Friday, August 30, 2013

No, I think he's "curling"

Whenever I've mentioned that I was taking some vacation time and that Steve was going to start today, they always asked what we were going to do or where we were going to go. Really, I think we're mostly just taking the spare time to get caught up on sleep. Naps are lovely, especially when it is so hot out. Yuck. Who wants to go anywhere?And I haven't been feeling well; it may be allergies or the heat, who knows? Staying home and relaxing is perfect.

I don't know what I we're having for dinner. I wouldn't mind delivery pizza to be honest. We have Say Yes to the Dress and Strike Back to watch on TV.

I'm very much enjoying the Penny book. I will be sad when it's done.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events - August 30, 2013

‘What is Government?’ Elementary Students Taught It’s Your ‘Family’

Fourth-grade students in Illinois are learning that “government is like a nation’s family” because it sets rules and takes care of needs such as health care and education.

So says a worksheet for social studies homework that was distributed to students at East Prairie School in Skokie, Ill, complete with a drawing of Uncle Same cradling a baby that represents the citizens.
Illinois School Defends Government = Family Homework
The worksheet distributed to fourth-graders at East Prairie School in Skokie, Ill.

Students are then prompted to answer 10 questions comparing government and families, including how their family provides for their health care needs and how the government does the same, and what rules families set and what rules government sets.

The worksheet it titled, “What is Government?” and then goes on to answer that question.
“Government is all of the agencies, departments, organizations, groups, individuals in a nation who make, carry out, enforce, and manage conflicts about rules and laws,” the worksheet says.

“Government is like a nation’s family. Families take care of children and make sure they are safe, healthy and educated, and free to enjoy life. Families encourage children to be independent hardworking and responsible,” it continues. “Families make and enforce rules and give appropriate punishments when rules are broken. Government does these things for its citizens, too.”

A concerned parent forwarded the homework assignment to TheBlaze. The worksheet asks the following questions:
1. How does your family keep you safe?
2. How does the government keep its citizens safe?
3. How does your family keep you healthy?
4. How does the government keep its citizens healthy?
5. How does your family help you learn and become educated?
6. How does the government help its citizens learn and become educated?
7. What kind of rules does your family have for you?
8. What kind of rules does government have for its citizens?
9. How does your family punish you when you break the rules?
10. How does government punish citizens who break the law?
Teri Madl, the superintendent for East Prairie School District 73 in Illinois, told TheBlaze the assignment was not pushing a political message.

“In response to your questions and said worksheet, it is meant to offer a simple analogy that helps children understand that part of a government’s role is to set rules, enforce those rules, and provide safety, security and freedom for its citizens,” Madl said in a statement. “It is not an attempt to include and/or promote a political message. If a parent does have a concern I would encourage him or her to contact the child’s teacher.”

Public School Art Project Desecrates American Flag

By Todd Starnes
Students at a Kentucky high school were encouraged to step on an American flag that had been placed on the floor as part of an art display, outraging parents and students.

The display at McCracken County High School, was a re-creation of “Dread” Scott Tyler’s 1989 installation titled “The Proper Way to Display an American Flag.”

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Fox, The Paducah Sun

A photograph shows a music stand on top of the flag that had been placed in a hallway, in a story first reported by Kathleen Fox, a reporter with The Paducah Sun.

As part of the art exhibit, students were encouraged to stand on the flag and write their reflections on how they felt standing on the flag.

Local residents filled social networking sites with their outrage over the flag desecration with many calling for the art teacher to be fired.

“The teacher should be fired and run out of town,” wrote one outraged Paducah resident. “I have a son serving to protect this flag at this very moment.”

“It is a sad day when the symbol of this great nation is relegated to occupy the floor,” a reader wrote. “It is a truly sorrowful day when the one who placed it there has the nerve to ask, ‘How does it make you feel?’”

“I doubt this teacher intended the disrespect her art project exhibited,” one reader wrote. “But nonetheless, it was really a despicable assignment.”
Art teacher Shand Stamper has since apologized for the controversial art display – telling The Paducah Sun that it was not a specifically assigned project. The newspaper reported she sent a written letter of apology to school administrators.

“I love our flag and the nation it stands for. I love the freedom I enjoy because of our brave veterans. I feel sick and deeply sad that through my actions I have dishonored these men and women and also poorly represented you all,” she wrote in a letter obtained by the newspaper. “(To say) I am devastated by my actions bringing outrage and negativity on you is a gross understatement.”

Michael Ceglinski, the principal of McCracken County High School, said the teacher made an error in judgement. He said the project was not sanctioned by the school nor approved by administrators.
“We (McCracken County High School) don’t condone this action and we handled it immediately and appropriately,” he told the newspaper.

Nancy Waldrop, the superintendent of McCracken County Schools, told television station WSPD the flag would be burned – the proper way to dispose of an American flag that has touched the ground.

Taxpayers funding study of link between marijuana, domestic violence

A federally-funded drug abuse research agency is granting nearly $2 million to study the link between marijuana use and domestic violence in what some supporters of marijuana decriminalization call another example of the organization’s “profound and unhidden political bias.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is granting $1.86 million to the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions to investigate the drug’s link to aggression.

“Although marijuana is commonly believed to suppress aggression,” says the study’s summary, “surveys consistently reveal positive associations between marijuana use and perpetration of intimate partner violence.”

The study will run from 2013 to 2017 and will follow couples in which one or both partners use marijuana to determine whether its use “results in affective, cognitive, or behavioral effects consistent with partner aggression.”

NIDA, which describes itself as supporting “most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction,” has a $1.05 billion budget for 2013.

Maria Testa, a University of Buffalo professor who is the lead researcher for the project, tells The Daily Caller News Foundation that NIDA funded research “is designed to consider negative health effects of alcohol and other substances because of how they affect public health.”

She said that despite short-term relaxation and calming effects, in her 20-plus years of research, “marijuana use frequently emerges in survey studies as a predictor of partner violence.”

Testa hopes the new research will test the veracity of those surveys. She said that there has been very little research into the immediate effects of marijuana on aggression.

She said that the research will explore a variety of explanations for the link including whether “certain marijuana users” may be predisposed to partner aggression, whether using the drug itself causes conflicts between couples, and how marijuana interacts with alcohol and other drugs. Testa also wants to explore whether marijuana leads to violence for a subgroup of users while leaving most users unaffected.

“If we find that there is a relationship between marijuana use episodes and increased aggression, that would give us new insight into why we are seeing the correlation in survey data,” she said. “If we don’t find a relationship, that suggests that the survey data results are spurious,” she added.

But some question the NIDA funding saying that it is a prohibitionist organization that only looks at the drawbacks of marijuana use.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told TheDCNF that NIDA’s political bias severely skews cannabis research.

“NIDA’s mission isn’t so much to conduct and report on scientific research… as it is to manipulate said research in a manner that attempts to prop up what is none other than a failed, intellectually bankrupt federal public policy.”

Armentano points out that NIDA has publicly acknowledged that it does not fund research into the potential benefits of medical marijuana.

“This inherent bias makes it clear that NIDA is not an objective arbiter of the science pertaining to cannabis, but rather a primary tool of the federal government in maintaining the ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”

Testa disagrees that a NIDA-funded study would be biased. “Science is done to increase knowledge, not toward an agenda,” she said. “We publish our findings regardless of what [NIDA] tell us.”

Mitch Earleywine, who sits on the NORML Board of Directors and is a psychologist at SUNY-Albany, said that the RIA researchers have a great track record of looking at alcohol-related domestic violence, but that “the idea that marijuana intoxication increases aggression is too preposterous for words.” “I think the RIA investigators know this,” he told TheDCNF.

“Funding is incredibly tight now and they are at a research institute where external funding is essential to anyone who wants to stay employed,” said Earleywine.

Overall the University of Buffalo’s RIA received over $6 million for five grants in 2013 for studies, including one on the effects of mixing alcohol with energy drinks and another on the relationship between substance use and bullying.

Another Budget Deal Bites the Dust

The small group of Republican senators who had been meeting with the White House on budget matters called it quits on Thursday. They were known as the “Dinner Caucus.” In the end, they got less accomplished than the “Breakfast Club.”

Their fate, though, was predictable. The goal they were pursuing – a big, blockbuster, bipartisan, budget deal – had been the goal of many in the past three years, all with similar results. No agreement on taxes. No agreement on spending cuts. Same song, different band.

Let’s review the obituaries of other efforts to forge a budget deal:

1.) Simpson/Bowles: Formed in 2010, this group shocked many by putting together a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan that combined tax increases and spending cuts. Liberal Democrats said they would support entitlement changes to Medicare and Social Security and conservative Republicans said they would accept tax increases. The proposal was written by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, and had broad corporate support.

What happened: The group received more support than expected in December 2010, but not enough to secure a vote in Congress. The White House gave it a lukewarm reception, and House Republicans showed little interest. It would seemingly have nine lives, coming back again and again, but it never won support from political leaders.

2.) Biden/Cantor: In May 2011, as the White House and Congress eyed a big summer showdown over the debt ceiling, Vice President Joe Biden and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) started talks with other policy makers aimed at putting together a large deficit-reduction deal.

What happened: Their goal was to get a big deal that would give everyone cover to raise the debt ceiling. The talks made some progress. They took aim at low-hanging fruit initially, but never really made it to the hard stuff like taxes. Eventually President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) started their own talks, and the Biden/Cantor effort fizzled.

3.) Obama/Boehner: This was the group that probably came as close to a deal as any other. In July 2011, Messrs. Obama and Boehner spent several weeks locked in discussions, trying to find a way to lock in a large deficit-reduction deal. The White House was willing to consider large entitlement changes, like raising the Medicare retirement age, and Mr. Boehner was considering a tax-reform plan that would raise close to $800 billion in new revenue over 10 years.

What happened: Depends who you ask. They came close to a deal but never inked one, with both sides pointing fingers over tax revenue. The breakup was acrimonious and poisoned the well for years to come. They settled for a smaller deal, known as the “Budget Control Act,” that included the “sequester” spending cuts and put caps on discretionary spending.

4.) Gang of Six: Six U.S. senators – three Democrats and three Republicans – joined forces and tried to push Simpson-Bowles into law. They began meeting in late 2010 and continued meeting through 2011. They met, and met, and met, and met. Eventually, other senators from both parties expressed interest in supporting their efforts, worried that no one else was even trying to put together a budget deal.

What happened: They had a huge meeting with other senators around the time that the Obama/Boehner talks were coming to a head. That meeting led some to think the White House could get a large number of Republican senators to support big tax increases. It injected confusion into the Obama/Boehner talks and sent everyone scurrying. The Gang met several times after that but never really recovered, and despite their efforts, they were never able to bring any package to the Senate floor.

5.) Supercommittee: The Budget Control Act created something that became known as the “Supercommittee,” which had several months to try and come up with some way to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

What happened: Instead of being a “super” committee, the members were “super” entrenched, and they never came close to an agreement.

6.) Cooper/LaTourette: In March 2012, Reps. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.) and Steve LaTourette (R., Ohio) tried to ambush partisan budget proposals by forcing a vote on the House floor on a resolution that closely resembled Simpson-Bowles. They thought plenty of lawmakers were fed up with budget bickering and that they could catch “lightning in a bottle,” as one of them put it.

What happened: The only thing they caught was egg on their faces. Their budget resolution failed 382-38.
7.) Fiscal Cliff: Fresh off his 2012 re-election, Mr. Obama faced a fiscal storm at the end of December, with tax rates scheduled to increase and large spending cuts set to begin. He pursued – again – a large deficit-reduction deal with Mr. Boehner. The country was watching this time, as more brinksmanship would lead to tax hikes for virtually everyone.

What happened: The White House said it would accept some entitlement cuts but insisted that tax rates would have to go up on wealthier Americans. Many House Republicans knew they would have to budge on taxes, but they said they would accept the elimination of certain tax loopholes, not higher rates. Talks between Messrs. Obama and Boehner broke down, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) eventually rode into to rescue all sides. The deal was small, though, minimizing the tax increases and failing to deal with any entitlement changes.

8.) Dinner Caucus:  After the fiscal-cliff mess, Mr. Obama started having dinners with small groups of Senate Republicans. Many lawmakers came away from the talks thinking that perhaps this could be the sort of slow, stress-free environment that would lead to a deal.

What happened: It ended up being the sort of slow, stress-free environment that leads to nothing. The White House wanted to eliminate certain tax loopholes to raise revenue as part of the deal, and Republicans wouldn’t agree. 

Obama meets with Magic Johnson, snubs Congress on Syria

On Thursday, 26 members of Congress were invited to participate in a conference call with administration officials on the situation in Syria. White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice tweeted that she, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, met with members of Congress by phone. But President Obama did not participate in the call. Obama did, however, find time to meet with Magic Johnson.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be in a working meeting with the smartest and most powerful leader in the world," Johnson said of Obama.

"Working side by side with the President on getting America back working is bigger and better than the 5 NBA Championships I won," he said in another tweet.

Johnson also said he met with Obama, Valerie Jarrett, other White House staffers and "some very smart people."

"Great meeting! Thanks, Magic," Jarrett said in response.

Twitchy said that Johnson is "apparently taking the place of the now-disbanded President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness."

A post at Weasel Zippers excoriated Obama for skipping the call while meeting with the basketball star..

"You cannot conduct foreign policy like a political campaign, and just dial in fancy rhetoric. Even if you can buffalo your supporters, you cannot fool the rest of the world," the blog said.

The post also said that Obama "apparently skipped out on another meeting on Syria Tuesday night to meet with the family of Trayvon Martin, among other things."

According to the Daily Caller, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama plans to to hold “robust consultation” with Congress and the president may address the American public.

“The president believes it is important to have a dialogue with the American public,” he said.

The White House maintains that the Assad regime is responsible for a chemical attack against hundreds of Syrians and the use of those weapons against Syrian citizens is in the national security interest of the United States.

On Thursday, the British Parliament voted against action in Syria, but it appears Obama is willing to "go it alone" if necessary, and has deployed a fifth warship to the region.

5 Ways Obama’s Unseriousness Has Been Exposed by Syria Strike Chatter

Let’s count up the ways in which the Syria debate has exposed Barack Obama’s utter incompetence and lack of seriousness.

1. Failure to consult Congress. The Obama administration has built no consensus among Congress for any kind of strike. Generalissimo Pelosi wants a strike, but beyond her there is very little appetite for any U.S. action. Democrats are vocally skeptical. Republicans see a replay of Libya, just a couple of weeks before the first anniversary of the deadly attack in Benghazi. Even Dennis Kucinich is starting to make sense. There may be good reasons for striking Syria, but those reasons have not been articulated well or explained to Congress. So Congress in turn cannot explain the policy to their constituents.

2. Failure to get buy-in from the American people. Fully 80% of the American people want President Obama to obtain congressional approval before striking Syria. Only about 9% currently support a strike. But Obama’s failure to consult Congress until late in the game has probably left him too isolated to gain the  approval and build up support. Now, a vote in Congress risks a replay of what happened in the UK Thursday — a down vote. That would be seen as a victory for Assad and Putin from Damascus to Tehran and well beyond, all the way to Caracas, Havana and Pyongyang.

3. No draft language for the UN to consider. Senator Obama warned against U.S. military action taken without United Nations approval. That’s a dubious standard — our military is our military, not France’s military. President Obama has learned (or is learning, hopefully) on the job that Russia likes to use its Security Council veto power to thwart American aims. Russia’s foreign policy is fundamentally amoral, and fundamentally about advancing its own interests — if it can do so at America’s expense, all the better. The Obama administration evidently has not even drafted any meaningful language for the UN Security Council to consider. Such language could have been used to put the Russians on the defensive to explain their veto, or at least isolate them, but without any draft language to consider, the UN is rudderless.

4. No military plan, no clear objective. What’s the plan for striking Syria, and what’s the plan for the aftermath of a strike? If anyone in the Obama national security team has any idea, they’re not saying. They have leaked and talked about timing and specific targets, but not about much beyond “punishing” Assad. How do you punish a man who is facing sure and humiliating death if he loses the civil war to his enemies, without putting those radical enemies in power? It would take a very deft hand to pull that off. There is no evidence of said deft hand at work in Obama’s Syria policy. In fact, there is no evidence that anyone in Obama’s national security team is thinking deeply at all.

5. Lack of credible spokes men and women to obtain buy-in from the American people and the press. The faces of Obama’s Syria war policy should not be his former campaign attack dogs. But the faces of the Syria policy so far have been Marie Harf and Jen Psaki at the State Department. Both of them hail from the Obama 2012 campaign. They both have one setting — defend their candidate and ruthlessly attack anyone who questions him. That’s fine for a campaign, but wholly inappropriate for a president leading his nation into what may blow up into a world war. They both come across as the hard-edged campaign operatives that they are, not the serious policy advocates that they need to be. Obama’s 2012 campaign operatives need to be sidelined in fav
or of career diplomats who have credibility among Democrats and Republicans on the Hill.
Now, we seem to be going it alone, and timing our attack to occur before Obama heads off to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia next week. This isn’t military timing, it’s political timing. The headline talk of an attack is giving the Syrians time to plan their counters more effectively. They can move their targets, place human shields on them, equip Hizballah to threaten or attack Israel, and plan their propaganda following the strike.

This is foolishness. Dangerous foolishness.

Obama's got only five options when it comes to Syria

As the Obama administration contemplates a possible military strike against Syria, it would be useful for everyone to take a step back and ponder what we want to accomplish with such an attack.

What are the president’s objectives and how will an attack achieve those objectives? What are his options?
It’s understandable that we want to “do something.” Those pictures of linen-wrapped children, dead from inhaling chemical weapons, are horrifying. But there is only one thing worse than doing nothing – that is doing something that makes things even worse. And whatever we do, our first and foremost goal should be what is best for America.
We have to find a way to get off the Middle East merry-go-round of death and destruction, that Arab oil has chained us to.
So what are the president’s options? Here are five:

Option One: Regime Change. We could launch major attacks and destroy Assad’s war making ability, presumably in conjunction with allies and Syrian rebels, so Assad ends up like Libya’s Qaddafi.  Ironically, Bush administration NeoCons and Obama Interventionists have finally found common cause –  both want to topple Assad. Even President Obama himself said two years ago that Assad "must go."

But, if the last ten years have taught us anything, it should be that toppling dictators doesn’t necessarily lead to something better.

We toppled dictators in Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, and were assured there was a pro-democracy, Western leaning-cadre ready to step in and assume the reins of power.  Iraq led to ten years of bloody war, Libya led to Benghazi and Egypt to a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship.

With Syria, we already know that the rebel groups likely to prevail are Al Qaeda affiliates.  As bad as Assad is, an Al Qaeda-led Syria would be even worse for America.  

It's a cardinal rule of foreign policy that if two of your enemies are trying to destroy each other, don't step in and try to stop them.  If we try to unseat Assad, it's doubtful his Iranian and Russian allies would stand silently by. At a minimum, Iran would redouble its efforts to develop nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

Option Two: Limited Attack. We could launch a limited attack to destroy the helicopters and planes that delivered the chemical weapons.  According to press reports, the administration is leaning in this direction.  
It would give Assad a symbolic public spanking, but the civil war would continue, with both sides more or less where they are today.  

It would make good on Obama’s “red line” threat and serve to “punish Assad,” as Secretary Kerry pledged.
The administration is also hoping it would deter Assad, but there is no guarantee he wouldn't use chemical weapons again, since the caches would remain untouched.  It’s just as likely that Assad could decide to double down and use chemical weapons again, thus leaving Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to escalate U.S. involvement.  

It’s possible the president would be faced with the one thing he wants to avoid and the American people deplore – getting involved in another civil war in the Middle East.

Option Three: Arm the Rebels. We could openly arm and train the Syrian rebels to do the job for us.  The question is, which rebels? 

This may have been a viable option two years ago, but today even those in favor of arming the rebels admit that the strongest among the many rebel groups are linked to Al Qaeda.  As dangerous as Assad possessing chemical weapons might be, Al Qaeda having them would be even worse – Al Qaeda has long sought to get its hands on weapons of mass destruction to use against Americans.

If we arm the good rebels, it would be in hopes they could defeat both the Al Qaeda rebels and the Assad government. 

At best, that would put us in the middle of a three-way civil war: we support our rebels, while the Arab oil states support their rebels, and Iran and Russia support the Assad government.  

At worst, the Al Qaeda rebels seize our weapons, and use them first against Assad and then against us?  
Sound farfetched? That’s what happened in Benghazi.

Option Four: Destroy the Chemical Weapons. According to some military experts, we have non-conventional "agent defeat" weapons designed specifically to neutralize chemical weapons without dispersing toxins into the atmosphere.

One type first punctures chemical weapons containers and then smothers the toxins with neutralizing agents before they can be dispersed.  

Other military experts claim these exotic weapons are too experimental, or wouldn’t work, or work only if we first destroyed Syria’s air defenses. They claim if we want to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons, we would need special operations forces, in other words, boots on the ground – an option nobody wants.  In either case, we could end up doing the very thing we’re trying to avoid: killing innocent civilians.

Option Five: Delay, Then Do Something Symbolic. President Obama was elected in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and criticism that President Bush’s casus belli, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, never existed.

Every day the evidence seems to mount that the Assad government did use chemical weapons to kill hundreds of innocent women and children.  But the evidence is not incontrovertible, and may never be.  
Obama could decide to wait for more proof. As long as chemical weapons are not used again, the public clamor to ‘do something’ would abate.  The president could then satisfy his “red line” threat by lobbing a few cruise missiles on insignificant targets and call it a day.

But the message would be clear: America’s threats mean nothing. Assad and every other would-be murderous dictator would conclude the international community was unwilling to stop those willing to use weapons of mass destruction. Syria would see no consequence to using use chemical weapons again, and Iran would read it as a green light for their nuclear weapons program.

We are now left with no good choices. Thanks to President Obama’s “red line” threat last year, and his demand that “Assad must go” two years ago, he has put the U.S. between a rock and a hard place. Every parent knows you don’t make threats unless you’re willing to carry them out, since your bluff will always be called.  So it should be a caution to all leaders – words don’t deter, only deeds so.

None of these options are risk free, all of them have potential consequences that would hurt Americans near term and long.  

The best of the bad lot is to find a way to destroy the chemical weapons caches so they can’t be used against us or our allies, without getting pulled into another conflict. We could then leave the Syrian civil war to the Syrians.

Syria sounds eerily like Iraq, and Libya, and Egypt. The same civil strife could be repeated in Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, and maybe even Saudi Arabia in the future.

Syria is the harbinger of a decade, if not a generation, of Middle East conflict as radical Sunni groups square off against radical Shiites. We have to find a way to get off the Middle East merry-go-round of death and destruction, that Arab oil has chained us to.

Fifty years ago President Kennedy committed America to landing a man on the moon within a decade. President Obama should similarly commit America to becoming energy self sufficient and free of Arab oil by the end of his presidency.  

He should approve the Keystone Pipeline immediately, and unshackle our oil and natural gas companies so they can develop America’s domestic energy sources. Not only will it give the American economy a much-needed boost, it will allow America to declare its independence from the internecine wars which have plagued the Middle East since Cain slew Abel.  

If not, America will find itself, time and time again, caught in the middle of the same kind of  ethno-sectarian civil wars that have ensnared us  for the last 20 years. Despite spending trillions of dollars and spilling the blood of thousands of Americans, we remain in servitude to Arab oil. 

Granted, the goal of energy independence may not help President Obama decide between the bad options he faces with Syria today, but the next president, and the one after that, will inherit a far more secure and independent nation.

Shamed into War

If Obama is going to strike Syria, he should do it constitutionally and with purpose. 

 By Charles Krauthammer
Having leaked to the world, and thus to Syrian president Bashar Assad, a detailed briefing of the coming U.S. air attack on Syria — (1) the source (offshore warships and perhaps a bomber or two), (2) the weapon (cruise missiles), (3) the duration (two or three days), (4) the purpose (punishment, not “regime change”) — perhaps we should be publishing the exact time the bombs will fall, lest we disrupt dinner in Damascus.

So much for the element of surprise. Into his third year of dithering, two years after declaring Assad had to go, one year after drawing — then erasing — his own red line on chemical weapons, Barack Obama has been stirred to action.

Or more accurately, shamed into action. Which is the worst possible reason. A president doesn’t commit soldiers to a war for which he has zero enthusiasm. Nor does one go to war for demonstration purposes.

Want to send a message? Call Western Union. A Tomahawk missile is for killing. A serious instrument of war demands a serious purpose.

The purpose can be either punitive or strategic: either a spasm of conscience that will inflame our opponents yet leave not a trace, or a considered application of abundant American power to alter the strategic equation that is now heavily favoring our worst enemies in the heart of the Middle East.

There are risks to any attack. Blowback terror from Syria and its terrorist allies. Threatened retaliation by Iran or Hezbollah on Israel — that could lead to a guns-of-August regional conflagration. Moreover, a mere punitive pinprick after which Assad emerges from the smoke intact and emboldened would demonstrate nothing but U.S. weakness and ineffectiveness.

In 1998, after al-Qaeda blew up two U.S. embassies in Africa, Bill Clinton lobbed a few cruise missiles into empty tents in Afghanistan. That showed ’em.

It did. It showed terminal unseriousness. Al-Qaeda got the message. Two years later, the USS Cole. A year after that, 9/11.

Yet even Clinton gathered the wherewithal to launch a sustained air campaign against Serbia. That wasn’t a mere message. That was a military strategy designed to stop the Serbs from ravaging Kosovo. It succeeded.
If Obama is planning a message-sending three-day attack, preceded by leaks telling the Syrians to move their important military assets to safety, better that he do nothing. Why run the considerable risk if nothing important is changed?

The only defensible action would be an attack with a strategic purpose, a sustained campaign aimed at changing the balance of forces by removing the Syrian regime’s decisive military advantage — air power.
Of Assad’s 20 air bases, notes (retired) General Jack Keane, six are primary. Attack them: the runways, the fighters, the helicopters, the fuel depots, the nearby command structures. Render them inoperable.

We don’t need to take down Syria’s air-defense system, as we did in Libya. To disable air power, we can use standoff systems — cruise missiles fired from ships offshore and from aircraft loaded with long-range smart munitions that need not overfly Syrian territory.

Depriving Assad of his total control of the air and making resupply from Iran and Russia far more difficult would alter the course of the war. That is a serious purpose.

Would the American people support it? They are justifiably war-weary and want no part of this conflict. And why should they? In three years, Obama has done nothing to prepare the country for such a serious engagement. Not one speech. No explanation of what’s at stake.

On the contrary. Last year Obama told us repeatedly that the tide of war was receding. This year, he grandly declared that the entire War on Terror “must end.” If he wants Tomahawks to fly, he’d better have a good reason, tell it to the American people, and get the support of their representatives in Congress, the way George W. Bush did for both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It is rather shameful that while the British prime minister recalled Parliament to debate possible airstrikes — late Thursday, Parliament actually voted down British participation — Obama has made not a gesture in that direction. 

If you are going to do this, Mr. President, do it constitutionally. And seriously. This is not about you and your conscience. It’s about applying American power to do precisely what you now deny this is about — helping Assad go, as you told the world he must.

Otherwise, just send Assad a text message. You might incur a roaming charge, but it’s still cheaper than a three-day, highly telegraphed, perfectly useless demonstration strike.

Obama's Foreign Failure

The world hasn't lived up to his Pollyannaish expectations.

Barack Obama entered the White House with the promise of restoring our nation's standing in the world. Suffering from war fatigue and concerned with the demands of being the sole superpower in an increasingly dangerous world, many Americans found it tempting to believe that promise. As a candidate, Mr. Obama had been cheered by a couple of hundred thousand in his speech at Berlin's Victory Column. He was idolized by the European intelligentsia and the American left as the antidote to what they saw as the war-mongering and go-it-alone attitude of George W. Bush, who in their eyes lacked Obama's worldliness and sophistication.

In 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Mr. Obama the Peace Prize, citing his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." That was quite an accomplishment for someone who had served a partial Senate term and less than a year as president.

It would be a grand understatement to say that much was expected of this president and his foreign-policy team. All Americans, whether or not they voted for Obama or agreed with his domestic policies, should have wanted this team to succeed in making the world safer. Unfortunately, foreign policy can be the most difficult of the many challenges a president faces. Reality was bound to set in, and it did.

What a difference between 2009 and today, when we find foreign policies that are inept, misguided or both. Former CNN producer Frida Ghitis summed things up nicely when she wrote that "America's foreign policy has gone into a tailspin" and our nation "looks weak and confused on the global stage."

While Russia's recent decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden is rightly seen as a slap at the U.S., it should not have been surprising. It is doubtful Vladimir Putin ever took this administration seriously. In retrospect, the early efforts of Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden to seek more cooperation with Russia simply by a "reset" of our relationship were probably always doomed to fail.

It's not just Mr. Putin, as terrorists and tyrants in the Middle East and elsewhere seldom take us seriously. The "leading from behind" approach used in Libya is emblematic of the administration's approach to foreign policy, with the unfortunate result being a lack of influence in the world and no good options to deal with the unrest and death in Syria and Egypt. There has been little in the way of effort to stop Iran's nuclear program or to punish it for supplying weapons used in attacks on our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was the terrible tragedy in Benghazi and the dismal subsequent behavior of the administration. There has been dithering and worrying about political correctness at the expense of security. The recent temporary closings of 19 of our foreign embassies might well have been the right thing to do, but the broader question has to be how we ever found ourselves where such a humiliating retreat was necessary.

In fairness, Team Obama has done some good things for national security, such as enhancing the use of drones in the war on terror, continuing to monitor phone and electronic communications, finding and eliminating Osama bin Laden and, so far, not following up on its mistaken promise to close the detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The rightness of these policies is indicated by the anger and disappointment they have caused among the antidefense, blame-America-first left.

But overall the Obama foreign policy team seems to suffer from a Pollyannaish approach to the world. They do not seem to understand that those who hate America will hate us, and will try to harm us, whether our president is Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama. They do not seem to understand that the U.S. president simply declaring the war on terror to be over or that al Qaeda is decimated and on the run does not make such things true. They do not understand that, while it's good to extend an offer of peace to those who hate us, those who continue to abuse that effort and harm others need to know with certainty that they will feel the appropriate unpleasant consequences. They fail to understand it's OK to "speak softly" only as long as our enemies know we've got that "big stick" and are not afraid to use it.

The great sorrow is that the damage caused by this administration will take years to repair, and America and the world will be less safe, less peaceful and less secure. The great irony is that a man and his team who are so good at domestic politics, and understanding how the American voters think, can be so bad at foreign policy and understanding how the real world works.

It's lonely out there, leading from behind

Until Barack Obama's presidency, the one certainty an American president could count on in the risky realm of war and peace was the support of the Brits. But now Obama finds himself with only France, as the UK Parliament debated and rejected support for military action against Syria. Bashir Assad appears to have called his bluff on a chemical weapons red line. With Russia dispatching warships and Iran fulminating as usual, a stare-down is underway and Obama's "smart diplomacy" has isolated America, and the Russian reset has exploded in his face like an Acme cigar.

So we have two men, Obama and Putin, in a face off.

Unlike the reviled George W. Bush, who was able to assemble coalitions numbering well into double digits for his military ventures in the Islamic world, Barack Obama is left with France, which used to run Syria as a League of Nations mandate. The last time the United States got itself involved in a former French colonial outpost it turned into the Vietnam War, not the best omen.  Besides, the support of those guys who surrendered two World Wars just doesn't provide that much comfort.  Maybe Obama should have kept that bust of Churchill.

The American media have colluded to shield Americans from the rest of the world's growing contempt for our president. But by foolishly invoking a red line on a particular weapon of mass destruction, he is now trapped. He's never experienced this before, because in domestic politics he has always been able to blame Republicans and frame the subject to his advantage with the cooperation of media friends. But there is absolutely no way I can conceive of to blame Republicans for his current dilemma.  So he is stuck either lobbing missiles pretty much on our own in the hope that Russia and Iran don't retaliate or backing down. Both hopes seem unrealistic, to put it mildly.

God save our country.

How Many More Nidal Hasans in Our Ranks?

By Michelle Malkin
A military jury sentenced unrepentant Fort Hood jihadist Nidal Hasan to death on Wednesday. But if another murderous Muslim soldier's case is any indication, Hasan may be sitting in the catbird seat for years to come. And our men and women in uniform will remain endangered by Islamic vigilantes in their own ranks.

Remember Sgt. Hasan Akbar? On March 23, 2003, this hate-filled soldier with the 326th Engineer Battalion lobbed stolen hand grenades and shot his M-4 automatic rifle into three tents filled with sleeping commanding officers at the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade operations center in Kuwait. The grenade attack claimed the lives of two American patriots: Capt. Christopher Seifert and Maj. Gregory Stone.

Like Hasan, the militant Muslim Akbar gave plenty of notice that he was a threat to his fellow servicemen. His bosses pegged him as a menace with an "attitude problem" well before the fragging. Despite several incidents of insubordination and prior invocation of his Islamic beliefs to skip out of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Akbar's superiors dispatched him to Kuwait on the eve of the invasion of Iraq -- and put him in charge of clearing land mines. Sensitivity trumped soldier safety.

At Akbar's court martial, prosecutors read vengeful quotes from his diary, in which he vowed: "I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible," and "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed." Eyewitnesses said that after his arrest he inveighed against his fellow troops: "You guys are coming into our countries, and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."

This soldier of Allah, not America, was sentenced to death in April 2005 on two counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of premeditated attempted murder. But Hasan Akbar, unlike his victims, still lives. And so does his Koran-inspired hatred of our soldiers (a pathology addressed specifically in the slide presentation Nidal Hasan gave to his colleagues at Walter Reed Army Hospital).

As I reported exclusively during the trial, Akbar stole a pair of scissors and stabbed an attending MP in the shoulder and neck. The judge downplayed the new attack as an "opportunistic stabbing." Meanwhile, Akbar's lawyers are using every opportunity to exploit the legal system. Eight years after his sentencing and 10 years after his jihad attack, Akbar's case remains on appeal. It is likely headed for the Supreme Court -- and even after that, no execution will take place until the president gives it a green light.

I can guarantee you there's a snowball's chance in hell that the Obama administration, which deemed Nidal Hasan's jihad at Fort Hood "workplace violence," will be rushing to send Akbar to meet his 72 virgins anytime soon.

You can also mark my words on this: Despite the blood-red flags and warnings of these soldiers of Allah, our feckless feds have done little to prevent the next Nidal Hasan or Hasan Akbar from striking again.
Past al-Qaida-linked Muslim soldiers inside the U.S. military include:

--Army soldier Ali Mohamed, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with Osama bin Laden to "attack any Western target in the Middle East" and admitted his role in the 1998 African embassy bombings.
--Naval reservist Semi Osman, who was linked to a terrorist training camp in Oregon. 

--Jeffrey Leon Battle, Army reservist who pleaded guilty to conspiring to levy war against the United States.
--Navy sailor Hassan Abu-Jihaad (you read that right), who was convicted on espionage and material terrorism support charges after serving aboard the USS Benfold and sharing classified information with al-Qaida financiers, including movements of U.S. ships just six months after al-Qaida operatives had killed 17 Americans aboard the USS Cole in the port of Yemen.

--U.S. Army Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo, an overt anti-American agitator who plotted to kill his fellow soldiers to "get even" with the military and strike at kafirs (non-Muslims).

The common thread tying these infiltrators together? Nidal Hasan spelled it out for his deaf, dumb and willfully blind military superiors: "We love death more then [sic] you love life!" He recommended that the military allow Muslim soldiers "the option of being released" to "increase troop morale and decrease adverse events." Hasan's report was ignored by his superiors, excluded from his trial and goes unheeded at the Pentagon today. Political correctness is an American soldier of Allah's best friend.

It's Super-Media! With the Power to Detect Non-Existent Racism

By Ann Coulter
The media's fixation on the Trayvon Martin case, while ignoring much more brutal crimes with clearer racial motivations, is a return to pre-O.J. America. 

The thesis of my book, "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama" -- out in paperback this week! -- is that after decades of liberals play-acting Racist America, wherein they cast themselves as civil rights champions, and other, random white people as Bull Connor (a Democrat), it all ended with the O.J. verdict. 

That's when white America said, That's it. The white guilt bank is shut down. It was one of the best things that ever happened to America -- especially for black people. 

But then in 2007, Barack Obama brought it all back. In order to immunize the most left-wing presidential candidate the nation has ever seen, the Non-Fox Media went into overdrive reporting their fantasies of an America full of racists, constantly terrorizing innocent blacks. 

Of course, once Republicans got the Democrats to stop terrorizing black people, there was no one else doing it. Nonetheless, for decades, the media would highlight every apparent white-on-black crime, treating each such incident as the Crime of the Century. 

White-on-black crimes were, and are, freakishly rare. But the media weren't showcasing these one-off events as man-bites-dog stories, but rather as dog-bites-man stories in a universe brimming with packs of rabid dogs. According to liberals, whites attacking blacks was an epidemic -- a nationwide "cancer," in the words of erstwhile New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

In December 1986, a gang of white toughs were roaming around Howard Beach, Queens, brawling with anyone they met. They beat up an off-duty white fireman. They attacked a couple of Hispanics. But it was only when the young delinquents fought with three black men -- Cedric Sandiford, Timothy Grimes and Michael Griffith -- that they secured their place in history and became the literary event of the season!
After the initial encounter between the black and white punks -- there were epithets exchanged and criminal records on both sides -- the white gang returned with a baseball bat, spoiling for a fight. Grimes ran off unharmed, Sandiford got beaten, and Griffith tried to flee by climbing through a hole in a fence -- and ran directly into a busy six-lane highway, where he was hit by a car and killed. 

The police summarily concluded that the white gang's other fights that night had "no racial overtones." Only the fight with the blacks constituted a hate crime. The FBI opened an investigation and 50 police officers were assigned to investigate. Hollywood made a movie about Howard Beach. The New York Times still celebrates anniversaries of the Howard Beach attack. 

News stories were brimming with references to Birmingham and Selma. Columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote, "Howard Beach suddenly has become what Birmingham once meant." (A few years later, the ethnically sensitive Breslin was suspended for denouncing a young Korean-American colleague in the newsroom as a "slant-eyed b***h.") 

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Atlantic editor Jack Beatty blamed Howard Beach on the Republican Party: "From Richard M. Nixon's 'Southern strategy' to Ronald Reagan's boilerplate about 'welfare queens,' the legatees of the party of Lincoln have wrung political profit from the white backlash. Howard Beach shows that the politics of prejudice may have some vile life left in it yet." 

In 1986, only 2.6 percent of all homicides in the entire country were white-on-black killings. Black criminals killed nearly three times as many white people (949) as whites killed blacks (378) and they killed 16 times as many black people (6,235) as whites did. 

Mayor Koch called the Howard Beach attack "the most horrendous incident of violence in the nine years I have been mayor." 

Earlier that year, a 20-year-old white design student, Dawn Livecchi, answered the doorbell at her Fort Greene, Brooklyn, townhouse and was shot dead by a black man, Anthony Neal Jenkins, who had followed her home from the grocery store. 

One Queens woman interviewed by the Times about the Howard Beach attack mentioned that her husband had been beaten so badly by a group of blacks that he remained in a coma two years later. 

In one of dozens of "retaliatory" attacks that invariably follow these media-created racial incidents, the day after the attack, a black gang beat and robbed a white, 17-year-old boy sitting at a Queens bus stop, shouting, "Howard Beach! Howard Beach!" "He's a white boy, and they killed a black boy at Howard Beach." 

Just a week before the Howard Beach attack there was another interracial crime in a neighborhood only slightly farther away from The New York Times' building than Howard Beach is. A 63-year-old white woman, Ann Viner, was attacked at her home in New Canaan, Conn., savagely beaten, dragged to her swimming pool and drowned by two 20-year-old black men. 

It was the first murder in the affluent town in 17 years. That seems like a newsworthy event to me. 

But the Times mentioned Viner's murder only in three short news items, totaling less than a thousand words. The longest piece, 500 words, was an initial report on the murder -- when there was still hope that the killers were white! No other major news outlets in the country mentioned Viner's murder. 

So if you're confused by the blanket coverage of the Trayvon Martin case -- attracting even the attention of the president of the United States! -- while far more common and more vicious black-on-white murders are ignored, try to understand that liberals are frightened by change. They are desperately clinging to a world that never existed. 

Their fantasy of an America bristling with racists allows them to portray any criticism of our massively incompetent and dangerous president as just another sad episode of oh-so-typical white racism. They have to protect Obama, so the rest of us have to get Mugged

A word of caution to striking fast food workers

 You can be replaced:
McDonalds recently went on a hiring binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employees to its roster. The hiring picture doesn’t look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is drafting 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to handle cashiering duties.
The move is designed to boost efficiency and make ordering more convenient for customers. In an interview with the Financial Times, McDonald’s Europe President Steve Easterbrook notes that the new system will also open up a goldmine of data.
Automation becomes more and more of an option as our technology advances continue to expand exponentially.  And automation usually is used to replace low-end, low-skilled workers – like those in fast food restaurants.  That’s an unfortunate truth.  Automation becomes a viable option when the job it would replace becomes too expensive to the employer when using traditional means.  That is, a worker.  If the worker can be replaced at a reasonable cost with a machine or system that is reliable and in the end makes that operation more efficient and profitable, chances are the employer will take that option.

$15 an hour certainly pushes any number of fast food jobs into that range.    The McDonald’s kiosks are simply a fast food version of ATMs.  The list of what they don’t require is quite extensive.  They don’t require scheduling, benefits, sick days, or even pay.  They’re efficient, consistent, and while they might break down occasionally, they’ll never demand a vacation or time off.  Oh, and no ObamaCare costs.

Why the Left Really is against Voter ID Laws

The crusade against voter ID laws is the new front in the Left's perennial campaign to convince Americans that Jim Crow is lurking just around the corner.

Left-wing activists and Democrat politicians argue that these laws disproportionately disqualify minorities. They further contend that voter ID laws are pushed by Republicans for the explicit purpose of suppressing the minority vote. Ergo, they insist, the intent of voter ID laws is racist.

It is of little concern to the Left and their allies in the "news" media that a supermajority of white and non-white Americans supports these laws, that jurisdictions with these laws in place saw an increase in black and Hispanic voter turnout in 2012, or that the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that voter ID laws are constitutional.

The Left is just as unmoved by the argument that there are virtually no barriers to acquiring a state issued ID, that an ID is required to drive a car, get a job, and rent an apartment, or that the assumption that black people are not as capable of getting an ID as white people is itself inherently racist.

No. When it comes to the issue of voter IDs, facts, logic, empirical evidence, and common sense cannot get in the way of leveling the libelous charge that racist Republicans are committed to stopping minorities from voting.

We can chalk the Left's position on voter IDs to opportunism: they know that voter IDs can, at least in theory, mitigate election fraud and potentially lower Democrat turnout. But this explanation overlooks the larger point: the Left's opposition to voter IDs is rooted in its ambivalence to representative democracy.

For the far left, elections are a means to an end. So long as elections lead to liberal Democrats implementing a leftist agenda, they are desirable. But if Americans elect conservatives who implement an agenda antithetical to the Left's world view, then elections are impediments to utopia. In other words, the Left does not place intrinsic value on elections. Above all, the Left values an intrusive federal government equipped with the power to manage (or micromanage) all sectors of society for the supposed betterment of humanity.

This is in stark contrast to conservatives and libertarians, who do place intrinsic value on elections. Not because elections always yield desirable results (we know they don't) but because representative democracy is necessary to a free and just society. It's not sufficient; there must be the rule of law inscribed in a Constitution that limits the power of elected officials and protects individual rights form majoritarian abuse. And as we saw in Nazi Germany and more recently in Egypt during the short reign of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is possible for despots to come to power democratically.

Yet democracy is the only means for holding the State accountable. As such, for conservatives, and specifically for constitutionalists, representative democracy is inherently good, regardless of electoral outcomes.  As Winston Churchill quipped, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.

And because conservatives value representative democracy as a good in itself, we value the integrity of the electoral process. If elections are fraught with fraud and corruption, then representative democracy is a farce. (Saddam Hussein was technically democratically re-elected every seven years with 100% of the vote.)

Voter ID laws help preserve the integrity of elections and limit electoral fraud by simply ensuring that the person voting is who he says he is and that he is legally registered to vote. It's not a perfect system -- there is no such thing -- but it's a perfectly rational one.

For the Left, voter ID laws are tantamount to the poll tax and other discriminatory measures that have been obsolete for decades. For all the reasons listed above, this is a nonsensical position.             

But because the Left does not inherently value representative democracy and sees it only as a means to Big Government, neither do leftists care about the integrity of the system. If voter ID laws make it more difficult for homeless people, dead people, felons, and other illegitimate voters to vote Democrat, then voter ID laws are barriers to leftist utopia.

The Bolsheviks (or Social Democrats as they liked to be called) held one election after seizing power in Russia. When to their shock they did not win the majority of the seats in Russia's parliament, they swiftly nullified the results, murdered in cold blood thousands of Russians protesting the injustice, and never held elections again.

I am not equating the American Left to the Russian Communist Party. My point is that the far left is a friend of democracy only when democracy serves to advance the left's agenda. If elections can be rigged to advance that agenda, then the means justify the end.

For most conservatives, the Left's visceral opposition to voter ID laws is a ploy to increase illegitimate Democratic turnout. For most Americans who are not political, the opposition is bizarre and nonsensical.  The underlying logic of the far left is against common sense measures that preserve the integrity of elections because they pursue utopia, not a system of checks and balances.

What 'It's the Law-of-the-Land' Means

I've heard proponents of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, declare, "It's the law-of-the-land."

What that's supposed to mean is that once the Supreme Court has ruled that an act (or practice) is constitutional, opposition should cease because "it's the law-of-the-land." According to Obamacare's proponents' logic, all citizens must always obey the law.
This poses at least two quandaries.

If citizens are supposed to obey the law, what are we to make of the German resistance to Hitler and the Nazis between 1933 and 1945? If my reading of German history during that period is correct, virtually everything the Nazis did -- other than the bloodletting on the "Night of the Long Knives" on June 30-July 2, 1934 and the violence against Jews on Kristallnacht on November 8-9, 1938 -- was legal, i.e., was based on law. 

Hitler and his Nazi henchmen sought to provide a patina of legitimacy, i.e., legality, to virtually everything they did. (If you read books about the lives of ordinary Germans during the Nazi era, such as They Thought They Were Free, by the late Milton Mayer, you quickly grasp what the Nazis' legitimacy gained for them between 1933 and 1945. Not only did the ordinary men Mayer interviewed think they could go about their lives unfettered, but they also assumed -- they didn't have my Little League coach, obviously -- that the government, i.e., Hitler and his lieutenants, was following "the law-of-the-land.")

Hitler was named chancellor on January 30, 1933 via legal means, as provided for by the "Weimar constitution." He was made Führer und Reichskanzler on August 19, 1934 by a legal plebiscite in which 95.7% of the eligible electorate went to the polls and 88.1% approved of the move. (Most, but not all historians tell us that the 1934 referendum was the last "free" election to be held in Germany for the next decade or more.) 

If the Nazi period ought not serve as a cautionary note -- Germany is a foreign country -- what are we to make of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537), which established the constitutionality of "separate-but-equal" racial codes? "Separate-but-equal" was the law-of-the-land for 58 years, until another Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483), overturned the principle in 1954.
Let's do a mental exercise, and go back to the America before the Brown decision. How might those who would have us kowtow to ObamaCare because "it's the law-of-the-land" have conducted themselves under the "separate-but-equal" principle when it came to race relations? 

If you accept the pro-ObamaCare logic, that all citizens should obey every "law-of-the-land," then you have no choice but to declare the actions of early civil-rights icons such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. "criminal," and demand that they be tried and found guilty of criminal conduct. (Actually, the early civil rights activists were willing to pay any legal penalty for their "crimes." So, in that sense, at least, the issue is moot.)

It's also worth noting that, according to the Obamacare advocates' logic, one also has to declare that the "Freedom Riders," "Freedom Marchers," "civil rights demonstrators," etc. were acting against "the law-of-the-land." On the other hand, "Bull" Connor and others of his ilk were upholding "the law-of-the-land." 

Turns history on its head, doesn't it?

We have a supreme irony here. The Obamians like to pronounce that they are the ultimate proponents of "hope and change." But if we accept their logic vis-à-vis ObamaCare, change should not happen.

That's an odd posture, given the missed deadlines and changes to the 2010 law being instituted by Dear Leader himself, or by minions in his administration. Not only have portions of the act been delayed -- without, of course, getting congressional authorization -- but Dear Leader has seen fit to have the government pay 75% of the premiums for our glorious heroes in Congress and their thousands of munchkins -- staff -- who bleat that they can't afford ObamaCare's mandated insurance premiums. (The rest of us, of course, are on our own.) 

To make matters worse, Montana Senator Max Baucus -- a key author of the 2010 bill -- now tells us that it will be "a train-wreck," which probably means that even more changes will be forthcoming out of the Administration. Will any future changes be made by congressional authorization? (Since Baucus has announced he will not seek re-election in 2014, he won't be around to find out.)

Now that, by hook and crook, Obama has his signature program -- ObamaCare -- as law, and John Roberts, joined by four left-wing Supreme Court judges, conjured up enough legal arcana to certify its constitutionality, Dear Leader's administration will brook no change. Unless, of course, Dear Leader makes the change(s) himself. (Only the naïve and/or simple-minded would think that an administration operative, such as Sebelius, would change the ObamaCare law without Dear Leader's approval.)

Let's return to the question of what the Obamians -- with their "obey 'the law-of-the-land'" mindset vis-à-vis ObamaCare -- would have had the civil rights movement do before the 1954 Brown decision. If a citizen must obey "the law-of-the-land," people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and his associates would have had little justification for opposing "separate-but-equal" racial codes. "Separate-but-equal" was "the law-of-the-land."

At the very least, there's a moral obtuseness in those who insist that citizens obey "the law-of-the-land," without examining, as Dr. King did in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," whether a law is just or unjust.

Some features of Obamacare -- such as its requirement that employers pay for birth control for employees, even if that contravenes the employer's religious beliefs -- are clearly in violation of
the Constitution's First-Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

What about those of us who may not oppose ObamaCare on religious grounds, but still believe it to be an unjust law? (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius [2012] was wrongly decided.) Are we to be denied our First-Amendment guarantee of the right to petition (the government) for redress of our grievances? May we not peacefully assemble -- in the Internet era, the notion of "assemble" assumes new meanings -- to lobby against this unjust law?

Even before Obama was immaculated on January 20, 2009, he and his minions have made their statist proclivities clear to anyone who chose to see. The Obamians' insistence that citizens obey ObamaCare because it's "the law-of-the-land" also signals that they're fascists, of the type Jonah Goldberg warned us about

This leads to the next question: what if stubborn "boobs" (such as yours truly) go on insisting that ObamaCare be defunded or abolished? We may soon find out.

The Pros and Cons of Attacking Syria

PJ Media's columnists weigh in on intervening in Syria as the Obama administration decides how to respond to the use of chemical weapons.

Well today, Thursday, it looks like we’re running away from the very idea of doing anything. Today’s headlines say that the intel is suddenly dubious, that Cameron won’t do anything without the UN — which means he won’t do anything at all — and Hollande is suddenly cautious
Surprised?  You say it’s inconceivable that Obama would do nothing at all after all the yelling and jumping up and down?

It wouldn’t be the first time. Think back to the Iranian-sponsored plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to Washington. There was a monster press conference, featuring the FBI director and General Holder himself.  Intel was presented. Violent words were uttered. Anyone who watched it would have had only one question: what terrible vengeance will we wreak upon the Iranians?

And then…nothing. Aside from General Mattis, it’s hard to find an authoritative voice condemning the inaction (and Mattis only said it on the eve of retirement). The story just went away, as pundits assured their readers, viewers, and listeners that the Iranians couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered an attack on American soil.

Kinda like the current refrain that Assad couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered a chemical attack against his enemies…

As you know, I think the best way to go after Assad is to help the Iranian people bring down their theocratic fascist regime. There are only two chances that Obama will support such a policy (and Slim has moved to Qatar). I would not be surprised if the air goes out of Obama’s trial war balloons, and the public is told that it never happened at all, that he never seriously contemplated violent action, and that he fought from the get-go to rein in the hawks.

Orwell says in 1984 that history was always manipulated, but nobody in the past had the ability to totally erase and rewrite recent events now on display. It may be only a matter of hours before we are told that Obama’s brave decision — to do nothing — is an example of consummate presidential leadership, courage under pressure, and moral virtue.

Yes, it could happen. Most anything can happen.

Most of the arguments pro and con for an intervention in Syria have already been made.

I think the consensus is that while stopping Assad in 2011 might have been wise (before the use of the WMD and 100,000 dead), doing so now is, well, problematic.

He has shown far more resilience than the administration thought when it ordered him to leave (dictators rarely leave when ordered to by an American president). The opposition seems far more dominated by al-Qaeda affiliates than originally thought (not all that many Westernized intellectuals, persecuted minorities, and Arab Spring bloggers are still left on the barricades).

In addition, both critics and supporters of the president point out that had Obama just kept quiet, he could have kept the option of intervening on his own timetable, rather than being forced to when his rhetorical red lines were not merely crossed but erased in humiliating fashion. Since his bluff has been called, he now has to act to save face rather than to save lives — 100,000 of them too late.

Yet the rub is not just that it is unlikely that we can find all the WMD depots and destroy them safely from the air (keeping them out of both Assad’s and our allies’ hands).

Nor is the problem just that it is unlikely that a limited punitive blow against Assad will topple him (and then what?) and restore American rhetorical credibility.

Instead, we are not sure that the opposition is likely to be any better than the monster Assad. Did we learn nothing from Libya and Egypt? The paradox in the Middle East is that Americans can control the postwar landscape and promote consensual government only by inserting large numbers of ground troops — an unacceptable political reality. A Putinesque shelling and bombing solution (more rubble, less trouble) is ethically unacceptable to most Americans.

Then there are the domestic politics. During the Iraq War, authorization from Congress was essential; now it is not? The excruciating and ultimately failed effort in 2002 at the UN took weeks; now it is not even attempted by a Peace Prize laureate? Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical?

In 2006-8, Assad was a reformer, worth visiting and cajoling, declared unjustly alienated by a jingoistic Bush administration, and worthy of restoring relations with. And now he is satanic (what did Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry think those army units they saw during their visits were for — parades and pomp? Did they recall his father at Hama?). In short, here at home, the outs are in, and the ins are out, and the arguments make the necessary adjustments.

The president cited Iraq yesterday. Let us revisit it for a second. Many of us supported the Iraq War — not in 1998 or before 9/11 when some of the most fiery adherents of regime change were lobbying both Bill Clinton and George Bush for “regime change” — but on the general premise that in a post-9/11 climate, the no-fly-zones and oil embargoes were waning and  a genocidal monster would always resume being a genocidal monster at the heart of regional unrest.

But we remember how after each week of escalating violence, supporters jumped ship. The congressional bipartisan vote to approve action had outlined well the reasons why Saddam should go, some 23 writs, the vast majority of them having nothing to do with WMD. That is not to say that WMD was not hyped by the administration to galvanize support, but only to remind us that Saddam’s genocidal record transcended WMD and by 2003 he had probably killed 10 times more than has Assad so far in his war.

After stockpiles of WMD were not found, did the other 20-something writs (genocide, bounties for suicide bombers, assassination attempts against a former U.S. president, harboring murderous terrorists, etc.?) not apply?

As the occupation went badly, the public’s 75% support for the war dipped below 40%. The stalwarts of the Democratic Party flipped (e.g., John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc.) and saw an anti-war stance as critical to the party’s 2006 recovery. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore became ephemeral media darlings. Someone named Obama emerged, decrying the war, drone bombing, renditions, preventative detentions, and Guantanamo Bay.

Indeed, many conservatives who very early on had wanted the war now claimed that their brilliant three-week war was now someone else’s fouled up years-long occupation, forgetting Matthew Ridgway’s dictum that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.

I cite all this to remind the current proponents of action that should we begin hitting the wrong targets, find that Islamists are using our air cover to commit atrocities, discover that the militias are turning postwar Syria into postwar Libya, or find that we are forced to settle up with Hezbollah, Iran, or some other third-party, those now advocating for action most likely will cite administration incompetence as sufficient reasons for why they are withdrawing their support.  I doubt they will sink or swim to the last bomb with Commander-in-Chief Obama.

In short, from what we’ve seen from this administration with its withdrawal dates in Afghanistan, its boasts about getting every single soldier out of Iraq, its deadlines to Iran, its red lines to Syria, its reset with Vladimir Putin, and its euphemistic war on terror, it is simply not up to a sustained air war over Syria, or anything much other than a day or two of lobbying cruise missiles. To think that it is will sorely disappoint present supporters of bombing Assad.

Both the American people and the U.S. Congress already sense that. We should too.

Aristotle gives Obama a lesson about Syria.

What is the right thing to do about Syria? On the one hand you have the thuggish Assad regime, which has murdered thousands in the past year. I doubt whether Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert” any time soon. That now-notorious interview with Mrs. Assad from February 2012 — talk about bad timing! — treated the magazine’s 11 million readers to a gushing portrait of the “wildly democratic” Assads, a power couple who combined the fashion sense of Anna Wintour herself with the do-gooder instincts of a latter day Mother Teresa. The preposterous puff piece won Wintour and her writer, Joan Juliet Buck, last year’s Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity.

On the other hand, you have the opposition to the Assad regime. What manner of beast is that? Not all that dissimilar to the Libyan opposition. You remember those freedom fighters: two parts al-Qaeda energized by Salafist radicals and tempered by the wise beards of the “largely secular” (or so says our director of national intelligence) from the Muslim Brotherhood. Doubtless there was also a sprig or two of genuine secular protest, but that element was like the lemon peel on the Martini glass: a fleeting aroma of spring freshness backed up by an 80-proof cocktail of radicalism.

The trace fragrance of lemons in a properly made Martini has approximately as much to do with spring time as the ochlocratic uprisings that are currently tearing apart Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other places of fun and frolic in the Muslim world. It isn’t an “Arab Spring,” as sentimentalists in the press and the Obama administration insisted, but a bad case of what Andrew McCarthy calls Spring Fever.

So what’s a panicked Alinskyite narcissist to do? So far, Obama’s Middle East policy — if a pattern of blundering confusion can rightly be called a “policy” — has borne an eerie similarity to his voting record as a state and later a U.S. Senator: cagey attestations of “Present” whenever a vote is taken, combined with a canny and ruthless talent for somehow taking the credit for eventualities that might redound to one’s credit. The demise of Osama bin Laden is a case in point.

When Obama took office, Egypt was ruled by an authoritarian but basically pro-Western and pro-Israel autocrat. Now the country is teetering on the edge of anarchy, its economy in shambles, its people mere weeks away from starvation. When Obama took office, Libya was ruled by a preposterous transvestite thug who had been brought to heel by Western suasion. Now Libya is a toxic breeding ground of Islamic triumphalism, aptly epitomized by the obscene murder of Muammar Gaddafi by a mob of radical Islamists as well as the attack on our installation in Benghazi last September 11, a coordinated assault that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and which Obama’s spokesmen blamed on a rancid anti-Muslim internet video but which was really the result of his administration’s dithering incompetence. “Present” didn’t save the day for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the brave men in his security detail and it hasn’t been working out too well with respect to Syria, either, where someone —was it Assad’s minions? (Was it?)  — unleashed poison gas near Damascus, killing hundreds.

So, should Obama bomb Syria, even if it is illegal? Careful. There’s a reason why Russia’s deputy prime minister — speaking, of course, for Putin himself — said that the West was behaving about Syria like “a monkey with a grenade.” The vertiginous spectacle of blundering incompetence is painful to behold.
And this is where Aristotle makes an entrance. In a famous passage of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle observed that one can behave in certain ways that make any course of action morally opprobrious. Most of us do not choose to act in an unjust way. But we can live our lives in such a way that no good course of action is open to us. “The unjust and profligate,” Aristotle says, “might at the outset have avoided becoming so… although when they have become unjust and profligate it is no longer open to them not to be so.” Once you cast the stone, you cannot bring it back, but you are responsible for having taken up flinging the stone in the first place.

Or voting “Present.” Some of my friends believe the grounds for military action against Syria are patent. I suspect it is too late for such clarity.  There was a time, in the early days of the Obama regime, when we might have taken effective action in the Middle East, when leadership might have made a difference in Egypt, in Libya, in Iran. In those days — how distant they seem! — the United States still exerted enormous if widely resented moral influence in the region. Obama’s habit of “leading from behind” (i.e., relinquishing leadership) has not-so-gradually eroded that authority. Now what? Obama, along with his Goneril and Regan, Samantha Power and Valerie Jarrett, would be sadly comic if the game they were playing were not so serious. Obama’s blundering has already cost thousands of lives in the Muslim world, many American lives as well as the lives of indigenes. In Syria, the stakes have been raised yet again. Intervene or leave it alone? There are those who believe that the horror of the gas attacks in Syria require that action, some action, any action, as a necessary cathartic for us moral paragons in the West. But what if it unleashes something far worse? Are we confident that this president and his band of not-so-merry pranksters have the skill to deploy force at the right time, in the right place, for the right ends, and in the right proportion? Pondering that I think of Aristotle’s observation that “only a blockhead fails to recognize that our character is the result of our conduct.” I am not uplifted by the reflection.

Okay, I’m a warmonger.

Worse than that — I’m a chickenhawk.  The closest I have ever come to war is a bar fight with a contributor to the Daily Kos.  (Kidding… almost)

Nevertheless, I don’t see what choice the U. S. has about striking Syria — and not because our president drew some sort of “red line,” but because of gas itself.  You don’t have to be Jewish to believe that, since Auschwitz, gassing your fellow human beings is pretty close to the most obscene act we can perform on each other.  It’s forbidden by the Geneva Conventions for a reason.

The people who perpetrate this obscenity — Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad — deserve to die for their actions. And I’m not even much of a believer in capital punishment.

That’s one reason to move against the Syrian regime, although I fear our administration will not do enough and make the whole thing moot.

The second reason is to scare the bejeesus out of what Brother Ledeen calls the “terror masters” in Iran and perhaps deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons.  We will certainly have to do more in that regard, but any weakening of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria nexus is to the good.

Some worry we will be aiding al-Qaeda. Perhaps so. But they’re next.  (Or possibly simultaneous if this report from Le Figaro is to be believed.)

In any case, in the War on Terror, we are going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.
We’re even going to have to learn to function  without a good commander-in-chief… at least for a while.
If you want more extensive elucidation of my views, I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday.

Go after the dog’s master, not the dog.

Kudos to Michael Ledeen for explaining that the road to Damascus starts in Tehran.  As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu explained on Aug. 25, “Assad’s regime isn’t acting alone. Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing ground. … Iran is watching and it wants to see what will be the reaction to the use of chemical weapons.”

We are at war with Iran, and I have little to add to Michael’s excellent summary. As he reiterates, we have been at war with Iran for decades. The only distinction is that Iran knows this and the Obama administration pretends it’s not happening. Because the American public is disgusted with the miserable return on our investment of 5,000 lives, 50,000 casualties, and $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are too timid to push for decisive military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program — although air strikes rather than ground troops would be required.
I made a similar case on March 29:
It’s pointless to take potshots at Obama for failing to act on Syria. What we should say is this: “Iran is the main source of instability in the Middle East. Iran’s intervention in Syria has turned the country into a slaughterhouse. By showing weakness to Iran, the Obama administration encourages its murderous activities elsewhere in the region.”
I also recommend Ed “Give War a Chance” Luttwak’s Aug. 25 op-ed in the New York Times, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” Victory for Assad would be victory for Iran. “And if the rebels win, “ Luttwak wrote, “moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers.” The whole region is paralyzed and ripe for destabilization. Saudi subsidies are keeping Egypt from starving, literally. “Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.” I would add that Turkey also is at economic free-fall with its stock market down by 40% in dollar terms since April.

Luttwak argues that the U.S. should favor “an indefinite draw.” Here I disagree: the chemical attack shows how easily Iran can manipulate events in Syria to suit its strategic objectives. The best solution is Yugoslav-style partition: an Alawite redoubt in the Northwest including Latakia (where Russia has its naval station), and a Sunni protectorate in the rest of the country, except for an autonomous zone for Syria’s Kurds. Everyone wins except the Turks, who understandably abhor the idea of an independent Kurdish entity. Someone has to lose, though. What has Turkey done for us lately?

Obama probably will choose the worst of all possible alternatives. Daniel Pipes warns that this course of action “will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad’s notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States. In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy.”

If the problems of the Middle East look intractable now, consider what they will look like if Iran can promote mass murder from under a nuclear umbrella. The hour is late. If we Republicans can’t summon the courage to advance fundamental American national security issues in the midst of crisis, we will deserve the voters’ contempt.

The most discouraging thing about the Syrian situation is the seeming pointlessness of Washington’s actions. There appears to be no directing intelligence, no strategic calculation behind the administration’s actions.The reasons for the proposed strike are largely cast in emotional terms: outrage at Assad having killed a thousand with nerve gas. But given that the last 100,000 of his victims did not elicit the same outrage, the recent indignation seems a judgment upon the manner (and not the fact) of the execution of innocents — a tragedy, as it were, of manners.

Yet none of the truly important questions have been aired in the proper forums. What is America’s interest in Syria? To checkmate Russia and Iran? To prevent Islamic terrorism from seizing yet another failed state? To forestall a wave of unrest and instability across the region? To prevent Israel from being drawn into war? And how will a limited strike designed not to inconvenience Assad too much achieve of any of these?

These questions were meant to be asked. They were required to be asked by the Founders, who personally knew more about war in more intimacy and length than the president ever will. This administration has abolished war by the adolescent method of giving it a variety of aliases like “leading from behind,” “kinetic military options,” and “sending a message.” In so doing, Obama has not only trivialized war but obviated the need to think on it.

Under its former and ugly name, the act of one country striking another country with military force was an awful thing, a fearful landscape to be entered only by long debate in the widest possible forum. The gateway to the battlefield was hung about with dread signs and the memories of sacrifices past. Today it’s a punch line.

The president might remember that in war the other side gets to vote and no plan, no set of talking points ever survives contact with the enemy; that once he starts something there is is an element of risk about where it goes. Did I say “the other side?” Well is there “another side” and does it have a name? It is the measure of the absurdity of the situation that this fundamental quantity, the sine qua non of conflict, the question of who is the enemy, remains, like the word “war” itself, concealed under an alias.

President Obama may not be interested in consequences, but consequences may be interested in him.

The good thing is that this is a military action with a clearly defined purpose: to distract us from the ineptitude and corruption of the Obama administration. In order to achieve this goal, a contained and restricted action should suffice, requiring little more than the meaningless scattershot dropping of bombs, followed by a presidential speech about poison gas featuring a Very Serious Expression. The word “barbaric” and the phrase “will not be tolerated” should only be deployed if absolutely necessary, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. The sides are clearly drawn: on one we have the murderous tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and on the other, we have al-Qaeda, and really, you just couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people. So, looking on the bright side, at least we’re unlikely to miss hitting our enemies.  I remember when the media and the left excoriated George W. Bush for “going it alone” and “rushing to war” in Iraq even though he waited for more than a year and solicited the support of our allies and the UN. I’m glad to say Obama will not be distracted by that sort of background noise. It’s much easier to make these decisions by yourself in a big hurry when it’s nice and quiet.

I have previously argued that what to do about Syria and the regime led by Bashar Assad leaves us few good options. I have also been critical, in another column, of the arguments made by the interventionists.  Since then, with the recent proof of the massive chemical attacks unleashed by Iran’s proxy (Syria), the situation has changed.

The administration has made it clear with their leaks of apparent plans that they are contemplating what we might call an ineffectual and purely symbolic raid on Syria, one that will leave Assad in power, spare even his presidential palace, and allow him to brag how he managed to withstand the attack from imperialist America. As a Wall Street Journal editorial explains, “the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.” It is “primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise of ‘consequences,’ rather than materially degrading Assad’s ability to continue to wage war against his own people.”

If this is the reason for the administration’s contemplated strike, the outcome will only be to strengthen the regime, embolden the Iranians to move forward more quickly to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and build up the authority of the Putin government in Russia, while emasculating further the authority and position of the United States in the world. It will likely mark the fruition of Obama’s ill-considered strategy of “leading from behind” and will also show the folly of both his outreach to the Muslim world and the once-heralded decision to work through and with the Muslim Brotherhood.

A few days ago, the Foreign Policy Initiative released a letter to the president signed by a distinguished bipartisan group of liberal and conservative writers, foreign policy experts, journalists, academics, and political leaders. The group stated:
We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.
The group goes on to urge that the president consider “direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime.” Not only the use of chemical weapons, but all weapons that Assad can use against his own people must be taken out of operational use. The writers call for training and arming moderate and trusted elements that would oppose both the Assad regime and the growing Islamist radicals working with the opposition.

They are correct to argue that if nothing or only a symbolic action is undertaken, after the president has said time and time again that certain red lines cannot be crossed, the world will see our talk as nothing but empty threats, and the Iranian regime will be emboldened.

There may be many reasons to be wary about the effects of intervention in Syria, but doing nothing is an option our nation can no longer afford.

Yes, the U.S. should act. Short of all-out World War III, or IV, or maybe V (take your pick), for U.S. policy to have any deterrent effect on the world’s worst regimes developing and using the world’s deadliest weapons, America’s threats must be credible. The stakes here go way beyond Syria, or even the use of chemical weapons.

As President Obama said in 2009, alluding to a North Korean ballistic missile test, “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Or, as  Obama has said in multiple permutations for at least five years now about Iran, “When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons, we mean what we say.” Or, as Obama said a year ago about the conflict in Syria, “If we start to see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” that would cross “a red line.

Since these various pronouncements, North Korea has conducted additional long-range missile tests plus two nuclear tests. Iran despite growing layers of sanctions has carried on with pursuit of the nuclear bomb. And Syria’s Assad regime, according to Obama himself, has used chemical weapons (evidently a whole bunch of them, on multiple occasions, this latest attack being the worst).

All these developments are connected, and not solely because they involve weapons of mass murder. There is an axis of rogue regime activity here, whether we call it an axis of evil, a gathering storm, or a concatenation of unacceptable red line crossers. As Michael Ledeen has rightly been explaining for years, the core problem is Iran: chief ally of Syria, business partner of North Korea, and world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, including its role as patron of Hezbollah and collaborator when convenient with al Qaeda. All these folks in various ways do business with each other, and from each other’s pioneering moves in the field of proliferation, they not only swap weapons materials and technology; they also learn how much it is possible to get away with. If anyone would like to start keeping a dossier labeled “Moral Obscenities” (to round out Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of chemical weapons use in Syria), all of the above would belong in that file.

A move to seriously disable any part of this hydra would send a much overdue message to the rest. It would also signal to Russia and China, the chief protectors and suppliers of this axis of terror, that the U.S. is not actually willing to cede the 21st century world order to the thug states of the globe.

I’d cast my vote for the prescription of Bret Stephens and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, for a strike that targets Bashar Assad and the vital figures of his regime. That leaves the question of what might follow in Syria — and the deeper question there is less who might prevail in Damascus, than whether the U.S. has prepared an end game for the fall of the regime in Iran. What’s desperately needed here is not just a tactical response, but a strategy in service of U.S. interests that aims to win.

Forgot about the hysteria of an impending U.S. attack on Syria. Forget about the likely self-congratulatory backslapping by policy makers and the chanting of “USA!” by citizens. A U.S. air assault on Syria will not change anything.

Clearly, it will not change the regional problems, including the U.S. support for an Islamist government in Egypt, the unstable Islamist government in Tunisia, the grim expectations for a “peace process,” the constant betrayal of the United States by the Turkish government, and the Iranian nuclear race. But beyond that, it won’t change the Syrian crisis.

Would the attack determine the outcome of a Syrian civil war, either in favor of the Iranian-backed government or the Islamists favored by the United States? No. Would it by itself increase the prestige and credibility of the United States in the Middle East? No.

Let’s consider the three motives for the potential Syrian attack. One, the humanitarian motive. After perhaps 100,000 people in Syria have been killed, this addresses one percent of the casualties (namely those by chemical weapons). That might be worthwhile but leaves unaddressed the 99 percent of other casualties. Is it really true that the Syrian government somewhat, without motive, used chemical weapons? And finally, is it really humanitarian since the rebel side is likely to be equally ferocious against minorities and people it doesn’t like? The humanitarian motive, while sincere, really doesn’t amount to very much but merely tells the Syrian government the proper way in which people can be killed. Second, what message does America’s potential attack in Syria really send? That American power, which will be limited, is not going to be sufficient to change the course of the war. So the United States will not determine who wins and that, after all, is the only thing that everyone is really interested in. The third motive is to send a message to Iran that it won’t be able to succeed in aggression. But in fact this too can be said to send the opposite message: that, in the words of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, “the United States cannot do a damn thing.”

What are the possible outcomes of this mission? The Syrian government will not be overthrown or saved. That is going to be totally outside this operation. Perhaps it will make the outcome more likely to be a diplomatic one. But again, the likelihood that Russia and Iran will agree to have their client deposed is simply low. One could argue that the attack will lead to a lower estimation of American credibility since not much will have changed afterward, although this is not what the media will say. It is interesting to note that in confronting Saddam Hussein the Clinton administration attacked Iraq at least four times in 1998 alone. But of course Hussein was only overthrown six years later by a controversial decision by another administration.

What would the best beneficial outcomes for the Obama administration be? First, that Obama will congratulate himself on his daring use of force and on not backing down to anyone. But so what? Aside from the newspaper headlines and the bounces in public opinion polls, the effect will be merely psychological and domestic. In friendly capitals, it will only show that he is willing to support the Sunni Islamists and oppose the Shia ones. In enemy capitals, there will be continued derision of the limited means at Obama’s disposal for affecting events.

What would be the best outcome for America? That the war will go on long enough until one side (not the regime) wins. But basically the civil war is going to be fought out. It might well be said that strategically it would be better that Iran didn’t win the victory, but frankly a victory by radical Islamist rebels and al-Qaeda is hardly a bargain. Don’t forget that in practice an American intervention would not be on the side of easing the lot of Syrian civilians but on the side of an extremely oppressive and unstable future government winning. In other words, it is not that there are no easy answers, but that there are no good answers.

Regarding Syria and possible American intervention in that benighted and savage land, there’s really only question worth asking — and it’s not whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, or whether it helps or harms Israel, or whether it encourages or discourages Iran from its Twelver obsession with Armageddon. And that question is: why?

As Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – and for the “Arab world” (perhaps better characterized as the ummah), this is the biggest and best mistake they’ve made since the Iran-Iraq War. For it is of absolutely no moment to the United States who wins the struggle between the Assad government and the al-Qaeda rebels trying to take it down; the “Arab spring” delusion surely has taught us that by now — and if it hasn’t, please see Benghazi.  It is of no moment whether Assad has used poison gas on his own people; please see “Hussein, Saddam,” as Western high dudgeon is entirely opportunistic. Indeed, the entire Middle East is no longer worth the life of one more American soldier, for it is an area in which we have not a single vital national interest.

Once the Obama administration has been retired into the infamy of the history books, fracking and other forms of new energy will more than compensate for any loss of Arab oil (as the old saying goes, “what are they going to do – eat it?”). Israel’s security — like that of western Europe during the Soviet threat — is guaranteed by the American nuclear umbrella, not to mention its own. Is there a scenario under which Israel suffers, depending on who wins the struggle for power in Damascus? Of course there is — but that is true about every development in the Middle East, and does not affect our strategic relationship with the Jewish state in the slightest. Further, dragging Israel into the equation, however benignly, only fuels the anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right who see the Zionist Hand behind every American foreign-policy decision.

The hand-wringing and bed-wetting over Syria represents the triumph of Foggy Bottom fecklessness over military realpolitik. Our lawyer-ridden and process-obsessed society has all but subordinated strategic thinking to the striped-pants set, whose only frame of reference is: yap, yap, yap; they’re like the capon judge, Don Curzio, trying to figure out what the hell is going in in the great sextet from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, while it’s perfectly clear to everyone in the audience.

Now another Hussein, Barack Obama, is typically dithering about what sort of “measured” and “proportionate” response the U.S. — without congressional approval, of course — should offer to… what provocation, again, exactly? The Left used to stand for not imposing “our morality” on the Third World, so what’s different this time, besides the occupant of the Oval Office? Neither Obama nor Vice President Valerie Jarrett has the slightest understanding of the uses of power other than for self-aggrandizement, but then that’s what happens when you elect the unholy love child of Al Capone and Saul Alinsky to the nation’s highest office.

So let ‘em kill each other, and for as long as possible — and if the conflagration spills over the borders, quarantine it as one would a viral outbreak.  Intervention, especially when we have already advertised that our goal is not regime change, will net us a grand total of zero good will from the Believers, whose zest for slaughtering each other almost matches their zest for murdering us.

To quote Napoleon again, if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. If the goal is to stop Iran, then stop Iran, destroy its nuclear capability, disestablish Islam as the state religion, and restore the glory of Persian culture and the Peacock Throne (again). That would have the added advantage of thwarting the Russian Bear, which has lusted after Iran for more than a century, and lost its best chance when its agent-in place, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, served a stint as the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister during the Jimmy Carter Hostage Crisis. (Ghotbzadeh was eventually stood up against a wall and shot as a traitor to the Revolution.)
Islamism is a fever; best let it rage until it burns itself out. And if it kills the host, that’s too damn bad.

The Obama administration is on the verge of reducing their whole reason for existence — this time in Syria. In 2008, Obama ran for president promising an America where race was in the rear-view mirror.  These days, racial issues are crashing through the windshield, in no small measure because of Obama’s rhetoric. In 2008, Obama capped years of harping about the UN, congressional authorizations of force, and American military hubris with an election win. Swarms of his supporters, particularly the young, bought into the rhetoric of the gentle and restrained America. The absurd “Coexist” bumper sticker had become policy.

In Libya, Obama first revealed himself as an international hypocrite. Congressional authorization for force wasn’t so important now that he was ordering it. In Syria, he is about to double down. The oddest thing about this president is that he always seems to take the side of the radicals on the Islamic spectrum — both at home and abroad. At home, he shoves a radicalized version of civil rights down Americans’ throats, forcing schools to give teachers weeks off for the Haj.  Abroad, Obama has sided with regimes and factions that are slaughtering Christians and threatening the security of Israel. Some Americans, particularly journalists, avert their eyes to the ominous parallels. Rather than oppose evil, this president seems to lurk in its fringe. Rather than vocally condemning the murder of Catholic priests and the destruction of churches in Syria, this president is about to take the side of the murderers. Never before has America had a leader like this. He is not the man to be leading the nation in this present darkness.