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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Oliver North

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Oliver North

Last Build Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

Welcome to Utopia

Fri, 10 Apr 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Whatever it was -- the Arab press applauded the moment as servile -- it was keeping with the administration's "apologize for America first" message. Given what else happened this week, the incident may turn out to be as trivial as giving the queen of England a Chinese-made iPod as a gift from the American people. While Mr. Obama was basking in the adulation of carefully selected Euro-crowds and genuflecting to foreign potentates (or simply "bending because he is so tall"), other really bad things were happening. The North Koreans defied his warnings of "severe consequences" and test-launched a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. In Tehran, the ayatollahs ignored his Utopian plea for "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" and claim to have turned on 7,000 more centrifuges to refine uranium. Somali pirates "dissed" his "deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world" and hijacked an American-flagged vessel in the Gulf of Aden. The O-Team was so exercised over the first piracy of an American-flagged merchant vessel since 1866 that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fired off a full rhetorical volley. While the crew was busy retaking the ship, she said that "we're deeply concerned" and "following it closely" and that "the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy." More telling than the vacuous hot air blowing from London, Prague, Ankara, Baghdad and Washington was the defense budget presented this week. It assures adversaries and allies alike that we will be unprepared to fight a serious adversary in the future. Hollow talk, empty oratory and impossible dreams are now commonplace in American politics, but the O-Team's Euro-expedition may have set a new foreign fantasy record. Actions speak louder than words -- no matter how flowery the rhetoric. In Prague, Mr. Obama's speechwriters dropped into the teleprompter this last-minute observation: "Just this morning ... North Korea broke the rules once again by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles." He then noted, "This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons." Perhaps if they had more time, his wordsmiths wouldn't have included the pivotal words "once again" to remind us that nothing the U.N. Security Council has done to date has deterred the North Koreans in any way from doing whatever they please in regard to building nuclear weapons or ICBMs. Mr. Obama might as well have mentioned that you can't say the word "unproductive" without using U.N. Genocidal despots, such as those ruling in Pyongyang and Tehran, never have cowered in fear of a nonbinding U.N. Security Council resolution, because they know that the U.N. has raised irrelevance to a new level. They do, however, pay attention to reality -- such as what we're buying to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after Mr. Obama mentioned the North Korean "provocation" and Iran's "dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons," his defense budget revealed how seriously he takes those and other threats. The O-Team intends to reduce our ability to project power overseas and to protect the American people from nuclear attack. If the Obama defense budget is approved as submitted, we will increase spending on protecting our troops ashore and fleet at sea from attack by ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction but cut homeland ballistic missile defense by $1.4 billion. We will increase the number of small "littoral support ships" but reduce our ability to project power from the sea by cutting our carrier fleet from 12 battle groups to 10. We will not modernize ground combat mobility for the Army or the Marines, and POTUS will have to wait a few more years for a new helicopter. Thankfully, the new budget does include much-needed funding for ho[...]

Et Tu, Barack?

Fri, 03 Apr 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Mr. Obama not only fired Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors, but also vowed to remake the company's board of directors in his own image. He also forced Chrysler to merge its operations with Fiat -- a foreign auto manufacturer -- and dictated to the two firms what kinds of products they may and may not manufacture. Finally, he assured the American people -- and presumably those in other nations, as well -- that "O-Team Auto Repairs" will stand behind these companies' warranties. How this can be perceived to be fair to Ford Motor Co. -- the only American auto brand that has not taken a government "bailout" -- wasn't even mentioned.

While Mr. Obama was firing GM's CEO and dictating terms to Chrysler, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was threatening the same treatment to bank executives, and Rep. Barney Frank's Financial Services Committee was preparing to regulate the pay of ordinary Americans. On March 23, the committee adopted HR 1664, a bill that retroactively would impose government controls on the pay of all employees of any company that takes bailout funds and would prevent compensation for any employee that is "unreasonable or excessive." Those standards will be defined by the secretary of treasury and the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who will judge "the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates."

These decisions -- that government, not the free market, shall dictate who runs a private corporation, what that corporation shall make or sell, and what it shall pay its employees -- are unprecedented in an America not fully mobilized for war. Apologists for the Obama administration -- and there are many -- note that previous administrations have done similar things in "difficult economic times." As examples, they cite Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Depression-era agricultural production limits to boost farm prices and Richard Nixon's "temporary" wage and price freeze to cut inflation.

What today's cheerleaders for Draconian interference in capitalism and our private lives fail to mention is that these measures were abandoned because they did not work. FDR's farm production limits produced a thriving black market and eventually succumbed to the need to feed millions of our countrymen suddenly drafted to fight World War II. President Nixon's attempt to dampen inflation with wage and price controls was a monumental failure. When he started the program, the inflation rate was nearly 4 percent. By the time he left office, it was more than 13 percent and climbing. But those ugly precedents aren't going to stop the O-Team from trying again.

Short of war, the unintended consequences of government intervention are often far worse than the problem it was supposed to solve. As the U.S. Senate was voting to spend a billion dollars a year to put a quarter-million civilian "volunteers" on the government payroll, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., rose to ask his colleagues a salient question that applies as much to the takeover of the auto industry as it does to destroying community volunteerism: "Do you see anything in our history as a federal government that shows that we have the ability to effectively manage something like that?"

He then observed: "Despite the good intentions of this bill, we are creating a huge new government entity that will be unmanageable and violates some of the core principles of our civil society. Every time the government steps in to solve a problem, it creates three new problems in its place."

Let's hope that last sentence will not become the epitaph for the United States of America we knew before Barack.

Carpe Crisis

Fri, 27 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Anyone who has followed the current travail of the Mexican government in dealing with hyper-violent drug cartels south of the Rio Grande agrees that it is a serious calamity. In 2008, more than 5,800 people were killed in Mexican drug-related violence, double the number in 2007. At least 1,100 have died thus far in 2009. The $40 billion that drug lords reap annually from U.S., Canadian and European "customers" has fueled massive corruption in Mexico, allowing cartels virtually unlimited power. Ruthless killings of civil, police and military officials who resist have become endemic. When the chief of police in Ciudad Juarez refused a cartel's order to resign, he was told that they would kill one of his police officers every 48 hours. Five of his officers were murdered in 10 days. The chief quit and went into hiding. Not all of the problem is south of the border. Well-funded Mexican-affiliated drug gangs operate in at least 230 U.S. cities and towns -- keeping their American "clients" supplied -- and are fighting for "turf." Last year in Phoenix, there were more than 370 drug-related kidnappings. Cartel-related crimes have been reported from Albuquerque to Anchorage and Seattle to Savannah. Last month, Mexico's courageous and beleaguered president, Felipe Calderon, began deploying military units to fight well-armed narco-terrorists in northern Mexico. On the U.S. side of the border, DEA, ATF, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, along with state and local law enforcement officers, commenced a coordinated, multi-state crackdown on drug gangs. According to the Department of Justice, the operation netted 755 drug dealers, money launderers and smugglers. In addition to committing additional law enforcement assets to the border, the U.S. also is providing Mexican authorities with intelligence, high-tech detection gear, sophisticated sensors and night-vision equipment for combating cartel "foot soldiers" armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades, heavy machine guns and Soviet-era rocket-propelled grenade launchers. This help certainly is warranted. It is in our national interest that the Calderon campaign against the cartels succeed. Unfortunately, the O-Team and its "progressive" allies in Congress aren't satisfied with the progress that is being made thus far. They apparently intend to use the cartel crisis, as Emanuel has advocated, "to do things that" they thought they "could not do before." On Feb. 25, Attorney General Eric Holder urged the U.S. "to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons." He said, "I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." The following day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, "I am prepared to wage the assault weapons battle again and intend to do so." And March 17, during a Senate Judiciary Crime and Drugs Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., claimed that an "iron river of guns from the United States arms Mexican drug cartels to the teeth." Reality check: Resurrecting the so-called "assault weapons ban" that expired in 2004 isn't going to do anything to help the Mexican government deal with drug cartels -- or any other criminal organizations. Nor was the O-Team's decision to stop the Defense Logistics Agency from allowing surplus military brass cartridges to be reloaded going to stop a single bullet from reaching criminals. Thankfully, that inane rule has been reversed, saving law-abiding gun owners -- and our heavily indebted government -- money. The Mexican drug cartels aren't being armed by law-abiding Americans. Rather than trying to re-enact meaningless legislation based on the appearance of a firearm or the shape of a magazine, the O-Team and its congressional allies need to focus on securing our borders and providing the resources to enforce the laws we already have on the books. Infringing on the Second Amendment rights of U.S. ci[...]

The Burden of Battle

Fri, 20 Mar 2009 00:30:00 -0600

It also started a wildfire among America's vets. Some described the proposal as part of "a conspiracy against our military." Veterans blogs cited administration deliberations on allowing U.S. military personnel to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, talk of allowing practicing homosexuals into the armed forces, and deep cuts in defense spending in the midst of a war as part of a pattern of anti-military bias. Whether it is malevolence, ideology or incompetence that is driving these strategies, none of this helps recruiting or retaining the brightest and best-educated, -trained, -led and -equipped military force the world ever has seen. Had this ploy worked, the new recruiting pitch to some bright young person about to graduate from high school would have to include this warning: If you are wounded in the service to your country, we're going to make you pay for any medical care you receive after we get you off the battlefield. On the same day that this "private payer for war wounds" travesty was being discussed at the White House, we also learned that $6.4 million of taxpayer money was given to an AIG executive as a "retention bonus." Apparently, the O-Team's half-baked idea for a military "retention bonus" was to have those wounded in war find private insurers to cover the costs of their service-connected medical care. The scheme was dead on arrival. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who should have known better than to defend it, was raked over the coals in a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing March 10. At a White House meeting Monday, March 16, the O-Team -- with the man himself attending -- tried to jam the idea down the throats of Veterans Service Organizations. By Tuesday, members of both houses and both parties on Capitol Hill were paying attention as the blogosphere filled with ire from veterans and their families. On Wednesday, House Republicans sent a letter to the White House denouncing the proposal as a breach of faith in "a solemn obligation to our nation's veterans." A few hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was applauded for announcing that the O-Team had "made the decision that the combat-wounded veterans should not be billed through their insurance policies for combat-related injuries." Full disclosure here: I'm relieved because, among other things, I had a personal stake in the outcome. According to the VA, my service-connected wounds and injuries amount to a 40 percent disability. I receive $541 a month from the VA as "disability compensation." Unlike civilian private-sector or government retirees receiving "disability," my military retired pay is reduced by the same amount. Like most veterans, I now have a "civilian" job, which pays me a lot more to be shot at than the Marines did. My employer has a private insurance plan in which my wife and I participate. Under existing rules, the VA is required to pay for any medical treatment I receive as a consequence of my service-connected injuries. The O-Team's proposal unfairly would have made our private insurance company pay for this care, even though neither my present employer nor insurer had anything to do with my being wounded in Vietnam. Like most private insurance policies, ours has a maximum benefit amount, which we could exceed if those old injuries required prolonged care. The prospect of my wife being unable to receive medical treatment because we had "run out of insurance" was too painful to contemplate. Had the administration's despicable design succeeded, the burden on those wounded in the current war would have been unthinkable. The O-Team rescinded its shameful plot to make veterans pay for combat-related medical treatment, but only because Americans were repulsed by the idea. It remains to be seen whether similar outrage will be provoked by White House plans to burden our children with debt and use the tax code to w[...]

Failing the Test

Fri, 13 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

"Nice guy" diplomacy hasn't worked very well elsewhere, either. Pakistan replied to the administration's "let's get along" overture by allowing Dr. A.Q. Khan -- the world's most notorious nuclear weapons proliferator -- to travel and "resume scientific research." Hamas responded to the promise of $1 billion in U.S. "reconstruction funds" by showering Israeli civilians with Iranian-made, Syrian-delivered, Egyptian-facilitated rockets. Syrian strongman Bashar Assad's answer to last week's White House proffer of "dialogue with Damascus" came this week, when he told visiting Japanese journalists that such talks would "have to involve" the Iranian-controlled terror group Hezbollah. For those who may have forgotten, the only terror organization that has killed more Americans than Hezbollah is al-Qaida -- on Sept. 11. The "O-Team's" offer to "reboot" the U.S.-Russia relationship was so moving that Moscow bribed Kyrgyzstan's government into booting U.S. troops from Manas Air Base, a crucial base for supporting allied operations in Afghanistan. The Kremlin followed up by forging ahead with plans to sell advanced S-300 (SA-10) surface-to-air missiles to Tehran, presumably to help protect Iranian nuclear facilities. With this track record as a preamble, it is not surprising that the People's Republic of China decided to conduct a little "O-Test" of its own. On Feb. 22, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded two days of "very promising" meetings in Beijing by emphasizing that "the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship." Five days later, the U.S. and China resumed direct military-to-military "consultations" -- talks that had been suspended in 2008, when the Bush administration sold Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan. It went downhill from there. On March 4, Chinese ships and aircraft commenced harassing the USNS Impeccable and the USNS Victorious while they were operating in international waters. The two unarmed, civilian-manned vessels (with U.S. Navy personnel aboard to operate specialized equipment) are designated as ocean surveillance ships. Both are equipped with the newest generation of submarine tracking sonar, known as SURTASS LFA. The Victorious -- operating in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean Peninsula and mainland China -- was approached at night by a Chinese patrol vessel using a high-intensity spotlight to blind lookouts on the ship's bridge momentarily. The Impeccable -- operating about 75 miles off the coast of Hainan Island, which is a major Chinese naval and submarine base in the South China Sea -- was "buzzed" repeatedly by Chinese Y-12 maritime patrol aircraft and then surrounded by no fewer than five Chinese vessels. According to the official complaint filed with Beijing by the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, the confrontation required the Impeccable to "maneuver to avoid" a collision with a Chinese navy frigate; the Chinese ships approached to within 25 feet of the U.S. vessel; and "high pressure water hoses were employed" to prevent the ships from being boarded. A Defense Department spokesman said that Chinese sailors made "an attempt to snag the Impeccable's towed acoustic array sonar" and described the incident as evidence of "increasingly aggressive conduct by Chinese vessels." Provocations by the increasingly assertive People's Republic of China are nothing new. Nor are "tests" for new administrations by foreign rivals. George W. Bush was in office for less than 40 days when a Chinese J-8 fighter, harassing a U.S. Navy EP-3 70 miles off Hainan Island, collided with the slower, less maneuverable U.S. surveillance plane. The pilot of the Chinese fighter was killed; the EP-3 made an emergency landing on Hainan, and the crew was detained for 11 days. After the crew and plane were released, the U.S. suspended military-to-military talks with China. [...]

Be Happy

Fri, 06 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

By Tuesday, it was worse. That morning, The New York Times reported that three weeks ago, Mr. Obama wrote a confidential letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that European-based ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic will not be deployed as planned if Moscow helps keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This revelation generated an international media feeding frenzy. Hours later, during a White House press availability with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Obama claimed that his missive had been "mischaracterized" and denied that it was "some sort of quid pro quo." He insisted that it was merely "a very lengthy letter talking about a whole range of issues, from nuclear proliferation to how are we going to deal with a set of common security concerns along the Afghan border and terrorism." He also noted, "The missile defense program, to the extent that it is deployed, is designed to deal with not a Russian threat, but an Iranian threat." During a visit to Madrid, Medvedev maintained, "No trade-offs have been discussed; I assure you." It didn't help. The furor over Mr. Obama's "to the extent that it is deployed" language about the missile shield was exacerbated Wednesday by the release of a new presidential task force report on Iran by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The bipartisan authors of the document, entitled "Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress," conclude that Iran has the means and materiel to develop a nuclear weapon within a year and sufficient fissile material on hand to produce 50 more. The nine-page report also warns that Iranian plans to acquire Russian-made advanced anti-aircraft missiles could accelerate Israeli military plans for dealing with Tehran's threat to "wipe the Zionist entity off the earth." According to the authors, "Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option." However, the report states, "Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran's nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300." All of this prompted more than 40 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives to send their own letter to the White House Wednesday night. In it, the congressmen expressed their concern that Mr. Obama's "policy does not adequately recognize the threat posed by Iran" and that the administration "may be undertaking a surprisingly unilateral action" by offering concessions to Russia. Noting that last month, the Iranians "launched a satellite into orbit using dual-use, long-range ballistic missile technology," the House Republicans cautioned that the Obama-Medvedev correspondence "undermines NATO's endorsement" of European missile defenses and "undercuts our allies." The signatories observed, "Russia used financial incentives to persuade Kyrgyzstan to deny the U.S. access to its Manas military base in order to support coalition operations in Afghanistan." In response, Mr. Obama said, "We've had a good exchange between ourselves and the Russians," and "we're rebooting" our relationship. Administration officials are putting out the word that Moscow is playing nice, noting that this week, they allowed a NATO supply convoy to pass through Russia to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described her meeting Friday in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as a "tremendous opportunity." Meanwhile, the "transparent" administration refuses to release the Obama-Medvedev letter. In the pictures and on the tube, everyone but the House Republicans is smiling. Our president, our secretary of state and the Russians are happy. You should be, too. Now you have [...]

Truth Be Told

Fri, 27 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Maybe it's not his fault. Perhaps 27-year-old Jon Favreau, his eloquent speechwriter, just doesn't know the facts or recognize "where have I heard those words before?" Here are a few examples of when Obama's words this week just didn't match what's right: "We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before." The first sentence is spot on. The second sentence simply isn't true. Since 2005, U.S. oil imports have declined steadily, from a high of 5 billion barrels per year. In defending hasty passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he said, "A failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years." But supposedly impartial economic analysis by the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the legislation likely will have a negative effect on long-term productivity and economic growth. "The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education, how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll." For six decades, I've been doing it all wrong. In my family and business, our ability to do all those things has been based on what we could afford, not how much we could borrow. Because we have been frugal, we are going to be punished with higher taxes so that what we have earned can be given to people who refused to save for what they want. "So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary." Those unfamiliar with history may not recall that this was exactly what Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler asked their legislatures to do in creating National Socialism. In the midst of rising unemployment and economic crisis, both men asked for and got legislation to do what was "necessary" and promised new private-sector jobs would be generated by government-funded programs, new tax laws and novel "lending rules." It worked. Private companies did hire workers to build rail systems and highways. They also invigorated auto industries and, in Germany, the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world. The rest is history we all know. "In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry." Not true. Our transcontinental railroad, arguably the greatest engineering feat of the 19th century, began in 1830 and was not completed until 1869, as a private-sector venture. The federal government's role was limited to "eminent domain" land seizures, authorizing the import of immigrant laborers, guaranteeing private bank loans, and approving the actions of administrators in federal territories. "I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it." Great line, but wrong. The first "automobile" (a French word) was invented by Frenchman Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769. In 1862, French inventor Alphonse Beau de Rochas built a car powered by an internal-combustion engine. Karl Benz, a German, was issued the first patent for a "self-powered car," in 1886. Henry Ford was the first to mass-produce automobiles -- starting in 1913 -- and he did it without any money from the U.S. government. Mr. Obama said his budget "makes the largest investment ever in preventive care ... (in order) to keep our people healthy and our costs under control." Polio, once deemed to be the No. 1 health threat in the U.S., was all but eliminated by Jonas Salk. Beginning in 1947, Salk conducted research at the University of Pittsburgh. The research was funded by private charity, not government. "This budget supports (a) historic investment in education." But according to the UNESCO Global Education Digest, even before this "investment," the United States had the world's highest per cap[...]

Stealth Surge

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

This deployment -- about 8,000 additional Marines, 4,000 more soldiers and 5,000 "support personnel" -- does not come as a surprise. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama made it clear that he saw Afghanistan as the "central front" of what he called "the war on terror." He also has said repeatedly that he wants increased U.S. combat power to take on the Taliban and al-Qaida. The surprise is in the timing and the way he has decided to do it. Last week, the administration announced a full-blown, 60-day, interagency, multinational, quadraphonic, star-studded, strategic review of "every aspect of our Afghanistan policy." Our European allies were informed that Afghanistan is at the "top of the agenda" for the NATO summit in March. On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that he, too, would be participating in the strategic review. And then Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., too late for much besides a headline on the evening news, the one-page deployment order, which has troops from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Fort Lewis, Wash. -- and countless points in between -- packing their kits for the Hindu Kush. So much for having a strategy before committing what's needed to implement it. The deployment announcement apparently didn't impress our "allies' in Pakistan. White House "special envoy" Richard Holbrooke has been in Islamabad and Kabul -- ostensibly on a "fact-finding mission." His plane was barely off the ground before the government in Islamabad announced that offensive military operations against the Taliban will cease in the Malakand region of northwestern Pakistan and that henceforth, the area will be governed in accord with Shariah, or Islamic law. So much for persuading Pakistan -- through which we send more than 80 percent of our supplies -- to crack down on radical Islamic terror. Holbrooke didn't fare much better in Kabul, where he acceded to Afghan demands for "coordinating all military operations with Afghan forces." On Sunday, he and Karzai held a testy joint news conference. Afterward, Holbrooke apparently convinced someone at the White House that the two presidents needed to have a little chat -- something that, strangely enough, there just hadn't been time for since the inaugural. If the various spokesmen are telling the truth, the Obama-Karzai conversation finally came Tuesday, after Obama issued his one-page deployment order. The next day, Karzai, who is running for re-election in August, said, "If foreign troops do not listen to us, we will call a (grand council), and we will also include the Taliban ... to decide whether foreign troops should stay in Afghanistan." While none of this sounds particularly encouraging, it must be noted that Karzai also said, "The tension the Afghan government had with the U.S. government is now over." That should make everyone feel better. Unfortunately, timing and diplomacy aren't the only problems with this deployment announcement. There is also the matter of what's in it and what's not. Last year, Gen. David McKiernan asked for 30,000 additional combat troops to reinforce the 49,000 from NATO and the 32,000 U.S. personnel he has on the ground. But that's not what he's getting. Tuesday's presidential order authorized sending 17,000 troops. Yet the Pentagon only identified the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which has "approximately 8,000 Marines" and is due to deploy in late spring 2009, and the 5th Stryker Brigade, which has "approximately 4,000 soldiers" and is due to deploy in midsummer 2009. It then adds, "Approximately 5,000 additional troops to support these combat forces will receive deployment orders at a later date." In short, Gen. McKiernan is getting less than half of what he asked for. Finally, there is the issue of presidential style. In the final paragraph of his on[...]

Failure to Launch

Fri, 13 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Few of the potentates of the press have even bothered to report on the national security setbacks and missed opportunities that the "ready on day one" crowd has already delivered. Unfortunately for the new administration, few of these reversals can be blamed on their predecessors. Since becoming president, Mr. Obama repeatedly has pledged a "new era of cooperation" with the rest of the world. Presumably, this means that the U.S. isn't going to play the part of "superpower" anymore. It now appears that there are those who aim to test his sincerity and to do so in ways that are not at all in our national interests. Last week, Pakistan -- which Mr. Obama offered to bomb during his campaign -- responded to the new "kinder and gentler" overtures from Washington by releasing from detention the world's most notorious nuclear proliferator, Dr. A.Q. Khan. After masterminding Islamabad's nuclear weapons program, Khan used his "network" to help Libya, North Korea and Iran acquire nuclear weapons technology and components. He's been under "house arrest" since 2004, when Bush administration WMD sleuths and quiet diplomacy persuaded Moammar Gadhafi to reveal his supplier. That was then, and this is now. Just to make sure we and the U.N.'s toothless International Atomic Energy Agency got the message, the Pakistanis made it clear that Khan is now "free to travel" and resume his "research." The "new approach" in Washington has produced similar results in other capitals. Less than a week after Vice President Biden told NATO and European Union diplomats in Munich that Mr. Obama wanted to "push the reset button" on U.S.-Russia diplomacy and reduce U.S. nuclear weapons "by 80 percent," Moscow responded with some "new initiatives" of its own. Last Saturday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, widely viewed as a puppet of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's, persuaded Kyrgyzstan's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to reject American offers to renew a lucrative lease on the U.S.-built Manas Air Base, which is outside Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. Since 2001, the Manas "Airhead" had been crucial to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. It is even more so today because the Taliban interdicted the overland route from Pakistan to Kabul. The next day, Moscow agreed to allow U.S. shipments of nonlethal supplies through Russian territory into Afghanistan over a route that was closed after Russia invaded Georgia last summer. Just to make sure that the "new team" in Washington is paying attention, on Monday, Putin met with Cuba's new dictator, Raul Castro. Despite Russia's ongoing currency crisis, the collapse of the Moscow Stock Exchange, and falling oil prices, Putin cobbled together a deal the Castro brothers are glad to get: a new financial aid package. According to news reports in Moscow and Havana, the Russians have promised $270 million in loans and $37 million in Russian commodities, such as grain and commercial aircraft. Unmentioned by either country is what the Russians expect in return. A former U.S. intelligence official warns: "The Russians never give anything away for nothing. With them, everything is a quid pro quo. Keep an eye on Lourdes." The location referred to was a Soviet signals-intelligence site south of Havana, which was used for "listening" to U.S. defense and NASA communications. On Oct. 17, 2001, Putin, then the president of Russia, announced its closure. None of this bodes well for the first few weeks of the new administration. Let's hope that none of the "over-promising" domestically or damaging diplomacy overseas is on an irreversible downward trajectory. In an increasingly unstable and dangerous world, the much-hyped "new way" of dealing with friends and adversaries has, thus far, failed to launch.[...]

Stimulate Defense

Fri, 06 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Unfortunately, given the political alignment in Washington, it is unlikely that taxes will be cut enough, and inevitably there will be too much spending on the wrong priorities. However, there is one place where Republicans need to stand their ground: national defense. Right now, neither the House's nor the Senate's version of the so-called "stimulus bill" contains any dollars for defense. It ought to stay that way because this "stimulus" legislation ought to focus like a laser on short-term measures, such as immediate tax cuts, that will expedite recovery in the civilian sector of our economy. But the Obama administration and their supporters on Capitol Hill need to understand that when it comes to spending, there are few things government can do that have a more immediate, positive effect on jobs and the overall economy than expenditures on national defense. Ronald Reagan knew that. In his first 100 days in office, he took his arguments for cutting taxes and rebuilding the U.S. military -- including a 600-ship Navy -- to the American people. He convinced them -- and they, in turn, convinced the liberals running Capitol Hill -- that these measures were essential for the country. The result was a dramatic rebound in jobs and economic growth from the malaise and stagflation of the Carter years, and there also were significant improvements in the quality, capabilities and readiness of our armed forces. Regrettably, this lesson appears to have been missed by Mr. Obama and his advisers. The administration has made it clear that they intend to cut defense spending -- even though we are at war -- despite the job losses it would entail. Just days before the inauguration, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel stated in televised interviews that "on an annual basis, we have about $300 billion in cost overruns" from the Defense Department. The interviewers on NBC and PBS failed to ask him to identify where he found these "overruns" in a $527 billion wartime budget. It apparently doesn't matter. This week, the Office of Management and Budget ordered the Pentagon to show how it can cut $55 billion from the fiscal year 2010 defense program. To "stimulate" action in this direction, the Congressional Budget Office helpfully pointed out that "savings" of $18 billion could be "realized" by reversing Mr. Obama's pledge to increase the sizes of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and instead cutting the number of Army combat brigades and reducing the Marines' end strength. The green-eyeshade gang at the CBO also pointed out that $2.1 billion could be "saved" by increasing health care charges for the dependents of military personnel. That should help morale. Additional "savings" have been identified by others on Capitol Hill. Reps. Barney Frank and Barbara Lee have announced that they want to "trim" what they call "Cold War-era" weapons from the 2010 budget. Included in their "cut list" are the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ($6.1 billion), the F/A-22 Raptor ($4.5 billion), the Marines' V-22 Osprey ($1.3 billion), the DDG-1000 destroyer ($3.5 billion) and the Army's Future Combat Systems ($3.7 billion). Even though Iran succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit this week -- demonstrating the capability to launch nuclear-tipped ICBMs -- Rep. Frank persists in claiming that ballistic missile defense ($8.9 billion) is on the chopping block, as well, adding, "We don't need all these fancy new weapons." In an increasingly dangerous world, in the midst of a war and serious global economic woes, this kind of thinking is lunacy. The Obama administration and their liberal allies on Capitol Hill need to set aside their deep-seated, pathological antipathy toward America's military and invest in the defense of this[...]

Troubling Talk

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Late last week, Gen. James Conway, the Marine commandant, suggested that as many as 20,000 U.S. Marines could be committed to the campaign in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden went to the Pentagon for a getting-to-know-you gathering with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nothing that leaked out of this off-the-record meet and greet disputed the proposal that the Marines be phased out of Iraq and sent to battle the Taliban and al-Qaida. The timing for such a move would seem to be right. This week, millions of Iraqis lined up to dip their fingers in purple ink and cast ballots in the first free and fair provincial elections in the history of Mesopotamia. Not only were half the voters women but also, among the candidates vying for 450 seats in the assemblies of 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, more than 200 were women. Had radical Islamists -- whether they'd been Sunni or Shiite -- had their way, none of this ever would have occurred. Importantly, it happened only because young American soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines persevered in Iraq. Failing to declare this election a major victory in the war being waged against us by radical Islam is a mistake. Mr. Obama could have mentioned the Iraqi elections in his "first formal television interview" -- given Monday to Hisham Melhem of the Saudi-owned, United Arab Emirates-based Al-Arabiya satellite network. Regrettably, he never mentioned it. Instead, he talked about "communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest." He also responded to his interlocutor in ways that denigrated his predecessors, including by expressing his desire "to listen (and to) set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years." During the interview, Mr. Obama also spoke wistfully of the "respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago" and added, "There's no reason why we can't restore that." Some will say it isn't fair to make our new commander in chief stick to the facts. That's the trouble with television interviews. They are on tape and stay around for years. If you are going to do them, it helps to know the facts. Let's see, 30 years ago -- 1979 -- the year that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran, the "Islamic Revolution" was proclaimed, the U.S. was first described as "the Great Satan," our embassy in Tehran, Iran, was sacked, and 53 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. That's probably not the kind of "respect" Mr. Obama had in mind. How about 20 years ago -- 1989? While investigators still were combing the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi sent MiG-23s to attack a U.S. Navy carrier battle group in the Mediterranean Sea. Final score: U.S. Navy 2, Libya 0. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a (SET ITAL) fatwa (END ITAL) to kill Salman Rushdie. Islamic radicals murdered the president of Lebanon, and Saddam Hussein issued mobilization orders in preparation for invading Kuwait the following August. Some "partnership." Unfortunately, the Al-Arabiya interview isn't the only troubling talk coming from the Obama administration that could well leave members of our all-volunteer force wondering just what is expected of them. In congressional testimony this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that even though Afghanistan is the new commander in chief's "top priority," we also "ought to keep our objectives realistic and limited in Afghanistan." I have spent my life in and around our military. Everyone I ever have known[...]

Clear and Present Danger

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after his inaugural, the Obama White House Web site announced, inter alia, that they will engage in "tough and direct" diplomacy with Iran "without preconditions" and that he intends to use "the power of American diplomacy" to deal with "Iran's illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel." According to the statement, the new commander in chief believes that "seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress." If that's really what Mr. Obama believes, he is -- to put it politely -- mistaken. This "new approach" includes little more than what our European allies have been trying for more than five years. The White House statement suggests that if Iran abandons its effort to acquire nuclear weapons, the U.S. will offer incentives, such as membership in the World Trade Organization, new economic investment and normalized diplomatic relations. It also notes that if Iran continues its "troubling behavior," we will lead efforts to further Iranian economic and political isolation. The only difference between this proposal and the Bush administration's is that the U.S. now will have an official seat at the table while Tehran's emissaries diddle the diplomats with deceit, deception and delay. Before issuing such a "bold initiative" and "outreach" toward the theocrats ruling in Tehran, Mr. Obama's advisers should have shown their boss the report provided late last month to French President Nicolas Sarkozy from a nonpartisan parliamentary commission on Iran's nuclear program. The report details Tehran's success in circumventing U.N. sanctions and concludes that Iranian scientists already have the know-how to build a nuclear weapon and that unless action is taken to prevent it, they will possess all necessary technology, equipment and fissile material to deploy nuclear weapons no later than the end of next year, "perhaps sooner." Note to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta: President Sarkozy has shared this report with other Western intelligence and diplomatic missions, but only the Europeans appear to have read it. They are not waiting for the "new hand of progress" to do a grip and grin with a radical Iranian ayatollah who believes "Zionism should be wiped from the earth." On Thursday, while Mrs. Clinton was doing a meet and greet with her new staff at Foggy Bottom, diplomats from the 27 states of the European Union recommended removing an Iranian exile opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, from the EU terror list. The agreement is expected to be ratified by the EU foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels, Belgium, Monday. If the EU determination is affirmed, only the U.S. will continue to describe the PMOI as a "terrorist organization" -- a designation it earned in the 1980s, when it received support from Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. I know because I chaired the meeting that made the recommendation. But that was then; this is now. The PMOI, it should be noted, is the group that first alerted the world to Iran's covert nuclear program. Though most Western intelligence agencies dismissed the charge in 2002 and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency scoffed at the allegations, the information was spot on. Since then, the PMOI has provided covert surveillance and reporting on inbound and outbound Iranian arms shipments, such as the weapons-laden vessel bound for Syria interdicted this week in the Red Sea by a U.S. warship on counter-piracy patrol. Unfortunately, only the lawyers were at work Wednesday, so the Cypriot-flagged ship was allowed to proceed toward the Suez Ca[...]

The Central Front

Fri, 16 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

This week, he announced that despite 61 released detainees returning to commit more atrocities, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility will be closed. He likely will make it official in his inaugural address. He authorized his secretary of state-designate to testify in congressional hearings that he will be "engaging with Iran" soon. Though Obama has given the nod to deploying 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the soon-to-be vice president, standing in Kandahar this week, spoke nothing of victory. Instead, Sen. Biden said just that he is "very interested in what becomes of this region because it affects us all." All of this demonstrates a frightening naiveté about who our adversaries are, what is at stake, and what to do about it. After Tuesday, the ball is in Obama's court -- and in the hands of a new set of advisers, some of whom I have known well for decades. I hope they will be willing to apprise our new chief executive of some hard realities. First, we're not at war against the Taliban or al-Qaida or Jemaah Islamiyah or Hamas or Hezbollah or any other group, no matter what its trade name is. Our fight is against radical Islam, which declared an unprovoked war against us -- just like the ideological struggle we waged against fascism and communism. The "central front" of this war may be on the Indo-Pakistani border today, but it could be in Somalia next month. It began in the 1980s, when Islamic radicals began blowing themselves up to kill Europeans, pro-Western Muslims, Israelis and Americans. We just didn't fight back until nearly 3,000 of us were killed by Islamic radicals Sept. 11, 2001. From October 2001 until March 2003, Afghanistan was "the central front." From then until late 2007, the battle was waged primarily in Iraq. The goal -- no matter how poorly articulated -- was to prevent radical Islamists from using Mesopotamia as a haven for acquiring weapons of mass destruction and to fight them "over there" instead of here. It took longer and was more expensive in lives and treasure than anyone wanted, but it worked. Today the campaign against radical Islam in Iraq is won. In countless battles, young Americans in flak jackets and helmets defeated often-suicidal enemies, built schools and clinics, established civil order, and trained and equipped a new ally in a part of the world where we need friends. Americans became the protectors of Muslim women and assured their right to participate fully in the economic, social and political life of a country. That's a major victory in the fight against radical Islam. Let's hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the new commander in chief will acknowledge his predecessor's resolve and thank the soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines who achieved it. Instead of expressing "interest" in what happens in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, the new administration needs to realize that failure is not an option. Despite significant cultural and tribal differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, they are equally "winnable" if we do the right things: --Use the presidential bully pulpit to remind Afghanistan's neighbors that if Taliban/terror bases on their territories are not closed, they will be attacked. --Commence building paved roads throughout all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces to generate jobs, reduce casualties from IEDs and mines, and show the Afghan people that their government cares about them. --Stop corruption and illicit drug production from the top down, not the bottom up. Arrest and prosecute the kingpins, and then go for eradication and crop replacement. It worked in Colombia, and it can work in Afghanistan. [...]

One President?

Fri, 09 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

During this week's Oval Office photo op with President George W. Bush and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, PEBO used the "one-president-at-a-time" dodge to avoid answering a reporter's hurled interrogatory about Israeli military operations in Gaza. The response from those in the lineup -- and apparently most in the mainstream media -- is to nod approvingly at PEBO's sagacity every time they hear him say it. The only trouble: It simply isn't true. While the current, former and future commanders in chief went off to snack and chat, Sen. Joe Biden, the soon-to-be vice president of the United States, headed off to Andrews Air Force Base to commence a hastily convened weeklong "congressional fact-finding mission" to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Absent from the secret itinerary divulged by Biden were other places with even more pressing problems. U.S. ally India, still recovering from the brutal Mumbai terror attack, is on the brink of attacking Pakistan. Ukraine, a NATO applicant, is threatened by interference from Moscow and this week's natural gas cutoff. And American ally Israel -- facing the threat of U.N. sanctions for acting in self-defense to protect its citizens from Iranian-supplied rockets and mortars being fired from Gaza by Hamas -- now faces attacks from Iranian-supported Hezbollah terror in Lebanon. While the potentates of the press gush over the forthcoming "history-making inaugural," the Biden "CODEL" -- Washington-speak for "congressional delegation" -- to select trouble spots has made some little-noted history of its own. Unlike PEBO, Biden (the abbreviation VPEJB just doesn't roll off the lips) did not surrender his Senate seat. This week, when Congress reconvened, Biden insisted on being sworn in as Delaware's senior senator and on retaining his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Unlike Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Dan Quayle and Al Gore -- who all ascended to the vice presidency from the Senate and did nothing to interfere in diplomatic issues between election and inauguration -- Biden is dabbling about in the affairs of state. Biden defends his actions by pointing to the company he is keeping on this trip, fellow Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Earlier in the week, perhaps forgetting the post he will occupy Jan. 20, Biden said, "I'm still a Senate man." None of the media all-stars covering the PTT thought to ask PEBO what he thought of this response. Notably, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, soon to become secretary of state, neither was included in the CODEL nor was available for comment about the propriety of such an unprecedented adventure. None of this bodes well for the new administration -- or for America's interests in a very dangerous world. The situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are certainly important. But so, too, are outcomes in Gaza and Lebanon, our relationship with India, and the effects of an increasingly tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine. All of these places and problems matter to U.S. national security, and all are perhaps in more urgent need of attention. PEBO can't have it both ways. He cannot claim that "we have only one president" and then dispatch his future vice president on a thinly disguised CODEL to diddle in diplomacy without having world leaders take note of what the incoming administration considers to be important. In permitting the Biden CODEL to go forward -- and approving the itinerary -- PEBO has sent a signal -- intentionally or not -- to allies and adversaries alike. [...]

Old Acquaintances Now Passed

Sat, 03 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

First, there are the 216 military personnel in Iraq and 133 in Afghanistan who were killed in action or who died of wounds during 2008. Some of them I knew from covering them over the last seven years in both theaters in this war against radical Islam. All of them left grieving families, and all of us should thank God for their sacrifice. On Feb. 28, William F. Buckley Jr., "the Godfather of American conservatism," died, without a replacement. I read his first book, "God and Man at Yale," while I was a young Marine, and it helped shape my worldview long before I ever met him. He went on to write 50 books -- but devoted his life to founding and publishing National Review, hosting the TV show "Firing Line" and writing a twice-weekly newspaper column, read -- usually with the aid of a dictionary -- in over 300 newspapers. In so doing, he paved the way for other conservative voices in the media. In 1971, he invited me and two other Marines to appear on television to rebut a slanderous article about Vietnam that Seymour Hersh had published in The New York Times. Hersh was a "no show," but Buckley put us on anyway. We stayed in touch -- and years later, Buckley was kind enough to encourage my own television career, hosting "War Stories" on FOX News Channel. On April 5, my friend Charlton Heston left us. Like millions of others, I first came to recognize his "chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice" on the silver screen in his Academy Award-winning role in "Ben-Hur," and other classics such as "The Ten Commandments," "Planet of the Apes" and "El Cid." But his "off-screen" roles made him a friend. In 1992, the man who had once marched with Martin Luther King Jr. joined me in protesting the release of a violent rap song called "Cop Killer." In 1998, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and increased the rolls from 2.5 million to more than 4 million members. In 2000, when Al Gore campaigned for president on a gun-ban platform, Heston, who called political correctness "tyranny with manners," held a flintlock rifle over his head and declared the only way to take his gun was "from my cold, dead hands, Mr. Gore!" It was so effective that former President Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA cost Gore the White House. Liberals called U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms "Senator No." But when he died at 86 on Independence Day, he was recalled as a man of rare principle and fortitude in a town full of politicians who stick their fingers in the wind to determine how to vote. A steadfast anti-communist, I first met him in 1981 when he was President Ronald Reagan's staunchest ally in achieving victory over the "Evil Empire." He led the fight in the U.S. Senate for supporting the Nicaraguan resistance and, later, against ratification of the Clinton-era Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), aimed at prohibiting the United States from modernizing our nuclear arsenal, and amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which would have prevented us from deploying ballistic missile defenses. During the long, hot summer of 1987, his notes and phone calls were a constant source of encouragement to my family and me. And later, when my future daughter-in-law worked for him on Capitol Hill, Helms told me, "If your son is smart, he'll marry this lovely young woman." He did -- and they now have five children of their own. July also marked the passage -- at the age of 53 -- of one of the most decent, most articulate and bravest men I have ever known: Tony Snow. He was a devoted, loving husband, father, a colleague an[...]