Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Defense of the South

So, we have the latest liberal craze - telling southern/conservative states how to run their elections. If you're able to bear the sanctimony, see EJ Dionne.

Look, I get that southern states have a less than stellar record on the pursuit of participatory democracy. I get that racism remains a real problem. But I also (unlike many liberals) get that we live in the 21st century. We have an African-American President. We have minority representatives, both Democrat and Republican, serving southern states. We have come a long, long way. In this sense, subverting state rights is just another example of the arrogant condescension that typifies much left wing sentiment towards the south. In DC, I hear it all the time; it's rarely pleasant and it's never profound. I've been told that ''people in the south are stupid'', or ''inherently racist'', or... you get the point. Yet, aside from the self-evident idiocy of these statements, this abuse carries destructive consequences. 

For one, the hate helps to foster a northern elite v redneck cultural divide. Also, albeit slightly, it weakens the common understanding of an American national identity. By effectively telling Americans who live in the south that they lack the mental faculties or moral character to develop their own laws, liberals are pushing the worst instincts of a governing paternalism. And when, for example, liberals argue that requiring IDs at a polling station is the equivalent to a war on democracy, they're embracing utter absurdity. Are we really to believe that the acts of drawing money at a bank or flying on a plane, are more sanctified than voting? It's nuts.
           There's also a pretty simple way through here. If a voter lacks the financial ability to procure an ID - the state can provide one for him/her free of charge. To pursue such a course would be to avoid the risk of a voting nobility (IE - those who can afford an ID card), whilst at the same time ensuring integrity in elections.

But let's be clear. Ultimately, this liberal interference isn't about protecting minority rights. Rather, it's about restricting state democracy when that democracy separates from liberal ideology. It's the flowing result of a dynamic of authoritarianism evident in a multitude of areas - see criminal justice and gun laws for two such examples. Yet, this dynamic also occurs at the Federal level - where liberals seem to believe that balanced power need only apply to conservatives (who tend to be more heavily represented in southern states). An understanding to which the President also unashamedly subscribes.

We need to challenge this arrogance. After all, when it comes to the facts, liberal interferers are left with very little ground to stand on. For a start, voting right protections are still rightly enshrined in Federal law. But what about the record of southern states in other areas? For example, on the economy. Here, as Democratic states and cities wallow in black holes of debt, many conservative states are flourishing

On a more serious final note, with southern states continuing to provide the core of American military recruitment, perhaps northern liberals should pause before they claim that those same citizens cannot be trusted with democratic protection?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Defense of Chief Justice Roberts

John Roberts. Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court? Or… Calculating agent of DC elitism/adversary to the common man?

Last week, Roberts the conspirator was given another face - as a shield helping an overreaching executive evade necessary scrutiny. In the same vein, writing in The New York Times a few weeks ago, Adam Liptak provided a similar analysis - the Chief Justice is a legal schemer; every vote fixing the quiet foundation for future conservative legal victories. These days, from the left, the right and the government establishment, Roberts is now regularly decried as a legal Machiavelli. A quiet malevolent that mustn't be trusted. But let’s be clear, this is simple slander; widespread, relentless and false. When one considers the tone of abuse to which Roberts is subjected, the result is an embarrassing indictment against America. Consider the cases. Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (allowing expanded corporate political advocacy), Roberts was condemned by the left as having unhinged the very bolts of American democracy. Jonathan Alter labeled Roberts a ‘’radical’', and characterized him as a man driven inexorably by his own hubris. Following the recent Shelby County v Holder decision (concerning the Voting Rights Act) Slate’s Emily Bazelon implied that Roberts was a kind of human stealth bomber – covertly annihilating the most precious of American rights for the most vulnerable of American citizens.

It’s not only the left.

Think about the conservative wrath that Roberts incurred for upholding Obamacare. Jim Antle spoke of a ‘’betrayal’’, Brent Bozell declared Roberts a ‘’traitor’’ and Erick Erickson claimed Roberts had self-destructed. Indiana Governor (then Congressman) Mike Pence compared the decision to 9/11. Senator Rand Paul rebuked Marbury v Madison – the foundation of American judicial review. Then, driving the fury off a rhetorical cliff edge, radio host Michael Savage explained that Roberts decision showed he had over-medicated his epilepsy treatments.

But the anti-Roberts racket has another avowed supporter, one who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama launched a putrid partisan attack against the Roberts court as it sat in audience. That scene; of cloaked Justices surrounded by baying Democrats should have troubled all Americans. It said something stunning that the President of the United States, let alone a distinguished graduate of Harvard Law School, would deliberately create such a spectacle. Churned in this theatre of absurdity, the separation of powers was rendered a near farce. 

In demanding a political environment in which independent thought is both sought and devalued, Americans have allowed a terrible delusion to permeate our political contemplation. Because Roberts’s votes cannot easily be predicted - because he cannot be tied down, we thus assume that our Chief Justice cannot be trusted. This is our toxic landscape. A land in which honest jurisprudence is regarded as the dark art of a nefarious mind. Who cares that Roberts’s legal opinions offer articulate, easily understandable explanations? Not us. Not in today’s America. Here, orthodoxy holds the mantle of truth. By slandering servants like Roberts; by finding conspiracies and contradictions in their professionalism, we’re discouraging their independence and the very notion of public service.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bud Day. American Hero.

Bud Day was a great American. He wasn't famous, but he defined the very essence of patriotism. His passing is a sad day for America. His service in Vietnam is an eternal guide for us all.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

First, please see my thoughts from earlier this month on why conservatives should support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will commence in Washington DC later today. Though many were suspicious of John Kerry's pursuit of these talks, their occurrence proves that peace is always a worthy pursuit. Of course, the negotiations face many challenges. President Abbas remains handicapped by a Hamas governing authority in Gaza which continues to reject Israel's right to exist. Prime Minister Netanyahu leads a coalition which, at least in part, is made up of politicians who see no merit in the peace process. Charismatic newcomer, Naftali Bennett, provides one such example. However, regardless of the difficulty, peace is certainly worth a try. Ultimately, following yesterday's referendum approval, Israelis will have to grant assent to a final deal. In this sense, there's no harm in talking.
             As the parties meet in DC, much of the negotiations will focus on the seemingly intractable issues - the future of Jerusalem and the prospective contours of the West Bank. Yet, Netanyahu's decision to release over a hundred Palestinian prisoners illustrates his commitment to the serious pursuit of peace. Some have suggested that Netanyahu is playing a game here - doing just enough to satisfy the US, but in reality, unwilling to make major sacrifices for peace. I disagree. Netanyahu is no game player. Israelis know that and they trust him for it. Releasing the prisoners was a bold and courageous move and one for which Netanyahu is already paying a significant political price. Now President Abbas will have to meet the Israeli leader's endeavor with his own courage. From here on in, reciprocity will be key.

As I argued in The Guardian a few weeks back, John Kerry deserves much credit for his role in making this meeting happen. While it's likely that the days ahead will bring many criticisms, this effort is nonetheless deserving of support.

For a selection of my other thoughts on Middle Eastern related security issues, please click here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

President Obama's Mathematical Incontinence

Speaking on today's edition of Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew repeatedly asserted that the US Government has already made major progress towards reducing the national deficit/debt. This is an absurd suggestion and an argument that would only make sense were it an effort at sarcasm. As I've argued for The Week, the US national debt remains a crisis situation. It threatens to drown America's future. Resolving this great challenge will require major reforms. That's a fact. It's non-negotiable. By revelling in their realm of fiscal delusion, by pretending that major entitlement reforms won't be necessary, Lew and the President deserve condemnation.

It's ironic that the President spent most of last week claiming that Congress is playing politics with critical issues. Perhaps they are, but he's doing just the same.

Bush 41

As I argued a couple of weeks back, George HW Bush defines American class. As has been widely reported, one of the agents on Bush's Secret Service detail has a son with Leukemia - as such, the detail agents have shaved their heads in solidarity. So has their protectee. The Secret Service remains one of America's greatest institutions. Rightly so, they enable our democracy. This photo really does represent the best of America.

This 24 July 2013 handout photo shows former US President George H W Bush (front centre) with his Secret Service security detail including Jon (fifth from left) holding his son Patrick

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Skill and Luck - The Keys to Successful Tactical Resolutions

Miami-Dade SWAT have implemented a successful takedown of an apparently crazed gunman. The suspect was killed after he threatened the lives of two hostages he was holding. From video that's been released, it's obvious that the SWAT team was in a position of great danger. But, as with all tactical resolutions, they had to balance this risk with the need to preserve life. The need, in this case, to save the hostages. It's worth noting that security forces regularly receive great criticism when they're perceived to have overstepped the line in terms of force application. See criticisms (I do not share) of Operation Flavius. However, the skills required for the formation and maintenance of top level tactical teams are undeniably significant. From France to the FBI, hostage crisis situations can arise anywhere and at any time. The difficulty of achieving a successful resolution to these challenges is magnified greatly when the target is located abroad. As evidenced by DEVGRU's January 2012 rescue operation in Somalia and the British SBS operation in March 2012 Nigeria, sometimes things go well and sometimes things go badly

Ultimately, effective tactical teams require a sustained level of investment, operational flexibility and rigorous standards for entry. Achieving this balanced dynamic explains how, in recent years, the British SAS were able to do this. And DEVGRU do this. And ACE (aka Delta Force) do this. We're lucky to have them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Syria- US Military Outlines Intervention Options

General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has outlined a number of possible military strategies that the US would be able to employ inside Syria. As evidenced by his testimony, Dempsey is reluctant to engage in an open ended military commitment in that country. That's understandable. Hampered by the military's sequester cuts (which, if left in effect for more than a few years would be catastrophic), Dempsey appears anxious to caution Congress away from major military action that would drain US capabilities even further. But at the same time, Dempsey was honest and unequivocal in his military judgement - if the President so desires, the US can destroy Assad's regime. In my opinion President Obama is deeply cautious about further US engagement in Syria. My concern is that every other actor is overtly engaged.

I'll be writing more on this issue later in the week. In the interim, check out some of my related writings. And... have a read about one of Dempsey's greatest moments in battle against the Mahdi Army in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


If you're interested, check out my latest piece for CNN - On the birth of the Prince of Cambridge and his relevance to the future of the British Royal Family. If you're still interested, check out my other CNN piece - On the passing of Margaret Thatcher.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EU blacklists military arm of the Lebanese Hizballah

This action was long overdue. See my thoughts from a while back - The EU's Hizballah Delusion. My recent piece for The Week might also be of interest - Five Ways Obama Should Get Tough on Hizballah.
Very rarely, I agree with Carney

Monday, July 22, 2013

Al Qa'ida in Iraq - Mass Escape

Following an attack by apparent supporters, members of various Iraqi terrorist groups (including Al Qa'ida in Iraq) have escaped from prisons in that country. The number of escapees is estimated to be in the hundreds. Many of these prisoners are ideologically intransigent killers. This attack follows a similar incident in late September 2012, when members of the Islamic State of Iraq (the effective successor to Al Qa'ida in Iraq) attacked another prison.

This jail break comes at a disastrous time for the Iraqi people. As I wrote for The Atlantic, Iraq's security situation is rapidly deteriorating. From all sides, violent extremists are seeking to rip sectarian fissures into the Iraqi population. While Sunday evening's rampage is only the latest in a string of horrific recent incidents (see video below), it speaks to a serious problem - the growing capability of increasingly audacious terrorists. By attacking such a high profile, fortified target as Abu Ghraib prison, these insurgents are illustrating their ability to challenge the governing power of the Iraqi state. In the context of the Syrian civil war and heightening instability in Lebanon, the bloodshed in Iraq represents a profound humanitarian and strategic threat. As such, the Obama Administration must utilize all their (albeit limited) influence to bring Iraqi politicians into dialogue and if necessary, to render increased US Military/Intelligence support to Iraqi security forces.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Israeli - Palestinian Peace Talks

The looming resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is fantastic news. 

It's interesting how quickly developments on the ground have changed... a couple of days ago, the Palestinians appeared to have rejected Kerry's peace overtures. 

Nevertheless, as I argued a couple of weeks back, this latest peace drive is worthwhile and deserving of the support of my fellow American conservatives (who are generally skeptical that peace can be achieved). Though the negotiations will be difficult, Kerry deserves much credit for having rebuilt this stagnant process. As I recently argued for The Guardian, Kerry's tenure as Secretary of State has been impressive so far.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Celebrity Idiocy on Guatanamo Bay

Frankie Boyle's hunger strike illustrates the profound delusion that infects much of the political discourse surrounding Guantanamo Bay. 

A few points.

The detainee that Boyle is acting in support of- Shaker Aamer, has been cleared for release due to the US Government's desire to close Guantanamo and placate the UK.

But let's be clear, Aamer is not some harmless guy who was simply caught up in Afghanistan. He's a terrorist.

Before taking his legal team's word at face value, it's worth considering Aamer's November 2007 detainee threat assessment. Here, the US Military found that Aamer posed a ''high'' threat and that his continued detention was of ''high'' intelligence value. This is an individual, who by his own admission, harbors extremist intentions towards the United States. In addition, evidence suggests that Aamer acted in substantial roles alongside Al Qa'ida facilitation and operations networks in Europe and North America. Aamer has major connections to known mass casualty plotters including Richard Reid - the December 2001 shoe bomber and Zacarias Moussaoui - the 20th hijacker. Further, although it somehow fails to escape the attention of western media outlets, the Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes are a well known AQ counter-interrogation technique.

In short, like Mos Def, I believe that Boyle is allowing himself to become a pawn for Al Qa'ida propaganda. Frankly, it's not surprising, Boyle's anti-Americanism is well known.

Anyway, if interested, my other thoughts on Guantanamo - Daily Caller article, BBC World Service radio debate, BBC World News discussion.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Obama on Trayvon Martin

President Obama has just offered his thoughts on the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case.

In my opinion, the President's speech was mostly good. His tone was calm and his message generally considered. He challenged all Americans to consider the historical legacy of American race relations in the context of post-trial outrage in the African American community. He created a semblance of distance between himself and the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of Zimmerman - an investigation that reeks of politics. In a delicate statement, but one of crucial importance, Obama challenged African American communities to consider why such a disproportionate number of young black men end up in the criminal justice system. These things were good. As was Obama's suggestion that local and state police agencies seek more constructive community partnerships with the people they serve - an uncontroversial suggestion deserving of energy (see Bill Bratton).

However, the President's condemnation of Florida's ''stand your ground'' law was unwelcome and unjustifiable. Nonetheless, it follows in the proven vein of Obama's authoritarian comfort. Let's be clear, the United States is a Federal entity. The most basic and existential prerequisite of this system of government requires that people should be allowed to develop their own laws at a local level. As I've argued in regards to gun laws, Washington DC rarely knows what's best.

So, in essence, I have no problem with the President contributing to an important national discussion. In many ways this is a central part of his job. Yet, as he makes his thoughts known, Obama should also bear respect to local democracy.

Daily Caller Intern upsets Washington, Navalny and Putin, North Korea and Cuba, Israel-Palestine, Hillary, Joe and Rubio

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of days - I've been out of internet contact!

  1) Detroit's bankruptcy filing was necessary. The city has no money and the path to fiscal solvency will be a long one. Nevertheless, although this is a tough day, the filing is a step in the right direction. Let's be clear, there are a great number of reasons why Detroit has ended up in this sorry position. Major contributing factors include the Detroit auto industry's inability to effectively compete with foreign car manufacturers and a rising tide of crime and corruption that drove many to leave the city (and in so rendered vacant neighborhoods as ghostly markers for decay and decline). Yet, there's also a major governing lesson that must be taken from Detroit. When a city promises unaffordable benefits to public sector unions, the space for investment evaporates. As I've argued before, when it comes to cities like Detroit, conservatives should offer an alternative to this stunning legacy of liberal failure.

2) I applaud The Daily Caller for sending one of their interns (Gabe Finger) to attend the White House press briefing. There's an undercurrent of pretension that infects much of Washington. It's tedious to the point of being almost insufferable. In this sense, allowing an intern to ask a pertinent question of the WH Press Secretary was a clever move. For a start, the video has generated free advertising towards The Daily Caller's populist-informal style and their often cheeky approach to journalism. Secondly, it may engage younger Americans in a greater scrutiny of their government. In short, even if only for a moment, one intern stripped away the regal awnings of the White House and challenged the notion of traditional journalism. That alone is of immense value. 
          Unfortunately, in a boringly familiar example of DC elitism, a number of DC journalists weren't happy with the audacity of Intern Finger. While they're claiming that Finger's question was silly, I suspect their anger is rooted in a more numerical source: put simply, they resent The Daily Caller's growing success. With the internet sharply increasing media competition for readership, outlets have had to fight for a tangible online identity. From my perspective*, The Daily Caller's great talent is their unchallenged ability to balance hard hitting journalism with a populist and accessible product. Most importantly however, their journalists are talented professionals.

 3) The conviction of Russian political activist, Alexei Navalny, is unsurprising. Sadly, it's just another example of the authoritarian corruption that defines Putin's regime. If you're interested, I've previously written on the Navalny case here and Putin more generally here. From Syria to London, Putin is unafraid to pursue his narrow and pernicious agenda.

 4) The North Koreans have been busted in another weapons smuggling effort. Alongside possessing a childish psychology, the North Korean regime is a criminal state. While simultaneously imprisoning hundreds of thousands of their citizens in prison camps, the regime regularly engages in drug dealing, advanced counterfeiting efforts and collaborative alliances with other pleasant states like Iran. As a side note, it's interesting to see the Castro regime (supposedly a popular liberation movement) so happily co-operating with North Korea. Just another example of the false moral superiority that defines anti-American alliances.

 5) The Palestinian decision to reject a renewed peace process is deeply disappointing and highly counterproductive. The PLO is making a major error. Supported by Kerry's commitment to a peace deal and Netanyahu's new willingness to make serious compromises, forward momentum towards peace is absolutely possible. As I said, it's very disappointing news.

 6) While Biden remains interested in running for President, Rubio's Presidential ambitions are in trouble. On the first point, I think that Biden is dreaming. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Rubio's situation is more interesting. Having showed great political courage on necessary immigration reform, Rubio is now suffering the wrath of his party. Once hopeful signals of reform appear fleeting. It's a sad situation. As I argued yesterday in the The Week, I'm concerned about the possible repercussions of GOP internal dynamics going forwards.

* Full Disclosure - I used to write for The Daily Caller.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

GOP prospects in Midterms, Putin bored with Snowden, Peace in Burma and Colombia, Fmr. President HW Bush, Neptune's new Moon

1) Respected pollsters Nate Silver and Harry Enten are predicting that the GOP has an increasingly strong chance of re-capturing Congress in the 2014 midterms. However, there are risks here for the GOP. As the pollsters note, if the GOP picks odd candidates (as occurred in 2012), prospective electoral victories may implode. At the same time, even the very prospect of a GOP takeover carries problems. As more intransigent Republicans realize that victory is possible, their arrogance will likely grow. Believing that power shortly awaits, they'll increasingly oppose bi-partisan compromise. I'll be writing on this issue for The Week.
2) Putin is getting bored of Snowden. Though I dislike the Russian leader, in this particular case, I understand his pain. Snowden is an insufferable ego-maniac (I think he sees himself as a modern day Jesus- suffering the persecution of the powerful in order to bring salvation to the masses). I find Putin's discomfort interesting. I suspect that Snowden is refusing to play ball with the Russian intelligence services. As a result, his presence in Moscow is little more than a political liability for the Kremlin. From their perspective, he offers nothing but an angry American Government. Snowden will probably end up in Venezuela - another bastion of effective government. 

3) Burma has promised to release all political prisoners by the end of the year. Similarly, in Colombia, the FARC rebel force is finally bending to a peace process. From both states, this is very welcome news. The evolution of Burma from a brutal military regime into a graduated process of democratization is proceeding successfully. The rulers of this country have realized that detachment from the international community is a path to ruin. Comparatively, for FARC, the relentless pressure of the Colombian Government (primarily under former President Uribe) has been too much to bear. In short, they've been brought to their knees and then to the table. As outlined in Robert Kaplan's excellent book, Imperial Grunts, the United States (and especially the Bush Administration) deserves joined credit for this outcome.

4) The capture of Miguel Morales is a major milestone for the Mexican Government. The Zetas cartel are a particularly brutal organization. Hopefully this success will spur President Nieto to continue the work of his predecessor in confronting Mexican narco-terrorists. These gangsters are not resistance fighters or simple criminals, they're individuals who have no qualms about setting fire to casinos and in kidnapping, torturing and killing bus loads of civilians. They cannot be allowed to intimidate Mexico into submission.

Fmr. President George HW Bush was recognized at the White House yesterday. This decent man deserves the praise he received. He's a great American.

6) NASA just found out that Neptune has another Moon. It's tiny, but this latest news just provides yet more evidence to the case that I made last week - Space deserves our attention.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Israel pressures Obama on Iran, UK welfare state, Zimmerman trial

1) Israel is pressuring the Obama Administration to act against Iran. Following his September 2012 red line speech at the UN, Netanyahu is upping the ante once again. The Israelis are anxious for the United States to either enact tougher sanctions against the Iranians, or to more directly imply a willingness to use force. I've argued many times why I believe that Netanyahu (especially) and Israel more generally will eventually use force against Iranian nuclear facilities. For me, the key factor is this: from the Israeli perspective, while the risks of such a military operation are manageable, the consequences of inaction are not. And... unlike US caveats, Israeli red lines mean something. Further heightening the probability of Israeli action is the ongoing situation in Syria. By their undaunted support for Assad, the Lebanese Hizballah and Iran are signalling their desire to dominate the strategic evolution of the Middle East. Which leads us to point 2!

2) The Israelis have attacked a suspected Russian arms transport in Syria. Though no Russians appear to have been killed, this is serious news. The Israeli attack illustrates both Israel's overt tactical intent - to deny Assad access to high technology assets and Israel's broader strategic intent - to send a message to the Russian government (and in different ways, Iran/the US). Anyway, I salute the Israelis for their political courage in face of Russian intimidation- we in the US could learn something here.

3) The British Government has taken a small but significant step to reduce the pernicious consequences of the UK's welfare state. By imposing a cap on individual welfare eligibility, the UK may begin to see a gradual reduction in its massive state outlays. However, as a number of Conservative MP's are pointing out, much more can be done. See my thoughts on the welfare state here.

4) The Zimmerman trial has come to an end. As I argued for The Week, the news coverage was unnecessarily incessant and symptomatic of a broader problem in American society. Regardless, I do not believe that Zimmerman's guilt was established beyond all reasonable doubt - the Jury decision was correct. 
            However, I have great sympathy for Trayvon Martin's family- they are honoring their son by their highly dignified reaction to the trial outcome. Many others have reacted less impressively.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

IDF 5 year reforms, Belfast rioting, Syria rebel hostilities, Moyes first game

1) The Israeli Military has announced plans to update their force posture over the next five years. The major elements of these proposals include a reduction in the IDF officer corps and a greater focus on highly mobile weapon platforms like the Spike NLOS. At the forefront of these developments is a focus on potential future conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah. Recognizing the relative immobility of Israeli forces during the 2006 Lebanon war, the IDF wants to ensure that this hindrance is reduced before another outbreak of violence. Israel understands that in order to defeat enemies like Hamas/Hezbollah - which rely upon small skirmishing groups of highly mobile rocket teams etc. the IDF must be able to employ its own weapon systems that allow for the timely engagement of their adversaries. Cognizant of the sensitivities with which Israeli military operations are viewed internationally, the Israelis also know that they need weapons that are highly discriminate - IE - mechanisms that minimize the likelihood of civilian casualties. In another sense, the IDF also seems to be building front line deployments around their most aggressive, operationally experienced units. That makes sense - the IDF recognizes the vulnerabilities of relying upon fresh forces in critical operations.
                However, on a more negative note, it appears that the IDF will cut spending on training operations. That's a risky proposition - dependency on technological assets cannot offset the loss of basic competencies. As a broader observation, I find it pretty staggering that the Israelis are willing to cut defense spending amidst ongoing regional instability.

2) Serious rioting broke out in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Friday. The problems arose when British loyalist marchers were prevented from walking through an Irish nationalist area of the city. This behavior is pathetic. As evidenced in footage of the scuffles, many of the aggressors were young men - probably drunk. They wanted an excuse for violence. It's deeply disappointing that occasional outbreaks of disorder like this one still occur in Northern Ireland. Though the situation is far more peaceful than it once was, sectarian hatred nevertheless remains a real problem. In a less serious but similarly interesting vein, it's worth checking out today's NY Times story on the challenges that top golfer, Rory McIlroy is forced to navigate in his home country.

3) Tensions between Syria's various rebel forces have reached a boiling point. Many will argue that these hostilities necessitate greater US detachment from the conflict. On the contrary, I believe the opposite is true. At one point or another, the US was going to have to face up to the Salafist extremist threat inside Syria. As I've argued before, the US must use all of our influence to support the nationalist minded elements of the rebellion. Such a course (though admittedly risky) would allow us to support those forces who would be best placed to replace Assad with a semi-stable, pro-western government. Disengagement is not an option. Supported by the Putin mafia and supplemented by forces from Iran and Hizballah, Assad's regime has turned the tide of the conflict. We must alter this strategic equation.

4) David Moyes has lost his first game in charge of Manchester United. It's a shame, but this game was largely irrelevant. I'm confident that Moyes will be a highly successful manager for Britain's biggest club. Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to the start of the Premier League season in a month's time. With Pellegrini at Manchester City, Mourinho back at Chelsea and Fulham under ownership of a major investor, this should be an exciting year of soccer. The battle for the top four spots will be fierce; from my perspective, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham (and of course Everton!) all have a good opportunity to reach the Champions League.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Immigration Reform, Intelligence, DoD, Hijackings.

A few thoughts this morning...

1) House Republicans are making an awful mistake on immigration reform. I get and respect that many members of the Republican caucus oppose the Senate's immigration bill. That's fair enough. But to simply offer intransigent opposition without response would be terrible mistake. It would play to Democratic caricatures of the GOP as a party that has no interest in governing. It would reinforce negative perceptions of the GOP in the eyes of Hispanic Americans. Most of all, it would represent a stunning neglect of the ultimate responsibility of elected officials to govern. There can be no doubt that America's immigration system is broken. It deserves and requires resolution. Yet, I fear that in much the same way as was the case with health care reform, by ceding the debate, Republicans will also effectively cede control over the contours of immigration reform. This will lead to the worst possible outcome - open borders, unfettered amnesty and a tremendous political defeat for the GOP brand. House Republicans need to listen to conservatives like Paul Ryan.

2) Members of Congress are complaining that the Intelligence Community regularly obfuscate their reports to the intelligence oversight committees. This is nothing new (see The Deep State). Yet, it's open airing speaks to a dysfunction at the heart of the US Government. Many intelligence professionals simply do not believe that politicians can be trusted to make objective decisions on the merits of particular intelligence operations. As a result, they do their utmost to sell those programs in uncontroversial ways. Don't get me wrong, misleading Congress is absolutely unacceptable and where it occurs, it must now stop. Nevertheless, Congress bears responsibility for its shifting rhetoric on the constitution of appropriate intelligence activities.

3) I share Chuck Hagel's concern over the looming impact of the sequester on the US Military. Unfortunately, until Democrats accept the inevitability of major entitlement reform, the prospects of an appropriate defense resolution are very low. It's stunning to me that liberals still refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue over entitlements. The numbers speak for themselves. In the interim however, it's crucial that Hagel resists efforts by President Obama to play politics with the sequester (a preference for which Obama has previously shown significant sympathy). For one example, it makes no sense that USN/USAF fighter squadrons are seeing degraded readiness. We should be closing bases before degrading our power projection capabilities.

4) A new book on air hijackings has been released. The author covers the 'epidemic' in hijackings that afflicted the world in the 1960s/70s. Of course, things have since changed. The threat of suicide hijackings and the rise in politically motivated attacks (especially by Palestinian affiliated terrorist organizations) forced western governments to develop highly trained counter-terrorism capabilities. For example, the United States lead agency for plane focused hostage rescues is ACE (aka Delta Force). Combined with greatly improved airport security efforts, the ability to respond to and effectively resolve hijackings has meant that air travel is now substantially safer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Walmart Wars

Corporations must manage costs in ways that enable a long term competitive edge. It's in this context that Walmart's threat to withdraw plans to establish in DC is understandable. Walmart is concerned by the DC Council's intention to impose a $12.50 minimum wage requirement against them. The Council's political objective is clear. Walmart has always been deeply unpopular with left wing politicians - they see the business as willfully ignorant of worker interests. However, from my perspective, this issue speaks to a fundamental failing of liberal intransigents - they're more interested in their own ideology than they are in providing jobs and affordable products. In this case, 1,800 jobs would be created by Walmart. Yet, this obstructionism is nothing new, last year, New York Unions prevented Walmart from establishing in that city. I've always believed that modern Unions are an enemy to the common interest rather than an ally. They weaken the middle class, they damage job prospects and they exist to use monopoly power to enrich their select class of members. Theirs is a stunning arrogance - rewarding the few at the cost of the many.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Conservatives should support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Speaking on Fox News yesterday, Rush Limbaugh declared that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be resolved only when ''one side surrendered''; for Limbaugh at least, Kerry's peace efforts are a waste of time. I strongly disagree with this assessment. Instead, I think there are four important reasons why the pursuit of peace deserves the support of American conservatives.

1) National Security - Resolving this conflict is a critical interest of American national security. The continued suffering of the Palestinian people (both real and perceived) feeds anti-American extremism around the world and in so, helps to weaken the position of regional pro-American moderates like President Abbas. Islamic extremists thrive in the well of absent justice. As numerous national security officials have stated, a durable peace deal would serve American interests in crucial ways. This isn't left wing hyperbole, rather it's the analysis of top military thinkers like Gen. Petraeus

Those who argue in implicit support for perpetual conflict are either willfully delusional or poorly informed. Or both.

2) Diplomacy - The US Secretary of State's primary responsibility is to advance the cause of American diplomacy. Peace building efforts have always been a central component of this effort. Let's cut the BS. There's simply no reason why the US Government cannot manage the Egyptian crisis whilst also advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Since when have conservatives favored an America that seeks only to manage events, rather than taking an active, positive stake in shaping them? If we believe in global leadership our global efforts cannot exist in a 9-5 mentality.

3) Legitimacy - In another regard, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays an intimate role in shaping delusional understandings of both America and Israel. These false conceptions of truth serve to weaken our voice in the Islamic world and beyond. A durable peace deal would empower the US with a newly perceived legitimacy on a range of other diplomatic issues - engendering further co-operation on counter-terrorism for example. Our influence would grow.

4) Israel - American conservatives (myself included) have always regarded Israel as an important ally. But we do no service to our friends if we lack the courage of boldness. Again, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would greatly advance the interests of the Israeli people. From trade to security, peace would empower Israeli society. Though some like to claim that Israel's security wall has won the Israeli people a secure future, the facts speak to another reality. For years, successive Israeli Prime Ministers (including Netanyahu) have entertained serious compromises in pursuit of peace. They recognize that a lasting deal is crucial for Israel's security.

Let me be clear, I'm not advocating that Israel make all the concessions - Palestinian reciprocity must be equally forthcoming and energetic (and Palestinian recognition of Israel's Jewish existence is obviously non-negotiable). Nor am I blind to the nature of Israel's enemies - Hamas are anti-Semitic totalitarians and the Lebanese Hizballah are anti-democratic thugs. These enemies will not cease to exist when a peace deal is eventually signed. However, they will be weakened. 

In the end, I firmly believe that by using the existing negotiating templates of Camp David 2000 and Olmert 2008 (which have addressed numerous issues of contention: right of return, West Bank, water etc.), a just peace is reachable. Peace is always a noble ambition worthy of our support.