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Tags: John Kerry

Russian Foreign Minister: Cold War ‘Geopolitics Never Disappeared’



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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov responded to American suggestions that President Vladimir Putin is pursuing a Cold War–style “rivalry” by saying that he believes such conflicts “never disappeared” from the foreign-policy landscape.

“When we support the free will of the people of Crimea in full compliance with its right to self-determination, we are being called a revenge-seeking power trying to bring geopolitical rivalry back to international relations,”  Lavrov told the Russian Council for Foreign Affairs. “In reality, geopolitics never disappeared. There was simply an attempt to pretend that it was a prerogative of only a group of chosen countries capable of changing the situation around the world according to its own patterns.”

Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that Putin wanted to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. ”Mr. Putin has made no secret and he said it publicly on more than one occasion over the years that the demise of the Soviet Union was a terrific mistake, it shouldn’t have happened, it was bad for the Russian people,” Hagel told PBS’s Charlie Rose. “Now, I think that’s a premise that he truly believes and I think that’s where he starts.”

Lavrov made the comments Wednesday, on the eve of a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. Before that meeting took place, Kerry reiterated that the United States wanted Russia to stop using Ukraine as a “pawn in a tug-of-war between other nations.”

Lavrov countered by suggesting that the United States is using Iraq, Syria, and Libya as pawns. “And the Russian–American agenda is much broader than just Ukraine,” he said. “We would like to see other countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria, many others, also to be in peace, not to be used as a pawn, and I hope that we can discuss all these things with the secretary here today.”

Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_06_04/US-does-everything-to-prevent-unification-of-Russia-EU-potentials-FM-Lavrov-6765

Tags: Chuck Hagel , John Kerry , Vladimir Putin , Ukraine

Administration Sources to John Kerry:
Give It Up, Man.



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From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Administration Sources to John Kerry: Give It Up, Man.

When something like this ends up on the front page of the Washington Post, it’s a sign somebody is trying to send a signal to our secretary of state:

When his aides get discouraged about the prospects for Middle East peace, Secretary of State John F. Kerry often bucks them up with a phrase: “Don’t be afraid to be caught trying.”

But as his tireless efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations hit bottom Thursday, with Israel’s cancellation of prisoner releases that were considered crucial to keeping the talks alive, there are some around Kerry — including on his senior staff and inside the White House — who believe the time is approaching for him to say, “Enough.”

Kerry risks being seen as trying too hard at the expense of a range of other pressing international issues, and perhaps even his reputation, according to several senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about sensitive internal and diplomatic matters.

“A point will come where he has to go out and own the failure,” an official said. For now, the official said, Kerry needs to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”

As I noted, we somehow reached a point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations where we, the United States, needed to make concessions just to keep them talking. Many have argued, accurately, that no peace deal will ever work if we want it to succeed more than the Israelis and Palestinians do. The primary stumbling block to a negotiated settlement is that a big chunk of the Palestinian population wants Israel to cease to exist, and the Israelis, unsurprisingly, refuse to go along with that. Yes, the Israelis periodically build settlements in places that the Palestinians don’t like, and that always turns into the Middle East version of kicking a hornet’s nest.

Jeffrey Goldberg offers a very kind and generous interpretation of Kerry’s entire grandiose, quixotic effort:

President Barack Obama’s administration, and specifically its secretary of state, deserve credit for maintaining the belief — in a very American, very solutionist sort of way — that the application of logic and good sense and creative thinking could bring about, over time, a two-state solution to the 100-year Arab-Jewish war . . . 

This week, we saw the administration float the idea of releasing Jonathan Pollard, the ex-U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, in exchange for some Israeli movement on the peace process. As I wrote on Monday, this was both a dubious idea generally and extremely unlikely to bring about advances in negotiations. If anything, it was a sign of desperation. As Andrew Exum and others have noted, why would the mediator in a dispute make concessions to one of the parties seeking mediation? It’s up to the parties to make concessions to each other. Obama has argued that the U.S. can’t want a peaceful compromise between Israelis and Palestinians more than the parties want it themselves. The Pollard balloon (now punctured, presumably) suggests Kerry wants a negotiated settlement just a bit too much.

Goldberg concludes by asking, “really, how can we blame a man for seeking peace?”

American foreign policy can’t just be based upon noble goals — or idealistic visions, grand dreams, noble ambitions, utopian goals and a serious lust for a Nobel Peace Prize. A secretary of state has to have some judgment on what’s possible, a realistic sense of what our allies, enemies, and states in between want, what they’re willing to accept, and what they’re willing to kill and die for.

To use an example our friends on the Left will appreciate, the Bush administration had very noble goals when it went into Iraq. It had an inspiring vision of a free, democratic, pluralistic, modernized Arab state in the middle of a turbulent region, at peace with its neighbors and providing a role model for the rest of the region. Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Very bright people in the Bush administration misjudged how the various factions within Iraq would respond to life without the brutality of Saddam Hussein.

Foreign leaders’ worldviews, philosophies, perspectives and desires matter a lot.

Which is why it’s a little unnerving to hear President Obama say something like this:

With respect to President Putin’s motivation, I think there’s been a lot of speculation. I’m less interested in motivation and more interested in the facts and the principles that not only the United States but the entire international community are looking to uphold.

If we knew and understood his motivation — perhaps to reverse the humiliation of losing the Cold War, and leave a world-altering legacy of a restored de facto Russian empire, with satellite or client states all over Eastern Europe? — it would be easier to deter him and predict his next moves, wouldn’t it?

Ron Fournier:

Taken at face value, it’s a disturbing response from a world leader who should lie awake at night concerned about the motivation of U.S. adversaries, whose first meeting of every day involves an intelligence briefing on the motivations of global actors . . . 

I take him at his word: He doesn’t care.

First, his handling of leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, China and most recently Russia exposes a lack of empathy and sophistication…

. . . Caring little about the motivation of his rivals seems to be a trait of Obama’s leadership that has hurt him in Congress, where the opposition party is stubbornly opposed to his agenda . . . 

Putin knows his enemies. Obama dismisses his.

A painfully accurate assessment there, that almost everyone in the administration will tune out.

Tags: John Kerry , Barack Obama , Israel , Russia , Vladimir Putin

Ukraine, Syria, Iran . . . America Is Out of the Consequence Business



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt:/p>

Chicken Kiev, Much Worse When Reheated and Served again*

So . . . Kiev is burning. Again.

It’s a bloody mess, and by the time you read this, the numbers are likely to be worse:

Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square early on Wednesday after the bloodiest day since the former Soviet republic, caught in a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, won its independence more than 22 years ago. At least 18 people, including seven policemen, died on Tuesday during hours of violence between security forces and civilians who have staged protests against President Viktor Yanukovich since last November.

The administration’s stance remains “Hey, stop it, you guys!

The Obama administration is “appalled” by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Washington announced no specific new action and did not immediately lay blame for violence that left at least 13 dead, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt threatened both sides with sanctions.

The crackdown is awful, but we’re not going to do a darn thing about it. We don’t do much in the world of foreign policy these days. You may or may not have noticed that the deal with Assad’s regime in Syria collapsed. As S. E. Cupp summarizes:

Peace talks have collapsed, Bashar Assad’s murderous regime continues, the rebels have splintered, a mere 11% of Assad’s chemical weapons have been collected and radical operatives aligned with Al Qaeda are settling in nicely.

In response to these events, the Obama administration is quickly and energetically pursuing a new strategy of not dealing with it.

We’re not letting the failure of the Syria deal slow down efforts for a similar deal with the Iranians, even though the Obama administration’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction just told Jeffrey Goldberg that he sees almost no chance of successful negotiations. The text of our deal with Iran remains secret, and the Iranian ground forces commander says the U.S. is facing its “final collapse.” Full speed ahead, guys!

———————–

* For those of you who don’t understand the headline, President George H. W. Bush was accused of delivering a “Chicken Kiev speech” in the early days of the end of the Cold War, throwing cold water on Ukrainian independence:

He flew to Kiev after last summer’s Moscow superpower summit and delivered a speech that, to many, seemed like a tepid U.S. dismissal of Ukrainian aspirations to statehood.

“Freedom is not the same as independence,” Bush told Zayets and the rest of Ukraine’s legislature on Aug. 1. “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

Shorn of rhetorical niceties, the American position seemed to be: Moscow and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev know best. Although the legislature here was dominated by Communists still opposed at that time to secession, Bush’s speech “went down about as well as cod-liver oil,” one Kiev-based diplomat remarked.

This time around, it’s not clear the Ukranians will get their own speech from the U.S. president.

Tags: Foreign Policy , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Syria , Iran , Ukraine

Greens, Rarely That Upset About the ‘Most Serious Environmental Sin’



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Lefty readers reacted to today’s post on Secretary of State John Kerry’s gargantuan CO2 emissions with their usual rage and ALL CAPS and profanities. To the extent they summoned an argument, it was this: “CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!!!!! 111!!”

That’s really a separate argument. If you genuinely believe, as John Kerry claims, that climate change is “the greatest challenge of our generation” and “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” then air travel is a problem; the New York Times recently labeled it the “most serious environmental sin” for most people:

Though air travel emissions now account for only about 5 percent of warming, that fraction is projected to rise significantly, since the volume of air travel is increasing much faster than gains in flight fuel efficiency.

If you believe climate change is a real phenomenon driven by human activity that generates CO2, you have to be troubled by a self-professed environmentalist’s schedule of air travel that, in one week, generates as many carbon emissions as the average American does in seven months or so. You have to see the irony and moral complications if the aim of that trip is to urge others to reduce their carbon emissions.

But for some reason, self-proclaimed environmentalists never seem to get that upset about Democratic lawmakers who have large mansions with large electric bills, multiple luxury homes, fly around a lot and get driven around in SUVs. They can even make $100 million or so by selling their television networks to the Qatari government, which, of course, built its fortune on fossil fuels.

Instead, self-proclaimed environmentalists get much more upset at conservatives who point out those . . . inconvenient truths.

More inconvenient truths, from a op-ed I wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Whether the phenomenon is exaggerated or whatever the cause, the uncomfortable fact is that very few climate scientists believe that the process is significantly reversible, and certainly not by unilateral U.S. action. As the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor noted in Forbes, data released by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year indicate that even if the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere immediately and completely eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions, the growth in Chinese emissions alone would likely render this action moot within a decade.

Anyone who suggests that the climate will go back to “normal” — whatever that is — if Congress passes a certain bill or if you drive a different car is trying to sell you something. The current debate is mostly an excuse for those who make certain consumer choices (Priuses, reusable shopping bags, buying “carbon offsets”) to talk about how much more responsible and sensitive they are than others, and for those who choose differently to urge them to put a sock in it.

Greens fume about Americans who are skeptical about climate change, but they never look that hard at why people might think environmentalism was just an expensive pose.

Tags: John Kerry , Environmentalism , Air Travel

Kerry Generates 12 Tons of CO2 on Trip Discussing Climate Change



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Secretary of State John Kerry spent his weekend discussing climate change in Indonesia:

“We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts,” Kerry told the audience gathered at a U.S. Embassy-run American Center in a Jakarta shopping mall. “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”

This is part of a six-day Kerry trip through Seoul, South Korea; Beijing, China; Jakarta; Indonesia; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and then back to Washington.

In case you’re wondering, flying first-class from Washington to Seoul to Beijing to Jakarta to Abu Dhabi and then back to Washington runs up roughly 12.16 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to CarbonFootprint.com, which uses data from the EPA and Department of Energy.

The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide in a year.

So in one week, just from flying from meeting to meeting, Kerry generated about two-thirds the carbon output of the average American in one year.

Clearly, he should cut down on the air travel and set an example for the rest of us. After all, we shouldn’t “allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”

What does he think powers the plane he flies on, wind and solar?

Tags: John Kerry , Climate Change , Carbon Offsets

‘Wendy Davis is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.’



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Airbrushed, Polished, Rewritten History of Wendy Davis

Nobody can seek office as they are, huh? Everybody’s got to be born in a log cabin, and have worked himself up from nothing. Choom gangs, William Ayers, and Tony Rezko get airbrushed from history; ineffective years of community organizing are rewritten into a dedication to the poor that rivals St. Francis of Assisi. Al Gore couldn’t be just another senator; he had to invent the Internet. Wartime service isn’t enough; “If you have any question about what John Kerry is made of, just spend 3 minutes with the men who served with him.” John Edwards is Father of the Year. “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

Throw Wendy Davis onto the pile, as the Dallas Morning News took a closer look at her life story and found some details not quite matching her tales:

Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.

In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” . . . 

A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body’s work was very time-consuming.

“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”

He said: “She’s going to find a way, and she’s going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn’t true about her, but that’s just us who knew her. But she’d be a good governor.”

A good governor . . . once you get past the pathological lying!

Andrew Kaczynski points out . . . an inconvenient truth:

Davis did however testify under oath in 2012 that she was 19, when she divorced, not 21. Davis was testifying before a three-judge panel that was was deciding whether the new Texas legislative district map violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

She sent a statement to Buzzfeed that at age 19, she was “on her way to a divorce.”

An enormous ego is almost a requirement for running for office, so we shouldn’t be surprised that those who want our votes carry more than their share of self-aggrandizement, conveniently edited memories, and borderline-insane belief in their own personal heroic narratives. The thing is, we don’t really need any larger-than-life heroes in public office. Governors, senators, congressmen, presidents . . . they’re temp workers. The more grandiose the ambitions get, the larger the scale of potential failure gets. Sometimes the idea is to fundamentally transform the culture and politics of the Middle East. Sometimes the idea is “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” It’s tough to get people to stand up and cheer, much less write out checks, for anything less than forever changing life as we know it.

Immanentizing the eschaton requires a messiah figure, which mean every contender for the throne needs to have that pitch-perfect life story. Details be damned.

A frequent lament on the right since the frustrating defeats of 2012 has been, “we need to become better storytellers.” Dare I flip it around and say, the American electorate needs to stop needing all of its information in convenient storybook form? Because the basic facts of, say, the need for entitlement reform don’t necessarily lend themselves well to the convenient plucky-underdog-takes-on-the-system-and-wins Erin Brockovich template that apparently many Americans require to understand.

Thomas Lifson:

It is not exactly a surprise that the latest feminist political icon, Texas state Senator Wendy Davis, turns out to be a phony and an exploiter. Davis, you may recall, rocketed to progressive superstardom by conducting an ultimately futile filibuster on a bill tightening health regulations on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation when the life of the mother is not in peril. The fact that Davis is an attractive blond and speaks fairly well in public was enough to gladden the heart of the pro-abortion faction, eager to find a champion who can be packaged as an inspiring profile in courage. She has already raised $12 million for her campaign for governor, tapping into the victimology cult among wealthy feminist women.

Here’s how Tanene Allison, “political consultant and Texan,” characterizes the latest developments in the Huffington Post:

A gang of men in Texas are trying to burn State Sen. Wendy Davis on a proverbial stake. Almost as soon as the Davis campaign announced that, over the final six months of 2013, they had raised more money that her opponent, the knives came out. As Texans are beginning to unite around Wendy, Greg Abbott and his out-of-touch operatives are scared and relying on the oldest playbook in the world: Tear the woman apart by examining her personal life and saying she isn’t perfect enough.

That “gang of men in Texas” she’s sneering at is the reporting staff and editors of the Dallas Morning News. The falsehoods are not in dispute; Davis admits to the newspaper that she’s been saying things that aren’t true. Had the newspaper run the headline, “She isn’t perfect enough,” it would be a laughingstock.

The allegedly nonpartisan mainstream media seems to think well of the Huffington Post, and when you see something like the above, it’s really hard to understand why. This isn’t merely a passionate defense of Davis; this is an attack on the newspaper as somehow being sexist and malicious.

Tags: Wendy Davis , Barack Obama , John Kerry , John Edwards , Al Gore

Why Is the Administration So Credulous About Iran?



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The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a new poll showing that New Jerseyans still like and trust Governor Chris Christie, another roundup of troubling indicators for Obamacare that the administration would rather ignore, and then this ominous point about our foreign policy:

Why Is the Administration So Credulous About Iran?

“Wary” is my word of 2014 so far. On front after front, we, the American public, are being asked to accept on faith that the big changes afoot will lead to good outcomes, despite ominous indicators. The State of the Union Address might as well begin with John Williams’ Jaws theme.

It’s full speed ahead on the individual mandate despite the headaches and messes so far. Full speed ahead for the employer mandate in 2015, despite the fear that some employers will prefer to pay the fine and dump their employees into the exchange. We’re told expanding Medicaid won’t leave state governments or federal taxpayers on the hook for much higher costs of providing medical care. We’re assured that raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour will help all the low-income workers and won’t slow down already sluggish hiring, and we won’t notice the price hikes at the cash register. Let’s leave Iraq to sort out its own troubles. Let’s get out of Afghanistan. “Trust us,” they say.

And oh, by the way, the Iranians say they’re giving up their nuclear weapons.

Now, we know these guys. We know these guys from taking over our embassy from 1979. We know these guys from the Khobar Towers attack. We know these guys from our recent State Department report on terrorism:

Despite its pledge to support the stabilization of Iraq, in 2011 Iran continued to provide lethal support — including weapons, training, funding, and guidance — to Iraqi Shia militant groups that targeted U.S. and Iraqi forces. Iran also continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Since the end of the 2006 Israeli- Hizballah conflict, Iran has provided significant quantities of weaponry and funding to Hizballah, in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.

In 2011, the United States discovered that elements of the Iranian regime had conceived and funded a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington D.C. Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-born U.S. dual-national working on behalf of the IRGC-QF, was arrested in September 2011 for his role in the plot; also indicted in the case was an IRGC-QF officer who remains at large. Arbabsiar held several meetings with an associate whom Iranian officials believed was a narcotics cartel member. This associate, in fact, was a confidential source for U.S. law enforcement. The thwarted plot underscored anew Iran’s interest in using international terrorism — including in the United States — to further its foreign policy goals.

Qods Force provided training to the Taliban in Afghanistan on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives, and indirect fire weapons, such as mortars, artillery, and rockets. Since 2006, Iran has arranged arms shipments to select Taliban members, including small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives. Iran has shipped a large number of weapons to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in particular, aiming to increase its influence in this key province.

In 2011, Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior AQ (al-Qaeda) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. It also allowed AQ members to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iranian territory, enabling AQ to carry funds and move facilitators and operatives to South Asia and elsewhere.

This is, arguably, the most ruthless, underhanded, amoral and dangerous regime in the world. (Maybe North Korea. I’ll take other nominations, but let’s face it, Iran is top three, even in a rebuilding year.)

Why would we think these guys are going to honor their word?

When the Iranians aren’t insisting that the deal guarantees their right to enrich uranium — contradicting John Kerry — and claiming that they have a secret side agreement with the U.S. — meaning either they’re lying, or our government is lying to us — they’re offering messages like this:

Here’s Jeffrey Goldberg’s pitch:

So why support negotiations? First: They just might work. I haven’t met many experts who put the chance of success at zero. Second: If the U.S. decides one day that it must destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, it must do so with broad international support. The only way to build that support is to absolutely exhaust all other options. Which means pursuing, in a time-limited, sober-minded, but earnest and assiduous way, a peaceful settlement.

Er, really? That’s the best argument? Most experts put the chance of success at better than zero? Or we need to go through the motions to persuade the world we’re not warmongers? Look, the world’s opinion on our alleged warmongering has very little to do with our actual mongering of any wars. If we were “warmongers,” we wouldn’t have “led from behind” in Libya and Bashir Assad would be a red spot on Damascus rubble right now. Besides, the world’s usual suspects are going to call us “warmongers” no matter what we do.

Here’s the Israeli Defense Minister with a . . . different interpretation of what’s driving our foreign policy:

Ya’alon had lashed out at Kerry and savaged Washington-led peace talks in private conversations, according to a report Tuesday in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily. The paper recounted the defense minister lambasting the proposed security arrangements drawn up by Kerry as part of his peace proposal, saying it was “not worth the paper it is printed on” and would not provide security for Israel.

The report also quoted Ya’alon calling Kerry “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” in his efforts to coax the two sides into a peace agreement. The defense minister reportedly said Kerry has “nothing to teach me about the conflict with the Palestinians. All that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.”

Legacy time, baby! Time to reach out to the world’s worst and get their signatures on the dotted line, because nobody ever garnered a reputation for being a peacemaker by warily assessing their foes.

Tags: Iran , Barack Obama , John Kerry

A Little Bit of Everything This Morning



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Today’s Morning Jolt will be previewed in the format of tapas — little bites here and there:

Obama’s Numbers Hit All-Time Low Aga— You Know, You’ve Heard This Before

. . . Average American: “I don’t trust him, he can’t manage, I don’t admire him, I don’t agree with him, I don’t have confidence in him, and he’s not strong and decisive. But I like him.”

Peace In Our Time!

Here’s how the Israelis are greeting the new U.S. deal with Iran:

“If in five years, a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the agreement that was signed this morning.” — Naftali Bennett, the Israeli minister of trade and industry.

Good morning!

Question: If Obamacare had not flopped out of the starting gate, would the administration be so eager to get a deal with Iran? Are we crazy for smelling a whiff of “desperate need to shore up my legacy” in the President’s enthusiasm for this deal? . . . 

The most important thing is that there’s now a written agreement and everyone understands their obligations, right?

Immediately after the agreement was announced, Fars News, the Iranian state-sponsored news outlet, proclaimed that the accord “includes recognition of Tehran’s right of uranium enrichment” and that the “right to enrichment has been recognized in two places of the document.” Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, made exactly the opposite claim on ABC’s This Week on Sunday: “There is no right to enrich. We do not recognize a right to enrich.”

Uh-oh.

. . . Echoing Conan O’Brien’s on-air assessment of his bosses at NBC, Obamacare “esta manejado por hijos de cabras imbeciles que comen dinero y evacuan problemas.”

. . .

Why Obamacare’s Failures Are an Ominous Indicator for the Iran Deal

Healthcare.gov is a half-billion dollar site that was unable to complete even a thousand enrollments a day at launch, and for weeks afterwards. As we now know, programmers, stakeholders, and testers all expressed reservations about Healthcare.gov’s ability to do what it was supposed to do. Yet no one who understood the problems was able to tell the President. Worse, every senior political figure — every one — who could have bridged the gap between knowledgeable employees and the President decided not to.

And so it was that, even on launch day, the President was allowed to make things worse for himself and his signature program by bragging about the already-failing site and inviting people to log in and use something that mostly wouldn’t work. Whatever happens to government procurement or hiring (and we should all hope those things get better), a culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news isn’t well equipped to try new things.

Say, do you think any low-level techies inside our federal government — be it the Central Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency, or the Pentagon, or the Department of Energy or elsewhere — think this deal with Iran is unworkable? Think anybody else is having trouble with a culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news?

Tags: Iran , Obamacare , Barack Obama , John Kerry

Relax, Everybody! Obama, Kerry, Putin, and Assad Say Syria’s Fixed!



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The first Morning Jolt of the week features revelations that the U.S. State Department’s management is even worse than you thought, some questions on who really is influential on the right, criticism of Michelle Obama’s “Drink water!” plan, and, of course, Syria:

Relax, Everybody! Obama, Kerry, Putin, and Assad Say Syria’s Fixed!

Today and in the coming days, we’ll see President Obama and his surrogates insisting that the deal on Syria represents one of the greatest foreign-policy accomplishments of his presidency.

And they’re right — but not in the way that they think. In terms of policy, it’s a disaster. Assad is left unpunished, other than turning over weapons he wasn’t supposed to be able to have anyway. His cooperation is not guaranteed, and is in fact unlikely. Assad has gone from comparable to Hitler a few days ago to the only guy who can ensure the chemical weapons get turned over.

But the American people — left, right, and center — spoke clearly on Syria: “We don’t care what happens over there, just don’t get us sucked into another war in the Middle East.” And by acquiescing to a Russian plan designed to fail, Obama avoided war. So politically — really, the only measurement that matters to this administration — he wins. Considering how disastrous the military option appeared, maybe that really is the better choice.

Jeffrey Goldberg, over at Bloomberg:

. . . this limited Western victory might feel like a moral and strategic defeat, for two reasons.

One: Our allies across the Middle East, having seen the U.S. promise to help remove Assad and then not follow through, will further doubt American steadfastness and friendship and will reorient their policies accordingly, with some adverse consequences for the U.S.

Two: This plan probably won’t work. Assad is a lying, murdering terrorist, and lying, murdering terrorists aren’t, generally speaking, reliable partners, except for other lying, murdering terrorists. In any case, disarmament experts say that this process, properly carried out, would take years and years to accomplish, but of course they really don’t know how long this might take because no one has ever tried to locate and secure hundreds of tons of chemical weapons on an active battlefield, particularly one in which Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are vying for supremacy.

But for now, the president has underscored the international norm governing the use of chemical weapons, and he has done what the American people say they wanted — staying out of the conflict. He may not be a clear winner in this drama, like Assad and Putin are, but compared to Congress — in particular its reflexively isolationist, self-destructive Republican caucus — he looks like Churchill.

Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, points out an inconvenient fact for the Obama administration’s victory lap:

Moscow is not even complying with a commitment to eliminate its own chemical weapons. A State Department assessment in January reported that Russia has provided an “incomplete” list of its chemical agents and weapons to be destroyed. It has also missed deadlines to convert former chemical-weapon production plants. Why would we expect Moscow to help enforce similar restrictions against Syria? . . . 

Based on the experience of the past four years, the Russians, like the Iranians, are well aware that pretending to go along can buy time until the Obama administration becomes distracted with another issue. The U.S. should be prepared for the diplomatic effort on Syria to fall flat and have more effective alternatives ready.

Here’s how the plan is playing on the ground:

Air strikes, shelling and infantry attacks on suburbs of Damascus through yesterday morning offered evidence in support of opinions from both Assad’s Syrian opponents and supporters that he is again taking the fight to rebels after a lull following the August 21 gas attack that provoked the threat of US action.

“It’s a clever proposal from Russia to prevent the attacks,” one Assad supporter said from the port of Tartous, site of a Russian naval base. “Russia will give us new weapons that are better than chemical weapons,” he added. “We are strong enough to save our power and fight the terrorists.”

Rebel fighters have expressed disdain for US President Barack Obama after he backed away from striking over alleged chemical weapons attacks, saying the world does not care about Syria.

“America told the world it would bomb Syria and then, when the time came, it got scared,” said Abdelqaderi Asasheh, operations chief of the Liwa Al Tawhid brigade in Aleppo.

Then again, just in case you’re feeling bad for the rebels . . . 

Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists in Syria say they are targeting members of the Alawite community in the country, adding that they massacred dozens of Alawites in three Homs villages last week.

On Sunday, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks in which at least 30 Alawites, including several women, children and elderly men, were shot dead in cold blood.

Syria went from a horrific bloodbath that didn’t interest the world, to a horrific bloodbath that included chemical weapons, to a horrific bloodbath that did interest the world . . . and it will soon go back to being a horrific bloodbath that doesn’t interest the world.

It’s like that old Arab proverb: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , Bashir Assad , John Kerry , Vladimir Putin

Guy Who Used Chemical Weapons Promises to Give Them Up Someday



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Today’s Morning Jolt, the final of this week, features an update on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, praise for an NR colleague’s dogged reporting, and then this latest twist in the farce that is our reaction to Syria:

‘Peace’ Plan That Is Impossible to Implement Hits First Obstacles

Is there a point where the Geneva talks become too much of a farce to continue?

Thursday afternoon on CNN, Fareed Zakaria was ooh-ing and ahh-ing about the important, historic achievement of persuading the Syrians to sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

Just how reliable is the signature of a dictator who used those chemical weapons against his own people, and who’s still denying the attack? We’re supposed to believe that a guy who’s okay with gassing kids would never lie?

Because early indications are that the Syrians aren’t behaving like they intend to turn over all their stockpiles: The Wall Street Journal:

A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.

The movements of chemical weapons by Syria’s elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago, U.S. officials said.

Also note Assad is now making his own counter-demands:

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has spoken about placing its chemical weapons under international control and said that the US must “stop threatening us and supplying terrorists with weapons”.

Speaking on Russian TV’s Rossiya 24, he said that only Russia could make the agreement happen as “Syria has neither contacts with, nor trust in, America”.

Now, you can like arming the Syrian rebels, you can hate arming the Syrian rebels. But the guy who just committed a crime against humanity, and who has our fleet off his coast, doesn’t get to make demands.

So how does Obama want to resolve this? I figured the new aim was to get the public to forget that the “red line” statement ever happened, that he ever wanted to fight a war over Syria’s chemical weapons, that his best efforts to persuade Congress and the public fell flat, that he ever got himself entangled into this mess, and that the country of Syria exists.

Allahpundit offers another possible Obama goal, a quick, check-the-box strike:

If Assad tells them to get lost, then what? O’s surely not going back to Congress; proof that Syria’s disarmament is a sham might win him some extra votes, but he’s in such a deep hole with both Democrats and Republicans that he might still not get to 218. I think the plan, such as it is, is to bomb Assad straightaway if he doesn’t comply, without congressional approval, on the theory that the public will be a little more tolerant of a new war if it looks like Assad and Putin are jerking the UN around. That would also explain the oddly belligerent tone to Obama’s speech on Tuesday night even though, ostensibly, it was all about how we *shouldn’t* attack right now. Maybe he’s concluded that the only way to get back some credibility is to hit Assad anyway, and the UN stuff is just a prelude designed to build a bit of extra moral authority for doing so. The fact that he tried a last resort to diplomacy and it went nowhere because Assad’s a liar will be presented as a game-changing fact by his spin team which requires an immediate response by the commander-in-chief, without waiting for approval from Congress.

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , John Kerry

Is John Kerry . . . Well Enough for the Task Before Him?



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Here’s John Kerry at the end of January, when he was confirmed as secretary of state:

 

Here’s John Kerry upon his arrival in Geneva:

 

The position of secretary of state is an exhausting one, and clearly Kerry has been burning the midnight oil. But is it possible the toll of the job is affecting his health? Notice that his left eyelid seems to be drooping, which is not visible in the photos from January. 

Tags: John Kerry

Ultimately, We Won’t Even Take Assad’s Cheerios Spoon



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Greg Corombos and I just taped our daily Three Martini Lunch podcast. Our format is to select one good, one bad, and one crazy news story each day. Today, the proposed deal to avoid military action in Syria qualifies as all three.

The development is good if you opposed the United States’ beginning a war in Syria and you think that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is unlikely to use his chemical weapons in the near future — or at least as long as there are international inspectors in his country. (Then again, United Nations inspectors were in Syria when the regime used chemical weapons September 21.) If you thought President Obama didn’t really want to fight this war — or that we would only launch an “unbelievably small” effort, largely symbolic, that would only leave the U.S. looking weaker — this course appears to avoid that bad scenario.

The development is bad if you believe that a dictator must be punished for using chemical weapons. Assad’s only punishment will be giving up his remaining stockpiles — presuming, of course, that the U.N. can find, track, and inventory those stockpiles in a country that is gripped by civil war. With the West’s disinterest in intervention now so obvious to the world, Assad’s odds of remaining in power are improving. That’s bad news for the Syrian rebels — and while they have many in their ranks who are no friend to America, the non-radical elements must feel betrayed by the United States now. Once again, the United States appears to be an unreliable ally, and a distinctly unmenacing enemy.

It’s bad for the Syrian people, because Assad now can fight with impunity, as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons.

The development is crazy, because it appears that John Kerry just gave Assad and his friends the Russians an escape hatch by speaking off the cuff. This is why John Kerry would have made a bad president and is a bad secretary of state — his inclination to say whatever he thinks will be most persuasive to whoever in front of him at that moment. When Kerry needs to make an impassioned case for punishing Assad, he can do so with great passion and emotion, and he compares Assad to Hitler. When Kerry needs to reassure a nervous ally, he emphasizes that the attack will be “unbelievably small.” When he thinks he needs to appear reasonable and not too eager for war, he tosses out a scenario that puts the entire U.S. war effort on hold.

The Russians now appear to be altering the plan, preferring that it is never written down with any specific requirements or consequences spelled out:

Russia is not keen at this stage for a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that would provide a framework to control Syria’s chemical weapons’ stocks, France’s foreign minister said after talks with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday.

“As I understood, the Russians at this stage were not necessarily enthusiastic, and I’m using euphemism, to put all that into the framework of a U.N. binding resolution,” Laurent Fabius told French lawmakers after a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

So if there’s no binding resolution . . . well, then, it’s not really a resolution, now is it?

“Trust us.”

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Russia

An ‘Unbelievably Small Effort’ Against Many, Many, Many Targets



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Today Secretary of State John Kerry inadvertently answered the first of the four questions below: Are we making a symbolic gesture, just to say we did something, or are we inflicting a punishment truly fitting of a war crime of killing civilians with chemical weapons?

Kerry, today:

We will be able to hold [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort, in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing; an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.

How much can you degrade . . . 

 . . . with an “unbelievably small” effort?

Tags: John Kerry , Syria , Barack Obama

Once Flights Begin, No One Can Guarantee ‘No Boots on the Ground’



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Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attempted to emphasize that U.S. military action in Syria will not include “troops on the ground.”

The New York Times, today:

For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.

U.S. planes can be shot down. When they are shot down, we attempt to rescue our pilots. And then we have, at least for a short time period, several dozen “boots on the ground.” As seen in our intervention in Libya:

The Marines were assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and are credited with quickly preparing and launching their Osprey from the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge with a 30-man recovery force. Under cover of darkness, they flew 150 miles to the crash sight of an Air Force F-15E near the city of Benghazi as part of a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission on March 22, 2011.

The Marines recovered Air Force pilot Maj. Kenneth Harney, who along with his weapons system officer, Capt. Tyler Stark, ejected from the aircraft into uncertain circumstances. Heavily armed forces were advancing on the port city in support of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who later died after he was captured by rebel forces. Armed rebels held the territory east of Benghazi at the time, but the pilots didn’t know if they posed a threat, too.

Everything turned out well in Libya, and in the Balkans in 1995:

United States marines staged an audacious rescue mission into the Bosnian war zone after dawn today, snatching up a missing American fighter pilot from his hiding place in the woods and helicoptering him to safety through a smattering of Bosnian Serb missile and machine-gun fire.
The Air Force pilot, Capt. Scott F. O’Grady, had been on the move stealthily in hilly woodlands for six nights before his guarded radio signals allowed rescuers to verify his survival and home in.

“This is Basher-52,” the 29-year-old combat pilot announced from hiding, using his code name in a rescue plea monitored by NATO officials. “I’m alive and I need help.”

Four helicopters and two jet fighters ultimately arrived in response. Captain O’Grady was jubilantly yanked into a helicopter in a drill-perfect two-minute operation after a score of marines leapt down onto Bosnia’s soil to secure the ground for his rescue.

But there’s always a chance that the forces involved with the rescue mission will encounter the enemy and exchange fire, leading to a larger conflict . . . 

Tags: Syria , John Kerry , Chuck Hagel

The Old ‘Engage Assad’ Crowd Now Compares Him to Hitler



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From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Persuasion Tip: Stop Comparing Your Old ‘Partner for Peace’ to Hitler

How’s this for irony? Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, writing in the Wall Street Journal (text found here), back on June 5, 2008, in an op-ed headlined, “It’s Time to Talk to Syria”:

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, President George H. W. Bush did the improbable and convinced Syrian President Hafez Assad to join an American-led coalition against a fellow Baathist regime.

Today, these leaders’ sons have another chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East.

. . . While many doubt Syria’s intentions, we have real leverage and some inducements that have more value to Syria than cost to us. There is no guarantee of an agreement, but the potential payoff is huge, and our current policy is failing.

Of course, that was 110,000 dead and a couple of nerve-gas attacks ago. The desire to punish a murderous, brutal dictator for using abominable weapons is good and noble and right. But it’s insufferable to be told that we have to do this, by the crowd that a half-decade ago kept telling us how wrong we were about Bashar Assad, and how he was just a misunderstood, reasonable reformer.

During a debate, Obama said he was willing to meet with Assad in the first year of his administration. (The summit never took place.) Pelosi did meet with him, and said afterwards, “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.” Kerry met with him at least six times. Now Kerry tells us, “Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein who have used these weapons in time of war,” and he’s alluding to the Holocaust.

You spent much of the past decade insisting we judged Assad too harshly. Let’s see some humility, fellas.

On Tuesday, the two guys who five years ago confidently assured the world of Assad’s value as a partner for peace went before the Senate and confidently assured the country that the administration’s plan for limited long-distance airstrikes would be quick and effective.

Hagel’s testimony showcased how the conventional wisdom about him was almost entirely wrong. Remember, he was supposed to be the quasi-isolationist budget-cutter who wanted to disengage from the Middle East. Perhaps he still is, and he’s stifling what he really believes in service to the president. Or perhaps he never really meant it, and merely grasped that the media would embrace and adore him as a veteran anti–Iraq War Republican. Or perhaps he’s not really sure what he thinks.

“Wait, you’re serious? You want me to go to the Hill and get them to sign off on this?”

War Salesman Hagel sounded quite different from War-Weary Skeptic Hagel — particularly when discussing Syria.

Chuck Hagel in May 2012:

“I think we’ve got to be very wise and careful on this and continue to work with the multilateral institutions in the lead in Syria. I don’t think America wants to be in the lead on this,” he said. “What you have to do is manage the problem. You manage it to a higher ground of possible solutions, ultimately to try to get to a resolution. You don’t have control over what’s going on in Syria.”

“You’ve got to be patient, smart, wise, manage the problem,” he said.

“We’ve got to understand great-power limitations. There are so many uncontrollable variables at play in Syria and the Middle East,” Hagel said. “You work through the multilateral institutions that are available, the U.N., the Arab league. The last thing you want is an American-led or Western-led invasion into Syria.”

Lesson: Nobody really knows how cabinet appointments will turn out. Foreign Policy magazine, back in December 2012:

With Hagel at the helm, Obama could proceed even more quickly with cutting the defense budget and retrenching abroad, while largely neutering his Republican adversaries. . . . He would also be a likely opponent of direct American intervention in Syria and push for as small a remaining military force in Afghanistan as possible. His entire thrust is to emphasize diplomacy over brute power. Hagel’s doctrine is crystal clear: No matter how well-intentioned America may be, it cannot single-handedly impose democracy abroad.

Chuck Hagel, back in 2007:

I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen or ever read about. . . . They have failed the country.

The job’s a little harder than it looked from the outside, huh, Mr. Secretary?

Yesterday Ron Johnson, Wisconsin, asked a devastating question:

You say this is the world’s red line, not ours, and I agree. So how many partners will we have with us?

If sending troops is the price of stopping chemical attacks, almost all of the nations in the world are actually perfectly okay with chemical attacks, as long as they’re not downwind.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , John Kerry , Nancy Pelosi , Barack Obama , Syria

The Democrats’ ‘Smart Power’ Lies in Ruins



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Welcome back from Labor Day weekend. From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Democrats Suddenly Realize What They Miscalculated About the World: Everything

As we await Congress’s decision on authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria, Democrats are suddenly realizing that their foreign-policy brain-trust completely misjudged the world.

Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no “international community” ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.

You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, “smart power.” (These people can’t even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn’t see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough.

How stressed is Obama? He’s starting to climb onto the Resolute desk during phone calls. To the right, Vice President Biden thinks about squirrels.

Well, here we are, five years later. Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, yesterday:

When Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot,” he was not writing an instruction manual on strategy for American Presidents. Unfortunately, however, that seems to be the instruction manual President Obama has read. He has suddenly transformed a rushed call for immediate action into a waiting game where it is not clear what he or the U.S. is waiting for, and where much of the action may come to border on tragicomedy…

The President needs to show real leadership, not overreaction, sudden reversal, and uncertainty. We need the President to shape a broad policy for the Syrian civil war even more than we need a far clearer policy for preventing the use of chemical weapons. More broadly, we need leadership to deal with Iran, its moves towards nuclear weapons and any new options created by Iran’s election. We need clear decisions over how the U.S. will deal with Afghanistan as it pulls out its combat troops. We need a clear definition of what “rebalancing” in Asia really means. We need a clear concept for our future national security posture and spending, and our defense strategy, rather than a food fight over defense spending alone. This is the 21st century. It is not a play and we cannot wait for Godot.

Lest you think this is some Bush-team cheerleader, back in 2006, Cordesman was writing:

As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.

Honest to God, the self-described smart set told us, again and again, Obama would bring a calmer world, just by showing up. (In their defense, the Nobel Committee did practically gve him the Nobel Peace Prize based on attendance.)

Let’s recall how Andrew Sullivan hyperventilated about how Obama would calm anti-American tensions in the Middle East just by showing his face:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

The other obvious advantage that Obama has in facing the world and our enemies is his record on the Iraq War. He is the only major candidate to have clearly opposed it from the start. Whoever is in office in January 2009 will be tasked with redeploying forces in and out of Iraq, negotiating with neighboring states, engaging America’s estranged allies, tamping down regional violence. Obama’s interlocutors in Iraq and the Middle East would know that he never had suspicious motives toward Iraq, has no interest in occupying it indefinitely, and foresaw more clearly than most Americans the baleful consequences of long-term occupation.

This was not some drunken screed (as far as we know); this was a cover piece in The Atlantic magazine. The chattering classes considered this serious thought back in December 2007. Events have proven that ultimately, the president’s hue and middle name don’t really matter. Anti-Americanism is driven by the United States’s role in the world as a secular, Judeo-Christian, economic, cultural and military superpower and the fact that so many other nations and cultures require a scapegoat, rival, or demon figure.

The mega-hype continued into 2009. Here’s Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, in April 2009:

President Obama’s accomplishments, as listed by Hamilton, include: “Re-energizing our efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, commencing the withdrawal from Iraq, dramatically shifting nuclear-weapons policy, including support for the CTBT and cooperation with Russia, changing policies towards Cuba, an opening to Iran, working with our partners to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula, pushing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and Syria, helping Mexico fight the drug cartels and more.”

Think about it. Hamlton genuinely believed those were his accomplishments! Note the ATF and DOJ were sending guns to the Mexican drug cartels back when he was saying that.

Now Kerry tells us, “because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the UN Security Council, the UN cannot galvanize the world to act as it should.”

No @%, Senator Global Test. The United Nations could rarely, if ever, galvanize the world. Maybe back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait back in 1990. Now, whenever there’s a crisis in the world, Russia and China see an opportunity – to make a few bucks through arms sales, to build a relation with a client state, to expand their sphere of influence, or to just antagonize us for the sake of antagonizing us.

The United Nations did not suddenly become an ineffective debating society with little or no influence on the real crises in the world. It has been that for years, and some of us noticed this long before the current crew did.

(This doesn’t stop some of the Democrats’ alleged foreign-policy geniuses from reflexively uttering their rote talking points. Friday night, on Chris Hayes’s show, Bill Richardson said, “I would try to get some kind of ban on arm shipments, send Assad to the International Court of Justice, that the Security Council can do, a condemnation statement. I would continue this U.N. effort.” Keep banging your head against the wall! Sooner or later those bricks will break!)

The whole “reset button” ceremony with Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov was a formal commemoration of the incoming administration’s naïveté. The “famously stormy” relationship between Condi Rice and Lavrov was not a matter of Rice not being diplomatic enough or nice enough or trying hard enough. It reflected that Vladimir Putin and most of Russia’s highest levels of government defined their interests as opposing our interests.

But no one could have foreseen that, right? Russian implacability on Syria was completely a shock to all the experts, right? Could anybody have seen this coming? Oh, wait:

“[Russia] is without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors.” – Mitt Romney, March 26, 2012.

But hey, that guy thought negotiating with the Taliban was foolish, too.

This crew, so certain of their charm, persuasiveness, and diplomatic mettle somehow failed to persuade the British government or people that the effort against Assad is worth joining.

When it hits the fan elsewhere in the world, the EU is not going to come running with peacekeepers. There is nobody else but us.

Tags: Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , John Kerry , Susan Rice , Syria

Apparently a ‘Plan to Win the Peace’ Doesn’t Matter Anymore



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John Kerry, nine years ago: “My question to President Bush is why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace?”

John Kerry, today: “We have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.”

Tags: John Kerry , Barack Obama

Research Firm: Hillary Clinton Would Be Sixth-Wealthiest Presidential Candidate Ever



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In a press release designed to turn heads, the private-wealth research firm Wealth-X declares that if Hillary Clinton were to run, she would be the sixth-wealthiest candidate for president ever, with a net worth of $100 million.

Their ranking of the past candidates:

Rank       Name                  Political Affiliation     Net Worth (US$ millions)

1             Ross Perot           Independent                4,300

2             Steve Forbes       Republican                   430

3             John Kerry           Democrat                     280

4             Mitt Romney        Republican                   220

5             Al Gore                Democrat                     190

I asked Wealth-X how they calculated the net worth of the candidates, and was told, “Wealth-X uses their own proprietary assessment of one’s wealth. Tax returns that were public would be one component of our larger methodology.”

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Ross Perot , Mitt Romney , John Kerry , Al Gore

Hom-Assad-al Maniac



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Epic Morning Jolt to start the week: More warnings Obamacare isn’t ready, why your ex who works at the National Security Agency might be checking up on you, and of course . . . 

Hom-Assad-al Maniac

Big day in the Middle East: “U.N. weapons experts are due on Monday to inspect a site where poison gas killed many hundreds of people in Damascus suburbs, amid calls from Western capitals for military action to punish the world’s worst apparent chemical weapons attack in 25 years.” We’re informed subsequent shelling and warfare may have eroded the evidence.

Bit of a hitch, just as this newsletter is about to be sent out: “Vehicle of UN Syria ChemicalWeapons team hit by sniper fire. Team replacing vehicle & then returning to area.”

Sounds like our government’s convinced: [A senior Obama administration] official, in a written statement, said that “based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts and other facts gathered by open sources, the U.S. intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident.”

Airstrikes coming? “Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets. Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.”

I see everyone on the Right and their brothers giving Samantha Power grief about a spectacularly ill-timed Irish vacation:

Mystery solved. America’s ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was in Ireland on a personal trip when she missed an emergency meeting on the alleged chemical gas attack in Syria, U.N. sources tell Fox News.

A day earlier, State Department officials were mum when asked for information on Power’s whereabouts. She had come under fire for missing Wednesday’s urgent U.N. Security Council meeting, where delegations weighed how to respond to charges that the Assad regime had just committed the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the country’s two-year civil war.

The meeting, and her absence, came just 19 days after Power assumed the U.N. leadership post.

Keep in mind, her boss is this guy, who was on his yacht the day Egypt’s military decided to hit CONTROL-ALT-DELETE on the Arab Spring:

“‘Here I come to save the day!’

That means that John Kerry’s on the way!

Yes sir, when there is a wrong to right, John Kerry will join the fight!

On the sea or on the land, he has the situation well in hand!”

 

Question: What’s really the bigger problem — that Power is texting in statements from her vacation, or that she actually thinks the United Nations is going to do anything serious in response to a Syrian chemical-weapons attack? Or, more specifically, anything that might actually influence the actions of Bashir Assad?

Oh, and if you’re one of those folks arguing the United States should steer clear of any role in the ever-widening, ever-worsening mess that was once known as Syria . . . well, too late:

As part of that, intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm handpicked Syrian rebels, according to current and former U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.

The CIA has put unspecified limits on its arming efforts. But the agency has been helping train rebels to better fight. Earlier this year it also began making salary payments to members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, U.S. and Arab officials said. There are now more CIA personnel at the Jordan base than Saudi personnel, according to Arab diplomats.

Americans in our part-time economy may have trouble finding salaries, but at least Free Syrian Army leaders can collect salaries — courtesy your tax dollars. But I’ll bet it’s just a matter of time before these guys start complaining that Obamacare loused up their health-care benefits, too.

Tags: Samantha Power , United Nations , Syria , John Kerry , Barack Obama

Kerry: Don’t Worry, Syrian Extremists Getting Only a Few Weapons



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Our secretary of state reassures us:

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the Obama administration is confident that the vast majority of weapons being supplied to Syrian rebels by U.S. allies are going to moderates and not finding their way to extremists.

“You can’t guarantee that one weapon or another may not fall in that kind of a situation into the hands that you don’t want it to,” he said. “But, in terms of fundamental balance of battlefield tactics and of effort, I think it is pretty clear that the prime minister shares a belief in trying to do what we need to do rapidly and to try to effect this through the SNC.”

In other news, the vast majority of guns purchased by the Department of Justice are not finding their way to Mexican drug cartels.

Tags: John Kerry , Syria

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