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The Bigger Benghazi Question


From The American Interest, The Case for More Congress In American Foreign Policy, by Walter Russell Mead:


At the same time, with our Libyan policy, like the country itself, in ruins, one has the sense that the Benghazi investigation missed the larger point. The United States participated in the overthrow of the Qaddafi government, largely on humanitarian grounds, but we were utterly unprepared for the aftermath. Libya is in chaos today, radical jihadi groups have proliferated in the ruins, Qaddafi’s arms and fighters have fanned out across North Africa and the Middle East, and arguably more Libyans have died as the result of the intervention than would have perished had we stayed home. On top of this, there are credible allegations that the U.S. had guaranteed Qaddafi’s safety when he gave up his WMD program. Did our intervention in Libya break a pledge, or did it reduce our ability to persuade other countries to abstain from WMD programs? Did the decision to intervene in Libya also mean that the U.S. was less ready and able to respond appropriately to the much greater humanitarian and strategic crisis that holds Syria in its grip?

Benghazi was one consequence of a much larger and more serious policy failure, and the costs of that failure are still mounting up. By focusing narrowly on Benghazi, Congress missed the bigger question and the more consequential failure. Again, the question is less one of partisan politics than of the national interest: what can we learn from policies that go awry so that in future we can make better choices?

A review of our policy failure in Libya (or earlier ones in Iraq and elsewhere) isn’t just about second guessing and assigning blame. It is about making sure that the nation’s foreign policy infrastructure is up to the tasks that our turbulent century has set for us.

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No More Munichs- defined

Conrad Black writes Battle of the Cliches in The National Review


“No more Munichs” must mean no more complicity in foreign aggression — it must not mean that the West will prevent any injustice that occurs everywhere in the world even if it is not significantly affected by it. “No boots on the ground”​must become a comfort level that the country’s leaders can judge successfully how much force to apply in different crises by calibrating accurately the cost-benefit ratio and ensuring an acceptable exit strategy before getting involved. In general, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr. made these vital calculations correctly, and Presidents Johnson, Carter, Bush Jr., and Obama have not. The shocking enfeeblement of once useful allies, especially in Western Europe, illustrates the propensity of under-contributing allies to become mere passengers and the need for the United States, as alliance leader, to keep and exercise control, even if it prudently reduces foreign commitments.

“Boots on the ground” has become a frightening cliché. There is nothing wrong with the insertion of forces into a foreign conflict if the national security and international law justify it, the defined goal is attainable at reasonable cost in lives and resources, and there is a plausible and honorable exit strategy. The distinction must be drawn between the toleration of what is inconvenient in the foreign-policy antics of other countries because they cannot be deterred or countered at acceptable cost, and appeasing and facilitating and even pridefully collaborating in odious conduct. The Sudeten crisis did not justify Britain and France in going to war, but association by those powers with that policy was dishonorable. As Winston Churchill said at the time: “You chose shame and you will get war.” Those were not the only alternatives, and, in general, war should be chosen only when shame is the alternative. And military force can be used without, as “boots on the ground” has come to mean in the popular imagination, the indefinite commitment of ground forces in an inhospitable place for an indefinite time, sustaining casualties and material costs that it is impossible to justify.

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Turning on the Spigots

therewillbe blood

From The Personal And Economic Benefits Of Cheaper Oil at investor’s Business Daily:

The U.S. imports about 3.5 billion barrels of oil a year. So a $20 reduction in price is equal to a $70 billion tax cut. And since we consume more than twice that much oil each year, the tax cut is closer to $150 billion. Gas prices at the pump are down 40 to 50 cents a gallon in some areas. Not bad.

Why are prices falling? Yes, the world economy is slowing down, and with it global demand for crude. That’s especially true with welfare-state Europe looking again like an economic basket case.

But a bigger factor is that Saudi Arabia is turning on the spigots. The Saudis aren’t stupid. They see the writing on the wall from the shale oil and gas drilling revolution in America. U.S. output is surging, with production double where it was just seven years ago. By pushing down the price, Saudi sheiks may be trying to drive out high-cost drillers to slow future production.

Another piece of very good news here is that the Saudis are crippling their former OPEC partners-in-crime. The Iranians and Venezuelans are screaming bloody murder and demanding emergency OPEC meeting to curtail production. The Saudis are in no hurry to do so.

The economic reality is that as the U.S. becomes more energy-dependent and can even reach energy dominance in the years to come, OPEC is becoming a toothless tiger. It can no longer hold the world hostage to high oil and gas prices.
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The Russians are also greatly hurt by cheaper oil.

While we may take some delight in hurting the economic interests of our adversaries with lower oil prices, we should be cautious. In the absence of economic gain they may seek gain by other means.

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Terrorism’s Enabler


“In this changing climate, moreover, it did not help that Chomsky, even though he sometimes called himself a libertarian anarchist, repeatedly rushed to apologize for or side with any totalitarian despot, whether Communist or fascist and no matter how murderous, provided only that the despot in question was ranged against the United States. To the consternation even of some formerly devoted admirers, this included Pol Pot, who had slaughtered one-third or more of his own people in setting up a Communist regime in Cambodia. As a result of all this, Chomsky, too, like Buchanan, was increasingly relegated to the margins and largely forgotten.

“After 9/11, however, and unlike Buchanan, Chomsky found a newly receptive audience and one bigger than ever. Arch Puddington of Freedom House summed it up in an article in Commentary:

9/11, a pamphlet-sized book of responses to questions from foreign journalists, sold over 300,000 copies in 23 languages. According to one survey, Chomsky is the most cited living author, and the eighth most cited of all time (just behind Freud). His speeches draw packed houses. At the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of the anti-globalist movement, he is a featured personality. The current generation of young leftists treat Chomsky as a celebrity, and pay him the kind of homage normally reserved for rock stars or cult icons. He is the subject of several reverential documentary films, which depict him as an isolated voice of truth against a corrupt and warmongering establishment, and he has even inspired a one-man theater work, The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky.” 

Excerpt From: Podhoretz, Norman. “World War IV.” Doubleday, 2007-09-11. iBooks.

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Pat Buchanan’s tilt towards anti-Semitism on the eve of the Iraq War caused him to be marginalized by the right.  Chomsky’s equally odious slant caused him to be a celebrity of the left.  Anti-Semitism has found a much more welcome reception from the left.


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Beyond Containment

“But there was also a big difference here. Reagan’s arms buildup, together with his refusal to accept the Brezhnev Doctrine of “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is up for grabs,” signified a return to containment and deterrence. Bush, however, believed that this very strategy had been rendered obsolete by 9/11. To cite the relevant passage again:

For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the cold war doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence—the promise of massive retaliation against nations—means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend…. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons or missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.”

Excerpt From: Podhoretz, Norman. “World War IV.” Doubleday, 2007-09-11. iBooks.

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