradition of which I am proud to have been a part — say everything I have to say on the subject.

If you don't feel your heart swell with emotion by about 1:20 in this clip — "Thine alabaster cities gleam / Undimm'd by human tears" — then you're not any flavor of American to which I can relate, and you may not be human at all.

Posted by Beldar at 07:27 PM in Global War on Terror, History, Texas | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why presume that, in Libya, if we break it we've bought it?

Regular readers will know that I'm a huge and consistent fan of former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy. As the successful prosecutor of the Blind Sheikh for the first World Trade Center bombing, McCarthy is perhaps the best qualified and most clear-eyed commentator on the disastrous Democratic strategy of treating the Global War on Terror as a matter of domestic American criminal law, to be addressed as law enforcement (instead of war) and followed up in civilian courts. But he's a perceptive speaker and writer on foreign policy and terrorism issues in general. He's just a very smart and eloquent guy, and I've been gratified to correspond with him from time to time in the past and to link his writings here.

In a post today at NRO's The Corner, Mr. McCarthy makes a number of excellent points about Republicans and Libya. I commend it to your thoughtful attention. But I find myself in reluctant disagreement with some of his conclusions, which prompted me to leave the following comment there (reprinted here with light editing for clarity and without block-quoting):


Mr. McCarthy, you've made a number of fine points here, but with due and genuine respect, you're confusing things that ought be kept straight.

All of what you wrote about Kadafi's history is correct and incredibly pertinent. His history has been to use Libya's vast oil wealth as a state supporter and exporter of international terrorism, of which the U.S. has been the chief target.

You're also right on the mark about the weakness of his "conversion" and "cooperation." That it was insincere and temporary doesn't mean it was unwelcome, just that it was unreliable. But any possibility of his continuing to justify the civilized world's forbearance, however, evaporated when he turned heavy weapons on his own population. Kadafi has violated his parole — not in the sense that word is used in our civilian criminal justice system, but in its original sense of a condition upon which an enemy who's surrendered in war was permitted to go free on continuing condition that he remain peaceful.

It astounds me that you can know, and articulate, all that history so well and yet insist that there are "no vital U.S. interests at stake."

The U.S. doesn't have a vital interest in protecting Libya's civilian population, merely a humanitarian interest; I would agree with you, I think, that such humanitarian interest is insufficient to justify American military intervention.

But we clearly, obviously have a vital interest in ensuring that Kadafi is now removed from power. We simply cannot permit this oil-funded terror-exporting again-out-of-control madman to remain in power, because as soon as the boot is off his neck he will instantly return to using Libya's oil wealth to acquire WMDs (a la the Pakistanis, the Norks, and soon the Iranians) as a guarantee against further American or western intervention.

You seem to think the determination of whether we ought to remove Kadafi from power — to effect regime change — depends in turn upon whether we wish to support the particular "rebel" forces who are, mostly independently, trying to oust Kadafi. Those issues must be analyzed separately.

It's entirely possible as a logical matter — and I believe it is the most sound weighing of competing concerns — to conclude that we have a compelling American interest in changing this regime without necessarily also having a compelling interest in what comes after.

Nothing but our own hypertrophied sense of overarching responsibility, our own sense of ourselves as "good guys," says that we have any responsibility to rescue the Libyan populace from what comes after Kadafi.

Contrary to Colin Powell's famous pronouncement, we can break it without buying it. We can take out Kadafi and walk away. Certainly for all of world history before WW2, that was among the options for conquering nations. We could take out Kadafi without decimating Libya's civilian population or destroying its infrastructure; we've no need, nor appetite, for the earth-salting, mass-executing, and enslaving tactics the Romans used against the Carthaginians on these same North African shores.

What ought to happen is that we use our superior military capability — especially with regard to precision use of force with less collateral damage than our NATO allies can limit themselves to — to take out Kadafi, and then dump the result into the laps of our NATO allies, especially the French and Italians (who have the strongest historical interests in Libya) for such nation-building exercises, if any, as they deem justified by their then-existing vital interests. Their continuing interests are likely to be greater than ours because they are the traditional and logical (logistical) market for Libyan energy production. And proximity, geography, and history all combine to make supervising the birth and infancy of a new regime in Libya a more limited and feasible task for them than the same process in Iraq or, especially, Afghanistan, has been for us.

Now of course, it may turn out that despite our NATO allies' efforts, or because of the lack thereof, Kadafi's successors turn out to be as bad or even worse than he's been. No one should try to sell any scenario for what America should do now as implying any guarantee that we won't have to effect regime change there again in the future.

But frankly, showing that we can (which everyone now knows) and will (which nobody now believes) decapitate a regime and then (mostly) walk away from the results might be a really good and cost-effective way to influence regime leaders not just in Libya but elsewhere.

We should play to our strengths. We are exceedingly good at blowing up bad guys without killing very many of the innocents with whom they surround themselves.

You seem to think this inevitably has to become a sustained, expensive counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism effort of the sort in which we've engaged in Iraq or Afghanistan. That's just not so.

Think of it not as nation-building, but a grand SWAT-team raid, or an exercise in removing a rabid animal from a populated area. Obama may not be capable of that mental flexibility, but you certainly are.

With apologies to Cato the Elder: Kadafi delenda est.

Posted by Beldar at 08:24 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beldar scoffs at Ackerman's notion of a magical priesthood of special government lawyers

His bio page at Yale tells us that Bruce Ackerman is the "Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy." Prof. Ackerman has credentials out the wazoo, but there seems to be something very wrong with his basic understanding of government, lawyers, and government lawyers. As part of an NYT op-ed decrying Pres. Obama's defiance of the War Powers Resolution, and in particular on Obama's refusal to accept and follow the advice of the Office of Legal counsel with respect thereto, Prof. Ackerman wrote this:

If the precedent Mr. Obama has created is allowed to stand, future presidents who do not like what the Justice Department is telling them could simply cite the example of Mr. Obama’s war in Libya and instruct the White House counsel to organize a supportive “coalition of the willing” made up of the administration’s top lawyers. Even if just one or two agreed, this would be enough to push ahead and claim that the law was on the president’s side.

The premise of that last sentence is spectacularly wrong.

Prof. Ackerman seems to see the government lawyers advising the President as some sort of official priesthood whose special blessings are essential prerequisites to the legitimate exercise of presidential power under the Constitution. And if the wrong priests are being relied upon, Prof. Ackerman seems to believe that this President's actions, and those of future Presidents, may become some sort of legal heresy. Ackerman scolds: "Mr. Obama is creating a decisive and dangerous precedent for the next commander in chief who is unlikely to have the Harvard Law Review on his résumé" — as if that credential has some constitutional significance.

But that's just silly. Whether they're from the Office of Legal Counsel or the Department of Defense any other unit of government, those lawyers are no more than advisers. Neither Barack Obama nor any other POTUS needs even one lawyer to bless what he's done or opine that it's okay — and that doesn't vary a whit based on whether the POTUS is or isn't also a lawyer. It's not that something becomes legal just because the POTUS says so. But the decision of the POTUS is the decision of the executive branch because the Constitution puts the POTUS at the head of that coordinate branch of government — whether the POTUS is backed up by 500 lawyers, one lawyer, or no lawyers at all.

If Ackerman can't grasp and apply the distinction between counselor and principal, he shouldn't be teaching law school — not even at Yale. As another Yale law grad with whom I'm familiar wrote a few days ago:

The President gets to make these calls [as to which lawyers, if any, he chooses to rely upon]. Of course, when the President makes this sort of a call, in a war that never had any sort of Congressional approval, it’s pretty risky — or, if you prefer, “gutsy” — but that choice is the President’s to make, and the political risks are his to run.

Exactly. Obama's taken the position that his administration isn't violating the War Powers Resolution — not because it's an unconstitutional infringement on the POTUS' constitutional responsibilities and powers as commander in chief, but because our military forces supposedly aren't involved in "hostilities." The voters who consider his reelection bid can and should hold him accountable for that ridiculous position (and the overweening vanity which permits him to insist upon it), regardless of whether that position was or wasn't blessed by the particular number and brand of orthodox legal priests upon whom Ackerman thinks all presidents should rely.

Posted by Beldar at 09:13 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beldar faults Kurtz' blind spot on U.S. interests in Libya

I commend to you this Stanley Kurtz post on the Middle East and Libya at The Corner. Mr. Kurtz is thorough-going in his grimness, to the point that I think he's self-blinded to the opportunities that may inhere (even if they don't preponderate) in times of transition. But the scenarios he presents, if tending toward worst-case, are nevertheless entirely plausible and ought be taken seriously.

Mr. Kurtz' premise is in his second paragraph (emphasis mine):

While there is clearly some war fatigue on the right at the moment, the deeper doubts about our war policies are driven by the flux and uncertainty sweeping over the Middle East, as well as a sense of overstretch catalyzed by President Obama’s postmodern interventionism in Libya. Fundamentally, the current moment of uncertainty about our wars in the Middle East is an appropriate response to the tumult reshaping the region. What Republicans need most now is a more accurate assessment of what is happening in the world. Only on the basis of such an assessment can a policy for the future be shaped.

Mr. Kurtz devotes most of the balance of his essay to specific observations that he believes ought to be given weight in such a reassessment. All of his observations are thought-provoking, but one — which I've read him make repeatedly before — I particularly disagree with. He writes, in reference primarily (I think; it's a bit unclear) to the Libyan intervention:

For President Obama to choose this moment of overstretch and crisis to commit us to a supposedly humanitarian intervention in a land with no vital American interests at stake is little short of madness....

The middle of that sentence is a ridiculous overstatement. Of course America has at least some vital interests in Libya. The question is what they are, and how they weigh compared to other places, other conflicts, and other interests.

Thus my comment there, which I reprint here (without blockquoting, and slightly edited for clarity):


Mr. Kurtz, you continue to assert that the U.S. has no vital interests in Libya.

Kadafi has a proven history of exporting international terrorism and pursuing WMDs — aggressively, successfully, and with the U.S. as his favored target. He abandoned WMDs when Saddam was captured, but he will surely return to them now. Libya's oil wealth still gives its ruler the realistic ability to buy WMD technology and materials. And apart from its use to fund world terrorism, Libya's substantial share of the world's oil production gives Libya independent economic power (especially over our traditional European allies) in strategically significant amounts.

So you'd put Libya in what, the same class of strategic importance as the Congo?

Yeah, we need to be realistic. And yeah, there's lots wrong with what Obama is doing and saying (which don't quite match). And yeah, the options are bleak and the long-term prospects daunting.

But pretending that Libya is no big deal for the U.S. is unworthy of your intelligence, sir.

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beldar agrees with Yoo on War Powers Resolution

I don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and thus can't get past its pay-wall to read Prof. John Yoo's op-ed today about the Libyan conflict and the War Powers Resolution. But I certainly agree with the summary he's posted at The Corner:

The treatment isn’t to force everyone to obey an unconstitutional law, the War Powers Resolution, that is both untrue to the Framers’ original understanding and unsuited to the exigencies of modern war. The New York Times’s [editorialists'] solution is the equivalent of using leeches on a patient with the common cold. The right constitutional answer (as I explain in this morning’s Wall Street Journal) is to toss the empty symbolism of the Resolution and meaningless lawsuits aside and let them fight it out using their own powers — commander-in-chief versus the purse — in the political process.

That's exactly right. The War Powers Resolution is the equivalent of Congress stamping its feet and shouting, "I'm Congress, dammit!" It's drama without substance.

The Constitution expressly gave Congress ample push-back power against the Executive through the power of the purse. If Congress wants to induce different (and better) behavior from the Executive, it can de-fund what he's doing. But if that imposes costs on Congress, in the form of political capital spent and political risks undertaken if Congress has misread the public, then Congress must bear those costs.

The Constitution is much more clever and much more subtle than the War Powers Resolution. And it's the Constitution, and the structure it creates with the intentional and continuous dynamic interplay inherent in that structure, that ultimately matters.

Posted by Beldar at 01:36 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Law (2011), Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Ryan on American exceptionalism

Referring to Paul Ryan's detailed and thoughtful speech on Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society — in which Ryan used historical parallels to reaffirm the critical importance of American exceptionalism in the modern world — the esteemed Michael Barone asks (rhetorically but pointedly):

By the way, how often do House Budget Committee chairmen give speeches about foreign policy?

(Hat-tip Instapundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 03:01 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Nato we sail, across a wide sea, to thank Nato's leaders (but kill not Kadafi!)

After reading Jake Tapper's report (h/t Instapundit) of the Obama Adminstration's position on its compliance (or non-) with the War Powers Resolution with respect to the kinetic non-war in Libya — as announced today in a late-Friday-afternoon news-dump — I should very much like to know:

Exactly where is this nation called "Nato"? Because I would like to visit its leaders to thank them for taking over the responsibility for leading this coalition. Do the Natonians permit Americans to visit?

I don't think the War Powers Resolution is constitutional. But as a legal argument, if Tapper's summary is correct and the quotes he includes are accurate and in context, then this attempted side-step by Obama is beyond pathetic, to the point of being insulting.

I'm looking for a link to the letter itself, and might have more to say after reading it in full.


UPDATE (Fri May 20 @ 10:55pm): What Tapper describes sounds like a variation on an ancient legal doctrine: "De minimis non curat lex," meaning "the law does not concern itself with trifles." I don't know exactly what U.S. forces are still involved, but they are concededly significant enough to include ships and helos for "search and rescue operations," "aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses," and "unmanned aerial vehicles."

In other words, those assets all by themselves exceed the projectable military capabilities of almost every other nation on earth. De minimis, uh-huh. So I want to see the letter in full-text, to see if anyone from the Administration had the temerity to use that little bit of Latin to describe our non-war war.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 12:55am): Mm-kay, here's the letter. It mentions the War Powers Resolution not at all by name, and references it only indirectly (and that with plausible deniability) in the language about "our on-going consultations." That doesn't matter; the timing makes self-evident that this is intended to address those issues. Friday was the 60th day after Obama triggered the Resolution by "introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." Since Congress hasn't given its blessing, Friday therefore was the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces."

But to call this a "legal argument" would be far too generous. To call it a "credible excuse" would be a fantasy. This letter is worse than "the dog ate my homework." My paraphrase:

We've sorta kinda un-introduced those armed forces, mostly, because, see, they aren't really as involved, y'know? I mean they're still armed and everything. But you know, they're not, umm, leading or anything like they were at first. Follow? And okay, so "armed" yes, but "forces"? They aren't trying to be very forceful. We've talked about that. We've cut way back on that. Way back. Really. Back. Not very forceful, even though armed, yes. I mean, they could be forceful if I told them to — you saw what I did with those SEALs, yeah? you see that? — but seriously, I've told them: Not very forceful. Mostly not.

Yeah, I thought you'd agree, and, umm, so never mind that the Resolution says by Friday the president "shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces," because you see, these really aren't any-any forces to speak of, you know — kinda like Roman Polanski didn't really commit rape-rape? It's just some planes and some ships and some junk, really, and — What? Well, yeah, there are some helicopters too, but most of the time they just stay on the boat and the pilots are down having chow and standing by. They have good chow on those Navy boats, I see to that, but that does not mean we're at war in Libya. That's a false choice, between good chow and war. Let me be clear about that.

And you know, that word "shall," that word sometimes really means "maybe." Like if I say to you, I go, "Shall we go to the park?" And then, like, you go, "Naw, I dun wanna." Then that's totally okay and we don't have to go! So it's really like, okay, well, "maybe" we should have terminated by now. Maybe. May. Be. And you know they really are "terminated," kinda — well not "them" but the missions, I mean. Mostly anyway. Unless like a plane crashes or we need to blow up some SAM sites and stuff. I can't control that. You know I can't control that, 'cause I did not put those SAM sites there.

Mostly we just talk on the phone and the radio a lot, really, and we wave at the British and the French and we go, like, "Hey dudes from Natonia, thumb's up dudes!" Seriously! I swear! Then they go blow stuff up and we go, like, "Yay! WTG dogs!" And they go, like, "Yeah! We're from Natonia, and we baaaad."

Oh, but hey, while we're talking about this, um, would you, like, sign this permission slip anyway for me? 'Cause I mean, it's no biggy, but like, I would really just want it for, like, y'know ... back-up? If there were ever some kind of impeachment thingy? Mm'kay, thx, bye!

Yes, Obama is now urging Congress to go ahead and give him permission for this not-war that the War Powers Resolution — if there is one, which we're not quite admitting there might be, but just, if there were, y'know, and if it were constitutional, which we're not denying or admitting today since we're not admitting that one exists — otherwise made illegal effective at the end of Friday.

President Gutsy!


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 1:55pm): I'm reprinting here (without block-quoting it) a comment I left on Patterico's blog on a post by his contributor Aaron Worthing, who's been following the whole War Powers issue diligently and thoughtfully (although I respectfully disagree with Aaron's ultimate conclusions in some important respects that aren't pertinent today):

The War Powers Resolution can be complied with even without ever saying its name. Obama’s letter from yesterday afternoon, for example, nowhere references 50 U.S.C. §§ 1541-1548, but it’s no coincidence that the letter was sent on the same day that section 1544(b)’s 60-day period expired. I believe that in this respect, that letter is fairly typical of what previous administrations have done while attempting to comply without admitting or implying any need to comply.

Obama’s March 21 letter to Congress did include a specific reference to the Resolution at its very end, but linked to an assertion of presidential authority:

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.

“Consistent with” is a carefully chosen qualifier, intended to acknowledge the Resolution without implying or conceding its binding authority. I have no particular fault to find with that, and prefer its honesty to the kabuki show of pretending the Resolution isn’t on the books.

Yesterday’s letter, though, isn’t actually even in compliance with anything in the Resolution. Rather, it’s a pathetic argument that might excuse non-compliance, and it includes (finally) a plea for Congress to give retroactive blessing.

In general, I’m content for the constitutionality of the Resolution to remain a matter of dispute, of continuing to-and-fro, push and push-back, between congressional and administrative branches without involving the judiciary. There are very good reasons why this hasn’t been litigated, and indeed, the whole system of checks and balances depends (counter-intuitively but undeniably) on some of its vague presumptions that never get tested. (To paraphrase Stalin’s comment about the Pope, “How many divisions does the Supreme Court command?”)

Obama could have mounted a serious, sustained, but quiet effort through bipartisan proxies in Congress to get a resolution passed that would bless what’s been done so far well before the 60-day deadline expired. He’s only doing that just now. Friends and neighbors, that delay is legal malpractice on behalf of those advising and representing the Executive. It may not turn out to be consequential malpractice — Obama may still get his retroactive blessing, which would moot the controversy as a practical matter — but it’s stumbling into a constitutional showdown, one that presents a relatively bad set of facts (from the Executive’s point of view) from which to establish a binding, precedential resolution of the Resolution’s constitutionality. And it’s inexcusable because the Administration damn well knew in March that this wasn’t going to be done by May 20.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 7:15pm): I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.


UPDATE (Sun May 22 @ 8:15pm): I'm flattered that this post has been linked by both Instapundit and Ace, among others (and I'm no less grateful for links from blogs that lack the traffic of those two). Ace is wrong in guessing that my concerns about the constitutionality of the Resolution are limited to "overbreadth" arguments, but again, I really don't want to hash out that question in this post. It's a subject that's been debated, without closure, for literally my entire adult life — and I'm 53. (In assuming that the Resolution gives the POTUS 60 days plus an additional 30 days, I believe, for reasons I've explained in comments on Patterico's blog here and here, that Ace has simply misread the Resolution.)

However, it's worth mentioning that the Obama Administration's emphasis on the involvement of NATO allies in some sort of leadership role, and on the U.N. Security Council's blessing, may be explained by, or at least related to, 50 U.S.C. § 1547(b), which reads:

Nothing in [the War Powers Resolution] shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to November 7, 1973, and pursuant to the United Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date.

If Obama plans to mount a defense for his non-compliance with the Resolution based on section 1547(b), though, that's a very stupid plan.

NATO certainly qualifies as a "high-level military command," and it was established prior to November 7, 1973, by a treaty ratified by the U.S. before then. But Section 1547(b) only means the POTUS doesn't need Congressional approval under the Resolution merely for "participat[ing] jointly" with NATO members in NATO's "headquarters operations." So boots on the ground in Brussels are okay, even if those Natonians get to arguing and tussling there at NATO headquarters; the War Powers Resolution didn't require the U.S. to pull out of NATO, in other words. There's no way, however, that dispatching a U.S. Navy F/A-18 to blow up a SAM site in Libya during a civil war there amounts to participation in NATO "headquarters operations."

Nor does section 1547(b) mean all U.N.-blessed action is okay. Rather, the reference to the U.N. is simply to make clear that the "participa[tion]" in "headquarters operations of high-level military commands" may include such high-level military commands as were established pursuant to the U.N. Charter prior to November 7, 1973, instead of pursuant to a prior treaty ratified by the U.S. (I'm thinking that was intended as a carve-out for some of the existing peace-keeping operations when the Resolution was passed, but I haven't checked the historical context.) It certainly can't include anything the U.N., much less just the U.N. Security Council, has done since 1973, however.

One would have to be a shockingly incompetent lawyer to claim that this section exempts what Obama's doing from War Powers Resolution coverage. I'm very much afraid, however, that this administration includes some shockingly incompetent lawyers.

Posted by Beldar at 09:33 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Petty POTUS tilts against Israel

Regarding President Obama's speech at the State Department yesterday regarding the Middle East and North Africa:

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

I have no problem at all with the final sentence in that paragraph. I have no problem at all with Obama taking fair credit for authorizing the mission to kill bin Laden, and I commend him in particular for accepting the greater risk to our forces and our national interests from sending in the SEALs, instead of doing nothing or relying on a JDAM or cruise missile. (He managed to take advantage of hindsight to avoid repeating Bill Clinton's now-obvious mistakes, in other words, and for that I am glad.) It was certainly an event worth including in any look back at the last ten years. And it's still topical and fresh, so I don't even mind that Obama then goes on for another two paragraphs just about bin Laden.

But only a petulant jerk would ignore the fact that American and British forces defeated Saddam's army and deposed his regime in three weeks. Or the fact that coalition forces continue to come home from Iraq, on a timetable negotiated by Bush-43 and the Iraqis, precisely because they've generally succeeded in their multi-year counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism missions in Iraq. And between 9/11/01 and year-end, American special forces working with Afghan allies deposed the Taliban's regime, driving it from power into an exile (from which it continues to fight, but without the same ability it had to provide safe haven for bin Laden, al Qaeda, and others who'd export international terrorism). Multiple elections have been held in both countries — elections made possible only by the spilled blood of coalition forces fighting alongside natives committed to their countries' freedom too. 

Those weren't just George W. Bush's accomplishments, no more than killing bin Laden was solely Barack Obama's accomplishment. They were America's accomplishments. But in his pique, his reflexive spite for his predecessor, Obama simply has to paint the things that America accomplished during Bush's presidency in bleak terms if he mentions them at all. Deposing a monster just as evil and cruel as bin Laden, but who as a head of state killed hundreds of thousands more people than bin Laden did, becomes merely "years of war in Iraq"; the monster's name is not even mentioned.

Isn't Obama's one-sentence write-off of everything done in Iraq before he took office just exactly what a politician might say if Saddam had beaten us, instead of Saddam ending up swinging at the end of a rope?

John Kennedy didn't treat Eisenhower like that. Nixon didn't treat Johnson like that, and Bill Clinton didn't treat Bush-41 like that. But much more importantly, to my knowledge, no American president has been so dismissive of the accomplishments on the field of battle of its armed forces from before he became Commander in Chief. Indeed, a key reason why John Kerry didn't ever occupy that position was precisely because upon his return from Vietnam, he'd done exactly that — disparaging our warriors — even while basking in glory for having been one of them. I concede that ignoring their accomplishments is better than telling lies that paint them as war criminals. But it's still wrong, ungracious, unpresidential.

I cannot like this man. I cannot re-kindle a liking for him. I would not like to have dinner with him or shake his hand. And although I would shake his hand if it were offered, or stand upon his entrance to a room I was in, I'd do that from respect for his office and not for the man who presently holds it.

He is petty, about little things and big things both. Were we ever to meet, I could no longer find it in myself to be magnanimous to him.


Many of the following paragraphs, in which Obama discusses what's been sometimes called "the Arab Spring," are entirely satisfactory to me. As many, many pundits of both the left and right have noted, they read very much like many speeches George W. Bush gave regarding the spread of democracy in the region. But then, suddenly — jarringly — everything once again has to be all about Obama:

But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

As is said on the prairies of West Texas whence I sprang: "Do whut now?"

What part of deposing the Taliban's or Saddam's national governments, or the aftermaths of those events in Afghanistan and Iraq, was "accepting the world as it is in the region"? What decades is he talking about — 1820-1850?

Why does he have to pretend that he's the first person to have said these same things? Why does he have to pretend that what he's saying in this speech about America encouraging democracy is some big policy change — when actually all that's changed is that he's no longer criticizing Dubya's rhetoric but parroting it?


When he promised an additional $2 billion in loan guarantees and debt forgiveness to Egypt, I wanted to hear Obama also say "if its government doesn't include elements of the Muslim Brotherhood or other organizations with a history of supporting violence and international terrorism."

Nothing like that was said. 


But then to Israel and the Palestinians:

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

Since Truman, American presidents, and the diplomats who serve at their pleasure, have displayed this sort of parallelism, this drawing of comparisons in a way that presumes and implies comparability and even equivalence.

It's time to stop that nonsense. The thieves, cut-throats, and thugs who purport to speak for the Palestinians aren't interested in taking "yes" for an answer from the Israelis. Only the Palestinian leaders are at fault for the fact that they do not already have a viable independent state. It was on the table for them to take, and Arafat walked away from it; his successors have never even seriously tried to get back to that point, preferring instead to squabble, snipe (figuratively and literally), and wallow in victimhood and violence. And it's not only dishonest to pretend that they and Israeli leaders are equally to blame for this state of affairs, it's very bad diplomacy. There are indeed disputes in which only one side is at fault, and however this one began, that's what this one has been for a long, long time.

But Obama doubles down:

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

So as soon as Israel rolls over completely and throws away all of its most valuable bargaining chips for nothing in return, then we'll all have a "basis for negotiations."

If you think I'm misinterpreting the sequencing here, Obama will correct you:

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Territory is real. Security is flexible and temporary, and depends on the continued good faith of both sides. Why would Israel give up something real for something flexible and temporary? How could Obama possibly think they're that foolish?

This amounts to "1967 borders today, guys, and then we'll all return next week to decide precisely how badly you Israelis will fare on Jerusalem and the 'Palestinian right of return.'" I wonder whether Obama actually ever did any actual negotiation as a lawyer/community organizer. I've never had a negotiation in which I've persuaded one side that it ought agree today to a deal that exposes it to increased depredation by its opponents just so it can come back to the bargaining table later to arrange its further capitulation on its top "hot-button" issues.

Why should we ever think this will ever possibly happen? Obama answers:

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”

More shameful drawing of moral equivalents between things that are not at all morally equivalent.

Israel does not try to target little boys and girls, ever. Its opponents do, always. When Palestinian children are killed in collateral damage from Israeli responses to rockets and bombs, Israelis mourn and resolve to try harder to limit collateral casualties in the future. When Israeli children are killed in intentional damage from Palestinian suicide bombers (or rockets or mortars, both highly indiscriminate), Palestinians celebrate and resolve to kill more innocents the next time.

Yes, hate is caustic, but it's a whole lot more justified when directed toward deliberate murderers. And forgiveness is divine, but forgiveness is not absolution from responsibility. Whether they hate or forgive, both these fathers should hold responsible the Palestinian leaders who perpetuate this system and feed off these deaths.

Why does an American president treat these things as if they're the same? How does that lie advance the peace process?

President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as they walk from the Oval Office to the South Lawn Drive of the White House, following their meetings, May 20, 2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama did not repeat this particular position on sequencing of negotiations, the 1967 borders, or the "right of return" in his joint press conference today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But neither did Obama retract the new position, and indeed its timing was obviously intended to present the Israelis with a fait accompli.

That's our President Gutsy.

Nevertheless, today Bibi politely but firmly responded to what Obama said yesterday, and he categorically rejected the notion of either a return to 1967 borders or the return of Palestinian refugees into Israel (as opposed to a proposed Palestinian state). I accord him high marks for self-restraint and statesmanship, because nowhere in his remarks did Netanyahu slip and use the Hebrew word "meshuga" (or its Yiddish cousin, perhaps better known here in the U.S., "meshugana").


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 3:10pm): Reading about Obama's speech at the State Department from Thursday, I've found a very, very wide range of interpretations about what Obama said and what it means. They range from "this is no more than business as usual, consistent with past U.S. policy," to "the sky is falling."

Gaza-Strip-West-BankI am taking Obama exactly at his word, and giving him and his administration every benefit of every doubt. I'm not accusing him, for example, of already breaching promises made by the United States to Israel regarding borders. I'm giving Obama full credit for the broadest, and most Israel-friendly interpretation of, the phrase "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" in order to keep that consistent with previous proposals that have involved some sort of land-for-peace deal. I'm not assuming that Obama is committing the U.S. to support only a return to precisely the 1948 truce lines; if you read his speech that way, then this is an incredibly perfidious betrayal of Israel, not just a "tilt."

Likewise, I'm not jumping to conclusions from such things as his reference to a "contiguous" Palestinian state, which could be read to mean a corridor between the West Bank and Gaza that bifurcates Israel entirely (in the manner Germany was split by the Danzig Corridor after WW1).

For an example of an extremely critical interpretation, read Caroline Glick's analysis; I respectfully disagree with her in many respects, and with Power Line's Scott Johnson, who characterizes Glick's commentary as "shrewd." I'd say it's frankly alarmist, albeit with some considerable justification, and I fault Ms. Glick in particular for not making exactly clear which parts of her analysis are based on inference rather than actual quotes from the speech.

But there is no possible interpretation of Obama's speech which ignores its commitment to borders now, Jerusalem/return later. And that itself is a significant and extremely unfortunate tilt.

Posted by Beldar at 08:01 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Beldar quibbles with McCarthy to show that Holder's conflicts are even worse than McCarthy's revealed

Andrew C. McCarthy led the team of federal prosecutors who obtained convictions in 1995 against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (a/k/a "the Blind Sheik") and eleven others in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Since he left the Justice Department in 2003, he's been among the most articulate critics of those who'd respond to international terrorism as if it were merely a civilian criminal offense. As someone who's actually done as well as can be done in such cases in our civilian criminal courts, I accord him credibility on this topic that's roughly the size, shape, and mass of the Rock of Gibraltar. I rarely find myself disagreeing with what he's written as a contributor to National Review and other conservative outlets.

I agree entirely, for example, with Mr. McCarthy's verbal thrashing of Attorney General Eric Holder in an NRO column from yesterday entitled Holder vs. Holder. In it, Mr. McCarthy explains why Eric Holder is a particularly leaky vessel into which to entrust the profound obligation of serving as chief counsel for the United States of America, and in particular why that's so when it comes to prosecuting/fighting the Global War on Terrorism (a term that Holder himself, like his master at the White House, has disavowed).

My one quibble is with a shortcut that Mr. McCarthy has taken in this opinion article — one which I think actually detracts from its overall persuasiveness.

Mr. McCarthy begins thusly:

Why does the Obama Justice Department seem to have trouble mounting a full-throated, compelling legal defense of Osama bin Laden’s killing? The problem for Eric Holder the attorney general could be Eric Holder the private attorney.

In 2004, Mr. Holder chose to file an amicus brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, the al-Qaeda terrorist sent to our country by bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to carry out a post-9/11 second wave of attacks. In the brief, Holder argued that a commander-in-chief lacks the constitutional authority to do what his boss, the current commander-in-chief, has just done: determine the parameters of the battlefield. By Holder’s lights — at least when the president is not named Obama — an al-Qaeda terrorist must be treated as a criminal defendant, not an enemy combatant, unless he is encountered on a traditional battlefield.

It would be useful if staffers at congressional oversight hearings passed around copies of Holder’s Padilla brief. It is a comprehensive attack on Bush counterterrorism, an enthusiastic endorsement of the law-enforcement approach in vogue during the Clinton era (when Holder was deputy attorney general under Janet Reno, who also signed on to the Padilla brief). This might explain why Holder sometimes has difficulty answering seemingly easy questions. That’s what happened this week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee quizzed the attorney general on the lawfulness of the U.S. military’s targeted killing of bin Laden.

I have a problem with that line of argument. It's wrong, and dangerous, to presume that a lawyer privately supports every element of every cause, or every aspect of every defendant, whom he champions in court. And I know Mr. McCarthy knows this principle, and I believe he likely believes in it. Mr. McCarthy went around this hurdle — ignored it — when it's fairly easily overcome in this specific case, however:

Holder didn't take on Padilla as a paying client because he (Holder), like every lawyer, needs to put bread on his family's table. Holder didn't in fact represent Padilla at all, and the Second Circuit brief to which Mr. McCarthy refers wasn't filed by Mr. Holder in his capacity as a lawyer, pro bono or otherwise, for anyone. Holder wasn't among counsel of record in the case.

Rather, Holder — with Janet Reno and two other former Clinton Administration lawyers — were themselves the "amici curiae," literally "friends of the court," who sought and received permission to address the Second Circuit on legal issues relating to Padilla's pending appeal. The lawyers who actually signed and filed the brief, acting in the role as counsel to the "amici curiae" including Holder, were from Arnold & Porter — one of the main (but mainly friendly) cross-town rivals of the Washington, D.C. firm at which Holder was then employed, Covington & Burling.

So attributing the views in this brief to Holder personally is entirely appropriate: The "mouthpieces" who may or may not have agreed with the "clients' position," but who figuratively and literally "signed off" on the brief, were the Arnold & Porter lawyers. Holder, although he had no stake in the case other than as a bystander and "friend of the court," was himself their client. Holder wasn't insisting on being heard by the Second Circuit through counsel because he was at the same risk of imprisonment or death that Padilla himself was in. Rather, Eric Holder, as a private lawyer whose only special credibility arose from his past government service, went out of his way to align himself with Padilla not as an advocate, but as a fellow principal interested in the same matters (albeit in the limited capacity of an amicus). 

It's thus entirely fair — and indeed, much more fair than with other legal briefs in which Holder was merely a paid, or even volunteer, advocate for some client — to attribute the views in this amicus brief to Holder personally. Once the A&P lawyers agreed to represent these "amici curiae," the A&P lawyers were obliged to diligently advocate for Holder's (and his felllow amici curiae's) interests. They spoke not for themselves, but for Eric Holder — and it is to him that their arguments and positions must be attributed. Otherwise, the clients upon whose behalf the brief was filed lacked any authority even as a "friend of the court" to be heard at all.

Holder can't, in other words, hide behind the usual — and oftentimes entirely legitimate — beard that "I was only representing my client's interests, and I don't necessarily agree personally with everything I said on the client's behalf." Rather, everything said in the amicus brief in the Padilla case was said specifically on behalf of Holder; he was the client of the lawyers who wrote and filed it.

Holder's own law degree and licensure and experience is also important, however, because it utterly deprives him of any possibility of saying now, "Oh, I really didn't grasp all the implications of the legal arguments my lawyers from Arnold & Porter were making on my behalf." Even moreso than the average client who lacks legal training and skills, it's not just a conclusive legal presumption that the Arnold & Porter lawyers were fairly and accurately representing Holder's views, it's a practical fact. It's simply inconceivable that this brief could have been filed without Holder (and Reno and the other two Clintonista lawyers) having a chance to review and participate substantively in the editing of its contents.

I suspect Mr. McCarthy would agree with all this, and perhaps he omitted it in the interests of concission. I lack his gift for that, but I also have a very strong attachment to the underlying general rule that for the Rule of Law to function, the lawyers participating in its administration must be free from the strictures that would come from attributing personally to them every principle or cause they've supported as an advocate.

Posted by Beldar at 05:55 PM in Ethics, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Politics (2011), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Brilliantly stupid legal reasoning, or stupidly brilliant legal reasoning?

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, in the Wall Street Journal:

When a Muslim or a Jew is the victim of a homicide in the United States, religious considerations do not trump civil requirements. Their bodies are generally sent to the medical examiner for thorough examination. Notwithstanding religious prohibitions, autopsies are performed and organs removed for testing. No special exception should have been made for bin Laden's body.

But bin Laden was not "the victim of a homicide in the United States." There's no need to discuss the right or wrong of making "exceptions" to a set of "civil requirements" that emphatically do not apply.

So I'm going with "brilliantly stupid" — lucidly and articulately argued in simple, clear language, but entirely based on a premise which is indisputably and unmistakably false. I won't quibble, however, with anyone pithier than me who concludes that Prof. Dershowitz' argument is just stupid.

This is the kind of nonsense that comes from civilian lawyers uncritically (i.e., stupidly) applying rules from the domestic U.S. criminal justice system to the transnational war against radical Islamic terrorists. This is also the kind of nonsense that comes from people who take the movie/mass media versions of themselves way too seriously.

The main point of Prof. Dershowitz' op-ed is to argue that the Obama Administration ought to release photographs of OBL's corpse. Typically for Prof. Dershowtiz, he makes some good points, most of which were already obvious, but he fails to even acknowledge that there are competing concerns that are also entitled to weight in that decision. I don't have a firm opinion on whether the corpse photos ought to be released because I have not seen them myself. (Indeed, it seems impossible to me that anyone could make a thoughtful decision about the photographs' likely effects unless one has actually seen them.) But whichever way one comes out on the merits, it's only fair and honest to concede that there are good policy arguments to support either outcome, yet problems with both. My point is that an advocate who refuses even to address contrary arguments cannot possibly do a good job advocating his position about their relative weightiness. So again, color me unimpressed, overall, with Prof. Dershowitz. Your mileage may vary.

Today's winner in the "I am not a lawyer but I watch lots of cop shows" category: William Saletan in Slate, who's breathlessly cross-examining third-hand, unsourced wire service stories as to whether the OBL raid would have been a case of police brutality if judged by the standards of domestic U.S. police officers conducting an arrest. Mr. Saletan is still missing the really key factual issue, however: Was bin Laden permitted a reasonable opportunity to inquire about his Miranda rights?

(That's me being sarcastic. But some people, possibly including Mr. Saletan, may think that's a serious question. They should enroll at Harvard Law School and take lots of classes from Alan Dershowitz.)

Posted by Beldar at 06:17 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, May 02, 2011

A simple question, asked upon the just dispatch of Osama bin Laden

How do we reconcile our president (a) holding a press conference to claim credit for killing Osama bin Laden, while at the very same time (b) maintaining a policy against targeting Mumar Kadafi?

Posted by Beldar at 06:03 PM in Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Monday, April 25, 2011

WaPo chronicles Obama's serial blundering over Gitmo

"The executive order promising to close Gitmo's detention facilities within a calendar year was never anything more than BHO-monogrammed bovine excrement so naïve and silly that it exploded violently on every contact with reality."

That's my 35-word précis of this 4300-word WaPo article entitled "Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility."

However, whoever crafted this intended spin-imparting summary paragraph near the top may not have actually read the rest of the article, or else comprehended its cumulative import not at all:

For more than two years, the White House’s plans had been undermined by political miscalculations, confusion and timidity in the face of mounting congressional opposition, according to some inside the administration as well as on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the failed effort to close Guantanamo was reflective of the aspects of Obama’s leadership style that continue to distress his liberal base — a willingness to allow room for compromise and a passivity that at times permits opponents to set the agenda.

Instead of this mushy half-hearted defense of their hero, how about some plain English that's much more consistent the rest of the facts reported? Why pretend anything needed "undermining" when it never stood on its own to begin with? Why use the words like "miscalculations, confusion and timidity" as a substitute for "consistent bold stupidity"?

I'd re-write that summary paragraph thusly:

"Despite Obama's unconditional and unequivocal promises as a candidate, it became increasingly obvious, more blindingly obvious with every day of his new presidency, that closing Gitmo anytime soon would be a Very Bad Idea for a Whole Buncha Reasons. It became obvious to most serious grown-ups in America — and even to the large majorities of senators and congressmen from Obama's own party who want to be re-elected, regardless of their seriousness and maturity — that Obama's executive order couldn't actually be implemented without monumental, unacceptable risks and a momentous public backlash that would rival, and perhaps exceed, the Tea Party backlash against Obama's fiscal profligacy. Indeed, even the administration official who was designated to fall on his sword — ex-White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, about whose resignation Beldar wrote at his usual tedious length here back in 2009 — appears to have painfully hoisted himself off that blade and climbed back down to reality."

Overall, this is probably the most damning reporting on Obama's fundamental incompetence that the WaPo has yet published. Nothing in it makes Obama look even marginally competent or principled. Yet despite their claim to have based this report on "interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists," WaPo staffers Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut don't produce anything amounting to a scoop. The only thing about their report which surpised me is that apparently everyone in Washington who doesn't list 1600 Pennsylvania as his or her current primary work address now seems to agree that Obama spectacularly mismanaged this entire issue.

I'll continue to stick with my description of the Obama Administration back in that post from April 2009:

"Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

If anything, that assessment may have turned out to have beeen overly generous.

Posted by Beldar at 12:16 AM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Beldar assesses risk to the GOP from a government shutdown to be lower now than in 1995

I've previously argued here, and in comments I've left on other blogs, that the House GOP ought not force a government shutdown over whether an interim funding bill includes controversial de-funding of particular programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS/NPR) or Planned Parenthood. Rather, my advice has been to defer those measures to the fight over the FY2012 budget. Some have misunderstood me to be suggesting we delay those fights until some time in calendar year 2012, but that's not at all what I've said or meant.

Rather, since the premiere this week of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) amazingly ambitious budget for FY2012 (which starts on October 1, 2011), we're already embarked on that fight — and that fight is vastly more consequential in the big picture than anything that is going to be done through interim spending bills. Insisting on cutting those controversial programs now gives the Dems undeserved and repeated opportunities to demagogue, and that may permit them to repeat their political triumph from the government shutdown in 1995 (which effectively guaranteed Bill Clinton's reelection).

Instead, the time to fight those fights — and they'll always be controversial, I don't dispute that — is as part of the fight on the FY2012 budget that, if handled right, will produce hundreds of billions of cuts in current spending, and trillions over the next decade. There are a lot of voters who will swallow hard at GOP cuts to programs those voters personally favor, but who will nevertheless choke them down if and only if they're part of a big dose of essential medicine that will genuinely restore financial sanity to our government. And you can't win over those voters through a hostage-taking strategy that shuts down the government over only a few billion dollars.


What Speaker Boehner and the House GOP are doing now, however, isn't necessarily inconsistent with my proposed strategy. Indeed, he's right not to back off on those hot-button issues until he's used them to extract every penny of spending cuts he can through these stopgap funding bills. The one-week extension passed through the House today is consistent with that strategy. And ultimately, if a few tens or even hundreds of millions in continuing expenditures on noxious programs is the cost of another $8-$10 billion in cuts above the $33B the Dems are already on board with, that's a very good trade in the short term.

However, you can't push to the limits at the negotiating table unless you're genuinely serious about facing the possibility of a shutdown. There's reason to hope that we're better prepared for that now than we were in 1995 (when it seemed we were completely, and recklessly, unprepared). But neither side knows, nor can know, how the public will react, and what political risks for November 2012 that presents. To extend my poker metaphor from last week, we've seen the flop, but we're still waiting for the turn and the river.

I'm no pollster, and in fact I'm intensely skeptical of public opinion polling as a proxy for the only polls that count — electoral polls on election day. But I think there are two fundamental differences between now and 1995 that both reduce the political risk to the GOP now, as compared to then:

First, notwithstanding what the public opinion polls may say about the number of "independents" or "swing voters," America is more polarized now than it was in 1995. That's the result of the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 election contest, the anti-war protests during the eight years of strong leadership on the Global War on Terrorism that George W. Bush gave us, and — more than all of the above put together — the systematic, unrestrained, and rapacious looting of the public fisc in which Barack Obama and the Democrats have been continuously engaged since January 2009. I just don't think there will be as many voters swayed by a shutdown as there were in 1995 — and of those who may be, quite a large percentage of them are Obama voters from 2008 who've since already realized that his halo is made of tin foil.

Second, although one can correctly point to a long list of contributing causes, any third-grader should be able to understand that the most obvious and direct cause — what lawyers would call the "proximate cause" — of a shutdown now would be the Democrats' explicable and inexcusable inability just to do their damn jobs last year.

Not a single voter sent Obama and his partisans to Washington with a mandate not to pass a budget for FY2011. The Dems controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress until January 2011 and yet couldn't pass a budget; indeed, they didn't even make a serious attempt. And that's just dirt-simple, and as obvious — and as obviously embarrassing — as a loud fart in church.

I will grant you that there are millions, and probably tens of millions, of voters who don't meet my hypothetical "any third-grader" standard in their political sophistication.

But they're already part of the Democratic base anyway.

Posted by Beldar at 08:05 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Lithwick's latest, on KSM, is not just silly but pernicious

Dahlia Lithwick is the least reliable legal pundit I've ever run across. Consider this:

Today, by ordering a military trial at Guantanamo for 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants, Attorney General Eric Holder finally put the Obama administration's stamp on the proposition that some criminals are "too dangerous to have fair trials."

Stop and ponder this bold assertion.

Dahlia LithwickThen consider that the military commission statutes which will control KSM's trial were passed twice — the second time to add additional procedures favorable to defendants in response to an intervening SCOTUS ruling — by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of two different Congresses (in 2006 and 2009) under two different presidents.

Among those voting for the Military Commissions Act of 2009, under which KSM will be tried, were Democratic Senators Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Evan Baye, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Roland Burris, Maria Cantwell, Christopher Dodd, Richard Durbin, Diane Feinstein, Al Franken ... well, you get the picture (and I haven't gotten past the letter F in the Senate even after skipping several). In the House, 237 Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, voted for it. The additional protections it added were so generous to defendants, in fact, that 132 House Republicans and 28 Senate Republicans voted "nay" — even though it was part of a defense appropriations bill. And of course it was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

For Lithwick's assertion to be true, all those Congress-critters had to be very devoted to unfair trials. They can't pass a damn budget, but if we believe Dahlia, they can band together hand-in-hand, in overwhelming numbers — twice — to create and revise a fundamentally unfair judicial system.

Similar devotion to unfair trials, it would seem, must be attributed to Barack Obama and Eric Holder. Of the former, she bitterly claims to have learned that "there is no principle he can't be bullied into abandoning." So perhaps Obama isn't devoted to unfair trials, but is just cravenly enslaved to those who are. Does that make Obama better, or worse, than those to whom he's "capitulated"?

Of course, the more fundamental stupidity of Dahlia's assertion is its assumption — an emphatically, unarguably false one — that KSM and his co-defendants are mere "criminals." They aren't, of course, and it's not just silly but pernicious to pretend otherwise.


"Fairness," with respect to trials, is not a binary status, either on or off. It's a continuum.

Compared to the rest of the world and all of history, U.S. civilian criminal courts provide more procedural and substantive protections for defendants than any other court system — and by a wide margin. If we presume that nothing less can be "fair," then all of the civilian judicial systems in the rest of the world are "unfair," and have been for all of history.

And in fact, as Lithwick damn well knows — she's not stupid, she's calculating — the military commission trials in fact afford the defendants with legal safeguards substantially more favorable to them than if they were being tried in the regular civilian criminal courts of any other country in the world (save only, perhaps, and then in only certain respects, the U.K. and some of its former colonies, including Lithwick's native Canada). Yet she writes:

Every argument advanced to scuttle the Manhattan trial for KSM was false or feeble: Open trials are too dangerous; major trials are too expensive; too many secrets will be spilled; public trials will radicalize the enemy; the public doesn't want it.

Easy to say, impossible to support, and dead wrong on every count. Any one of these reasons could properly have justified Congress in turning the "fairness dial" back down from 11 — where it's set in the U.S. civilian courts because we so value the civil liberties of our own people that we'd rather see many criminals go free to prevent one wrongful conviction — to a mere 10.

In particular, the "secrets that would be spilled" aren't whisperings between teenaged girls at a slumber party. They include the identity of sources who would be caught and beheaded. They include methods of fighting terrorism that have prevented another 9/11. Lithwick dismisses them in six words: so blithe, yet so very dangerous.

For comparison, KSM will in almost all respects be getting the same protections and rights we give to our very own servicemen and -women in military courts martial. Ponder the irony of that. I shall await Lithwick's next article, which I presume will excoriate the Uniform Code of Military Justice — which Congress adapted to create the military commissions system — and I expect to see her picketing outside Fort Leavenworth later this week.


KSM famously declared when he was captured: "I'll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer." Another irony, of course, is that he will in fact have fabulous lawyers, paid by the very government of the very country he still wishes to destroy, and yet ethically bound to do their best to get him acquitted or, failing that, to mitigate his punishment.

The truth is that nothing would ever satisfy Dahlia Lithwick and her ilk. Nevertheless, KSM will get his trial, whether she's satisfied, and whether she lies about it, or not.

But it won't be in New York.

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 AM in Global War on Terror, Law (2011) | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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

I like Matt Welch, the editor in chief of 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 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

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 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

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

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

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 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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Liz Cheney parallels (but doesn't quite match) Beldar's prescription for what Obama should say about U.S. aid to Egypt

On this morning's "Fox News Sunday," Liz Cheney made a point very similar to the one I made in my post from last Friday (my transcription from DVR; boldface mine):

[Chris Wallace:] Would you like to see him [i.e., President Obama] openly support the freedom fighters, the protesters, in Iran?

[Liz Cheney:] Absolutely! He should have done it last June. Had he done it, frankly, in June of 2009, we might have a very different Iran today. I think that — you know, you have a situation where the [Obama] Administration is constantly playing catch-up. And one of the things that they clearly are going to be doing now is adding more money to the democracy programs. As they do that, they need to be held to account: Not a single taxpayer penny should go to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Administration so far has refused to declare their opposition to that. The Muslim Brotherhood is not democratic. They clearly support the imposition of Sharia law —

[Wallace:] — You're talking of course in Egypt —

[Cheney:] — and the return of the Caliphate in Egypt. But I think they'll face this issue across the region with Islamic organizations.

Of course no U.S. taxpayer money should ever go directly, or be permitted to be funneled indirectly, to the Muslim Brotherhood. And of course Obama should make that point clearly and publicly and now.

Liz Cheney on Fox News Sunday But it's not just the cash now that's important. It's the Egyptian people's understanding of the likelihood of a continuing sustained cash-flow in the future, the cash-flow they've been enjoying since, basically, the Camp David accords in 1978. With or without U.S. assistance, and indeed despite any efforts we might make to undercut their fund-raising elsewhere, the Muslim Brotherhood will find plenty of sources of cash that can be used to sway a "one man, one vote, one time" election.

But that's still chump change compared to the billions of U.S. aid dollars we've been sending to Egypt year in and year out. And the Egyptians who might be tempted by the Muslim Brotherhood's pitch, or intimidated by their threats and violence, need to understand that Uncle Sam's teat is going to be permanently withdrawn if the Muslim Brotherhood even shares power in a new Egyptian government.

(Postscript: While looking for a suitable photo to pirate "fair-use republish" for this post, I was amused to see that among the companies buying advertising bandwidth from is ... the New York Times. Oh, how the mighty are falling!)


UPDATE (Sun Feb 20 @ 4:15pm): This post from Andy McCarthy illustrates exactly why I think this message so badly needs to be sent, and without further delay (link his):

In another worrying sign, there are indications coming out of Egypt and Israel that the Egyptian military provided security for Qaradawi’s appearance before the throng. This, you might say, is to be expected in a potentially unstable situation with the government in flux and a throng of hundreds of thousands (at least) gathered in Tahrir Square. But the reports further suggest that the military let the Muslim Brotherhood take the lead in orchestrating Friday’s events and that opposition leaders who are not Islamists were not permitted to speak. I am not in a position to verify or disprove these reports, but if they are true that would be very ominous indeed.

It's the colonels and the generals who've been spending a whole bunch of that American foreign aid, and who need to be stripped of any illusions that it would continue if the Muslim Brotherhood were part of Egypt's new government.

Posted by Beldar at 12:55 PM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Religion | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Still more mush from the wimp — this time re the Muslim Brotherhood

I really, really hope that in his campaign for re-election, President Obama will make heavy use of that elder statesman of the Democratic Party, Jimmy Carter. After all, in what he has to say in general, and in what he has to say in particular about the Middle East, Mr. Carter is exactly as credible as Mrs. O'Leary's cow giving a lecture on fire prevention. Here's just the latest proof, as delivered by the old gasbag from the LBJ Library in Austin (bracketed portion mine, parenthetical by the American-Statesman; h/t InstaPundit):

[LBJ Library Director Mark] Updegrove, who characterized Carter as the president most associated with the Middle East, having helped to broker a peace accord between Egypt and Israel in 1978, asked the former president how the United States should view the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential group in Egypt that has ties to Hezbollah and may influence Egypt in the future.

"I think the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of in the upcoming (Egyptian) political situation and the evolution I see as most likely," Carter said. "They will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of desire for freedom and true democracy."

Yes, absolutely! We should no more fear the Muslim Brotherhood than we should fear, say, that a bunch of "students" might "spontaneously" decide to take over an American embassy and hold everyone there hostage for 444 days. Couldn't possibly happen, huh, Mr. Carter?

I know there are a few Democrats who occasionally see my blog. Are any of you willing to "associate yourself," as they say on Capitol Hill, with Mr. Carter's latest remarks? Any of you willing instead to admit that the old goat has become an international embarrassment — not just a bad one-term president, not just the worst president of the 20th Century, but absolutely the worst ex-president ever?

Posted by Beldar at 08:52 PM in 2012 Election, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama, Religion | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Obama ought say to Egypt

Obama should say — right away, and bluntly — “Lest there be a miscalculation from uncertainty about America’s position, Egypt should know that the day the Muslim Brotherhood becomes part of Egypt’s government is the day American foreign aid ends.”

But he won’t.


When Obama fails to do this, should then Boehner, as Speaker, say "I predict that the House won't appropriate money for foreign aid to Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood is part of the government"?

I think so. I think it would be a truthful prediction that would likely prove accurate. And it's within Boehner's institutional province so long as it's carefully phrased. But Boehner should privately twist Obama's arm first, to give him the opportunity to speak for America as its chief of state.

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Religion | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

U.S. 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division leaves Iraq

The last American combat brigade has left Iraq.

Sgt. Luke Hitchcock, 26, of Olean, N.Y., covers the .50-caliber machine gun atop his vehicle after his unit arrives in Kuwait. Fair-use photo & caption credit: Ernesto Londono-The Washington Post Its soldiers did so, like all of the other American and coalition forces who've served and returned, as heroes. My pride in them and gratitude for them is boundless; it's a worthy national goal to simply strive to be worthy of the men and women who've volunteered to serve in America's military. They are magnificent.

The remaining American forces, roughly 50,000 in number, are tasked mostly for training missions. "Training" can include "goin' along" with Iraqi forces on dangerous stuff; at least some of our trainers and support personnel could be re-tasked to more violent pursuits in a sufficient pinch; and even non-combat military operations can be awfully dangerous. Our remaining forces will still see casualties at some level.

But this news brought to mind a post I wrote in October 2003, not too long after we'd toppled Saddam, entitled The Slog: Paying the priceless price on a time-payment plan. Immodestly, I think it holds up pretty well.


UPDATE (Thu Aug 19 @ 10:55 a.m.): A military source advises NRO's Dan Foster that the WaPo's generalization regarding the "last combat brigade" may be somewhat misleading, as there will still be five brigades remaining in training capacities that have comparable (and therefore very substantial) combat power if needed. I'm glad to hear that. I'm pretty sure the U.S. forces still in Germany and South Korea, for example, are also potent and well prepared for more than just parade-ground duties, decades after almost all of the shooting there has stopped. In some respects it's a symbolic gesture to declare "Operation Iraqi Freedom" over, just as it was a symbolic gesture for Bush, on the deck of the Lincoln, to declare the end of major combat operations. But yeah, by then we'd accomplished regime change and stopped fighting major actions against organized uniformed Iraqi forces, and now we're down to a much smaller sized force whose main purpose isn't fighting. That certainly doesn't mean they can't if called upon to. But it's still a transition worth noting with pride and satisfaction.

Posted by Beldar at 11:45 PM in Global War on Terror | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A question for EDMO supporters

A comment from frequent (and therefore patient) reader Gregory Koster prompts me to ask a question for all of my friends who promoted, or just supported, "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day":

Should we now put up giant sheets of butcher paper on the walls of whatever buildings are adjacent to the site of the proposed new Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero; set up step-ladders and bins of brightly colored magic markers; and then have "Everyone Draw Mohammed Next Door to the Ground Zero Mosque Day"? Or perhaps we should have it there every day?

I'm sure some of the patrons (or if not, the hecklers) from Greg Gutfield's gay bar next door would participate, and heck, being a fun and funny guy who's rolling in the big media bucks these days, Greg might even donate the wall space, paper, markers, and ladders!

Posted by Beldar at 06:37 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Humor | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Share your ideas for breaking the LA Times' stonewall on the Obama/Khalidi Tape

My blogospheric friend Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media is soliciting reader ideas on how to get the Los Angeles Times to release a 2003 videotape of Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama that may — there are sound reasons to believe — be very illuminating on Obama's basic attitudes and prejudices when it comes to Israel and its position in the Middle East. The LAT successfully stone-walled all requests for access to the tape before the 2008 election — I wrote about the issue here on November 8, 2008 — but I agree with Roger that this effort is worth reviving in light of The One's weird and hostile behavior toward Israel. 

I've left my own ideas starting at comment 77 and continuing intermittently through comment 82. But I encourage you to contribute your own ideas, and at a minimum, to read Roger's post so you'll be aware of this issue for future reference.

Posted by Beldar at 03:34 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Obama | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Monday, March 29, 2010

I wouldn't trust David Axelrod as far as I could throw him, but especially not on anything involving dinner

A Reuters report from yesterday printed in the WaPo quotes White House senior advisor David Axelrod as insisting that the Obama Administration was not snubbing Israel or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when Obama ducked out of their White House meeting to eat dinner — without offering Netanyahu so much as a package of saltine crackers:

"This was a working meeting among friends. And so there was no snub intended," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN's State of the Union news program.

Axelrod noted that the two leaders had met in private for two hours and had better things to do with their time than worry about protocol.

However, my own White House sources, which are extremely unreliable, assure me that the real explanation for why Bibi got bupkis is that Axelrod had already eaten the hamburger intended for the Prime Minister — an unfortunate incident which resulted in Axelrod offering to gladly pay Netanyahu back for the hamburger next Tuesday.

Axelrod   Wimpy

Seriously, this is unfortunately typical of the Obama White House's treatment of our allies. First Obama embraces America's enemies. Then he insults our best friends. And then he (or his proxies like Axelrod) insist that the insults somehow don't count because, well, ummm, because, ummm, who cares about protocol? Yeah, who cares about protocol when we're in the midst of a big, artificially contrived spat with Israel over the propriety of Israel announcing new construction in Jerusalem while Biden was visiting, which was, you know, an important matter of ... protocol?

Posted by Beldar at 11:46 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2010) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 28, 2010

History repeating itself as tragic farce

Bill Kristol's op-ed in today's WaPo is premised on the same historical comparison that I made in my February post entitled Iran, Obama, and the 1936 reoccupation of the Rhineland. His bottom line is that despite the rhetoric from SecState Clinton, the Obama Administration has already effectively resigned itself to an Iranian nuke. As legislators sometimes say for the record, "I respectfully associate myself with his remarks," or as they say in talk radio, "Ditto."

Posted by Beldar at 08:49 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Iran, Obama, and the 1936 reoccupation of the Rhineland

(Fair warning: There is no humor in this post, not even of the snarky sort. I'm not in the mood to sugar-coat my conclusions, or to balance them with hopeful observations.)

Mark Steyn's latest at NRO is characteristically witty, except for its very unfunny thesis paragraph, which is characteristically astute. Given the timetables, and the Obama Administration's commitment to ineffective measures, and its refusal to take the increasingly stiff actions that would be necessary to effect regime change and nonproliferation in Iran, Steyn offers this grim but inescapable conclusion:

It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s. It is far worse than Pakistan going nuclear, which, after all, was just another thing the CIA failed to see coming. In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody-else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order.

I'm genuinely not sure that Obama would know, if he read that paragraph, to which 1930s events Steyn was alluding. For someone with degrees from such distinguished institutions, his knowledge of recent history is surprisingly spotty. He might or might not turn to his staff for an explanation, and if so, someone probably would have mentioned the appeasement of Hitler at Munich in September 1938 or (less aptly) the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.

That's yet not where we are in the comparison, though. The history being replayed today is that of March 7, 1936 — when Hitler and the Nazis remilitarized the Rhineland. And I've seen no indication whatsoever that our President's knowledge of 20th Century history includes a knowledge of that particular turning point of history.

Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland — in outright defiance of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties — was when the West had its last, best clear chance to stop Hitler and the Nazis, with the likely toppling of Hitler's government as a consequence, at a trivial military expense. All that was necessary was that France and Great Britain (chiefly the former, as the relevant neighbor) just barely flex their vastly superior military muscles — which, given Nazi treaty violations, they had an indisputable legal right to do. Indeed, the Germans were instructed to reverse course and retreat at even a display of military purpose and intent to oppose them on the part of the French. Instead, because France and Britain acquiesced in the treaty violations, Hitler promptly accelerated the conversion of his illegally reconstituted military into the fierce machine that brought us the Blitzkreig and subsequent Nazi occupation or domination of Europe.

In 2003, America and the rest of the world believed that Saddam was about to get nukes. We talked about "WMDs" to include chemical and biological weapons, both of which Iraq had already acquired and used. But the invasion and regime-change of Iraq was perceived by those of narrow insight to be almost exclusively about the nukes. What shocked most Americans the most was that the nukes weren't there. What shocked much of the rest of the world, including nuclear wannabe countries like Iran and Libya, the most was that the still-respected Iraqi army — one that had fought the Iranians to a bloody standstill in their 1980-1988 war, and that had at least survived the Gulf War — proceeded to fold like a house of cards in a hurricane under the American-British assault. Libya was scared straight as a direct and near immediate result, but Iran has, of course, continued to play provocateur — doing its best to make things difficult for us and the Iraqis while fast-tracking their own nuclear acquisition efforts.

(Me, I was one of those hawk troglodytes who still held that Saddam's near daily attempts to shoot down our pilots in the No-Fly Zone was ample reason enough to drive American tanks into the middle of Baghdad if that's what it took to knock his regime out of power. And for the last several years of this decade, I've been one of those troglodyte hawks who has the exact same reaction to Iran furnishing men, materiel (including IEDs), and support for the killing of American troops in Iraq. We have long had more than sufficient justification for whatever steps are required to change the regime in Tehran.)

Barack Obama and Joe Biden, among many other reckless and irresponsible Democrats, did their dead-level best to sabotage our continuing efforts in Iraq from 2003 onward. (Indeed, Biden's efforts go back to his opposition to the Gulf War, long before Obama was on anyone's radar.) In their and their Party's revised Democratic-orthodoxy of world history, the Iraq invasion to stop nuclear proliferation was the result of a deliberate lie by Bush. With Obama and Biden and Hillary at the helm, and with gutless lickspittles like Reid and Pelosi running Congress, there is no longer any serious fear on the part of America's potential and actual enemies (Iran is definitely in the latter camp) that there will be any similar American military intervention to prevent nuclear proliferation anywhere.

And so here we are in 2010, in the predicament Steyn has pinpointed. Iran will get its bomb before the reins of leadership in America can possibly be passed back to someone who could summon up the nation's will to stop that process, and by then the costs of restoring Iran to a non-nuclear status will have grown unfathomably greater.

Although the costs will be unfathomably greater, that does not make me think they are less likely ultimately to have to be paid anyway. I think exactly the opposite is true: Something awful is going to happen, something so bad that it does, in an instant, shock the United States out of its narcolepsy in the same manner that 12/7/41 and 9/11/01 did. Recall, again, that in the Iraq-Iran War, Iran sent battalion after battalion of teen-aged volunteers, some without even rifles, in human-wave assaults on Iraqi minefields and fixed defenses. The mullahs didn't hesitate to slaughter many tens of thousands of their teenage children when they lacked even a fraction of a chance of military success. We cannot expect them to "grow" and "mature" when they have the responsibilities of a nuclear power. We cannot expect them to be rational at all because they have a demonstrated history of irrationality and they are in the grips of an ideology that can be twisted to justify even the most extreme apocalyptic acts.

Barack Obama's feckless vacuum of an Iranian foreign policy will almost certainly lead directly to nuclear slaughter, and quite probably a slaughter of Israelis, Europeans, and yes, Americans. The ghosts of not just Chamberlain, but of Quisling and Arnold, will surely rejoice, for after he has let the Iranians get their Bomb, the name "Obama" will forever eclipse theirs as appeasers and traitors to their duty.

("Bush-43 didn't fix this during his term," my progressive friends will retort, and "What exactly would you have Obama do?" Well, friends, Bush bestirred the country sufficiently to depose the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq, and to give each of those countries a democracy if they can keep it (with considerable investment of American blood and treasure toward those ends too). If American foreign policy were genuinely bipartisan and clear-eyed, instead of being methodically manipulated, month after month and year after year, for the most crass political purposes by Democrats, then we would not be nearly so war-weary, and we might instead be in the process of doing to Iran what JFK did to Cuba in October 1962: Enforcing a nuclear quarantine. Slow, strangling sanctions are a horrible idea; swift and aggressive ones, like blockading all gasoline imports and disabling Iran's own crucial but limited refinery capacity to suddenly paralyze their entire economy, will indeed hurt the Iranian people more than it hurts their corrupt and crazy leadership. But a sanction that is insufficient to prompt them to shake off their current government is, by definition, an inadequate sanction. (But cf. John Bolton's August 2009 WSJ op-ed; I'm proposing not merely the typical UN-debated import restrictions, but what would indeed be, and should be confidently and unrepentantly confirmed as, responding to Iran's repeated acts of war with our own acts that are indeed warfare.) There's no shortage, in fact, of things we can do, even though with each passing day there are fewer things that can be done at comparatively low risk. But there's no point in our arguing over the costs, risks, and rewards of potential measures. They're all moot, given the absence of a leader in the White House who will act instead of dither and self-justify.)

Posted by Beldar at 02:40 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, February 12, 2010

Obama's greatest achievement so far

I might have a hard time believing that Barack Obama saved America from defeat in Iraq (h/t InstaPundit), except that I have such vivid personal memories of him winning the first Gulf War, winning the Cold War and tearing down the Berlin Wall with his own strong hands, winning the first and second World Wars, winning the Spanish-American War, winning the American Civil War and freeing the slaves, winning the Revolutionary War, and writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There is nothing he cannot do.

(Or at least, nothing good for which that festering sore masquerading as a presidential press secretary, Robert Gibbs, won't try to claim credit on Obama's behalf.)

Posted by Beldar at 01:17 AM in Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, September 25, 2009

In the Obama Administration, closing "Guantanamo was everyone's part-time job"

If you need another reason to question the Obama Administration's basic ability to provide the single most important function of the federal government — keeping America safe from foreign enemies — read this WaPo story.

The Spin

True to form, the WaPo's writers and editors carefully withhold the screamingly obvious judgment that drips from the facts they report, and indeed, they try hard to spin things in a pro-Obama way. Thus, the article starts with a gentle bit of chin-rubbing:

With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress.

Mere "missteps" — does that kind of imply something mild, like an uneven sidewalks problem? Well, back in WW2, the good soldiers of the American military came up with an acronym for the kinds of "missteps" described in the WaPo article: "Let's recover from this situation," our soldiers would say very politely, "because at present, the situation is FUBAR'd." In this exact same sense, the Battle of the Bulge was a "misstep."

The facts reported by the WaPo go on to show that when the White House senior officials acknowledge that they're "behind schedule" on closing down Gitmo, that's actually a nice euphemism for "everything's totally screwed up and there is no actual 'schedule,' just a ridiculous, arbitrary deadline that's going to be missed and that may never be met at all, ever."

And as for the "struggle for cooperation" with Congress — wouldn't "struggle" imply something whose outcome was at least close? Readers have to dig down to paragraph 24 to be reminded that "in May, the Senate decided, by an overwhelming vote of 90 to 6, to block funding for shutting Guantanamo Bay — Obama's first major legislative setback as president."

The Fall Guy Goes Under the Great Bus of State

The WaPo gamely repeats — without comment or the Bronx cheers it actually deserves — White House counsel Gregory B. Craig's insistence that

some of his early assumptions were based on miscalculations, in part because Bush administration officials and senior Republicans in Congress had spoken publicly about closing the facility. "I thought there was, in fact, and I may have been wrong, a broad consensus about the importance to our national security objectives to close Guantanamo and how keeping Guantanamo open actually did damage to our national security objectives," he said.

Got that? Dubya is responsible both for creating all problems and for misleading the poor Obamites into thinking that they'd be easy to solve. But nothing — nothing — is ever the fault of The One and his minions, at least not to hear them tell it.

But despite the fact that this and all other evils are obviously all Dubya's fault, lest someone else — like, uh, everyone else in America who's not part of the First Family or the White House staff — become interested in assigning responsibility for events subsequent to January 20, 2009, the good angels of the Obama Administration have demonstrated, once again, that they do know very well how to throw one of their own under the wheels of the bus:

Craig oversaw the drafting of the executive order that set Jan. 22, 2010, as the date by which the prison must be closed.

"It seemed like a bold move at the time, to lay out a time frame that to us seemed sufficient to meet the goal," one senior official said. "In retrospect, it invited a fight with the Hill and left us constantly looking at the clock."

"The entire civil service counseled him not to set a deadline" to close Guantanamo, according to one senior government lawyer.

Thus Craig is clearly being set up — with or without his consent, and it's quite possible that he's been importuned to fall on his sword and is doing so willingly — as the fall guy. And where will he land?

Three administration officials said they expect Craig to leave his current post in the near future, and one said he is on the short list for a seat on the bench or a diplomatic position. Craig has long made clear his desire to be involved in foreign policy, but he declined to comment on his plans.

How likely is it that Roger Craig will be the next Ambassador to, say, China, the United Kingdom, or Bermuda? I'd say only slightly better than the odds that the Obama Administration will meet President Obama's own the outgoing White House counsel's own self-imposed deadline for closing Gitmo:

After the congressional setbacks, Craig orchestrated the release of four of the Uighurs, flying with them and a State Department official from Guantanamo Bay to Bermuda, a self-governing British territory whose international relations are administered by Britain.

The transfer produced a diplomatic rift. British and U.S. officials said the Obama administration gave Britain two hours' notice that the Uighurs were being sent to Bermuda. "They essentially snuck them in, and we were furious," said a senior British official.

The move also caused friction between Britain and China, which seeks the Uighurs for waging an insurgency against the Chinese government.

Still Holding Your Breath for Gitmo to Be Closed?

And so how close, then, did the Obama Administration come to meeting its goal before Mr. Craig became tire fodder for the Great Bus of State?

In coming weeks, officials say, they expect to complete the initial review of all the files of those held at Guantanamo Bay.

(Italics mine.)

The scariest part of all this is that these are facts revealed by the Washington Post. If the pro-Obama WaPo can't put any better face on what's going on inside the Obama Administration's prosecution of the Global War on Terror (whatever they've renamed it to this week), how much chaos must there really be behind the scenes?

My absolute favorite quote could be expanded beyond the Guantanamo Bay closure difficulties to describe the entire Obama Presidency to date:

"Guantanamo was everyone's part-time job," said a senior official, one of several interviewed for this article who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

It's going to be a long time until January 2013. Will the millions of American voters who should have known better, but who were taken in by Obama's sham, have stopped thinking 'Wow!' by at least November 2012?

Posted by Beldar at 01:22 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack