Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley slagged Hillary Clinton for her foreign policy approach:
"Secretary Clinton leapfrogged over the really the most important aspect and that is human intelligence or the lack there of on the ground. Look a lot of these failings we have gone from one crisis to another without any notion of what are the secondary effects, what’s going to happen after a regime ends or a regime falls. And that's really the critical missing point here," O'Malley said on MSNBC this morning.
"Secretary Clinton has had a lot of experience as Secretary of State but she hasn’t shown an ability to really anticipate what comes next. Honestly as a nation we need to become a lot better at that. We need a much more far seeing foreign policy. We need to be much more collaboratively engaged especially in troubled hot spots where the threat of failing nation states then creates a vacuum that then gives rise to groups like ISIL."
The greatest “recognition” scene in Western literature takes place in Homer’s Odyssey, and occurs between storm-buffeted Odysseus and long-suffering Penelope. Shakespeare’s Pericles, a play with deep Hellenic—and specifically Homeric and Sophoclean—undertones, is its closest rival in the portrayal of recognition, this time between Pericles and his daughter, Marina. This powerful scene, a standout in a play that can appear, at least on stage, disjunctive, is performed with such sensitivity that one might recommend Joseph Haj’s Folger Theatre production on these few minutes alone.
The story of Pericles is, for all its meanderings, relatively straightforward: A prince, alone in this world save two trusted counselors and a faceless kingdom, arrives in Antioch in search of a wife. The king, Antiochus, has a lovely daughter who is prize for any suitor who solves his riddle. The solution contains a terrible truth—the king is sleeping his daughter—which Pericles guesses correctly (to himself). Fearing, again correctly, that the Antiochus suspects he alighted on the answer and wants him dead, Pericles flees. This sets in motion a play that will, at various times, find Pericles saving a town from famine, drowning at sea, washing up on a foreign shore and winning the hand of a new princess, losing his wife during childbirth, abandoning his daughter to the same people who he rescued from starvation (they sell her into sex slavery), and without boring you with even more details, conversing with the goddess Diana in a dream.
The wonder of Pericles lies in its various storylines, each of the threads strong enough to suspend its own dramatic world. But this is also its primary weakness, and modern directors, perhaps sensitive to these pitfalls, tend to avoid it. This is the Folger Theatre’s first production of Pericles, and while the result, overall, has much to offer, aspects of the production are uneven. Haj frequently takes recourse to slapstick theatrics, which may be unavoidable in a play that calls for the brief—and bizarre—inclusion of pirates to keep up plot progression, but can be distracting. But even those aspects of the play that are overemphasized are played so well by the cast that one’s attention lays captivated by the actors to the exclusion of various distractions.
The Folger creative team deserves much of the credit for Pericles’ success. The stripped-down production shifts attention to the actors, while the use of live instruments, played admirably by the performers themselves, enriches the already intimate Folger settings.
Like a lot of people my age and older, I first discovered Dalton Trumbo through Metallica. Spurred on by many late night viewings of the haunting video for the band’s anti-war single “One,” I discovered Johnny Got His Gun—Trumbo’s 1939 novel that inspired the 1971 film adaptation, which in turn became the intellectual jet-fuel powering the dueling engines of James Hatfield and Kirk Hammett’s electric guitars.
I soon discovered that Metallica’s aural assault had nothing on Trumbo’s feverish prose. Johnny Got His Gun, which agonizingly details the tortured inner life of Joe Bonham, a World War I veteran who has been confined to a hospital bed for years due to the loss of his arms, legs, and entire face, remains among the most horrific narratives ever committed to paper.
Inspired by a newspaper article he had read about the Prince of Wales’s visit to a horribly disfigured Canadian soldier, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun drips with a rage so fierce that it makes Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est” seem like something written on a latrine wall by a professional milksop. Indeed, Trumbo’s anger would prove to be eternally hot. When Johnny Got His Gun was first serialized in the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker, it dug its fingernails into the veins of the isolationist left and right, both of which were incensed by the very idea of American boys joining yet another European war. But even years after the Second World War and his own blacklisting in Hollywood due to Communist leanings, Trumbo remained defiant and continued to apply the message of Johnny Got His Gun to the American foreign policy that developed during the Cold War.
Secretary of State John Kerry believes that al Qaeda’s “top leadership” has been “neutralize[d]” as “an effective force.” He made the claim while discussing the administration’s strategy, or lack thereof, for combating the Islamic State (ISIS), which is al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Kerry believes that the U.S. and its allies can finish off ISIS quicker than al Qaeda. There’s just one problem: It is not true that al Qaeda or its top leaders have been “neutralize[d].”
Dozens of senior al Qaeda terrorists, including of course Osama bin Laden, have been eliminated. But al Qaeda is not a simple top-down terrorist group that can be entirely vanquished by killing or detaining select key leaders. It is a paramilitary insurgency organization that is principally built for waging guerilla warfare. Terrorism is a part of what al Qaeda does, but not nearly all. And a key reason why al Qaeda has been able to regenerate its threat against us repeatedly over the past 14 years is that it uses its guerilla armies to groom new leaders and identify recruits for terrorist plots against the West.
The summary below shows what al Qaeda looks like today – it is far from being “neutralize[d].” Instead, al Qaeda and its regional branches are fighting in more countries today than ever. They are trying to build radical Islamic states, just like ISIS, which garners more attention but hasn’t, contrary to conventional wisdom, surpassed al Qaeda in many areas.
In Afghanistan, al Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban and is participating in the Taliban-led insurgency’s advances throughout the country. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir, Mullah Mansour, who publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath of loyalty in August. Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters are playing a key role in the Taliban’s offensive, with the Taliban-al Qaeda axis overrunning approximately 40 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts this year alone. This is part of the reason that President Obama decided to leave a small contingent of American forces in Afghanistan past his term in office.
To give you a sense of what al Qaeda is really doing in Afghanistan, consider that U.S. forces led raids against two large training facilities in the country’s south in October. One of the camps was approximately 30 square miles in size. Gen. John F. Campbell, who oversees the war effort in Afghanistan, explained that the camp was run by al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and is “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”
Think about that: U.S. officials just discovered what is probably the largest al Qaeda camp since 2001. Al Qaeda hasn’t been neutralized in Afghanistan. In fact, numerous al Qaeda leaders have relocated into the country.
Were you thinking that corporate tax reform seemed like a potentially bipartisan issue that could actually get accomplished in the last year of the Obama administration? Elizabeth Warren is here to scuttle that dream.
Here's the problem with our corporate tax code in a nutshell: We have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and our convoluted system imposes a tax on every dollar a corporation earns, no matter where it is earned. That means that U.S. corporations keep trillions of dollars parked overseas rather than returning it to the United States.
While attempts to get a wholesale reform of the tax code have gone nowhere, members on both sides of the aisle have been exploring a corporate-only tax reform that would reduce the corporate tax rate and alter how we tax foreign sourced income while getting rid of many of the tax preferences in the code. Such a reform would result in more domestic investment and job creation, higher economic growth, and little or no lost revenue.
Who could be against that? Elizabeth Warren, of course.
In a speech at the National Press Club this week, Warren pronounced that the real problem with the corporate tax is that it doesn't collect enough revenue, and that if anything we ought to be raising the rate.
Set aside the fact that the corporate tax rate isn't terribly progressive to begin with, given that a CBO study estimates that the bulk of the corporate income tax is paid by workers in the form of lower wages. The real problem with her diatribe is that she felt obligated to sabotage on one of the few bipartisan agreements that seem to be possible in the next year by employing the same stale rhetoric that the lefty blogs fall on when they run out of coherent arguments to use on corporate taxes.
Why Warren gets respect for her thoughtful posturing when her actions are indistinguishable from Ted Cruz is beyond me.
Ike Brannon is president of Capital Policy Analytics, a consulting firm in Washington.
Readers are no doubt aware of the spreading contagion of public demonstrations—largely under the rubric of “Black Lives Matter”—that has agitated campuses from coast to coast. Thanks to modern electronic technology, the spectacle of a Yale college master being cursed to his face (“Who the f— hired you?”), students in the Dartmouth library confronted by screaming radicals (“Filthy white bitch!”), and vandals occupying the Princeton president’s office (“All of this is mine!”) have gone viral on the Internet, as they should.
Anyone tempted to underestimate the bullying character of the movement, or to overestimate the moral courage of academic administrators, should watch the videos—and more than once.
On the one hand, The Scrapbook is horrified by the hysteria and sheer philistine fury of the demonstrators. Those of us old enough to remember scenes from China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s half-expect these hapless deans and vice-chancellors for diversity to be pinioned and wrapped in Maoist placards before confessing their sins and being beaten.
On the other hand, The Scrapbook cannot think of a class of scholars and pedagogues who more richly deserve to reap what they have sown. As might be expected, no amount of groveling has spared them—bullies are expert at recognizing weakness, after all—and some of the groveling has been especially impressive. Dartmouth’s vice provost for student affairs, one Inge-Lise Ameer, apologized profusely to Dartmouth’s library mob, and then—mindful, perhaps, of public perceptions—added this: “There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice.”
In that sense, of course, Ameer may well be right: Just as, a generation ago, campus violence and radical insurrection turned America rightward, it could happen again. The Republican presidential candidate who points to this disruption of higher learning, and the feckless behavior of faculties and deans, may find a potent issue. Which makes a recent front-page story in the Washington Post more mysterious than usual.
Headlined “How Black Lives Matter became a campus force” (Nov. 18), and written by reporter Sandhya Somashekhar, it can only be described as a long-form version of a Black Lives Matter press release. For, according to the Post, screaming racial epithets and intimidating students in libraries is the work not of a mob but of committed “activists” who are “clamoring for an overhaul of the nation’s criminal-justice system and other social changes aimed at bettering the lives of African Americans.”
The casual reader might believe that bullying tactics, physical assaults, and blackmail demands are inimical to the life of the mind; but according to the Post, the casual reader would be wrong. “Campus activists,” it explains, “tend to have more nuanced and even symbolic concerns”—which might surprise students in college to learn, who might also wish to study unmolested by “nuanced and even symbolic” violence.
Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that al Qaeda has been neutralized -- and that he hopes ISIS will be neutralized "much faster." Kerry made the claim to a group of reporters:
"I'm confident if we stay steady, keep our heads in thinking creatively but also being strong and committed to our fundamental values, we're going to defeat Daesh. We always said it will take time. We began our fight against al Qaeda in 2001 and it took us quite a few years before we were able to eliminate Osama bin Laden and the top leadership and neutralize them as an effective force. We hope to do Daesh much faster than that and we think we have an ability to do that. So that's the effort, and we're going to continue," Kerry claimed.
The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has won the National Book Award for Between the World and Me.
The New York Times, in reporting on the awards, called it "a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality..." and that Coates "won comparisons to the work of James Baldwin."
For decades, several books every publishing season have promised an “authentic” account of the experience of being black in America. But the 39-year-old Coates, a Baltimore native, has struck it very big. We learn from New York magazine that he even shows up late for meetings with the president. Coates claims as his model a classic of the black autobiographical genre, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1963). It is not immediately clear, though, what distinguishes Coates’s effort from the heap of less distinguished books written in Baldwin’s wake. To figure this out one must look at “The Case for Reparations,” a 16,000-word essay Coates wrote for the Atlantic last year, which won him a wide Internet following. The article makes no explicit “case” that someone should pay today’s blacks for the mistreatment of yesterday’s. The case gets made by implication, through a thumbnail history of American slavery, the racial prejudice that underlay it, and the inequality and injustice that survived it.
This book is short, simple, monomaniacal, and punchy. That can be a plus. “Visceral” and “direct” are two perfectly appropriate adjectives that have been much conferred. And yet, critics have felt the need to praise the book for the very virtues in which it is most obviously deficient. Jack Hamilton, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, writes in Slate: “Coates is more teacher than preacher, a polymath whose breadth of knowledge on matters ranging from literature to pop culture to French philosophy to the Civil War bleeds through every page of his book, distilled into profound moments of discovery, immensely erudite but never showy.” Not a word of this is true. Coates may well possess this knowledge privately, and there are signs of it in his reparations article, but it is wholly absent from his book. What Civil War? The two pages describing battlefields he toured with his son after page 99? What French philosophy? Coates mentions Sartre and Camus once, on page 122, but only to say he’s never read them. Coates himself, while he professes a love of books and learning, makes no claim to erudition, “immense” or otherwise.
Bernie Sanders gave a big speech at Georgetown University today and used the opportunity to make clear a few things:
"I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.”
Well, that wasn’t the big theme of the speech but Sanders no doubt liked the line and the distinction it draws between his campaign and that of his chief opponent who is, also, the frontrunner. The speech was sold as a big-theme affair in which the candidate would make clear what he means when he calls himself a “Democratic Socialist.” (Hint: he does not favor nationalizing the means of production.) What the speech turned out to be was pretty much an effort to restart his campaign and get people excited, again, about Sanders’ positions and prospects.
So he ran through the usual litany of economic woes facing the United States making it sound as though the two terms of Barrack Obama have been almost as bad for the common man and woman as the one term of Herbert Hoover. Sanders points out, routinely, that for the middle class, incomes have fallen and that the real unemployment rate is 10 percent. People don’t have enough set aside for retirement. The health care insurance that they have is made unaffordable by high premiums and co-pays. Higher education is either entirely out-of-reach or a sentence to a lifetime of debt. And so on. Democratic socialism, he insisted, was good old Democratic party tax-and-spend, with a pedigree going back to Franklin Roosevelt. What he proposes, then, is nothing more than the New Deal’s logical next step.
Under President Sanders “democratic socialism” would amount to redistribution. College and health care would become free. Old age benefits and the minimum wage would go up. This would be paid for by increasing taxes on the people at the top. For Sanders, the mechanics for this are self-evident, so he didn’t spend much time on them. You tax here; you spend there. Simple.
So simple that Sanders wrapped up his tutorial on democratic socialism and used the opportunity at Georgetown to say something about what he would do to defeat ISIS and “radical extremism.”
... we must work with our partners in Europe, the Gulf states, Africa, and Southeast Asia - all along the way asking the hard questions whether their actions are serving our unified purpose. The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.
Sanders took a few questions from the students (they are always his best audience) and he knocked them straight out of the park.
Not a speech for the ages and not one to make the phrase “democratic socialism” into something that will ignite passion among the masses.
One of the most durable arguments for not responding as forcefully as possible to al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and jihadi groups in general is that they do not pose an “existential” threat to America. Indeed, this lies at the core of the Obama administration’s strategy for the Middle East. As the president told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria back in February: “What I do insist on is that we maintain a proper perspective and that we do not provide a victory to these terrorist networks by overinflating their importance and suggesting in some fashion that they are an existential threat to the United States or the world order.”
Such apparent sang froid is supposed to be a hallmark of “realism” in foreign policy. Thus Harvard political scientist Stephen Walt blogged in response to last week’s Paris attacks that “we must respond with our heads and not just our hearts,” and that “an event like this cannot shake the foundations of society unless we let it.”
That’s true. It’s also true that, despite the horrific nature of terrorist acts, the military strength of al Qaeda or ISIS is extremely limited, even though ISIS has managed to hold on to substantial portions of Iraq and Syria now for an extended time. President Obama was narrowly correct to observe that the Islamic State in the Levant has been territorially “contained.” And unless one of these groups succeeds in acquiring a substantial weapons of mass destruction capability – a danger not to be taken lightly – the amount of material havoc they can wreak is small.
But these are not the only measures of an existential threat. Jihadists certainly intend to “shake the foundations” of Western, liberal society. And they’re having not a little success by exposing the fact that the West is so plagued by self-doubt that it is increasingly unwilling to defend itself. Europe, in particular, faces what might well be an existential threat; a way of life does seem to hang in the balance.
With great generosity – and also great guilt – Europe has, for several generations now, given refuge to millions of refugees and migrants; now, thanks to the carnage in Syria and across the Muslim world, it faces an even larger challenge. As is painfully apparent, these refugees and migrants have not been and cannot soon be assimilated into European society as it is. It matters not whether the migrants or the natives are most to blame; the fact is that the foundations of modern European society are indeed crumbling.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) uses a 34-page manual to instruct its followers on how to stay invisible on the Internet.
The Arabic document was translated and released this week by analysts at the Combating Terrorism Center, an independent research group at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
It includes warnings to avoid Instagram because it is owned by Facebook, and Dropbox because former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sits on its board of investors. Famous government leaker Edward Snowden has also criticized Dropbox over its privacy, the document notes.
According to the English translation, "Snowden advised not to use the service and considered it dangerous to personal security and privacy."
Michael Morell, who served as deputy CIA director from 2010 to 2013, wrote in his memoirs published this year that Snowden's revelations aided ISIS. "Within weeks of the leaks, terrorist organizations around the world were already starting to modify their actions in light of what Snowden disclosed. Communications sources dried up, tactics were changed,” Morell wrote. "ISIS was one of those terrorist groups that learned from Snowden, and it is clear that his actions played a role in the rise of ISIS."
Last week, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, said that Snowden has "blood on his hands."
"I'm no fan of the changes that were made after Snowden's leaks of classified information. I don't think they have improved our ability to collect and use intelligence, and I think they've seriously reduced our abilities," Woolsey told NPR. "I think Snowden has blood on his hands from these killings in France.
On Thursday, the House voted 289-127 in favor of a bill that would require greater scrutiny of Syrians and Iraqis applying to become refugees in the United States. In a stunning rebuke to President Obama, 47 Democrats ignored the president's veto threat and joined 242 Republicans to pass the measure by a veto-proof majority. Reporters at CNN and the New York Times reported that the Obama administration's defense of the the refugee program actually lost Deomcratic votes:
Some House Democrats now saying GOP refugee bill could pass with veto-proof majority, presentation by WH/DHS actually lost votes for Admin
While President Obama denounced efforts to restrict the number of Syrian refugees, House speaker Paul Ryan defended the legislation as a simple matter of security. "It's a security test, not a religious test," Ryan said at a press conference on Thursday.
The bill states that Syrians and Iraqis "may not be admitted as a refugee until the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation certifies to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence that each covered alien has received a background investigation that is sufficient to determine whether the covered alien is a threat to the security of the United States."
The White House issued a veto threat Wednesday night that said the "legislation would introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism, and would undermine our partners in the Middle East and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis."
How lucky is Hillary Clinton that her sole (credible) competitor for the Democratic nomination for president is a dyspeptic, self-described socialist who doesn’t appear to actually wish to be president? So lucky that nearly a year out from the 2016 election, she’s already running her general election campaign.
Consider the current contretemps between Clinton and Bernie Sanders over taxes. Sanders supports implementing a national single-payer health care system, which he would partially pay for by raising taxes on the middle class. Clinton’s campaign, for its part, has responded ferociously to the proposal, with spokesman Brian Fallon saying, “Hillary Clinton believes strongly that middle-class families deserve a raise, not a tax increase,” and “If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes.” Thus, while the GOP candidates still engaged in their battle to be seen by primary voters as the most “conservative,” Clinton can busy herself appealing to the center by posing as a sort of liberal-leaning Grover Norquist.
In the long run, Clinton’s rhetoric is bad news for the left: the Democratic standard-bearer appears to have adopted the conservative view that taxes are a scourge—a punishment—and not, as Oliver Wendell Holmes piously put it, “the price we pay for a civilized society.” But the Clintons are of course willing to pay just about any price to get back into the White House.
The Islamic State executed a series of devastating attacks in Paris last Friday night. President Obama responded angrily by delivering some effective precision-guided strikes. At the Islamic terrorist organization that murdered 129 and wounded hundreds of others in Paris? Of course not; he calmly described this atrocity as a mere “setback” in his successful efforts to contain IS and vowed to bring those guys “to justice.” Instead, he directed his fusillade at Republicans, his favorite kinetic target.
At a time when French president Francois Hollande has been fixated on retaliating in Syria against Islamic State and arresting its followers in France and Belgium to prevent more terrorist attacks President Obama directed his attention, while traveling abroad no less, on partisan attacks. He blasted many Republicans—who, having seen that at least one of the Paris attackers apparently entered France as a Syrian refugee, are rightly wary of letting in thousands of Syrians into our country who can’t realistically be vetted properly and could contain terrorists—of being weak, betraying American values, and emboldening the Islamic State. He accused Republicans of being “scared of widows and orphans,” and portrayed declarations by Republican presidential candidates (viz. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Jeb Bush) that we should only allow in Christians as “offensive and contrary to American values” and a “potent recruitment tool” for the Islamic State.
This issue of whether to accept Syrian refugees is legitimate and requires proper, constructive debate. Some Republicans, such as commentator Charles Krauthammer, have suggested that perhaps only Syrian men be banned but women and children let in. Further, Elliott Abrams wrote here that American law dictates special treatment for persecuted religious minorities, which Christians are in Syria. Indeed, some Democrats agree with Republicans espousing these views, and some prominent Republicans disagree.
Beyond, the impropriety of Obama’s attacks, they are especially galling, or chutzpadik—to borrow a word from a religious minority that two decades ago fled Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria thanks to the special help of the United States—it is Obama’s Syria policy that has been weak, betrayed American values and emboldened the Islamic State.
President Obama has stood by and done virtually nothing while the Assad regime has slaughtered more than 250,000 Syrians and forced millions, more than half the country, from their homes. Standing by as such staggering carnage continues—with no interest even of establishing a no-fly safe zone—betrays American humanistic values fundamentally and dwarfs any concern over 10,000 refugees. Indeed, there would be far less a Syrian refugee crisis if the United States had set up such a zone. And the embodiment of weakness was Obama drawing a “red line” against use of chemical weapons in Syria and then refusing to enforce it. Only the catastrophic Iran deal, which all but ensures the emergence of a nuclear Iran, with international blessing no less, in fifteen years, if not sooner, marks a worse case of Obama’s weakness, indeed the apex of it and the nadir of American credibility.