American Elephants


A Question of Character. by The Elephant's Child

hillary clintonHillary’s greatest problem is that though she has a profound interest in politics, she has really lousy political instincts. That is a sense of the right thing to do and a sense for how one’s actions will appear to others. The Clinton administration was full of controversy, the travel office scandal erupted early, as did Hillary’s expectation of being Bill’s co-president.

What she learned instead was a defensiveness and self-protective attitude that led to lies and concealment. Bill had pretty good political instincts, and a good-old-boy, aw-shucks grin that served him pretty well. You would think that observing Lois Lerner and her e-mail scandal would have alerted Hillary to potential troubles, but instead it led her to have her own private server installed in her home. Secretiveness replaced openness. When you try to pretend openness as a protective pose — nobody believes you anyway. It’s too late.

Good political instincts would have prevented the whole catastrophe of Benghazi. Deposing Muammar Gaddafi, refusing security to the ambassadorial mission, denial of the nature of the terrorist attackers, refusing help to the embattled American contractors, and then the absurd attempt to blame it all on a short, dumb video, and then Hillary met the plane with the bodies returning to the United States, and assured mourning parents that they would get the guy who made the video.

Any careful read of Hillary’s history should prevent her from ever being considered as “the first woman president” which seems to be her aim. I don’t accept the idea of first of this sex, first of this ethnicity, first of this color. That is not what is important about a person’s qualifications, but rather their accomplishments and their character. Can we trust them with high office? Do they have a good understanding of American history and character? Do they have a good mind? Do they have good political instincts?  Trust it to the Left to always put the emphasis on the wrong things.



Iran Proceeds Resolutely On It’s Way, Ignoring the Talks. by The Elephant's Child

AP080923010567 Iran on Sunday unveiled their new cruise missile that it claimed would extend the Islamic Republic’s potential range to 2,500 kilometers, placing cities like Budapest, Warsaw and Athens within striking difference. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles are not part of the nuclear talks with Iran, we are told. Tehran has refused to include their growing missile-development program as part of the negotiations. It is not any part of the deal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us last week in his speech to Congress.

The Soumar missile, as it is known in Iran, is a copy of the Soviet Kh-55 which was stolen from the Ukraine in 2001 and apparently reverse engineered in Iran. It flies at low altitude and is thus hard for radar to detect. The payload is reportedly in the 200-kilogram range, not yet capable of delivering a nuclear device. It does, however raise the question of U.S. plans to station missile defense systems in Europe. Russia has long contended that Iranian missiles threaten neither Europe nor the U.S.. This is an interesting development, if it was taken without Russian consent.

Back when he as a mere candidate, Barack Obama said that diplomacy with rogue regimes was an important issue “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them… is ridiculous,’ he declared in 2007. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he told Al-Arabiya. He has been so determined on a deal that he hasn’t let anything stand in the way — not Congress, not our allies, and especially not the facts.

Unfortunately, the State Department does not conduct after-action reports, forcing participants to confront their mistakes, like the Army does. The State Department has no clear metrics for such measurement. Michael Rubin notes that:

Too many American diplomats dismiss the need to consider mistakes. Instead, many are committed to the belief that talking is a cost-free, risk-free strategy. Testifying before the Senate in support of Obama’s outreach to Iran, Nicholas Burns, the second undersecretary of state for foreign affairs under George W. Bush, promised, “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail.”

We project our American understandings onto other countries with different cultures — who see entering into discussions as a weak response, and lifting the sanctions as complete surrender. Ignorance of an adversary’s true intentions can kill. Obama seems to believe that Iranians are reasonable people who really want the same things we do. Obama’s foolish rush into a deal with Iran would be disastrous.

Every U.S. administration has attempted to bring Iran into the family of nations in spite of its rhetoric and in spite of its actions. It’s hard for nations who yearn for peace to understand those that yearn for the apocalypse. In the  year before Obama agreed to talks with Iran, the Iranian economy had shrunk by 5.4 percent. To bring them to the table, Obama has released more than $11 billion to Iran. The only two times Iran has reversed course after swearing to a course of no compromises have been when Iran was close to collapse. Michael Rubin says — Only one thing will deter Iran: “forcing the regime to choose between its nuclear ambition and its survival.” Pretending to delay them for ten years is pathetic.

Does Obama think his deal will deter Iran? Does he believe that ten years will let him off the hook? Or does he simply have no understanding of the consequences of his actions nor consider the possibility that he might indeed be wrong.



Congress Is Supposed to Meddle in the Iran Talks. That’s Their Job. by The Elephant's Child

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Put aside the overheated spat about the wisdom of inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress this week. The deeper constitutional issue involves the insistence by President Barack Obama that the House and Senate have no business floating sanctions bills that might upset the administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. The truth is that there’s nothing remotely unusual going on. Congress has pressured presidents to change their approaches to foreign policy for as long as the country has existed. This sort of interplay among the branches is exactly what the Framers expected.

This is Stephen L Carter, writing for Bloomberg last Thursday. Do read the whole thing. It’s particularly nice to see a professor of law, once again, clarifying the relationship between the executive office and Congress. The people often complain that Congress just seems to fight. Why can’t they just get along, and get stuff done?

Nancy Pelosi supposedly fumed about Congress’s “insult” to the president by inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress. Congress does not have to ask the permission of the president to invite anyone they want to speak to them, and Ms. Pelosi knows that perfectly well.

Congress has not only the right to disagree with the President, but it is their duty when they believe he’s off on the wrong track. The founders intended for Congress to debate and fight and expose all sides of the questions before them. Laws are not to be made by presidents, that’s Congress’s job, and laws are not to be made in haste but after the problems have been hashed out to the extent possible.

Professor Carter cites numerous recent examples that make it clear that struggles between the legislative and executive branches have occurred “over how to deal with everything from attacks on U.S. ships by the Barbary states to Russian expansionism in North America.”

This unambiguous history makes it all the more remarkable that members of the Obama administration continue to insist that there is something constitutionally troubling about, for example, the proposed Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015, which would require the president to submit for congressional approval whatever agreement he reaches with Tehran. “I don’t think there ought to be a formal approval process,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in congressional testimony last month. “I believe this falls squarely within the executive power of the president of the United States in the execution of American foreign policy.”…

We can argue long and hard over the proper contours of the final deal with Tehran. But it’s wrong to suggest that Congress is misbehaving when it insists on protecting its prerogatives. Battles between the executive and legislative branches over foreign policy are as old as the republic. If the outcome of the current fight is a restriction on the freedom of this or a future president to go his own way, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Stephen L.Carter is a professor of law at Yale University, who teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war, and writes good thrillers as well.



A Slow-Motion Disaster Unfolding Before Our Eyes by The Elephant's Child

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Last Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual Policy Conference, National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke to the conference. The most important element of the post-World War II nuclear non-proliferation regime is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968. Iran is a signatory to that treaty and has never pulled out.  As outlined in Rice’s speech, the actions of the Obama administration “obviate the NPT as a tool against future proliferation and fatally weakens the UN Security Council. In fact, the Obama administration is jettisoning the entire system by which we have prevented countries and non-state actors from building and obtaining nukes for almost half a century and virtually guaranteeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” according to Jonathan Greenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Salomon Center.

 In 2002, the world discovered that Iran had secretly built – in violation of their treaty obligations under the NPT – nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. Since 2002, there have been six U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to cease uranium enrichment. In her speech Monday, Rice said that ending Iranian enrichment is an “unachievable ideal.” That the President’s National Security Advisor is willing to say, in public, that enforcing the NPT and six Security Council mandates is “unachievable” is astounding. The Security Council was designed to be the real seat of power at the UN – the only international body with any real teeth. It will now spend whatever existence it has left gumming pureed solids.

This is like watching a candidate for a Darwin Award gradually demonstrating why he became a candidate, in slow motion. It cannot end well. Rice repeated her boss’s usual blather about “we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” This used to be, Mr. Greenberg says, “vaguely coded language for hawks who wanted an acknowledgement that the administration was willing to consider military action against Iranian nuclear targets.” Nobody believes them anymore. Shortly after vowing that all options are on the table, Rice suggested that a military option “would only set back Iran’s program” a little. We’ll consider military action but it won’t work;

You might think that new sanctions would work. No, says Rice. “sanctions never stopped Iran from advancing its program.” The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded exactly the opposite. It was the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Mr. Greenberg summarizes:

So, if we pull all those strings together, here’s what we get: even though we have the legal authority to stop them from enriching uranium, we can’t do that. We’ll consider bombing them, but only as seriously as you would consider something you’ve publicly conceded can’t work. And sanctions don’t work despite the fact that they work. Oh, and, incidentally, if talks fail, the preceding lemons are the only measures we’ve got as a fallback option so the talks kind of have to work.

“Any deal,” she said, “must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity.” That’s a fine goal, except that the goal used to be to deny them the ability to achieve breakout at all. …“Any deal,” she continued, “must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites.” According to a UN report released yesterday, another from late-February, and a series of reports from the unfortunately acronymed Institute for Science and International Security, Iran is violating this requirement while sitting in negotiations.

It’s like watching a slow-motion disaster unfold on the screen. You know what is going to happen inevitably, but you are powerless to do anything about it.



Obama’s Lies And Misrepresentations Have Invited Chaos. by The Elephant's Child

Resident boy Adeel, 8, plays in front of the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos reportedly killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad

Documents seized in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan directly contradict what we have been told by the Obama Administration. There was one story designed to influence the 2012 election with a view of bin Laden as dead, his network decimated and terror in the world receding due to the efforts of Barack Obama.

The nation was riveted when the early-morning mission of May 2, 2011 was revealed, sending a small team of military and intelligence professionals into the mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan that held the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The assignment was to capture or kill bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about bin Laden and his terrorist network. Bin Laden was killed with a shot to the head, and the Sensitive Site Exploitation efficiently went to work:

It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

An interagency team led by the CIA did a hasty scrub on a small portion of the documents and produced more than 400 reports based on the information in the documents. They had the al Qaeda playbook. What happened next was stunning. Nothing. Analysis stopped, Documents were untouched.

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

The trouble with that story was that it simply was not true. It was Obama’s preferred scenario, and the one he wanted to deal with, not the one that was a true threat that he might have to actually do something about. Do read the whole thing. It’s an excellent column by Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn on the status of al Qaeda. It is behind a subscription paywall at the Wall Street Journal or can be accessed at Google here.

One of the pillars of Obama’s campaign for reelection was that he had essentially decimated al Qaeda, the terror network was on the path to complete defeat.  He described them as ‘decimated’ or ‘on the path to defeat’ something like 32 times.  To date, the public has seen only two dozen of the 1.5 million documents captured in Abbottabad.

The fight over the documents continues, for the contents are directly relevant to today’s challenges from the Iran nuclear deal to the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the rise of Boko Haram, and the trustworthiness of senior Pakistani officials.

Here General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, that President Barack Obama’s “policies have failed” and allowed al Qaeda to “grow fourfold in the last five years.” A video is available at the link.

Keane said, “As you can see on the map, al Qaeda and its affiliates exceeds Iran and is beginning to dominate multiple countries. In fact, al-Qaeda has grown fourfold in the last five years. Third, the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, is an outgrowth from al-Qaeda in Iraq which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012.”

“Is it possible to look at that map in front of you and claim that the United States policy and strategy is working? Or that al-Qaeda is on the run? It is unmistakable that our policies have failed,” he added.

Daniel Greenfield writes of “Our Crucial Choice of the War on Terror.” He says “There are two models for fighting terrorism. We can see the terrorists as an external invading force that has to be destroyed or as an internal element in our society to be managed.”



“World Peace:” Basic Principles In An Unsettled World! by The Elephant's Child

“World Peace.” Is it possible? Is it a valid aim? How do you get there and what do you do about it? Andrew Klavan and Bill Whittle with some basic principles.



Why the Netanyahu Speech Matters by The Elephant's Child

Matthew Continetti has written an excellent column at the Free Beacon on why Bibi’s speech matters. “It exposes the Iran deal as indefensible—and Obama’s politics as bankrupt.”

The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.

And America is about to give away a lot. This week the AP reported on what an agreement with Iran might look like: sanctions relief in exchange for promises to slow down Iranian centrifuges for 10 years. At which point the Iranians could manufacture a bomb—assuming they hadn’t produced one in secret. Iran would get international legitimacy, assurance that military intervention was not an option, and no limitations on its ICBM programs, its support for international terrorism, its enrichment of plutonium, its widespread human rights violations, and its campaign to subvert or co-opt Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. Then it can announce itself as the first Shiite nuclear power.

Do read the whole thing:  Matthew Continetti zeroes in on the specific points on why the Obama administration is trying to do such an impossible deal, why Obama wants it, and why he’s deeply mistaken. The greatest danger is that the world perceives Obama as a weak president who cannot be depended on at any. Urgently  needed weapons may or may not be delivered, rescue may or may not happen, decisions may or may not be made, or may endlessly be postponed.

Obama believes he was elected to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was not. He was elected to be the first black president. He is terrified of being a ‘war’ president, and wants to avoid confrontation at all costs. Which results in the Ukraine, Cuba, Chinese adventurism, ISIS and Libya, Syria, and the potential return of Afghanistan to Taliban control.




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