ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s Cool Under Pressure:
Mr. Tyrrell’s article “Cool Under Pressure” rightly compliments the Bush administration for holding firm alongside Israel in its legitimate fight against Hezbollah. Yet both the Israelis and the Bush administration fail to see that this noble effort, like the effort of the U.S. in Iraq, like the efforts of the international community in Afghanistan, will all fail unless we see and address the root problem in the Middle East.
As long as the terrorist tyrannies in Syria and Iran are free to support the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon, not to mention Hamas in the Palestinian territories, there will be continual war in this region. Further, as long as Syria on the west and Iran on the east, are allowed to resupply the insurgencies in Iraq, the U.S. will eventually fail in that country. Even the situation in Afghanistan is now deteriorating, thanks to increasing efforts by Iran in helping various insurgent groups, including the Taliban.
I wonder how long the West, and especially the U.S., will continue to tolerate this outrage. Until Iran is a nuclear power? That would be the summit of foolishness.
— R. L. Markley
St. Martin du Mont, France
CONSERVATIVES AND IRAQ
Re: Neal B. Freeman’s NR Goes to War:
Thank you so much for publishing Neal Freeman’s excellent article, “NR Goes to War,” on your website today. I was delighted to see the article in your print edition, and am even more delighted to see it get more exposure on the web. How refreshing to read an article that reminds us that George W. Bush ran for President on a platform that promised “(1) that the U.S. would not act as the world’s policeman; (2) that the U.S. would be humble before the nations of the world; and (3) that the U.S. would not engage in nation-building,” and that “Taken together, these three planks added up to a conventionally conservative approach.” The Wilsonian warmongering that seems to characterize the worldview of so many self-described conservatives these days does not fit into any version of genuine conservatism that I’m familiar with, and its application in practice has not produced very impressive results, to put it mildly. I hope that the Spectator will continue to feature pieces like Mr. Freeman’s, and provide a forum for debate on foreign policy in particular. For starters, the Spectator might want to revisit their cover story on Senator Chuck Hagel, whose sin in the eyes of some conservatives was to suggest that an invasion of Iraq might not produce heaven on earth in that unfortunate country, much less enhance America’s standing in the world. There are other conservative writers — your own Doug Bandow for one — who can also bring useful balance to the foreign policy discussion in your pages. At any rate, thanks for giving the Freeman piece a wider audience today.
— Catherine Windels
Unlike Mr. Freeman, I am not an erudite highly educated East Coast person of great renown. I have not sat in parlors and listened to great people spout great ideas and then written about them. I am just a rancher, a wife of a retired military LTC., and the mother of an AF Pilot, a Captain. I worked to read the NR piece at 6 a.m. then got to the bottom and thought, how vacuous.
It isn’t the great thinkers who give us freedom. And some of us said, when our children went to fight in a war far away, that it wasn’t over till we took care of Iran. Even a rancher knows we couldn’t fight Iran without taking the country next to it. Proximity is everything. And I am not a brilliant thinker but I am a mother whose children were nearly kidnapped by a terrorist group while we lived in a foreign country years ago. And even then I knew that someday when the terrorists attacked us here in the U.S. that we’d better hit back with such ferocity that we left fear in the hearts of those who struck out at us. Terrorists only understand terror…so give it back to them in such degree that fear is left deep within those who survive.
When the first talk was of al Qaeda most Americans knew the real enemy was radical Islam…wherever it resided. There is no reasoning with these kind of folks and certainly you don’t give them anything and then expect them NOT to do something harmful. These radicals are like sociopaths without a guiding conscience, except they are willing to die for their goals. For the American soldiers fighting for our freedom to do as we choose, it is their opinions that count in this mother’s heart, not that of well bred folks back in New England who live with elite notions.
So, it isn’t over till it’s over. Despite hearings yesterday and notions that it is taking too long to win and we should bring the soldiers home now, this will be a tough slog and will last many years. The election in the fall will determine people’s will and whether we will ultimately lose. This war on terrorism is a war between two cultures, the culture of death and oppression and the culture of life and freedom. And that is about as erudite as this mother can be this early hour!
— Beverly Gunn, rancher and proud mother of someone serving
The article you published by Neal Freeman “NR Goes to War” paints an inaccurate picture of the NR point of view. In explicitly saying that the U.S. did not make a solid case that Saddam had WMD based on intelligence, Neal is correct. The problem is that Neal implies that the U.S. did have intelligence suggesting that Saddam did not have WMD. This is false. After the Cold War U.S. intelligence capabilities were severely degraded — especially human “men on the ground” intelligence.
Did the U.S. have solid intelligence that Saddam had WMDs? No.
Did the U.S. have solid intelligence that Saddam did not have WMDs? No.
This is because we did not have solid intelligence concerning the matter at all — and this is what Neal conveniently obfuscates in his article and it paints a false picture.
In addition the tone of his article is really condescending and belittling of the NR folks. The NR people are cut from the same cloth the Spectator people are cut from and their causes align 90% of the time. To take a cheap shot at them like this is infuriating and you should be embarrassed you as an editor allowed this article to print without accurately representing their point of view — indeed intentionally misrepresenting it. You should print another article explaining their case in an unbiased manner.
Finally — all the circumstantial evidence points to Saddam having WMDs! (his brother-in-law defecting, their declared amounts of gas versus how much they said they destroyed, obstructing inspectors, etc.)
— Patrick Brown
I would like to add one legitimate reason for invading Iraq put forth by President Bush following 9/11. Harboring terrorists, and sponsoring terrorism. The President said quite simply that there would be no distinction between the terrorists, and the country, or countries that harbor them. Iraq was quite legitmately a terrorist haven, and therefore quite legitimately a target for the full force of the U.S. military. Those looking to politicize the war point not only to the fact that no caches of WMD were found, they also look to disassociate Iraq from the war on terror, by suggesting disingenuously that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism.
— Dennis Genetski
Mr. Freeman strikes me as a constructive critic with a benevolent purpose (aside from some childishness here and there), in stark contrast to the way leftists behave, even among themselves (i.e., toward Lieberman).
If his basic claim is that his colleagues shot their arrow first, then engaged in painting a bull’s-eye around it (and brushed out Mr. Novak in the process), fine. But are any of those four points really in his favor? Two can be disputed outright; the other two, on the validity of the premises behind them. Perhaps Mr. Freeman has his own arrows to shoot and his own can of paint, and does not see it.
What Mr. Freeman seems utterly unable to see are the larger philosophical principles that made war against Saddam Hussein a reasonable proposition (so long as it’s not the last step). Since he said with some pride that he helped rid National Review of “Randians,” there is one clue as to why.
— Scott Clarke
Re: Jed Babbin’s Israel as George Bush:
I must take some exception to the commonplace, recited again in these pages by Mr. Babbin, which holds that the people of Lebanon are powerless to suppress the Party of God’s armed forces. This notion seems to have insinuated itself into the list of givens — sort of like “jobs Americans won’t do.” It doesn’t withstand even casual scrutiny.
I would remind everyone that the residents of Lebanon, in their several confessional and political aggregates, have demonstrated astounding ferocity in combat with one another since 1976. They have managed to kill nearly 185,000 of themselves in their civil conflict, this in a population of less than 4 million. The civil war period provides ample evidence of the extraordinary ability of the private sector in Lebanon to procure weapons, including heavy weapons, and to recruit, train and operate combat forces in all environments in that country. The people of Lebanon have amply demonstrated their courage, capabilities, and willingness to sacrifice in advancing their political and social aims through some of the most ferocious combat seen in the Middle East.
We are left to conclude that the only thing that has kept them from confronting Hizb Allah is a lack of the desire to do so. Hizb Allah has grown into the golem it is today because the people of Lebanon, in the aggregate, chose to allow this to happen.
Yes, the people of Lebanon made a choice. They decided they preferred the consequences of not confronting Hizb Allah to the confrontation itself. Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Shi’a, Sunni, Druze — each day that passed without one or more of these confessional sectors acting with traditional Lebanese force against Hizb Allah was a day in which the national consensus was acceptance of the consequences that organization’s presence and growing pre-eminence would surely bring.
The bill has now come due, delivered, inevitably, by Israel. The weeping and wailing over the destruction of civil infrastructure in Lebanon seems quite disingenuous: the Lebanese thought it was more important to construct the famous bridges and roads than to invest in sovereignty and the rule of law. They are now, perhaps, less convinced of the wisdom of that investment strategy. Perhaps their priorities were a little off.
— Paul Kotik
COSTS OF COWARDICE
Re: Quin Hillyer’s Europe’s Duty:
The real danger of the unwillingness of Western Europe to actively participate in the war on terrorism is not that Islamic terrorists will somehow prevail. They won’t.
No, rather it’s that the cowardliness of Europe (and the Democratic Party) will be mistaken as a permanent feature of Western civilization, and that such a reading will lead to overconfidence in our enemies. This will cause the terrorist to overreach — an overreach that will cost lives but shake Europe out of its slumber. It will also provoke American to finally take the gloves off.
Then, the terrorists and their state sponsors will unapologetically get the Curtis LeMay treatment. Collateral damage will be viewed as an unfortunate but necessary cost of war, and Islam will not longer be protected by political correctness. And complaints to the contrary will be will be met, at the mildest, with shoulder shrugs.
Too bad. Because if Europe (and the Democratic Party) were firmer against Islamic terrorism from the start, a lot of unnecessary bloodshed could be avoided, and Islam could have been civilized by carrots rather than the stick.
— Peter Skurkiss
Re: Chris Edwards’s Government Waste Disclosure:
Mr. Edwards article on the proposal by Sen. Coburn is much needed publicity for a good idea. I would only add that, unless the database proposed by Sen. Coburn identifies the Senator and/or Congressman proposing and/or sponsoring the spending item, it will have accomplished little. Individual spending items, such as earmarks, will never be controlled unless they can be EASILY tied to individual Congressmen. That is the only kind of sunshine that will clean out that dark corner of legislative excess.
— Ken Shreve
This paragraph presents a problem:
One shortcoming of existing databases is that they often don’t show the ultimate recipients of subsidies. They may show that a city received federal money for “community development,” but not reveal which private groups ultimately received the cash. Coburn’s legislation would fix this problem and create a simpler and more comprehensive system.
Here’s one way we can reveal who the ultimate recipients for federal largess are:
Since the receipt of such large amounts of cash requires some form of application and background check (one hopes), recipient candidates should be signing a confidentiality waiver regarding the recipient’s name. Whoever signs for the money is open to disclosure. Nixing certain details like SS numbers being one of a few exceptions for “privacy.” If a city/municipality or a private recipient wants the cash to dole out, they have to have the “applicants” fill out waivers to get the dough.
When applying for a mortgage or equity line, Americans are required to “lay it all out there” in order to be approved. Mortgages and equity lines of credit are recorded by the counties and states and become part of the public record, along with the names of the recipients. Why should those benefiting from federal largess be any different?
— P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan
I am not going to spend hours going through zillions of government giveaways. The whole idea of representative government is not having to do that. It is up to the citizen to fix what is broken about representative government by failing to return the earmark specialist. This list will only be used to justify more giveaways. They got theirs so where is ours?
The intrusion of relativism into government now makes it seem perfectly sane to say that one person’s wasteful program is another person’s idea of an investment in the future. Define “waste” in a way that even a Kennedy would understand it and use it to produce better legislation. Then you might have a chance to do something. Stop defining success by the amount of money that is spent.
It might be more helpful to define some no-go zones. We don’t seem to have any. When everything is permitted, then everything is expected. The best rule I have heard lately was, “If you can’t do it for everyone, you can’t do it for anyone.”
— Danny L. Newton
Just make sure and come back here with the link to this website when it is up and running. I am sure the MSM will keep it under wraps. This is an idea that is long past due.
Another excellent website is www.numbersusa.com if you want to see what is going on about illegal immigration.
— Elaine Kyle
The database should be even more detailed than you suggest. What do you want to bet the subsidized liquor store and car wash in California were minority owned, which is how they qualified for the loans?
Re: Jay D. Homnick’s Cuban Misinformation Crisis:
The most constant misinformation published regarding Cuba over the last several days is the main stream media’s slew of headlines stating that the Cuban government had to allay the concerns of the populace that Fidel was deathly ill.
In reality, the government was working overtime pressuring and threatening the populace to keep them from celebrating too soon, while Fidel was still
— John Bryk
In the words of someone who I cannot sadly remember : “It seems the announcements of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
More to the point, though, I was thinking that perhaps NOW is a good time to remove the embargo on Cuba and let American business lead the way towards not only economic reforms there but true political ones as well.
Jay, when you take up your proverbial pen to propound your profundity, do you rely upon a reference book on Jewish humor, a good memory, or maybe create these diamonds of wit yourself? Call 911, I’ve fallen (laughing) and can’t get up.
— Mike Showalter
BAY OF JFK
Re: Jorge Amador Cuba’s Unfinished Revolution and Jay D. Homnick’s Cuban Misinformation Crisis:
In the immediate aftermath of the passing of the reins of power in Cuba, commentator, humorist and frequent American Spectator contributor Jay D. Homnick attempts to provoke laughter by ridiculing Castro. By way of contrast, Havana born Pennsylvania resident freelance writer and commercial translator Jorge Amador laments Cuba’s “Unfinished Revolution,” the responsibility for which he lays at Castro’s feet.
What neither mentions is the primary source of our long standing Castro problem, one that has now spanned ten presidents.
Despite much nauseating swooning 45 years ago — on the part of our so called “dominant,” charisma-bedazzled “news” media — over the worst president we ever elected, John Fitzgerald Kennedy bears the full load of direct responsible for the dog’s breakfast made of U.S. foreign policy in this hemisphere of which Castro is but one lingering, putrescent reminder.
Barely two months had passed after Kennedy made his boyishly enthusiastic and much lauded inauguration pledge on January 20, 1961 to “go anywhere, bear any burden” when he cowered like a frightened cur and slunk with tail between legs away from our pledged commitment to provide air cover to the people we had trained at what became known as the “Bay of Pigs Debacle.” In that instant of gutless, hesitant cowardice under pressure, JKF did not just fold like wet newspaper, but abandoned a century and a half of the integrity of the Monroe Doctrine in our hemisphere.
In that same instant, a suddenly rejoicing Nikita Khrushchev knew — KNEW beyond ANY shadow of doubt — he was dealing with a loudmouth, smart-assed, punk kid in WAY over his head, an immature wastrel who had let his alligator mouth vastly overload his hummingbird lift capacity. From that moment on, Khrushchev implemented decisions to put Soviet MRBM’s in Cuba — at our doorstep 90 miles off Key West with nuclear targeting coverage over the entire Southeastern United States — and to wall off Berlin to stem the flood of those fleeing the drab realities of the “workers’ paradise.” Khrushchev anticipated JFK would posture and grumble, but reckoned (accurately) that the Boy Prez lacked the stones to actually do anything about it.
Two and a half years after Kennedy’s cowardice carried the day for Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, the chickens came home to roost in a way that almost got us incinerated in a full-up arsenal exchange with the Soviets. In October 1962 JKF again folded. This time he cut a secret back channel deal with the Soviets that the U.S. would quietly pull ITS missiles out of Europe and promise NEVER EVER — but NEVER — to even THINK about invading Cuba. Khrushchev accepted the deal, made an unverified (and unverifiable) promise to pull his nuke birds out of Cuba and allowed JFK to issue smarmy, butt covering press releases (uncritically accepted by our “news” media) that claimed — entirely falsely — that “the other guy blinked.”
Having thus been given an unmistakable green light from the White House after the bare knuckles opposition of the Eisenhower years, Communist insurgencies around the globe geared up for a full throttle tempo of operations in “wars of liberation” that sprang up like weeds, one in particular in a hitherto little known place called Vietnam, confident that America was nothing but a paper tiger. Having publicly humiliated America in Cuba (twice), Berlin, Laos and Tibet, Kennedy foolishly thought a “splendid little war” in Vietnam fought on the cheap was just the ticket to restore his image as a serious player abroad while keep a fawning American press corps lapping at White House Press Room milk saucers like fat, content tabby cats.
Indeed so distressed was Kennedy to learn that RVN President Ngo Dinh Diem was planning to open independent talks with Hanoi aimed at lowering the hostilities, that Mr. Charisma had Diem “terminated with extreme prejudice.” Madam Nhu, wife of a brother in law also slain in the bloodletting unleashed by Kennedy, (uncharitably slugged by our “news” media as The Dragon Lady) swore revenge on Kennedy. Within a matter of weeks, Kennedy was indeed assassinated. Somehow the vast media hyped conspiracy industry that has bloomed like poison fungus over the last four decades has managed to “overlook” this particular sequence of events.
In any event, the black wall on the DC Mall with the names of almost 60,000 American dead etched in gold is a sobering reminder of the price that so many must pay when we voters screw up by sending a boy into the Oval Office to do a man’s job.
In his subsequent, desperate directives to CIA to come up with plans to kill Castro, a clearly humiliated John (“don’t get mad, get even”) Kennedy surely became a laughingstock within the inner circles of our Communist adversaries. The ONLY result of Kennedy’s comic book directives (probably based on Ian Fleming’s imagined antics of his entirely fictional spy/hero, James Bond that so impressed our shallow 35th president) were subsequent efforts by Congressional Democrats in the 1970s to cover the tracks of their icon, lest the shameful truth emerge: the Pike Committee in the House and Church Committee in the Senate both piously concluded it was all CIA’s fault for attempting to carry out half-vast assassination directives issued during the Kennedy/Johnson years. Congressional Democrats dutifully rallied to the cause and publicly stoned CIA as a “rogue bureaucracy” when in truth what we had had for one thousand miserable days early in the previous decade was a rogue president…a degenerate gutless misfit who left a wretched trail of death, shame, defeat and destruction in his wake that lasted more than a generation.
On balance and regardless of when Fidel Castro finally assumes room temperature, Americans are damned lucky to have survived Kennedy.
— Thomas E. Stuart
PILLARS OF WISDOM
Re: Neal B. Freeman’s NR Goes to War and Quin Hillyer’s Europe’s Duty:
These are personally compelling articles, on a number of levels.
The other night I revisited Casablanca as I am wont to do every few years. The scenes in Rick’s Cafe of European refugees of many nationalities and all walks of life resisting the Nazis and the infamous Major Strasser, the singing of the French anthem by all to drown out the German, still stirs the heart and mind. Old Europe. Old ideas. Old sentiments. Old unity. Good versus evil, defeat evil. Yes Hollywood, but at a time when they got it right and understood the threat of fascism as did my parents’ generation. Rick and the French Capt. walking off to join together in the fight. How the world has truly changed. How has Europe sunk to such a morass of defeatism, relativism and ultimately, looming capitulation to Islamofascism?
WFB still gives me pause for intense thought after being introduced to him through hand me down copies of NR in the early seventies. This thought process holds true today and applies to many NR writers through the subsequent years. Suffice to say, without NR and WFB I would not be conservative of thought; admitting a little libertarian streak. This esteemed gentleman has been kind to me in signing a couple of first editions. I would have loved to sail with him and partake of his wit and knowledge.
Mr. Freeman’s article gives a little insight into the interior of NR. Interesting. He speaks of WMDs. I would ask his thoughts on the recent revelation of over 500 chemical artillery shells found in Iraq. I would ask his thoughts on reports of truck convoys out of Iraq into Syria prior to our second invasion.
Mr. Freeman mentions T.E. Lawrence a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia and his comments on the creation of Iraq after WW I. Again, back to Hollywood. Lawrence of Arabia is still a pretty good depiction of WW I in the Middle East against the Ottoman Empire and the aftermath. After seeing it in my teens when it first came out it led me to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, given to me by my paternal grandmother. A very difficult and plodding read for a late teen. I go back to it occasionally and from it I glean Lawrence’s thoughts on what Europe was going to do and did with the Middle East. Let’s say he was not in total agreement.
After WW I this area became a European responsibility, they drew the borders, they created the countries. After WW II it was still their responsibility but being drained economically and in manpower they let it all slide in our direction. I suggest we call upon them to clean up the mess they created.
— Jim Woodward
Re: Clinton Taylor’s Braveheart’s Tequila Sunrise:
After all his “Passion” protestations, for Gibson to go on a full-blown anti-Semitic tirade whilst sitting handcuffed in a cop car is both hilarious and revealing. And Gibson’s statement, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” is pure anti-Semitic gold.
I doubt that alcohol turns someone into a multiple personality (or in Gibson’s case, a paranoid schizophrenic). What Gibson actually said probably crossed his mind long before it went out his mouth. Most likely numerous times even, given that he seemed obsessed on the subject.
— Patty E.
P.S. The station sheriffs have said (unofficially) that Gibson wasn’t all that drunk when he was hauled in, so it seems Gibson’s rant was indeed just a case (pun intended!) of “in vino veritas!” (It’s certainly true that a 0.12 alcohol reading isn’t high. Not long ago the legal limit in California was 0.10.) This tends to mitigate against your article’s forgiving theories.