The Reuters headline put it this way: “Pirates Pose Annoying Distraction For Obama.”
So many distractions, aren’t there? Only a week ago, the North Korean missile test was an “annoying distraction” from Barack Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons and his pledge that America would lead the way in disarming. And only a couple of days earlier the president insisted Iraq was a “distraction” – from what, I forget: The cooing press coverage of Michelle’s wardrobe? No doubt when the Iranians nuke Israel, that, too, will be an unwelcome distraction from the administration’s plans for federally subsidized day care, just as Pearl Harbor was an annoying distraction from the New Deal, and the First World War was an annoying distraction from the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s dinner plans.
While Obama is “distracted” with the scourge of Somali piracy, his Sec. State – Hillary Clinton – seems to find the whole thing rather silly:
While Clinton was yucking it up, an American was being held hostage by these murderous thugs. Classy, just like her husband, the former Philanderer-in-Chief.
America’s elites must once again fall in love with what makes the United States different.
The advent of the Obama administration brings this question before the nation: Do we want the United States to be like Europe? President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe’s social democrats. There’s nothing sinister about that. They share an intellectually respectable view that Europe’s regulatory and social welfare systems are more progressive than America’s and advocate reforms that would make the American system more like the European system.
Not only are social democrats intellectually respectable, the European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. When I get there, the people don’t seem to be groaning under the yoke of an evil system. Quite the contrary. There’s a lot to like—a lot to love—about day-to-day life in Europe.
But the European model can’t continue to work much longer. Europe’s catastrophically low birth rates and soaring immigration from cultures with alien values will see to that.
So let me rephrase the question. If we could avoid Europe’s demographic problems, do we want the United States to be like Europe?
I argue for the answer “no,” but not for economic reasons. The European model has indeed created sclerotic economies and it would be a bad idea to imitate them. But I want to focus on another problem.
My argument is drawn from Federalist Paper No. 62, probably written by James Madison: “A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” Note the word: happiness. Not prosperity. Not security. Not equality. Happiness, which the Founders used in its Aristotelian sense of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.
I have two points to make. First, I will argue that the European model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish—it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness. Second, I will argue that 21st-century science will prove me right.
The film “Fitna” by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders has created an uproar around the world because it links violence committed by Islamists to Islam.
Many commentators and politicians — including the British government, which denied him entry to the country last month — reflexively accused Mr. Wilders of inciting hatred. The question, however, is whether the blame is with Mr. Wilders, who simply exposed Islamic radicalism, or with those who promote and engage in this religious extremism. In other words, shall we fault Mr. Wilders for raising issues like the stoning of women, or shall we fault those who actually promote and practice this crime?
Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion — while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.
Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are “pigs and monkeys,” that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion. Isn’t, then, Mr. Wilders’s criticism appropriate? Instead of blaming him, we must blame the leading Islamic scholars for having failed to produce an authoritative book on Islamic jurisprudence that is accepted in the Islamic world and unambiguously rejects these violent teachings.
Christopher Hitchens: A U.N. resolution seeks to criminalize opinions that differ with the Islamic faith.
Though it is written tongue-in-cheek in the language of human rights and of opposition to discrimination, the nonbinding U.N. Resolution 62/154, on “Combating defamation of religions,” actually seeks to extend protection not to humans but to opinions and to ideas, granting only the latter immunity from being “offended.” The preamble is jam-packed with hypocrisies that are hardly even laughable, as in this delicious paragraph, stating that the U.N. General Assembly:
Underlining the importance of increasing contacts at all levels in order to deepen dialogue and reinforce understanding among different cultures, religions, beliefs and civilizations, and welcoming in this regard the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Tehran on 3 and 4 September 2007.
Yes, I think we can see where we are going with that. (And I truly wish I had been able to attend that gathering and report more directly on its rich and varied and culturally diverse flavors, but I couldn’t get a visa.) The stipulations that follow this turgid preamble are even more tendentious and become more so as the resolution unfolds. For example, Paragraph 5 “expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism,” while Paragraph 6 “[n]otes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.”
Let’s imagine we’ve captured a highly trained terrorist al-Qaeda was attempting to embed in the United States, à la Mohamed Atta and company, to carry out mass-murder attacks in American cities. For eight years, our national-security debate in the United States has been divided into two camps on these cases.
In the first are those who accept the post-9/11 law-of-war paradigm. They would have that enemy combatant detained for intelligence purposes (and to remove him from the battlefield) until he could be tried for war crimes by a military commission, and then either executed or imprisoned for life. In the second are those who uphold the pre-9/11 law-enforcement paradigm. They would have that criminal defendant prosecuted in an ordinary civilian court, and correctly observe that federal courts have a strong track record of producing convictions and imposing adhesive sentences, at least for the tiny proportion of terrorists who have been tried in them.
Each of these philosophies has benefits. The law-of-war approach prioritizes intelligence-gathering and national security, while the law-enforcement approach ensures legal outcomes whose integrity is beyond reproach. Both have downsides. Foreign allies whose cooperation we need (because it is within their territories that most jihadists operate) won’t extradite captured terrorists to military tribunals, because they object to the tribunals’ lack of independent judicial oversight. But the due-process standards that apply in civilian judicial proceedings provide a trove of intelligence for enemies plotting to kill Americans. Consequently, there have been calls for a third way: a new legal paradigm that borrows the best of both worlds, specially designed for this novel security challenge, which is more like a war than a crime but different in many significant ways from a conventional war.
Here’s the problem: The hypothetical suggested in the opening paragraph, is not hypothethical: It is the real case of a real jihadist, an Ethiopian named Binyam Mohammed. And, rejecting both military and civilian justice, the Obama administration has come up with its own third way: releasing him.
A recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic attitudes in seven European countries have worsened due to the global financial crisis and Israel’s military actions against the Palestinians.
Some 31 percent of adults polled blame Jews in the financial industry for the economic meltdown, while 58 percent of respondents admitted that their opinion of Jews has worsened due to their criticism of Israel.
The ADL, a Jewish-American organization polled 3,500 adults – 500 each in Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom – between December 1, 2008 and January 13, 2009.
The WaPo’s Charles Krauthammer comments on President Obama’s appearance on al-Arabiya TV:
Every new president flatters himself that he, kinder and gentler, is beginning the world anew. Yet, when Barack Obama in his inaugural address reached out to Muslims by saying “to the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” his formulation was needlessly defensive and apologetic.
Is it “new” to acknowledge Muslim interests and show respect to the Muslim world? Obama doesn’t just think so, he said so again to millions in his al-Arabiya interview, insisting on the need to “restore” the “same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”
Astonishing. In these most recent 20 years — the alleged winter of our disrespect of the Islamic world — America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. It engaged in five military campaigns, every one of which involved — and resulted in — the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The two Balkan interventions — as well as the failed 1992-93 Somalia intervention to feed starving African Muslims (43 Americans were killed) — were humanitarian exercises of the highest order, there being no significant U.S. strategic interest at stake. In these 20 years, this nation has done more for suffering and oppressed Muslims than any nation, Muslim or non-Muslim, anywhere on Earth. Why are we apologizing?
Indeed! And, Amen.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has published a timely study by Justus Reid Weiner (international human rights lawyer) and Avi Bell (Director of the Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) on International Law and the Fighting in Gaza (PDF format):
In every flare-up of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the air is thick with accusations of violations of international law. Yet criticism of Israeli behavior lacks any basis in international law. By contrast, criticism ought to be voiced about illegal Palestinian behavior for launching rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians.
While much of the world engages in hand-wringing, placard-waving, teeth-gnashing, and rocket-launching over Israel’s “disproportionate” response to Hamas attacks from Gaza, it’s worth looking at what the doctrines of “proportionality” actually say.
Making the rounds is a two-year old quote from Lionel Beehner’s paper for the Council on Foreign Relations in which he summarizes the principle of proportionality as laid out by the 1907 Hague Conventions. “According to the doctrine, a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians, and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante.”
The precise wording of the doctrine can be found in Article 51, not Article 49 as Beehner writes, of the Draft Articles of the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts. “Countermeasures must be commensurate with the injury suffered, taking into account the gravity of the internationally wrongful act and the rights in question.”
This is vague and open to interpretation, as Beehner admits. And it’s further complicated by the fact that the doctrine was laid out at a time when war was fought between sovereign states with standing armies rather than asymmetrically between a sovereign state and a terrorist gang.
Proportion, as defined by Beehner and the Hague Conventions, is impossible between Israel and Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces are more professional, competent and technologically advanced than Hamas and will inflict greater damage as a matter of course. And Hamas’s war aim is entirely out of proportion to Israel’s. Israel wants to halt the incoming rocket fire, while Hamas seeks the destruction or evacuation of Israel.