Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rabid Dogs

Ayatollah Khameini, Iran' Supreme Leader, was quoted last week while his negotiators were trying to broker a deal with John Kerry, EU leaders and China to relax sanctions as follows: "Zionist officials cannot be called human, they are like animals, some of them....The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation." He referred to the regime as the "rabid dog of the region". It's pretty reasonable to conclude that any agreement to which this lunatic concurs is implicitly bad for the party on the table's other side.

Leaders of the West, particularly Barack Obama, have stated that any relaxation of sanctions would have to be accompanied by a process by which Iran would be required to dismantle its enrichment infrastructure and ship near-weapons grade uranium to outside partners for storage/destruction. but none of that has happened here. Instead, we are treated to reports of the benefits of a six month agreement that doesn't require Iran to stop construction of centrifuges and doesn't require Iran to open up all suspected nuclear sites for inspection.

Why the sudden rush to head to Geneva in the middle of the night to conclude such a short term agreement? Why do the Chinese and Russians seem so anxious to get this thing approved and, all of a sudden, are so supportive of John Kerry's efforts? The obvious answer is because once there is agreement to relax sanctions - under whatever circumstances - there is no chance that those sanctions will be reimposed under any circumstances. The Chinese and Russians will invent unending rationale to explain why some conditions might have been breached or that these requirements were not clearly defined in the agreement, etc. For all intents and purposes, the economic sanctions against Iran have ended and the country has emerged as a member of the nuclear club.

We have seen ample evidence that when America creates a power vacuum that space is quickly
occupied by China or Russia. Egypt in the case of the former and Syria the latter. The Russians have
played an essential role in Iran's quest for nuclear power and the Chinese have been happy to buy their oil, even in the face of international sanctions. It is equally reasonable to conclude, given the Russians' support for Iran and Assad, that as Iran's influence grows, so does Russia's. With the American departure in Iraq and the growing influence of the Shi'a, and the looming departure from Afghanistan, it is likely that the Russians will have an influence in the region that their years in Afghanistan could not secure. All of this alarms the Sunni world enormously, increases Saudi interest to join the nuclear club (which Pakistan joined with Saudi financing), and fundamentally undermines the interests of the US which is perceived as weakened and crippled by domestic dispute.

Bibi Netanyahu as usual does not shrink from controversy and calls 'em like he sees 'em. He characterizes this interim deal as a "historic mistake" which, in my humble view, only adds to the litany already accomplished by the Obama administration. After the Ayatollah made the statements I referenced earlier, Bibi said, "The public responded to him with calls of 'Death to America! Death to Israel!' Doesn't this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran. We are not confused." Nor should we be.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fouad Ajami and JFK

Since I began writing this blog several months ago, I have made occasional references to commentators whose writing I admire - Charles Krauthammer (with whom I've had several disagreements recently) and Andrew McCarthy. I have failed to include another whose work is consistently stimulating and often challenges the media's embrace of Administration narrative - Fouad Ajami.

Ajami, of course, seems most comfortable in his analysis of events in the Middle East, and while tectonic events in that region are as dangerous and world-changing as ever, they have been overshadowed by domestic affairs. I continue to resist the urge to spend much time on Obamacare since that fiasco is discussed daily by voices much wiser than mine. However, this week Dr. Ajami has written a column about domestic politics (which is unusual in itself) and it is a blistering sociological critique of the hysteria that has surrounded the President since he burst onto the national scene.

It is ironic that this examination takes place during a time when we are looking back on the assassination of JFK and the unending ripples that act continues to exert today. Through today's looking glass, it is difficult not to characterize Kennedy's worldview as conservative, since he regularly espoused the economic benefits of cutting taxes and was an unapologetic anti-communist. This is a notion that Kennedy's family and the press resist because he is often cited as the father of modern liberalism, the logical bridge between the New Deal and the Great Society, periods of great governmental expansion and assumption of federal control over issues traditionally governed by the states.

The real reason that we remember JFK the way we do is because he represented such stark contrast to the Eisenhowers and Nixons of the world. He was young, handsome, wealthy with a gorgeous wife and very young children. He embodied the changes that began to shake the world in the early Sixties-the dream of men landing on the moon, the bold embrace of Berliners trapped by a totalitarian wall, the "goodness" of Americans serving those less fortunate. And in the background, a musical revolution beginning to take shape in Britain and San Francisco. The skies were literally no limit, and the young President's optimism cut across all ideologies.

Today's progressives try to paint Obama with JFK's brush, but it is an image Photoshopped, a pastiche of qualities they desperately want to be true. Obama's actions prove he is the antithesis of a great unifier; he has worked at splitting and dividing this country like no other politician in my lifetime. His signature social achievement was passed on a strict party line vote, using a parliamentarian trick engineered by his consigliere, Harry Reid. He sets no bold agenda for the future, trapping instead future generations in a sea of debt for which he holds others responsible. He and those who support him employ the foulest of language to criticize their political opponents while appealing out of the other side of his mouth for civility in public discourse. It is hypocrisy and cynicism made whole. The contrast with JFK could not be more stark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Death in the Family

My apologies to the occasional reader. I have been out of pocket and unfocused due to the recent passing of my wife's twin brother. He committed suicide in a high rise apartment in Chicago overlooking the lakefront where he had retreated from his wife, his only child (from a previous marriage) and his siblings. His soul was deeply troubled and his body failing, both as a consequence of a mountain bike accident which had disabled him in 2007. He worked on his physical and psychological rehab for many years, but was clearly not making enough progress to restore his functionality. The man who died in that lonely apartment was not the man I knew over the years, not the man who used to hide when we would hike various trails in and around Aspen, not the man who would blow down a mountain on skis fearlessly. I will miss him and his twin sister will always feel like a part is missing.