February 28, 2006
"We are not to consider ourselves, while here, as at church or school, to listen to the harangues of speculative piety; we are here to talk of the political interests committed to our charge."
-- Fisher Ames (speech in the United States House of Representatives, 8 April 1789)
Wake up call
Mark Steyn has an op-ed up at the Chicago Sun-Times that may be considered alarmist, but points out a pattern between enough seemingly unrelated world events that it cries for people to take notice -- and prepare for dark days to come. Here's an excerpt:
Something very remarkable is happening around the globe and, if you want the short version, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto the other day put it very well:
''We won't stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.''
And that will be a dark day indeed.
UPDATE: Perhaps, though, there is still hope.
Victor Davis Hanson, over at NRO, has published observations concerning the prospects of a successful democracy in Iraq. Here's an excerpt:
It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.
It's well worth reading.
[Hat tip to Instapundit.]
Go check out the pictures of Phoenix's new baby daughter that she posted on the 25th . . . She's a cutie!
Global climate change
Steven F. Hayward has an informative article up about the uncertainty, scientifically and politically, of global climate change. Here's an excerpt:
If there is any subject more certain than the federal budget process to bring on eye-glaze, it is global warming and the drearily repetitive argument about the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The issue combines the worst of wonky numerology (parts per million of various gases, complex computer models, opaque cost-benefit analyses), an alphabet soup of unctuous international bureaucracies (IPCC, UNFCCC, SRES, TAR, USGCRP, etc., etc.), and the incessant braying of interest groups. No wonder Al Gore loves it so much. Yet the issue, seemingly stuck in a rut for almost two decades, is starting to shake loose and head in new directions.
It's rather long, but is much more comprehensive than what you get in news media snippets on the topic. Recommended.
February 27, 2006
"The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election... They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican govenrment may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 9, 1787)
U.S. cartoonists respond
Now would be a good time.
Bush as a liberal
Ed Morrissey, over at the Captain's Quarters has a post up about the similarities of U.S. foreign policies under Bush 43 and Wilson. He also asserts, correctly, that in this case, President Bush is a liberal:
This is true liberalism, not the leftist/socialist tripe that hijacked its name -- the effort to spread liberty and individual freedom as a forward strategy against the evils that oppression breeds.
Well worth reading.
February 26, 2006
"To render the justice of the war on our part the more conspicuous, the reluctance to commence it was followed by the earliest and strongest manifestations of a disposition to arrest its progress. The sword was scarcely out of the scabbard before the enemy was apprised of the reasonable terms on which it would be resheathed."
-- James Madison (Second Inaugural Address, March 1813)
U.S. port security
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, over at the Counterterrorism Blog has posted a well-balanced analysis of the security concerns revolving around DP World's management of six U.S. ports. He cuts through the hysteria surrounding the issue and discusses the pros and cons. Here's an excerpt:
First of all, after this sale, DP World won't suddenly become our only recourse for port security. There is in fact a layered set of security checks that operates independent of DP World. These checks include the following:
-- A 24-hour Manifest Rule that requires sea carriers to provide U.S. Customs with detailed descriptions of the contents of containers bound for the U.S. a full 24 hours before the container is loaded onto a vessel. This allows U.S. Customs officers to assess risks and scan the containers in overseas ports before they enter the U.S.
-- The Coast Guard remains responsible for port security regardless of who manages the ports, while Customs and Border Protection maintains responsibility for container and cargo security.
-- As containers enter the U.S., officers on the ground screen the containers using imaging and radiation detection technology.
These security procedures will not change even if DP World takes over port operations. Whether or not one believes that these security procedures are sufficient, the fact remains that we won't be left any worse off.
February 25, 2006
"All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Robert Morris, 25 December 1783)
Terrorism on our home turf
This post should impress upon us all that the terrorist threat is very real, and that it is here in the U.S.
Now will someone please explain to me again why we should be upset by the NSA monitoring communications of suspected terrorists?
February 24, 2006
"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community."
-- Benjamin Rush (letter to David Ramsay, Circa April 1788)
Thomas Sowell has a piece up at TownHall that discusses the lack of tolerance for diverse viewpoints in academic circles these days. He illustrates his points by describing some of the troubles of the recently-resigned president of Harvard University.
The kind of activity that Lawrence Summers wanted to see from West was the kind of activity expected from full professors at a leading university -- scholarly research and writing. Cornel West wrote lots of things in lots of places but even an editor of the liberal New Republic characterized West's books as "almost completely worthless."
Although the discussion between Summers and West was private, Cornel West himself made it a public issue -- and a public scandal. West and his supporters made this a racial issue. That made facts and logic irrelevant.
That should tell us all we need to know about Harvard and about academia in general. Neither truth nor standards matter when it comes to one of the ideological raw nerves like race.
Read the whole article. I hope you are disturbed by it.
OpinionJournal has an op-ed posted that disagrees with the general political sentiment that a UAE-owned company should not manage the operations of six U.S. ports.
The voluble Senator [Lindsey Graham] said this is no time "to outsource major port security to a foreign-based company" and that "most Americans are scratching their heads wondering, 'Why this company, from this region, now?' "
Some of us are scratching our heads all right, but we're wondering why Mr. Graham and others believe Dubai Ports World has been insufficiently vetted for the task at hand. So far, none of the critics have provided any evidence that the Administration hasn't done its due diligence. The deal has been blessed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency panel that includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
I think I am beginning to realize that this kerfluffle is much ado about nothing. ('Much ado about nothing' seems to be a trademark of the Angry Extremes of America's political spectrum anymore.)
At any rate, the article is worth reading. I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
UPDATE: I'm no longer convinced this is such a harmless transaction. There is evidence that a thorough analysis of this change in port management was not accomplished during the government's review.
Michelle Malkin has an excellent and comprehensive roundup of the port security story that I highly recommend you read.
Here's an opposing viewpoint:
Ports of Politics
How to sound like a hawk without being one.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is the latest Republican to broadcast his "independence" from President Bush on homeland security, yesterday joining Senator Lindsey Graham, Representative Peter King and numerous state politicians in calling on the Administration to stop a deal that would allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage six major U.S. ports.
The Democrats are also piling on, and we'll speak to that in a moment, but this behavior of Republicans strikes us as peculiar coming from people who claim to support the war on terror. Mr. Graham told Fox News that the Administration's decision allowing the state-owned Dubai Ports World to run commercial operations at U.S. ports was "tone deaf politically." The voluble Senator said this is no time "to outsource major port security to a foreign-based company" and that "most Americans are scratching their heads wondering, 'Why this company, from this region, now?' "
Some of us are scratching our heads all right, but we're wondering why Mr. Graham and others believe Dubai Ports World has been insufficiently vetted for the task at hand. So far, none of the critics have provided any evidence that the Administration hasn't done its due diligence. The deal has been blessed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency panel that includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
Yes, some of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens. But then the London subway bombings last year were perpetrated by citizens of Britain, home to the company (P&O) that currently manages the ports that Dubai Ports World would take over. Which tells us three things: First, this work is already being outsourced to "a foreign-based company"; second, discriminating against a Mideast company offers no security guarantees because attacks are sometimes homegrown; and third, Mr. Graham likes to talk first and ask questions later.
Besides, the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. "Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. "The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation."
In a telephone interview yesterday, Kristie Clemens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection elaborated that "Customs and Border Protection has the sole responsibility for the cargo processing and cargo security, incoming and outgoing. The port authority sets the guidelines for the entire port, and port operators have to follow those guidelines." Again, nothing in the pending deal would affect that arrangement.
The timing of this sudden uproar is also a tad suspicious. A bidding war for the British-owned P&O has been going on since last autumn, and the P&O board accepted Dubai's latest offer last month. The story only blew up last week, as a Florida firm that is a partner with P&O in Miami, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc., filed a suit to block the purchase. Miami's mayor also sent a letter of protest to Mr. Bush. It wouldn't be the first time if certain politicians were acting here on behalf of private American commercial interests.
Critics also forget, or conveniently ignore, that the UAE government has been among the most helpful Arab countries in the war on terror. It was one of the first countries to join the U.S. container security initiative, which seeks to inspect cargo in foreign ports. The UAE has assisted in training security forces in Iraq, and at home it has worked hard to stem terrorist financing and WMD proliferation. UAE leaders are as much an al Qaeda target as Tony Blair.
As for the Democrats, we suppose this is a two-fer: They have a rare opportunity to get to the right of the GOP on national security, and they can play to their union, anti-foreign investment base as well. At a news conference in front of New York harbor, Senator Chuck Schumer said allowing the Arab company to manage ports "is a homeland security accident waiting to happen." Hillary Clinton is also along for this political ride.
So the same Democrats who lecture that the war on terror is really a battle for "hearts and minds" now apparently favor bald discrimination against even friendly Arabs investing in the U.S.? Guantanamo must be closed because it's terrible PR, wiretapping al Qaeda in the U.S. is illegal, and the U.S. needs to withdraw from Iraq, but these Democratic superhawks simply will not allow Arabs to be put in charge of American longshoremen. That's all sure to play well on al Jazeera.
Yesterday Mr. Bush defended his decision to allow the investment to go ahead, and he threatened what would be his first veto if Congress tries to block it. We hope this time he means it.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
John Hindraker asks a good question about the Islamic demonstrations. Why are the protest signs in English? Because that is what their target audience reads? Maybe we should think about this a bit . . . I sense some major manipulation is going on here.
Freedom of the press?
Bill Bennett and Alan Dershowitz, unlikely collaborators, have an op-ed up at the Washington Post about the news media's recent failure. Here's an excerpt:
The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: "[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."
But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.
Ed Morrissey, over at Captain's Quarters has more to say about the matter.
Democracy is threatened when the press is not free.
I recommend you read both.
Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs, has an op-ed up at OpinionJournal wherein he discusses empirical evidence of the Angry Left (and Right) getting Angrier. And, as we might think is obvious, it is not a good thing.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
Scientific evidence that political anger is dangerous.
BY ARTHUR C. BROOKS
Monday, February 20, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
The Republican National Committee chairman publicly criticized Sen. Hillary Clinton after a series of intemperate remarks on her part, saying she "seems to have a lot of anger." While it made the news, this was hardly an earth-shattering observation. The criticism was also ironic, given that anger has become a standard tool for both parties. In fact, overheated political rhetoric has become so ordinary that most of us don't even take it seriously.
But we should. When one party's chairman calls the other party "criminal" (as one actually did recently, and the other might before this page goes to press), he is hoping to pull people to the fringe where they will be reliable voters. There is some evidence that this tactic is working: The percentage of people willing to say they are "extremely liberal" or "extremely conservative" is higher than it has been in over 30 years. And the data tell us that the people with these strong views often display a disturbing lack of compassion and ethics in their personal relations. As such, angry politics may be spilling over into our broader culture.
To begin with, there is abundant evidence that extreme political opinions lead to the personal demonization of fellow citizens. Consider, for example, how those on the far left and far right respond when asked for a zero-to-100 score of their feelings toward people with whom they disagree politically. Political scientists find that scores below 20 on these so-called feeling thermometers are very unusual--except on the political fringes. Indeed, according to the 2004 National Election Study, one in five "extremely liberal" people gave conservatives a score of zero, a temperature you or I might reserve for Osama bin Laden. The same percentage of "extremely conservative" people gave liberals a zero.
Ironically, these angry folks tend to feel that they are more compassionate than others--while their personal actions tell a different story. Take people on the far left. According to the General Social Surveys in 2002 and 2004, those who say they're "extremely liberal" are 20 percentage points more likely than moderates to say they feel concern for less fortunate people. But this doesn't appear to translate well to a deep concern for any individual: This group is also 20 points less likely than moderates to say they'd "endure all things for the one I love." To some, this might support the stereotype that the far left loves humanity--but only in large groups.
Like extreme liberals, extreme conservatives are more compassionate in theory than in practice: They are slightly more likely than centrists to say they "feel protective of people who are taken advantage of." Unless, it seems, they are the ones taking advantage: It turns out they are substantially less likely than moderates to act honestly in small ways, such as returning change mistakenly given them by a cashier.
It may or may not be that extreme politics is by itself what makes a person angry and uncompassionate; but it certainly cannot be improving the situation. After all, the partisan political machine today is geared toward the destruction of opponents--to convince us that the other side is not just misguided, but evil. Mounting evidence that adherence to extreme political attitudes correlates with a fundamental lack of compassion is not encouraging for the future of our civic culture, as long as rage is used as a political device.
For our political leaders, a bit of anger management would be in the public interest.
Mr. Brooks is a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
February 23, 2006
"His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble."
-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter
Jones, 2 January 1814)
Shia shrine bombing
The sense in the streets and the statements given by some Shia clerics suggest that retaliation attacks are organized and under control and are focusing on mosques frequented by Salafi and Wahabi groups and not those of ordinary Sunnis.
I am keeping this situation in my prayers because the democracy in Iraq currently is so fragile that things like this could result in civil war. Which, by the way, is precisely what the Islamofascists are trying for. Please pray with me.
Thomas Sowell on lowering education standards
Thomas Sowell makes a good argument against lowering test standards for our public students.
Let's face it: Reality can be stressful and can sometimes get very rough. Everyone has an incentive to postpone it. Most of us, however, learn the hard way that postponing reality only makes it far worse than facing it early on. The problem gets more complicated in politics, where one set of people has the power to postpone facing reality and a different set of people have to pay the price later on.
Our educational system is a classic example. Nothing is easier than to lower the standards today, avoiding all sorts of problems that arise with students and their parents when higher standards are imposed.
I agree with his op-ed on this. Recommended.
Holding their feet to the fire
Which is exactly what we want our ambassador to the United Nations to do.
Hundreds of thousands have been murdered in Darfur, and yet the U.N. does nothing but criticize the U.S . . .
Why is this behavior considered acceptable?
The other side of the port issue
Jack Kelly, as usual, is looking at some compelling arguments that counter those who are condemning the UAE taking over the management of six U.S. ports.
Though I'm still not entirely convinced, it does seem that this is not as straightforward an issue as I first thought it was.
You should read it. It is definitely food for thought.
Compromise & debate: the democratic process
OpinionJournal published an op-ed on Sunday that points out some clear indicators that democracy is happening in Iraq, after all.
It's a good read. I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
The Shiite Choice
Compromise and debate lead to democratic progress in Iraq.
Sunday, February 19, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
It's become a cliché in some circles that Iraq won't be ready for "Jeffersonian" democracy any time soon. And maybe not. But the more we watch the political developments that the U.S. is fostering in Iraq, the more we see the kind of compromise and debate that are crucial to democratic progress.
The latest news is the orderly election last weekend of Ibrahim al-Jaafari as the Shiite Alliance's candidate to serve as Prime Minister for the next four years. Mr. Jaafari has been Prime Minister since the election of Iraq's interim government in January 2005, and he won the permanent nod by a single vote over Adel Abdel Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri). Mr. Mahdi, in turn, gracefully accepted defeat and congratulated Mr. Jaafari. "You should console me in this situation," Mr. Jaafari replied. "This is a big burden and a position of difficulties." He's certainly right about the latter.
Mr. Jaafari has been criticized as a weak leader. But to be fair, his government has only had a short time in office and has suffered from the stigma of being temporary. If he now goes on to win approval by Iraq's full parliament, his legitimacy will not be questioned and he'll have a fairer chance to show what he can do.
Though not the most inspiring of political personalities, Mr. Jaafari is well-liked by the Iraqi public and by his fellow political leaders. He delegates power and is willing to trust the skills of those around him. He has also never been associated with even a hint of corruption. And far from being a reformed Baathist, he has an untainted record of courageous opposition to Saddam Hussein's regime.
Of all the Shiite Alliance's conceivable choices for the post, Mr. Jaafari is also the least beholden to Iran. U.S. diplomats seemed to favor Mr. Mahdi for some reason. But unlike Sciri, Mr. Jaafari and his Dawa Party don't seem dependent on Tehran and are unquestionably indigenous Iraqi patriots.
Mr. Jaafari can also call upon a strong team already in office. We're particularly impressed with Defense Minister Saddoun Dulaimi, a Sunni brought in by the Shiite Alliance despite the Sunni boycott of the January 2005 vote. Mr. Dulaimi has overseen the growth of the Iraqi Army into a better fighting force and he is also uncorrupt and free of any ties to the Sunni insurgents. Another face who could return is Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi. Although he didn't win a seat after leaving the Shiite Alliance to lead his own slate for December's vote, he has a good working relationship with Mr. Jaafari, as well as managerial skills and knowledge of financial markets.
Some degree of continuity will be important. The U.S. decision to cashier the postwar Governing Council in favor of Ayad Allawi and a team of unknowns in June 2004--only to see Mr. Jaafari and the Governing Council's other leaders win Iraq's first two elections--was unnecessarily disruptive and delayed the development of Iraqi institutions. The exception here is the Interior Ministry, which Mr. Jaafari delegated to Sciri and which has been credibly accused of mistreating some Sunni prisoners. That has to be cleaned up.
Speaking of Mr. Allawi, we hope he will stay in Iraq to lead the loyal opposition if he doesn't get a post in the new government. Many secular-minded Iraqis gave their votes to Mr. Allawi believing he was the U.S.-favored candidate, and they deserve a strong voice in parliament.
But whatever happens on that front, we trust that the closely divided vote in favor of Mr. Jaafari will allay Western fears of Iraq's domination by a monolithic, Iranian-linked Shiite bloc. The Shiite Alliance is a very uneasy coalition that includes leaders like Mr. Jaafari, Sciri's Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who don't always get along.
And watching them all as a source of moral authority is the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has also shown himself to be an Iraqi patriot who opposes the imposition of an Iranian-style clerical government. In any case, the Alliance lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament to impose its will, so compromise with Kurdish, Sunni and secular Shiites will be essential to successful governance.
Mr. Jaafari's nomination for Prime Minister is the latest positive step in Iraqi political development--which includes two elections, negotiations to write a new and liberal constitution and a successful referendum on that document. We'll let the cynics decided if this qualifies as "Jeffersonian," or merely Iraqi pragmatism, but whatever it is we'll call it progress.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
February 22, 2006
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
-- Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)
Welfare begets violence?
Dr. Helen, also known affectionately as the Instawife, is a psychologist who has recently posted about the fallacy of appeasement. Or 'How To Get A Bigger Welfare Check'. She starts with:
You would think that governments as well as people in general would understand that appeasing and rewarding negative behavior doesn't work. It's basic psychology 101--but one that not even most psychology professors understand or put to use. And apparently, this concept is foreign to many of the politically correct persuasion outside the classroom as well--for them, their feeling of moral "superiority" trumps human nature and causes liberals to turn a blind eye to justice and acts of violence.
Go read the rest. I recommend it.
Parents need to learn about 'networking' sites -- to protect their kids
I've been seeing various news items and blog entries about kids' networking sites, like MySpace.com, and the dangers therein. It's one of those things that you just have to be careful about -- it is mostly harmless, but can be potentially very dangerous and/or damaging. Here is an article that discusses some of the very real dangers inherent with those sites.
It also discusses how best to minimize the dangers. It boils down to being active parents who stay engaged and involved with their kids. With two daughters (one of whom is a teen), things like this really get my attention . . .
Charlie Munn, over at The Officers' Club, has a post up about seven lessons Iran has learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though somewhat disturbing, the post presents a rational assessment of the current situation with Iran.
Read the comments, too. . .
'An instinct for the capillary'
Glenn Reynolds has an op-ed up at the Guardian Unlimited that discusses the testicularly-challenged Western Media.
February 21, 2006
"His Example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read."
-- John Adams (message to the U.S. Senate, 19 December 1799)
Tongue in cheek
Maureen Martin has a slick satire of CNN's news coverage of Islam.
[Hat tip to the Anchoress.]
Dean Barnett provides us a glimpse of the "godfather of democracy", America's seventh president, in a book review about "Old Hickory" himself. Here's an excerpt:
GIVEN THE MARK that he left on the nation, it is something of a surprise that Jackson isn't discussed more often. While Founding Fathers such as Adams, Washington, Hamilton and the sage of Monticello have all received much recent attention, Jackson hasn't. Other than in rap songs that evoke the image of a $20 bill, his name is seldom mentioned.
It has some very interesting tidbits of information. Even if you're not interested in the book, the review is worth reading . . .
February 20, 2006
"Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday and St. Tuesday, will soon cease to be holidays. Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Collinson, 9 May 1753)
Success in Tal Afar
I've seen many news accounts that imply, or even state explicitly, that our military -- from Rumsfeld to Private Smith -- is unable to adapt to the unique situation in Iraq. An article in the Washington Post last week illustrates that our military (and, by impolication, its civilian leadership) is very much able to adapt. In fact, adaptability has been one of the strongest characteristics of the U.S. military -- from its inception in the 1700s to the present . . .
The article starts with:
The last time the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment served in Iraq, in 2003-04, its performance was judged mediocre, with a series of abuse cases growing out of its tour of duty in Anbar province.
But its second tour in Iraq has been very different, according to specialists in the difficult art of conducting a counterinsurgency campaign -- fighting a guerrilla war but also trying to win over the population and elements of the enemy. Such campaigns are distinct from the kind of war most U.S. commanders have spent decades preparing to fight.
This makes for some good reading. It is also nice to see this being reported by a mainstream newspaper. . .
February 19, 2006
"It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Sinclair, 1791)
Totten in Kurdish Iraq
Michael Totten has a good post up in his journal about his visit to Kurdish Iraq.
February 18, 2006
"They are of the People, and return again to mix with the People, having no more durable preeminence than the different Grains of Sand in an Hourglass. Such an Assembly cannot easily become dangerous to Liberty. They are the Servants of the People, sent together to do the People's Business, and promote the public Welfare; their Powers must be sufficient, or their Duties cannot be performed. They have no profitable Appointments, but a mere Payment of daily Wages, such as are scarcely equivalent to their Expences; so that, having no Chance for great Places, and enormous Salaries or Pensions, as in some Countries, there is no triguing or bribing for Elections."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to George Whatley, 23 May 1785)
ABLE DANGER coverup?
ABLE DANGER was an operation designed to develop intelligence about Al Qaeda operatives through "data mining" public domain information available on the Internet. The operation was conducted prior to 9-11 and the name of Mohammed Atta came up and was associated with Al Qaeda. The rest of the story is unclear because there seems to be an internal struggle going on within the intelligence community. Public hearings are now being conducted to attempt to determine how much intelligence we really had on Atta before he flew a plane into the WTC.
Jack Kelly attended the first public hearing and had this to say about it.
This is a developing story that, I believe, holds some key information about the state of our intel community at the turn of the century.
February 17, 2006
"I give my signature to many Bills with which my Judgment is at variance.... From the Nature of the Constitution, I must approve all parts of a Bill, or reject it in total. To do the latter can only be Justified upon the clear and obvious grounds of propriety; and I never had such confidence in my own faculty of judging as to be over tenacious of the opinions I may have imbibed in doubtful cases."
-- George Washington (letter to Edmund Pendleton, 23 September
Space elevator music
How about the research going on to build a space elevator?
A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.
LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday.
The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters – powered by laser beams from Earth – can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.
The recent test followed a September 2005 demonstration in which LiftPort's robots climbed 300 metres of ribbon tethered to the Earth and pulled taut by a large balloon. This time around, the company tested an improved cable pulled aloft by three balloons.
This definitely has a very high geekiness quotient!
A letter in praise of our troops
From the mayor of Tall Afar, Iraq. Here's an excerpt:
I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.
Go read the rest . . .
Thomas Sowell has an op-ed up at Townhall about how many of our journalists act like spoiled brats:
An off-duty incident in Dick Cheney's private life has been hyped in the media as if it had some real significance for more than a quarter of a billion Americans.
The media want to know when was President Bush informed about this incident? What did the White House press secretary know and when did he know it?
The people who mattered -- doctors and local law enforcement -- were informed immediately about the hunting accident. What was President Bush supposed to do -- other than provide the media with something to print or broadcast?
Mr. Sowell goes on, and makes some solid points. Recommended.
February 16, 2006
"The great desiderata are a free representation and mutual checks. When these are obtained, all our apprehensions of the extent of powers are unjust and imaginary."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 1788)
AQAM and the 'Long War'
Brendan Miniter has a piece up at OpinionJournal that discusses the long war we find ourselves in versus terrorism. It will take persistent efforts on several fronts to defeat this foe. I just hope and pray that Americans still have the intestinal fortitude to persevere and win this fight.
Food for thought.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry below.
The Pentagon's vision for the "Long War."
BY BRENDAN MINITER
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
At a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sized up the progress of the war on terror, compared it to the struggle against Nazism and communism, and noted this struggle will take years to win. It was similar to remarks the president, the vice president and other top administration officials have been repeating for years. And it also is the line of reasoning that the press corps has largely dismissed as hyperbole. Many in the media simply don't accept the comparison of Osama bin Laden to Hitler.
But looking over the Defense Department's plans for remaking the military, it quickly becomes clear that that comparison isn't dismissed inside the Pentagon. The recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, which reveals long-term military planning, shows a top brass worried about the ideology of hate preached by imams across the Islamic world. This ideology, though twisted, is somewhat coherent and calls for using terrorism to create a "caliphate," a unified Islamic state, stretching from Afghanistan and Iran all the way to Spain and including most of North Africa. For a lack of a better term, some American military planners call this ideology "bin Ladenism."
Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for U.S. Central Command (which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East), dropped by the offices of The Wall Street Journal recently. He noted that bin Ladenism has deep roots in many Islamic countries and that bin Laden isn't the only terrorist leader trying to appeal to populations oppressed by dictators. There are some 18 terrorist organizations that are part of what the military calls al Qaeda and Affiliated Movement. The military, he said, even has an acronym for it: AQAM.
To counter bin Ladenism, the military is planning a two-stage war. The first is being fought in open battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and looks a lot like the kind of war most Americans assumed we'd wage on al Qaeda and terror-sponsoring states after the Sept. 11 attacks. The second stage is what senior military planners--including Mr. Rumsfeld--call "the Long War." It involves countering one set of ideas with another.
It is this stage of the war that President Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld and other members of the administration worry isn't well understood by most Americans and therefore is in danger of being lost after Mr. Bush leaves office. At the Press Club, Mr. Rumsfeld reminded the journalists in the audience that al Qaeda and its affiliates have "media relation committees." "Think of that--they get up in the morning, have committee meetings and think about how they're going to manipulate the world's press to their advantage," he said. It's not just that al Qaeda members watch CNN or the Fox News Channel for tactical information, but they have "proven to be highly successful at manipulating the world's media here in this country."
The good news is many Americans have a healthy skepticism when it comes to the media, and, as in the Cold War, the U.S. is well positioned to win the long war on terrorism. What that will require is a better understanding of what such a war involves. For starters, it requires not withdrawing from Iraq. Spreading freedom is the best way to appeal to oppressed people and therefore is essential to undercutting bin Ladenism. It also involves making the military more flexible and able to respond to natural disasters and other crisis in unstable regions. The help America's armed forces delivered after Pakistan's devastating earthquake last year might have done more to build goodwill with ordinary Pakistanis than anything else in the past 50 years. The same is true for tsunami relief in Indonesia and other countries.
The military is laying the groundwork in other countries as well, in hopes of turning indigenous populations away from bin Ladenism. One area that has largely escaped media attention is the Horn of Africa, and in particular the small country of Djibouti. Bordering Somalia to the north, Ethiopia to the east and directly across the Red Sea from Yemen, Djibouti has an impoverished population that may find terrorism appealing if it promises the glory involved in helping build a grand Islamic state. And Djibouti historically has served as a passageway for trade into the heart of Africa. Shortly after 9/11 the U.S. set up a base of operations in Djibouti to help stabilize the region and build schools as well as infrastructure. At one point nearly 2,000 Marines were on the ground there. Military officials tell me Djibouti is a success story that hasn't made it into the news because U.S. soldiers aren't getting killed there.
The military can't win the Long War on its own. To defeat bin Ladenism, Americans must use every institution at their disposal--including the State Department and United Nations--to put pressure on those who spread the ideology of terrorism while not being timid in making the hard decisions necessary to confront rogue regimes. Iran cannot be allowed to build nuclear bombs, because it is a terror sponsoring state. Likewise Syria must be compelled to behave like a civilized country. Hamas won the Palestinian elections, but its leaders cannot be accepted by Western countries until they renounce terrorism and their desire to wipe Israel off of the map.
The Quadrennial Defense Review points out that the U.S. now has a window of opportunity to shape the world to bolster American security. Undercutting bin Ladenism now, before it gains the strength that Nazism and communism once had, will be much easier before another superpower (presumably China) emerges. America's long-term security depends on it.
Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
Dennis Prager, radio talk show host and author has an op-ed up at Townhall that is less than flattering about the news media.
American news media have suffered in recent years. Thanks to the Internet and talk radio, millions of Americans have ceased relying on The New York Times and CNN for their written and televised news. But it is difficult to recall a greater blow to the credibility of American news media than their near-universal refusal to publish the Mohammed cartoons originally published in a Danish newspaper that have brought about worldwide Muslim protests.
This loss of credibility owes to two factors: dishonesty and cowardice.
You should read the rest.
February 15, 2006
"Wherever indeed a right of property is infringed for the general good, if the nature of the case admits of compensation, it ought to be made; but if compensation be impracticable, that impracticability ought to be an obstacle to a clearly essential reform."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Vindication of the Funding System, 1792)
A tale of two crises
Thomas Sowell has an opinion piece up over at Townhall that discusses two crises that we are currently facing in America. Here's how he starts:
This nation is facing two crises -- one phony and one real. Both in the media and in politics, the phony crisis is getting virtually all the attention.
You can probably figure out the phony crisis, but the real one is more subtle -- and much more sobering. I've been thinking along these lines for a while now, but Mr. Sowell does a much better job of articulating it than I would have.
Director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, Irwin Stelzer, has an op-ed up at the Weekly Standard that points out some out-of-sync indicators about the American economy. Here's an excerpt:
It is now clear that the Christmas sales season was a success for the nation's retailers. And, with happy recipients of Santa's largesse cashing in their gift cards last month, sales of a sample of 60 retail chains started the new year with a jump of almost 5 percent over last January's rate, according to Retail Metrics, a market-research firm. There is more to come. Economists at Goldman Sachs captioned their latest report, "The U.S. Consumer Roars Back."
But the bond market would indicate that bond investors anticipate weak or no growth -- or even a slight recession. Except . . .
It's worth reading . . .
February 14, 2006
Happy Valentine's Day
Bob Weir has an article up about the original Valentine and how this tradition got started.
Many years ago, way before Al Gore invented the Internet, relationships were not so easy to come by. During the third century there was a priest named Valentine who lived in Rome while it was being ruled by an emperor named Claudius. Known as “Claudius the Cruel,” he did all he could to live up to his name.
He provides interesting background.
"It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country."
-- Noah Webster (On Education of Youth in America, 1790)
Vice President Dick Chaney was issued a ticket today as a result of the hunting accident over the weekend in which he shot fellow hunter Harry Whittington, a lawyer.
Vice President Cheney was issued the citation because hunting season for lawyers does not begin in Texas until March.
Terrorist activity is down
Strategy Page has an article that indicates that terrorism in Iraq is much less than in the past. Here's how it starts:
The annual Shia Ashura festival brings out the faithful in large numbers, and was banned when Saddam ruled. Since then, terrorists have attacked the Shia participants, killing 55 in 2005, and 181 in 2004. This year, the terrorists were unable to kill anyone. Iraqi police and soldiers supplied the security, with the help of some religious militias. This sharp drop in terrorist activity was no fluke.
It's worth reading . . .
February 13, 2006
"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader."
-- Samuel Adams (letter to James Warren, 12 February 1779)
On those who play politics at a funeral
"Rudeness and vulgarity are toughness for wimps."
-- Jack Kelly
On national security
The director of the CIA, Porter Goss, has an article posted on the New York Times website about the serious ramifications of intelligence leaks.
Nowadays, security is everyone's business.
Well worth reading.
February 12, 2006
"It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 45, 26 January 1788)
Laura Ingraham is in Iraq
And I recommend you read her journal for an unvarnished perspective on how things are going there.
Support your local Dane
Freedom of speech is an important part of a free society -- even when you disagree.
After all, this is all about liberty . . .
February 11, 2006
"It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people."
-- Richard Henry Lee (letter to Colonel Martin Pickett, 5 March
Good news from Afghanistan
Carrie Lukas and Lida Noory have an encouraging article up at NRO discussing some of the good things happening in Afghanistan.
Things that we don't normally hear about here in America.
Americans need to understand that Afghanistan faces many high hurdles as it strives for economic and political stability, including the continued campaign by radical Islamists against equality for women. But Americans also should hear the good news about progress in Afghanistan.
Bonfire of the Pieties
Author Amir Taheri has an informative op-ed over at OpinionJournal about how Islam prohibits neither images of Mohammed nor humor about religion.
I think you'll be surprised at how many examples Mr. Taheri has of both. Recommended reading.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
Bonfire of the Pieties
Islam prohibits neither images of Muhammad nor jokes about religion.
BY AMIR TAHERI
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
"The Muslim Fury," one newspaper headline screamed. "The Rage of Islam Sweeps Europe," said another. "The clash of civilizations is coming," warned one commentator. All this refers to the row provoked by the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper four months ago. Since then a number of demonstrations have been held, mostly--though not exclusively--in the West, and Scandinavian embassies and consulates have been besieged.
But how representative of Islam are all those demonstrators? The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.
The Muslim Brotherhood's position, put by one of its younger militants, Tariq Ramadan--who is, strangely enough, also an adviser to the British home secretary--can be summed up as follows: It is against Islamic principles to represent by imagery not only Muhammad but all the prophets of Islam; and the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. Both claims, however, are false.
There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued "fatwas" against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments--which include a ban on depicting God--as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One.
The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers. There is no space here to provide an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most famous:
A miniature by Sultan Muhammad-Nur Bokharai, showing Muhammad riding Buraq, a horse with the face of a beautiful woman, on his way to Jerusalem for his M'eraj or nocturnal journey to Heavens (16th century); a painting showing Archangel Gabriel guiding Muhammad into Medina, the prophet's capital after he fled from Mecca (16th century); a portrait of Muhammad, his face covered with a mask, on a pulpit in Medina (16th century); an Isfahan miniature depicting the prophet with his favorite kitten, Hurairah (17th century); Kamaleddin Behzad's miniature showing Muhammad contemplating a rose produced by a drop of sweat that fell from his face (19th century); a painting, "Massacre of the Family of the Prophet," showing Muhammad watching as his grandson Hussain is put to death by the Umayyads in Karbala (19th century); a painting showing Muhammad and seven of his first followers (18th century); and Kamal ul-Mulk's portrait of Muhammad showing the prophet holding the Quran in one hand while with the index finger of the other hand he points to the Oneness of God (19th century).
Some of these can be seen in museums within the Muslim world, including the Topkapi in Istanbul, and in Bokhara and Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and Haroun-Walat, Iran (a suburb of Isfahan). Visitors to other museums, including some in Europe, would find miniatures and book illuminations depicting Muhammad, at times wearing his Meccan burqa (cover) or his Medinan niqab (mask). There have been few statues of Muhammad, although several Iranian and Arab contemporary sculptors have produced busts of the prophet. One statue of Muhammad can be seen at the building of the U.S. Supreme Court, where the prophet is honored as one of the great "lawgivers" of mankind.
There has been other imagery: the Janissaries--the elite of the Ottoman army--carried a medallion stamped with the prophet's head (sabz qaba). Their Persian Qizilbash rivals had their own icon, depicting the head of Ali, the prophet's son-in-law and the first Imam of Shiism. As for images of other prophets, they run into millions. Perhaps the most popular is Joseph, who is presented by the Quran as the most beautiful human being created by God.
Now to the second claim, that the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. That is true if we restrict the Muslim world to the Brotherhood and its siblings in the Salafist movement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. But these are all political organizations masquerading as religious ones. They are not the sole representatives of Islam, just as the Nazi Party was not the sole representative of German culture. Their attempt at portraying Islam as a sullen culture that lacks a sense of humor is part of the same discourse that claims "suicide martyrdom" as the highest goal for all true believers.
The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence. Again, offering an exhaustive list is not possible. But those familiar with Islam's literature know of Ubaid Zakani's "Mush va Gorbeh" (Mouse and Cat), a match for Rabelais when it comes to mocking religion. Sa'adi's eloquent soliloquy on behalf of Satan mocks the "dry pious ones." And Attar portrays a hypocritical sheikh who, having fallen into the Tigris, is choked by his enormous beard. Islamic satire reaches its heights in Rumi, where a shepherd conspires with God to pull a stunt on Moses; all three end up having a good laugh.
Islamic ethics is based on "limits and proportions," which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon is a cartoon, not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy. Islam rejects guilt by association. Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.
Mr. Taheri is the author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
February 10, 2006
"As to Taxes, they are evidently inseparable from Government. It is impossible without them to pay the debts of the nation, to protect it from foreign danger, or to secure individuals from lawless violence and rapine."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Address to the Electors of the State of New York, March 1801)
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly Die Zeit has written an op-ed for the Washington Post wherein he discusses the controversy about the Mohammed cartoons, freedom of the press, and intolerance.
When the cartoons were first published in Denmark in September, nobody in Germany took notice. Had our publication been offered the drawings at that point, in all likelihood we would have declined to print them. At least one of them seems to equate Islam with radical Islamism. That is exactly the direction nobody wants the debate about fundamentalism to take -- even though the very nature of a political cartoon is overstatement. We would not have printed the caricature out of a sense of moderation and respect for the Muslim minority in our country. News people make judgments about taste all the time. . .
He brings a viewpoint to the discussion that most Americans are not aware of. It is well worth reading. I recommend it.
[Hat tip to Phoenix who, by the way, is a new mother and a classy lady.]
Nobel Peace Prize
Can you believe that John Bolton was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?
CNSNews.com) - John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is one of two Americans who have been nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Last year, Democrats and a few Republicans refused to confirm Bolton to the U.N. post, forcing President Bush to resort to a recess appointment.
Bolton and Kenneth R. Timmerman were formally nominated by Sweden's former deputy prime minister Per Ahlmark, for playing a major role in exposing Iran's secret plans to develop nuclear weapons.
I believe he has earned it, though I'm rather surprised that he was actually nominated . . .
February 09, 2006
Carnival of Homeschooling
If you are interested in Homeschooling, the Carnival of Homeschooling is up.
(This is in honor of my Floridian Sis-in-law who has successfully homeschooled two of her children and is currently homeschooling her youngest.)
"In such a performance you may lay the foundation of national happiness only in religion, not by leaving it doubtful "whether morals can exist without it," but by asserting that without religion morals are the effects of causes as purely physical as pleasant breezes and fruitful seasons."
-- Benjamin Rush (letter to John Adams, 20 August 1811)
Honoring Coretta Scott King
Unlike many of the politicians and civil rights activists who spoke at Ms. King's funeral Tuesday, President Bush truly and reverently honored her.
I've reprinted his speech in the extended entry.
To the King Family, distinguished guests and fellow citizens. We gather in God's house, in God's presence, to honor God's servant, Coretta Scott King. Her journey was long, and only briefly with a hand to hold. But now she leans on everlasting arms. I've come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole.
Americans knew her husband only as a young man. We knew Mrs. King in all the seasons of her life -- and there was grace and beauty in every season. As a great movement of history took shape, her dignity was a daily rebuke to the pettiness and cruelty of segregation. When she wore a veil at 40 years old, her dignity revealed the deepest trust in God and His purposes. In decades of prominence, her dignity drew others to the unfinished work of justice. In all her years, Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul. This kind and gentle woman became one of the most admired Americans of our time. She is rightly mourned, and she is deeply missed.
Some here today knew her as a girl, and saw something very special long before a young preacher proposed. She once said, "Before I was a King, I was a Scott." And the Scotts were strong, and righteous, and brave in the face of wrong. Coretta eventually took on the duties of a pastor's wife, and a calling that reached far beyond the doors of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
In that calling, Dr. King's family was subjected to vicious words, threatening calls in the night, and a bombing at their house. Coretta had every right to count the cost, and step back from the struggle. But she decided that her children needed more than a safe home -- they needed an America that upheld their equality, and wrote their rights into law. (Applause.) And because this young mother and father were not intimidated, millions of children they would never meet are now living in a better, more welcoming country. (Applause.)
In the critical hours of the civil rights movement, there were always men and women of conscience at the heart of the drama. They knew that old hatreds ran deep. They knew that nonviolence might be answered with violence. They knew that much established authority was against them. Yet they also knew that sheriffs and mayors and governors were not ultimately in control of events; that a greater authority was interested, and very much in charge. (Applause.)
The God of Moses was not neutral about their captivity. The God of Isaiah and the prophets was still impatient with injustice. And they knew that the Son of God would never leave them or forsake them.
But some had to leave before their time -- and Dr. King left behind a grieving widow and little children. Rarely has so much been asked of a pastor's wife, and rarely has so much been taken away. Years later, Mrs. King recalled, "I would wake up in the morning, have my cry, then go in to them. The children saw me going forward." Martin Luther King, Jr. had preached that unmerited suffering could have redemptive power.
Little did he know that this great truth would be proven in the life of the person he loved the most. Others could cause her sorrow, but no one could make her bitter. By going forward with a strong and forgiving heart, Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband's legacy, she built her own. (Applause.) Having loved a leader, she became a leader. And when she spoke, America listened closely, because her voice carried the wisdom and goodness of a life well lived.
In that life, Coretta Scott King knew danger. She knew injustice. She knew sudden and terrible grief. She also knew that her Redeemer lives. She trusted in the name above every name. And today we trust that our sister Coretta is on the other shore -- at peace, at rest, at home. (Applause.) May God bless you, and may God bless our country. (Applause.)
McCain and Obama
John McCain wrote an interesting letter to Barack Obama when Obama backed out of a bipartisan deal with McCain regarding lobby reform.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
February 6, 2006 The Honorable Barack Obama United States Senate SH-713 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Obama:
I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable.
Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again.
As you know, the Majority Leader has asked Chairman Collins to hold hearings and mark up a bill for floor consideration in early March. I fully support such timely action and I am confident that, together with Senator Lieberman, the Committee on Governmental Affairs will report out a meaningful, bipartisan bill.
You commented in your letter about my “interest in creating a task force to further study” this issue, as if to suggest I support delaying the consideration of much-needed reforms rather than allowing the committees of jurisdiction to hold hearings on the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. The timely findings of a bipartisan working group could be very helpful to the committee in formulating legislation that will be reported to the full Senate.
Since you are new to the Senate, you may not be aware of the fact that I have always supported fully the regular committee and legislative process in the Senate, and routinely urge Committee Chairmen to hold hearings on important issues. In fact, I urged Senator Collins to schedule a hearing upon the Senate’s return in January.
Furthermore, I have consistently maintained that any lobbying reform proposal be bipartisan. The bill Senators Joe Lieberman and Bill Nelson and I have introduced is evidence of that commitment as is my insistence that members of both parties be included in meetings to develop the legislation that will ultimately be considered on the Senate floor. As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem. They see it as yet another run-of-the-mill Washington scandal, and they expect it will generate just another round of partisan gamesmanship and posturing. Senator Lieberman and I, and many other members of this body, hope to exceed the public’s low expectations. We view this as an opportunity to bring transparency and accountability to the Congress, and, most importantly, to show the public that both parties will work together to address our failings.
As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.
United States Senate
February 08, 2006
"To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the college and university. The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Jose Correa de Serra, 25 November
Herbert Meyer, over at American Thinker, has a chilling assessment of Iran's imminent nuclear capability. He makes an interesting analogy:
To think clearly about the looming crisis with Iran, close your eyes and imagine that you’re standing outside your children’s school. It’s 2:55pm, and you’re chatting amiably with other parents while waiting for the 3pm bell to ring. Suddenly you see a man running toward the school, holding a hand grenade and shouting: “I hate kids. I welcome death.”
Now, what do you propose to do?
One option is to engage your fellow parents in a dialogue about the serious and complex questions raised by the running man with the grenade.
For instance, you might try to calculate precisely how long it will take him to reach the school. When he does reach the school, will he stop or go inside? If he does go inside, will he run toward the basement, or toward the auditorium where the third and fourth grades have been brought to watch a video? (It’s probably about “safe sex” – but what the schools teach our kids is another subject for another day.) Is the hand grenade real, or might it be a fake? If the grenade is real, does the man really know how to pull the pin? And if he does, how big will be blast radius be and what’s the potential number of casualties?
And why is the man doing this? Is he really a vicious killer? Or is he a harmless but mentally disturbed individual who didn’t take his medication today and slipped out of the house without being noticed by his wife? Or is this just a case of a well-meaning but very misguided protester who’s mad at the Bush administration for not signing the Kyoto accords, or who’s upset because dolphins are still getting caught in tuna nets? Oh, and is it possible that in addition to the hand grenade he’s got a gun inside his coat pocket?
Should you try to talk with the man? Or would it be better to notify the school’s principal, and perhaps suggest he call the police?
And remember—while you and your fellow parents debate all this, the distance between the man holding the grenade and your kids is narrowing.
Your other option is to take the man down – now, this minute, however you can – and to sort out the mess later.[ . . . ]
If you choose this option, it’s because you understand that when someone puts your children’s lives at risk, the instinct for survival trumps the analytic process. Take too long to think, and you may lose the opportunity to act – and it’s impossible to accurately project when this line will be crossed until you’re already over it.
And we may, in fact, be beyond that point . . .
'One nation, under God . . .'
Michael Novak and Ashley Morrow, over at First Things, have done an interesting bit of research about America, its states, and God. They start with this:
The first amendment prohibited the federal government from making any laws "respecting" the establishment of religion (either for it or against it). Its intent was not to derogate from religion, but to signal its intense importance to the American people. Over the next 175 years or so, as new states entered the Union, the people of all but one of the states (Oregon) took care to give their belief in God prominence of place in the preambles of their state constitutions. Many of the preambles seem almost like opening prayers set before the text of the constitution of a free republic. They "invoke," "recall," "acknowledge with gratitude," and express "reverence." The reason for this appears to be that most Americans believe that liberty is a gift of God, and therefore that their opportunity to erect a republic is also a gift of God. Here is how the state constitutions read . . .
Go read the rest.
[Hat tip to the Anchoress.]
February 07, 2006
"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man."
-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, 2 January 1814)
Reuters has an interesting piece about our military's media struggle against terrorism.
It boils down to the fact that terrorists have "media committees" devoted to using the media as a tool to further their ends. But the U.S. military is constrained by laws preventing the use of propaganda that affects the American citizenry.
I'm not advocating allowing our military to propagandize us, but it seems that terrorists have a lot going for them in terms of free publicity provided by our very own news organizations, doesn't it?
And that is a powerful weapon . . .
February 06, 2006
"The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most - for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?"
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813)
Peggy Noonan, over at OpinionJournal, has a op-ed up about the SOTU address, the Democrat Party's downward spiral, Tom Shales, and Wendy Wasserstein.
Ms. Noonan seems depressed. None the less, the article is worth reading. I've reprinted it in the extended entry below.
'I Hope She Drowns'
The implosion of the Democratic Party. Plus Tom Shales's snobbery and a tribute to Wendy Wasserstein.
Thursday, February 2, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
The president's State of the Union Address will be little noted and not long remembered. There was a sense that he was talking at, not to, the country. He asserted more than he persuaded, and he chose to redeclare his beliefs rather than argue for them in any depth. If you believe, as he does, that the No. 1 priority for the American government at this point in history is to lead an international movement for political democracy, and if you believe, as he truly seems to, that political democracy is in and of itself a certain bringer of world-wide peace, than this speech was for you. If not, not. It went through a reported 30 drafts, was touched by many hands, and seemed it. Not precisely a pudding without a theme, but a thin porridge.
It was the first State of the Union Mr. Bush has given in which Congress seemed utterly pre-9/11 in terms of battle lines drawn. Exactly half the chamber repeatedly leapt to its feet to applaud this banality or that. The other half remained resolutely glued to its widely cushioned seats. It seemed a metaphor for the Democratic Party: We don't know where to stand or what to stand for, and in fact we're not good at standing for anything anyway, but at least we know we can't stand Republicans.
There was only one unforgettable moment, and that was in a cutaway shot, of Hillary Clinton, who simply must do something about her face. When the president joked that two people his father loves are turning 60 this year, himself and Bill Clinton--why does he think constant references to that relationship work for him?--it was Mrs. Clinton's job to look mildly amused, or pleasant, or relatively friendly, or nonhostile. Mrs. Clinton has two natural looks, the first being a dull and sated cynicism, the second the bright-eyed throaty chuckler who greets visiting rubes from Utica. The camera caught the first; by the time she realized she was the shot, she apparently didn't feel she could morph into the second. This canniest of politicians still cannot fake benignity.
Maybe she knew the habitués of the Daily Kos, and other leftwing Web sites, were watching. Conservatives are always writing about the strains and stresses within the Republican Party, and they are real. But the Democratic Party seems to be near imploding, and for that most humiliating of reasons: its meaninglessness. Republicans are at least arguing over their meaning.
The venom is bubbling on websites like Kos, where Tuesday afternoon, after the Alito vote, various leftists wrote in such comments as "F--- our democratic leaders," "Vichy Democrats" and "F--- Mary Landrieu, I hope she drowns." The old union lunch-pail Democrats are dead, the intellects of the Kennedy and Johnson era retired or gone, and this--I hope she drowns--seems, increasingly, to be the authentic voice of the Democratic base.
How will a sane, stable, serious Democrat get the nomination in 2008 when these are the activists to whom the appeal must be made?
Republicans have crazies. All parties do. But in the case of the Democrats--the leader of their party, after all, is the unhinged Howard Dean--the lunatics seem increasingly to be taking over the long-term health-care facility. Great parties die this way, or show that they are dying.
On the subject of political passion Tom Shales, longtime TV critic of the Washington Post and possessor of occasional eloquence, wrote a piece this week that deserves comment. I don't mean his State of the Union review, which began, "George Bush may or may not be the worst president since Herbert Hoover . . ." I mean his attack last Monday on "Flight 93," the A&E television movie on that fated 9/11 flight. Mr. Shales said it was shameful that vulgar dramatizers would "exploit" the pain of those on the flight and those they left behind. Or as he put it, he had, innocent that he is, thought it "unthinkable" that "even the sleaziest producers" would "exploit any aspect of a nightmare that the nation had witnessed in horror."
By exploit I think he means "remember." There is nothing vulgar, low or unhelpful about remembering the particular heroism of Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and dozens of others. Their action--they stormed the cockpit that day, forced the plane down and kept it from hitting a Washington target, presumably the Capitol or the White House--was a moment of courage and sacrifice, and we all owe them a great deal. Imagine if the particular wound the hijackers meant to inflict had been successful that day. Imagine how much worse it would have been,
Remembering the men and women of Flight 93 isn't a self-indulgence but a duty. One senses in the Shales review the sneaky little suggestion that those who would remember, and who would tell this story (based by the way on the surviving telephone and other harrowing tapes of that flight) are in fact being political. But one suspects it is Mr. Shales who is being political. Maybe he fears those stupid Americans will get all emotional if they revisit part of the horror of that day, and go out and do something bad. Let's not speak of it lest the rabble be roused.
What a snob.
You wonder at the intemperance of angry young lefties and then think of the example set for them by exhausted old lefties.
Wendy Wasserstein was a gifted artist and a fine person. The two do not always go together and it's almost a relief when you find someone in whom they do. She was warm, brilliant and witty, and her work captured a part, a piece, of our era. Word that she was dying spread before word that she was sick, and the shock of it, when her lymphoma was reported in New York a few months ago, was like hearing that Michael Kelly had died.
The tragedy was sharpened by a sense of great work unfinished, of a life not ended but interrupted. Wasserstein's plays were beloved of liberals who lauded her as spokeswoman of a modern feminist point of view. Fair enough, but she struck me as altogether cannier and more grounded than that, and more independent too.
I had a conversation with her a few years ago in which she told me of her concern at the increasing politicization of higher education. I was struck by the depth of her concern; she had clearly spent a lot of time observing, finding out the facts, and coming to conclusions. I thought later about why I was surprised and realized I had associated her, unjustly, with Frank Rich, who approaches such issues as academic freedom with a mixture of bile and cowardice: There is no politically correct censorship, and if there is the Evangelicals did it.
Wasserstein's work had no cruelty and little fear. Her last play, "Third," dealt with a left-wing professor who comes to question her own assumptions, and to wonder, even, if deep in her heart she does not harbor bigotries. This was the work of someone who wasn't stuck, wasn't cowed, who was in fact questioning, questing. It is sad to not see what that mind would have done in the future. Rest in peace.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
February 05, 2006
"A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever may be its theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 69, 14 March 1788)
The future of newspapers
Jack Kelly has an interesting column about the future of newspapers.
February 04, 2006
"Your love of liberty - your respect for the laws - your habits of industry - and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness."
-- George Washington (letter to the Residents of Boston, 27 October 1789)
An excellent commentary . . .
. . . on whether or not the New York Times violated the Espionage Act when it published the story of the NSA 'wiretaps' of suspected foreign Al-Qaeda operatives.
A long read, but very compelling. Recommended.
February 03, 2006
"In the next place, the state governments are, by the very theory of the constitution, essential constituent parts of the general government. They can exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without them."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Betsy Newmark seems to be doing an excellent job of educating her AP Government students. She assigned viewing the State of the Union address to her classes and the next day they discussed what her students thought about various aspects of the speech. The responses ran the gamut from super-liberal to hyper-conservative with everything in between. She was also impressed with the general perceptiveness of her students.
It's a good read. Recommended.
Status report: Iraq
Karl Zinsmeister has an informative report about Iraq. And he has pretty impressive credentials . . . both journalistic and otherwise.
Your editor has just returned from another month in Iraq—my fourth extended tour in the last two and a half years. During November and December I joined numerous American combat operations, including the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, walked miles of streets and roads, entered scores of homes, listened to hundreds of Iraqis, observed voting at a dozen different polling sites, and endured my third roadside ambush. With this latest firsthand experience, here are answers to some common queries about how the war is faring.
February 02, 2006
"States, like individuals, who observe their engagements, are respected and trusted: while the reverse is the fate of those who pursue an opposite conduct."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Report on Public Credit, 9 January 1790)
State of the Union address
Here is President Bush's State of the Union Address from Tuesday.
Usually SOTU speeches are pretty lame. This one, however, was pretty darn good. Though I'm a little worried by his plans for immigration -- they were not made clear in this address.
I've reprinted it in its entirety in the extended entry below.
President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address
United States Capitol
9:12 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: Today our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King. (Applause.)
Every time I'm invited to this rostrum, I'm humbled by the privilege, and mindful of the history we've seen together. We have gathered under this Capitol dome in moments of national mourning and national achievement. We have served America through one of the most consequential periods of our history -- and it has been my honor to serve with you.
In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of goodwill and respect for one another -- and I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong -- and together we will make it stronger. (Applause.)
In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy -- or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting -- yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership -- so the United States of America will continue to lead. (Applause.)
Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal -- we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. On September the 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer -- so we will act boldly in freedom's cause. (Applause.)
Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies in the world. Today, there are 122. And we're writing a new chapter in the story of self-government -- with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink, and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half -- in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran -- because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom, as well. (Applause.)
No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam -- the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder -- and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.
Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan, or blow up commuters in London, or behead a bound captive, the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it. (Applause.)
In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will -- by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself -- we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil. (Applause.)
America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace. We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders -- and for the others, their day will come.
We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine President and a National Assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy. We're on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we're helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized.
Second, we're continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. And, third, we're striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom. (Applause.)
Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory; I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people; I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning. (Applause.)
The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels -- but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
Our coalition has learned from our experience in Iraq. We've adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefitted from responsible criticism and counsel offered by members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice. Yet, there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. (Applause.) Hindsight alone is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not a strategy. (Applause.)
With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, would put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress, however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in this vital mission. (Applause.)
Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices -- and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear. They know what it's like to fight house to house in a maze of streets, to wear heavy gear in the desert heat, to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes. Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting in Fallujah. He left behind a letter to his family, but his words could just as well be addressed to every American. Here is what Dan wrote: "I know what honor is. ... It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to.... Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting."
Staff Sergeant Dan Clay's wife, Lisa, and his mom and dad, Sara Jo and Bud, are with us this evening. Welcome. (Applause.)
Our nation is grateful to the fallen, who live in the memory of our country. We're grateful to all who volunteer to wear our nation's uniform -- and as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America's military families. (Applause.)
Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East. Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, and protection of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote.
The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election -- and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism. The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace. (Applause.) Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform -- now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts. Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity. (Applause.)
The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon -- and that must come to an end. (Applause.) The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. (Applause.) America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.
Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. (Applause.)
To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, and fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery. We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption, and despair are sources of terrorism, and organized crime, and human trafficking, and the drug trade.
In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform. For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security, and dull the conscience of our country. I urge members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.
Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home. The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us. Fortunately, this nation has superb professionals in law enforcement, intelligence, the military, and homeland security. These men and women are dedicating their lives, protecting us all, and they deserve our support and our thanks. (Applause.) They also deserve the same tools they already use to fight drug trafficking and organized crime -- so I ask you to reauthorize the Patriot Act. (Applause.)
It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous Presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have, and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed. The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again. (Applause.)
In all these areas -- from the disruption of terror networks, to victory in Iraq, to the spread of freedom and hope in troubled regions -- we need the support of our friends and allies. To draw that support, we must always be clear in our principles and willing to act. The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world. Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth. American leaders -- from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan -- rejected isolation and retreat, because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.
Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy -- a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom. (Applause.)
Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.
Our economy is healthy and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations. In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs -- more than Japan and the European Union combined. (Applause.) Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.
The American economy is preeminent, but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors, like China and India, and this creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people's fears. So we're seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralizing more power in Washington and increasing taxes. We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy -- even though this economy could not function without them. (Applause.) All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction -- toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.
Tonight I will set out a better path: an agenda for a nation that competes with confidence; an agenda that will raise standards of living and generate new jobs. Americans should not fear our economic future, because we intend to shape it.
Keeping America competitive begins with keeping our economy growing. And our economy grows when Americans have more of their own money to spend, save, and invest. In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left $880 billion in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families -- and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. (Applause.) Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome. Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. (Applause.)
I am pleased that members of Congress are working on earmark reform, because the federal budget has too many special interest projects. (Applause.) And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto. (Applause.)
We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad's favorite people -- me and President Clinton. (Laughter.) This milestone is more than a personal crisis -- (laughter) -- it is a national challenge. The retirement of the baby boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending. Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security -- (applause) -- yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away. (Applause.) And every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse.
So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions. We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved. (Applause.)
Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. One out of every five factory jobs in America is related to global trade, and we want people everywhere to buy American. With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker. (Applause.)
Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. (Applause.) To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. (Applause.) And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border. (Applause.)
Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. (Applause.) Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. (Applause.) For all Americans -- for all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. (Applause.)
We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen health savings accounts -- making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. (Applause.) We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance. (Applause.) And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice -- leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB/GYN -- I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year. (Applause.)
Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.
So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research -- at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy. (Applause.)
We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. (Applause.)
Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. (Applause.) By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. (Applause.)
And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science. (Applause.)
First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.
Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit -- (applause) -- to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life -- and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come. (Applause.)
Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We've made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world. (Applause.)
Preparing our nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share. I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative, and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.
America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.
In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row. (Applause.)
These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation -- a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has played a role. Wise policies, such as welfare reform and drug education and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record. (Applause.)
Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They're concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage. They worry about children in our society who need direction and love, and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster, and about suffering caused by treatable diseases.
As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel. The American people know better than that. We have proven the pessimists wrong before -- and we will do it again. (Applause.)
A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under the law. The Supreme Court now has two superb new members -- new members on its bench: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. (Applause.) I thank the Senate for confirming both of them. I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not legislate from the bench. (Applause.)
Today marks the official retirement of a very special American. For 24 years of faithful service to our nation, the United States is grateful to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (Applause.)
A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale. (Applause.)
A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. (Applause.) Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington -- I support your efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility -- and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray. (Applause.)
As we renew the promise of our institutions, let us also show the character of America in our compassion and care for one another.
A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love. Through the Helping America's Youth Initiative, we are encouraging caring adults to get involved in the life of a child -- and this good work is being led by our First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.) This year we will add resources to encourage young people to stay in school, so more of America's youth can raise their sights and achieve their dreams.
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency -- and stays at it until they're back on their feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We're removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.
In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity. (Applause.)
A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated. More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicines in America. (Applause.) We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America. (Applause.)
Fellow citizens, we've been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We've entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. Sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore. Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing.
Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?
Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom's advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward -- optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of the victories to come.
May God bless America. (Applause.)
END 10:03 P.M. EST
February 01, 2006
"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Does anybody find it discouraging that, during President Bush's State of the Union speech last night, the Democrats stood up and applauded the fact that they had effectively blocked Bush's efforts to save our Social Security?
Talk about arrogance. And the situation is getting worse with every passing day. But they're happy to have put a stop to implementing a sensible solution to our problem. After all, they don't have to worry about it. They get paid for life.
The case for a strong presidency
James Taranto interviews Vice President Dick Cheney about the need, in these times, for a strong presidency. They also talk about FISA, the NSA surveillance program, 9/11, and Iraq.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
A Strong Executive
Does Watergate's legacy hinder the war on terror?
BY JAMES TARANTO
Saturday, January 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON--In the vice president's office in the West Wing of the White House hang portraits of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson--or "No. 1 and No. 2," as the current occupant of the office calls them. No. 46, Richard B. Cheney, sat at his desk Tuesday morning for an interview with Paul Gigot, editor of this page, and me.
A day earlier, the vice president had attended a farewell dinner for Alan Greenspan, who steps down next week after more than 18 years at the Federal Reserve. Our conversation began with Mr. Cheney reminiscing about when, as a 30-year-old appointee in the Nixon administration, he first met Mr. Greenspan, then an economist consulting for the government. "I was the assistant director of the Cost of Living Council in charge of operations"--that is, of administering wage and price controls. "I had about 3,000 IRS agents trying to enforce those damn things," Mr. Cheney recalls with rueful humor. "I don't put [it] on my résumé."
Not that Mr. Cheney, who turns 65 on Monday, has any need to pad his résumé. In 1975 he became President Ford's chief of staff, at 34 the youngest man ever to hold that job. Three years later he ran successfully for Wyoming's House seat. He served just over a decade in Congress, and in January 1989 he became minority whip, the No. 2 Republican. Two months later, George H.W. Bush tapped him as defense secretary. After spending the Clinton years in the private sector, Mr. Cheney returned to government with the help of another George Bush.
This career path gives Mr. Cheney a unique perspective on today's debate over executive vs. legislative power. He formed his views on the subject during the Ford administration, a time when presidential authority was ebbing. "In the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate . . . there was a concerted effort to place limits and restrictions on presidential authority--everything from the War Powers Act to the Hughes-Ryan Act on intelligence to stripping the president of his ability to impound funds--a series of decisions that were aimed at the time at trying to avoid a repeat of things like Vietnam or . . . Watergate.
"I thought they were misguided then, and have believed that given the world that we live in, that the president needs to have unimpaired executive authority. It doesn't mean, obviously, that there shouldn't be restraints. There clearly are with respect to the Constitution, and he's bound by those, as he should be. . . But I do think the pendulum from time to time throughout history has swung from side to side--Congress was pre-eminent, or the executive was pre-eminent--and as I say, I believe in this day and age it's important that we have a strong presidency."
That lesson was reinforced for then-Rep. Cheney in 1987, when he was the ranking Republican on the congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal. Democrats accused President Reagan of violating the Boland amendment, intended to prevent aid from reaching Nicaragua's anticommunist guerrillas. "If you go back and look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-Contra report, you'll see a strong statement about the president's prerogatives and responsibilities in the foreign policy/national security area in particular."
Today some argue that the Bush administration finds itself in a roughly analogous position. Critics of the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorists claim that the administration is violating a statute, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, that purports to limit the president's power to act in the interest of national security. That power, Mr. Cheney counters, is inherent in the office: "The combination of the president's constitutional authority under Article II as commander in chief, the resolution Congress passed after 9/11 [authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda], as well as the historical precedent that all presidents have claimed in terms of their authority with respect to intercepting enemy communications" all establish "ample justification for the NSA program."
Does this mean the vice president endorses the argument made in the 1970s by former Deputy Attorney General Laurence Silberman that FISA may itself be unconstitutional because it empowers judges to overrule presidential decisions on national security? "That's an interesting issue," Mr. Cheney says. "There are a number of propositions . . . that never really get tested, like the War Powers Act. Everybody sort of walks around the edges of it, but we never really have a confrontation over it."
After 9/11, surveillance of terrorists would seem an odd subject for a confrontation. Mr. Cheney explains that the program in question is quite modest: "This notion [is] peddled out there by some that this is, quote, 'domestic surveillance' or 'domestic spying.' No, it's not. It is the interception of communications, one end of which is outside the United States, and one end of which, either outside the U.S. or inside, we have reason to believe is al-Qaeda-connected. Those are two pretty clear requirements, both of which need to be met."
Mr. Cheney says key members of Congress--the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and sometimes both parties' top leaders from each chamber--were fully informed. "These sessions with Congress, most of which I presided over . . . answered every question that they wanted to ask. We've always said, look, if there's anything else you need to know, just let us know."
The lawmakers, Mr. Cheney says, shared the administration's view that secrecy was essential. "Public debate and discussion about the program would have done--in our view and in the view of members of Congress who were consulted--damage to our capabilities in this respect. We'd rather not have this conversation about this program, except for the fact that the New York Times went public with it."
Yet after the Times broke the story, Democratic members of Congress changed their tune from the one Mr. Cheney says they had sung in private. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Intelligence Committee Democrat, released a handwritten July 2003 letter to Mr. Cheney in which he said he was "writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed." We asked Mr. Cheney if he remembered Mr. Rockefeller iterating his concern in the first place. "No, I recall the letter just sort of arriving, and it was never followed up on."
Meanwhile Rep. Jane Harman, Mr. Rockefeller's House counterpart, has opined that the administration broke the law by failing to brief every member of the intelligence committees. Says Mr. Cheney, "If we had done that since the beginning of the program back in '01--I ran the numbers yesterday--if we did the full House and Senate committees, as well as the elected leadership, we'd have had to read 70 people into this program" instead of eight or nine. Expecting that many congressmen to keep a secret is a faith-based initiative.
If the vice president's account is accurate, how does one explain Mr. Rockefeller and Ms. Harman's about-face? It may be that their party's base--the Angry Left--is so implacably opposed to the administration and to the war effort that leading Democrats can afford to be responsible about national security only behind closed doors. If this is so--and given the electoral price the Democrats paid in 2002 and 2004 for their uncertain approach to national security--the public revelation of the NSA program could end up jeopardizing their prospects for taking advantage of the GOP's very real problems this November.
It may also prove costly to the press. The Justice Department is now investigating who leaked the NSA program to the Times, a disclosure Mr. Cheney says has "done serious damage to the national security of the United States. . . . If somebody has been responsible for divulging information that damages national security, then appropriate action ought to be taken." He declines to comment on the possibility that reporters will be forced to testify in the investigation--a more likely prospect given the precedent set by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in a "leak" investigation involving no apparent threat to national security. For those of us who work in the press, it's a grim irony that the New York Times, eager to damage the Bush administration, cheered on Mr. Fitzgerald's appointment, heedless of the damage it would do to reporters' ability to protect confidential sources.
We asked Mr. Cheney to justify the NSA program in practical terms, and his answer was frustratingly vague: "FISA was written nearly 30 years ago, in the late '70s, and doesn't meet all our requirements today." What are those requirements? "I can't be any more precise than that without getting into details of the program. . . I don't want to get into operational details." It may well be that the administration cannot responsibly reveal more, but this answer seems sure to fuel both the adversary press's hostility and the left's antigovernment paranoia.
On the other hand, Mr. Cheney gave a revealing answer when we asked why President Bush had signed the McCain amendment limiting the interrogation of terrorist detainees--despite Mr. Cheney's opposition, and the constraint it puts on executive discretion. "Well, I don't win all the arguments," he replied.
We also discussed foreign policy with Mr. Cheney, the highest-level official to serve in both the Bush administration that left Saddam Hussein in power and the one that overthrew him. What changed? "I think that 9/11 was a watershed event," he says. "It became clear that we were up against an adversary who, with a relatively small number of people, could come together and mount a devastating attack against the United States." This brought into focus the danger of proliferation: "The ultimate threat now would be a group of al Qaeda in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon."
By 9/11, Mr. Cheney notes, "we had 10 years of experience with Saddam Hussein defying the international community and refusing to come into compliance with U.N. sanctions . . . and, based upon the best evidence that everybody had at the point, proceeding with his WMD programs." Saddam also supported international terrorism, "everything from $25,000 payments for the family of suicide bombers to a home for Abu Nidal and Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
This newspaper had argued since 1991 for regime change in Iraq, so Mr. Cheney had a sympathetic audience when he made this case. But we wondered why the current administration is taking a much more cautious approach to Iran, a sponsor of terrorism that is eagerly pursuing nuclear weapons. The vice president disputed our premise. "We tried for a long time . . . to resolve the questions with respect to Iraq peacefully, and through international organizations and mechanisms . . . We didn't immediately jump to Operation Iraqi Freedom." Yet given that those efforts failed, what makes him think the same approach will work with Iran?
"We're not the only ones who've been hit since 9/11," Mr. Cheney responds. "We're not the only ones who'd be threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran that was a state sponsor of terror. And the international community needs to come together and find effective ways of dealing with this to make certain that that situation doesn't arise." Fair enough, but one could have said that about Iraq anytime between 1991 and 2003.
Four years ago tomorrow, President Bush delivered his first State of the Union Address, in which he famously declared that Iraq and Iran, along with North Korea, made up an "axis of evil." In light of the divergent ways in which the administration has approached the three countries, I asked Mr. Cheney, was it a mistake to lump them together like this?
No, he said, it wasn't. "There are ways to approach different problems, and I think we've got to be sophisticated enough to figure out which one is most likely to work." After all, "you wouldn't want to accuse us of being simplistic."
Mr. Taranto is editor of OpinionJournal.com.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.}