Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

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The sad state of the union

Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.

In working with matters overseas, the President must lead.  The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.

A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure.  That leadership thing again … he isn’t one.  And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar.  He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.

Epstein goes on:

Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” 

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate.  It’s all about stalling and buying time.  Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact.  Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet?  It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress.  As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).

Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.

That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence.  Bottom line?

The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.

Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”.  Naturally, he’s full of them.

Domestically:

The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.

But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power.  They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate.  Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it.  And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.

Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims.  Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success.  For instance:

He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies?  You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:

Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.

Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.

But we told you all that before he ever ran.

~McQ

Clint Eastwood nailed it when he portrayed Obama as an empty chair

I’ve said for 6+ years that the man in the White House was not a leader.  He’s never been a leader.  And this weekend he again demonstrated to the world that leadership is not something of which he has even an inkling of understanding.  This weekend, at a gathering of 3 million in the French capital, 40 leaders of various countries stood with those people and symbolically said “no” to terrorism, intimidation and murder and “yes” to free speech.  They demonstrated leadership.   They demonstrated political courage.  They did what leaders do.

And where was our President?  Or Vice President?  At home with nothing on their schedules … that’s where.  Showing up in Europe and doing what leadership demands was apparently something they couldn’t figure out.

Leadership takes, no, requires courage.  This weekend we saw a display of diplomatic and political cowardice (and I don’t buy the “threat was too great” – apparently it was acceptable to the Israeli PM).

Oh, we’ll see them scramble now to try to turn this around and to their advantage, but it is clear to those of us who’ve actually been leaders that we lack one in the White House.  It’s a pitiful but representative example of why this man should never have been elected to the Illinois Senate much less to the presidency of the United States.

He voted “present” as a state senator and this weekend he voted “present” as the President of the United States.

Shameful.

~McQ

Meanwhile in Africa

Ebola continues to ravage the western part of the continent:

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

If that’s the case, then containment would seem all but impossible.

However, if it is able to be contained and everything goes to plan, there is a “best case” scenario:

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, best case scenarios rarely if ever come to pass.  They assume too much goes well with “the plan”, communication, cooperation, behavior and many other human activities, and rule out people acting on misinformation and self-interest contrary to the “best case” scenario’s plan.  That’s not to say epidemic can’t eventually be contained … or burn itself out.  It’s to say betting on the “best case” scenario puts you at odds with human nature.

There’s another reason not to expect the “best case” scenario.  The agencies who are spouting all the stats really don’t know the actual extent of the outbreak:

The World Health Organization acknowledged weeks ago that despite its efforts to tally the thousands of cases in the region, the official statistics probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

And:

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

The point?  We’re going to hear a lot of happy talk about how the world’s effort is going to contain this outbreak and, at least for a while, they’re going to point toward the best case scenario as their goal.  And it is a worthy goal.  But you have to remember that as with many government or quasi-government bureaucracies, their worth is measured in how successful they are – or report they are.  It’s how they receive funds.  So the propensity is to “happy talk” and favorable stats.  And, as we’ve all learned with “climate change”, models can be monkeyed with.

As an example of why the best case scenario is unlikely, the plan for containment relies on “effective methods” to contain it – such as treatment centers  where patients go and allow the problem to be isolated.  But in reality, there aren’t enough beds to do that:

At least one aid group working in Liberia is already shifting its focus to teaching people about home care and providing materials to help. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I believe inevitably this is going to move into people’s houses, and the notion of home-based care has to play a more prominent role.” He said there could be 100,000 or more cases by the end of 2014.

“Where are they going to go?” Mr. Isaacs asked. “It’s too late. Nobody’s going to build 100,000 beds.”

He’s right. And so isolation, a key portion of “the plan”, is put in severe jeopardy.

Key take away?  Beware of all the happy talk.  This isn’t a time for propaganda and misleading stats.  But we are dealing with bureaucracies, spokespersons and the like.  This is a time for honest, above-board information so the public can stay informed about something that could threaten their lives.

Let’s see what we actually get.

~McQ

The march of the mimes

Walter Russell Meade does a great job of summing up the impact of yesterday’s “March of the Usual Lefty Organizations” in the name of taxing us into poverty with a carbon tax:

Street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.

And he’s precisely right.  Besides being the usual collection of leftist professional protesters sprinkled with clueless pols and celebrities, nothing of note is going to change at the UN Climate Summit.  Nothing.  The outcome of that is, as they say, “already written in the books”.

The world’s largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won’t be gracing the U.N. with his presence. India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (No. 3) will be in New York but is skipping the climate parley. Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 4) has other priorities, while Japan (No. 5) is uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster that has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is dispatching its petroleum minister.

China, however, has found a wonderful new way to forever avoid any responsibility for reducing its output.  It has become the “champion” for the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world and is helping put forward their demands:

China led calls by emerging economies on Friday for the rich to raise financial aid to the poor as a precondition for a United Nations deal to combat global warming.  “When the financing is resolved, this will set a very good foundation to negotiate a good agreement,” China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua told delegates from about 170 nations. Xie said developed nations, which have promised to raise aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, should have legally binding obligations to provide finance and technology to emerging economies, along with legally binding cuts in emissions.

Well of course the “rich nations” should … because that would have them pay China and India – two of the biggest carbon producers around.  So China has, in effect, made an offer they must refuse, because leaving out the two largest carbon producers is sort of self-defeating, isn’t it?  And anyway, we should pay for our “rich nation privilege”, shouldn’t we?

Meanwhile, Dr. Steven Koonin makes the point of saying what is clearly the truth in an op-ed in the WSJ – the science of climate change is not settled science.  In fact, it’s not even close.  Dr. Koonin, by the way, was the undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during Obama’s first term.  So this isn’t some right-wing ideologue spouting off, but a serious scientist.  Interestingly, he makes hash of the reliability of the climate models:

The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.

And we’re still looking for that one model that is right … but remember, it is on the basis of those models that this entire “scare” or alarmism finds its roots. Make it a point to read the entire Koonin piece.

But never fear as our fearless leader will be in NY to address the UN summit (most likely a rushed speech between fund raisers and golf).  Not that it will have any effect or make any difference.  But in his mind, it will be “action”.  In reality, it’ll be another example of him again being outplayed on the world stage.

~McQ

Islam and the West: The problem in a nutshell

An interesting article I think you’ll want to read.  At least I found it interesting.  It discusses the foundations of Islam and why, essentially, it is really not a “religion of peace”.  In fact, as the author argues, as much as the West would like the name of the religion, Islam, to mean “peace”, in fact it means “submit”.  We’ve talked here before about the need of a reformation in Islam to reorient it away from violent jihad and to a religion that actually preaches and practices “peace”.  The outlook isn’t very promising.  Here’s one reason:

The Qur’an contains many peaceful and tolerant verses, and these could well be used to create a genuine reformation — something several genuine reformers have tried to do. But there is a catch. All these moderate verses were written in the early phase of Muhammad’s career, when he lived in Mecca and had apparently decided to allure people. When he moved to Medina in 622, everything changed. He was soon a religious, political and military leader. During the next ten years, as his religious overtures were sometimes not welcomed, the peaceful verses gave way to the jihad verses and the intolerant diatribes against Jews, Christians and pagans. Almost all books of tafsir take for granted that the later verses abrogate the early ones. This means that the verses preaching love for all are no longer applicable, except with regard to one’s fellow Muslims. The verses that teach jihad, submission and related doctrines still form the basis for the approach of many Muslims to non-believers.

One problem is that no one can change the Qur’an in any way. If the book contains the direct word of God, then the removal of even a tiny diacritical mark or a dot above or beneath a letter would be blasphemy of the most extreme kind.[2] Any change would suggest that the text on earth did not match the tablet in heaven — the “Mother of the Book,” much as Mary is the Mother of Christ — that is the eternal original of the Qur’an. If one dot could be moved, perhaps others could be moved, and before long words could be substituted for other words. The Qur’an itself condemns Jews and Christians for having tampered with their own holy books, so that neither the Torah nor the Gospels may be regarded as the word of God. The Qur’an traps us by its sheer unchangeability.

And, as he points out, the most “modern” interpretation does anything but put Islam in a “moderate” context:

Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur’an in a “moderate” manner. The most famous modern tafsir, or interpretation, of the holy book is a multi-volume work entitled, In the Shade of the Qur’an. It was written by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue often regarded as the father of modern radicalism. His interpretation leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.

So that seems to be where we stand.  Here, however, is the problem that confronts the West:

The besetting sin of modern Western politicians, church leaders, and multiculturalists is their ready acceptance of ignorance and their promotion of their own ignorance to the rank of expertise. Islam is one of the most important topics in human history, but how many schoolchildren are given details such as the ones mentioned above in their history classes? How many textbooks paint an honest picture of how Islam began and how it continued as a background to how it continues today?

Furthermore, how many real experts are denied contact with government and politicians so that lies are not made the basis for governmental decisions in the West? How many times will truth be sacrificed to fable while Muslim extremists bomb and shoot and behead their way to power?

These facts do not come from modern Western accounts; they are there in the founding texts of Islam, in the histories of al-Waqidi and al-Tabari. No-one is making any of this up. Muslims who avoid their own history should be brought face to face with it in all future discussions.

But, of course, that isn’t what is happening is it?  We’re told over and over again that Islam is a religion of “peace” by those in the West who would rather believe that than confront the awful fact that its own founding documents portray anything but a peaceful religion — not to mention its history.  For instance, were you aware that it is estimated that “between sixty and eighty million Hindus may have been put to death during the centuries of invasions by Muslim armies from 1000 to 1525.”  That’s Stalin and Mao territory.

If you can’t or won’t deal truthfully with the problem, how can you ever expect to confront it successfully?  When you remain in denial and you let the practitioners of the religion also deny the truth, how does one “reform” anything? And what does the continuous denial portend for the West in the not to distant future?

~McQ

A formula for failure

Or, the “strategy” to “manage” ISIS, if you prefer.  The Washington Post today, calls whatever the administration is trying to put together to confront ISIS “underpowered”.  I think they’re being kind about it because they still want access to their administration sources.  If what they report is true, it’s a failure before it is even attempted.

For instance:

In Paris on Monday, two dozen governments pledged to help fight the extremists “by any means necessary, including military assistance.” But only a handful — not yet including Britain — have so far agreed to participate in air combat missions in Iraq, and none has yet signed on to support prospective U.S. air strikes in Syria. Nor is any sending combat troops.

The attenuated support reflects in part the complicated politics of the fight against the Islamic State, which controls a New England-size swath of territory across Iraq and Syria and commands tens of thousands of militants. Neighbors such as Turkey and Jordan are reluctant to openly join the fight, for fear of becoming targets of the terrorists. Sunni rulers are loath to fight on the same side as the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad or Iran — which, for its part, loudly declared Monday that it had rejected a U.S. cooperation proposal.

Note the emerging strategy – air combat missions.  War from 20,000 feet.  Pin-pricks whose effectiveness depends on good intel and timely intervention.  And this administration is going to coordinate that?  The administration that couldn’t even build a website?  Note also that the missions are only agreed too for Iraq.  None of these erstwhile allies has agreed to any in Syria.  Result?  ISIS has a safehaven.  Yeah, we’ve never, ever seen that before have we?

So why are they reluctant?  Lack of leadership by the US, plain and simple:

In large part, however, the restraint has been fostered by President Obama himself. As The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported, Mr. Obama rejected the recommendation of his top military commanders that U.S. Special Operations forces be deployed to assist Iraqi army units in fighting the rebels, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the administration has turned aside troop offers by other nations. “There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway,”he told CBS News’s Bob Schieffer.

ISIS has to only guard against airstrikes?  A group who butchers people on a daily basis would never consider human shields or setting up in schools or hospitals would they?  And in Syria … they don’t even have to worry about it, do they?  ISIS has cowed the Iraqi armed forces, the Kurds are playing defense, they’re free to roam Syria and we don’t need any troops on the ground at all?  Yeah, because, you know, all we need are airstrikes.

But this is what most amazed me about the “strategy”:

Mr. Kerry said Monday that defeating the Islamic State will depend in part on non-combat initiatives such as discrediting its ideology, stopping the flow of jihadist volunteers and providing political and material support to the new Iraq government.

Non-combat initiatives like discrediting their ideology?  Really?  Again, we’ve been so successful doing that in the past 20 years, haven’t we?  That’s why they’re such a small and declining group (wait, we were told that Al Qaida was kaput a while back weren’t we?).  Oh, and the rich part?  An administration that can’t even control its own southern border is going to stop the flow of jihadist volunteers … in the Middle East?  What a freakin’ laugh riot that talking point is.  Meanwhile, in a country that is under armed attack by a vicious army of murderers, Obama and the guys are going to provide “political and material support” to the new Iraqi government … but none that really helps stem the tide of the threatening jihadists controlling a large portion of their country … except of pinprick airstrikes to which ISIS will adapt (mark my words on that one).

This is going to end up being another of those half-assed attempts driven by polls (aka wag the dog) which, on its face, is simply a failure waiting to happen.  This administration has no idea of what is required to face down and destroy ISIS (or any enemy for that matter).  And it isn’t really going to attempt it. If anything it is going to attempt to talk ISIS to death.  But as a real-time strategy, if what above is any indication of the administration’s intent, it’s a bust.

But then, what would one expect from an administration that is going to send 3,000 troops to Africa to “battle ebola”, but won’t send any to battle a real, honest-to-goodness enemy in Iraq?

~McQ

It may be time to become violent and intolerant

Large quote from Andy McCarthy.  This is an important point that so many in the West simply refuse to acknowledge:

This point has been made so many times it should hardly be necessary to point out that Obama and Kerry, like Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, and like many Bush-administration officials before them (including President Bush), are dead wrong when they deny the nexus between Islamic doctrine –– the literal scriptures –- and terrorism, decapitations, totalitarian government, repression of women, rabid anti-Semitism, the murder of homosexuals, and so on. Still, it would be a serious error merely to observe that they are wrong, snicker at their fecklessness, and move on.

There is a reason they are taking a position diametrically opposed to reality.

Obama and Kerry, like transnational progressives in both of our major political parties, believe there are “moderate Islamists” who are the key to stability in the Middle East. Now, the term “moderate Islamist” is contradictory: an Islamist wants government by sharia, Islam’s totalitarian societal framework and legal code. There is nothing moderate about sharia. Those who want it implemented are not “moderates” even if they don’t commit mass-murder to get their way. Sharia is also anti-liberty, anti-equality, and anti-Western. Therefore, we should oppose Islamism just as we oppose other freedom-killing ideologies. That doesn’t mean we need to go to war with all Islamists, but we should work to diminish their influence and we should never regard them as a solution to anything.

Notwithstanding their abhorrence of the West, “moderate Islamists” are regarded by Obama and Kerry as potential allies: people, groups, and, in the case of Turkey, for example, countries that we can work with to solve the problems plaguing the Middle East and overcome our own security challenges. It is thus critically important to Obama and Kerry for the public to believe that (a) all Islamists are not basically the same and (b) there is a sharp difference — a day-and-night difference — between “moderate Islamists” and terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. If, instead, the public becomes convinced that all Islamists, violent or non-violent, adhere to essentially the same ideology, the administration’s goal of working with Islamic supremacists becomes politically untenable.

It is impossible to convince people that non-violent (or, at least, purportedly non-violent) Islamists are not representative of Islam. The administration tried that with its “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood flyer . . . and has been embarrassed ever since by the howls of laughter. Most significant Islamist groups are rooted in or affiliated with the Brotherhood. Not only do these groups claim the mantle of Islam’s representative; our government concedes that status to them.

Because they refuse to acknowledge this they simply hold out a “solution” that doesn’t exist.  So-called “moderate Islam” is only a ratcheted down version of the extremists.  Perhaps “moderate Islam” doesn’t want to take part in killing you, but they’re not particularly upset that the extremist version is doing it for them.   They may differ in the methods, but they’re not indifferent to the result – i.e. the world converting to Islam and the establishment of Sharia law.  That is the ultimate goal of Islam.  Weasel wording it doesn’t change that fact.

So how does one go about convincing “moderate Islam” to back off?  Well one way to to recognize the threat, and the threat isn’t just limited to “extremists”.  However, such recognition is antithetical to the tenets of the left’s multi-culturalism.  Every culture is “worthwhile” and has “value”.  Even those which justify the murder of non-believers and homosexuals, enslave and mutilate women, and essentially redefine misogyny.  The very people who support this sort of “tolerance” would likely be its first victims.

Back to the question – how do we back off “moderate Islam?”  Well this is going to sound exceedingly violent, but it is meant to be.  You have to ruthlessly and completely wipe out the extremists.  But instead, we seem to be contemplating a strategy of  “managing” the threat.  As Michael Totten notes:

The reason we must reject the tempting tendency to close our eyes and hope this problem goes away is that Allah doesn’t always sort things out according to American interests.

Life is filled with things we don’t want to do but have to do anyway. No one wants radiation or chemotherapy, but if you get cancer, you’re going to have to take it despite the fact that it might not work and that it will certainly feel like it’s killing you.

Let’s not kid ourselves. ISIS — or ISIL as the President calls it — is cancerous. And it is not a benign tumor. It is metastasizing and will not stop growing stronger and deadlier until it is dealt with aggressively and, at the absolute minimum, contained.

And only that sort of treatment will impress “moderate Islam” – period.  Of course, that’s only step 1.  Step 2 will be even more painful for the Western left.  It is all about intolerance.  That’s right, it’s about being intolerant of ideas, principles and cultural norms that attack and would eventually destroy Western culture as we know it.  Islam is as intolerant of our Western culture is we should be of it’s culture.  Just because some group of elitists on the left decided one day that all cultures are equal and valuable has now been shown to be simplistic pap.  And unless Western civ is in the mood to commit suicide, it is going to have to make some very hard and intolerant decisions in the near future.

So if the West is to survive, it’s time to take a real “step 1″, not some half-measure that I am pretty sure is being contemplated as we speak.

Many violent jihadists who go on to join al-Qaeda and, now, the Islamic State (an offshoot of al-Qaeda) got their start in the Muslim Brotherhood. They seamlessly graduate from Brotherhood teaching to insatiable jihad because Brotherhood teaching lauds jihad. In fact, the transition happens because many of those who receive Brotherhood instruction become frustrated by the contradiction between the Brotherhood’s aim of a worldwide caliphate and endorsement of jihad to achieve it, on the one hand, and its counsel of patience in pursuing it, on the other.

It is precisely because Islamists share an ideology rooted in Islam, and what they see as a divinely mandated mission of conquest, that a Muslim can so predictably evolve from student to sharia adherent to “moderate Islamist” to not-so-moderate Islamist to terrorist. It happens frequently. And the common ideology rooted in Islam also explains why so many “moderate Islamists” financially and morally support violent jihadist organizations even if they don’t take up arms themselves.

Why?  Because, as I said, the “moderates” are not at all indifferent to the outcome brought about by the extremists.  And until we wrap our heads around that and do what is necessary to actually and finally address the real threat we face, it’s not going to get any better and could easily get much worse.  It isn’t about extremists and moderates, it’s about a toxic culture/religion that was recognized as such by the West centuries ago as a threat.   As for the present, there’s very little difference between “moderate” and “extremists” with regard to the final outcome they seek:

The Islamic State has presumed to declare a caliphate. Al-Qaeda franchises think that is hasty — especially since someone else is running the caliphate — and would proceed more gradually, setting up emirates and hoping for more consensus among Islamists. Both organizations want to confront the West only violently; the Muslim Brotherhood, on the contrary, teaches that, while violent jihad has its place (see Hamas), it is valid to negotiate with the West, to infiltrate the West’s institutions, and to achieve whatever conquest can be achieved without violence.

~McQ

Obama speech? The usual. “A performative act”

Found on Facebook (Clare Spark), I think this nicely describes Obama’s speech last night:

I am not the first to point out that Obama is a postmodern president. Tonight he proved that label by his “not-so-fast” speech on foreign policy vis a vis ISIS. It was what the pomos call ” a performative act”–the last word in magical thinking.

Indeed.  Platitudes, chest thumping, equivocation – and absolutely nothing new. He’s given a speech … the act is complete. The “ususal”.  Talk equals action.

As we’ve become familiar with the “non-apology apology” in today’s life, we have now been introduced to the “non-strategy strategy”.  What he talked about wasn’t a strategy, it was pure justification for doing … not much (even though he made it clear he doesn’t need Congress’s approval to do … not much).  Apparently he thinks that a few airstrikes and few advisors will stimulate “allies” to do much more than that and take the bit and run with it.  Yeah, that’s always worked so well in the past.  Leading from behind again.

Also unknown is how one is going to take an obviously dispirited and seemingly unwilling (incompetent) Iraqi army and turn it around any time soon, but if there is a plan in there, that seems to be it, sort of.  Oh, that and a “National Guard” (new name for the “awakening’s” militias)?  Say what? But what I mostly got from it was he, like many other mistaken arm-chair generals, believes that he can accomplish “degrading” ISIS by air.  First, any significant degradation would require a sustained air campaign on the level of our Gulf War “shock and awe” campaign.  Not going to happen.  Secondly, finding and killing ISIS C4 nodes, like we did with Saddam, is an extraordinarily difficult task in comparison.  While we may randomly accomplish knocking out some of those nodes, it will be mostly luck without good hard timely intelligence (and acted upon immediately) about an enemy which remains mostly mobile.

And how about him deciding ISIS isn’t “Islam” or “Islamic”?  Since when does he get to decide?  Certainly some parts of greater Islam are against ISIS, but then Sunnis have no use for Shiites either do they?  Does that make one or the other not “Islam”.  Who gets to decide? Such declarations do Obama’s poor credibility even more damage and feeds the conspiracy theorists.  But, that said, one has to wonder why it was so important for him to include that in a national policy speech.   It is a total non-sequitur in my opinion.  But for whatever reason, he chose to include it.

I think James Joyner has a good take on the speech.  His first reaction:

The first thing I’d note is how much it sounded like any number of foreign policy speeches given by his predecessor.  He declared again and again that, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people” and proudly enumerated all the ways that “we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.”

Our Peace Prize president sounding like Bush … got to love the irony.  Of course what Obama didn’t expound upon is how his withdrawal of troops from Iraq helped enable the ISIS expansion.  Reality (i.e. an objective military assessment of the status of the Iraqi army and its actual abilities) rarely, if every, conforms to an arbitrary political deadlines.  I think it is clear to everyone the pullout at that time was a very bad idea.  It takes time to build an effective fighting force.  What is now left in Iraq is a shattered and dispirited force.  Because of that, we’re put in the position to again try to salvage a situation there.  With greater forethought and less ideology, we would have kept US forces still there to ensure the Iraqi military was actually ready to confront a threat like ISIS instead of pretending it was so to keep a political promise.

Joyner’s second thought:

The second observation is that it’s still not clear exactly what Obama’s strategy is. His stated political objective is to  “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” but he offered no plan that could plausibly do more than the former.

Well, except for, you know, “air strikes”.  Hand wave, promise, done.  Polls suck?  Hitting ISIS popular?  Wag the dog.  It’s all about politics and elections, folks.  Not the security of the United States.  If someone had told him that his poll numbers would rise by not playing golf … well, there are limits you know.  If it was truly about the security of the United States, this administration would be working to secure our borders, not ignoring the immigration laws.

Joyner concludes:

Frankly, this is simply the logical continuation of Obama’s existing ISIL non-strategy and, indeed, his general counter-terrorism strategy of blowing up the bad guys and hoping they get tired of it eventually.  We could call it the Global War on Terror but, alas, that name’s been taken. That’s rather unsatisfying but it’s not at all obvious what more the United States can or should do to degrade ISIL. The threat to the homeland is too tangential at present to warrant the proverbial boots on the ground.  So, it’s Whack-a-Mole with no end in sight.

And the moles will continue to be whacked as we hear glowing progress reports from the Eastasian front.

Because? Well, that’s how we roll now.  Back to the future.

~McQ

You can’t fake leadership

Oh you can try … but it never works.  And with Obama, it has never worked for those of us who’ve actually been leaders and understand what leadership entails.  This man has never had it and he’s not going to suddenly develop it.  Even his sycophants, at least the semi-honest ones, realize this.  Result – his leadership numbers continue to dive:

Barack Obama’s rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled domestic agenda alike. With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success.

Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time.

Please note the source for those apologists out there.  This isn’t a Fox News poll.  By 10 points, he is rated a failure as a President.  A failure by a majority of those polled.  And he’s certainly seen as a failure by international leaders.

Domestically?  Failure:

At home, with Obama holding off his promised executive action on immigration reform, a new low of just 31 percent approve of his handling of immigration. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, up by a broad 18 points from spring 2013, when progress on the issue seemed imminent.

Dems are likely glad he’s decided to hold off until after the election, but I’m sure most Americans will figure out he’s only doing that because he plans to do something that the vast majority of Americans will disagree with.  That’s not “leadership”, by the way.  Unconstitutional unilateral action to fulfill an ideological agenda item outside the system isn’t anything but authoritarianism.  A king instead of a president.

And the great healer?  Yeah, not so much:

In general assessments, moreover, Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush’s early in his poorly rated second term – and one that’s deteriorated among Obama’s supporters as well as among his critics.

You see, uniting the country would take  … leadership.  It would take a president who was committed to actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.  And as we’ve all learned, this man thinks him saying something is enough.

His performance in office has been pitiful.  And that’s being kind.

History, on the other hand, will not be kind to this President.  But it won’t be kind to the electorate that put him in office and then re-elected him either.  They were the enablers of this drastic decline we’ve suffered for the past 6 years.

If we manage to survive his term in office, it is going to take a long time to again gain the respect of the world, not to mention put this country back on the track envisioned by the founders.  We pointed out early on that he would be tested by our enemies.  He has been, constantly.  And he’s been found to be wanting in every single case.  He’s weak, indecisive and reticent to take action when action is warranted.  He’s as bad as we’ve ever had in the modern era.  Jimmy Carter is smiling.

~McQ

Vacuousness coupled with incompetence equals Obama’s “strategy” to deal with ISIS

I’ve watched in horrified wonder these last few weeks as a man way over his head tries to act like he knows what he’s doing.  But he’s not fooling anyone.  Not even his most rabid supporters.  The great, shrinking American President – Barack Obama.

Here are a couple of quotes he’s made which typify his vacuousness – something at which he is quite adept:

We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.

A manageable problem.  Yeah, that’s kind of open to any definition you want to hang on it, isn’t it?  It’s business school talk. What defines a “manageable problem” when talking about religious fanatics killing American citizens (as well as middle easterners by the thousands) to taunt the US president?  Are we there if they only behead one American journalist next year?  If they only crucify half the number they did this year, are we “managing” the “problem”? Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to R2P?  Only applicable to Libya?  And boy, did we “manage” that “problem” well.  Our embassy is now a jihadi swim club.

[W]hat we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.

Organize the Middle East?  I’d laugh out loud if what was going on wasn’t so dangerous.  This guy couldn’t organize a one man parade. He couldn’t lead a horse to water after a 10 mile run in the desert.  And coherence, as in a coherent policy?  Forget about that.  Ed Morrissey nails it:

The failure demonstrated by Obama and his administration over the last several weeks and months as the ISIS threat grew and metastasized is, at its core, a leadership crisis. Forget being the leader of the free world; this President can’t even lead his own team within one coherent message and strategy. As ABC’s State Department reporter Ali Weinberg remarked yesterday, this was the message just from one single day: “We’re going to destroy ISIS. Or manage them. Or shrink their sphere of influence. Or follow them to the gates of hell.”

With that failure to generate a united and coherent approach to ISIS among his own team, how could anyone expect the President to lead the world against this new terrorist army and the threat it poses to the region and the world?

They can’t, and he won’t.  Oh the “world” may do something, but it won’t be because of any leadership from Obama, et. al.  It will be because they’re awake to the threat that is ISIS and finally develop the intestinal fortitude to act.  And the US?  Like Libya, we’ll “lead from behind”.

What in the world could possibly go wrong with that?

~McQ

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