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Sotloff Family Spokesman: Obama Admin Never ‘Gave Us the Cooperation We Need’


The spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist behead by the Islamic State, revealed new details on CNN about Sotloff’s capture as well as the family’s disappointment in the Obama administration’s handling of the entire situation.

Barak Barfi, who is also a fellow at the New American Foundation, told Anderson Cooper that “so-called moderate rebels” in Syria established a fake checkpoint to capture Sotloff on the Syrian border, and eventually sold him to the Islamic State for $25,000 to $50,000, according to their sources in the region. Sotloff was falsely believed to have been involved in the bombing of a hospital.

Since Sotloff’s beheading, the administration “made a number of inaccurate statements” about its work with the family, as well as the family of James Foley, who was also killed by the militant group, Barfi said. He indicated that if the administration continues to offer a misleading representation and leaks about the situation, the family will speak out.

“We know that the intelligence community and the White House are enmeshed in a larger game of bureaucratic infighting and Jim [Foley] and Steve are pawns in that game and that’s not fair,” Barfi said. “We do not believe they gave us the cooperation we need.”​

“The administration could have done more, they could have helped us, they could have seen them through,” he added.

Via BuzzFeed.

Liberal Illiberalism


Both the editors and Kevin Williamson have very ably highlighted some of the enormous problems with the constitutional amendment that Senate Democrats have proposed to end First Amendment protections of political speech. 

But it might be worth adding a word about one particular element of the text that really jumped out at me. The second of the proposed amendment’s three sections reads:

SECTION 2.Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

This is an extraordinarily explicit form of an ambition that is implicit in a lot of the modern Left’s attitudes about society. What is envisioned here is a society in which only individuals and the state really exist. Groups of people joined together for a common cause are rejected as illegitimate actors in the nation’s public life, so that the only institutions that people can really join in together are government institutions. And the space between the individual and the state — the space in which most of society exists — is taken by the state to be empty of anything meaningful and worthy of protection or, worse, to be infested with vestiges of backwardness, prejudice, and pernicious self-interest that need to be neutralized or co-opted by the government. Those institutions do not have the democratic legitimacy that the government has, so their actions are by definition not public spirited. 

This kind of attitude applied to corporations in the marketplace is evident throughout the Obama administration’s economic policy. The same attitude applied to religious institutions is on display in recent battles about the HHS mandate. And with this proposed amendment we see it applied to civic institutions seeking to act in the public square to influence our politics. Such an assault on our mediating institutions is an assault on the very idea of a liberal society. But the people we now call liberals seem genuinely not to see that.


Iowans Losing Love for Obama with Senate Seat Up for Grabs


President Obama has become a political liability in Iowa, the state that launched his successful run to the White House, and his low approval rating there threatens the Democrats’ ability to win the open Senate seat.

“A Gallup poll released Friday shows that in Iowa, where Obama began his meteoric presidential political rise in 2008, the president’s popularity is waning,” U.S. News and World Report’s Lauren Fox noted. “His approval rating stands at its lowest point since the start of his presidency, with only 38 percent of Iowans behind him. Nationally, Obama’s approval rating sits five points higher, at 43 percent.”

Republican Senate nominee Joni Ernst plans to tie her Democratic opponent, Representative Bruce Braley, to the president in her bid to deliver an unexpected victory in a state where Republicans had no chance of winning before Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), retired.

“[Braley] has been a strong advocate for what we term the Obama-Pelosi-Braley platform,” David Polyanksy, senior adviser to the Ernst campaign, told National Review Online. “And, in sharp contrast to that, we’ve got an Iowa candidate with deep Iowa roots and real Iowa values who wants to go to Washington and continue to serve her nation.”

You can read more on how Ernst became a contender in my piece on the home page.

Web Briefing: October 1, 2014

An Illegal Abortifacient, Not Pennsylvania Law, Endangered a Woman’s Health


The pro-abortion Left has found a new cause célèbre in its fight against abortion restrictions. Via Reuters:

Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, of Washingtonville, a single mother who works as a nursing home aide, pleaded guilty in August to obtaining the miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe for her daughter, 16, who did not want to have the child.

Whalen was sentenced on Friday by Montour County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Norton to serve 12 months to 18 months in prison for violating a state law that requires abortions to be performed by physicians.

She was also fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service after her release.

Incensed at the conviction, abortion advocates, such as Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, have pointed to Whalen’s circumstances as evidence that her conviction — and, by extension, Pennsylvania law — is outrageous:

What would drive a mother to make such the “poor” decision of spending $45 for a combination of Misoprostol and Mifepristone from an overseas vendor? Maybe it’s because Whalen claims she didn’t know she needed a doctor’s prescription to get the pills. Maybe it’s because her daughter doesn’t have insurance to cover a hospital abortion. Maybe it’s because she says the nearest clinic is too far away, and she didn’t want to travel out of state.

Before addressing the question of whether Pennsylvania’s abortion restrictions are justifiable, one ought to note that Whalen seems to have been ill-informed from the start. The closest abortion clinic was not out of state; it was in Harrisburg, 75 miles away.

Liberal activist Dan Savage notes that Pennsylvania’s 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion, tacked onto the hour-and-a-half drive between Washingtonville and Harrisburg, would have made this option prohibitive. But to get there he has to speculate:

Jennifer Whalen is a single mom who works full time as a nursing home aide; she most likely makes minimum wage or close to it. Whalen couldn’t afford to take two days off work to drive back and forth to Harrisburg to get her daughter the abortion she needed; Whalen certainly couldn’t afford to spend the night in a hotel in Harrisburg.

But in nearby Williamsburg the median annual salary for a nursing-home aide is $23,122, more than $8,000 above the annual earnings of a minimum-wage employee (given the federal minimum wage of $7.25). Assuming that Whalen was earning at about the rate of her Williamsburg colleagues, it is hard to imagine that the financial burden would have been forbidding.

Moreover, compared to the costs of violating the law — her $1,000 fine, as well as the time that Whalen will spend in prison — the trip to Harrisburg would have been a steal.

Set aside, though, the question of Whalen’s means. The circumstances of her daughter’s case suggest that Pennsylvania’s restrictions are justifiable. According to Reuters, it was not the pregnancy that endangered her daughter’s health, but the abortifacient she used to end that pregnancy: “Her daughter experienced severe cramping and bleeding after taking the pills and Whalen took her to a hospital near her home for treatment, where she was treated for “​an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.”

It is certainly true that the Pennsylvania legislature sought to discourage abortions. But abortion proponents argue — falsely — that restricting who can permit abortions necessarily endangers women’s health. It is just the opposite. As Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors made clear, loose oversight of abortion providers facilitates dangerous procedures performed in unsanitary clinics by unscrupulous butchers. In Bill Clinton’s famous dictum, “safe, legal, and rare,” the first and third terms are necessarily connected. Abortion is safe when it is rare; easy access incentivizes unsafe conditions. But abortion advocates are loath to acknowledge that.

One can sympathize with Jennifer Ann Whalen’s daughter’s panic, and with her mother’s desire to help. And perhaps Whalen broke the law not willfully, but on account of ignorance — in which case, perhaps her sentence is severe. Regardless, Whalen’s case offers no evidence that Pennsylvania legislators have done anything to endanger women. In fact, Whalen’s daughter would have been safer had her mother simply followed the law.


Gender Confusion at the Daily Beast


Lloyd Green took exception to a recent article of mine in which I expressed skepticism about whether Republicans could or must reduce the gender gap in politics. He has some ideas, like running more female candidates. The trouble is that he hasn’t bothered to look up any data. I respond here:

I’m all for running good candidates and female candidates. But neither step is going to do much to address the gender gap. Let’s calculate Republicans’ gender gap as the percentage of men who vote for them minus the percentage of women who do. In 2010, Sharron Angle had the same gender gap as Rob Portman (7 points), Carly Fiorina had the same one as Ron Johnson (8), and Kelly Ayotte had the same one as Pat Toomey (10). Choosing female nominees doesn’t seem to alter the fact that the Republican Party is more attractive to men than women.

Should Catholic Schools Have the Right to Enforce Church Teaching?


The Washington Post and The New Republic are joining in the effort to shame a private Catholic school for enforcing a “morals” clause in its contract against a woman, apparently a lovely teacher and gym coach, who has decided to have a baby by artificial insemination with her female partner.

Should Catholic schools have the right to require the teachers who teach in their schools believe what the Church teaches?  Should they not practice what the Church preaches?

Apparently not, according to the hatred now directed at this one school.  

Freedom of association, which is the freedom of individuals to form together to build institutions that advance their beliefs, is now the forgotten freedom in liberal America.

Harry Reid Urges Obama to ‘Go Real Big’ with Post-Election Amnesty


Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) encouraged President Obama to “go real big” with the administrative amnesty planned for after the midterm elections.

Asked how delaying the executive orders would affect Democratic Senate candidates, Reid simply called it an opportunity for Republicans to pass legislation such as the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill.

“If they don’t, I hope the president goes real big, and does something administratively, as I believe he has the authority to do,” Reid told reporters emphatically Tuesday.

“This is an example of why we should have done comprehensive immigration reform that we passed here more than a year ago,” Reid also said. “The president has stated that he was going to do something administratively unless there is legislative action taken. It appears to me, based on what we have been told and what I’ve seen, the Republicans still have a chance to do something.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) disputed that argument during a Tuesday press conference that took place shortly before Reid’s remarks.

“That claim doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Cruz told reporters. “The president has stated he intends to give amnesty to five to six million people here illegally. But as all of you have widely reported, a  number of Democratic senators pleaded with the White House because the American people don’t want amnesty. And a number of Democratic senators felt that they would lose their elections if the president granted amnesty. So, what did he do? He said, ‘Well, I’m still going to do it, but I’ll just wait till after the election.’ The cynicism in that statement is breathtaking.”

Cruz said that Senate Democrats want to “have their cake and eat it too” by delaying the executive action until after the election but not voting on a bill that would prevent President Obama from expanding his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program, Cruz argues, created the perception in Central American countries that children who arrived in the United States would be allowed to stay.

“[White House officials] say, ‘Listen, DACA doesn’t cover these people so it has nothing to do with this crisis,” Cruz said. “If they actually meant that, then the administration should support this legislation, because all this legislation says is DACA does not cover anyone new. They don’t mean that. When they say that, it is another version of telling you that if you like your health-insurance plan, then you can keep your health-insurance plan. They are saying something deliberately that they know is false.”

Welcome tae Yer Gory Bed


Veteran Thatcherite MP John Redwood turns his attention to the tricky question of  2015. The next British general election is due in May. If those resident in Scotland (including, incredibly, EU citizens who are not British citizens) choose independence for Scotland, it won’t happen until 2016.  so what to do? The idea that the Scots should choose independence and have a say in the next Anglo/Welsh/Northern Irish government is grotesque. Given the Tory blunders of recent years that cannot be ruled out, but there’s talk now of postponing the next general election until 2016. Redwood has a different idea:

Given the narrowing of the polls and the sense of panic in some senior Labour statements, it is now appropriate to offer advice to the government of the rest of the UK in the event of a Scottish decision to leave. The first thing the UK Parliament should do is pass a short Act. This would say that Scottish members of the Westminster Parliament will no longer vote on any matter  not applying to Scotland, and will take no part in settling the response of the rest of the UK to Scottish withdrawal. It would also cancel the May 2015 General Election in Scotland. Current Scottish MPs would continue for their residual functions until the split of the kingdoms in completed. There  is no need to delay the General Election in the rest of the UK. The new government for the rest of the UK should be formed from the winners of the election in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The remaining Scottish MPs would be excluded from calculating the majority and would not be eligible to be Ministers.

Interesting, and, I think, preferable to delaying the election, an approach that would leave Scottish MPs with a say in English matters that they should not have.

Over the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Warner examines the currency issue. While he seems to overlook the complications possibly posed by Scotland’s desire to (re)join the EU (I looked at some of them here) he is right to stress this about Salmond’s ”plan” to keep the English pound:

Any monetary union with the rest of the UK is therefore certain to involve a high degree of continued fiscal and financial oversight by Westminster. Without such controls, monetary union would be unacceptable to the rest of the UK. But with such controls, it would be equally unacceptable to Mr Salmond. Independence would count for little if Westminster continued to dominate Scottish affairs. The Scots can have monetary union if they like, but they cannot also have Mr Salmond’s promise of welfare-max, otherwise known as socialism.

And for those looking for reassurance from the precedent set by the Czech and Slovak “velvet divorce,” this is well worth noting:

Debt is what renders parallels with the “velvet separation” achieved by the Czech Republic and Slovakia back in the early Nineties largely invalid. The two new countries started out with a common currency – the Czech koruna – but concern about the potential liability to the Czech Republic caused the currency union to be dissolved a few years later. This was achieved with little mishap because the debts involved were still relatively insignificant.

With Scotland, it would be a different ball game, which is why we can expect both Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group to announce they are re-domiciling south of the border within hours of a Yes vote. Even if they thought it worth the risk of staying, the Bank of England would not. To forestall a run on the two banks, they would have to remain safely under the Bank of England’s wing.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard adds his trademark good cheer to the conversation, quoting a note from Credit Suisse “on the shock in store for Scotland if it chooses to break up our Union, and if Britain declines to come to the rescue. It expects: recession; deposit flight; 20pc devaluation; 5/10pc cut in wages.”

Meanwhile George Grant joins Jim Bennett in looking at defense:

For decades the SNP stridently held to an anti-NATO policy for Scotland on the basis that membership of a first-strike nuclear alliance would be incompatible with the party’s sincerely-held anti-nuclear posture. In October 2012, however, the SNP narrowly forced through a reversal of this position at their annual conference, leading to the resignation of two of their MSPs and deep unease amongst the party grassroots. Ostensibly, this shift was a response to “signals” from Scotland’s Nordic neighbours that an independent Scotland outside of Nato would present significant geostrategic challenges. As important, however, was pure electoral mathematics. To boos from party delegates at the October conference, the SNP’s defence spokesman Angus Robertson firmly reminded his colleagues that 75 per cent of Scots supported Nato membership and that they had a referendum to win.

And all of this is just for starters.

Also at the Daily Telegraph, Stephen Bush sticks up (sort of) for the idea of David Cameron hanging on to his job even if Scotland goes:

Just through asking around, it doesn’t feel as if a Yes vote is survivable for Cameron – but I just wonder: do we really want to send a signal halfway around the world that the appropriate reaction to a country or a region voting to leave in a democratic election is for the leadership of the larger country to be forced out? I’m not certain we do.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. On both a long and short-term view, much of the blame for a possible Scottish departure (and to reiterate the point I made in an earlier post, I am not opposed to the idea in the abstract) rests with the Labour Party, but it was Cameron who agreed to a binary in/out referendum (he declined to include a third possible option of “devo max”). It wasn’t the stupidest of gambles (I certainly didn’t expect that the polls would be where they are now), but it was not the smartest either (in the absence of a proper “federal” alternative, “devo max” in some shape or form was clearly taking shape anyway), and if it fails Cameron should resign. That he is already talking about doing otherwise is not only dishonorable, it also sends a message that Scottish departure would not be such a big deal. Some Scots will have noticed that.

Another blunder.

Goldberg: Obama Will Say ‘Exactly What He Needs to Say’ in ISIS Speech to Quiet Critics


O’Reilly, Ramos Spar over Immigration, White Privilege, Religion


In a preview of a heated interview for his English-language Fusion TV program, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos sparred with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly over a host of issues including immigration, race, and religion.

On immigration, Ramos described O’Reilly’s views as “clearly right-wing.” O’Reilly took issue with the label, noting that he doesn’t oppose a pathway to citizenship and supports revising worker programs. Ramos specified that O’Reilly’s support of securing the border earned him the “right-wing” label, and added that prioritizing border security over immigration reform is basically “just an excuse to do nothing” since the border will “never” be fully impenetrable. O’Reilly ultimately described himself as “a problem-solver” on the issue.

Later, O’Reilly’s rejection of the theory of white privilege drew ire from Ramos. Pointing both to the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and to the worse economic and educational outcomes of blacks when compared to whites as evidence, Ramos said O’Reilly was in denial on the issue. The Fox News host countered the notion is over-exaggerated, and pushed back that Asian-Americans are faring better than whites. “Is that Asian privilege?” O’Reilly asked in response.

“I think we have to admit that there is white privilege in this country,” Ramos said, before moving on.

The discussion then shifted to O’Reilly’s book Killing Jesus. Ramos took issue with O’Reilly’s belief that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the best-seller.

“Really?” a skeptical Ramos, who is often praised for his objectivity, asked O’Reilly. “It is very dangerous to mix politics and religion.”

O’Reilly didn’t see how he was mixing both, and countered that his personal faith compels him to believe a God who inspires in a variety of ways. “I believe in [Christianity]. Is that okay?” O’Reilly shot back.

Democrats vs. Free Speech, Again


Beyond our editorial and what I’ve already said, one more thing is worth repeating about the Democrats’ efforts to repeal the First Amendment and gut free speech, something that applies to conventional campaign-finance laws, too: Congress is seeking for itself the power to determine who may criticize members of Congress and challenge them in the public square, and under what conditions such criticism and challenges may be conducted. Congress would have the power to make unlicensed criticism of Congress and its members a crime. The temptation for incumbents in such a situation to stack the deck in their own favor would of course be irresistible, as indeed current campaign-finance laws are an integral part of the incumbency-protection racket. 

Senator Harry Reid’s assault on the First Amendment is not only cynical, it proceeds from deeply corrupt motives. 

Andrea Mitchell: Obama’s Dinner Party Looks Like MSNBC Guest Lineup


MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell thinks she would feel pretty comfortable with the company at President Obama’s dinner last night. 

On Tuesday, she read off the list of foreign-policy experts who attended the White House dinner with the president and vice president, remarking that it “looks like the review of our guest list here at Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

Included on the list were Zbigniew Brzezinski​, Tom Donilon, Michèle Flournoy, Richard Haass, Steve Hadley, and Jane Harman, who are all frequent guests on her daily program, as well as other MSNBC shows.

Arizona Senators Seeking Answers from Eric Holder about Decision to Cease Prosecuting Some Illegal Immigrants


Arizona senators Jeff Flake and John McCain have written a letter to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder attempting to verify reports they have received indicating that the Department of Justice will halt prosecutions of all illegal immigrants in their state who are crossing the border for the first time, as well as repeat border crossers who do not have a history of criminal convictions.

Yuma County Sheriff Leon N. Wilmot first wrote to Flake in August regarding his concerns that Operation Streamline, a 2006 plan that he says has curtailed illegal-immigrant traffic, is being scaled back. Wilmot wrote that he learned that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona will no longer prosecute first-time illegal border crossers. “From an outside perspective, this new guidance gives a strong impression that its sole purpose is to direct the UDA (undocumented alien) traffic and their criminal activity back to Yuma County,” Wilmot wrote. “This practice undermines everything that we have worked hard to achieve over the years for the citizens of Yuma County.”

In the Republican senators’ letter to Holder, Flake and McCain ask if such changes have been made and whether the impact of the possible changes on border security was considered. “The recent conditions in the Yuma Sector represent one of the few instances approaching a success with respect to border security,” the senators wrote in part. ”In addition, with Central American family units and unaccompanied minors presenting a multi-agency challenge, it would appear an inopportune time to potentially be removing tools from the border security toolbox.”

‘Obama’s Immigration Red Line’


No one will ever mistake President Barack Obama for Lyndon Johnson, the master legislator as president. He doesn’t really do congressional schmoozing or arm-twisting. Compromise and deal-cutting are beneath him. Once he lost the Democratic supermajorities of 2009–2010 and the power to push things through Congress by sheer brute force, his legislating essentially came to an end.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that even the niceties of unilateral lawmaking are beyond him.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion: Ray Rice vs. Shaneen Allen


Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit, makes an interesting connection between NFL wife-beater Ray Rice and a very different New Jersey “criminal” — single mother-of-three Shaneen Allen, who inadvertently ran afoul of Garden State gun laws last autumn, and who now faces a felony charge. Writes Reynolds at USA Today:

When Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious in an elevator, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and New Jersey District Attorney Jim McClain agreed to put him in a diversion program for 1st-time offenders to keep him out of jail. But when Pennsylvania single mom Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a traffic violation and volunteered to a New Jersey police officer that she was carrying a legally-owned handgun with a Pennsylvania permit, the response of Donio and McClain was to deny her the same opportunity as Rice.

National Review has written extensively about Allen’s case. Here are the details, from our July editorial:

In October of 2013, a Pennsylvania resident named Shaneen Allen drove into New Jersey’s Atlantic County and was pulled over by police for an “unsafe lane change.” When the detaining officer arrived at her car window, Allen informed him that she was carrying a concealed firearm, and presented her Pennsylvania carry license as proof of eligibility. Unbeknownst to her at the time, however, was that New Jersey is among the 20 states that do not recognize Pennsylvania’s permit. In consequence, she was arrested. If convicted of the charges that the state has elected to bring, she will be locked in prison for up to a decade.

Allen’s case offers a prime opportunity for beneficent prosecutorial discretion. But anti-gun zealotry has trumped common sense, such that a violent offender was let off and a non-violent one locked up. If only Rice had been carrying a firearm at the time of his assault, he’d be facing the chair now.

ISIS: What You Need to Know


On the eve of the president’s address to the nation, at the ACLJ we’re releasing a new e-book: Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. Based on a series of papers presented at Oxford’s Harris Manchester College earlier this summer — and on our long experience defending Israel’s interests before the U.N. and International Criminal Court (along with my first-hand experience in Iraq) — the book traces the rise of ISIS from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), compares its jihadist aims with those of Hamas, and then explores how the international community is actively seeking to limit our inherent rights of self-defense.

The book is about ISIS, but it’s also about Hamas. And it makes a key point: The only difference between the plight of the Christians in Iraq versus Jews in Israel is the people of Israel are protected by the might of the IDF, while Iraq’s Christians were helpless when ISIS surged into Mosul and threatened Kurdistan.

There is nothing politically correct about this book. It gathers all available sources to take a realistic, grim look at the jihadist threat and refuses to make the popular distinctions between more- and less-respectable jihadists. ISIS and Hamas are separate groups, but they’re part of the same jihad.

But the book’s not without hope. We remind Americans that through courage and will, we’ve vanquished terrorists before. We can do it again. And, unlike the president to this point, we outline a strategy. Simply put, a great nation must not be “war-weary” when its jihadist enemies are brutal beyond comprehension, gaining wealth and power, and eager to kill as many of our citizens as they can. A great nation must fight.

You can order it on Amazon here and Barnes & Noble here

Have We Forgotten Our National Greatness?


My latest column:

A man beheads two Americans with a knife that is not particularly sharp. The second time, he taunts the president of the United States: “I’m back, Obama.” His terrorist organization, ISIS, is reclaiming Iraqi cities that were once liberated — painstakingly, block by block, house by house — by American soldiers and that cost American blood and treasure. Ebola is spreading in West Africa. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes that we “are about to witness a human catastrophe that could destroy large portions of a continent and pose a global threat. And the response of the world, including the United States, is feeble, irresponsible and disrespectful of nature’s lethal perils.” An official from the National Institutes of Health characterizes the Ebola epidemic as “completely out of control.”

I had that in mind while reading a new report by the Pew Research Center. Nearly half of Americans think the United States is “less important as a world leader than it was a decade ago.” More Americans think the nation is doing too much (39 percent) to help solve the world’s problems than too little (31 percent), even though 65 percent of respondents say the world is more dangerous than it was several years ago, 67 percent say that ISIS is a “major threat” to the United States, and more than half say the rapid spread of infectious disease across countries is a major threat as well.

Have Americans forgotten that this is a great nation? And that great nations can shape events, and not merely observe them? More Americans think the country is doing too much to help the world than too little, even though a majority agrees that major threats to the United States exist and that the world is growing more dangerous. Switzerland should be allowed to hold those two views at the same time. The United States shouldn’t.

Read the whole thing here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at

Whatever Happened to Leaving War to the Generals?


For most of my life, it was a standard talking point for nearly all politicians — though especially Republicans — to say that politicians shouldn’t muck around with military decisions. Yes, the president is the commander-in-chief and he sets the mission, but the lesson from Vietnam, we were told, was that the president shouldn’t be selecting bombing targets from maps on the Oval Office desk.  For instance, George HW Bush explained that in the first Iraq war he gave Colin Powell and the military brass “the freedom of action to do the job once the political decision had been made. I would avoid micromanaging the military.” This was a priority for Bush because he “did not want to repeat the problems of the Vietnam War (or numerous wars throughout history), where the political leadership meddled with military operations.”

Anyway, doesn’t it seem like all of that has simply disappeared from the national debate? We are still waiting to hear from the president about what he will do to get rid of ISIS. But we haven’t had to wait to find out what he won’t do. For instance, Josh Earnest explained yesterday the president has been “pretty clear…about what he’s not contemplating. The president is not contemplating the deployment of combat boots on the ground into Iraq or Syria to deal with the situation.” 

It’s a separate question about whether that is the right policy, my point is that it’s remarkable how unremarkable it is that the president is allowing his political and ideological imperatives to constrain his options from the outset. 

Lowry: Obama Gave People What They Wanted in Iraq, and Now They Don’t Like It


What Are the Defense Implications of Scottish Independence?


I have long sympathized to some extent with the idea of an independent Scotland, although a more federal United Kingdom has always seemed like the more practical path to arriving at many of the same benefits. Thus I was in agreement to at least some of John Fund’s arguments on the upcoming Scottish-independence referendum. However, I am surprised nobody at NR has thought much about the defense implications of a Scottish “Yes” vote.

First, it takes 5 million plus taxpayers, and most of the North Sea oil base, out of the funding available to keep the U.K. within the minimum 2 percent GDP contribution to its defense capabilities that NATO calls for, and converts Scotland into yet another free-rider on U.S. defense. It is highly unlikely that Scotland under the Scottish Nationalists will ever honor the NATO spending targets; in fact, their leader Alec Salmond has said it won’t explicitly.

Second, by requiring the U.K. to relocate the Trident nuclear-deterrent base from its current base at Faslane, a “Yes” vote will add tens of billions onto the U.K. defense budget at a time when it is being cut, and will put pressure on the U.K.’s ability to afford a Trident replacement. The U.K. will almost certainly cut other defense systems further rather than increase defense spending overall.

The U.K. is one of the very few of U.S. allies that has sent significant useful forces to assist in military operations. It is also the military most able to operate in conjunction with technologically sophisticated U.S. forces. Adding the substantial cost of relocating the Trident base to the cost of building a Trident replacement while defense budgets are already under pressure endangers the ability to continue maintaining this interoperability.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has been a key constituency of the Scottish National Party for decades, and has a near-veto capability over its policies. It has seen its support of Scottish independence as a tactic to achieve its fundamental goal: nuclear disarmament of the U.K. If Scotland votes yes to secession, the group will be closer to this goal.

Finally, it’s important to understand the differences between the Czechoslovak velvet divorce and a British breakup: Czech and Slovak leaders had come to realize that socialism does not work; the Scots still think it can. Although they claim to want merely Scandinavian-style social democracy, they don’t seem to realize that the Swedish social democrats made substantial market reforms back in the 1990s. The very things they claim the need to secede from the UK in order to avoid — market-oriented reforms in healthcare and education — have gone far further in Sweden than the British Tories dare advocate.

And on a purely personal note, I am hoping for a “No” vote because of my enthusiasm for federal constitutions. It’s important to remember that the status quo is not actually on the ballot on September 18th. Under the pressure of the independence movement, all major parties in the U.K. have promised to deliver what amounts to major constitutional change in the event of a “No” vote — one that could even amount to a federal system. This prospect is far more interesting than that of Scotland as yet another boring European social democracy.

 James C. Bennett is the author of The Anglosphere Challenge.


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