Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dithering at the fork

Yogi Berra once said "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." After the rank absurdity of transforming two options into one passes, the road and the split suggest something about the inevitability of events in life. We must choose a road and go forward. Time permits no other option. We can try to go back the way we came, but since we have already travelled this road, the view can't help but be different however similar we may think it is or wish it to be.

Like the road and the fork in it, we like to think nothing is certain in life, but death and taxes, inuring ourselves to the constant fragile flux that compromises human existence. However, there are a good many other things that present themselves as inevitable. We like to think that we have free will, self -determination and such, but channels of thought and conditioning run long and deep.

Take the current situation with the Iranian Nuclear standoff and Barrack Obamas' response to it. Even with the Iranian government lying about its' nuclear program, the President wants a relationship based on "mutual respect." Why anyone would want to respect such a bunch of flagrant deceivers seems rather mysteriously masochistic. You are just asking for more abuse. Unfortunately, this diplomatic dance with Iran is nothing novel as a return to the Presidency of James Earl Carter shows.

Let us return to those dejected days of the Carter Presidency. In the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis, President Carter said to the Iranians "The people of the United States desire to have relations with Iran based on equality, mutual respect, and friendship." [italics mine] Then Carter "approved of the the establishment of a UN commission to investigate American iniquities against Iran. Of course, the Iranians flung that back in his face. In fact, this actually was Carter meeting a demand of the kidnappers. Earlier, "[kidnappers] insisted that the president apologize for a long list American crimes against the Iranian people, beginning with the overthrow of Mossadegh."

Wait. Didn't Barrack Obama just apologize for U.S. involvement in overthrowing Mossadegh in his recent Cairo speech? Apologizing to Iran today is just as ineffective as it was in 1979. Barrack seems to believe that craven banter with this same regime will bear some kind of diplomatic fruit. This man rooted in the "fierce urgency of now" seems completely oblivious to the past history of relations with Iran.

Also, the rather limp wristed condemnation of Iran at the G-20 in Pittsburgh, highlights a leader with seemingly little cooperation with his allies. When chastising Iran, the French and British leaders both had much stronger words than Obama. Perhaps this mousy public performance was inadvertent. Whatever the intention, the effect is unmistakable. Obama seems wholly reticent about confronting Iran. In this episode, Obama bears all the hallmarks of a weak and inexperienced leader dithering before making a big decision.

Barrack Obama, man of deadlines, (health care, Gitmo, though now ditched) seems to have none when it comes to stopping Iran get nuclear weapons. It also appears the Iranians see this fickle trait in Obama. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Ali Akbar Salehi said of the U.S. /European denouncing Iran secret plant, "Their embarrassing reaction and their unbalanced response has shocked us." This faux outrage is part of the familiar U.S./Iran diplomatic dance. After the Iranians hoodwink the U.S. at the upcoming negotiations in Geneva, Obama will either crow about some toothless agreement the Iranians have signed or try to push sanctions the Europeans probably won't back. Either way Tehran wins by gaining more time to work on the bomb.

So what did Jimmy do? As talks endlessly dragged on, Carter had reached a critical point in the negotiations with hostage takers. The Iranians were completely uncooperative. Since an offer of admission of American "crimes" didn't bring about the desired result, Carter finally acted. "He severed ties with Tehran, froze its American assets and prohibited the import of Iranian oil into the United States. Proposals for imposing a broader boycott on Iran failed to gain international support, however, even from the Europeans." We know that these actions also had no effect on the radical Muslim government in Iran, which led to the disastrous rescue attempt code named Operation Eagle Claw.

In a parallel way today, Obama and the Europeans simply have no leverage of a threatening nature with Iran . And without a stick, a carrot is simply a morsel to be stolen without further care by the thief. Even at this late date the carrot is still available for the taking. As the Washington Post reports (Iran pressured over new plant) "As an inducement for cooperation, the United States and other powers have offered economic and diplomatic incentives if Iran reins in its nuclear ambitions." So Obama is reduced to the role of an almost comic salesman begging the Iranians to take the deal for cash, clout or maybe even a NEW CAR!!! (GM of course)

This bribe strategy is familiar too. Remember the framework agreement negotiated with North Korea in 1992 to get rid of their budding nuclear weapons program. That payoff that failed was negotiated by none other than Jimmy Carter. North Korea got two light water reactors and 500,000 tons of oil per year all free, courtesy of Uncle Sam. That really worked didn't it? And now North Korea is a nuclear parts supplier to Iran.

This really shows one rather blatant theme of Democratic foreign policy: the bribe. At one point during difficult negotiations during the Vietnam War, LBJ turned to an aide said "Can't we just buy Ho Chi Minh a dam or something?" The habits of machine politics run deep, even into the arena of foreign policy. Unfortunately, these methods don't translate well abroad because these recipients of cash, unlike domestic money grubbers never vote and can't do much for those who do. After all, the cash or favor leaves the United States and contact with the recipient after this usually revolves around one sentence: send more money.

The nuclear standoff with Iran will follow the same path. After much posturing, Obama will try the payoff as well. He'll dress it up as artful, very slow diplomacy in an attempt to forestall an Israeli attack. If the Iranians test a bomb before the talks have ended, then the military option may be off the table entirely and it's hello nuclear blackmail. If they are still some way off to a bomb, the Iranians may even take the cash and fabulous parting gifts and all sides are happy. The Iranians continue work on the bomb, Obama nominates himself for the Nobel Peace Prize and Israel is left facing the nuts working on nukes. Like the Czechs in 1938, Israel faces the threat directly and is being treated as little more than a bargaining chip by Obama doing his best Neville Chamberlain imitation. At the fork, Obama will choose baksheesh over force and it probably won't even slow down the Iranians quest for a bomb.

But what would Jimmy do? Let go back one last time. It is the end of the Carter Presidency. The hostage crisis has effectively brought down a president. Defeated in the election of 1980 by a gaping margin of 440 electoral votes, Carter had one duty left: the payoff. Thus, " he offered to pay the modern form of tribute by unfreezing Iranian bank accounts in the United States and indemnifying Iran from future lawsuits by the prisoners. Temporarily pacified, the Iranians ended their captives' 444-day incarceration . . ."

The payoff is coming. So watch for it. I think another Yogiism is due here. "It's like deja vu all over again."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A fear of our own

At his first (of four!) inaugurations Franklin Roosevelt said " The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." This phrase has become trite, it has been used so many times. Today we have "No fear!" T-Shirts and such as a modern distillation of this idea. Personally, I much prefer the way H.L. Mencken captured the paralysis of fear. For he said "People don't do things because they are either lazy or afraid." Wisdom or intelligence don't enter the inaction equation for him.

On the other hand, fear can be a great motivator. It can be a psychic canary in the mental coal mine squawking and therefore spurring an immediate response. Part of why I am typing this is fear of something I haven't ever seen before in America. As John Adams stated in such succinct fashion "America is a nation of laws, not men." So the arbitrary nature of party, sect, religion or other condition should play no role in how justice is found. The fear I have today is that those who charged with upholding the law are under constant open and subtle attack by those hold political office.

The Attorney General has decided to launch an investigation into the CIA and their treatment of guerrilla soldiers, like Khalid Shiek Mohammed. That people at the CIA will now have to fight a legal battle as well as catch and kill terrorists seems unimportant to this insipid individual. But then this is a man who called America "A nation of cowards" If the dead could rise from Bunker Hill, Antietam, Omaha Beach, the Chosin Reservoir, or Hue, I shudder to think what would happen to Eric Holder. At the very least, they would teach him to gaze into the mirror if he wished to see a coward.

Perhaps if he would like a living example he could look up the author of the book cited here and ask him how someone from "a nation of cowards" gets to be a Navy Seal; how someone from "a nation of cowards" does his duty in the face of harsh terrain, an utterly fanatical enemy and with loved ones so very far away; and how someone from "a nation of cowards" fights for people who traffic in lies and willingly lays down life so those same people have the right to despise him.

I doubt the Attorney General will venture outside the rarefied circles of the anointed liberal elite, but as the crowds of the events of 9/12 have shown, the "nation of cowards" seems more than willing to come to Washington D.C. to engage him and his master. Why? Because they have a fear that America is irreversibly turning into a cesspool of lies, corruption and, yes, cowardice. The lies of a health care takeover that is full of "details that are to be ironed out later" when no one is looking. The corruption of elected officials serving for life and if they do happen to leave before death, pocketing millions in campaign cash contributions on the way out the door. The cowardice of a president too afraid to even specifically name the Muslim murderers in an op-ed piece on the 9/11 massacre. He referred to it once as an attack and twice as a tragedy, and nothing more. Then he called for a "day of service . . . .on this day and every day." What does a horrific massacre have to do with picking up trash?

This weasel maneuver to dumb down 9/11 is loathsome as it is clever. It weakens the spirit of America by diluting the memory of our sacred dead. "Never forget" is a slogan seen in regards to 9/11, but the President would have us ditch a piece of ourselves for some recycling project. Talk about your green jobs. Is it any wonder Van Jones, the former green jobs czar signed a petition to twist 9/11 into some insanely foul inside job?

While those who perished on 9/11 by the hands of jihadist killers and those who took up arms to avenge them, occupy the most cherished place in the heart of America, for all those heroes, there are the silent or almost hidden ones as well. They are the men and women who don't have to be called to serve "every day" because they have already chosen to do so by enforcing the laws of this land.

Sadly, even these people are sandbagged by this administration. President Obama chastised a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer for "acting stupidly" in the arrest of a Harvard professor, who verbally harangued the officer. The charges were mysteriously dropped. Now a national commission has been set up to investigate this incident and, of course, the police officer involved. This attempt to provide, one more race card for Obama is all the more disgusting, since it trashes the reputation of a man that by all accounts (save the arrested Harvard professor) is a fine police officer. One thing about Barrack Obama solidly on display is his ambition, It is absolutely ruthless. Trashing the men and women who serve and support the laws of this country proves it.

For a president and his minions to attack, the CIA, local police and then call everyone else in the country gutless shows where we're headed. This president of ours is young and quite used to getting his own way. His rigid attitude may have worked as a state senator, but such an attitude at this lofty post will cripple him. The attacks on this group or that are to be expected on a man weaned on identity politics. Even the moronic decision to spark a trade war with China by slapping tariffs on tires can be seen as pleasing to some union and quite predictable. Attack someone to please someone else. Of course, the people made to suffer will be other businesses like poultry or cars that feel the wrath of Chinese retaliatory tariffs.

When you attack Americans keeping the peace here and around the globe, you've made a colossal political blunder. You may have pleased Bill Ayes, Rev. Wright or Van Jones, but that just shows a president pandering to the fringe. Such pandering on this level is an invitation to a world of political hurt as most Americans are obviously not radical revolutionaries. To be fair, attack is the usual mode of operation for any radical revolutionary and part of our president seems to yearn immaturely for this tough guy mode. Others are watching and learning the patterns of this young and inexperienced leader.

To the world, the lesson is indisputable. an American President who will attack his own is a fool and will suffer a fools fate. Allies back away and enemies are emboldened. This is my fear. It comprises a fear that this President is undermining the laws of this country. It all starts by attacking our own.