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Of frogs legs and scorpion tails

Indifferent to the specter of unleashed state-sponsored terrorism, France and China announced this week that they have joined forces to help Iran develop its natural gas fields.  Apparently, an enriched and empowered radical theocracy is nothing to worry about — assuming the infamous Iran nuclear deal actually ensures any measure of global security.

It’s hard not to recall the parable of the frog and the scorpion:

A scorpion once asked to ride on the back of a frog to reach the other side of a river.  At first, the frog refused, fearing for its life.  But then the scorpion reasoned that the frog had nothing to worry about since, if it stung the frog, it would drown in the river as well.  The frog could not argue with the scorpion’s logic and allowed it to climb aboard.

Midway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog.  “Why did you do that?” cried the frog.  “Now we will both die.”

“I couldn’t help it,” replied the scorpion.  “It’s in my nature to sting, so I had to sting.”

The truth is that it’s easier to sympathize with the frog than with the French.  The frog wanted to do a good deed and — albeit mistakenly — saw no cause for mistrusting the scorpion.

In contrast, the French and the Chinese want nothing but a larger slice of the world-economic pie, and they are willing to ignore the inevitable long-term dangers for short-term profit.  The mild satisfaction of being able to tell them “we told you so” some years down the line will hardly supply adequate consolation for the precarious state the world will find itself in.

Of course, the allegory is imperfect for a different reason.  France and China are scorpions, too.  Dangerous, irresponsible, and unwilling to change their natures.

At the very least, however, their self-serving self-deception should make us ask ourselves:  Are we frogs or scorpions?  What about the candidates we vote into office?

And if we refuse to change our individual and collective natures, how far across the river can we expect to get?

The Obama Legacy: A World Beyond Cynicism

20150715_iranIt really makes you want to scream and cry bang your head against the wall, hoping against hope that you’ll wake from a dystopian nightmare.

The toxic combination of delusion and narcissism that characterizes President Obama and his administration churns through our society like venom as the president trumpets one imagined victory after another and vilifies every critic, all while overseeing the catastrophic disintegration of moral standards, common values, and national security.

By what kind of perverse calculation does the leader of the free world negotiate a hostage release — which should have been part of any treaty from the outset — for the sole purpose of masking the corrosive consequences of that very treaty at the moment of its implementation?  Such contrived deception mixed with political incompetence literally staggers the imagination.

The only thing worse is the chilling reality that the president actually believes that he is making the country and the world safer and better.  Like Jimmy Carter, Mr. Obama will live out his life believing that he was one of the country’s greatest presidents, and he will remain utterly baffled why no one recognizes his greatness.

Read Charles Krauthammer’s dispiriting post-mortem here.

A Week of Ironies — Iranian Hostages, Nikki Haley, and $1.5 Billion

US-Sailors-Iran-KerryIn his State of the Union speech, President Obama patted himself on the back for making peace with Iran while, at that very moment, Iran held 10 American sailors in violation of international law and the Geneva Convention.  The next day, Secretary John Kerry thanked the Iranians for not keeping the servicemen as hostages.

In the same speech, the president also lamented his failure to create an atmosphere of bipartisanship and cooperation, while passing up no opportunity to snipe at everyone who disagrees with him.

After South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley responded to the president’s address, the angriest voices loudly condemned her  for condemning the angriest voices.

Hillary Clinton, who can boast the lowest national rating on trustworthiness since Richard Nixon, dismissed a new FBI investigation into her mishandling of classified information by declaring “that’s just not the way I treated classified information.”  Transparency, at last.

falling dollarsHowever, none of this made much of an impression on an American public entranced by the dream of winning a 1.5 billion dollar lottery, even though about half of multimillion-dollar lottery winners eventually admit that sudden wealth proved more of a curse than a blessing.

Now that three winners are going to share the unprecedented payoff, they might want to take a page from the book of a middle-aged man in Atlanta who, back in the 1990s, won a $4 million dollar lottery – what was an exceptional amount for the time.

The winner had been working a double shift as a garbage collector.  When asked what he intended to do after winning so much money, the man replied, “I’m going to quit one of my shifts.”

“Only one?” asked the incredulous reporter.

“A man has to have work,” replied the new millionaire.

The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson

564f3cc7c10e0.imageOnce Iowa Democrats decided to rename the venerated event known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, it was only a matter of time before PC zealots would start demanding the purge of historical icons all across America.  After all, how in good conscience can a country continue to commemorate its most influential leaders if they failed to anticipate that the legal and universally-accepted institutions of their times would eventually be regarded as immoral by their great-grandchildren?

Now it’s Woodrow Wilson’s turn, as students at Princeton demand that the memory of their university’s former president be expunged from under the heavens because he supported segregation, a policy viewed by many as progressive a century ago, no matter what we may think of it now.

There is a deeper irony in their campaign, however.  In terms of political acumen, Woodrow Wilson has quite a bit in common with a much more contemporary figure, one who is revered by the very people who are protesting President Wilson’s racism and misogyny:  Barack Obama.

Read the whole article here.

 

Senator Claire McCaskill and the Iran Deal

Letter to Senator Claire McCaskill’s field representative in St. Louis, 9/1/15:

Dear  _____

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and my colleague yesterday afternoon.  Please allow me to summarize the main points of our position.

  1. To frame the choice between the proposed deal with Iran and no deal at all is misleading because a) the premature relaxation of sanctions put the United States in a position of weakness, b) the administration’s eagerness to achieve a deal resulted in unnecessary concessions that render the deal largely ineffective, and c) as the president himself has said all along, and as Senator McCaskill has said herself, no deal is better than a bad deal.
  2. Even if Iran adheres to the conditions of the deal, the Iranian government will be able to achieve nuclear capability within ten years.  This is not our opinion, but the understanding of Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, explained in their April 8 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:  “Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability .”
  3. Iran has long demonstrated and continues to demonstrate dishonesty in upholding its own commitments, and should be taken seriously in its unchanging refrain “Death to America.”  Iran’s procurement of ICBMs will put every American in danger.
  4. Experts from all quarters express little faith that the verification procedures will be effective.
  5. The release of billions into the hands of Iran will certainly be used to continue its sponsorship of international terrorism.
  6. The described “snapback” of sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the deal is a fantasy.  Russia and China are far more concerned with the profits available from doing business with Iran than with the security of western nations, and our allies in the west won’t want to forgo their own profits to let Russia and China be the sole beneficiaries of free trade.  If the United States reinstates sanctions now, perhaps it can convince its allies to do the same and restore at least some of the pressure that had been effective until it was unilaterally withdrawn.
  7. American credibility around the world will not be diminished by rejecting the deal, since it is already non-existent as a result of failing to support our allies (Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine), failing to stand by our own principles (Syria, Cuba), and failure to show concern for our own people (American hostages held by Iran).
  8. In sum, because of a series of ill-advised policy decisions by this administration, the only sane option that remains to us is to deny the deal its legitimacy in hope that a future leader of superior vision and courage will be in a better position to stem the aggression of this terrorist regime.  To endorse a deal that provides no security is the worst possible decision, for it perpetuates the administration’s fantasy of achieving security while making the world a far more dangerous place.

Thank you again for you time.  Please forward these points to Senator McCaskill, as we discussed.  We are eager to hear her responses.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Yonason Goldson

A Letter to Every Senate Democrat

Dear Senator,

iran dealThe president’s deal with Iran will make the world safer.  That’s what President Obama has told us.  But there are no facts to support his claim.

Not only has Iran has repeatedly violated UN resolutions, but the administration and other governments may have worked to conceal those violations.  Iran has declared its intent to destroy the United States — the Great Satan.  The demands upon Iran are minimal, temporary, and unverifiable.  Even before the ink is dry, Iran is violating the treaty with Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani’s trip to Russia.  Iran will only grow more brazen, because its leaders know that they will not be held accountable by a weak president and an international community in denial.

Senator, this deal is built on a fantasy.  The lessons of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement are written on the monuments to the martyrs of the Holocaust and World War II.  The lessons of Jimmy Carter’s appeasement treaty are written on the nuclear arsenal of North Korea.  Do we really want to risk the world’s future so that Barack Obama and John Kerry can claim a fictitious victory that is worse than useless?

You don’t have to be Thomas Jefferson to recognize that you can’t make peace with people who don’t want to make peace with you.  Do you really want your name appended to the list of Obama loyalists who will choose politics over common sense?

Please, Senator, please vote for sanity and reject the president’s folly. For the sake of us all, and for the sake of our children.

Mike Huckabee’s the Bomb Thrower?

Former Arkansas Governor and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)   - RTR379BK

“This President’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history.  It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal.”

These are the incendiary words of Mike Huckabee in an interview with the Breitbart News Network.  Woe upon us.

It’s hardly surprising that Barack Obama found the governor’s words offensive; for six years the president has taken offense at every utterance that isn’t laudatory, obeisant, or downright reverential.

It’s also no surprise that John Kerry found the governor’s comments offensive. The Iran deal is Mr. Kerry’s only shot at a Nobel Peace Prize, and the unwelcome reality check of fear-mongers like Prime Minister Netanyahu and Governor Huckabee might, if they find traction (which they won’t), jeopardize his chance to join the ranks of such great historic peacemakers as Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Yasir Arafat.

Read the whole essay here.

The Road to Compromise

us-iran-rapprochementAfter last week’s “historic” Obama-Kerry Compromise with Iran, it’s instructive to take a look back to see how little has changed.  I published this op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on 2 August 2002.

 

Henry Clay earned his reputation as “the great compromiser” when he forestalled the outbreak of the Civil War by ten years. Even so, one has to wonder whether even Mr. Clay’s genius for mediation could save the Mideast peace process from becoming a towering embarrassment to US foreign policy.

Compromise, according to Webster’s, is “a method of reaching agreement in a dispute, by which each side surrenders something that it wants.” This shouldn’t be hard to comprehend for anyone with a background in high school civics. What does remain incomprehensible is how otherwise reasonable people might seriously apply the term “compromise” to past peace proposals, and why anyone thinks it will be different the next time around.

Definitions notwithstanding, immediately after the Camp David negotiations in the summer of 2000 the New York Times observed that Yasir Arafat’s “willingness for more talks suggests room for compromise.”

The Times deserved credit for optimism and imagination, but won few points for objective editorial insight. Indeed, only a month earlier (on July 11 of that year), the Times reported that, “The Palestinians want a settlement based on United Nations Resolution 242,” implying that if not for Israeli intransigence, there would have been peace in the region long before.

Let’s see. Resolution 242 mandates 1) the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” and 2) the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

For its part, Israel returned more than 90% of the Sinai to Egypt in 1981, and offered to give more than 90% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Pretty good, for a compromise.

From the Palestinian side, however, it’s been hard to detect even a whiff of compliance. Rather, these are the ways the Palestinian Authority has terminated its claims and belligerency: all government and schoolbook maps, as well as children’s television programs, identify the whole of Israel as “Palestine;” teenagers at Palestinian “summer camps” train with automatic weapons to fight Israelis; Arafat has named squares and streets after Hamas suicide bombers; Israeli security has caught PA officials smuggling numerous weapons, including anti-tank weapons, into Israel. The list could easily fill this column.

Ehud Barak had been prepared to overlook all that. But then the Camp David talks broke down anyway, largely because of Palestinian insistence of absolute sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem has been the heart and soul of Israel for over 3000 years, the holiest site on earth according to Jewish tradition and the Old Testament. The Arab’s spiritual capital is Mecca, whereas Jerusalem is merely a religious and historical footnote, not mentioned by name even once in the Quran. What’s more, from 1948 to 1967, when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, not one Arab ruler visited the city, except Jordon’s own King Hussein. Electricity and water services were neglected, and no government offices or cultural centers were set up there.

So what does the Palestinian Authority want? What it has always wanted: everything. The very concept of compromise appears utterly foreign to the thinking of Palestinian leaders, and is entirely absent from their behavior. It’s hard to see what the PA has ever thought it’s bringing to the negotiating table, except for the vague promise of controlling terrorism and the hazy commitment of conceding Israel’s right to exist, a right already granted by the United Nations over half a century ago.

In hindsight, it’s also hard to see what Ehud Barak hoped to accomplish by bargaining away so much for so little. According to Mideast analyst David Makovsky, Mr. Barak’s objective was “peace without illusions.” Peace between governments, the former Prime Minister believed, is the only possible goal presently within grasp; peace between peoples is generations away.

Mr. Barak assumed that once a treaty is signed, all of Israel’s Arab neighbors will abide by its conditions, gradually leading to normalization and the eventual cessation of the hateful rhetoric that foments Arab violence.

The trouble is, there’s no evidence it would work. Whatever the terms, any deal that produces even the coldest peace must rest on the foundation of compromise, a foundation that doesn’t exist. The indoctrination of children with hatred of Israel continues, even in Egypt, nearly three decades after it grudgingly traded political recognition for the return of its land.

529198-israelOther Arab nations have refused to offer even this little olive branch; they have never demonstrated the slightest willingness to compromise. Neither Israel nor the United States should take another step forward until they do. Let us hope that the new U. S. president will learn from the errors of his failed namesake and not put his hope in false promises that have already led nowhere.

If you still think the Iranian compromise was a good deal, read what Charles Krauthammer has to say.

A Dybbuk in the White House?

images“What gives in the White House? If the genie is out the bottle what made, of all world leaders the most powerful, let it out? Who, or what, is the mischief maker behind the nuclear talks? What spirit runs amok in the corridors of power? The freak alignments lately fashioned point to some fiend on a depraved mission. American bombers now support Iranian troops to keep a chemical-weapon-dropping Syrian madman in power. Saudis and Israelis co-operate to stymie an American-made pact. An emissary from the White House supposedly told the Argentine government not to pursue Iranian murderers of eighty-odd Jews in Buenos Aries. Obama gives tacit blessing to the sale of a Russian ground-to-air missile system to Iran, which will make it more difficult for Israel to flatten those nuclear sites. A US President who sets all this, and more, in motion would have to be possessed.”

Read the rest of Steve Apfel’s inspired op-ed here.

Hat tip:  Steve Glassman