Sunday, May 19, 2013

America the Isolated? By Fareed Zakaria.

America the Isolated? By Fareed Zakaria. Time, May 27, 2013. Video at GPS.

The Kissinger Question. By Brett Stephens. Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013.


Conservatives are—of course—mad at Barack Obama, but they are also outraged at a country that isn't outraged enough at him. This frustration is now taking over mainstream and intelligent voices within the movement.

Bret Stephens, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, laments that President Obama is not paying a price for a foreign policy that Stephens describes as “isolationist.” The problem, he writes, is that Americans have no sense of history, don’t see the importance of an active American foreign policy and are about to repeat the lessons of the 1930s, when isolationism led to Adolf Hitler and World War II.

Our isolationism will surely come as a surprise to the diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officers working on American foreign policy. Washington spends more on defense than the next 10 great powers put together—and more on intelligence than most nations spend on their militaries. We have tens of thousands of troops stationed at dozens of bases abroad, from Germany to Turkey to Bahrain to Japan to South Korea. We have formal commitments to defend our most important allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

And our vast footprint has been expanded under the Obama Administration. The White House has extended America’s security umbrella to include defending Israel and the moderate Arab states against the threat posed by Iran's possible development of nuclear weapons. It is enlarging the U.S. military presence in Asia with a new base in Australia to deal with China's rise. To call this isolationism is to mangle both language and logic.

In fact, President Obama’s worldview is rooted in American exceptionalism. The fundamental pattern of international relations is that as a country becomes powerful and asserts itself, others gang up to bring it down. That's what happened to the Habsburg Empire, Napoleonic France, Germany and the Soviet Union.

There is one great exception to this rule in modern history: the United States. America has risen to global might, and yet it has not produced the kind of opposition that many would have predicted. In fact, today it is in the astonishing position of being the world's dominant power while many of the world's next most powerful nations—Britain, France, Germany, Japan—are all allied with it. This is the exception that needs to be explained.

The reason surely has something to do with the nature of American hegemony. We do not seek colonies or conquest. After World War II, we helped revive and rebuild our enemies and turned them into allies. For all the carping, people around the world do see the U. S. as different from other, older empires.

But it also has something to do with the way that the U.S. has exercised power: reluctantly. Historically, America was not eager to jump into the global arena. It entered World War I at the tail end of the war, late enough to avoid the worst bloodshed but still tipping the balance in favor of Britain and France. It entered World War II only after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It contained Soviet aggression in Europe but was careful not to push too far in other places. And when it did, as in Vietnam, it paid a price.

There is a long and distinguished school of American statesmen—from Dwight Eisenhower to Henry Kissinger to Robert Gates—who believe that America helps enlarge the scope of freedom around the world by staying strong; husbanding its power; creating a stable, liberal order; and encouraging economic and political reform. (The most brilliant academic exponent of this view, Kenneth Waltz, died May 13 at 88.) It is central to this mission that America is disciplined about its military interventions.

Perhaps because the U.S. has had no rival since the end of the Cold War, some seem to believe that any bad thing that happens in the world could be stopped if only the American President would act. Stephens bemoans the fact that Vladimir Putin is putting opponents in prison. What exactly should the U.S. do about this, other than protest, which it has done? President Bush was not able to stop the Iraqi government—while the entire country was under American occupation—from doing the very same thing.

We have just gone through a decade devoted to a very different idea: that American power must be used actively, pre-emptively and in pursuit of expansive goals beyond the narrow national interest. The result was thousands of American soldiers dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead and millions ethnically cleansed, $2 trillion spent and the erosion of American influence and goodwill across the globe. Can we get a few years of respite to rebuild our economic, political and moral capital?

DC’s PC Commissars Lose Touch With Common Sense. By Walter Russell Mead.

DC’s PC Commissars Lose Touch With Common Sense. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, May 18, 2013.


Asking a fellow student on a date may now get you kicked off a college campus. Following a year long investigation into the University of Montana’s handling of several sexual assault cases, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a joint letter to the university in which they stretch the definition of sexual harassment beyond anything comprehensible. The new guidelines, according to the departments, should “serve as a blueprint” for universities across the country.

The letter chastises the University of Montana for the stricter terms by which it originally defined harassment:
[The University of Montana’s] Sexual Harassment Policy 406.5.1 improperly suggests that the conduct does not constitute sexual harassment unless it is objectively offensive. This policy…states that “[w]hether conduct is sufficiently offensive to constitute sexual harassment is determined from the perspective of an objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation.” …As explained in the Legal Standards section above, the United States considers a variety of factors, from both a subjective and objective perspective, to determine if a hostile environment has been created.
More simply, what this means is that any verbal comments may qualify as harassment if a particular student happens to find them offensive—even if other students of the same gender saw nothing wrong with the comments. This new definition stands in direct contradiction to the 2003 OCR’s guidance on sexual harassment, which stated that harassment must “include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols, or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”

No more, apparently. The sacred right to take umbrage now triumphs over common sense.

Today’s American campus is a diverse place. Some people come from very conservative homes where grace is said before meals, sexual activity before marriage is unthinkable, and no foul language or sexual innuendo is ever heard. These students will be shocked and offended by conduct or remarks that Americans who grow up watching debased popular entertainment think are perfectly normal and unexceptionable. Students from some Muslim or immigrant families have very different ideas about how the sexes should behave than students from other backgrounds. Few 18 year olds of any gender can decipher the complicated social codes that Americans from different backgrounds carry around with them. Many 18 year olds of all genders get confused and make mistakes. But the right to take umbrage is absolute; the Commissars of Correctness have issued their decree.

We’ve written before on the “kangaroo courts,” the OCR’s new policy that allows universities to circumvent regular due process laws in cases of sexual assault. According to these new regulations, all a university tribunal needs to show in order to convict a student of sexual harassment is that he or she more likely than not (by a preponderance of evidence—50.01 percent) committed the crime. These new regulations are alarming enough on their own, but now that the DOJ and OCR are widening the definition of what constitutes harassment in the first place. This new reality is genuinely Kafkaesque.

Sexual harassment is wrong, and anyone who spends time on an American campus knows that the problem of improper and unwanted sexual advances and conduct is both serious and real. But the clumsy efforts of bureaucrats to regulate the romantic lives of millions of teenagers and early twenty-somethings by ill judged official decrees will not help.

The Obama administration seems to be doing its level best to convince the American people that a large and powerful federal government is a threat to liberty. From IRS zealots blatantly using their powers against political enemies to prosecutors overreaching in attacks on journalists to deranged bureaucrats attacking fundamental standards of fairness on campus, the federal government is daily demonstrating the danger of giving it too many missions.

This is not a Tea Party blog and there are no pictures of Ayn Rand in our boardroom.  With George Washington and Alexander Hamilton we believe in a federal government that is active and strong enough to secure the general welfare. But the sprawling, overreaching, under-managed, over-priced clumsy behemoth stumbling across the American landscape today is something very different from the government the United States needs.

The Islamist War on Women. By Lee Habeeb.

The Islamist War on Women. By Lee Habeeb. National Review Online, May 18, 2013.

Islamists Rely on TV Sheiks to Woo the Masses in Egypt. By Matt Bradley. Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2013. Also here. Video.


The facts just keep coming out of Ohio. It is hard to comprehend what they went through, those young women. What they felt while trapped by a monster through those lost years of their early adulthood is almost impossible to fathom. How did they cope? How did they get through each day?

A close friend of mine was sexually abused as a teenaged girl. It was a man she knew. It lasted for years. She never told anyone — not her mom, not her friends. She didn’t tell because, like so many women who are abused, she blamed herself. She didn’t tell because she was ashamed. Because she was afraid. Because she just wanted to move on. For all kinds of other reasons she will never know, and no longer cares to know, she never told anyone. Until she told me.

Why did it last so long? Why didn’t she just call the police? Unlike those Ohio girls, she wasn’t chained or locked up. But he had chained her mind. Besides abusing her body, he had burrowed into her mind and abused her trust. He provided alcohol and a pathway to adulthood, but he stole her childhood. And her heart.

Her monster — and too many women in this world have a monster in their lives — told her he was doing it for her own good. He told her she was different from the other girls. He told her she was sexy. And he told her she was bad, too. He told her all kinds of things, all of them manipulations to serve his own evil purposes. She believed him.

Stockholm syndrome prevailed as the survival mechanism for my friend, and quite probably for those young women in Ohio. Thank God, they are free today. They will have those horrible memories for a long time. But maybe, just maybe, those beautiful young women in Ohio will be able to trust a man again. It took my friend 15 years to do it.

I know. I married her.

Last week, my wife rushed into my office and showed me an article in the Wall Street Journal. It was about the rise of TV preachers, known as sheiks, in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, and one popular TV sheik in particular, Khaled Abdullah.

His brand of Islam is a retrograde brand, a form of Islamism that spews hate toward women. Christians, Jews, gays, and Americans are not far behind. Two paragraphs had caught my wife’s eye. This was the first:

“The Salafi TV preachers advocate restrictive views on women, railing against female protesters and even advising audiences of what they see as the Islamically correct way for a husband to beat his wife.”

That’s right. To some Muslims — to too many — there is a correct way to beat your wife. And this show gets big ratings. And no protests from enraged mobs.

Then came the second paragraph:

“Even so, many viewers of TV preachers are women. In the most conservative Egyptian households, women rarely leave their homes and account for nearly two-thirds of television viewers.”

The women rarely leave their homes? How could that be? It took my wife to connect things I was incapable of connecting.

“Don’t you see,” she explained. “These women are prisoners. And on those rare times they are permitted to leave the house, they wear burqas. And a burqa is just a prison made out of clothing.”

But why do so many Muslim women watch these sheiks on TV? And wear the burqas?

“It makes sense,” my wife told me. “These Islamist men convince women that this way of living is for their own good. It is for their protection. And the women believe it, because they don’t know what else to do. Or are afraid to do it.”

And they say there is a war on women in America?

All over the world, it’s that Ohio house for millions of Muslim women every day. And yet we hear too little about this horrifying state of affairs from feminists in America. Or from the media.

No one has written more eloquently about women and Islam than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As a young woman, Ali escaped an arranged marriage in her native Somalia by emigrating to the Netherlands. She went on to write the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission. They both received death threats; van Gogh ended up being brutally murdered.

Back in 2010, she told a remarkable story about her early life in Mogadishu in a column called “Not the Child My Grandmother Wanted.” She recalls being six or seven years old and being lectured by her grandmother about how to be a proper Muslim girl.

When the young Ali asked her grandmother why such strict rules didn’t apply to her brother Mahad, she got an earful. “Mahad is a man! Your misfortune is that you were born with a split between your legs. And now, we the family must cope with that reality!”

Her grandmother continued: “Ayaan, you are stubborn, you are reckless and you ask too many questions. That is a fatal combination. Disobedience in women is crushed and you are disobedient.”

Then came the most harrowing part of the lesson. Ali’s grandmother pointed to a piece of sheep fat on the ground. It was covered with ants and flies. “You are like that piece of sheep fat in the sun,” she warned her granddaughter. “If you transgress, I warn you men will be no more merciful to you than those flies and ants are to that piece of fat.”

Women are like a piece of sheep fat?

And this advice from — a grandmother?

Where are the voices of feminism reaching out to all of these Muslim women? Is it right to ascribe such treatment to cultural norms? Or to shield it in the name of religious tolerance? Where is the National Organization for Women? And Michelle Obama? Is political correctness regarding extreme elements of Islam trumping the bond of the worldwide sisterhood?

Last March, the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea published a survey of the world’s worst offenders on the women’s-rights front. Here is how she described life for Saudi women:
Women are required to have male guardians whose permission is necessary for traveling outside the home — even for emergency hospital visits. The state dictates their appearance with dress codes that enshroud them in anonymous black robes from head to toe. Apart from lingerie stores, they are barred from retail jobs and most service work. Under a code unique to Saudi Arabia, they are also banned from driving. They cannot mingle with unrelated men. A special police force, mutaween, patrols streets, shopping malls, and other places to enforce such laws; the mutaween captured rare international attention in 2002 when, during a fire at a girls’ school in Mecca, they caused the death of 15 girls by pushing them back into the blazing building because, in their panic, the girls had run out without their veils.
Talk about a story that is almost too horrible to imagine!

But it gets worse. Here is how Ms. Shea described the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan:
Afghanistan applies, in some areas, tribal law that gives women few rights. The New York Times detailed one particularly abusive tribal law that is said to be “pervasive” in Pashtun areas, aptly named “baad.” It is the abduction, lifelong enslavement, and rape of a girl — who was eight years old in the Times’s story — by a family in compensation for a wrong committed by the girl’s relatives.
That’s right. In some parts of Afghanistan, families settle scores by sending their daughters off to a lifetime of rape and slavery. And Sandra Fluke thinks America is hostile to women because many of us don’t want to pony up for her birth control?

The world is upside down when it comes to how our leaders and our media elites address the abuse of too many Muslim women around the world. One Christian preacher who doesn’t even have a real church talks about burning a Koran, and the story becomes an international sensation. But rape, torture, and imprison your own women as a fundamental part of daily life, and the world hardly yawns.

In the weeks and months to come, as we learn more gruesome facts about what happened to those poor girls in Ohio, pray for them. But let’s also pray for all the subjugated girls and women in places like Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia whose suffering is so tragic because it is so utterly ordinary. Whose suffering is so tragic because it is met with such silence.

Say a prayer for all the women in the world trapped in cages built on the foundation of depraved cultural norms, and a warped take on Islam.

Terrorism as Therapy. By Victor Davis Hanson.

Terrorism as Therapy. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, May 13, 2013.