The mandate’s supporters have sought to frame this issue as one of women’s rights or health but that is utterly specious. No one is preventing anyone from obtaining contraception or abortions in this case. But it does not follow that the government has the right to compel companies to pay for such services when they contradict the religious beliefs of its owners. Those who wish not to be forced to pay for such services are not imposing their faith on others. It is, instead, the government that is trying to force people of faith to abandon their values if they want to operate publicly.
President Barack Obama came to office promising to “bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq.” That should have been easy enough to do, considering the war was already over. Alas, he seems to have had in mind something quite different than “ending a war.” Perhaps because of his general bias against exertions of American power, Obama seems to have convinced himself that our continuing military presence in post-war Iraq was the same as continuing the war.
This novel conception of when wars end suggests Obama may yet pull our forces out of Europe and the Far East in order to “end” World War II. It also helps to explain how he came to equate “responsibly ending the war in Iraq” with throwing away everything we had gained from it. Obama made it plain from the start that he saw no reason to keep investing in a mistake. He let our military presence in Iraq lapse, and left the Iraqi government to fend for itself when it was still far too fragile. There is a reason we stayed in Germany and Japan and South Korea for decades after the fighting stopped: We didn’t want our sacrifices to be for nothing, and we didn’t want to have to fight again.
Now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS — the very al-Qaeda forces we defeated in Iraq in 2007 — have come back and taken over huge swaths of the country, including most of the Sunni heartland to the west and north of Baghdad….
Foreign-policy mistakes are inevitable, and should generally be expected, if not always forgiven. But in its approach to Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, the Obama administration has been criminally negligent. It could be years and maybe decades before we see a situation as good as the one Obama found when he got to office — and things are almost certainly going to get far worse before they get better.
[A]merica’s continuing military presence allowed U.S. military officers and diplomats to exert enormous influence both within Iraq and in the broader Middle East. It allowed us to keep the peace among Iraqi factions while simultaneously diminishing Iranian and Wahhabi Arab influence. We had gained, at a frightful cost in lives and treasure, a priceless strategic asset, namely the possibility of Iraq as a strong military ally, hosting U.S. forces as long as we needed to keep them there, engaged against the extremists in Syria and Iran, as well as al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their sympathizers among the Arab states. And the prospect of a successful democracy (however rudimentary and corrupt) functioning at the heart of the Middle East gave enormous hope to the pro-democracy movements of the region. In order to consolidate those gains it was absolutely vital for the U.S. to make a long-term commitment and back it up with a long-term military presence.
So what did Obama do? He did what he normally does, which is to counteract what little capacity for action the U.S. national-security establishment retains when left on autopilot. He has visited Iraq only once during his presidency, early in 2009; but even then he only visited troops, and declined to meet with any senior Iraqi officials. He has met with Prime Minister Maliki only twice, once in December 2011 and once in November 2013, by which time the current debacle was well in train. By all accounts, Obama barely lifted a finger to preserve a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, even when — as Dexter Filkins recently reported in a phenomenal feature for The New Yorker — all major Iraqi factions were asking, in private if not in public, for the U.S. to stay.
The tentative end-of-2011 withdrawal date became fixed, and all U.S. forces were gone by the beginning of 2012. What so many Iraqis feared would happen next did not take long to come.
President Obama entered office promising to renew America’s respect for multilateralism and the international system. He will leave the White House as the man whose legacy has been instead ushering in the “Age of Fait Accompli.” Russia now occupies Crimea and effectively dominates eastern Ukraine. Last night, Peshmerga from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)—the political party of Jalal Talabani’s family—occupied Kirkuk, a city over which diplomats long wrung their hands given its volatile ethnic and sectarian mix. (Fortunately for Kirkuk, its governor Najmaldin Karim, while a PUK member, has distinguished himself as a leader for all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity, and not as a narrow ethnic or sectarian chauvinist as so many of his Kurdish and Iraqi Arab counterparts.) China, meanwhile, is on the warpath, seeking to create facts on the seas and ground in disputed maritime areas from Japan to the Philippines.
Obama sees international threats through the lens of grievance, not ideology. Often he seems to assume it is the presence of United States forces or its power projection that is the source of such grievance. He does not understand that the real threat is the maximalist, aggressive, and nihilistic ideology of America’s opponents and that for decades, United States power has been the proverbial finger in the dyke, holding off the deluge. Isolationism doesn’t bring security; it brings chaos.
[Written before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria moved within miles of Baghdad, and Iran flew in forces to defend PM Maliki, I suspect. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is reportedly evacuating.]
The president is an ardent progressive. This dastardly philosophy of government was brought into the American mainstream 100 years ago by a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, and a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Its guiding principle is the belief that government—not individuals—is the chief engine of human progress. If that means government tearing down rich persons to help poor persons, if that means the massive redistribution of wealth, if it means federal regulation of every conceivable occupation or productive endeavor, if it means fighting an unjust war, progressives are for it.
Before the progressives, the dominant political thinkers in America were Madisonians. James Madison, who kept the notes at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787—notes that eventually formed much of the language of the Constitution—made clear what the purposes of the Constitution were: to prescribe discrete areas of human endeavor in which the new federal government could legislate; to set forth open-ended areas of human behavior in which no government could legislate; and to leave the remaining areas of governmental endeavor in the hands of the states. The areas delegated to the federal government are only 17 in number and generally are referred to as federal powers. The areas in which no government may regulate are infinite and generally are referred to as natural rights.
The progressives have turned this philosophy on its head. Roosevelt and Wilson believed that the federal government could regulate any behavior, right any wrong, tax any event, and curtail any freedom, subject only to the express prohibitions in the Constitution itself. This view of American government not only contradicts Madison, but it also contradicts the language of the Constitution itself, particularly the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which state in writing what Madison said many times throughout his life….
Progressivism’s adherents finance the government by borrowing or by heavily taxing only the rich, both of which are sold as being painless to most voters. Yet, the former merely delays the due date of bills until tomorrow for goodies consumed today; the latter takes cash out of the free market today, where it could contribute to growth and jobs tomorrow, and puts it into the hands of the mindset that runs the Post Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The perversion of law enforcement agencies for political ends is starkly revealed by the fact that in 2010, as part of its effort to stem the Tea Party movement, the IRS gave the FBI disks containing more than 1.1 million pages of documents on Section 501 non-profits, so that the FBI could selectively prosecute conservative groups and donors.
The facts, as we know them so far, were laid out yesterday in a letter from Congressmen Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan to John Koskinen, Commissioner of the IRS. The letter includes a series of emails that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has finally obtained, after more than a year of stonewalling by the Obama administration. The IRS originally told the House committee–falsely–that the disks contained only publicly available filings by the non-profit organizations. But the IRS later admitted that it had illegally transferred confidential taxpayer information to the FBI.
The IRS’s purpose was explicitly political. Sarah Ingram, Lois Lerner’s predecessor in charge of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS, wrote in a September 21, 2010 email, the subject of which was a favorable front-page story in the New York Times:
Thanks, as always, for the excellent support from Media. I do think it came out pretty well. The “secret donor” theme will continue–see Obama salvo today and Diane Reehm (sp).
The reference is to Diane Rehm, an NPR radio host. So the IRS, at its highest levels, was trying to advance the Democratic Party’s “secret donor” theme on the eve of the 2010 election, and breaking the law to do so. Could someone maybe go to jail one of these days?
Isaac Patch, a Cold Warrior who led a CIA-financed book distribution program that smuggled hundreds of thousands of banned or hard-to-find texts into the Soviet Union, died May 31 at his home in St. Johnsbury, Vt. He was 101….
Political warfare — to win the hearts and minds of adversaries — played out in many forms during the Cold War. One of the least known but most effective was a CIA-funded effort to get reading materials, including modern novels and medical texts, behind the Iron Curtain.
Scholar Alfred A. Reisch wrote in “Hot Books in the Cold War” that sending books into the Soviet sphere of influence “played a decisive role, by contributing . . . to the West’s ideological victory. They did so at a relatively low financial cost and without loss of lives.”
Another writer, John P.C. Matthews, termed the massive clandestine program a “Marshall plan for the mind.”
One leader in the effort was “Ike” Patch, a lanky New Englander who had studied Russian at Harvard University and who, during a stint as a diplomat in Moscow during World War II, tried with mixed results to instill in the Soviets a love of baseball.
… In his memoir “Closing the Circle,” Mr. Patch described the mission: “To communicate Western ideas to Soviet citizens by providing them with books — on politics, economics, philosophy, art, and some technology — all denied them by the Soviet dictatorship.”
Insurgents seized control early Tuesday of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, including the provincial government headquarters, offering a powerful demonstration of the mounting threat posed by extremists to Iraq’s teetering stability.
Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the entire western bank of the city overnight after Iraqi soldiers and police apparently fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants….
The speed with which one of Iraq’s biggest cities has fallen under militant control is striking and suggests the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are even more vulnerable than had previously been thought.
The collapse of government forces in Mosul echoed the takeover earlier this year of the town of Fallujah in western Anbar province, where U.S. troops fought some of their fiercest battles of the Iraq war in an effort to quell the insurgents.
Mosul, however, is a far more important city, the capital of northern Iraq and a key commercial and trading center. It had also been an important focus of the U.S. military’s effort to stabilize Iraq….
[ISIS] is now channeling its efforts toward the creation of an Islamic state modeled on the 7th century Islamic caliphate, the system of governance that prevailed after the death of the prophet Muhammad. Over the past year, ISIS has consolidated its hold on a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria that stretches from the eastern outskirts of the Syrian city of Aleppo to Fallujah west of Baghdad, where it has asserted authority by imposing a harsh version of Islamic law.
Mosul, located on the northeastern edge of the territory, is the group’s biggest prize to date, underscoring the extent to which its expansion has gone unchecked since the U.S. military left.
For people who use the word “science” as a bludgeon and trumpet their strict commitment to fact and reason, the Obama administration and its supporters are strangely incapable of rational analysis of new climate-change regulations.
President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency released draft rules last week to create a vast new regulatory apparatus with no input from Congress — in other words, to govern in its accustomed highhanded, undemocratic manner. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants, in particular coal-fired plants, to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The rhetoric around the rules has involved self-congratulation about how they are the inexorable result of taking climate science and the reality of dangerous global warming seriously. “Science is science,” President Obama said in an open-and-shut tautology about global warming during an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. By the same token, math is math, and the new regulations make no sense.
While the regulations are stringent enough to impose real economic costs — especially in states that produce coal or heavily use coal power, or whose economies have grown relatively robustly since 2005 — they have almost no upside in fighting global warming. That’s because the U.S. is only part of the global carbon-emissions picture, and a diminishing one at that.
We account for roughly a sixth of global emissions, and our emissions have fallen the past few years more than those of any other major country. In fact, we’ve already achieved about half of the administration’s 30 percent goal, in part through the boom in natural gas, which produces half the carbon emissions of coal….
The regulatory fight against global warming runs up against this reality: Anything we do on our own short of returning to a subsistence economy is largely meaningless, while we can’t force other countries to kneecap their economies based on a fashionable cause with no immediate bearing on the well-being of their often desperately impoverished citizens.
In an attempt to square this circle, supporters of the new EPA rules say they are an exercise of American leadership that will encourage other countries to crimp their economies, especially the world’s biggest emitter, China.
How has the power of example worked so far? We are a liberal democracy. We allow a robustly free press. We don’t imprison dissenters. We don’t steal the industrial secrets of other countries and give them to companies owned by government insiders. In all these things, we provide a model for Beijing, and have done so for a long time. Yet the Chinese Politburo stubbornly pursues what it believes is in its best interest.
Why will China be shamed by our pointlessly self-flagellating new policy on power plants into adopting economically harmful regulations of its own based on speculative models showing a far-off threat of higher temperatures?
The best policy for the U.S. is not command-and-control regulation, as economics writer Jim Manzi points out, but maintaining an environment favorable to technological innovation. No one would have predicted the fracking revolution of the past few years that has both displaced coal and benefited the broader economy. But the self-declared adherents of “science” prefer the satisfaction of pointlessly self-defeating gestures.