Free Markets, Free People


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 25 Aug 13

This week, Michael, and Dale discuss Syria, the NSA, and tiptoe ever so carefully around the subject of race in America.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Remembering the promises, looking at reality

You remember the grand promises a certain candidate made in 2008.  And in the area of foreign policy he told us how huge a mess it was and how he was going to clean it up and how the world would love us again.  He was going to “reset” relations with Russia and get us out of all these wars.  Oh, and of course, solve the problems in the Middle East.

Yeah, that was then and this is reality:

The [Middle East] is unraveling and American policy is in deep disarray. Our strategic options are getting worse, and the stakes are getting higher. When former President Bill Clinton is warning that his successor risks looking “lame” or like a “wuss” or a “total fool,” it’s a safe bet that the Kremlin and Tehran aren’t impressed by White House statements. Meanwhile the Obama administration seems to be locked into a sterile, short-term policy approach driven by domestic considerations; it is following the path of least resistance to a place that in the end will please no one and is increasingly likely to lead to strategic disaster.

An insightful article by the Democratic-leaning Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg offers a deeply unsettling view of a Syria foreign policy process gone off the rails. If Goldberg has the story right—and he usually does—Secretary Kerry and the bulk of the White House security team want the President to authorize a no-fly zone and other strong measures in Syria, in part because they fear that American dithering in Syria is empowering the hardliners in Tehran and that by avoiding a small war in Syria now the White House risks a much uglier confrontation with Iran not all that far in the future. But the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs wants nothing to do with it, pointing to the difficulties and costs of the military mission.

And rightfully so.  It has also really “reset” relations with Russia … to the Cold War era.  Well done, Mr. President.   But that’s not the real problem is it?  It is how we got in this mess in the first place: Amateur Hour at the White House:

As Goldberg tells it, the biggest problem for the administration is that its early aggressive, poorly judged rhetoric that Assad “must” go now makes it impossible to avoid Obama’s looking like an irresolute bluffer if the Butcher stays put. This is the conclusion, anyway, that both Russia and Iran will draw, and they will respond by pushing the US along other fronts as well.

This is an entirely self-created problem; there was absolutely no objective reason for the administration to lay those markers on the table. There was no requirement in America’s foreign policy that the administration bounce in with the categorical demand that Assad step down.

That is absolutely correct.  But as is mentioned further on it was fighting for re-election and didn’t what there to be a wimp factor.  As usual, politics trumped what was best for the nation.

So in every real way, this administration has lived up to few if any of it’s grand promises of 2008.  In fact, if truth be told, the honeymoon is over with Europe.  The proof, as they say, is in the turnout:

When John F. Kennedy delivered his “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 26, 1963, 450,000 people flocked to hear him. Fifty years later a far more subdued invitation-only crowd of 4,500 showed up to hear Barack Obama speak at the same location in Berlin. As The National Journal noted, “he didn’t come away with much, winning just a smattering of applause from a crowd that was one-hundredth the size of JFK’s,” and far smaller than the 200,000 boisterous Germans who had listened to his 2008 address as a presidential candidate.

As for the Middle East … well there’s no love lost there either.  This administration has fumbled everything to do with the region during it’s tenure and has no one to blame but themselves. They’ve totally and without any help, managed to bottom out our image in the area in the same way they’ve bottomed out the economy.  If this guy isn’t the worst president with the worst team we’ve ever had inflicted on us … twice … then I don’t know who might be.   And don’t even get me started on the “leadership” in Congress – from both parties.  They’re absolutely the worst yet.  That may come as small consolation to the administration, but the combination of the two is killing us.


And you wonder why we’re getting involved in Syria?


A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.

Look, Obama’s legacy is important to Democrats because it may mean victory or defeat for the next Democratic presidential candidate.   And like it or not, a scandal plagued 2nd term isn’t going to help his legacy or the Democrat’s next chosen presidential candidate.  In fact, one of the reasons Obama is in the White House now is the successful negative portrayal of the Bush years by the left and the press.

In the case of Obama, the press and done it’s best to dampen the reach of the scandals, but it is, for once, failing in it’s endeavor.  The scandals are too wide ranging and hit too close to home to fears the citizenry has held concerning government’s abuse of power.  And make no mistake, these scandals are all about abusing power.

Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.

“Younger Americans are much less likely than older Americans to believe in White House involvement, and there is, not surprisingly, a partisan divide as well,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But the Obama administration may be losing independents on this matter. In May, only 36% felt the White House ordered the IRS to target conservative groups; now that number has crossed the 50% threshold.”

Of course naive youngsters who really haven’t been around for or paid attention to scandals of the past, certainly might want to believe their idol, Barack Obama, is involved in this.  But you can see as well as I can, as more and more info comes out, that minds are changing.  This is a serious shot at the Obama legacy.  Or at least that’s what 51% of Americans are saying:

Fifty-one percent of those questioned said the IRS controversy is a very important issue to the nation, compared to 55% who felt that way in May. In the past week and a half, the IRS story has been put a bit on the backburner, as the controversy over the federal government’s massive surveillance program has dominated the spotlight.

Ironic, no?  The 4% drop I mean.  It has dropped as a “very important issue to the nation” because another scandal has popped up.

So what’s the Obama playbook say you do when it goes from bad to worse?


Hello Syria ….


Syria – so now what?

Our local Noble Peace Prize winner has put himself in quite a quandary, hasn’t he? He’s decided that since he thinks Syria has used chemical weapons, it is our business to intrude on what is essentially a civil war, and give arms to an opposition whose makeup includes Islamic terrorist groups. Because, you know, some “bright line” has been crossed … or we think has been crossed, and according to R2P (apparently) we have to “P” or something (I guess the horrific numbers of death just weren’t enough to invoke that until chemical weapons, huh?).

Of course an obvious possibility in this case, since the Syrian government thinks that it is being punished for the use of chemical weapons, is they’ll now say “screw it” and use them liberally. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Even if they haven’t used them, there’s no “up” side anymore for them not using them now is there? World condemnation? We’ll we’re in the middle of manufacturing that right now, aren’t we?

Meanwhile you might remember that we “reset” relations with Russia because that darn Bush administration had screwed them up so royally.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, will not permit no-fly zones to be imposed over Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday.

“I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario,” Lukashevich told a news briefing, adding that calls for a no-fly zone showed disrespect for international law.

Oh. Wait. Didn’t they tell us if a Republican was elected we’d see relations with Russia head back toward the Cold War era (btw, what Russia is alluding to is hurrying the deployment of the advanced S-300 missile system if we persist in this nonsense)?

Syria is a “no-win” situation for us if we intervene. Most of the intel I read says the opposition is riddled with Islamic extremists and Islamic extremist groups. Is it wise to arm such people? Well, a sane person would say “no”. A sane person would also stay the heck out of interfering in Syria.

But there are scandals to be dampened and distractions to be made. Because, you know, the Chosen One’s rep is much more important that a sane foreign policy or the lives of our military members.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Scandalpalooza and Syria.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Apr 13

This week, Michael and Dale discuss Syria and Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

When is a secret not a secret?

When government leaks sensitive national security information to the press, of course.

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.

What is it that occurs in early November?  And who needs a little boost?

Oh, yeah.



Twitter: @McQandO

There is no US national security interest in a Syrian intervention

I just wanted to make that clear as we look at the Turkish jet shoot down and the fact that Turkey has invoked chapter 4 of the NATO treaty:

That is the provision that calls on NATO member countries to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Turkey’s Islamist foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has announced that Turkey is calling for an emergency consultation of NATO members under Article 4 to consider a response to what it deems Syrian aggression.

Now the backstory, so you at least understand why this presents a possibility of NATO, and thus the US, being pulled into such an intervention (possibly willingly, I’ll get to that later).  It comes from Andrew McCarty at PJ Media:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamic supremacist with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Sunni supremacist organization. The Brotherhood is leading the mujahideen (called the “opposition” or the “rebels” by the mainstream media) that seeks to oust the Assad regime in Syria — dominated by the Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Unsurprisingly, then, Turkey’s government has taken a very active role in abetting the Brotherhood’s operations against the Syrian regime, which have also been joined by al-Qaeda and other Sunni militants.

On Friday, a Turkish air force jet entered Syrian air space, and Assad regime forces shot it down. Turkey claims the jet “mistakenly” cruised over Syria, and that, by the time it was taken down, it was in international air space over the Mediterranean. One need carry no brief for Assad to conclude that, given the interventionist drumbeat for no-fly zones and direct military and logistical aid to the “opposition,” Syria rationally took the presence of a Turkish military aircraft in its air space as a provocation. Turkey insists it was not “spying” — that this was just an accident to which Syria overreacted. That would be a good argument if the regime were not under siege and if the Syrian and Turkish governments had not been exchanging hostile words (mostly, threats from Erdogan) for months. That, of course, is not the case.

Confused?  Well don’t be.  This is just another chapter in the eternal war between the Sunnis and Shiites and between the religious and secular.  Turkey happens to be an Islamic Sunni enclave (some want you to believe the country is “secular” but it isn’t thanks to Erdogan) and Syria is ruled by a “secular” Shiite government which, by the way, is ideologically identical to Saddam’s Iraq.  You know, the Syrian government headed by a man this US administration labeled as “a reformer” not so long ago?  Well, it’s “under the bus” time for him.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia – that would be Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (Sunni) – have been arming the Syrian rebels along with who, oh yeah, the Muslim Brotherhood.  And that has ended up seeing good old Al Qaeda show up on the rebel side, which apparently is fine with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood.


The Obama administration, from its first days, has cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood — both Brotherhood branches in the Middle East, and Brotherhood satellite organizations in the U.S., such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America. Obama has also been quietly supporting the Syrian mujahideen: coordinating with repressive Islamist governments in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to arm and train them, and reportedly dispatching the CIA to facilitate this effort. But it has thus far resisted calls for more overt participation — calls by pro-Brotherhood progressives in both parties for something along the lines of what Obama did in Libya, meaning: without congressional approval and toward the end of empowering virulently anti-Western Islamists.

There was no US interest in intervening in Libya but we did (we used R2P as the excuse and NATO as the tool).  Syria, of course, would present orders of magnitudes more difficulty militarily.  It is a much more sophisticated military power than was Libya.

The problem?  Well while Obama may be reluctant to intervene alone, NATO might provide a perfect excuse/vehicle.  And the benefits would be fairly obvious electorally.  It would “change the subject” again.  It would make him a “war time” president (yes, technically he is now, but A’stan isn’t “his” war so he doesn’t quite get the benefit public support for his continuation in office).  And he could cite “treaty obligations” as a reason without having to go to Congress.

He also has the “good experience” of Libya as a sort of enticement to try the same thing again.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia make out rather well too.  They  get the crusaders to fight and die in their battle all so the Islamists can eventually take the prize.  The US and NATO would end up fighting to help put Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Syria.

Ironic?  Uh, slightly.

Point: This is not a NATO or US fight.  This is something that we should stay as far from as we can.

Politics, however, will be integral to any decision made at this point, at least in the US. Domestic electoral politics.  What scares me is the possibility the Obama administration may conclude it is a good idea politically to use NATO to “change the subject” and make Obama a “war time President” hoping the advantages of that situation will make the difference in November.  And it wouldn’t be a unilateral decision, but instead receive bi-partisan support as Sen. McCain and other GOP members have been outspoken in their desire to intervene.

Call me paranoid but I find nothing in my analysis that’s at all infeasible or improbable.  In fact, having watched this administration at work, I consider it to be a completely possible scenario.


Twitter: @McQandO

R2P, Syria and “dumb wars”

Remember the war in Libya?  Remember how the doctrine Responsibility To Protect (R2P) was invoked as the reason to intervene? 

Libya was somehow chosen as a country in which R2P must be exercised and quickly.  Of course NATO airpower and arms shipments to the rebels did the job of overthrowing Gadaffi, and what has since established itself in Libya is as bad if not worse than what the people of the country suffered under the dictator.

But more important than where the doctrine was exercised is where it hasn’t been exercised.  Syria … no R2P for you!

The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, including children. Most of the victims were shot at close range, the U.N. said.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conclusions were based on accounts gathered by U.N. monitors and corroborated by other sources. He said U.N. monitors found that fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed in the west-central area of Houla were killed by artillery fire.

"Most of the rest of the victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents," Colville told reporters in Geneva. "At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."

He said witnesses blamed pro-government thugs known as shabiha for the attacks, noting that they sometimes operate "in concert" with government forces.

I recall the justification for intervention in Libya quite well – “we” had to protect civilians who were being killed by their government.

Ahem.  Question for the decision makers – why did Libya qualify and Syria doesn’t?

Daniel Larison figured out the reason months ago:

Paradoxically, the Libyan war and its aftermath have had the unintended consequence of undermining the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) that was originally used to justify the intervention. Many advocates of intervention believed Western involvement would strengthen the norm that sovereignty may be limited to protect a civilian population from large-scale loss of life. Instead, the Libyan intervention helped discredit that idea.

A key requirement of the "responsibility to protect" is that intervening governments assume the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

One of those “dumb wars” Obama condemned as a Senator.  Meanwhile our Prez said yesterday, when speaking of war:

"I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

“Absolutely necessary?”

You mean like Libya?


Twitter: @McQandO

Hamas calls Greek stop of US blockade runner “inhumane”– Israel on “Specially Designated Country” list for first time

In the world of overwrought spin and propaganda we find a premiere example of the genre from Hamas:

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the militant group described the action as "inhumane" and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

"This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms," said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers," referring to Israel.

Of course the US ship, the “Audacity of Hope” has no aid.  It is sailing with nothing but letters of support.  Secondly, even if it was, there’s a very well-established route to deliver aid to Gaza.   The blockade runners simply want to further demonize the Israelis by attempting to provoke an incident like that which happened the last time this was tried.


The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza "is unjust… and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity," [Hamas] said.

Translation: “The blockade prevents us from smuggling in more weapons than we have now. “

Of course with the overthrow of Mubarak, the Egyptian portion of the border is quite porous now so even that objection is largely invalid.

Nope – just another example of a long line of examples of Hamas calling the right of a nation to defend itself “inhumane”, mostly because it doesn’t recognize that nation’s right to exist.  Given all the other ways to get aid to Gaza – real aid – it is clear this has nothing to do with any of that.

It is simply another in a long line of attempts to provoke that nation into acts of self-defense so it can condemn it further.   It is the equivalent of firing rockets into Israel and then condemning Israel when it reacts.

And for some reason, much of the rest of the world takes its condemnations seriously.

Meanwhile, CNS news reports that for the first time, Israel has landed on the “Special Designated Country” list.  What does that mean?

[T]he Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”

Also on the list are countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the first time Israel has shown up as an SDC. 

Of course, no one seems to know how that happened, but ICE is the agency tasked to carry out the enforcement of what SDC means:

Even though the administration includes Israel among “specially designated countries” that it believes "have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.

“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”

“The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen.

ICE declined to say who put Israel on the list or when Israel was put there. However, in her written statement, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said the “specially designated country” list had been created "at least" seven years ago–which would have been during the presidency of George W. Bush–and that ICE was not responsible for creating it.

Yes, friends, it’s Bush’s fault.  Bottom line though, given how SDC is defined, it is hardly the appropriate list for Israel to be on.

Oh, and who didn’t make the list this time but was on the last one?

North Korea.


Twitter: @McQandO

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