Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"So America, you want change?"


I'm still waiting for the left to figure out that Barack Obama's policy toward Iraq is now virtually identical to that of the Bush administration, particularly with Obama's recent reassurance that any US withdrawal from Iraq would be "entirely conditions-based," i.e., that we will draw down troops only if we can do so without endangering our victory there.

And it is not just Iraq. The analysis below reviews Obama's current foreign policy across the board and concludes that it represents a new bipartisan consensus that is "similar to what a Bush White House would do in a third term"—alas.

On the positive side, this means that we probably don't have to worry about Obama or the Democrats in Congress forcing a defeat in Iraq they way they did in Vietnam thirty-five years ago. On the other hand, this means that Obama will continue the policies of a Bush administration that is tired, enervated, and beaten down by seven years of political strife.

In short, this new consensus has been achieved by Obama moving away from the hard-core anti-war left—and by the Bush administration moving farther in the direction of appeasement and inaction, particularly against Iran.

"Obama the Irony Man," Walter Russell Mead, Los Angeles Times, July 27 Military progress in Iraq is transforming the international situation in other ways and creating more ironies. The Bush administration was unwilling to negotiate with Iran when the US seemed permanently stuck in an Iraq that would only grow worse. But as the situation there improves, the US has a stronger hand—and with its coalition of Western allies still holding together, the administration has gingerly initiated nuclear talks with Tehran.

For Obama, this is a godsend. Once savaged for his calls to negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuke-seeking, Holocaust-denying, threat-spewing government, he can now point to the Bush administration's example.

But, ironically, Obama is using his new maneuvering room to toughen his stand rather than soften it. In Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, he wants to send in more troops, take a harder line with Islamabad and crush the elusive Taliban beneath his heel. He says the administration hasn't fought hard enough and has been too willing, out of a misguided deference for allied opinion, to let countries such as Pakistan push us around. Meanwhile, those soft and dithering Europeans need to do more. More troops. More ambitious goals. Deeper commitment. Oh—and by the way—our goal must be to build democracy in the Mideast, starting with Afghanistan….

Obama's pilgrimage abroad points to a larger truth: In the midst of a bitter political year, a loose bipartisan consensus on the Mideast may be emerging. And, irony of ironies, the consensus, seemingly embraced by Obama, seems closer to Bush's views than to those of the antiwar activists who propelled the Illinois senator to the nomination.

Here's what that consensus says:

On the war on terrorism: The terror threat is real, and we can't prevail by just fighting defense. Ultimately, we have to take this war home to the people who made it, and that means the caves of Afghanistan—and any place in Pakistan that the Pakistanis cannot secure on their own. The military budget will grow; the US presence in Central Asia will increase, at least for now. This is similar to what a Bush White House would do in a third term.

On Iraq: Bush screwed up the war in many ways. But we cannot afford to let hostile forces control this strategic country, nor can we allow Iraq to sink into genocidal strife. We will not leave Iraq like we left Vietnam. Here too Obama's current stance is, in practical terms, very close to Bush's….

On Iran: Intensive multilateral diplomacy, including direct US-Iranian talks when appropriate, is our preferred strategy to keep Tehran from building a bomb. We are willing, even eager, to live in peace with a non-nuclear Iran. The next president will have to pursue negotiations while considering all the options—a policy that represents, at most, a small evolutionary change from the current Bush position.

Barack Obama is moving toward the Bush administration, and even beyond it, on at least one domestic issue as well: government support for religious charities.

The article below, written by a Democratic political operative who has written about "closing the God gap" with the right, argues correctly that "faith-based initiatives"—an attempt to absorb religious groups into the federal welfare state—were originally a Democratic program.

This is part of a wider attempt by the left to move away from the Marxist-inspired secularism of the mid- to late-20th century and resurrect the old religious left. Barack Obama is a long-time advocate of this trend, and it is one of the few changes he promises that you really can believe in.

"Why Obama Seized the Faith-Based Mantle," Amy Sullivan, USA Today, July 28 Even for a campaign built on audacity, the boldness with which Barack Obama has picked President Bush's pocket and taken ownership of the faith-based initiative is a bit breathtaking….

The words "faith-based initiative" are now so closely associated with Bush that many Democrats long ago assumed the program was fatally flawed. So observers from both parties were surprised on July 1 when Obama declared that his concern about Bush's faith-based office was that it "never fulfilled its promise" —and then neatly pivoted to announce that an Obama administration would fix, expand and elevate the faith-based initiative.

It's fair to say Democrats were expecting a presidential nominee who would vow to overturn the faith-based initiative once he reached the White House, not one who doubled down on the program….

Obama isn't moving to the right so much as reclaiming an issue Democrats used to support…. When candidate Bush pledged in his first campaign speech in 1999 to "rally the armies of compassion," he was not blazing new ground but rather following in the steps of Bill Clinton, whose Cabinet secretaries had worked closely with religious nonprofits and Al Gore, who had endorsed the funding of faith-based organizations six months earlier….

Unlike those Democrats who see in the faith-based initiative an overflowing slush fund, Obama has also recognized that the real scandal is how small the pots of money for religious and secular non-profits have become over the past eight years….

Given the electoral success of Bush's faith-based strategy, we might have expected that this year the GOP nominee would be the one extolling cooperation between religious organizations and government. But John McCain has expressed only lukewarm enthusiasm for inheriting Bush's legacy in that area, issuing only mechanical statements of support.

That might have been good enough to give him the advantage in a typical election year against a typical Democratic opponent. But 2008 was already shaping up to be a tough year for Republicans, and Obama has just swiped the faith-based mantle from them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Wondrous Powers of Obama


slow the rise of the oceans!

And all these miraculous powers can be yours for just the price of one vote.

Those are wondrous powers, indeed. And as with many such products, we will no doubt be told that it must really work because Europeans are lining up to buy it, as they did in Berlin last Thursday. But the evidence is growing that the American people are being asked to buy the political equivalent of a quack remedy.

The usual complaint about Senator Obama's speeches is that they offer vague eloquence without any content to back it up. But Obama's Berlin speech didn't even offer eloquence. It was clumsy, lumbering, and clich├ęd, serving up bland canned phrases where soaring rhetoric was supposed to be.

Most embarrassing is the fact that the biggest and best lines of the speech were not original to Obama. He chose to give a big outdoor speech in front of a Berlin monument because that was what Kennedy did in 1963 and it was what Reagan did in 1987. But did he have to steal his rhetorical devices directly from these earlier speeches?

Challenging those who "don't understand…what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world" and "who say…we can work with the Communists," Kennedy had repeated, "Let them come to Berlin." So Barack Obama decided to repeat a similar phrase: "Look at Berlin." Reagan had challenged Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" between East and West Berlin. So Obama asked his listeners to tear down a few walls as well. Which walls exactly? Well, metaphorical walls: the "new walls [that] divide us from one another," such as the "walls between the countries with the most and those with the least" and the "walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew." Obama concludes: "These now are the walls we must tear down."

In invoking JFK and Reagan, as well as the Berlin airlift of 1948—the topic with which he begins his speech—Obama makes a serious mistake. Vaporous musings about metaphorical walls between the haves and the have-nots do not compare well to the far more substantive issues faced by earlier leaders.

Ironically, it was just a few weeks ago that Michael Barone wrote an excellent article on the 60th anniversary of the Berlin airlift and its parallels to the surge in Iraq. His conclusion was

that presidential determination to avoid defeat and retreat can prevail against the advice of experts. Just as Truman's Pentagon opposed the airlift, so George W. Bush's Pentagon mostly opposed the surge strategy in Iraq. In late 2006 and early 2007, the advice from experts, notably the Baker-Hamilton Commission, was the same as that Marshall and Bradley gave Truman: get out with whatever fig leaf you can. The surge, like the airlift, was said to put undue strain on the military, to degrade the readiness of men and materiel for other missions. All these claims were plausible and, in the case of the surge, dominated press coverage and were supported by the incoming leaders in Congress.

Those congressional opponents included, of course, Barack Obama. So here Obama is in Berlin, praising an airlift which he would not have ordered, judging from his record on the surge.

Kennedy spoke in Berlin to call on the world to support free peoples everywhere against the aggression of the Soviet empire, in light of the construction of the Berlin Wall, which he described as "the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see." By contrast, he noted, "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in." Kennedy's speech was a salvo in the ideological battle against Communism.

The theme of Reagan's speech was the material and spiritual superiority of freedom, which caused him to predict that Communism could not last and that "across Europe, this wall will fall." Yet his direct call on the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall was regarded by many of his own advisors as a dangerous provocation. This speech, too, was an important skirmish in the ideological battle between freedom and tyranny.

I don't want to over-glamorize Kennedy and Reagan, who each had serious faults. But these were real leaders giving speeches with real substance.

By contrast, what did Obama talk about? The theme of his speech was the necessity of all men from all nations to unite: "Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century." But notice the patented Obama vagueness. How are we supposed to join together, and to do what?

Here is where many commentators have gotten a bit confused. Intellectuals on the right have seized upon a few mentions in Obama's speech of items from a distinctly leftist agenda, but this misses the point. The real point is that Obama's speech calls for those agenda items—along with everything but the kitchen sink.

In a series of paragraphs beginning with the repeated phrase "This is the moment when we must…," Obama calls on his listeners to: "stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope"; "rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets"; "secure all loose nuclear materials"; "seek a partnership" with Russia; "forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet"; "answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East," which includes specific references to Iran, Lebanon, the Israelis and Palestinians, and Iraq; "reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere"; "lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS"; "stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe." And there are also a few lines in there about torture, immigration, Darfur, and one or two other topics.

In this potpourri, one can detect some definite inclinations, which mostly come from the left—though there are also a few surprising endorsement of tenets from the Bush foreign policy. But there is no over-arching theme, nothing to tie Obama's agenda together. The apparent point of Obama's world tour is that he has been going around acting as if he is already the president of the United States, and perhaps this is why his speech reads like a particularly boring state of the union address that drones on with an interminable laundry list of minor legislative proposals.

The result is that Obama falls flat when he reaches what is supposed to be the rhetorical climax of his speech: "People of Berlin—people of the world—this is our moment. This is our time." This is our moment—to do what? Given his rambling grab-bag of agenda items, the implicit answer is: "This is our moment to do, well, stuff." And that's what makes this climactic line come across as a bromide from a bad high school valedictorian speech.

But as I said, the whole point of this trip is that Obama has been presenting himself on the world stage as if he already has the gravity and importance of a major world leader. That's the whole point of the Berlin speech: the staging of a vast outdoor event at a location where other great leaders have spoken, in an attempt to produce the images voters back home will association with a world-historical leader—despite the fact that Obama has, substantively, never accomplished anything of any great importance.

That's why one of the sharpest answers to Obama's speech is an amusing video from the blog The News Buckit, which discovered that Obama already used his "this is our moment, this is our time" line on a Democratic primary audience earlier this year. The video then asks: "Whose moment is this, exactly, other than Barack Obama's?" That is exactly the message: this is our moment to accept Barack Obama as a great man, a "transformative" figure who will lead us—wherever. It's really all about him.

How can a man so empty be so full of himself? The question may seem like a paradox but it really answers itself. It is precisely because he is empty—a man without fixed convictions or notable accomplishments—that Obama feels the need to compensate, using the theatrical illusion of the Big Speech to make himself look bigger and more important than he is. That's why he steals lines and locations from great speeches given by others. He wants the trappings of a world-historical leader without having to actually do or say anything to earn it.

But the problem for Obama is the same as for any other snake-oil salesman. He promises so much and builds up expectations so high that he can't afford to disappoint his listeners. Yet because all he has to offer is bromides, he can't help but to disappoint them.

This may not catch up with Obama today. The Berlin speech will be used for its visuals and for a few sound bites, but hardly anyone on this side of the Atlantic will actually listen to it. As the campaign goes on, however, the more people imbibe Senator Obama's big speeches, the more they may begin to discover that the product doesn't actually do anything. They may suddenly realize how stale and flat Senator Obama's Patented Restorative Big Speech in a Can™ really is.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Whom The Gods Would Destroy....

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
- Euripides

He has a seat on his campaign aircraft marked "president". He has taken a shot at creating his own presidential seal, complete with Latin motto. He has laid claim to personal control over the world's oceans and seas. He has repeatedly attempted to dictate how and on what level he, his ideas, and his activities may be discussed. He has encouraged a portrayal of himself as a messianic figure, including a portrait of himself as Christ, complete with halo. He is even now completing a triumphant grand tour of the old world, during which he attempted to shanghai an ancient monument for personal use without consulting the host government.

The operative term here is "hubris". A word of Attic Greek origin, hubris was a major concept animating classical Greek thought. Hubris is overweening pride, an arrogance so profound and so visible as to affront the gods themselves. Hubris was a quality often identified with Greek tragic heroes. The hero allowed simple human pride in his accomplishments and station to burgeon to offensive proportions, at which point the wheels of fate began rolling. The ending was never good -- the valiant Ajax stabs himself to death at a lonely spot, the kingly Oedipus is transformed into a howling, self-blinded wreck.

Barack Obama embodies hubris in chemically pure form. Not that he's a tragic hero, or a hero of any sort, to anyone apart from his deluded legions of college freshmen. Beyond cleaning Hillary's clock, he has no accomplishments to speak of, and as for his station... A glance at Trent Lott, Robert Byrd, and Ted Kennedy clearly reveals that "U.S. senator" is not a position of particular pride.

But even if he hasn't founded cities, destroyed monsters, or led men into battle, Obama does share one quality with the heroes of the ancient world: an absolute conviction that he is superior to the ordinary run of humanity. Like them, Obama believes himself a man of destiny, and like them, Obama will go over the edge.

The only question is whether he gets to take the country with him.

He's nearly blown himself up several times previously. In the case of Jeremiah Wright, he felt himself so far above the controversy that he failed to so much as acknowledge it until it had already boiled over, leaving him no choice but to repudiate his longtime mentor. More recently he went so far as to accuse one of the oldest and most liberal publications in the country of impiety. There is no other word for it -- the entire case against The New Yorker was based on the premise that Barack Obama, of all living individuals, is beyond the reach of satire due to the sacredness of his person, a claim never, to my knowledge, made in a previous American election.

Over the past week, he has thrust himself into negotiations with a crucial American client, a client even now involved in the final stages of a lengthy and debilitating war, for the sole purpose of bolstering his campaign. Again, it's impossible to think of a previous candidate who ever behaved in this fashion.

All these incidents -- and plenty of others that could be mentioned -- mark the steps taken toward catastrophe. Obama is edging closer and closer to his climactic moment.

The American public appears to grasp this. Despite his robotic legion of followers, despite the hysterical adulation of the media, despite John McCain being cut off from customary media outlets, doubts about Obama appear to be dominant. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows him holding only a 5 point lead over McCain after a week of spectacular, loving media coverage abroad. If we factor in the hypothesized Bradley-Wilder effect -- that 5 to 10% of those polled are prevaricating in favor of Obama to avoid implications of racism -- means that Obama is in fact running even or behind.

His organization has to be aware of this. So, in some sense, must Obama himself. But blindness is also a characteristic of the classical tragic figure. The campaign should be moving slowly and carefully, identifying its weaknesses and seeking ways to address them, concentrating on increasing that (perhaps illusory) single-digit lead. Instead, Obama continues his charade, awarding himself foreign triumphs, posing as a figure of world-historical stature, as if the election, perhaps even the inauguration, were merely a ritual. In his own mind, Obama is already president, behaving as he believes a president should, while the voters look on in bewilderment and growing disquiet.

This country has had its share of arrogance and pride in the White House. A man must believe himself a special breed to aim that high in the first place. The Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter come immediately to mind. But none of them -- partially excepting Wilson -- ever gave in to hubris. Teddy Roosevelt waited until he was out of office to go off, wrecking the 1912 election in the process. FDR, throughout his Augustan three-plus terms as president, never quite crossed the line. (This is in keeping with the rest of his record -- it is in his negative attributes (that he was not a tyrant, that he did not take personal advantage, that he was not vindictive) -- that FDR shines most brightly.) Carter collapsed in the face of the challenges awaiting him, becoming the most abject of modern presidents.

Only Wilson who let his vanity and arrogance run away with him, overcome with the messianic conviction that it was he, and only he, who could lead the world into a new age by means of his League of Nations. Instead he simply assured the outbreak of a war whose viciousness and destruction put all others in the shade. And didn't Wilson end up much like a figure of classic tragedy himself? A ghostly, bearded invalid haunting the corridors of the White House, never seen in public, dependent on his wife to assure that his wishes were carried out?

Wilson can stand as a warning, if not to Obama, then to the rest of us. Obama is too proud and too blind. He will continue in his solipsistic dance until the machinery of fate intervenes.

What form it will take is impossible to say. These situations build up grain by grain until a critical mass is at last reached. Obama is piling up those grains daily, with each display of aloofness, refusal to obey established protocol, and assumption of powers that do not yet belong to him. The final straw could be the most trivial of incidents, blown up all out of proportion to its importance simply due to its being the end of a series (recall one recent political powerhouse whose destruction was encompassed by a complaint over his seat on an airplane - an airplane he shouldn't have been aboard in the first place).

What we can be sure of is that Obama will not avoid the final reckoning. The last, and strangest, characteristic of the victim of hubris is that he appears to welcome his fate, almost embracing it, cooperating in his own downfall. So it will be with Barack Obama. But he must not be allowed to take the country with him.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Miracle Called Obama



The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”


__________________

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chairman Al Gore The Environmental Wacko


When I talked to him recently about Al Gore's absurd plan to switch the US economy completely from fossil fuels to solar and wind power within ten years, a friend said that the only economic program that could compare to this, in terms of its economic destructiveness, is Mao's Great Leap Forward, which was supposed to suddenly transform China into an industrial power and instead caused economic collapse and mass starvation.

So I was glad to see the same comparison made in the editorial below, which examines some of the evidence for why Gore's Great Leap Forward is "just this side of deranged." And since Gore's plan is the only way to consistently implement the demand for global warming regulations, this means that the whole global warming crusade is itself deranged and viciously suicidal.

"Gore's Nutty Idea," Vincent Carroll, Rocky Mountain News, July 22 He's a former vice president of the United States, Nobel Prize winner and best-selling author, so the lavish news coverage of Al Gore's latest brainstorm was inevitable. Less understandable is why an idea so irresponsible—in economic terms, in fact, just this side of deranged—attracted so little ridicule.

Gore proposed last week that the United States "commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years."…

This would of course require utilities to mothball hundreds of existing power plants as they launched a crash construction program of solar plants, wind farms and transmission lines costing hundreds of billions and perhaps trillions of dollars….

Gore would subject 300 million people to an experiment in which baseload power that is needed 24 hours a day to keep the economy—and our livelihoods—humming is replaced willy nilly by power sources still susceptible to natural disruption (such as lack of wind or lingering cloud cover), that cost more (at least in the case of solar) and are far less plentiful in some regions than others (Colorado is lucky at least in that regard)….

The idea reflects a shocking indifference to the possible fragility of an economy subjected to a force-fed "transformative" (Gore's word) experience. History rarely is kind to such ambitions, with the most catastrophic example occurring 50 years ago in China. That's when Mao Zedong launched his Great Leap Forward—the hare-brained effort to transform that nation into an industrial power within a few years by, among other things, dotting the landscape with backyard furnaces to make steel.

Why would we assume that our economy is immune to the shock of a grand scheme to remake its industrial energy base in a few short years?

The Revolt of the Scientists

We had better hope that the global warming hysteria is debunked before it is tested in a disastrous, Great-Leap-Forward-style disruption of the global economy. But for this to happen, there will have to be a revolt of the scientists—a large-scale, persistent attempt by honest scientists to reclaim the integrity of their field from the massive political takeover imposed under the guise of "climate change research."

Fortunately, I've been seeing a few signs recently that this is happening.

If we look at the history of the ideological collapse of Communism, we can expect one development in particular to be very effective: intellectual defectors. Just as people like David Horowitz, a one-time Marxist theorist, eventually rejected their creed and exposed the corrupt intellectual workings of the left, so we should look for defections by scientists who used to be advocates, theorists, or agitators for global warming.

Here is one such example: a scientist who helped develop a "carbon accounting scheme" for Australia, who now says that subsequent data has debunked the theory of man-made global warming.

Note that he makes one point that is particular profound, about the lack of actual evidence for man-made global warming: "Evidence consists of observations made by someone at some time that supports the idea that carbon emissions cause global warming. Computer models and theoretical calculations are not evidence, they are just theory."

"No Smoking Hot Spot," David Evans, The Australian, July 18 I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector….

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming….

The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.

Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot.

Whatsoever.

If there is no hot spot then an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming. So we know for sure that carbon emissions are not a significant cause of the global warming….

The new ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect….

The last point was known and past dispute by 2003, yet Al Gore made his movie in 2005 and presented the ice cores as the sole reason for believing that carbon emissions cause global warming. In any other political context our cynical and experienced press corps would surely have called this dishonest and widely questioned the politician's assertion….

The Labor Government is about to deliberately wreck the economy in order to reduce carbon emissions. If the reasons later turn out to be bogus, the electorate is not going to re-elect a Labor government for a long time. When it comes to light that the carbon scare was known to be bogus in 2008, the ALP is going to be regarded as criminally negligent or ideologically stupid for not having seen through it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

AMERICANS REJOICE: WE CONQUER IRAQ!


Military blogger Michael Yon, who has spent a lot of time embedded with US troops in Iraq and who has the best sense of the war from the ground up, already has the scoop: "the Iraq War is over. We won."

That may seem a bit premature, but Yon backs it up with a really stunning Powerpoint presentation graphing out statistics about violence in Iraq. It shows deadly attacks climbing upward after the Askariya mosque bombing in February of 2006 set off a sectarian civil war—the means by which al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army intended to topple the government of Iraq. The number of attacks keeps climbing until February of 2007, when the first of the surge brigades arrived. The fighting spikes a bit farther up until the beginning of June 2007, when the last of the surge brigades went into action—and from there on out, there is a steady and precipitous decline in the violence, down to minimal levels. Be sure to check out the whole slide show. It shows unambiguously that the surge achieved a complete and decisive reversal in the course of the war, resulting in the near-total suppression of the insurgency.

Yon summarizes what will happen now that the fighting has subsided:

What's left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it's time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable, and peaceful Iraq.

To show that Yon really believes that the war is over, notice what he is doing next. Having proclaimed victory in Iraq, he continues: "I wish I could say the same for Afghanistan. But that war we clearly are losing: I am preparing to go there and see the situation for myself."

Yon is not the only one who has decided that Afghanistan is now where the action is. MSNBC carries an amusing report about young soldiers on their first tour of duty in Iraq who complain of boredom and long to see some real fighting in Afghanistan.

Spc. Grover Gebhart has spent nine months at a small post on a Sunni-Shiite fault line in western Baghdad. But the 21-year-old soldier on his first tour in Iraq feels he's missing the real war—in Afghanistan, where his brother is fighting the Taliban.

With violence in Iraq at its lowest level in four years and the war in Afghanistan at a peak, the soldiers serving at patrol station Maverick say Gebhart's view is increasingly common, especially among younger soldiers looking to prove themselves in battle….

That soldiers are looking elsewhere for a battle is a testament to how much Iraq has changed from a year ago, when violence was at its height. Now it's the lowest in four years, thanks to the US troop surge, the turn by former Sunni insurgents against al-Qaida in Iraq, and Iraqi government crackdowns on Shiite militias….

Instead of facing gunfire and roadside bombs, the soldiers' armored Humvees are chased by waving children as they weave through streets crowded with pedestrians out to shop or just to stroll….

To while away the time, the young soldier from Omaha, Neb., talks of his brother, who is fighting the Taliban in the mountains outside Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan.

"He spends 20 days at a time camped out in the mountains, and the Taliban come engage them in serious firefights," said Gebhart. "At least it sounds exciting."

It's not just eager young recruits who think the real action is in Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agrees, telling reporters that Iraq is "remarkably better" and that he anticipates being able to shift more troops from Iraq to Afghanistan in the near future.

As the New York Sun notes, victory in Iraq mixes everything up, accounting for what would otherwise seem to be radical shifts in political positions:

Just as Senator Obama appeared to be walking back his primary season embrace of retreat, he gives a speech this week affirming his old 16-month deadline for withdrawal. Just as Iraq's American trained army wins four straight battles, Prime Minister Maliki publicly calls for the Yanks to go home. And just after President Bush replaced the Centcom commander who sought to deplete forces in Iraq to send them to Afghanistan, the Pentagon appears to be doing just that. Even the steadfast Senator McCain now says he wants to send three brigades to the Afghan front, anticipating he will draw from the pool of troops returning home from Iraq.

So what is the source of all this confusion? One word: victory. America won, and Al Qaeda, the Baathists, and the Iranians lost.

Of course, we have to make sure that we don't get carried away and draw down our troops too fast, and it is not just American military analysts who are saying so. Many Iraqis agree. In a report that ought to be an embarrassment to the Obama campaign—if Obama is capable of embarrassment—the New York Times quotes Iraqi soldiers and civilians who say that, while they like Barack Obama personally, they don't agree with his desire to withdraw American troops on a rapid schedule.

[F]or many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported….

"He seems like a nice guy," Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama's statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.

"It's a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he'll be able to do it," he said. "The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time."

Another Iraqi concludes with his optimistic assessment of Obama's withdrawal plan: "It's just propaganda for an election." The terrible thing is that he's probably right.

The larger context is that the success of the surge has rendered all of Obama's policy proposals irrelevant. If Obama and his Democratic colleagues had succeeded in forcing a 16-month timeline for withdrawal in January of 2007, it would have been a disaster; if he imposes such a timeline in January of 2009, it will make little difference.

By the time President Bush leaves office, the Iraq War looks like it will be at the point where our victory cannot be reversed by a slightly accelerated troop draw-down. It can only be reversed by the kind of vigorous sabotage committed by the Democrats in 1973–1975, when Congress systematically cut off all military and economic support for South Vietnam, essentially inviting North Vietnam to invade and take over. But I don't see any evidence that the Democrats will or could engage in such sabotage this time around.

As for Obama's policy on Afghanistan, ironically enough he advocates a surge of troops there, which is precisely the same policy urged by John McCain and which is already being implemented by the Bush administration. Since General Petraeus is the new regional commander, we can assume that he will implement a counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan similar to the one he developed for Iraq. And as Michael Yon concludes, "remember that if we could turn things around in [Iraq], we might be able to do the same in Afghanistan."On Pakistan and Iran, Obama also advocates the conventional foreign-policy status quo—and that is a final piece of bad news to temper the good news.

As Afghan president Hamid Karzai points out (the video is here):

The problem of terrorism, as it is affecting Afghanistan, is not entirely an Afghan problem. As a matter of fact, a greater part of this problem is a regional problem, and a greater part of this problem is unfortunately coming to us from Pakistan. So the Americans, the international coalition—when they say they are continuing to work in Afghanistan, and yet the security is not there, they are right, because they have not gone to the right place to fight terrorism…. Which is the sanctuaries that the terrorists have in Pakistan.

In response to this problem, Obama has declared that he would "expect more of the Pakistani government" while he would "triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and…sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda." All of this is just more of what we are already doing—with no results.

Similarly, Obama's policy toward Iran has now officially converged with that of the Bush administration. The only remaining difference was that Obama declared a greater willingness to hold diplomatic talks with the Iranians—a difference that disappeared on Friday when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "confirmed that the United States had shifted its position on diplomacy with Iran, with the decision to send a senior envoy to Geneva to participate in nuclear talks with Iran's top negotiator."

The implication of this is that reporting on the War on Terrorism is likely to lose its urgency for a little while. We have won in Iraq. That victory is not likely to be reversed, and it will make victory in Afghanistan easier. Where we are not winning, in Pakistan and Iran, we can expect no new initiatives by the current administration, which remains paralyzed and ineffectual.

What this implies is that domestic issues are now—for the first time since September 11, 2001—the central political issue. And in domestic politics, by far the biggest issue is the prospect of energy rationing imposed in the name of stopping global warming.

We cannot say yet whether the news on this issue will be good or bad—or how bad it will be. Stay tuned.