the Case for Responding to the Use of WMDs

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The first sentence of the White House report sums the report: “The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21 2013[1].” The report goes on to demonstrate why the intelligence community assumes the agent used to be sarin neurotoxin. “High confidence” is strongest degree of certainty short of empirical confirmation. This report is a compilation of myriad sources from human intelligence (HUMINT), signal intelligence (SIGINT), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), geospatial intelligence (overhead imaging), and the body of open source reporting (including witnesses and victims), and had input from all 16 agencies making up the “Intelligence Community.” Test results from the United Nations inspection team will be released in a week or two, and as such, weren’t included in this report[2].

Twelve neighborhoods, arching from south of Damascus around to the east were affected. Multiple streams of intel report a rocket and artillery attack on the suburbs (all of which are held by rebel forces, or in serious contention) in the early hours of August 21. Overhead sensors corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods that, approximately 90 minutes later, showed effects of a sarin incident[3]. No such rocket launches or artillery fire were detected as coming from rebel-held areas. Best estimates at the time of writing the report indicate that ~1,429 were killed, including 426 children[4]. The attack began with simultaneous strikes in the Kafr, Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya and Mu’addamiyah neighborhoods, carried out with the coordinated use of rocket and artillery fire. Opposition forces have never shown the ability to mount such a widespread, coordinated attack[5]. The report mentions multiple previous chemical attacks – all much smaller in magnitude – over the past year, all on rebel-held neighborhoods and strongholds[6].

The report then goes on to document the attack itself, using many on-site videos, journalists, and first-hand accounts as sources for this description, and asserts that rebel forces do not possess the capability to fake such widespread reports, photos, videos and journalist accounts[7]. In the fluidity of combat operations and press suppression, this is as close to “solid” proof that you’re going to get, and I’m sure the classified version only strengthens the case. This is the atmosphere within which leaders act. They never have a slam-dunk “Guilty” case from which to decide.

Chemical weapons are grouped with other area-effect weapons that kill indiscriminately due to their large lethal footprint. Chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are all considered to be Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), and are specifically banned by multiple treaties, agreements and organizations. They are universally prohibited. OK, now what?

If we do not respond, Assad (or any other despot) can gather that he may use WMD with impunity (as long he stays in power – I call this the “Saddam Tensor”). Iran is also reassured that nothing will come from President Obama’s “not tolerating” a nuclear Iran. This may well be false comfort, but the important thing is, Tehran will confidently ignore American displeasure. Treaties and agreements with the United States are now in jeopardy. Europe and NATO must now rethink the “axiom” of the American Nuclear Umbrella – will we be there if needed? Who knows? And that doubt has repercussions worldwide – from Japan to the Middle East to Europe and, especially, to Russia and PRC. A failure to enforce something as basic as prohibiting open-air holocausts, in other words, would be very destabilizing. Worldwide.

As history’s most powerful nation – as leader of the Free World – we must stand by our commitments, and the president committed us to act in this very instance. You may not agree with the wisdom of making that commitment – hell, he may not now agree with the wisdom of making that commitment – but make that commitment he did. This is no longer about Mr Obama’s credibility … it’s about American credibility, and at a time when that commodity is devaluing daily. This is no longer about Syria … it’s about stability in turbid world. It may well be tragicomic that this is unraveling because of an ad lib during an otherwise forgettable speech, but here we are. His rhetoric profoundly impacts events far beyond the colloquial circumstances of their utterance.

I don’t think we’ve got any wriggle-room here. We have to act, with or without some contrived “coalition.” And this is true, by the way, regardless of President Obama’s ad lib – we are bound to act by numerous treaties, agreements and organizations. The problem with the president’s statement, is that it’s out there for everybody to see. Now, we either act or don’t, no spinning necessary, the president is either to be taken seriously or he is an empty suit. It doesn’t detract from the far more important implications mentioned above, but it adds a personal vector (for the president) that can’t be divorced from whatever happens.


[1] White House, United States Assessment on Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons, August 30 2013, 1314EDT, p. 1.

[2] Ibid., pp. 1-3.

[3] Ibid., pp. 2-3.

[4] Ibid., p. 1.

[5] Ibid., p. 3.

[6] Ibid., p. 2.

[7] Ibid., p. 3.

a Question of Sovereignty

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The unfolding situation in and around Syria wonderfully illustrates the elements and limitations of national sovereignty.

Some view sovereignty as a legalistic concept – a country is “sovereign” if it has agreed upon borders and agreed upon status as a stand-alone state. Others in a moralistic light – a nation’s sovereignty is to be opaque to foreign manipulation. Still others from a political perspective – outsiders shouldn’t meddle in the internal matters of a sovereign nation. It turns out that “sovereignty” is a product of geopolitical Realism – a nation is sovereign as long the rest of the world says it is. Current Exhibit: Syria.

Several players are considering what degree of kinetic response to visit upon Syria in retaliation for Damascus using chemical weapons (Sarin) on its own people. Understand that “Damascus using,” “chemical weapons,” and “its own people” are all debatable variables. Assuming poisonous gas was used (some say), there is no proof which side used it (others say), and with all the foreign fighters in-country, it could have been militarily targeted (still others). The consensus, however, is that government forces used sarin neurotoxin against a rebel-held outskirt of Damascus. As area-effect weapons, gas attacks do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants – indeed the thousand or so fatalities were top-heavy with women and children. It is the assumption that toxins were used by government troops against civilians that is driving the various Western states – the US, the UK, France right now – to discuss the use of some sort of military response.

And that brings us to a question of sovereignty.

Most sovereigns, as a rule, view the activity within another sovereign’s borders to be transparent to international diplomacy. There are examples of national behavior that have triggered international attention – Tiananmen Square, for example, generated widespread international ire, but Chinese sovereignty was never penetrated over the matter. Others have reached a tripwire: “ethnic cleansing” – Rwanda and Bosnia, for example – goading outside governments to act. Still others – the Arab Islamic government in Khartoum’s extermination of Christians in Darfur and the Muslim Brotherhood’s targeting of Coptic Christians in Egypt – have not generated outside military responses. Thus, it seems that a sovereign’s “permissible” behavior is a moving target, not bound by official language (even if some exists), rather by the ability and political will of other sovereigns.

One’s sovereignty, it turns out, is what everybody else says it is. And that’s a working definition of Realism – sovereign states maneuver to achieve desirable power-balances, and the amount of activity vis-à-vis Syria demonstrates that Syria isn’t the problem, Iran is. This is why the Saudis, UAE and Qatar are all privately counseling the West to act, even though they must publicly denounce Westerners striking Muslims. All three have been supporting and arming Syrian rebels for much of the two-year war, even after al Qaeda coopted the effort. Al Qaeda is, after all, Sunni.

Egyptian Sit Rep

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I think everyone can agree that Egypt is a mess. I’ll give a pass to al Qaeda (who crave chaos within which to fester), but generally, everyone views the situation as problematic – geopolitically[1], humanistically[2] and economically[3].

So what do we do?

Any response should be serially filtered through two criteria: (a) strategic, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for US interests and those of the free world, and traditionally, (b) moral, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for Egypt. But first, we should define the playing field – what end-states are we contemplating: “democracy”; totalitarianism; authoritarianism; stability? And the players – the Muslim Brotherhood; the military; everybody else.

There is much face-time being taken up by congressmen who are shocked! … shocked! … by the brutality of the military’s crackdown on perpetual mobs in the center of town, and are calling for an end to our $1.3 billion in foreign aid. How does that further American interests in Egypt/the region? And how does that improve the outlook for Egypt?

The outcome we, and the lesser part of the street, want is for a secular, democratic Egypt to emerge from the chaos. Not going to happen. Our real choice is between the Muslim Brotherhood (totalitarianism) and the military (authoritarianism). They loathe one another, so the odds against some sort of coalition has a lot of 9s in it.

What are our interests vis-à-vis Egypt? (1) a secure Suez Canal, (2) friendly ties with the US, (3) continued alliance with the pro-American Gulf Arabs and Jordanians, (4) retention of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, (5) cooperation with the US on terrorism, which in part involves (6) isolating Brotherhood-run Gaza. Is the Brotherhood more or less likely than the military to keep the Suez open and operating? Is the Brotherhood more or less likely than the military to establish/maintain working relations with America? Is the Brotherhood more or less likely than the military to be a reliable partner with pro-American Arabs and Hashemite Jordan? Is the Brotherhood more or less likely than the military to honor the Camp David Accords? Is the Brotherhood more or less likely than the military to be complicit in jihadist activity in North Africa, Sudan and Mali? And especially in Gaza, where the Brotherhood-sired Hamas is locked in a blood feud with Israel? These are the constituent parts of regional stability – the World’s largest Arab state can influence the behavior of lesser Arab states and actors. It’s what it’s been doing for half a century. “If I can’t get sectarian democracy, I’ll take regional stability,” should be our strategic mindset with Egypt. Since Mubarak did all of those things for thirty years, and the military is the power behind the throne, I would say that backing the military against the Brotherhood would best serve American interests in Egypt.

Regarding Egypt herself, we should favor an outcome that will: (1) manage a growing economy – with a vibrant economy, all things are possible; without one, nothing is even probable, (2) respect the rights of women and minorities, (3) encourage economic freedom, (4) lean toward self-determination, and (5) exercise religious tolerance. These are the best outcomes for the Egyptian people. Which player gets a higher score through these filters? I think, again, the military is a closer fit to these criteria than is the Brotherhood.

The street is of two minds – and I’m not speaking of pro-Morsi or anti-Morsi, rather democrats and Islamists. The democrats started the revolution that ousted Mubarak, but the Islamists have since taken the movement over through their superior brutishness. The pro-Morsi street is the voice of Islamism, which, when peeved, burns churches. The Brotherhood invented modern omni-national jihad 85 years ago, and have been practicing it ever since. We’ve seen their economic prowess in Gaza, which they’ve turned from a thriving shop-driven neighborhood of neighborhoods into a squalid armed ghetto[4].

In his brief tenure, President Morsi offered nothing but incompetent, intolerant, increasingly dictatorial rule. In one year, he managed to squander 85 years of Brotherhood prestige garnered in opposition – a place from which one can promise the Moon – by persecuting journalists and activists, granting himself the unchallenged power to rule by decree, enshrining a sectarian Islamist constitution and systematically trying to seize the instruments of state power[5]. He was dissociating the military from state policy in order to coopt it.

This is going to sound odd for a constitutionalist conservative, but I do not favor existentially introducing “democracy” into Egypt, and I do not favor Muslim Brotherhood [civilian] control of the military. I favor a stability underwritten by a pro-Western, if authoritarian, military over a one-man-one-vote-one-time “democracy”, à la Gaza, underwritten by xenophobic religious tyrants.


[1] The Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accord is the only thing allowing an Israeli non-war status quo, and with the Muslim Brotherhood in political control of Egypt (Morsi administration), the future of the Accord is in serious doubt. The Suez Canal is a major oil route for Europe-bound tankers, and is vastly cheaper than shooting the Cape (the next cheapest alternative to get from Arabian oil fields to European ports). Egypt does not drive, but does influence – can measurably ameliorate or exacerbate – the establishment of radical Islamists in North Africa, Sudan and Mali.

[2] The ubiquitous brutalizing of the Egyptian people by their own military and police, and because of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ritualistic killing of Coptic Christians and the razing of their homes and churches (it walks and quacks a lot like ethnic cleansing). This is all on top of the normal human cost of armed conflict, and all the more pronounced in urban conflict (the nastiest venue for combat operations).

[3] The obvious threat to European oil delivery costs, but also due to Egypt’s foreign trade and tourism – both of which are essentially non-existent during the chaos. Also, the street violence has all but shut-down local shops and businesses – thereby impoverishing the walking citizens of Cairo (and whatever other cities are daily embroiled in street violence).

[4] The best chance Palestinians had to rally the civilized world to their side was to establish a viable economy and civil institutions in Gaza, showing that they were able to operate a state.

[5] See Charles Krauthammer, The choice in Egypt: A dictatorship is better for the country and the US, in Washington Post, August 23 2013.

NOTE: Title art by Bill Day.

the Unintended Consequences of Explaining the Unintended Consequences

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A consequence of the previous page – These People are Afraid of a Brain Drain?! – is, if they believe what they say, then they know this law is bad for Americans.

If abiding ObamaCare would cause high-value aides to leave, then ObamaCare must be judged as being anti-competitive. Therefore, when American business is brought into compliance, it will reduce our competiveness, causing business to do whatever it can to reduce the arbitrary costs of ObamaCare – set key employees aside and 1099 or part-time as many of the rest as they can. If you’re small enough, do what you can to stay under 50 employees. Avoid union involvement (they will bind you to the most expensive plans). One can only guess how much of a depressive this exerts on the unemployment and labor participation rates.

People who repeatedly seem mystified by the effect of regulation on employment are forgetting a fundamental relationship in business – to be hired, you must be worth more to the company than you cost. If, for example, you make $25 an hour (of which you take home ~$20), you cost your company ~$39.73 an hour, thus you must represent more than $39.73 an hour of productivity, else the company has no reason to incur the cost. Everything that increases the cost of employment depresses employment. It’s not rocket science.

Therefore, it behooves every company to minimize the costs of ObamaCare, depressing hiring, and what hiring does occur will be less favorable to the new-hire (than before ObamaCare). The 99%, in other words, are the ultimate victims of a program that says it helps them.

“But wait!” I hear you scream, “the unemployed with ObamaCare are better off than the unemployed before ObamaCare.” Well, yes, but, being unemployed, their premiums are picked up by everybody else, raising absolute governmental costs of ObamaCare, resulting in some combination of higher debt and higher taxes. This, of course, further raises the business cost of hiring, further depressing hiring, further increasing unemployment, putting more people in the subsidized pool, further raising government spending, and so on.

It’s a self-licking ice cream cone – it’s set up to solve a problem it creates.

These People are Afraid of a Brain Drain?!

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On August 6, Congress announced that it was seeking an exemption from §1312(d) of the Affordable Care Act that requires them to get their health insurance on the newly created insurance exchanges and pay the same premiums the public will have to pay[1]. You see, it seems they like the coverage they’ve got (where we pay 75% of their premiums) and it turns out ObamaCare won’t let them keep it.

If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain[2]. Really? This is the “smart” Congress?! Who put §1312(d) in the “Affordable” Care Act? These geniuses, that’s who. Now these $175K-a-year brainiacs can’t afford to pay the premiums that they insist the 99% pay? How does that math work?

Fairness would dictate that everyone who voted for ObamaCare join the rest of us and play by the same rules, giving the exemption only to those voting against it. But democracy dictates that Congress voted it in, Congress should live by the same rules as they inflicted on us.

Don’t hold your breath.

Of course they’ll get their crony discount – that’s how life works inside the Beltway – the elite decides how the rest of us should live (as long as they don’t have to play). How does that go again? Oh yeah – “When people find that they can vote themselves [other people’s] money, that will herald the end of the republic.”


[1] Betsy McCaughey, Congress Exempts Itself From the Law, Creators Syndicate, August 7 2013.

[2] Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, Obamacare? We were just leaving …, in Politico, June 16 2013, 0513EDT.

 

NOTE: Title art by Glenn Foden.

How’s Our “Phony” Scandals Doing?

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Fast & Furious[1]

The same ATF agent who lobbied for and spearheaded Fast & Furious (ATF Special Agent in Charge [Arizona] Bill Newell, who headed Wide Receiver until it was shut down under the Bush administration)[2] has been promoted to the Washington office. Wide Receiver involved around 275 guns, most of which were lost track of, and it was this lack of accountability that caused the Bush people to close it down. Fast & Furious involved over 1,500 guns and was shut down only after it became public (on February 22 2011) that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down on December 14 2010 with a Fast & Furious AK-47. It was later disclosed that ATF didn’t know where most of the weapons were[3]. Lack of accountability again, but this time it cost Agent Terry his life, and the program would likely still be going if not for the publicity.

In its earliest response to Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) questions about the gunwalking operation, DoJ sent a letter signed by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, stating that ATF never “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico.” Ten months later, DoJ withdrew the letter acknowledging that it contained inaccuracies (read: they lied). The president has extended Executive Privilege over documents pertaining to the operation, and has removed the incident from his field of view. He won’t let anyone see what was going on, yet it’s a “phony” issue. Fast & Furious body bags: Two[4].

Benghazi

Now we find that around 400 MANPADs were stolen during the raid, and are now in the hands of “unknowns[5].” Riiiiight. At question are the thousands of SA-7 Grail (Russian: 9K32M Strela-2) shoulder-fired anti-air missiles that were in Moamar Qaddafi’s arsenals when the Libyan uprising started. As reported nearly a year ago, Ambassador Stevens was serving as point on a CIA operation to round up as many as possible and transship them through Turkey to rebels in Syria[6]. The “unknowns” are Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda franchise in Libya and perpetrators of the raid on the consulate. It’s not clear whether the MANPADS were at the consulate or the CIA annex, but that they were gathered in one place adds credence to the fact that they were being gathered in order to get them out of Libya. While nothing can excuse our incompetent behavior before the incident, the CIA op can at least explain the cover-up afterwards, ridiculous as it was.
Even CBS Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer asked Susan Rice, “Why am I talking to you?” It was widely known that President Obama, Vice President Biden, National Security Adviser Brennan, SecDef Panetta, SecState Clinton, CIA Director Petraeus and CINCAFRICOM General Hamm were all in town that Sunday, but all refused to go on national television and read the talking points. Susan Rice was the highest ranking official with plausible deniability (read: she didn’t know anything about the incident and could read the fictitious account handed her by the administration without being accused of lying). It went downhill from there. This “phony” scandal’s body bags: Four.

IRS

They’re still doing it! Testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted. In closed door testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups are being forced into a special “secondary screening” because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups[7].

So, not only is the “thorough investigation” non-existent (none of the groups involved in the denial of status, nor their counsel, have been contacted by the FBI – none), neither has the practice been corrected. If this is a “phony” scandal, why is Lois Lerner refusing to testify under Fifth Amendment protection? And why is nothing being done to correct an egregious abuse of executive power? These are the same warm and fuzzy people slated to enforce ObamaCare, adding everyone’s medical records to the tax data they already have.

NSA

As I’ve said before, this only holds a potential for future scandal, yet it is the only one the president has seen fit to actually address – outlining sweeping changes in the way NSA goes about its business[8]. Now we find that DEA has a similar database (billions of records), and are instructing prosecutors to use “parallel construction” to hide the source of their information. Parallel construction is a process whereby prosecutors make up where and how they got the tip to follow a given course of investigation, never revealing that it came from DEA, not in court documents, in testimony before the grand jury, or a judge, or in court. Prosecutors, in other words, lied in court filings, to judges, to grand juries, and to trial juries, all under orders from DEA[9]. Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional and against case law in every state, it now jeopardizes thousands of convictions across the country with appeals, most of which will probably succeed.

DoJ

As far as we know, the nation’s top lawyers have actually stopped lying to judges to get at reporters’ metadata. Now perhaps they have time to arrest suspects in the Benghazi attack before CNN puts them on the air, or maybe actually look into the IRS handling of political groups, or examine why they allowed a failed weapons-tracking program to be tried again on an even grander scale, or find out why prosecutors have been systematically lying to our courts – you know, doing the things a Justice Department is supposed to be doing: watching out for the people. Just a thought.

Yet to Come

ObamaCare is in a shambles, a slow-motion train wreck. Every step of way, this abomination is scandalous. Its conception was an exercise in typical liberal magical-thinking: “Sure, in every country larger than Vermont, national healthcare has resulted in long queues for medical attention, rationing of care and egregious taxation, but we’ll do it better.” It was sold on a pack of lies: e.g., “If you like your insurance, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” It was written in absentia of the opposition party: “We won [the election] so we’re going to write it.” It is being illegally altered almost daily – to include Congress exempting itself from what Democrats have foisted upon the people. And, if we believe the president (although there’s absolutely no reason to do so), it’s going to be implemented with the very real possibility of severe security weaknesses in the data-handling process and enforced by the trustworthiness-challenged IRS. This 2,700-page horror story started out ugly and can only get worse.


[1] Title art by Michael Ramirez.

[2] Sharyl Attkisson, A primer on the “Fast and Furious” scandal, CBS News, June 26 2012.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jaime Zapata, Immigration and Customs Special Agent under DHS, was ambushed and murdered on assignment on a desolate road in Mexico on February 15 2011. Two weapons used in Zapata’s murder were linked by multiple sources to suspects who had been under ATF surveillance for at least six months before Zapata’s murder, but were not arrested.

[5] David Martosko [DC], 400 US surface-to-air missiles were “stolen” from Libya during the Benghazi attack, claims whistleblower, the Mail [London], August 12 2013, 1717EDT.

[6] Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, Was Syrian weapons shipment factor in ambassador’s Benghazi visit?, FOX News, October 25 2012.

[7] Paul Bedard, IRS agent: Tax agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, in Washington Examiner, August 8 2013, 1720EDT.

[8] Christi Parsons, Ken Dilanian and David Lauter[8], Obama outlines proposals for reining in NSA surveillance, in Los Angeles Times, August 9 2013, 1912PDT.

[9] David Ingram and John Shiffman, US defense lawyers to seek access to DEA hidden intelligence evidence, Reuters, August 8 2013.

Where’s Joe?

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Where’s Joe Biden on national TV suggesting that the White teenager beaten by three Black kids[1] could’ve been him 57 year ago? Of course Delaware’s three Blacks (in 1956) probably didn’t all ride Joe’s school bus, but then the president’s statement about Trayvon Martin was also symbolic.

Both statements would interpret their antecedent incident as being race-based, and you just can’t do that when the crime is Black-on-White. The question is, why does the media let liberals get away with it when the crime is White-on-Black? Ideological courtesy – liberals don’t make liberals look bad.

Liberals live in a three-dimensional world – race, gender and class – it’s like their observable universe, and nothing beyond that is relevant. All of existence must be interpreted through those filters or it doesn’t make sense to them. The Florida incident doesn’t fit liberals’ narrative, so it didn’t happen (or is so irrelevant as to might as well not have happened). And this shows that these dimensions aren’t mere metrics through which to view reality – they’re directionally biased in that the datum-point for race is White=Bad, for gender it’s Male=Bad, and for class it’s Rich=Bad. So, if you’re a rich White guy, you don’t stand a chance with liberals unless you can demonstrate a similar myopia (or write them a check). Corrective lenses (known as “Political Correctness”) are available to those wishing to join in the fun.

It’s little wonder that the economy befuddles them (it doesn’t really work the way it looks in their universe), and foreign affairs seem somehow alien (they keep doing things outside their observable universe, like al Qaeda attacking a consulate while “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!”).

Oh well, as I was reminded the other day, we’ve only got 1,252 more days of this silliness to go.


[1] See, inter alia, Lisa Suhay, School Discipline Experts Say Driver Made Right Call, in Christian Science Monitor, August 7 2013; Nadine DeNinno, Florida Bus Driver Looks On as Student is Beaten, in International Business News, August 7 2013; School Bus Fight Caught on Video, Bus Driver Doesn’t Intervene, UPI, August 7 2013.

Barack Plus Four and a Half[1]

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While I can’t demonstrate prevarication, his utterances enjoy a less than random association with the facts of his actions.

It started early. Day 1, act 1: President Obama signed an executive order closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility (Camp X-Ray). It’s still open. This was an unforced error – even I knew why Guantánamo couldn’t be closed – the guys remaining are the worst of the worst, their native countries don’t want them back, we don’t want them in our society, and they can’t be tried in civilian courts because the battlespace is ill-suited to collecting admissible evidence – so I’m sure he had to dig deep into his cohort of advisors before he found one that agreed that X-Ray could be evacuated and closed (or maybe not and did it anyway). It continued through the selling of his “stimulus” package (unemployment won’t go above 8%); ObamaCare (almost everything he said about it, including “If you like your insurance, you can keep it”); Benghazi (“a video made them do it”); introducing race into the Trayvon Martin case (after promising to be a “post-racial” president); on and on.

He was going to “change the way Washington works,” yet presides over the most hyper-partisan administration in recent memory. A president needs to be a statesman, especially at home. You have your party leaders do the trash-talk when it’s necessary. You work with the opposition to get programs passed. You work with your own party’s leadership to set legislative agendas. He has done none of this, and ignited the partisan wars by shucking-off ObamaCare to the tutelage of Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most rabid partisan in Congress. And she ruled like a spoiled child – “We won [the election] so we’re going to write the bill” she told Republican leadership upon closing them out of discussions on the writing of the Affordable Care Act. And the war was on. It was passed [on a technicality] and signed into law without a single Republican vote. If this was “Hope and Change,” it had an odor of decomposition about it.

He campaigned against the Bush warfighting programs enthusiastically, and capturing and interrogating POWs excepted, has extended virtually all of them, expanding some (e.g., Patriot Act and drone strikes). He abandoned Iraq, which has predictably devolved back into Sunni-Shi’ite tit-for-tat bombings and killings, and is providing its ground routes and airspace to Iran for supplying the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war. He announced his surge in Afghanistan (the “good” war) in the same speech that he announced their withdrawal – another unforced error. One never gives the enemy a date to circle on the calendar, beyond which he doesn’t have to worry about you anymore. Sure enough, the Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda have bided their time, reorganizing and strengthening, and are beginning to exert themselves against coalition and Afghan troops.

This administration has said out loud that it favors European gasoline prices (they’re already up ~$2 a gallon since Obama took office) and wants electricity prices to “skyrocket.” His energy policy seems to be to regulate and tax carbon-based energy generation out of business. The only problem is that there is nothing to take its place, meaning that he will either drive us back into the 19th century or allow costs to rise to the point of pricing-out even middle-class families on things like gasoline and electricity – and we know what those two prices do to the cost of everything else.

His administration is out of control. Nobody at IRS (not taking the Fifth Amendment) seems to know what’s going on over there, and the Director of the FBI can’t even tell you who is heading the investigation. The State Department lethally mishandled security in Benghazi, and the administration’s bungling of the aftermath looks, walks and quacks like a cover-up. We’re not sure what they’re covering up because they are moving eye witnesses around the country under aliases and subjecting them to monthly polygraphs to make sure they haven’t talked to the media or Congress. His EPA is passing failed legislation into law as regulations – an overreach that sticks a finger in the eye of checks-and-balances built into our government. His ATF resurrected a gun-running program that the Bush administration cancelled because it lacked accountability, and it blew up in their face because of a lack of accountability, resulting in the death of a border agent.

With Syria in flames, Libya tottering, Egypt ruled by a junta, Iraq circling the drain and Afghanistan poised to fail, our Secretary of State has decided that yet another doomed attempt at a “Two-State Solution” is what the world needs. Never mind that one party has no interest in living in peace with the other – they teach their children to kill Jews and that their ultimate aim in life is to “push Israel into the sea.” Indeed, after four and a half years (four under Democratic superstar Hillary Clinton) we have no discernible, let alone articulable, foreign policy – treating each situation in isolation. We wanted to get “phony” turncoat Edward Snowden back from “reset” Russia, but all the cajoling, threatening and begging fell on the deaf ears of Colonel Vladimir Putin, who is maximizing our embarrassment with great amusement.

The “recovery” is four years old and still jobless (less than a million new jobs created last year, 70% of them part-time); corporations are doing great, but small businesses – the engines of hiring in our economy – are just hanging on (and terrified of the future); GDP growth is stuck below population growth, meaning that our standard of living is sinking; the 2,700 pages of ObamaCare’s legislative language has produced 20,000 pages of new regulations and 20 new taxes (despite the president’s repeated promises that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t cost us “one dime” in higher taxes).

He sees his signature achievement as ObamaCare, but his most significant accomplishment thus far is his turning a record DOW into a recovery that looks, walks and quacks like a recession. President Obama seems more concerned with his legacy than yours; a product of Columbia and Harvard Law, he is no more in touch with you and me than is Mitt Romney. But then, the rich and powerful are never “in touch” with the non-rich and impotent. He has climbed the Peter-Principle ladder to the uppermost rung and doesn’t know what to do now[2]. And it shows.


[1] Title photo courtesy of Pete Souza/White House.

[2] He used his Illinois Senate seat to run for US Senate, using that seat to run for President – he’s out of campaigning opportunity and, for the first time, must actually perform the job he has.