Obama has failed to heed the wisdom of the U.S. Middle East policy of the 1950s, as explored by Alsop and others at the time. He remains mired in the same thinking that started with George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has generated growing chaos in the region ever since.

Robert W. Merry
Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Doomed for Failure
The National Interest
November 1, 2014

Let us criticize the President for his doomed strategy. But let us not forget that the problem is not one of politics, but of a worldview that he and his advisors have inherited.

This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. And we must approach it accordingly.

The American Conservative and The New Republic

Something really interesting is happening here. Conservative columnists like Rod Dreher are publicly mourning the evisceration of the editorial staff of left-wing publication The New Republic. Oh, sure, there is a little schadenfreude, but most of the angst is about how TNR is self-immolating, and what a sad thing that is.

It may be wishful thinking, but I detect under all of this a simple fact: intelligent people who find themselves on opposite sides of the political aisle can still respect each other, even when they disagree fiercely.

We could use a little more of that in America. Maybe then we could knock off the character assassination and obstructionism and get back to the work of the People.

 

An Open Letter to Jeb Bush

Dear Governor Bush:

Congratulations on your [sorta] decision to run for the office of President of the United States in the 2016 election. Before you begin, there are a few things you should know.

You have a lot to prove to the GOP and to the nation. This does not mean proving your conservative chops.

It means demonstrating that you can unite a party increasingly torn asunder by the dominance of reactionary ideologues, corporate lobbies, and social conservatives.

It means proving that you can build a big tent for all Americans, not just a cabal for special interests.

And it means stepping out of the twin shadows cast by your father and your brother, and actively rejecting much of what underpinned their presidencies. America has a very limited tolerance for political dynasties. You have far more to prove because of your name than you might realize.

This is not the GOP of Ronald Reagan, of George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush. Mid-term election results notwithstanding, this party is an ungodly mess, but in it lies the seeds of a Republican Party of which all Republicans – and all Americans – could be proud.

If you find and nurture those seeds, you can rise above the conflicting interests and lead the party and the nation.

But if you cannot – if you succumb to the reactionaries, to the money, and to the old guard rather than just accommodate them, you will never live in the White House. You will join Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, Jerry Ford, and Barry Goldwater in that sad little club of Republican nominees who placated just enough of the GOP to get nominated, and then were never able to credibly mount a candidacy that would electify and unite the nation.

The choice is yours, sir. Can you ignore the hacks and money men who surround you and earn the support of the nation? Can you cast aside the ideological baggage that burdens the party and lead the search for real solutions to real problems that burden the nation? Do you, in a word, have enough cojones to run as a leader?

Don’t answer. Show us. If you can.

Happy Holidays,

The Pacific Bull Moose

 

Japan is Unbroken

A story getting wide play today in Asia is the outrage that Angelina Jolie ‘ new film Unbroken is causing in Japan. There is apparently widespread anger over the graphic depiction of the wartime torture of Louis Zamperini. One Japanese historian has gone so far as to deny that Zamperini torture even took place.

To the extent to which this story is true,  it saddens me and makes me fear for the future of Japan.

We must all look into the mirror. What determines the character of a people is less how it celebrates its triumphs than how it deals with its failures. As an American, I look in the mirror and see My Lai, Al Gharaib, Guantanamo, and water boarding. I don’t like looking,  but I know that each poses a question about America that demands an answer from each of us. Do we sanction this being done in our names? If not, what shall we do?

Profound evil was committed in the name of the Japanese people in countless incidents between the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the end of the war 14 years later. Forgetting an outrage merely because it is uncomfortable or happened decades ago only places the nation on a course to repeat history.

If we do not want history to judge us for our moral failings, we must beat history to the punch and do something while we still can.

The Military and Militarism

A major barrier to civilized, intelligent debate arises when we fail to see critical nuances, and when we lump together viewpoints that seem similar but that really have substantial differences.

An example: one of my big pet peeves is the conflation of “military” and “militarism,” as if anyone who ever put on a uniform or led people in uniform was by definition a militarist. In truth, the vast majority of people who make a career defending their countries do so with no other agenda than to keep their nation safe and try to make the world a better place.  It is a truism that nobody hates war more than a warrior: they are the most exposed to and impacted by the unrestrained horror of combat.

In fact, the greatest militarists in history were not soldiers, sailors, airmen or marines: they were politicians, pundits, demagogues, and defense contractors. Today, that list includes a broad range of the American citizenry, and even evangelicals. If you want to understand from whence cometh the American desire to wield the hammer of kinetic power, Andrew Bacevich’s superbly researched The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War points to the sources of militarism, and the average person in uniform doesn’t even figure.

Why is this important? Because when we start making the military equivalent to militarism, we undermine the legitimacy of providing for our own national defense. Militarism is a bad thing. But let us not forget that the US armed forces have stood against some of the largest sources of militarism in history. When by action or neglect you defang your military, you simply telegraph an invitation to the nearest militarist to use your country as a doormat.

Both a wise citizen and a capable statesman should stand opposed to militarism and should guard against it in themselves. But that is not the same as seeing the armed forces as a hammer and all of the worlds problems as a series of nails.

On George Will and Scripps College

Late last summer, George Will was invited to speak at a respected public policy forum at the Scripps College in Pomona, California. He was then abruptly disinvited. The reason given for the withdrawal of his invitation was his recent Washington Post column on rape on college campuses. According to a statement by Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga, “after Mr. Will authored a column questioning the validity of a specific sexual assault case that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students, we decided not to finalize the speaker agreement.”

The column was awful, but the actions of Scripps College were a travesty.

Good Column Gone Bad

Let’s start with the column. In it, Mr. Will makes an important point that calls for deeper examination: when you celebrate or reward victimhood, victims tend to proliferate. He could have launched into a discussion of perverse incentives that can turn social programs into perpetual entitlements. Instead, he undermines his point by attempting to illustrate it with the worst possible example he could have chosen: the issue of sexual assault on campus.

Progressivism and its baggage have invaded our college campuses, politicizing instruction, fattening administration, and de-legitimizing an entire range of political views. Yet events make clear that those same  campuses do not yet have in place the right kinds of mechanisms to define, prevent, address, adjudicate, and punish sexual assaults. We can argue whether the tonic will cure the disease, but there is truth to the diagnosis. Mr. Will’s column was muddle-headed and embarrassing.

Good Intentions Gone Bad

I applaud the administration and students of Scripps College in their desire to show support to the victims of rape on campus. That said, no matter how you try to spin this, Mr. Will was disinvited because the views he expressed in one editorial out of some four thousand that he has written for the Post in the past 40 years was found objectionable.

To exclude him for that reason is to either demonstrate naked partisanship or to surrender to political correctness. Either is conduct unbecoming an academic institution, the lifeblood of which should be open debate and discussion of all viewpoints, however nauseating or preposterous.

The right thing to do would have been to bring Mr. Will to campus and allow him to speak his piece. If the Scripps students disagreed with Mr. Will, they could demonstrate that they not only possessed the maturity to offer him a forum for his views, but also the intelligence and passion to artfully rip him to shreds in public debate. Sadly, they will be denied that opportunity. That Scripps did not take this course in the name of political orthodoxy reflects no credit on the institution, its faculty, its students, or its alumni.

Debate and the Nation’s Future

When I was an undergraduate at UCSD in 1983, Angela Davis came to speak on campus. My College Republican friends and I raised no furor about it. What is more, I went to hear her speak despite my fundamental objections to her political and economic views, and despite her alleged provision of firearms to an underaged criminal who then used them in a kidnapping. In a mostly Davis-friendly crowd, I challenged her viewpoints and was shouted down, and rightly so: in my passionate disagreement, I had neglected to prepare a question that could be delivered with more logic than raw emotion. Nonetheless, I will treasure that day: nothing is more invigorating, more empowering, than having the chance to face in open debate a public figure whose views you oppose.

I wish only one thing for the students of Scripps and every institution of higher education in our great country: that they have as many opportunities as possible to face up to their political opponents in open debate. For if we do not teach our children to do that, to address their differences in dialogue, even heated dialogue, the only course of action left to them is to disregard or ban those with whom they disagree. Down that path lies a divided nation at best, and at worst, tyranny.