Monday, December 31, 2007


Death Defying

Not to be outdone in gratuitous self-aggrandizement by some of her predecessors seeking the Presidency, over the weekend Senator Hillary Clinton reflected on her harrowing experience as First Lady visiting Bosnia in the 1990’s.

As reported at Newsday, Clinton stated that “I don't remember anyone offering me tea” during a “hair raising flight” in jocular, likely rebuttal to Senator Obama’s suggestion that Clinton’s 8 years as First Lady were more a “glorified tea party” than evidence of a co-Presidency.

Glenn Thrush reports that Clinton made some further remarks about her “hair raising” experience, and provides some helpful historical background:

The dictum around the Oval Office in the '90s, she added, was: "If a place was too dangerous, too poor or too small, send the first lady."
It turns out that Clinton wasn't quite flying solo into harm's way that day.
She was, in fact, leading a goodwill entourage that included baggy-pants funnyman Sinbad, singer Sheryl Crow and Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, then 15, according to an account of the March 1995 trip in her autobiography "Living History."
As the plane approached the runway, the pilot ordered the Clintons into the armored front of the plane, Clinton writes.

It’s hard to decide exactly what Clinton thinks about when she shares this kind of anecdote about herself. Clearly, she’d looking to boost her foreign policy and leadership bona fides, with a little faux machismo to boot. She’s risked her life before for the American people and our interests, after all.

Just to loan Clinton a clue. You risked your life in many more substantive ways, by endlessly lamenting vast right wing conspiracies, allowing yourself to be the face of sanctimonious hectoring on all manner of perceived social ills, and even abetting your husband’s infidelities, than making a junket to Bosnia (with Child in tow).

I can think of all kinds of troubled individuals and social miscreants who could grow murderous over those very real ways that Clinton has placed herself at risk.

But is she serious here? Does she really consider a publicly reported junket trip to Bosnia with her daughter and some entertainers as worthy of note? Representative of placing herself in harm’s way? Couldn’t she be trying to blend bluster and self-deprecation, you know what her advisors must want to achieve, tough but a likeable person too?

But this doesn’t even work as self-deprecating anecdote. It just causes other unpleasantnesses about the Clintons to reverberate.

Can any of us imagine anyone in the White House actually suggesting, that if a place was too dangerous, send the First Lady? Actually, I can, and I can even imagine that several people, even those not named Bill, might have thought it, if not said it outright behind closed doors.

Too poor or too small, on the other hand, sounds about right, for the traditional venues for First Lady state visits, if not quite in keeping with the image of a Co-President that Clinton is now trying to cultivate.

But perhaps this too, bears an element of truth, among those many Executive Branch staffers and advisors who no doubt could breathe easier when the ambitious Co-President was out of the country, and considered it irony indeed if the venue was poor and small.
(Via Memeorandum)


Friday, December 28, 2007


War and Ambivalence

Lawrence Kaplan offers some first person perspective on the US military’s sense of ownership of the war Iraq, in an essay published at Slate.

Kaplan “served” in Iraq as a (presumably fact-based) war correspondent for The New Republic (TNR) from 2004-2006, according to the biographical blurb on the bottom of the Slate piece. What a refreshing change from previous attempts by anyone associated with TNR to capture the essence of the Iraq War experience.

I make mention of Kaplan’s prior association, only to acknowledge his former employment, and mark the extreme contrast between other recent TNR efforts, and what Kaplan report here.

Kaplan relates his encounters with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT): first in 2004, then again in 2005, 2006, and now in 2007. The soldiers Kaplan’s come to know live and breathe Iraq, whether in country or home.

To provide vivid example, Kaplan captures the experience of a 2nd BCT non-commissioned officer (NCO):

Sgt. Donald Thompson, a lanky 28-year-old from Florida, has served in Iraq every year since 2003. Nor, in this all-volunteer and largely self-contained force, does this make him all that unusual. During a foot patrol of a nearby orchard, Thompson stepped on a pressure-plate mine, and his left leg was nearly sheared off. After five months of recuperation in a burn ward, he volunteered to return to Iraq. There was, he suggested, a sort of gravitational pull at work. "I've been here when people were cheering us, when they're blowing us up," Thompson said. "I live this place."

My Iraqi experience as a Military Intelligence Battalion First Sergeant in no way compares to the experiences of SGT Thompson, or probably anyone of the 2nd BCT. They were and are combat soldiers, most on second, third, or even fourth deployments. I had one as a mobilized National Guardsman, largely forward operating base (FOB) bound, but I relate to living Iraq, even in small ways, even today.

And I can strongly identify with something else Kaplan notes about how many of us who’ve served our country in Iraq feel about our efforts in Iraq:

Neatly summarizing a narrative that has emerged from the ranks, the Washington Post's Thomas Ricks noted, "We in the military did what we were asked to do, but the politicians betrayed us, the media undercut us and the American people lack the patience to see it through."

Kaplan relates the assessment of another 2nd BCT NCO, and contrasts what he suggests might be “an exhausted army,” and one that still has victory on our minds:

Sitting on a bunk in Bravo Company's outpost, Staff Sgt. Corey Hollister noted the irony that, even as the debate in America remained bizarrely unaffected by the reality around him, "It's really military personnel and their families who don't want [the Army] to leave Iraq."

How could this be? An exhausted army is one thing. A defeated army is something else altogether. Anything but defeated, the 10th Mountain Division's Second Brigade Combat Team was officially welcomed home in a ceremony at Fort Drum, N.Y., the day before Thanksgiving. Bravo Company, too, was there. Whether they were truly home—that wasn't so clear.

I’m thinking Kaplan is using that “whether they were truly home” as an attempt at ambivalence.

All of us who have served in Iraq carry the burdens of that effort, internally or externally. Some paid the ultimate price. Many, and their families, made extreme sacrifices, or carry wounds both visible and invisible, acknowledged or ignored. Many of us too, feel an obligation to carry the message of the importance of victory, of keeping faith with our mission until relieved or the mission is well and fully accomplished.

All of us carry a piece of Iraq with us, whether for or against the war before, during, or after our service in Iraq. Regardless of any personal dimension or impression, I believe there’s a few things we can agree on in the aggregate.

Our military is far from defeated in Iraq. The surge has been a resounding success on every military level, and many political levels as well, domestically in the US and in the fledging Iraqi democracy. Units need to regroup, retool, especially Guard and Reserve forces, and there are strong indications that we need a larger military, better designed for the current operational tempo, and with the flexibility to maintain security, fight terrorism, and respond to new and emerging threats.

I remember working with an editor who thought one of my pieces -- eventually unpublished, despite our efforts – as “ambivalent.” As it turned out, the concluding line in that piece was:

Home can’t ever feel like Iraq, thank God, but home doesn’t feel like home anymore, either.

No doubt that editor would have appreciated the ambivalence in Kaplan’s conclusion.

I worked recently with a different editor, who began our collaboration to get a piece of mine suitable for publishing with the admonition, “I hate ambivalence.”

I think that might have had something to do with that piece eventually appearing in print. As much as we might appreciate ambivalence in any artistic effort, ambivalence in matters involving national security might not make for very good decision-making.

Because no matter what else Iraq was for myself or other veterans, I still think it an effort in which we need to succeed.

(Via Michael Goldfarb at WorldWide Standard)

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Friday, December 21, 2007


High Dudgeon Hypocrisy

Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review, dismisses Congressional and Media maneuvers to generate a scandal ala Watergate as farce rich in high-dudgeon hypocrisy.” McCarthy further laments our failed experiments in “judicializing warfare.”

As McCarthy rightly observes and Democrats blindingly ignore, Congressional votes authorizing the use of military force in September 2001 were 420-1 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. By 2002, America’s ardor for military response had not abated:

The atmosphere of 2002 was one of forcible action. The American people demanded it. Our representatives in Congress were insistent that we would get it. Their own jobs hung in the balance. It was in that atmosphere that this military response, this war, began to result, as all wars do, in the capture of enemy operatives.

McCarthy notes recent accounts, which confirm reveal that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among other Democrats in 2002 worried that Bush Administration officials were not being tough enough on captured terrorists, in stark contrast to their revisionist views now.

McCarthy also places the activities of the CIA between 2001 and 2003 in an accurate context, something completely absent from mainstream media (MSM) reporting:

The program pushed to the margins of the law. Regardless of what the revisionist Left is now saying, the only bright-line limit on the treatment of alien enemy combatants held outside the United States in 2002 was the federal law against torture. The United States did not outlaw cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment when it ratified the international anti-torture treaty in 1994 — it was not until 2005 that such treatment overseas was outlawed, and even then only ambiguously, no matter what Senators John McCain, Patrick Leahy, and others now claim. Congress could easily (and accountably) have made simulated drowning — waterboarding — unlawful. But it didn’t. It wouldn’t have dared done so in 2002; it didn’t do so in 2005 or 2006 despite specifically addressing war crimes; and it hasn’t done so to this day.

McCarthy notes the one argument I’ve seen expressed in the so called torture debate that is the least credible: that of the present or future treatment of Americans and American Military based on recent US actions in fighting terrorists and terror groups.

I have utmost respect for John McCain, and I can’t bring myself to find him dishonest. I have to otherwise conclude he reacts to the torture and terror treatment on a purely visceral basis rather than from a position of logic. I won’t yield the same courtesy to other partisans who take similar positions and McCarthy articulates the refutation of such arguments better than I:

We weren’t violating any treaty obligations, and we weren’t laying the groundwork for any other nation that actually cares about its obligations to violate theirs. Al-Qaeda is not going to reciprocate humane treatment; you haven’t heard of any jihadist Gitmo because this enemy tortures and kills its captives — believe it or not, they don’t even let the International Red Cross come visit. But if we were fighting a nation-state entitled to Geneva Convention prisoner-of-war provisions, we would honor those provisions, demand nothing beyond name, rank and serial number, and expect our foes to honor them as well. The Left’s charge that we are international outlaws is as vapid as it is slanderous.

That’s the crux of my outrage with that portion of the debate that centers around how we’re perceived, how we will be treated in future, and so forth.

The so called ticking time bomb scenario will never apply with US military or citizens in the hands of “a nation-state entitled to Geneva Convention prisoner-of-war provisions,” because we don’t use terror and terrorists as proxy for our foreign policy, and never will.

Some critics, like McCain, may have serious objections to any perceived, potential use of anything that might be construed as torture, but such as they know the US will never be guilty of the inhumanity of our enemies. They know there will never be any real equivalency between the actions of our Government or military, and those barbarians among our enemies.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Christian Intolerance

I’m not sure who Harold Meyerson more offends in his Washington Post hate-screed
against a “Christianized GOP,” Republicans or Christians. He clearly slanders both.

It is no surprise or new development that liberals and others devoted to the Secular faith take every opportunity to demean, degrade and demonize religious faith among their inferiors. Those who hold a pretense of Intellectualism likewise hold as a logical truism that the very tenets of faith automatically make those who adhere to such tenets intellectually and morally inferior. It’s a high minded prejudice, but prejudice just the same.

Meyerson begins his diatribe by tracing a pair of disparate and entirely unrelated public political utterances and calling it a Himalaya-like ascendancy of “Christianization”:
There's nothing new, of course, about the Christianization of the GOP. Seven years ago, when debating Al Gore, then-candidate George W. Bush was asked to identify his favorite philosopher and answered "Jesus." This year, however, the Christianization of the party reached new heights with Mitt Romney's declaration that he believed in Jesus as his savior, in an effort to stanch the flow of "values voters" to Mike Huckabee.
How foolish is this. Was the GOP in any way, shape, form, or manner influenced by then candidate Bush’s invocation of Jesus? I remember well the chorus of catcalls and insults from pundits, politicos and other partisans, most along the lines of, “he’s so stupid he can’t think of any,” or “he’s never read philosophy,” so he had to jump at Jesus as a lame alternative.

Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Christians in name only, those of other faiths, and even agnostics and atheists do in fact often regard Jesus as a philosopher whatever else they think He is or was. But when Bush made that statement, you’d think he’d suggested his favorite philosopher was Popeye.

Note to the religiously ignorant: born again Christians would by definition consider Jesus the most important philosopher to whom to attend. George Bush was perhaps one of the few politicians reckless (or confident enough) to say so.

As to today’s candidate Mitt Romney, one attendant result of his declaration might be a lessening of support for Huckabee and greater support for Romney, but as one of the evangelicals to whom Romney’s speech was specifically targeted, I can tell you that first and foremost the speech was intended to assuage evangelical and other “religious right” voters that a Mormon can be trusted with the Presidency. Romney made the speech for the same reason Kennedy made his. He needed to reassure voters skeptical of the independent-mindedness of a Mormon President, and perhaps as well to confront what some might describe as prejudicial notions of what Mormons claim to believe. (Note that in Kennedy’s case, making the same argument in relation to his Catholicism, that Nixon was hardly some “Christianist” alternative as a Quaker.

Meyerson then confuses Biblical instruction for the individual believer with some kind of Christianity for Government:
But if Bush can conform his advocacy of preemptive war with Jesus's Sermon on the Mount admonition to turn the other cheek, he's a more creative theologian than we have given him credit for.
Ah, that pre-emptive war. A third of Meyerson’s basis for calling the “Christianized” GOP hypocritical. Wasn’t our declaration of war against Germany preemptive? They hadn’t attacked us. Not to dredge up all the arguments along the “road to war,” but there will never be a war that somebody on the Left can call preemptive if they decide there’s no “reason” for it. That’s the point, isn’t it? We should evolve “beyond war.” Just forget about all that Just War nonsense, or any thoughts that WMD make waiting for the “-emptive” alternative to preemption rather costly in human lives and catastrophy.

This stands as one of the more juvenile and uninformed premises for a school of leftist and anti-war dogma dressed up as Theology. Interestingly, you will find few actual believing Christians making this argument. That’s because people who actually study the Bible and believe what it says about God and our duty to God, man, and civil authorities knows there’s a difference between the different audiences. God speaks to individual man, He can influence leaders and Governments and the fate of Nations, but the Bible is for individual people. Turning the other cheek is what a person who is wrongfully treated is to do. It’s not Jesus’s Leadership for Dummies.

Not that Meyerson really would want to know, but Paul in Romans 13 (New International Version) explains:
Submission to the Authorities

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, via Bible Gateway)
No turning of the cheek there. And talk about the need for separation of Church and State, does Meyerson seriously want us to believe that he desires a President to make decisions based on Bible teaching?

I would never argue that non-Christians, or non-practicing Christians, ought not read the Bible, but I do think that they might refrain from quoting authoritatively from the Good Book if they don’t and haven’t studied it. You know, in context, as it applies to life and the world around them.

Meyerson’s second indictment of the GOP relates to Meyerson’s preferred (but hardly universal) definition of torture:
Likewise his support of torture, which he highlighted again this month when he threatened to veto House-passed legislation that would explicitly ban waterboarding.

It's not just Bush whose catechism is a merry mix of torture and piety. Virtually the entire Republican House delegation opposed the ban on waterboarding.
One issue is whether water boarding actually constitutes torture, the other whether such interrogation methods are ever justified. I intend no argument here, as I myself am uncertain on both counts. But I will suggest that taking a position contrary to Meyerson’s on either don’t leave me in jeopardy of eternal damnation. Jesus levels no such indictment in the Bible over the rulers extant in his day, who were surely guilty of gross orders of magnitude worse.

The leader of the free world, quaint notion as it may be now to some, must confront both state and non-state actors who see nothing wrong with beheading journalists and filming it for worldwide consumption, using handicapped children as bomb-carriers, and blowing thousands and someday millions of innocents to dust to advance their aims. They torture their own citizens in ways far more horrible as any even contemplated by military interrogators consider in the face of imminent “ticking time bomb scenarios,” to use the all too realistic expression.

Again, not that Meyerson really cares about whether what he considers torture is biblically supported. He’s like that host of Cheaters, who follows the aggrieved victim of the Cheater around constantly highlighting how terrible the victim has been treated, how awful it is, meanwhile using his faux sympathy to create as much shock television sensation as he can create.

Meyerson reserves his crassest slander for the third part of his indictment, suggesting GOP positions against illegal immigration, for tighter enforcement, or limiting public expenditures as equivalent to slavery or Ku Klux Klan violence.

First, there’s Meyerson’s inexplicable comparison of illegal immigrants in America to the Hebrews in bondage under Pharoah. Right, except for the fact that these immigrants are here by choice, not by force under slavery. Meyerson compares a biblical injunction not to “vex a stranger nor oppress him,” conveniently ignoring companion instructions to force those same strangers to conform to Jewish laws, customs and regulations or be shunned, rejected, ejected, or worse.

Meyerson saves his most venal insults for those who would object to open borders, non-existent immigration law enforcement, amnesty, or unlimited benefits for illegal immigrants. All of course, because to object in any of these ways is to betray racism and bigotry:
The demand for a more regulated immigration policy comes from virtually all points on our political spectrum, but the push to persecute the immigrants already among us comes distinctly, though by no means entirely, from the same Republican right that protests its Christian faith at every turn.

We've seen this kind of Christianity before in America. It's more tribal than religious, and it surges at those times when our country is growing more diverse and economic opportunity is not abounding. At its height in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was chiefly the political expression of nativist Protestants upset by the growing ranks of Catholics in their midst.

It's difficult today to imagine KKKers thinking of their mission as Christian, but millions of them did.

Today's Republican values voters don't really conflate their rage with their faith. Lou Dobbs is a purely secular figure. But nativist bigotry is strongest in the Old Time Religion precincts of the Republican Party, and woe betide the Republican candidate who doesn't embrace it, as John McCain, to his credit and his political misfortune, can attest.
Meyerson is as bigoted as any KKK klansman, and he betrays his hostility towards both Republicans and Christians in refusing to acknowledge any basis for other principled objection to the status quo or efforts to eliminate what few constraints weigh lightly on the flood of illegal immigrants.

One of the darkest ironies exhibited by critics of religious expression or thought of any kind, is that they claim religion immoral because religiosity breeds intolerance. Surely it can and does, quite often among its fiercest foes.

(Via Memeorandum)

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Producers and Consumers

Last week, foreign policy luminary Henry Kissinger issued a cautionary rebuttal to the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, writing at the Washington Post.

Kissinger, who’s first hand experience with both Intelligence and US foreign policy could be accounted as unrivaled, warns against Intelligence producers increasingly “tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates,” and serving as “a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch.”

Since publication, Kissinger created something of a stir among Intelligence professionals and educators, who object to some of Kissinger’s conclusions. Several suggest that as a key architect of Nixonian foreign policy, Kissinger would of course object to public disclosure of Intelligence as a means of confronting or confounding an “ill-advised” foreign policy.

Perhaps, but I think he hits on a maxim vital for both the Intelligence Community, and policy-makers, that should be embraced by partisans and non-partisans alike: Intelligence should not be politicized, and Intelligence producers should not make or drive policy.

That’s Kissinger’s take-away on the externals of the release of the NIE on Iran, but he also takes issue with how the NIE assesses the Iranian nuclear threat:

The "Key Judgments" released by the intelligence community last week begin with a dramatic assertion: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." This sentence was widely interpreted as a challenge to the Bush administration policy of mobilizing international pressure against alleged Iranian nuclear programs. It was, in fact, qualified by a footnote whose complex phraseology obfuscated that the suspension really applied to only one aspect of the Iranian nuclear weapons program (and not even the most significant one): the construction of warheads. That qualification was not restated in the rest of the document, which continued to refer to the "halt of the weapons program" repeatedly and without qualification.

The reality is that the concern about Iranian nuclear weapons has had three components: the production of fissile material, the development of missiles and the building of warheads. Heretofore, production of fissile material has been treated as by far the greatest danger, and the pace of Iranian production of fissile material has accelerated since 2006. So has the development of missiles of increasing range. What appears to have been suspended is the engineering aimed at the production of warheads.

Kissinger goes on to conclude:

It is therefore doubtful that the evidence supports the dramatic language of the summary and, even less so, the broad conclusions drawn in much of the public commentary.

Whatever this NIE is, then it most surely is not a fact based, analytically sound and data supported intelligence conclusion. If what its trying to establish is how close Iran is to acquiring nuclear weapons capability, the NIE skirts the essence of the question, according to Kissinger.

Kissinger sums up his warning on intelligence as policy maker with this admonition:

I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch. When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates. Thus the deputy director for intelligence estimates explained the release of the NIE as follows: Publication was chosen because the estimate conflicted with public statements by top U.S. officials about Iran, and "we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available." That may explain releasing the facts but not the sources and methods that have been flooding the media. The paradoxical result of the trend toward public advocacy is to draw intelligence personnel more deeply than ever into the public maelstrom.

The executive branch and the intelligence community have gone through a rough period. The White House has been accused of politicizing intelligence; the intelligence community has been charged with promoting institutional policy biases. The Key Judgments document accelerates that controversy, dismaying friends and confusing adversaries.

Intelligence personnel need to return to their traditional anonymity. Policymakers and Congress should once again assume responsibility for their judgments without involving intelligence in their public justifications.

(Via Memeorandum)

Scott Johnson, writing at Powerline, notes how tactfully Kissinger describes “the subversive role taken by the intelligence agencies,” and how significant it is that someone like Kissinger in effect places such an indictment, however diplomatically.

Johnson also observes:

Once upon a time, liberals worried about the takeover of the executive branch by intelligence or military operatives. Think back to 1962's Seven Days In May. The novel and the movie that was made of it pioneered what has become a genre unto itself. "Three Days of the Condor," for example, extended the concerns of "Seven Days In May" to the CIA. Of course, the operatives in these novels and films were always depicted as right-wing or "fascist."

But the permanent bureaucracy that mans the intelligence community and the State Department is a virtual preserve of the left. The visible role undertaken by the CIA in undermining administration foreign policy should be a concern to Americans of all stripes. Yet the progressive love of power has undermined the left's concern about democratic niceties.

That’s my take exactly.

Partisans on both sides, seeking short term political gain, treat each disclosure, leak of classified information, each policy parry from Intelligence producers as good and justified when it gores the other guy’s ox, and treason when it gores ones own.

That’s not just short-sighted; it’s disastrous for our democracy. I don’t want my Intelligence producers to take over the jobs of the Intelligence consumers. For one, we’re not qualified. We were not elected, appointed or charged to make policy.

But more importantly, by doing so we enable those who have the responsibility and public trust in making policy to neglect their trust and fail their responsibilities.

Not that this doesn’t happen all the time, in all manner of ways and means.

But I don’t think our nation’s Intelligence analysts should enable the neglect and malpractice of policy-makers, by doing their jobs for them.

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Monday, December 10, 2007


Getting Beyond Stalemate

The Washington Post this weekend published a notable op-ed, Getting Beyond Stalemate to Win a War,” jointly authored by retired Major General (MG) John Batiste and Vets for Freedom Executive Director Pete Hegseth.

Hegseth, who’s been tireless in his efforts this year in leading the media fight for victory and against surrender in the war in Iraq, presented quite a contrast with Batiste. Batiste the former 1st Infantry Division Commander, publicly trumpeted starkly negative assessments of our efforts in Iraq this past year. At the time, immediately pre-election, the timing and vehemence of his opposition, his emphasis on subjective opinion versus military facts on the ground, all struck me as nakedly partisan and opportunist.

All the more remarkable that Hegseth and Batiste contributed jointly to this opinion piece. Hegseth notified Vets for Freedom supporters (I’m on their National Leadership Team) that, notwithstanding any prior political differences, Batiste is a “true patriot.” Here’s how Hegseth explains their work together for the WaPo op-ed:

The op-ed outlines the need for America to succeed in Iraq, as well as in the Long War against radical Islam.
As you may know, in 2006 Maj. Gen. Batiste was an outspoken critic of failed strategies in Iraq. However, to his great credit, he now believes we must stop "prosecuting the past," recognize the success of the new strategy, and focus on victory. I could not agree more!
My sincere hope is that this op-ed will help serve as a sort of "political reconciliation" in our own country. It is time to put aside petty partisan differences, and rally behind the need for success in Iraq and in the Long War.
It was an honor to write the piece with Maj. Gen. Batiste—he is a fine officer and a true patriot.

If Hegseth can make this statement about Batiste, at the least I can reconsider any earlier judgment I made about him. In any case, Hegseth and Batiste make a strong argument for reconciliation of oppositional national security views, and victory in Iraq:

Our military men and women deserve better than partisan politics; they deserve honest assessments of our nation's performance in fighting the Long War.
We are veterans of the Iraq war with vastly different experiences. Both of us commanded troops in Iraq. We, too, held seemingly entrenched, and incompatible, views upon our return. One of us spoke out against mismanagement of the war -- failed leadership, lack of strategy and misdirection. The other championed the cause of successfully completing our mission.
Our perspectives were different, yet not as stark as the "outspoken general" and "stay-the-course supporter" labels we received. Such labels are oversimplified and inaccurate, and we are united behind a greater purpose.
It's time to discuss the way forward rather than prosecute the past. Congress must do the same, for our nation and the troops.

As I’ve stated many times, who knows how much easier this fight might have been, if serious and security minded Democrats had held sway, and kept the anti-war rhetoric well-tempered by a “politics stop at the water’s edge” philosophy. (How about this for a post-9/11 version of same, “politics stop at ground zero’s debris field.”)

Hegseth and Batiste energetically embrace the concept of the Long War that we fight against radical Islamic extremism, and call for concerted, unified American effort against or terrorist enemies in five key areas, as excerpted:

·        The United States must be successful in the fight against worldwide Islamic extremism.

·        Iraq cannot become a staging ground for Islamic extremism or be dominated by other powers in the region, such as Iran and Syria.

·        The counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq.

·        No matter what, Iran must not be permitted to become a nuclear power.

·        Our military capabilities need to match our national strategy.

Hegseth and Batiste assert that Veterans are resolved in their defense of this nation, and make one additional plea:

America's veterans -- young and old -- are resolved to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. This commitment, and nothing less, should compel us to stand together, in and out of uniform. Would that Congress finds the courage to bury its pride and do the same.

This should have been the stand taken in 2003, and long overdue in 2007, but perhaps it marks an important (and essential) turning point in political rhetoric.

I view it as inevitable that all those who formerly spoke of defeat, withdrawal, quagmire, blunders, will need to reposition for 2008. The writing’s on the wall. Those who cling to the defeat narrative will be punished severely; if not by an electorate, then by those who position with an electorate in mind.

Here’s a tactical question. How much cover do you extend to people who still have political interests in opposition to your own? Does it make them look foolish, or embarrassed that they were wrong? Is that enough to weaken them?

One issue is who holds the White House in 2009. Another is, no matter who wins, how will the military be treated? Are they going to listen to us, next time things get tough? How will we be used? Will we keep fighting the Long War, with leaders who will make tough decisions?

I'd vote whole-heartedly for reconciliation, if I had any confidence that those on the other side were genuine in their "new awareness" and serious about the real, abiding threats we face.

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Things to Ignore

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit notes several former anti-nuclear protesters now advocating for nuclear energy, and poses this thought experiment:

Just think how much better-off the planet would be if people had been smart enough to ignore the no-nukes crowd 30 years ago.

A tragic shame, that. I remember in the 1970’s, the parents of a close friend were both scientists who likened all the trendy anti-nuclear energy hysteria of the day with anti-progress superstition, driven by pure ignorance.

It make me think: how much better-off we all will be in thirty years, if today we ignore the Goracle and the rest of the global warming Chicken Littles?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007


Romney and Religion

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline posts the full, prepared text of Mitt Romney’s speech on his religious faith.

Local talk radio host Scott Allen Miller (“Scotto”) of WROW this morning was defending Romney. In the process, he criticized what he saw as prominent Fundamentalist Christians within the Republican base, making an issue of Romney’s religious faith, thus necessitating this speech as Romney’s response.

I think he overstates both the degree on influence that evangelicals have within the base, and the political extremes to which most will go in combating the common cultural obsession with the poorly defined (and less understood) tenet of the “separation of church and state.”

Speaking as an evangelical, born again Christian who most often finds political affinity within the Republican Party, its platform and political agenda, in no way do I agree with, support, or advocate for ramming any set of religious beliefs down anybody’s throats. I just want Government at all levels, and private citizens, businesses, civic and other non-profit organizations, to stop violating the Bill of Rights in denying citizens their rights to free religious expression.

The separation first fully articulated by Thomas Jefferson, had to do with the unfortunate British and similar Colonial practice of establishing an official state religion, and in effect denying other forms of religious expression by the power and influence of the State.

That concept, now enshrined in judicial precedents, does not mean that religious expression can never take place in public, in or out of state facilities. Unfortunately, large swaths of the public, many in left-leaning judiciaries, and Scotto, have internally translated the whole idea of “church state” into some kind of taboo about ever seeing artifacts of either in any kind of close proximity.

All of that as long winded introduction, to some longish excerpts of Romney’s speech that stood out:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust. We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty? They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.

We believe that every single human being is a child of God – we are all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are 'thrown into the world all equal and alike.'

The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.

Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars – no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom.


I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.

Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom... killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.

The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed. In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.

Paul Mirengoff comments:

There are three main points here. First, Romney will not allow authorities of his church, or of any other church, to exert influence on presidential decisions. Second, a president should not be expected to describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. Third, religion is a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the issues of the day, and our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

There is, obviously, a tension between the second and third points. If religion is to be seriously considered in the context of the issues of the day, then it's conceivable that distinctive church doctrines are relevant.

Most of those whose votes Romney seeks will accept the line he seeks to draw between religious faith generally (relevant) and specific church doctrine (irrelevant). Our Founders certainly did, as Romney points out. However, Romney is giving the speech because there are more than a few such voters who are not inclined to accept that line.

The speech, which is eloquent and even moving in places, should help Romney with a some of these voters, but probably not many.

It’s one of the finest contemporary speeches I’ve read. Romney’s expression here exactly matches my understanding and beliefs about Government and Religion, and greatly enhances my comfort level with Romney, should be win the GOP nomination.

In other words, it helped with me.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links to reactions from Ed Morrissey, Mona Charen, and Ed Cone.)

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Must Read on Iran

The Long War Journal presents an absolutely must-read on current covert Iranian military operations against Iraq, whose operations Roggio calls the Ramazan Corps. Yes, such things exist, according to the US military, as reported by Roggio:

Multinational Forces Iraq learned that Iran set up the Ramazan Corps as a sophisticated command structure to coordinate military, intelligence, terrorist, diplomatic, religious, ideological, propaganda, and economic operations.

You’ve got to go there now and check out the Flash presentation, as well as read Roggio’s full report. Call it an Iran Battle Update Brief (BUB) for Dummies (like me).

Eye opening. Seriously resets the context of recent reporting about the highly politicized and controversial NIE on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

War by any and all means at their disposal, seems to me.

(Via Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive)

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