Admiral Dennis Blair, the top intelligence official in the United States, thanks to his nomination by Barack Obama, believes that the coercive interrogation methods outlawed by his boss produced “high-value information” and gave the U.S. government a “deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” He included those assessments in a letter distributed inside the intelligence community last Thursday, the same day Obama declassified and released portions of Justice Department memos setting out guidelines for those interrogations.
That letter from Blair served as the basis for a public statement that his office put out that same day. But the DNI’s conclusions about the results of coercive interrogations–in effect, that they worked–were taken out of Blair’s public statement. A spokesman for the DNI told the New York Times that the missing material was cut for reasons of space, though the statement would be posted on DNI’s website, where space doesn’t seem to be an issue.
There’s more. Blair’s public statement differed from his letter to colleagues in another way. The letter included this language: “From 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.” Blair’s public statement made no mention of the permission granted by “members of Congress”–permission that came from members of Obama’s own party.
I had a mild revelation, while reading this article: It’s interesting that many liberals, and the Left in general, find it difficult to refer to those who deliberately target and kill innocents as terrorists, while having no problem referring to non-lethal techniques of coercion – methods that we oblige many of our own military personnel to experience, as part of their training – as “torture”. It would seem that they are capable of nuanced thinking only when it serves their ideological agenda.
At the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking industry. One can come up with a host of causes: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed by Washington (and greed) into improvident loans, corrupted bond-ratings agencies, insufficient regulation of new and exotic debt instruments, the easy money policy of Alan Greenspan’s Fed, irresponsible bankers pushing (and then unloading in packaged loan instruments) highly dubious mortgages, greedy house-flippers, deceitful home buyers.
The list is long. But the list of causes of the collapse of the financial system does not include the absence of universal health care, let alone of computerized medical records. Nor the absence of an industry-killing cap-and-trade carbon levy. Nor the lack of college graduates. Indeed, one could perversely make the case that, if anything, the proliferation of overeducated, Gucci-wearing, smart-ass MBAs inventing ever more sophisticated and opaque mathematical models and debt instruments helped get us into this credit catastrophe.
“Iraq Is Bush’s Only Foreign-Policy Legacy”
Hardly. There’s no denying that the war in Iraq has defined the presidency of George W. Bush in important ways. But history is unlikely to remember the war as negatively as most assume.
“The Iraq War Has Made America Less Safe”
Prove it. In the two decades leading up to Bush’s presidency, the United States and its allies were struck by a rising number of increasingly ambitious, aggressive, and deadly terrorist attacks. The hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. The Berlin disco bombing in 1986. The Buenos Aires bombings in 1992 and 1994. The assassination of Kurdish exiles in Berlin in 1992. The World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The Paris subway bombings in 1995. The plots to attack New York monuments and Pacific Ocean jetliners in 1995. The Khobar Towers bombing in 1996. The East Africa embassy bombings in 1998. The USS Cole in 2000. 9/11.
“Bush Has Wrecked America’s Alliances”
Wrong. Yes, the Western alliance system is in trouble. But it was in trouble well before Bush. NATO’s tensions, for instance, were already noticeable during the Balkan crisis in the late 1990s. And remember that President Bush was met with mass protests on his first European trip in the summer of 2001—before either 9/11 or the war in Iraq. Among the issues irking the United States’ allies then was Bush’s decision not to stay the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who killed 168 Americans by detonating a truck bomb outside the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. It would be far more accurate to say that American unilateralism is a symptom of alliance troubles rather than a cause.
“Bush Has Pushed Democracy Over All Else”
False. It’s fair to say the president’s rhetoric on democracy has sometimes soared into the empyrean. Actions, however, have not followed words. In Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration has followed a very traditional American policy that attaches relatively little importance to democracy promotion. The same can be said of Iraq, in fact. The war there was fought for a very traditional balance-of-power reason: to overthrow a hostile and dangerous regime believed to be seeking weapons of mass destruction.
“While Bush Was Distracted, China Surged”
Not exactly. If the U.S. economy continues to grow at its recent average of 3 percent a year, even a booming China will not overtake U.S. GDP for half a century. If China’s growth rate slows, the moment of “catch up” recedes even further into the future. Such a slowdown seems inevitable. China’s financial sector is rickety to the point of collapse, inflation is accelerating, and the country is quickly bumping up against the limits of low-wage manufacturing. Energy and water shortages are rampant. Environmental degradation is escalating into a serious political issue. Political tensions between the central and regional governments are intensifying. And, very soon, China’s aging population will have to leave work and begin tapping into its savings. Even if China somehow escapes the laws of economic gravity, what precisely is an American president to do about it? Try to stunt China’s growth? How? And to what end?
“America Has Never Been More Hated”
Says who? On what basis could one even begin to decide whether such a statement is accurate? Global opinion surveys are inexact, to put it mildly. A survey of international public opinion by the Pew Research Center, for example, suggests that one fifth of the population of Spain changed its view of the United States in the 12 months between the spring of 2005 and the spring of 2006. Any polling expert knows that strongly held views do not shift that rapidly. A number that bobs up and down reflects, at best, a transitory impression, if not statistical noise. Outside the developed world, in poor countries that are predominantly rural and illiterate, such global public-opinion surveys tell us even less.
“The Next President Will Radically Revise Bush’s Policies”
Unlikely. Granted, the next president will feel the need to create an appearance of distance between himself and the unpopular Bush. But that’s hardly new. George H.W. Bush did exactly the same thing when he followed the highly popular Ronald Reagan. No doubt, climate change will assume a higher priority under a President McCain or a President Obama. Guantánamo Bay will, in all likelihood, be closed. The United States will take a more active role in international organizations. And the next president will probably try harder to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Obama cited Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as presidents who met with enemies. Does he know no history? Neither Roosevelt nor Truman ever met with any of the leaders of the Axis powers. Obama must be referring to the pictures he’s seen of Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, and Truman and Stalin at Potsdam. Does he not know that at that time Stalin was a wartime ally?
Barack Obama’s willingness to meet with the leaders of rogue states such as Iran and North Korea “without preconditions” is a naive and dangerous approach to dealing with the hard men who run pariah states. It will be an important and legitimate issue for policy debate during the remainder of the presidential campaign.
Consider his facile observations about President Kennedy’s first meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, in Vienna in 1961. Obama saw it as a meeting that helped win the Cold War, when in fact it was an embarrassment for the American side. The inexperienced Kennedy performed so poorly that Khrushchev may well have been encouraged to position Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, thus precipitating one of the Cold War’s most dangerous crises.
It would have been so simple for Obama to handle this like a statesman instead of a whiner.
President Bush went to Israel to affirm America’s ironclad support of Israel’s survival as a nation. While there are Americans who don’t agree with it, this has been the policy of the United States from the foundation of Israel on. President Bush didn’t invent the policy, but he affirms it more vigorously and intelligently than most Presidents have done.
President Bush said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.”
Thus he stated, quite clearly, how delusional are those who think that what we have in our war with radical Islam is a “failure to communicate.” There is no failure: communication has been crystal clear. Our enemies have announced their firm intention to destroy our civilization, to kill all the Jews, and to kill any Muslim who doesn’t go along with their program. Iran has announced its intention, if they get nuclear missiles, to obliterate Tel Aviv. Al Qaeda has declared its intention to destroy the West.
We are not misunderstanding their intentions — they have acted exactly according to these stated goals whenever they have had the power to do so.
There is nothing we can do, short of killing them or surrendering to them, that will stop them from acting as they have been acting for decades — murderously and relentlessly. There is certainly nothing we can say.
Is it five or ten or fifteen — years that are necessary to win wars of counterinsurgency such as Iraq? By now, Americans are well acquainted with such warnings that patience — along with political and economic reforms, not just arms — defeats guerrillas.
In these messy fights, Western nations can’t, for both practical and moral reasons, use the full advantages of overwhelming arms against terrorists that hide among civilians. Such conflicts are fought far from home for perceived long-term security interests, rather than the immediate survival of the United States. And when the rising cost in blood and treasure cannot be easily explained, restive voters often give up rather than insist on eventual victory.
When asked about Shiite militia domination of southern Iraq, Petraeus patiently went through the four provinces, one by one, displaying a degree of knowledge of the local players, terrain, and balance of power that no one in Washington — and few in Iraq — could match.
When Biden thought he had a gotcha — contradictions between Petraeus’s report on Iraqi violence and the less favorable one by the Government Accountability Office — Petraeus calmly pointed out that the GAO had to cut its data-gathering five weeks short to meet reporting requirements to Congress. And since those most recent five weeks had been particularly productive for the coalition, the GAO numbers were not only outdated but misleading.
For all the attempts by Democrats and the antiwar movement to discredit Petraeus, he won the congressional confrontation hands down. He demonstrated enough military progress from his new counterinsurgency strategy to conclude: “I believe we have a realistic chance of achieving our objectives in Iraq.”