Can the GOP Deal With Iran?

Ten weeks before the first U.S.-Soviet summit ever held in Moscow, in May 1972, North Vietnam, with Soviet-supplied armor and artillery, crossed the DMZ in an all-out offensive to overrun the South. President Nixon responded with air and naval strikes on the North.

Yet Nixon went to Moscow and signed the first strategic arms agreement of the Cold War. He did not let Soviet-backed aggression against an ally prevent him from signing a SALT agreement he believed was in the vital interests of the United States.

Three months earlier, Nixon had gone to Peking to toast Mao Zedong, whose regime was also aiding Hanoi, and which, two decades before, had been killing GIs in the thousands in Korea. The state is a cold monster, said Gen. De Gaulle.

Which brings us to Iran. Should we accept a deal, with a regime as abhorrent as the Ayatollah’s, that would deny that regime a nuclear weapon for 10 to 15 years?

For many of the moral arguments against such a deal also applied to the Soviet Union and Mao’s China in the Nixon-Kissinger era. What are Iran’s crimes against America?

Tehran held 52 U.S. hostages for the last 444 days of the Carter presidency. Iran’s allies in Lebanon were behind the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut where 241 Americans perished. Iran is said to have been behind the terror attack on Khobar Towers in Riyadh in 1996 that killed 19 Americans. Iran provided IEDs to Shiite militias who killed hundreds of Americans in the Iraq war and wounded and maimed many more.

From their side, Iranians say the CIA overthrew a democratic government in Tehran in 1953, and imposed upon them the dictatorship of the Shah for a quarter century. Moreover, the U.S., in the Iran-Iraq war in the Reagan era, helped Iraq’s army target Iranian forces, not only with conventional weapons but poison gas.

There is good cause for bad blood between us.

Yet, compared to Mao’s nuclear-armed China in the madness of the Cultural Revolution in 1972, and Leonid Brezhnev’s USSR, Iran, as a strategic threat to the United States, is not even a 97-pound weakling.

The U.S. economy is 40 times as large as Iran’s, and we spend 40 times as much on defense. We have thousands of nuclear weapons. Iran has yet to produce an ounce of weapons-grade uranium. Downing Iran’s air force and sinking her surface ships and submarines would be a few weeks’ work for the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

This is not to suggest a war with Iran would be a cakewalk. We could expect Iran’s fleets of fast missile boats to wreak havoc in the Gulf, closing it down to oil tankers, and terrorist attacks on U.S. personnel in Baghdad’s Green Zone, Beirut, and perhaps on U.S. soil.

In an all-out U.S.-Iran war, Iran could break apart, with ethnic minorities like Kurds, Azeris, and Baluch seeking to get out from under Persian rule, as Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan have all broken down to some degree along tribal and sectarian lines. …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Petraeus: Side with Al Qaeda Against ISIS

David Petraeus has come up with a horrid idea for the war on ISIS:

Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: Retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front [bold mine-DL] to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

Once someone starts referring to members of an Al Qaeda affiliate as “moderates,” it’s safe to say that he has lost the plot, but don’t expect that to be held against Petraeus. As for the notion of working with the Nusra front against ISIS, it is a wretched idea that no one should be willing to entertain. While these groups may oppose one another, it is not acceptable or possible for the U.S. to work with a group that our government rightly classifies as a terrorist organization. This deranged idea ought to make Petraeus persona non grata in Washington, but unfortunately we can assume that it won’t turn out that way. As the report makes clear, Petraeus continues to have clout in spite of his failures and scandals:

Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders.

Petraeus’ suggestion that there are “less extreme” Al Qaeda members that can be won over to America’s cause of fighting ISIS would be considered certifiable if it came from anyone else, and yet because he continues to benefit from the mythology of the “surge” he is able to propose such ludicrous things and they are taken seriously. It ought to be obvious that there are no “moderates” to be found in Jabhat al-Nusra by definition, but the hunt for the ever-elusive “moderate” Syrian opposition continues.

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Via:: American Conservative


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Van Morrison is 70 Today

Today Van Morrison turns 70.

He was 23 years old when he recorded the album Astral Weeks.

He was 25 when he recorded the album Moondance.

I will say no more. Happy birthday, good sir, and thank you for the music. Above, Glen Hansard covering “Astral Weeks” in Paris, 2011

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Via:: American Conservative


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Yes to Denali, No to McKinley

President Obama did the right thing by restoring Denali, the Native name of Alaska’s Mount McKinley. For one thing, everybody in Alaska calls it by its original Native name. First time I went to Alaska, I was surprised to discover this. And really, who can blame them?

For another, Alaskans have long wanted restoration of the name Denali, which was cast aside by the federal government in 1917 to honor the 25th president, but an obstreperous Ohio Congressman (who retired in 2009) blocked it. For still another … President McKinley? Really? He never went to Alaska, or had anything to do with Alaska.

So, good on Obama for giving Alaskans their mountain name back. Still, I have to wonder how this would have gone down had the mountain been named after a president or historical figure fondly remembered by many people. What if it had been Mount Lincoln, say? I would still support the name change, but let’s just say Alaskans are fortunate that their mountain was renamed after a figure nobody but Ohioans cares about anymore. I mean, if the thing had been named Mount Caitlyn, there would have been rioting in the streets…

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Via:: American Conservative


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Walker the Untested and Unready

A Scott Walker foreign policy adviser is very excited about Walker:

Walker’s resolve differentiates him from not only Obama and Clinton, but also other Republican candidates. When Governor Walker boldly stated that he would terminate the terrible Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency, one of his leading GOP competitors demurred, claiming that he would first need briefings and a secretary of state confirmed before he could take any action.

Walker didn’t need to be advised that the Obama-Clinton Iran deal is a disaster for America and our allies. His stand was a Reaganesque and Churchillian response to craven appeasement that would rally our nation and our allies.

O’Brien’s argument is tendentious in the extreme, but that is what we would expect from one of the candidate’s top advisers. The article is mostly just a restatement of Walker’s speech at the Citadel last week, so it doesn’t tell us anything new about Walker’s preferred policies. There are two things that stand out in the piece: the religious devotion to the fantasy that “resolve” is the key to solving all policy problems, and the fiction that Walker has been meaningfully “tested” in a way that is relevant to the conduct of foreign policy. The repeated, paired invocations of Reagan and Churchill are an embarrassing rhetorical flourish that remind us just how ill-prepared for the presidency Walker is by comparison.

It’s important to note that the evidence of Walker’s foreign policy “resolve” that O’Brien provides is limited to the candidate’s embrace of hard-line and impractical positions. Walker’s pledge to tear up the nuclear deal on “day one” is the foolish boast of an inexperienced and ill-informed politician, and it is one that he clings to now because he thinks it makes him seem marginally more hawkish than his competitors. Promising to strain relations with major allies isn’t proof of boldness or “resolve,” but reflects the candidate’s arrogant presumption that the U.S. can force its allies to act against their own interests. No genuine allies would rally behind such a dimwitted move, and it would telegraph to the rest of the world that Walker is desperately overcompensating for the fact that he doesn’t know very much about foreign affairs by engaging in absurd posturing.

The notion that Walker has been “tested” for future foreign policy crises because he prevailed in a political fight with public sector unions in Wisconsin is silly, but it is the only thing Walker has to fall back on and so he keeps using it as a crutch. The problem here is not just that Walker is making a ridiculous claim in an attempt to revive his political fortunes, though he is, but also that he seems to believe that the experience of facing off against domestic political opponents is sufficient preparation for dealing with an international crisis. That not only confirms that he isn’t ready to be president, but it also suggests that he doesn’t grasp that he isn’t ready and so won’t do much work to make up for …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Hospice & the High Cost of Dying

Five years ago, the surgeon Atul Gawande wrote a powerful piece in The New Yorker, talking about how much money we spend to save the lives of people who are not likely to survive. He begins with the story of Sara, a young wife and mother diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. Chemotherapy gave her a little bit of time, but it finally quit working:

This is the moment in Sara’s story that poses a fundamental question for everyone living in the era of modern medicine: What do we want Sara and her doctors to do now? Or, to put it another way, if you were the one who had metastatic cancer—or, for that matter, a similarly advanced case of emphysema or congestive heart failure—what would you want your doctors to do?

The issue has become pressing, in recent years, for reasons of expense. The soaring cost of health care is the greatest threat to the country’s long-term solvency, and the terminally ill account for a lot of it. Twenty-five per cent of all Medicare spending is for the five per cent of patients who are in their final year of life, and most of that money goes for care in their last couple of months which is of little apparent benefit.

Spending on a disease like cancer tends to follow a particular pattern. There are high initial costs as the cancer is treated, and then, if all goes well, these costs taper off. Medical spending for a breast-cancer survivor, for instance, averaged an estimated fifty-four thousand dollars in 2003, the vast majority of it for the initial diagnostic testing, surgery, and, where necessary, radiation and chemotherapy. For a patient with a fatal version of the disease, though, the cost curve is U-shaped, rising again toward the end—to an average of sixty-three thousand dollars during the last six months of life with an incurable breast cancer. Our medical system is excellent at trying to stave off death with eight-thousand-dollar-a-month chemotherapy, three-thousand-dollar-a-day intensive care, five-thousand-dollar-an-hour surgery. But, ultimately, death comes, and no one is good at knowing when to stop.

The subject seems to reach national awareness mainly as a question of who should “win” when the expensive decisions are made: the insurers and the taxpayers footing the bill or the patient battling for his or her life. Budget hawks urge us to face the fact that we can’t afford everything. Demagogues shout about rationing and death panels. Market purists blame the existence of insurance: if patients and families paid the bills themselves, those expensive therapies would all come down in price. But they’re debating the wrong question. The failure of our system of medical care for people facing the end of their life runs much deeper. To see this, you have to get close enough to grapple with the way decisions about care are actually made.

Gawande goes on rounds with Sara Creed, a hospice nurse. He concedes that he previously misunderstood hospice:

Outside, I confessed that I was confused by what Creed was doing. A …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Can the Party Still Decide?

I had to read Daniel McCarthy’s article on why the right loses GOP presidential contests a couple of times before I got it. He begins:

A Republican from the party establishment enters the presidential race and immediately tops the polls. A few months later, he trails a politically inexperienced but media-mesmerizing businessman. The story of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump? Yes—but also the story of Mitt Romney and Herman Cain in late 2011. And a glimpse back at the early months of GOP contests in 2008 and 2012 suggests what’s to come in 2016: a Christian conservative leaps to first or second place, surprising the pundits, only to lose at last to the inevitable establishment nominee.

This is already starting to happen – Ben Carson, far from fading after a poor performance in the first GOP debate, has continued to rise, even catching Trump in the latest Iowa poll.

McCarthy continues:

The truth is that leaders like McCain, Romney, and the Bushes represent the GOP as a whole better than right-wing candidates do. Contrary to caricature, the GOP is not just the party of the South and relatively underpopulated states in the Midwest. Cohn’s headline calls the power of blue-state Republicans surprising, but it shouldn’t be: the majority of Americans live in blue states—that’s why Obama won the last two elections—and one would expect a national political party to draw a great proportion of its presidential delegates from the states where more Americans actually live.

In other words, when the establishment has a candidate, blue-state Republicans fall into line to support that candidate. Which is a big blue wall to climb for any would-be insurgent, however apparently popular.

But the failure of the right is also the result of factionalism – specifically, factionalism by religious conservatives:

Before 1988, religious conservatives voted with other conservatives. The religious right wasn’t yet organized in 1964, but “moral” voters were a significant component of Goldwater’s base, sometimes to the candidate’s own embarrassment. (He vetoed the distribution a short film, “Choice,” intended by his supporters to rally voters with alarming images of race, sex, and crime.) Reagan in 1980 was the first Republican hopeful, and then nominee, to benefit from effectively organized social-conservative groups like the Moral Majority.

The development of the religious right or social conservatives as a bloc discrete from conservatives generally proved to be the undoing of the right in Republican presidential primaries. But this differentiation into two distinct strands of conservatism, represented most of the time by competing avatars in GOP primaries, was not the result of hubris or short-sightedness on the part of religious conservatives. On the contrary, it represents a real philosophical divide that can be seen in the different emphases, attitudes, and even positions taken by social-conservative champions vis-à-vis other conservatives.

Establishment Republicans want to paper over those disagreements in the interest of winning. Which only makes the religious right more restive, and to express their dissatisfaction in increasingly disruptive ways. McCarthy’s completely disinterested conclusion is that the American right needs more publications like TAC that …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Migrant crisis: Is there anything you can do?

Two thousand four hundred ninety-eight persons died or went missing this year in the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe without authorization. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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