Tuesday, April 28, 2009
But before we let our embarrassment and hurt turn into an emotional lashing-out at the one who wounded us, we should step back and ask ourselves ‘why’? What is going on that one of our own has forsaken us? Why, in such a crucial time, did such a senior (and yes moderate) Republican abandon ship?
Of course there are the easy answers; some of which are true, others not. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Probably not true. After all he was a Republican Senator for some 29 years. It was expedient. Most definitely true. Specter says this much himself. The demographic in Pennsylvania has shifted and he feels he needs to follow in order to keep his position. (See his official statement here: http://www.specter2010.com/news6.html).
Expediency is probably the correct answer. Most Republicans throw up their hands here in disgust and indignation- and rightly so. It isn’t fun to feel betrayed. But I think we need to press this further. It must be expedient for some reason. Presumably, Specter hasn’t thrown in the proverbial Republican towel for personal fame, fortune, or power. He’s switched sides because he believes it is the way to stay in office and make policy. The question is- why does he think this?
The fact of the matter is that Republicans lost Congress, we lost independents, and we lost the election. We now seem to be losing the Northeast completely. Some may say good riddance, but I think this is the wrong approach. We need to take a long hard look at what the party is becoming and where America is going. Ranting and raving will not help us. We can slink into a corner and bemoan our sorry state with the few stalwarts left, or we can step up, be strong, and redefine ourselves.
When Reagan swept to the White House, he had a broad and strong coalition behind him. The modern Republican Party has always admired Reagan as its poster child. However, we appear to have moved very far from that historical greatness. How can we expect to persuade all of America to support us when we can’t convince our own Senators to stay in the party?
Unfortunately, the Republican Party is slipping from a national to a nearly a regional party. We cannot allow ourselves to devolve into a small, narrow party. We cannot allow ourselves to be a pipsqueak of a voice to a new mighty big-tent Democratic Party.
It is easy to get caught up in a kind of ideological hubris. We can protect our egos by ‘trimming’ the fat, by driving out those that fail to tow the orthodox party line. But we do little to help the party. We need to develop new ideas, new policies, and new ways of presenting old ideas and policies that will appeal not only to the current core, but to independent Americans. We have to reconsider what our priorities are. We may even have to be willing to compromise on some issues. This is unfortunate, but we can do a lot more good for this country compromising on certain policies in order to regain control of the House, Senate, and eventually the Presidency, than by being an obstinate, minority party.
Maybe Specter’s leaving is good for us. Maybe it will force us to rethink. I truly believe we have it mostly right. The majority of our changes are in presentation. However, it needs to be utterly clear that we cannot simply be a party of the South. Until we realize that, we will remain in the wilderness.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
This is, unfortunately, just one of far too many examples of the left’s desires to quash free speech on America’s university campuses. This is a bit ironic if you accept the Democrats’ rhetoric that they are the supporters of free speech. The irony fades if you understand Democrats not as supporters of free speech, but abusers of the philosophical concept of free speech to establish their beliefs as the only acceptable dialogue. Democrats, and particularly Democrat organizations on these campuses, use the term ‘free speech’ as a ploy to signify the freedom for left-wing ideas. However, when dissenting views arise, the notion of free speech is cast aside. It becomes embarrassingly clear that free speech is not a true principle of the left, but a figure of speech.
This is terribly concerning. Our institutions of higher learning should be the exemplar of free speech. Politically active people on campus should, not by law, but by policy and ideology be committed to the open and free discussion of ideas and policies. There should be no more perfect place for the free movement of ideas than at these universities. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
These liberal groups, which have now become the majority on campuses, seek to do what their platforms supposedly rail against. They claim to be representative of minorities. They claim to speak for the oppressed. Maybe at one point they did, but unfortunately the term minority has lost its true meaning. ‘Minority’ is not supposed to solely refers to racial classes in America, but to any viewpoint, ideal, or characteristic that is not is not ‘mainstream’. Democrats have hijacked the term, and claimed unmitigated representation of minorities.
However, when a group or idea that was once a minority becomes accepted by the mainstream, its proponents no longer have a role in defending that minority. Now they become the oppressors as they seek to use the same ‘protect the minority’ language to further their partisan agendas. This is seemingly what has happened in the women’s and black’s rights movements. Two noble causes that fought for and justly gained equality some 50 years ago, now no longer have much of a purpose. Yet they push on with bankrupt and out of touch leaders such as Al Sharpton.
This is the same phenomenon that we see on college campuses today. These misguided youth are fed a steady diet of illiberalness from professors and national organizations. When professors post pictures comparing George Bush to a monkey, or laugh at students that express different beliefs, or prevent students from open discussion (all of which has happened to me) an altogether restrictive environment is established. Students are not taught to think liberally but to think Liberally. The difference is that true liberals are open to discourse and dialogue. They want to learn and hear each other out. However, Liberals are simply those that tow the Democratic Party line. The Democrats try to claim these two concepts are one and the same, but they are clearly not.
It is necessary for Democrats to be truly liberal, not just Liberal. This should be a matter of policy. I do want to emphasize that I am not so convinced this is a free speech issue. I think private institutions (on the issue of public universities such as UNC I think this is a bit more hazy) have a right to approve and disprove of who speaks on campus. Inappropriate and un-educational hatemongers, such as Ward Churchill, should rightfully be precluded from speaking and teaching. That being said, as a matter of policies these universities should keep true to their supposed mission and allow open and free dialogue. Disrupters of this, whether on the left or right, should be punished accordingly. Preventing someone from speaking is not an exercise in free speech. Differences should be settled and discussed by allowing both sides to have the podium- and both sides being able to hear the other.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Secondly, it is disastrous policy to prosecute officials that were not only acting as instructed, but were doing a phenomenal and successful job of protecting America. Whether you consider waterboarding to be torture or harsh interrogation techniques is irrelevant. Frankly, I care little if it is termed torture. The fact of the matter is that if torture or interrogation yields truthful, useful, and otherwise unattainable intelligence that leads to the saving of innocent lives then it is one-hundred percent morally and politically acceptable. It is a simple utilitarian argument that justifies this. If injuring or scaring one man can save one or more men then the total harm done in society is minimized. Not torturing is morally equivalent to murdering those who could have been saved had the terrorist been tortured.
Far too often critics try to draw a moral distinction between active and passive actions. The argument implicitly distinguishes between harm caused by an active action, such as torture, and harm caused by a passive action, such as failure to stop a terrorist attack. Under this simplistic morality, actively caused harm is always worse than passively caused harm. For some reason, proponents of this belief seemingly feel a discomfort at being directly involved in harm. However, they feel a little better by being able to stick their head in the sand and, at least mentally, avoid harm that is distant. This may explain why they believe it is less moral to commit harm with an active action.
However, this is a deeply flawed philosophy. The fact that harm is more or less remote is irrelevant. Instead we must to look to the magnitude of harm- or more appropriately the expected value of harm. For instance, if there is even a 10% chance that 1000 people will be injured there is a greater harm in not torturing one man. Committing harm has to be judged in light of the harm it prevents. Harming another is completely justified if it reduces the overall global harm. Just because some types of injury may be caused by passive actions does not negate the fact that we have a moral responsibility to stop them.
The only caveat is that torture has to lead to true intelligence. Torturing for cruel or sadistic purposes is never acceptable. Torture has to be done in a way to extract useful information. Interrogators need to be trained to avoid creating situations where the captive says what the interrogator wants to hear in order to stop the torture. Likewise, less severe methods should be used first, in order to minimize the harm. Escalation should occur as necessary and appropriate. Ultimately, however, it must be recognized that the aim of such tactics is to minimize the amount of global harm. If enemies of our free society decide to create a situation in which there will inevitably be harm, we must do everything we can to minimize that harm. Sometimes this means not being passive, but actively inflicting a small amount of harm to avoid a greater amount.
If Obama decides to pander to an ill-informed and morally twisted ideology and punish those that have so far protected us, we will only be put at greater risk. If our enemies believe that they can harm us without harm coming to them there will be little to protect us. If we hamstring ourselves in the name of a false-morality we will only step down the path to America’s decline and ruination.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
However, there are still countries and leaders that do not hold this belief. The prime example, of course, is the Iranian lunatic and president, Ahmadinejad, who frequently calls for the destruction of Israel and denies the Holocaust occured. Every possible action must be taken to marginalize and even remove such leaders from the world stage. If given the opportunity Ahmadinejad would surely aim to recreate (or create, since he does not believe in the Holocaust) Hitler’s atrocities.
Simply enough, we are giving far too much credence to the Iranian president. He has far too much clout on the world stage and far too much of a soap box. Obama is making a fatal flaw by dialoguing with Ahmadinejad. This will lead to greater support amongst the Iranian people and likely his reelection in June. Ahmadinejad faces a tough position- stuck between his clerical backers and a young population that favors increased relations with the United States (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30329861). An increased dialogue with the US only helps him to appease his youthful voters and to further his aims for reelection. Particularly, since Obama has done most of the work, Ahmadinejad has not had to rile the clerics too much.
Since the election is coming up shortly as much as possible needs to be done to diminish, not increase, his chances of returning to the presidency. Even if Obama’s long term goal is to dialogue with Iran, he is much better off having a more moderate, approachable man on the Iranian end of the table, rather than the current nut-job. Ensuring Ahmadinejad’s downfall over the next few months should be paramount- for the good of America, Israel, and the world.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
There should be no regret for not attending one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, and partisan bodies. This conference and the U.N. Human Rights Council are a mere sham to give a bunch of illiberal and oppressive regimes a platform to spew their vile rhetoric. The body mainly spends its time criticizing Israel, while failing to put much effort into dealing with real human rights issues throughout the world. (See here for the Human Rights Council website. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/).
Fortunately, Obama had the good sense to not attend and wholeheartedly embrace this body. But his hemming and hawing and expressed desire to take part is revealing of his misguided and unfortunate approach to foreign policy. Obama’s desire to interact and participate with the world community as an equal may seem noble on the surface, but it is dangerous and counter-productive.
It seems that he thinks one can garner greater respect through excessive humility and engagement. But the world community does not work this way. Every country has its own interests and will act according to what they see as the best path. Countries are not going to react just because someone is nice. They will be responsive to pressures and rewards they serve their interests. They may like, or say they like, Obama better, but it will have little impact on their policies.
Obama’s behavior doesn’t push the Human Rights Council away from bias and towards a more liberal and just handling of human rights issues. Instead it lends them legitimacy which they do not deserve. They are now liable to feel that their current path has been correct. After all, they have not changed anything and America has stepped closer to playing their game. Obama’s wimpy stance has lowered any positional power the US has, without any movement on the other side.
Unfortunately, this seems like Obama’s general approach on the world stage. He thinks that by diminishing our prestige and power in the eyes of our negotiating partners and enemies that they will suddenly be more amenable to our wishes. It is a foolhardy approach- and one that is likely to lead to much difficulty and loss of influence. He may have made the right policy decision here, but he took a very wrong and damaging path to get there. Hopefully, his time as president will not do irreparable harm to our global position.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
One step in this process is to separate the social ideals and values from religion. Far too often the religious rhetoric that surrounds solid, pertinent, and meaningful policies obscures the validity of the underlying values. Many of the values and associated legislative proposals held by the Christian right are not only correct, but are held by a much wider swath of America. However, the embroilment in religious language and presentation scares many away. It makes potential compatriots wary of Republicans and hinders their ability to support policies that are necessary and right. If these values were presented in more secular terms, Republicans would be able to garner greater support amongst their base, independents, and even some Democrats.
This proposal is not as novel as it may seem. America has done it many times before. We have taken the religion-born values of not murdering, not raping, monogamy, and many more and addressed them in secular ways. For most, if not all, they do not seem to be anything but secular. This is because the underlying logic and reasoning behind such policies is firmly rooted in the rational and not in the religious.
We need to continue this process on other social issues. At first this may challenge some to find secular, rational justifications for beliefs and values that, for them, are heavily rooted in religion. But it can be done. If there is anything that cannot be explained in a secular, rational fashion it should not be in the hands of government. Separation of church and state dictates this. Something that can only be justified by citing a religious text or by saying because G-d or Allah said so does not belong in the law books of America. However, separation of church and state does not dictate that values and morals need to be or should be ignored.
For instance, focus can be increased on the stalwart value of personal responsibility. Many current political dialogues, for example abortion, can be reconstructed with this value as a prime ‘talking-point’. Currently the abortion issue is structured around useless philosophical arguments regarding the definition of life. These arguments are based on deep-seeded beliefs; and are fruitless. It is a zero-sum game in which no one will be able to convince the other side. However, if the argument is retooled to one of personal responsibility we can make more headway in achieving the desired goal. Ultimately, I think most conservatives would agree that the goal is to stop abortions from happening. A society that has legal but very few abortions is preferable (albeit possibly less than ideal) to a society that has illegal but many abortions. By tackling this issue from the perspective of a more universal American value, Republicans can not only garner greater support, but attack the fundamental problem and achieve the desired solution.
This is a key to the success of the Republican Party. We have to be able to appeal to a broader segment of America. More people need to be able to relate to our platform. This is not changing who we are, but repackaging what we say and how we say it. It may be a challenge, but it will be worth it. It will not only draw more people in, but make our policies better thought out.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
One of the primary reasons behind the Democrats’ recent successes was their use of the New Media and internet technologies to organize and interconnect millions of Americans. Not only did this help to mobilize new demographics that were previously not politically active, but it encouraged more established bases to become more active. The use of Facebook, blogs, and the internet by many of these new organizations, such as Move On, Huffington Post, and more, was a prime way to reach out to America.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party has been dragging heavily in using these new forms of mobilization and communication. The Tea Parties were a watershed event in reversing this. Contrary to the conspiracy theories in the mainstream media, the Tea Parties were a bottom up movement, utilizing the same technologies that the Democrats have so successfully used in the past.
This is refreshing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it allows a greater flow of ideas amongst the base and between the base and leadership. It allows the Republican Party to become more in-touch with the average conservative American. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership has so far been somewhat out of touch with its base- at least some of it. This will allow Republican candidates to tweak platforms to appeal to a wide-range of voters and enable greater success at the polls.
Secondly, it changes the image of the Republican Party. Lately, particularly in light of the Bush administration, Republicanism has been popularly viewed as out of touch, old, and elite. This needn’t be the case. College students so readily flock to the Democrats because the left is simply more readily accessible on campuses. This of course has to do with biased instruction and administration, but also has to do with the fact that the Democrats are more present in these ‘youthful spaces’ such as the internet. By moving into these spaces the Republicans can offer a second option- a better option.
In other words, the Republicans need to “youth-enize” their thinking. They need to appeal to a younger, more tech-savvy, network-oriented base. They need to figure out how to sell their ideas in a fashion that appeals to the new everyman.
This does not necessarily mean compromising on ideals or policies. What it does mean is that these ideas need to be first repackaged and second distributed in better ways. Repackaging entails selling policies from new angles and perspectives. This can simply be accomplished by reevaluating what is important to these new bases and how to frame policies in this light. Distribution of course involves the methods of interacting with and communicating to the base. The use of these new technologies is the prime way of achieving this [and naturally is one of the inspiring factors for this, and I’m sure, many other blogs].
The Tea Parties were a successful start, but there is much work to be done. What they have shown us, is that the new media and network-based models work well with conservative ideals, as long as the ideals are properly presented. Uniting behind the notion of hard-working, self-sufficient, reasonable, individual, American is just this image.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Naturally, the increase in piracy can, at least partially, be explained by the fact that Somalia (where the vast majority of these pirates are coming from) is a failed state. Men have little recourse to survive other than to turn to piracy. Negotiations and ransoms legitimate piracy as an acceptable, albeit it illegal and frowned upon, method of making money. If one is going to pay someone after they do something, they’ll continue doing it if it is profitable.
Instead, anti-piracy policies have to be strong and unforgiving. Pirate recruits have to view this lawless occupation as unrewarding, dangerous, and unprofitable. This not only entails cutting off all payments of rewards and ransoms, but assuring brigands that the penalty for piracy will be severe. Pirates holding seized items and hostages should be targeted and killed until the situation can be controlled. Commando missions should be used to rescue hostages and seize control of hijacked ships. Surviving pirates, and their on-sea and on-shore supporters and compatriots, should be charged to the full extent of the law. These harsh penalties and lack of reward will go far to dissuade these men from becoming pirates.
Furthermore, America, and the world, should couple these policies with further preventative measures. This includes doing their best to prevent weapon flows to rogue and failed states, directly stationing armed fleets to protect merchant vessels, and assisting failed, failing, and destitute states with finding meaningful employment for their populations.
Some of this is certainly easier said than done, but it is imperative that we think about long term solutions to these problems. Payments of ransom and ignoring the underlying impetuses to piracy will only worsen the problem. It is unfortunate for the brave seaman and captains that do not get negotiated for and get caught in the crossfire. Of course, policies and commando operations should be structured to avoid the loss of innocent life. However, it is far worse to pay a multi-million dollar ransom for one captain, only to have it encourage pirates to take four more captains hostage. Negotiations with and payments to anyone who tries to strong-arm money out of peaceful merchants should be completely off-limits. It is essential to enact these policies quickly and strongly, in order to nip this growing piracy problem in the bud. If not we can only expect global piracy to increase.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
He set the tone early in London by minimizing the United States as the global leader. He painted the US not as a leader but as “a critical actor”.
“ I can tell you that what I've tried to do since I started running for President and since I was sworn in as President, is to communicate the notion that America is a critical actor and leader on the world stage, and that we shouldn't be embarrassed about that, but that we exercise our leadership best when we are listening; when we recognize that the world is a complicated place and that we are going to have to act in partnership with other countries; when we lead by example; when we show some element of humility and recognize that we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer and support the best answer.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/News-Conference-by-President-Obama-4-02-09/
In this same speech, during a Q&A session he continued to espouse this ideology. In a continuance of his election campaign he bashed former President Bush- an unprecedented act for a sitting President.
“Q Thank you, Mr. President. During the campaign you often spoke of a diminished power and authority of the United States over the last decade. This is your first time in an international summit like this, and I'm wondering what evidence you saw of what you spoke of during the campaign. And specifically, is the declaration of the end of the Washington consensus evidence of the diminished authority that you feared was out there?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, during the campaign I did not say that some of that loss of authority was inevitable. I said it was traced to very specific decisions that the previous administration had made that I believed had lowered our standing in the world. And that wasn't simply my opinion; that was, it turns out, the opinion of many people around the world. … And so that's not a loss for America; it's an appreciation that Europe is now rebuilt and a powerhouse. Japan is rebuilt, is a powerhouse. China, India -- these are all countries on the move. And that's good. That means there are millions of people -- billions of people -- who are working their way out of poverty. And over time, that potentially makes this a much more peaceful world.”
The onslaught continued in Strasbourg. First, regarding the economy,
“Now, there's plenty of blame to go around for what has happened, and the United States certainly shares its -- shares blame for what has happened.”
Then, regarding US views of and arrogance towards Europe,
“In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”
And, yet another attack at President Bush,
“And I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now President and George Bush is no longer President, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as President, suddenly everything is going to be 0kay.”
And finally in Istanbul, he again went out of his way to point out America’s alleged flaws and imperfections.
“America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws”
“And so I think people saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve; that racial discrimination has been reduced; that educational opportunity for all people is something that is still available.”
This language is unbecoming of a US President. Not only is it embarrassing for all Americans to have a sitting President so critical of our country; but it is feeble foreign policy. The nice-sized portion of ‘humble-pie’ that Obama has self-served to America, drastically reduced our credibility abroad. Obama has taken a knee before the game even started. This is of course to the delight of France, Russia, and China, who like nothing more than to see America humiliated. And no humiliation is better than one self-delivered.
But more frustrating, is that it hampers America’s ability to get what it wants in the international scene. There is some sense in working with allies and partners, with negotiations and dialogue, with listening and compromising. I can’t, nor want to, dispute that. There is tremendous value in working with and not against one’s partners. However, Obama’s language does not accomplish this. He now comes to the table looking weak. Rather than displaying an image of a strong, powerful, leader who is willing to dialogue with the world, he systematically reduced America to just one of the masses.
This was a fatal error. The outcome of which was seen in Obama’s failure to achieve his prime objections regarding Afghanistan and the economy. He was unable to negotiate and work with our European partners from a position of power, because he abdicated it immediately. Accordingly, France and Germany now feel greater ease at disagreeing with and pushing around America.
Obama probably thought he was reversing Bush’s unilateralism, and taking a more even-handed approach to the world. What he accomplished was simply to reduce America’s ability to persuade its allies and to lower our power and prestige.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
The North Korean launch is particularly dangerous in light of its potential destabilizing nature. It signifies the fact that North Korea is at, or near, having the capabilities to launch its nuclear arsenal into Japan or possibly the Western United States. Contrary to North Korea’s assertions that the purpose of the launch was to put a satellite in orbit, all evidence and sources confirm that this was a military test (NORAD states that no satellite entered orbit; http://www.norad.mil/News/2009/040509.html).
This puts a number of US allies, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and possibly the US itself, at risk. At a minimum, it is a metaphorical flex of the North Korean muscle and a spit in the face of the international system. Furthermore, North Korea has demonstrated a willingness to sell arms and technologies to anyone who wishes to buy. This consists of terrorist states, such as Iran, and non-state actors. This can easily lead to the spread of dangerous weaponry into other unstable parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.
Unsurprisingly, today’s emergency Security Council meeting yielded nothing (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30035197). As usual, the Security Council proved that it is both unwilling and unable to stop the confrontational actions of defiant states. At a minimum, tougher sanctions and strong, unified language from the world community are necessary. North Korea must be made well aware that it cannot flout international rules and agreements with impunity. North Korea cannot be rewarded for this behavior with recognition of ‘its voice’ or a seat at new negotiations, as it might want. Much like a temper-tantrum throwing child, it must be punished for its behavior before it can be treated like an adult.
However, as has been seen in the past, sanctions and rhetoric have had minimal impact on North Korean behavior. Much of this is due to Russia’s and particularly China’s unwillingness to cooperate. Possibly, the only way to check North Korean ambition is for the United States to convince Russia and China to fall into line. Pressure on Russia can easily be exercised using the new and controversial missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. After all, if rogue states are in the position to launch long distance attacks, defense systems are necessary. Likewise, US interests in the Pacific might need increased protection from a missile attack from North Korea. An augmented US force might push China into taking some actions.
Without serious action, and legitimate support by China, the region is subject to increased anxiety and potential destabilization. Japan and South Korea can only get more uncomfortable with an evermore brazen and insolent North Korea. Naturally, it is highly desirable to avoid an arms race or other actions made in the face of fear.
The US administration has to step up and push China. Unfortunately, it has so far demonstrated an unwillingness to push other nations into line- a most dangerous policy. One can only hope that the administration understands the foolishness of their foreign policy before irreversible damage to US strength and credibility is done.