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A Special Innocence

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Bret Stephens writes in The Wall Street Journal, Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition

Excerpt:

I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.

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Exploiting Government

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from the Wall Street Journal, Clinton Cronyism

excerpts:

For those who have followed the Clintons, this is the latest chapter in an old story. Only weeks ago we learned how foreign governments made donations to the family foundation while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State. Even her son-in-law is taking to the family way of doing business, with his hedge fund now benefitting from big investments by the Wall Street friends of Bill and Hillary.

Then again, is anyone really surprised? This is the same woman who as first lady of Arkansas managed to turn a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into $100,000 over 10 months with an assist from some friends.

Liberals like Mrs. Clinton typically berate tea partiers and conservatives for denigrating government. But if American trust in government is at historic lows, this may have something to do with the sight of a Beltway where people become fabulously wealthy not by bringing some superior product or service to market but by cashing in on their political connections.

The Clintons didn’t invent crony capitalism. But when it comes to exploiting government for private gain, nobody does it better.

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Churchill’s Road to Serfdom

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From National Review, Lion to the Last by Larry Arnn:

Excerpts:

In June 1945, a month after the Germans’ surrender, with the general-election campaign under way, Winston Churchill gave a 21-minute speech by radio. He was 70 years old. To the shock of much of Britain, it included this:

I declare to you, from the bottom of my heart, that no Socialist system can be established without a political police…No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.

Asserting in 1945 that the socialists would become like the Nazis was met with outrage, and even Churchill’s allies and members of his family heavily criticized the speech, which was dubbed his “crazy broadcast.” A month later, Churchill’s Conservatives were not just beaten in the election, they were overwhelmed — by a Labour party that gained the largest majority in the history of modern British politics to that time.

HKO

Churchill came to the same conclusion as Frederick Hayek in his Road to Serfdom.  While this inevitable outcome of central planning seemed logical after the wreckage in Europe in WWII, it may be the weakest prediction.  While so much of the Road to Serfdom is accurate the inevitability of tyranny may be wanting.  There may have been other factors that led to this outcome in Germany that would not hold true in societies that had different cultures and political constraints.  Even though the progressive movement in the United States was often a direct assault on the constitution and individual and natural rights, the latter remained intact enough to block many of the extremes that both Churchill and Hayek feared,

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Ideas Will Remain

from Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe,’ I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free’

I refuse to excerpt this article. I insist you read it in its entirety.

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Budget Driven Strategy

from Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal, America’s Strategy Deficit:

excerpts:

On Thursday came the testimony of three former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger(1973-77), George Shultz (1982-89) and Madeleine Albright (1997-2001). Senators asked them to think aloud about what America’s national-security strategy should be, what approaches are appropriate to the moment. It was good to hear serious, not-green, not-merely-political people give a sense of the big picture. Their comments formed a kind of bookend to the generals’ criticisms.

The seemed to be in agreement on these points:

We are living through a moment of monumental world change.

Old orders are collapsing while any new stability has yet to emerge.

When you’re in uncharted waters your boat must be strong.

If America attempts to disengage from this dangerous world it will only make all the turmoil worse.

Mr. Kissinger: “We haven’t faced such diverse crises since the end of the Second World War.” The U.S. is in “a paradoxical situation” in that “by any standard of national capacity . . . we can shape international relations,” but the complexity of the present moment is daunting. The Cold War was more dangerous, but the world we face now is more complicated.

Mr. Kissinger: “In our national experience . . . we have trouble doing a national strategy” because we have been secure behind two big oceans. We see ourselves as a people who respond to immediate, specific challenges and then go home. But foreign policy today is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world.

All agreed the cost-cutting burdens and demands on defense spending forced by the sequester must be stopped. National defense “should have a strategy-driven budget, not a budget-driven strategy,” said Mr. Kissinger.

He added that in the five wars since World War II, the U.S. began with “great enthusiasm” and had “great national difficulty” in ending them. In the last two, “withdrawal became the principal definition of strategy.” We must avoid that in the future. “We have to know the objective at the start and develop a strategy to achieve it.”

Does the U.S. military have enough to do what we must do?

“It’s not adequate to deal with all the challenges I see,” said Mr. Kissinger, “or the commitments into which we may be moving.”