Tag Archives: Michael Goldfarb

Mr. Cheney V. President Obama, Round #535

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei at Politico:

On the eve of the unveiling of the nation’s new Afghanistan policy, former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed President Barack Obama for projecting “weakness” to adversaries and warned that more workaday Afghans will side with the Taliban if they think the United States is heading for the exits.

In a 90-minute interview at his suburban Washington house, Cheney said the president’s “agonizing” about Afghanistan strategy “has consequences for your forces in the field.”

“I begin to get nervous when I see the commander in chief making decisions apparently for what I would describe as small ‘p’ political reasons, where he’s trying to balance off different competing groups in society,” Cheney said.

“Every time he delays, defers, debates, changes his position, it begins to raise questions: Is the commander in chief really behind what they’ve been asked to do?”

Obama administration officials have complained ever since taking office that they face a series of unpalatable — if not impossible — national security decisions in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of the Bush administration’s unwavering insistence on focusing on Iraq.

But Cheney rejected any suggestion that Obama had to decide on a new strategy for Afghanistan because the one employed by the previous administration failed.

Cheney was asked if he thinks the Bush administration bears any responsibility for the disintegration of Afghanistan because of the attention and resources that were diverted to Iraq. “I basically don’t,” he replied without elaborating.

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard:

The release of those memos set off a chain of events that culminated in a head to head battle between Cheney and Obama on detainee policy as the two squared off on national television in successive speeches. Cheney was elevated and Obama was made to look small — and Greg Craig was relieved of his Gitmo responsibilities just days later (you have to think Craig made the call to schedule Obama’s speech right before Cheney’s). Over the following weeks the Obama administration backtracked on releasing controversial detainee photos, stopped selectively releasing documents detailing Bush-era interrogations, and started from scratch on the closing of Gitmo — they’ll now miss their own deadline for closing the facility by anywhere from six months to never.

When Cheney goes after the president, the president starts making unforced political errors. More than that though, Cheney’s attacks seem to push Obama into a more positive direction on policy. No doubt, the White House considered how Cheney would respond to Obama’s speech tonight. Cheney’s critique of Obama as “dithering” on the decision may have expedited it, and his critique of Obama as insufficiently clear in his commitment to the mission may force Obama to dig in a lot deeper than he’d like — which is a good thing. Cheney’s still the MVP.

James Fallows:

Since the results of the 2008 election became clear, the 43rd President of the United States has behaved in a way that brings honor to him, his family, his office, and his country. By all reports he did what he could to smooth the transition to his successor, including dealing with the house-is-burning-down world financial crisis. Since leaving office he has — like most of his predecessors in their first years out of power — maintained a dignified distance from public controversies and let the new team have its chance. He has acted as if aware that there are national interests larger than his own possible interests in score-settling or reputational-repair.

The former vice president, Dick Cheney, has brought dishonor to himself, his office, and his country. I am not aware of a case of a former president or vice president behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power, most recently but not exclusively with his comments to Politico about Obama’s decisions on Afghanistan. (Aaron Burr might win the title, for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but Burr was a sitting vice president at the time.) Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

In Cheney’s view, this is an inexperienced president who is simply not up for the job (”Sometimes I have the feeling that they’re just figuring that out,” he says of Afghanistan war planning and the lessons of Iraq) and who embraces a radical worldview that rejects American exceptionalism (”I am increasingly convinced that he’s not as committed to or as wedded to that concept as most of the presidents I’ve known, Republican or Democrat”).

It is December, and in less than a year Cheney now represents a good deal of mainstream thinking, both in the Beltway and among ordinary Americans. That’s how far we’ve come. Meanwhile, Obama is increasingly seen as ideologically misguided and temperamentally at a loss to deal with the plethora of international challenges, which will only increase as a worldwide audience takes in his haphazard performance.

Whether it is the mullahs in Iran or democracy advocates living in despotic regimes, Obama has projected an image that he must, if his presidency is to be successful, reverse. Where he has appeared naive, he must now show that he is savvy. Where he has shown aversion to hard power, he must now demonstrate his bona fides as a wartime commander. And it is harder, terribly so, now that he must convince players on the world stage (both friends and foes) that he really, honestly, after all does mean it.

Cheney has consistently called out the administration for its poor judgment (e.g., on Guantanamo, the CIA) and lousy execution. Other conservatives who wish to lead the opposition have followed suit and will, I suspect, continue the lines of attack Cheney has outlined. But the real issue is whether the administration has internalized the substance of what Cheney is saying (echoed by columnists and pundits whom the administration may find more palatable). If so, there is perhaps time to reverse the trajectory of this presidency, and specifically the entire Obama approach to foreign policy. If not, it will be a very rocky three years.

Megan McArdle:

I said it when Jimmy Carter did it, and I’ll say it now:  former presidents and vice presidents should not attempt to conduct freelance foreign policy when they’re out of office–particularly not presidents and vice presidents like Jimmy Carter and Dick Cheney, who are not generally regarded as having presided over America’s finest hours, internationally speaking.  If Dick Cheney is so worried about Obama looking weak, he should maybe not try to undermine him.  Yes, Obama has occasionally been kind of a jerk about blaming his predecessors for everything from global financial meltdown, to regional blowfly infestations, to cold coffee at the White House mess.  I don’t care.  A functioning foreign policy does not start with  public squabbling among the current and former high officers of the executive branch.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy

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Debating Wrist Slaps

Rowan Scarborough at Fox News:

Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told FoxNews.com.

The three, all members of the Navy’s elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called an admiral’s mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named “Objective Amber,” told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.

Matthew McCabe, a Special Operations Petty Officer Second Class (SO-2), is facing three charges: dereliction of performance of duty for willfully failing to safeguard a detainee, making a false official statement, and assault.

Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe, SO-2, is facing charges of dereliction of performance of duty and making a false official statement.

Petty Officer Julio Huertas, SO-1, faces those same charges and an additional charge of impediment of an investigation.

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard:

Maybe there’s a whole lot more to this story than is currently being reported, but it’d have to be pretty terrible stuff to convince me that three Navy SEALs who successfully captured a high-value target now deserve to be court martialed for their service. A fat lip? That’s enough to get you rough military justice from the Obama administration, but blow up the World Trade Center and you get all the due process rights of the civilian criminal justice system. Sounds fair, right?

Allah Pundit:

Looks awful, but I’m suspicious that it’s as bad as it seems given Fox’s misleading headline: “Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Capturing Most-Wanted Terrorist.” That makes it sound like the act of capturing him is the offense here, which would be insane even by the Army’s Nidal-Hasan standards of political correctness.

But that’s not what happened. They’re being charged for allegedly giving him a beating and covering it up.


I like Goldfarb’s take: “A fat lip? That’s enough to get you rough military justice from the Obama administration, but blow up the World Trade Center and you get all the due process rights of the civilian criminal justice system.” Even so, the fact that this turd got the Iraqi authorities involved may have left Central Command with little choice here. The last thing the military needs right now is another detainee-abuse headache, especially with some Iraqi pols already leaning on them about withdrawal. Giving the SEALs a zero-tolerance wrist slap reminds other troops not to do anything more seriously stupid that might be exploited politically. And it will be a wrist slap, I’m sure: The last thing The One needs after shipping KSM off to NYC for his close-up is the image of SEALs being hauled off to prison for busting some jihadi in the face. In fact, according to Fox, the SEALs requested a court-martial rather than nonjudicial punishment, presumably because they know full well how awful this looks for the military. Prediction: Wrist slap.

Blackfive on Allah Pundit’s post:

Let me explain something to you amigo. That wrist slap would be a career-ender in Spec Ops for these men. You understand? We take three guys who accomplish more in a lazy afternoon than you have in your entire anonymous, snarking-from-the-sideline, existence and we put them out of work making dead tangos. And that sounds like what should have happened to this ass clown. If he dies during the take down we have no problems.

I know you have no earthly clue just how god-awful complicated it is to actually perform a raid and scarf up a bad guy, let’s just say it rates up there with trying to conduct a Beethoven Symphony with your orchestra in free fall, screaming towards Earth like a phalanx of freaking lawn darts. That is why we like to send a f**king Hellfire down on them and last time I checked that leaves a little more than a god damn bloody lip. And yes I am saying I don’t care if he got it once he got to base. What if the guy who clocked his murderous ass knew Scott Helverson, who this bastard helped kill, burn and then defile his corpse? Do you really want to be on record saying he should be made an example of? Do you remember what Kos said about the four men this scumbag killed you dumbass? I’ll remind you “F**k them”. You are sure in illustrious company.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Our armed forces have become exquisitely sensitive–toward Nidal Malik Hasan and Ahmed Hashim Abed, and one wonders who else. Such sensitivity comes at a price, of course. But for now, at least, that price won’t be paid by those who set the policy.

Gateway Pundit

UPDATE: Sean Linnane at FrumForum

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Goldfarb, Goldberg, and Parsi: Not A Law Firm Or A Progressive Rock Group

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard:

I made my way over to the J Street conference today to see for myself just how “pro-peace, pro-Israel” the organization really is, and there can be no doubt, J Street is pro-peace. But while the leadership of J Street may be pro-Israel, the conference they’ve organized was at times openly anti-Zionist and anti-Israel.

I had the chance to speak with the director of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, as well as his director of policy and strategy, Hadar Susskind. On the issues, the best that can be said about these two is that they are squishes — at all costs they avoid taking a strong position on any major issue other than settlements. Take the issue of Iran sanctions, for example. J Street has been at the center of the anti-sanctions coalition. Ben-Ami coauthored an op-ed on the Huffington Post with Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian-American Council who serves as the Iranian regime’s man in Washington, urging against sanctions legislation in Congress. As that position became increasingly untenable for J Street — support for sanctions on Iran is near universal in the Jewish community and in Congress — the group has shifted. In the House, sanctions legislation is being shepherded by the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Howard Berman. J Street has tried to square the circle by supporting Berman’s mark-up of the legislation while opposing final passage of the legislation. I asked Susskind, “you do not support sanctions but you support Berman?” He answered: “Correct.”

Jeffrey Goldberg:

The most problematic thing I’ve heard so far is the make-up of the panel meant to discuss Iran. In the program, Iran was described as “Israel’s self-described greatest concern and strategic threat,” which is a bit too distancing a description for me, but never mind that. The panel featured Hillary Mann Leverett, who, with her husband, Flynt Leverett, is an apologist for the Iranian regime. Goldblog Iran-Panel-Reporter-At-Large Tali Yahalom told me that the consensus on the panel, which also included Trita Parsi, who also does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime, was that Iran doesn’t think about Israel, doesn’t care about Israel, and certainly doesn’t want to obliterate Israel.

Daniel Luban:

The campaign against J Street has contained a fair amount of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, epitomized by former AIPAC staffer Lenny Ben-David’s attack on any J Street donors unfortunate enough to have Arab names. Now comes a new and equally unseemly line of attack, centering on an Iran panel at the recent J Street conference that featured National Iranian American Council (NIAC) president Trita Parsi. Parsi, Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard claims, is “the Iranian regime’s man in Washington.” Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic similarly accuses Parsi of “doing a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime.”

To begin with, it’s worth noting the inaccuracy of the charge. NIAC was harshly critical of the Iranian government’s crackdown on protesters following the disputed elections in June, issuing a June 20 statement “strongly condemn[ing] the government of Iran’s escalating violence against demonstrators” and calling for new elections. A later statement urged the Obama administration not to neglect human rights issues in the course of its diplomacy with Iran. Anyone who followed the post-election crisis closely — no matter where they came from on the ideological spectrum — soon came to rely on NIAC’s blog as an indispensabe source of news and analysis about the protests. And Parsi became the most prominent proponent of engagement to change his stance in the wake of the elections, calling for a “tactical pause” in U.S. diplomacy while the political situation within Iran developed.

Why, then, is he being attacked as a stooge for the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: while Parsi has harshly criticized the regime’s actions, he has joined Iran’s leading opposition figures in opposing the use of sanctions or military force against Iran, on the grounds that they would be likely simply to kill innocent Iranian civilians while strengthening the regime’s hold on power. For the Iran hawks, this is a mortal sin. They will settle for nothing less than an Iranian Ahmed Chalabi — someone willing to tell them precisely what they want to hear, to claim that the Iranian people want to be bombed.

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:

Goldfarb wasn’t alone in criticizing Parsi. Last Wednesday, the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that Parsi “does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime.” Like Goldfarb, Goldberg did not cite any evidence. But when I emailed him about his comment, he backed away from implying Parsi was in league with Tehran:

No, I’m not saying he literally works for the Iranian regime. I think you’re right, the term “leg-work” definitely could imply something I wasn’t meaning to imply. If that’s the way fair-minded people are reading it, then it’s my mistake. What I meant to suggest is that his organization functions as Iran’s AIPAC in Washington (though it’s not as effective, of course). AIPAC, obviously, does a great amount of leg-work—meaning, in my understanding, a great deal of lobbying and advocacy—to advance its primary cause, a militarily and politically powerful Israel closely allied with the United States. But it doesn’t take Israeli money, or, as best as I can tell, Israeli instruction. I assume, though I don’t know, that Parsi doesn’t take Iranian government money or Iranian government instruction, either. I think he does argue quite vociferously against sanctions, and he does tend to present, at least in my reading, a fairly benevolent understanding of Iran’s rulers and their motivations, and a fairly harsh reading of the Israeli government’s motivations.

Goldfarb and Goldberg’s remarks could potentially have legal consequences.

After another writer made similar allegations on a website, iranianlobby.com, in 2007, Parsi and NIAC sued for defamation. (The case is ongoing.) Parsi notes that his organization has not yet decided whether to pursue legal action against Goldfarb and Goldberg.

There’s no credible, publicly available evidence that Parsi is paid by or takes instructions from the Iranian government. If Goldfarb is charging that Parsi really is an operative for the ayatollahs, he ought to back up the claim—lawsuit or not.

Matthew Yglesias:

Goldfarb’s version of the smear is, it seems to me, wronger. But Goldberg’s is, in its way, more contemptible for being so vague, shifty, and ultimately impossible to disprove. What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran. To be fair, in criticizing Iranian human rights violations NIAC has been known to cite the work of international recognized human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and for all I know G&G are sufficiently through the rabbit hole that they see Amnesty, HRW, and NIAC as all part of a vast anti-Israel Islamist plot that only attacks the Iranian regime as part of a vast smokescreen. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s an important underlying dispute here. Some people, also known as people who know what they’re talking about, think an unprovoked US or Israeli preventive military strike on Iran would be a huge gift to the Iranian government and a crushing blow to the opposition. Others, who I hope are liars rather than fools, claim to believe that this is wrong. Parsi is, I know, in the former camp.

Scott Lemieux

Spencer Ackerman:

Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad. We used NIAC’s blog for pro-dissident updates. Here. Don’t take my word for it. Read the June entries. In a piece he co-wrote with Resa Aslan, Parsi cheered the uprising, intoning, “What we have witnessed taking place in Iran is a mass movement attracting supporters from all walks of life, all demographics, all classes, and even all political backgrounds. Even supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have expressed discomfort with the developments in Iran, arguing that they voted for Ahmadinejad because they thought he would be a better president, and not because he would be a better dictator.” Does that sound like a “fairly benevolent understanding” of the regime? Nor did Parsi stop when U.S. attention drifted elsewhere. One of the top posts at NIAC’s blog right now is titled “Khamanei Criticized At Public Meeting.” You really can go on and on with this.

Parsi isn’t so hot on Netanyahu. Wow. That means he’s a progressive, not some sort of regime plant. Parsi isn’t so hot on sanctioning Iran. Wow! You know who also isn’t? Dissident leaders Mehdi Kerroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi. I suppose the opposition movement is controlled by the regime after all. Diabolical!

One more thing. Goldberg has a fairly low bar for people who write that, say, AIPAC does anything untoward or is an organization that represents anything nefariously deviant from the norm in ethnic American lobbies. He insists on, shall we say, a certain precision in discourse. Yet he has absolutely no problem saying that a guy who stood out in front in the U.S. in cheering on the anti-regime protesters is soft on the regime! “I assume, though I don’t know, that Parsi doesn’t take Iranian government money or Iranian government instruction, either.” Let’s employ a thought experiment. Say, I don’t know, Steven Walt or John Mearshimer wrote that about AIPAC. Would Goldberg consider that a judicious statement or a weasel-worded slander?

UPDATE: Goldfarb responds to Yglesias:

Yglesias surely knows that I’m opposed to a military strike on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel for a whole range of reasons. I’ve been publicly and vocally opposed to a strike for some time. My opposition to military action against Iran can be learned by reading this and this and this, just for starters. I’ve spoken to Jewish groups inclined to support such an attack and told them why it’s a bad idea. I’ve argued with Israeli cabinet officials about a strike. I suppose that next I could take an ad out on Yglesias’s blog trumpeting my opposition to a strike. I’m going to e-mail Yglesias to ask him to acknowledge in his post that I am, in fact, in the Parsi camp(!) when it comes to attacking Iran. It’s fine to attack me for things I believe, but this particular bit of criticism by Yglesias is ridiculous.

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE: More Goldberg

UPDATE #2: More Sullivan

Daniel Larison

Spencer Ackerman

UPDATE #3: Reihan Salam

UPDATE #4: Larison responds to Salam

UPDATE #5: Eli Lake at The Washington Times

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard

Daniel Larison

Jefferey Goldberg, here and here

UPDATE #6: Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

UPDATE #7: David Frum at FrumForum

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Israel/Palestine, Middle East, New Media, Politics

The Wild, The Innocent & The J Street Shuffle


Natasha Mozgovaya at Haaretz

Five days ahead of the leftist pro-Israeli lobby J Street’s first National Conference in Washington, D.C., the controversies continue to mount. The Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren refuses to attend the conference, despite the open letter issued by the organization’s Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami; but over the weekend the lobby took one more step to appease critics.

The poetry session, featuring three artists – Kevin Coval, Tracy Soren and Josh Healey, scheduled as part of the “Culture as a Tool for Change” track, was canceled. Apparently, the event was nixed following a reminder by a conservative blogger that Healey, a Jewish activist and poet, compared Guantanamo prison to Auschwitz.

J-Street’s Ben-Ami issued the following explanation: “As a matter of principle, J Street respects the dissenting voice that poetry can represent in society and politics. We acknowledge that expression and language are used differently in the arts and artistic expression when compared to their use in political argumentation. Nevertheless, as J Street is critical of the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and metaphors by politicians and pundits on the right, it would be inappropriate for us to feature poets at our Conference whose poetry has used such imagery in the past and might also be offensive to some conference participants.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, will not attend next week’s J Street conference. Instead, a lower-level member of the embassy staff will be sent to watch and report on the event.

This makes sense. One of the purposes of an embassy is to monitor the activities of a nation’s adversaries in the host country.

And there will be much for the lucky embassy staffer to report about. As Lenny Ben-David notes, Stephen Walt, co-author of the venomous The Israel Lobby, recently described the J Street gambit as “a key moment in the debate; it will be important whether Obama gets enough cover from J Street and the Israel Policy Forum so Obama can say, ‘AIPAC is not representative of the American Jewish community.'”

The staffer will be unable, however, to report on the poetry session J Street had scheduled. That session was to include Josh Healey, who has questioned whether “the chosen people” have been “chosen to recreate our own history merely reversing the roles, with the script now reading that we’re the ones writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza.”

But J Street cancelled the poetry session when word got out. A disappointed Healey reported that J Street “explained [to him] that they are playing the game — Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle.”

But we don’t have to take Healey’s word for the fact that J Street pulled the plug on him for cosmetic reasons, not out of any disagreement with his view that Israel is evil. A key J Street member, Henry Siegman, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.

Finally, the Israeli embassy staffer will want to follow the money. Approximately 10 percent of J Street’s money is said to come from Muslim and Arab donors. Some of the donors are connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issue advocacy.

But then J Street itself is doing Iranian issue advocacy. Ben-David points out that it opposes sanctions against Iran.

Let’s hope that the staffer brings a thick note pad.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

From what I know, Oren is definitely not attending the J Street conference, and I believe that his decision has more to do with Washington Jewish politics than it does with his boss’s predispositions. AIPAC is the big player in pro-Israel advocacy in Washington; J Street very self-consciously established itself as the left-wing alternative to AIPAC. It’s a zero-sum game, and it’s understandable bureaucratically why AIPAC would object to Michael Oren’s appearance at J Street, even if he went to the conference to yell at them (a possibility that is precluded by Shimon Peres’s blessing of J Street’s mission. Man, is this inside Jewish baseball, or what?)

In any case, in the best of all possible worlds, Michael Oren would go to J Street and say whatever’s on his mind. He has, indeed, spoken to left-wing groups already, but J Street is in a different, problematic class. If, in the coming years, J Street becomes the go-to address for pro-Israel advocacy (or two-state-solution-advocacy) or if AIPAC vanishes, then I’m sure the Israeli ambassador will attend. Until then, I can imagine AIPAC putting up a hard fight each year.

UPDATE: Josh Block, the AIPAC spokesman, just called to tell me that his organization had nothing to do with Oren’s decision. He said AIPAC “doesn’t give the Israelis advice” on who they should speak to or not speak to.

And more Goldberg:

This debate is very much about J Street, an organization about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I come out of a left-Zionism tradition — Hashomer Hatzair, for those of you keeping score at home — and I believe in a two-state solution, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, more-or-less the whole program. So I’m comfortable in many ways with J Street’s basic worldview. On the other hand, I don’t think the group has put forward a well-articulated vision of what a progressive Jewish democratic Israel should look like. This might be because, in addition to having progressive Zionists as members, it also has anti-Zionists (these are the types who are happy with Stephen Walt’s tragic endorsement of the group) and it’s obviously very hard to put forward a positive vision of a Jewish Israel when some of your important supporters — Bernard Avishai comes to mind — don’t even believe in the idea of a Jewish state.

But it is inaccurate and Jewishly wrong for J Street’s right-leaning political adversaries to argue that the group as a whole represents some sort of manifestation of Jewish self-hatred. I have very serious doubts about the willingness of Arabs to make peace with the Jewish state, but I also know that certain Israeli policies make the cause of compromise even more difficult. It’s not self-hatred to acknowledge the obvious: That the settlement movement, and its supporters, overemphasize the sanctity of land in Jewish theology, and neglect other aspects of Judaism. Land, love, social justice, an intolerance of idolatry, the law as a whole, abhorrence of cruelty — all these things together make up Judaism. (This is why a balanced Jewish life is so hard to master.)  It is unfair to call a Jew a self-hater simply because he’d rather see Hebron under Arab rule than an Israel that, in keeping Hebron under Jewish rule, betrays other Jewish values.

Jennifer Rubin in Commentary:

J Street, like the Communist Chinese trying to clear the streets before the Olympics pulls into town, has been trying to remove the most embarrassing participants from its conference. One of those who got the boot is the poet Josh Healy, the author of Queer Intifada who compared Guantanamo to Auschwitz.


So let’s be clear: J Street needs to become respectable so as to gain a foothold in Washington. Ah, could be a problem for a group positioning itself as pro-Israel but whose positions invariably line up so neatly with the Palestinian propaganda machine. What to do, what to do? Well, maybe dump the wackiest of the speakers – since they’ll give away the conference as an Israel-bashing fest. (How long will panelist Kevin Coval, who declared Israel a “whore” and expressed his own desire to “kick Joe Lieberman in the face,” last?)

The name of the game here is, as J Street candidly explained, to construct an artifice of legitimacy, to clean out the riffraff and make it appear as though J Street really is a pro-Israel group that just wants what’s best for the Jewish state. Now it’s true it’s definition of what’s good for the Jewish state in no way matches up with the views of even reliably liberal American Jews or Israelis themselves. But really, would you doubt the sincerity and question the legitimacy of the group that invited Healy and Coval, not to mention Muslim Public Affairs Council executive director and 9-11 truther Salam Al-Marayati?

Lenny Ben-David:

J Street’s contributions from the heads of the Arab American Institute and Iranian lobby NIAC have been documented in these pages. They serve on J Street’s Finance Committee which has a minimum requirement of $10,000. As research continues in the files of various federal agencies, we found that the interlocking relations continue into the second tiers as well.

Take for example, the case of Rebecca Abou-Chedid. She appears in the federal elections records as contributing to J Street’s PAC. Her occupation is listed as “consultant” for “USUS LLC.” But until recently, she was also the national political director at the Arab American Institute where she “was responsible for formulating AAI’s positions on foreign policy … and represented the Arab American community with Congress as well as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State.” Today, Abou-Chedid is the director of outreach at the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force.

J Street co-founder and Advisory Council member Daniel Levy serves as co-director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, an institute that benefits from George Soros’ largess and membership on its board.

Heads of other pro-Arab organizations, such as AMIDEAST, and Arab foreign agents are contributors to the PAC. But Mr. Ben-Ami claims that no organizations or foreign governments contribute. They don’t need do; their representatives do.

More Rubin

Israel Matzav:

Bottom line: J Street is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace and it has no business calling itself a ‘Jewish organization.’

MJ Rosenberg at Huffington Post:

Spencer Ackerman:

You will notice that nowhere in Lenny Ben-David’s post is there any accusation that Rebecca has taken any sort of objectionable stand or made any sort of objectionable point. And that’s because it is impossible to do so. I would wager that every journalist in Washington who writes on Middle East peace issues has had some interaction with Rebecca, as has every Hill staffer and innumerable current and former administration officials. Every single one of us will attest that Rebecca is incapable of ill will toward the Jewish people or toward Israel. Her entire professional life is devoted to peace, reconciliation, and two states. I have repeatedly marveled at how good natured she can be. Many has been the time I have felt that I’ve been too dour or pessimistic about peace in her presence, because Rebecca lives it. Anyone who has spent any time with her, any time at all, knows how true this is. And any person or organization that would disrespect her is not sincerely interested in peace.

All Ben-David does, like the cowardly racist he is, is point out that Rebecca has worked for the Arab-American Institute and now works for New America. Oh, and there’s that matter of her Lebanese name, of course. What he is trying to do is simple: scare Jews into tribal and atavistic fear against an organization that says, proudly, peace for Israel, the Palestinians and the region is in everyone’s interest. There is nothing more than that in his piece — nothing at all. It’s not the organization with support from Rebecca that has to answer for something. The organization that doesn’t have her support has to explain itself.

We Jews in this country frequently demand that our Arab-American fellow citizens denounce the radical and racist fringe in their midst. Yet they show more fortitude in doing so than we do when we’re faced with a Lenny Ben-David, someone who once worked for the premiere Israel-U.S. lobby group and even for the Israeli embassy. Every Jew who knows Rebecca — knows the goodness in her heart and her soul and the relentlessness with which she works to make peace a reality — must denounce Lenny Ben-David. I’ll go first, and very eagerly:

Lenny Ben-David, you and I will meet someday, face to face. I hope it comes very soon. I promise you it will be an unforgettable experience.

Andrew Sullivan:

There are many Arabs in Israel and America. Why is merely being an Arab some kind of mark against someone contributing to a lobby seeking a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian stalemate? And why is it in any way relevant what the ethnic origins of any contributor is? The racist tribalism behind this kind of argument is surely part of the problem, not the solution.

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

Another congressman has pulled his name from J Street’s host committee — Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-CA). Bilbray’s office called THE WEEKLY STANDARD last night to say they were dropping their support for the event, bringing the total number of congressmen to bail to a dozen even. I’ve spoken with staffers for most of these members, and all of them had pretty much the same story. They signed up their bosses when they were told the group was “pro-Israel” and that nothing — not even an appearance — would be expected of the member himself. As these members found out who the speakers at this conference were, as they found out the positions this group supports (against sanctions on Iran and for engagement with Hamas), they took their names off the list.

Last night I went to the annual conference of the National Jewish Democratic Council — the Democratic equivalent of the Republican Jewish Coalition. I had the chance while I was there to speak with a number of congressmen and leaders of the Jewish left. Some defended J Street. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said that while he was “not going to defend every speaker,” he did “think it presents a different position.” Of course, he admitted that position was not his own. “I actually support sanctions on Iran,” Yarmuth said.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) was also happy to be on J Street’s list. “They’ve been a supporter of mine,” she said, and that’s good enough for the congresswoman from Maine. When told that one of the keynote speakers at the event had blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks, Pingree said “I definitely would look into that–that sounds a little bit harsh to me.” You think?

And then there was Senator Bob Casey. He’s on the J Street list, and yet he has no idea what J Street is. When I asked him whether his serving on the host committee should be construed as an endorsement of either the organization or its positions, he looked like a deer in the headlights. He was not ducking the question, he had just never heard of J Street before. “It’s possible that our staff has done something about it that I’m not aware of,” Casey said. But when pressed on the actual issues, Casey knew exactly what he was talking about. Casey noted that he is a “cosponsor of one of the leading bills [Lieberman-Bayh-Kyl] moving forward with sanctions,” and he said that U.S. divestment in Iran is “critically important.” If it’s so critically important, why did Casey’s staff add his name to the host committee for an organization that opposes sanctions?

UPDATE: Jeffrey Goldberg‘s interview with Ben-Ami

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No Reduction Sauce For This Goose

history-akbarChristina Bellantoni at TPM:

Details are still emerging about President Obama’s 90-minute closed-door session with 31 members of Congress today about his plan for Afghanistan, but mentioned in some stories is that Sen. John McCain had a terse exchange with his onetime rival.

Both the New York Times and Politico are reporting tonight that McCain (R-AZ) suggested Obama was making the decision about whether to send a surge of troops at a “leisurely” pace and was rebuffed.

While disputing the suggestion of a tense moment, sources confirmed the general sense of the exchange — and that Obama assured everyone that he was moving as quickly as he believes prudence allows.

TPMDC checked in with McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who said the senator was “astonished” by early reports characterizing the exchange as an argument because they aren’t accurate. The White House also suggested there weren’t any fireworks.

Buchanan said her boss told the president he didn’t think the U.S. could afford to “take a leisurely pace in deciding” given the recent casualties in Afghanistan.

She characterized the meeting as both somber and serious, but said it was constructive and no one interrupted anyone.

“Senator McCain does not recall the situation being that way,” Buchanan said, responding to the reports.

Matthew Yglesias:

Obama Rules Out Large Afghanistan Troop Reductions

So reports The New York Times. But was there ever any indication that this was under consideration? He campaigned on increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and has, in fact, delivered on that promised increase. I always understood the debate to be a debate about whether or not to have a further increase, not whether to suddenly reverse a decision that was made just a few months ago

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

One almost gets the sense that the Obama team may have not learned anything from our recent experiences in two war theaters. It is not as if Donald Rumsfeld and a slew of generals didn’t try in Iraq to use the fewest possible troops, spend the least possible amount of taxpayer money, and get the most out of high-tech wizardry. Doesn’t the Obama team remember that this didn’t work, that a wholesale revision of strategy was needed and that only once a fully implemented counterinsurgency approach was employed did we achieve a victory? This sort of willful obtuseness is deeply troubling because there simply isn’t any viable military/strategic rationale for what the president is straining to do. It is a political approach plain and simple. He wants money for health care and he doesn’t want a revolt on the Left.

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

The counterterrorism approach has been derided as the “Biden Plan” — because Biden’s support of the counterterrorism approach is itself such a damning indictment of the plan. On the other side, supporting a counterinsurgency strategy, are the commanders who’ve risen to the top of America’s wartime military — Petraeus and Mullen — as well as the Secretary of Defense who managed the surge in Iraq, and Bruce Riedel, the man who oversaw the administration’s first Afghanistan policy review. But none of these men has proposed his own plan, they are backing the assessment and proposal of the commander on the ground — General Stanley McChrystal. So are we to understand that the alternative — the “Biden Plan” — was actually crafted by Joe Biden?

Does the Biden Plan even exist on paper? When Biden pitched splitting Iraq into three separate countries as opposed to adding the troops that ultimately defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, he at least wrote an article about it. There was a column and even a website if I remember correctly. What document outlines Biden’s latest plan? What Pentagon assessment, guided by what intelligence, supports Biden’s conclusions this time? Or did General Biden just scribble this all down on the back of a napkin? And has the Obama White House become so cut off from reality that they fail to understand how ridiculous it looks to have Biden’s name attached to a strategy for the war in Afghanistan?

Of course, it’s all to the good of the country and the war effort that the White House has killed the counterterrorism approach by labeling it the Biden Plan, but if I were a supporter of that approach, as so many on the left are, I would be furious that the White House had made a fool out of me by allowing Biden to be cast as the plan’s most prominent supporter.

Rich Lowry at The Corner

Dave Schuler:

The president is right: the range of options is larger than either doubling down or withdrawing. However, the point is not entirely a strawman argument, either. His military advisors have provided their considered opinion that, if a strategy of counter-insurgency is to be pursued, they cannot be succcessful without a considerably larger contingent of U. S. forces. A decision whether explicitly or by default not to increase the number of our troops in Afghanistan is arguably a decision to follow a strategy other than counter-insurgency. Deciding to pursue counter-insurgency without the resources to do so would be very imprudent and IMO this president has not exhibited that sort of imprudence to date.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan seems to have been ruled out for now. That will undoubtedly provoke complaints from within the president’s own base which he apparently has decided he can accept at this point. Whether he will pursue the strategy his generals have publicly advocated remains to be seen.

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I See An Empire State Building And I Want To Paint It Red

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

The Empire State Building will light up red and yellow today to mark the 60th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China. What’s next — Stalin’s birthday? Unfortunately, they missed the 130th anniversary of his birth last December 18. But next April 17 will be the 35th anniversary of the the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh — surely that deserves to be celebrated too. Or maybe next February 18, the 605th anniversary of Tamerlane’s death — how about a pyramid of skulls atop the skyscraper?

Empire state building

Jay Nordlinger at The Corner:

Two notes on China and the Empire State Building: A reader says, “Should we now call it the Evil Empire State Building?” That goes a little far, but I appreciate the spirit. And a different reader tells of a letter sent home from his daughter’s junior-high principal:

“October 1st this year is the 60th anniversary of China, and great changes have taken place and people are enjoying their life. In order to celebrate this great holiday, a party will be held . . .”

“People are enjoying their life,” huh? Well, I know of many people in cells and labor camps who aren’t enjoying life at all. In any case, our reader wrote to the principal to say that 2009 does not mark the 60th anniversary of China, which is a very old place, but the 60th anniversary of Communist rule: There is a difference. The principal wrote back that he appreciated the parent’s “perspective.”

Well, that’s something.

Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Mark, Jay, you are of course both quite right about the Empire State Building. Truly a disgusting decision. That said, the fact that the building’s managers are planning to light their property red and yellow might suggest a way in which they could partly redeem its honor. Perhaps they could just remove the yellow — and leave the red as a symbol for the blood shed by a regime with the deaths of tens of millions on its hands.

Empire state red

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

Hey, the Red Chinese only killed 50 or 60 million of their own people, why not celebrate that achievement with a special lighting scheme. The only question is what colors they use for Stalin’s birthday, since obviously they don’t want people confused as to which genocidal regime they’re paying tribute to on any particular night.

Jake W at Redstate:

This should make no sense to Americans. Why on Earth are we celebrating the founding of Communist China. The ideas at the core of Communist China’s founding are diametrically opposed to the ideas at the core of America’s founding. Remember, of course, that these are the same people who continue their oppressive rule over Tibet; who cracked down on the Tiananmen Square protests all those years ago; continue to oppress various religions (including Chinese Christians); censor the press, speech, the internet, etc.; refuse to recognize the democratic Taiwan; and so on.

Why on Earth are we celebrating this?

It would be interesting to see how many times the building has been bathed in the colors of countries whose ideas and philosophy happen to be more in line with ours. Israel, for example.

new york skyline

Greg Pollowitz at NRO:

Here’s the questionnaire that the Chinese government, presumably, would have had to fill out to get the Empire State Building to honor the 60th anniversary of Chinese communism.  Turn to the last page to see what’s in it for the ESB.  Basically, management wants to know how much China is going to promote the building in its marketing efforts back home. Courting a few extra tourists is worth honoring 60 years of oppression, I guess.

Weasel Zippers

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The South Korean Judge Gives It A 5.5


Matt Drudge:

A local TV station that reported on Chicagoans NOT wanting the Olympics has been told NOT to run the report again, insiders tell the DRUDGE REPORT!

The Chicago Olympic Committee told FOX Chicago that its broadcast "would harm Chicago's chances" to be awarded the games.

The station's news director ordered staff to hold fire after the report aired once last Thursday morning, claims a source.

Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio are mounting strong bids for the honor to host in 2016.

The International Olympic Committee makes its decision on Friday. President Obama will lead the in-person push.


Michelle Malkin:

In our latest edition of Olympics Crony Watch…the silencing of dissent. Hey, it’s the Chicago way.

Drudge reports that WFLD-TV has been ordered not to broadcast an anti-Olympics segment again.

Meanwhile, as I noted last week, the president himself will now join cronies Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama to personally lobby in Copenhagen for Chicago’s bid.

On Tuesday, there will be a No Chicago Games protest reflecting the 84 percent opposition to the Olympics boondoggle.

Will they be accused of being an “angry mob,” too?

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

A Republican emails this morning:

“Is Obama really jetting off to Copenhagen to lobby for a giant 2016 send off party in Chicago just as Iran’s testing nuclear missiles? Amazing…”

Personally, I don’t think I’d mind as much if the beneficiaries of this lobbying campaign by the president were not his cronies in Chicago. If it were any other city that was up for the games — if there was even the appearance that the president was using his position to the benefit of the country as a whole and not just his hometown and homestate…but then again, it’s a six hour flight to Copenhagen, so maybe Obama will have the time to pick up the phone and call his hand-picked commander in Afghanistan and ask him if there’s anything he needs, ask him to submit a report requesting those additional resources, and then Obama can read that report the next time he takes a long flight. You know, whenever it’s convenient for him to deal with the war that U.S. troops are fighting.

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO:

Some people seem to think that the president is taking time away from more important things to go to Copenhagen to lobby for Chicago to get the 2016 games. They’re wrong. He is taking time away from more important things to go get the credit for bringing the Olympics to Chicago. Does anyone seriously believe that the president would take a quick trip to Copenhagen with the possibility of coming back empty-handed? If the president is going, it’s because he knows that Chicago has already won. He’s going.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

If Chicago doesn’t get the Olympics, we’ll hear a lot of people noting that Obama can’t find time to meet with General McChrystal to decide on his Afghanistan plan, but he could find the time to go Denmark to get rejected . . .

Byron York at The Examiner

Meredith Jessup at Townhall

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“It Will Be Discovered, We Will Find Out About It, And They Will Get Screwed.”


Second site in Iran…

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

Last night, President Obama along with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nikolas Sarkozy announced that the IAEA had been presented with detailed evidence about the existence of a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear enrichment facility.  While there’s always good reason to be skeptical about such intelligence claims, in this case it is significant that the Iranians hastened to pre-emptively declare to the IAEA that a “new pilot fuel-enrichment plant is under construction.”  The U.S. has, from what I can tell, been aware of this site for quite some time, and it has not yet gone operational.  So this is not a story of the sudden discovery of an urgent new threat requiring whatever red-blooded solution the hawks will be peddling today.  The interesting question is why Obama chose to go public with this information now, and how it fits into the administration’s diplomatic strategy.

According to the New York Times, the administration went public because the Iranians had discovered that Western intelligence had “breached the secrecy surrounding the project.”  Perhaps.  But it seems rather more likely that the administration chose to go public as part of a calculated effort to ratchet up the credibility of the threat of tough sanctions ahead of the October 1 meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva.   The public disclosure puts Iran on the back foot ahead of those talks, and appears to have encouraged Russia to more seriously consider supporting such sanctions (that, plus the missile defense decision probably).   This has to change Iranian calculations — indeed, the perception that the sanctions are now more likely is precisely what may lead the Iranians to make more concessions to avoid them.

It also demonstrates to the Iranians the quality of Western intelligence and the difficulty of deception and denial — especially in the atmosphere of (quite warranted) mistrust of their intentions.  That may reduce their reasons to oppose the intrusive inspections and monitoring regime which Gary Sick argues is the most likely reasonable negotiated outcome.  Such an outcome would be far more in the interests of the U.S., Iran, and Iran’s neighbors than any plausible outcome of a military strike, and has to be the target of the engagement process.

Spencer Ackerman:

Obama said the “size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent” with peaceful nuclear energy. The three leaders demand full disclosure next week at the P5+1 meeting with Iran on the nuclear portfolio in Geneva. Obama said the U.S. “remains committed” to the prospect of a productive dialogue with the Iranians — pending disclosure. “Iran must comply with U.N. security council resolutions… We have offered Iran a clear path to greater international [cooperation]… or be held accountable to international standards and international law.”

The three leaders are talking about sanctions, to be clear, not war. Sarkozy said there must be full Iranian nuclear disclosure to the IAEA “by December” or  “sanctions will have to be taken.” He said he expected an “exhaustive, strict and rigorous investigation” by the IAEA to confront what Brown called Iran’s “serial deception.”

Ed Morrissey

Laura Rozen at Politico:

The implications of the disclosure are very encouraging, said the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Patrick Clawson.

“The mantra of the Obama team for months has been that the fissile material for a bomb was more likely to come from a covert faciilty” than an overt enrichment facility such as that at Natanz, Clawson told POLITICO.

“Now, we discover that the Obama administration has known for months that Iran was building a facility covertly,” Clawson continued. “By revealing this facility, and a clear record of what it is, it shows the Iranians that they will never be able to proceed with their program to fruition. It will be discovered, we will find out about it, and they will get screwed.”

The facility built in a mountain near Qom has not yet introduced nuclear material, and is made to hold 3,000 centrifuges, reports said. What is perplexing about that is that a plant to produce nuclear energy would require capacity to hold some 50,000 centrifuges, one expert said on condition of anonymity.

“They’ve known about it, but went public because Iran found out they knew about it and was trying to cover its tracks by notifying the IAEA of the site, as if they were complying and being transparent,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s George Perkovich told POLITICO Friday. “So when the other countries realized Iran was going to notify the IAEA, they announced what they had known.”

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary, here, here and here.

No sense of urgency. No attempt to convey how deceptive Iran was already being. No laying of the groundwork for a stiffer tone. Well, his hand hadn’t yet been forced, and he no doubt thought he’d go merrily along his way, engaging and discussing and trying to put off the day of reckoning. And yet he knew of the heightened danger and the subterfuge underway.

It’s curious in the extreme that, not only did Obama fail to blow the whistle on Iran, he also refrained from using the information he had to rally world opinion. As this report notes: “Obama did not mention the revelation of the facility in any of his talks on nonproliferation during his week at the United Nations.” Whatever the Obama team thought they could do, and however much they apparently desired to procrastinate, that phase of their odd gamesmanship is over. The American public and lawmakers are going to expect Obama to do something now about Iran. Oh, but he did—there is a new two-month deadline in place. Don’t you feel safer already?

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

Obama’s staff notes “They have cheated three times…And they have now been caught three times.” They are so enthralled by their own purported omniscience that they can’t appreciate the fact that Iran is no doubt breaking the rules and not getting caught at least some of the time.

I wonder when we will get a new NIE on Iran, given that some (though not all) elements of the administration cling to its conclusions as if they were based on the latest and greatest intelligence on Iran. The report is more than two years old, but if you ask Dennis Blair whether Iran has a nuclear weapons program he will point to that document and say that the IC consensus is no.

Andrew Sullivan:

He busts Ahmadinejad in a air-tight case that focuses on active Iranian deception. All this, of course, may still not be enough. Putin’s position remains opaque; and China is still not on the full wagon. But can anyone say that the isolation of Iran has weakened under Obama?

If you add to the mix the critical factor of the Green Revolution, then the West’s position vis-a-vis Iran has improved immensely in the last eight months. And if you believe that Obama’s Cairo speech was at least a positive factor in helping bring that about – then the promise of the Obama era in American foreign policy begins to take shape.

Weakness? There is sometimes more strength in projecting confidence rather than bluster, and seeking cooperation rather than ultimatums.

Israel Matzav


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Our Corn Flakes Are On Fire

homer epic fail

Bob Woodward in WaPo:

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in failure,” according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.

McChrystal concludes the document’s five-page Commander’s Summary on a note of muted optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”

But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians.

Peter Feaver at Foreign Policy:

I have a few initial assessments of my own:

1. It is not good to have a document like this leaked into the public debate before the President has made his decision. Whether you favor ramping up or ramping down or ramping laterally, as a process matter, the Commander-in-Chief ought to be able to conduct internal deliberations on sensitive matters without it appearing concurrently on the front pages of the Post. I assume the Obama team is very angry about this, and I think they have every right to be.

2. A case could be made that the Obama team tempted fate by authorizing Bob Woodward to travel with General Jones (cf. “whisky, tango, foxtrot”) in the first place and then sitting on this report for nearly a month without a White House response. You cannot swing a dead cat in Washington without meeting someone who was briefed on at least part of the McChrystal assessment, and virtually every one of those folks is mystified as to why the White House has not responded as of yet. The White House will have to respond now, but I stand by my first point: leaks like this make it harder to for the Commander-in-Chief to do deliberate national security planning.

3. Without knowing the provenance of the leak, it is impossible to state with confidence what the motives were. For my part, I would guess that this leak is an indication that some on the Obama team are dismayed at the White House’s slow response and fear that this is an indication that President Obama is leaning towards rejecting the inevitable requests for additional U.S. forces that this report tees up. By this logic, the leak is designed to force his hand and perhaps even to tie his hands.

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

According to the McChrystal assessment, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” Yet Obama is slow-walking the troop increase for political reasons, even as it seems likely that he will, in the end, do the right thing and send the necessary reinforcements.

The assessment also says that “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.” Obama’s hand-picked commander has laid out a strategy for defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban. During the campaign Obama had promised to give the war in Afghanistan the attention and resources necessary to do just that — in explicit contrast to the Bush administration whom he alleged had diverted the resources and attention of the military from the real threat of al Qaeda and their Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

McChrystal leaves no doubt about what must be done if Obama is to keep his word — more troops and very soon. The president cannot delay that decision any more — not for the sake of his health care initiative or anything else. And in any case, as a matter of politics the best thing for Obama and the Democrats is to win the war. Yesterday Obama immodestly compared himself to some of the great presidents of American history. “Maybe you hear what people had to say about Abraham Lincoln, or what they had to say about FDR, or what they had to say about Ronald Reagan when he first came in and was trying to change our approach to government.” That answer came in response to a question from George Stephanopoulos about the health care town halls during the August recess. But it wasn’t legislative accomplishments that made those men great presidents. It was their decision to commit fully to the major conflicts of the day — and to win decisively.

Spencer Ackerman:

Everyone I interviewed for this story made it clear that there would be no resource request, at all, unless and until Obama has determined the strategy advances that core anti-al-Qaeda interest. That includes , as you’ll see from the sourcing in the piece, people in McChrystal’s circle. I can’t conclude from my reporting that McChrystal is engaged in any power play. Nor is Petraeus engaged in any such power play. The military leadership is getting what it has said for years it wanted: a thorough and deliberative process from the political leadership to determine what the national strategy ought to be. Not a rubber stamp and not knee-jerk rejectionism. It’s all on Obama’s shoulders.

Update: On the other hand, this leak surely came from whomever wants troop levels increased

Rich Lowry at NRO:

I’m just starting to read the memo now, but this leak was ideally timed — whether intentionally or not — to push back against Obama’s weak performance on the Afghan war yesterday. Suddenly, he doesn’t know what the strategy is? This is a way for McChrystal’s voice — missing so far from the debate — to be heard loud and clear, making the case for counter-insurgency tactics and more troops to back them up.

Michael Crowley at TNR:

It’s an awfully uncomfortable spot for Obama to be in. During the campaign he spoke often–albeit usually in the context of Iraq–about heeding the advice of his commanders on the ground. Now he’s in a position where he may not want to accept it. As I wrote in my last print piece, this line of thinking helped George W. Bush screw up Iraq. That said, what the generals want is not the only consideration here. Their job is to tell Obama how the war can be won. Obama’s job is to decide whether, in the context of America’s myriad priorities at home and abroad, it’s worth the projected cost.

Ed Morrissey

Andrew Sullivan

Joe Klein in Swampland:

The President needs to know what the next Afghan governmnet is going to look like–will there be a runoff between Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah? If Karzai still manages to score more than 50% after the phony ballots are tossed, will Abdullah and other Karzai opponents endorse the Karzai government? What sort of moves will Karzai make to restore some confidence in his government?  Are the Canadians going to stay in Kandarhar Province, are the British going to stay in Helmand? Are the Dutch and Australians going to stay in Uruzgan?

Obama was absolutely right on the Sunday talk shows: troop levels aren’t nearly as important as strategy. He has, at most, one more shot at getting this right. The military piece is only one part of the picture–but for many conservatives, like John McCain, it is the only piece that matters. That is a disastrously myopic way to look at an exceedingly complicated problem. Any attempts by the military, or their allies, to pressure a troop increase now are premature and misguided.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

And yet the president dawdles—waiting for what? Is it health care or some other agenda item that concerns him? We don’t know, but what is evident by the McChrystal recommendation ( and by the apparent need to leak its contents, stemming no doubt from frustration with the White House stall) is that there is good reason to be concerned that the president’s failure to make a prompt decision may in and of itself impair our ability to succeed. The president may not like what he’s hearing (”Toward the end of his report, McChrystal revisits his central theme: ‘Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure’”), but he owes the country a timely decision—or at least an honest explanation as to why he finds it so hard to make up his mind.

Kevin Drum

Dave Schuler

UPDATE: Leslie Gelb at WSJ

Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent

Max Boot in Commentary

UPDATE #2: George Packer in the New Yorker

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We’re Canceling Our Order Of Fries

Peter Spiegel at WSJ:

The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move likely to cheer Moscow and roil the security debate in Europe.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell confirmed Thursday that a “major adjustment” is planned and said the decision was made to better protect U.S. forces and allies in Europe from Iranian missile attacks.

The U.S. is basing its move on a determination that Iran’s long-range-missile program hasn’t progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

According to reliable sources, Obama administration officials are on their way to Poland and the Czech Republic to deliver very bad news. The administration intends to cancel completely the missile defense sites that had been promised to these governments by the previous administration. This represents a complete capitulation to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who had demanded that the proposed deployments be halted as a price for improved relations. Ironically, the Obama administration, which is appeasing Russia in the hopes that Moscow will help put pressure on Iran, has made this mammoth concession just a few days after Moscow declared that it had no intention of supporting sanctions against Iran.

The consequences of this action in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine and in other countries that feel vulnerable to Russian power, will be disastrous. It is a major American retreat in the face of Russian bullying. And we will get absolutely nothing for it.

Laura Rozen at Politico

John Cole:

Prepare for a complete and total shit fit from the 101st Chairborne, because the US is canceling the construction of missile defense sites in Czech Republic and Poland.

I’ll wait for Larison’s take, but I will say this- what would you think if China or Russia were building missile sites in Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico? How do you think we would react to that?

Jennifer Rubin in Commentary:

One hardly knows where to begin. George W. Bush established, as even the Times concedes, “a special relationship” with Eastern Europe. After all, these are countries that emerged from the yoke of Communism and struggled to establish new market-based economies that avoided the errors of their Western socialist neighbors. And these countries again and again demonstrated their pro-American bona fides. The missile shield was intended as a check against Russian aggression and a symbol of their robust relationship with the U.S.

So much for that. Obama is in the business of kowtowing to the world’s bullies. Russia didn’t like the missile shield, so no more missile shield. Do we think we “got something” for this? I’d be shocked if we did, given the obvious willingness of the U.S. to prostrate itself before rivals.

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent:

In favor of abandonment:

1. Russia, a much more important country than either Poland or the Czech Republic, viewed it as needlessly provocative.

2. The thing was never actually built, so getting rid of the plans to build it is fairly cost-free.

3. The thing was more about Eastern European political fears of a resurgent Russia, which are better dealt with through diplomatic means.

4. Iran isn’t dreaming of raining missiles down on Prague or Gdansk.

5. Moving Patriot batteries into Poland is an adequate political substitute for Polish anxieties.

[UPDATE: 6: Oh, and there are alternative missile-defense systems like Aegis that would be used as a substitute in a couple of years; plus closer-to-Iran interceptors as well

In favor of continuation:

1. Iran might someday at some point acquire this missile capability and then decide what it wants to do is blackmail European countries into giving it all their gold coins.

2. Russia isn’t an important country and even if it were, the United States ought to cherish the memory of when it was cool to provoke it.

Eric Edelman, the second Bush-administration undersecretary of defense for policy, tells The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Spiegel that he saw intelligence reports on the pace at which Iran is making technological progress on long-range missiles. But you know who sees more intelligence reports on those missiles? Edelman’s former boss, Defense Secretary Bob Gates. If Gates, the model of a pragmatic defense secretary who often discusses the need to reset defense policy around “real” and not “hypothetical” threats, doesn’t see an actual cost to U.S. or allied security, then none exists.

Allah Pundit:

I hope it’s not true. Just like I hope it’s not true, as Newsweek is claiming, that U.S. intel still seriously believes Iran isn’t working on a bomb. European intelligence agencies have been laughing at that claim for years, from the British back in 2007 to Nicolas Sarkozy just this morning. In fact, as I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on HA previously, the very same NIE that claimed Iran had stopped its bomb program also claimed that it had 10-15 secret nuclear sites devoted to god knows what. The Newsweek piece smells like spin leaked by the administration to buy Obama some more time with the public for Iran negotiations, just like Israel’s threat of having to attack before December unless heavy sanctions are imposed is spin the other way. Exit question: If Iran’s such a serious threat, what’s The One doing taking Europe’s missile defense shield away?

Robert Farley:

That keening you hear is the sound of a million wailing wingnuts. The Poles and Czechs will be disappointed, but they’ll live; there are other ways of conveying a long term commitment to Eastern European security if we so choose. Indeed, some of these ways might actually have something to do with Eastern European security, rather than with a set of expensive techno-fantasies jury-rigged to a manufactured geo-strategic threat. Nevertheless, the screech of “EMP!!!” is one that you can get used to hearing in the near future; no President actually born in the United States would be so dismissive of ineffectually (but expensively!) protecting America from non-existent boogeymen.

Let’s be clear; this is a huge victory for common sense over fantasy, and for responsible defense budgeting. This project had no function other than to serve the pecuniary interest of the missile defense industry, and to sate the ideological lust of conservatives infatuated with St. Reagan. No convincing strategic logic could ever be provided for the program; advocates careened wildly between arguments, desperately trying to see if they could make anything stick. Protecting Europe from Iranian missiles? Nobody in Europe was particularly concerned, or, outside of Poland and the Czech Republic, really wanted the defense. Protecting from the Russians? By the admission of advocates, the shield could not have served as a deterrent to Russian attacks. Necessary to demonstrate our commitment to the Poles? Meh; I’d rather get them something they could actually use.

Jonathan Adler

UPDATE: Kay Granger at NRO

Daniel Larison

UPDATE #2: Robert Farley and Michael Goldfarb at Bloggingheads

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