President Obama will address the nation tonight, and according to leaks in the press will announce the withdrawal of 5,000 or 10,000, or some other number of troops from Afghanistan. In doing so, he is reportedly ignoring the advice of his top military advisors.
Having argued that Afghanistan was the “good” war during the campaign (as opposed to Iraq which supposedly was the “bad” war), once elected Obama announced a surge of 30,000 troops, available because of the success of the surge in Iraq. Because this was not going to sit well with his leftist base, he also announced that withdrawal of the troops would begin by July 2011.
Well, here it is June 2011, and the war in Afghanistan has wearied the public, so here comes the withdrawal, wise or not. The odds of the Taliban waiting for the troops to go, and then launching a major offensive seem high. Obama certainly hopes that this happens after the November 2012 election, when he will then be free to swing hard left, should he be re-elected.
Meanwhile, his Libya adventure continues to go badly. Obama promised us “smart diplomacy,” but his foreign policy has been disastrous.
Rep. Ron Paul, a soon-to-be presidential candidate known for opposing U.S. military intervention overseas, said if he were president, he would not have duplicated President Obama’s plan for taking out the man responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Paul plans to announce his candidacy Friday in New Hampshire, two sources told Fox News. Ahead of that announcement, he suggested in a radio interview Tuesday that the U.S. government could have worked with Pakistan to secure Usama bin Laden’s capture instead of unilaterally entering the country and killing him — despite concerns that the Pakistanis could have tipped him off.
“It was absolutely not necessary,” Paul said of the May 1 CIA-led Navy SEALs raid.
The Texas congressman questioned whether Obama could have gotten away with the operation if Usama bin Laden had been in a country other than Pakistan.
“What if he had been in a hotel in London?” Paul said on Newsradio 1040 WHO. “So would we have sent the … helicopters into London because they were afraid the information would get out? No, you don’t want to do that.”
Paul said the United States should have gone after bin Laden the same way it went after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, by working with the Pakistan government.
“They arrested him, actually, and turned him over to us,” Paul said, suggesting the same formula should have applied to bin Laden.
Though Paul is credited by some with inspiring the Tea Party movement, one faction of that movement was not happy with the comment.
“If there is any doubt that Ron Paul should not even get near the Oval Office, even on a tour of the White House, he has just revealed it,” Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said on his website. “For a Congressman to say the raid to kill the man who is one of the greatest mass murderers of Americans in history was, ‘not necessary,’ is simply nuts.”
Read more here.
TORONTO (AP) — Police made more than 400 arrests after black-clad demonstrators broke off from a crowd of peaceful protesters at the global economic summit and went on a rampage in downtown Toronto that lasted into the early morning hours, authorities said Sunday.
The roving band of protesters torched four police cruisers and shattered shop windows with baseball bats and hammers for blocks, including at police headquarters, then shed some of their black clothes, revealing other garments, and continued their rampage.
Police used shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to push back the protesters who tried to head south toward the security fence surrounding the Group of 20 summit site. Some demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at police.
The vandalism occurred just blocks from where U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders were meeting and staying.
“What we saw yesterday is a bunch of thugs that pretend to have a difference of opinion with policies and instead choose violence to express those so-called differences of opinion,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Sunday.
Toronto Police Sgt. Tim Burrows said Sunday that at least 412 people had been arrested in the rampage that began Saturday afternoon. Those arrested were taken to a temporary holding center constructed for the summit.
The streets of downtown Toronto were quiet at daylight, but Burrows said police were expecting a large protest later Sunday morning at a park near the detention center.
Burrows said many of the violent protesters were Canadian. He added that authorities had known of their plans for some time.
“We’re not sure we have the leaders, but we have a large proportion of those people and the people who decided they wanted to be influenced by these violent protesters and join with their cause,” Burrows said. “A lot of them were home grown. There’s a lot of Canadian talent in the group.”
Thousands of police headed to Toronto to reinforce security there after the smaller Group of Eight summit ended Saturday in Huntsville, Ontario, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) away. Security was being provided by an estimated 19,000 law enforcement officers drawn from across Canada, and security costs were estimated at more than US$900 million.
Saturday’s protests began with a peaceful march, sponsored by labor unions and dubbed family friendly, that was the largest demonstration planned during the summit weekend. Its organizers had hoped to draw a crowd of 10,000, but only about half that number turned out on a rainy day.
Police in riot gear and riding bikes formed a blockade, keeping protesters from approaching the steel and concrete security fence a few blocks south of the march route. Police closed a stretch of Toronto’s subway system along the protest route and the largest shopping mall downtown closed after the protest took a turned for the worse.
The black-clad demonstrators broke off from the larger crowd of peaceful protesters and began torching police cars and smashing shop windows.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said the goal of the militant protesters was to draw police away from the security perimeter of the summit so that fellow protesters could attempt to disrupt the meeting.
Some police officers were struck by rocks and bottles and assaulted, but none was injured badly enough to stop working, Blair said.
“We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets,” Blair said.
Previous global summit protests have turned violent. In 1999, 50,000 protesters shut down World Trade Organization sessions in Seattle as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were some 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. One man died after clashes with police at a G-20 meeting held in London in April 2009.
At the September G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, police fired canisters of pepper spray and smoke and rubber bullets at marchers.
By Andrew Thomas
To the contemporary conservative, progressive ideology is often murky and incomprehensible. It is very difficult for some on the right to understand the apparently illogical and unrealistic machinations of the radical leftist mindset. Their political objectives, if achieved, inevitably lead to further demands for concessions toward an ever-greater ideological purity.
Something even darker and more malevolent is happening, however. The various radical leftist factions and special interest groups are rapidly coalescing into a global movement.
A comprehensive and enlightening treatise on this topic was recently published in Orbis, the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s journal of world affairs, written by University of Buffalo professor Ernest Sternberg. The article is titled, “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For”. It will open your eyes and scare you to death.
In Steinberg’s analysis, from the historical ashes of failed fascist and communist regimes a new totalitarian ideology is emerging:
Though a mouthful, world purificationism would do well in expressing what the movement wants. It wants to achieve a grand historical vision: the anticipated defeat of imperial capitalist power in favor of a global network of beneficent culture-communities, which will empower themselves through grassroots participatory democracy, and maintain consistency across movements through the rectifying power of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), thereby bringing into being a new era of global social justice and sustainable development, in which the diverse communities can harmoniously share an earth that has been saved from destruction and remade pristine.
The sworn enemy of the purifiers is simply referred to as “Empire” (preceding it with “the Evil” is not necessary, apparently). Empire’s evil manifestations are capitalism and Zionism. The geographical focus of purificationism’s hatred is the United States and Israel.
Steinberg compares the new movement to previous anti-capitalist and anti-Zionist movements:
Unmentionable for decades in progressive scholarly company, the similarity between totalitarianisms has once again received academic attention, in part because of interest in comparing Soviet, Maoist, Khmer, and Nazi genocides. The new work has renewed appreciation that fascism and communism did not just have similar regimes. They also shared parallel ideologies. […]
Convinced that they have this unique mission, they must motivate hatred of opponents. They carry out or at least legitimize ruthless violence. And they assert the privilege to shape life’s purpose and meaning for millions.
The purificationist dream is a world without borders, governed by a global network of NGO’s. Almost all current activist organizations containing the words “green”, “justice”, “peace”, or “solidarity” would find a position in the ruling structure. These NGO’s would gravitate toward forming a totalitarian regime since, as Steinberg points out, they are “unaccountable to an electorate and escape political checks and balances…”
Even more disturbing is the increasing coalition between progressivism and radical Islam. Steinberg’s piece includes a quote from George Galloway, a progressive British parliamentarian, when asked if Muslims and progressives could unite in a common cause:
Not only do I think it’s possible but I think it is vitally necessary and I think it is happening already. It is possible because the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies… They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization which is intent upon homogenizing the entire world turning us basically into factory chickens which can be forced fed the American diet of everything from food to Coca-Cola to movies and TV culture… So on the very grave
big issues of the day — issues of war, occupation, justice, opposition to globalization — the Muslims and the progressives are on the same side.
To me, this sounds like a coalition between factory chickens and poultry butchers. But it exemplifies the unreality in the strategic thinking of progressives. They visualize a world of communities living in perfect harmony with nature and each other, with minimal industrial activity, no profit motive, and no greed. Everyone is tolerant of others’ beliefs (unless they are capitalists or conservatives). How they intend to deal with the violent intolerance of Islam toward other religions and cultures is not considered.
It is imperative to thoroughly understand this evolving ideological movement in order to effectively resist it. The socialist ideology is so pervasive that it will probably never be completely defeated. Time after time, it has been seemingly destroyed and discredited, only to rise again in a new incarnation. Its adherents play by no rules (other than Alinsky’s), and their ends justify any means required.
One issue that Steinberg does not address is the pervasive, unrelenting propaganda machine that constitutes the progressive mainstream media. As long as free-thinking individuals are misled and kept ignorant of the purificationist agenda, the infiltration of our institutions and the destruction of our freedoms and values will continue.
We who believe in capitalism, the US Constitution, and individual liberty must do everything possible to educate others and disrupt this movement. Otherwise, the sweet dreams of the purifiers will inevitably result in an unending totalitarian nightmare of global proportions.
Voters are right to think our addiction to federal deficit spending is killing our economy. A thorough new study from Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University takes a look at the relationships among rising debt, inflation and economic growth for 44 developed and developing countries. The findings bode poorly for a spending-crazy Washington.
From 1946 through 2009, growth of developed countries (including the United States) stood at an annual rate of just shy of 4 percent when debt was no greater than 30 percent of gross domestic product. The picture gets bleaker for those countries holding debt above 30 but below 90 percent — economic growth slowed down but still hovered around 3 percent to 3.5 percent per year. When debt rose to over 90 percent of GDP, average growth went negative. Reinhart and Rogoff found that when this worst-case scenario occurs in the U.S., economic growth rates go negative and the inflation rate goes to above 5.5 percent. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Bill Beach, the International Monetary Fund and the Congressional Budget Office both predict U.S. sovereign debt is fast approaching 100 percent of GDP.
There’s never been a better time for President Obama to put an end to the idea that he may be the next President Carter. He can head off inflation by taming federal spending and working with Congress to cut programs. And once that’s done, he can cut taxes to stimulate the economy. Sadly, he won’t. Obama sent a letter last week to leaders of the G-20, airing concerns over the decision of European leaders to start imposing austerity measures: “We should reaffirm our unity of purpose to provide the policy support necessary to keep economic growth strong.”
Unity of purpose is the problem. For Greece and Spain to face financial disaster, politicians first had to give monopolistic unions lavish pensions and a hearty social welfare state. Austerity measures were the hard-bought, politically unpopular solution, so much so that protests against the measures turned to riots.
Congress passed rules earlier this year to prevent itself from spending money it doesn’t have. But the same majority Democrats who voted for Pay-Go simply override those rules whenever they have to pass an actual spending bill. And on Saturday, Obama ripped opponents of his second stimulus, saying that they are endangering the jobs and unemployment benefits of millions of Americans. It’s time to face reality and start cutting spending.
BY Lee Smith
A few months back, I was dining with a friend at an Armenian restaurant in Beirut, and at the end of the meal he gracefully sidestepped the Turkish question by ordering a “Byzantine” coffee. The waiter laughed grimly. “Aside from coffee and waterpipes,” asked my friend, “what did the Turks leave us? They were here for 500 years, and they didn’t even leave us their language. We speak Arabic, French, and English. No one speaks Turkish. Their most important political institutions were baksheesh and the khazouk.”
Baksheesh is bribery, and the khazouk is a spike driven through its victim’s rectum, which the Ottomans used to terrify locals and deter potential insurgents. The Ottomans were hated here and throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East, not only by the regional minorities (Christians, Jews, Shia, etc.) but also by their Sunni Arab coreligionists. All felt the heavy yoke of the Sublime Porte.
In the last few weeks, however, half a millennium’s worth of history has been conveniently forgotten, perhaps even forgiven, as Turkey has emerged as a regional power and the guarantor of Arab interests—against Israel, to be sure, but more importantly against Iran.
In truth, the wheels were in motion long before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government sponsored the Mavi Marmara’s cruise to Gaza, which left nine activists dead after they challenged an Israeli boarding party. Erdogan’s winter 2009 performance at Davos, when he confronted Israeli president Shimon Peres in the wake of the Gaza offensive, made the Turkish Islamist a regional celebrity. And while the Arab masses were thrilled to hear Israel denounced by a Muslim leader—and an ally of the Jewish state no less—the more important work was taking place behind the scenes. After Davos, high-level political sources in Beirut let on that there’d been a meeting in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak. “The Egyptians are very happy with Erdogan,” said one. “The Turks are trying to take the Palestinian file out of the hands of the Iranians and give it back to the Arabs.”
It’s not yet clear whether Ankara really means to restore the Arabs to their pride of place by handing over a Hamas scrubbed of Iranian influence, or, as is more likely, the Turks simply want to use the Palestinian cause to enhance its own regional credentials, as Tehran has been doing for the last three decades. But the Turkish gambit has induced a lot of willful self-delusion in the Arab states—and amnesia.
Long before Arab nationalism identified Israel and the United States (and before that the European powers) as the enemy, it was the Ottomans who were called to account for everything that was wrong in the Arabic-speaking regions. The Ottomans certainly encouraged Middle East sectarianism: playing up confessional differences, empowering some sects while weakening others, and balancing minorities against each other. Arab nationalism was inspired by Turkish nationalism, but it was a doctrine that asserted Arab independence from the Ottomans. There were no longer Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawi, etc., only Arabs, unified as one against the outsiders, the colonizers.
The Arab states that had been most directly oppressed by the Sublime Porte—and so those most divided along sectarian lines—were determined to illuminate the evils of Ottoman occupation. No Arab state was more anti-Turkish than Baathist Syria. The Syrian television serials that commonly promote the blood libel and feature other anti-Semitic caricatures at one time also cast Ottomans as villains. Indeed, Damascus went where even Washington fears to tread, producing serials that mention the Armenian genocide. And Syrian anti-Turkish sentiment wasn’t only about past affronts. Just as Damascus demands that Israel return the Golan Heights, there is a significant land dispute at the center of Syrian-Turkish relations. In 1939, the Turks conquered what is today known as Hatay province, but the Syrians call Iskenderun or Alexandretta, and which Damascus long claimed was occupied land. In 2005, the Syrians quietly relinquished their claims and thus opened a new chapter in the history of their two countries—which included a 1998 conflict in which Turkey was poised to invade its Arab neighbor until Hafez al-Assad handed over Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Today, Hafez’s son Bashar likes to speak of Turkey and Syria’s shared history, explaining that “Arab and Turkish blood is one blood across history”—a phrase that unintentionally resonates with historical pathos. Syrians after all are often disparagingly called Tamerlane’s bastards, a reference to the trail of destruction and sexual violence that the Turkic conqueror left in his wake. Presumably, today’s Turks are of a much kinder disposition, and Damascus has both an Iranian ally and a government in Ankara that is wooing it—or at least this is how the Syrians are playing it publicly.
Erdogan’s invitation to Hezbollah’s secretary general to visit Ankara certainly reinforces the fear that what we’re watching is the formation of a united resistance front, with Turkey signing on to the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance. But this may well turn out, eventually anyway, to be a revival of the historic rivalry between the Turks and the Persians. The problem is not just that their competition is likely to further radicalize the political culture of an already volatile region, but that subsidiary actors will be forced to prove their bona fides as well. It will drag in the Jordanians. And what about the Egyptians, who are on the verge of a very delicate succession issue as the 83-year-old Mubarak’s days are numbered and no one knows if his son Gamal will indeed be able to replace him?
Syria is about the only player whose actions can be gamed with any accuracy. The country right now considers itself Hamas’s interlocutor, which is precisely the role that Erdogan auditioned for with the cruise of the Mavi Marmara. Should Europe, or at some point the United States, accept Turkish mediation, it will knock Syria down a peg, which will then feel obligated to assert itself. Perhaps the best way to understand Syria’s recent shipment of Scuds to Hezbollah is as a reminder to everyone that attention must be paid to Damascus as well as Tehran, that when it comes to Hezbollah, Assad also has a vote in war or peace with Israel. Turkish-Iranian competition will entail accelerated Syrian activity on two of Israel’s borders.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Iran’s neighbors across the water, see the recent events in starker terms. Ankara’s shot across Tehran’s bow is a good thing, period. As Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, Saudi columnist for the London-based pan-Arab news-paper Asharq al-Awsat writes:
Erdogan, who wanted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, broke the Iranian blockade on the Arabs instead. . . . [T]he most that Ankara could benefit from by raising the Palestinian flag would be by advancing its political status, [which] does not contract or marginalize Arab interests, unlike the Iranian goal which directly undermines the Arab position.
If some Saudi officials are concerned that Erdogan’s play is a bit radical and wish, according to Asharq al-Awsat editor in chief Tariq Homayed, “Hamas would follow Turkey, and not vice versa,” in the end it all comes down to sectarianism. Turkey is Sunni, Iran is Shia, and despite the Ottoman Empire’s long history of oppressing their imperial subjects, the Arabs prefer anything to the prospect of Persian hegemony. If it means casting their lot with the progeny of those who enslaved them for centuries—well there is great comfort in custom.
If in a sense the Middle East is returning to its historical divisions—an Ottoman (Turkish) and Safavid (Iranian) rivalry where Israel stands in for the Western powers—especially with Washington’s diminishing profile in the region—it is worth lamenting how the Arabs wasted their moment of independence. What started with the birth of the Arab state system moved quickly to wars between those states and within them, and then the empty rhetoric of Nasser, despotism, mass murder, and a unifying hatred of Israel, all culminating in the suicidal obscurantism of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, whom the Arab masses, characteristically, regard as heroes. The “Arab century,” that period during which the Arabs had their own destiny in their hands, was brief, lasting roughly a decade from 1956-67. A harsher, and perhaps more accurate, assessment suggests that it was even shorter than that: After all, Israel’s victory in the Six Day War shows that Nasser’s success at Suez was due not to anything he did, but to an American president’s ordering the French, British, and Israelis to stand down.
In reality, the Arab century was ours. For more than 65 years, the United States was the power underwriting the Arabs, and if not always the most sincere benefactor, we nonetheless protected them from more dangerous forces and their even more dangerous fantasies. What we won from the region is what the Turks now want as well: the wealth, influence, and power that is consequent on hegemony in the energy-rich Middle East. Ankara will serve as an inter-mediary between their Arab charges and a stingy Europe that up till now has turned its back on Turkey. But what do the Turks have to offer the Arabs that they hadn’t already impressed upon the region when they left it to its own devices almost a century ago? The Americans brought schools and hospitals to the Middle East, and, after 9/11, democracy, too, at last—or perhaps, too late. It’s not the Arab vacuum that Ankara is rushing to fill, but our own.
Lee Smith is the author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations (Doubleday).