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Natural, Rare and Necessary

Winston-Churchill

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

Excerpts:

Churchill agreed with the socialists, partially, on one issue: He helped invent the social safety net. But he looked for ways to implement it without threatening the free-market system, the liberal nature of the society, the advantage of labor over idleness, and the security of property. Churchill’s social safety net relied chiefly on contributions from the beneficiaries and their employers, who paid money into accounts that they could track. Benefits were limited so as not to undercut work or break the treasury. Understanding that human life would always be imperfect as long as it remained human, he did not preach or attempt utopia. The trials of living, raising a family, and following one’s conscience were essential attributes of a fully human life. Churchill believed that if these activities were socialized, life would fall under dehumanizing tyranny, like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

He balanced these decisions — often between being popular or speaking truth, for allying with socialists during the war and fighting against them in his campaign, for changing political parties twice in his career — all with the artfulness of action called statesmanship. It required gifts “much rarer than the largest and purest of diamonds,” he said. He believed statesmanship is natural, rare, and necessary; it involves the elevation of capacities inherent in human beings and required for high citizenship. All of us must choose. All of us have ultimate purpose and principles that drive what we do, and all of us face necessities that cut in different directions from each other and from our principles.

The classics teach us that this art of choosing involves an intellectual virtue, prudence, and is best learned by studying those who have the reputation for excellence at it. Those people tend to be statesmen, because the questions of politics involve so many people, so many ultimate questions, and so much risk and opportunity. This is why we study Churchill closely.

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The Iraq Amnesia Syndrome

From National Review,  The Biggest Lie, by Victor Davis Hanson

There were all sorts of untold amnesias about Iraq. No one remembers the 23 writs that were part of the 2002 authorizations that apparently Obama believes are still in effect. They included genocide, bounties for suicide bombers, an attempt to kill a former U.S. president, the harboring of terrorists (among them one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers), and a whole litany of charges that transcended WMD and were utterly unaffected by the latter controversy. How surreal is it that Obama is preemptively bombing Iraq on twelve-year-old congressional authorizations that he opposed as trumped up and now may be relevant in relationship to dealing with Syrian and Iraqi stockpiles of WMD?

We forget too how Harry Reid declared the surge a failure and the war lost even as it was being won. Or how Barack Obama predicted that the surge would make things worse, before scrubbing such editorializing from his website when the surge worked. Do we remember those days of General Betray Us (the ad hominem ad that the New York Times, which supposedly will not allow purchased ad hominem ads, granted at a huge discount), and the charges from Hillary Clinton that Petraeus was lying (“suspension of disbelief”)? As Obama megaphones call for national unity in damning Leon Panetta’s critiques during the present bombing, do we remember the glee with which the Left greeted the tell-all revelations of Paul O’Neill, George Tenet, and Scott McClellan during the tenure of George W. Bush, or how they disparaged the surge when Americans were dying to implement it?

 

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Earning Independence

Kurdish Women

from Bloomberg Kurds Get Closer to a State of Their Own by Eli Lake

Excerpt:

With Cuba and North Korea dominating the headlines, Americans may have missed the good news from a corner of the world that has provided very little: Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga fighters have inflicted a series of defeats on Islamic State forces, freeing a broad swath of northern Iraq from the jihadists’ control.

These battlefield victories underline an equally striking change in U.S. policy: Starting in 2015, the U.S. military will be training three brigades of peshmerga and spending more than $350 million equipping them for battle with the fanatics tearing Iraq apart. While the Kurds have been semi-independent since 1991, with their own government, militias and foreign policy, this is the biggest step yet toward Washington allowing them to have a state of their own.

Even though Kurdistan is landlocked, it’s no longer such a stretch to imagine it being independent. Kurdish customs officials already stamp your passport at its airports. The Kurds have their diplomats and lobbyists in foreign capitals. And now, thanks to an oil deal reached early this month with Baghdad, they have staved off financial collapse and gotten Baghdad to agree to pay the salaries of their Peshmerga fighters. Over the summer Israel’s prime minister,Benjamin Netanyahu,  came out for an independent Iraqi Kurdistan.

For now, the Kurds are partners in helping to destroy the makeshift caliphate that has effectively erased the border between Syria and Iraq. For this the world owes them a debt of gratitude. But by training and equipping a modern Kurdish army to achieve this task, Obama may find that he is helping destroy Iraq in order to save it.

A Free and Independent Kurdistan would be one good outcome from the Iraq war.

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The Bigger Benghazi Question

benghazi

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

Excerpt:

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

excerpt:

“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.