What Negotiated Solution to Iran’s Nuclear Program Would You Find Acceptable?


shutterstock_137764901There were recently reports that the multi-party talks about Iran’s nuclear program were approaching a deal that would have the Iranians pause their nuclear program for a decade in exchange for lifting of sanctions. This was promptly reported in the conservative press as some variation of “Obama Gives Iranians the Bomb in Ten Years.”

It didn’t sound like an especially bad plan to me. A lot can happen in ten years, especially if tensions between nations are allowed to deescalate. I’m also a firm believer in the Churchill notion that “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” But I could be wrong. Perhaps this is a bad deal. However, I’m also a firm believer in the notion that complaining about something without offering a solution is just whining. So I have a question for everyone here on Ricochet: What kind of negotiated solution would you find acceptable?

But before that, I need to remind everyone of some important elements in the equation:

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I’m 77 and served in the Navy and am proud of it. This weekend I went out to dinner with two couples in their late 40s. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours I listened to their conversation, which I believe was typical.  They discussed their kids–some in college, some still in high school. They talked […]

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GOP Senators Warn Iran about Nuclear Deal


Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton gathered a group of 47 GOP senators to send an open letter to the Iranian regime concerning any potential nuclear deal. The letter warns the mullahs that the deal — especially if not approved by Congress — is likely to be overturned once a new President enters the White House.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

The Case For Libertarian Nationalism, Part I: Immigration


416PwkXMKaLLibertarianism is often associated with cosmopolitan and dovish attitudes toward foreign policy and immigration. This is wholly understandable — indeed, justified — in that libertarians and libertarian organizations are disproportionally allergic to military intervention and state-imposed restriction of immigration, albeit not as much as their more vociferous critics often allege. That said, libertarians with these positions have misapplied their principles, and fail to account for both the practical need for a healthy nationalism and its consonance with liberty.

As a matter of principle, American political society — as well as that of other liberty-minded countries — is based on a social contract between the state and its citizens, in which the former provides the latter with some degree of safety from coercion and force. As such, the United States government exists for the benefit of its citizens, not those of other countries, and consequentially owes them a wholly different set of duties. Libertarianism does not speak directly to the relationship between the government of one sovereign people and those of another nation, other than that one should not unjustly harm the other. Foreigners have no more claim on our domestic policy than we have on theirs, and control over our borders and admittance into our polity are core responsibilities of that government.

While US immigration policy has a great many problems, the greatest is the matter of illegal immigration from third-world countries, particularly those of Latin America. The reason we have this problem is not simply that we have a porous border and poor enforcement of our laws, as the same applies to Canada. The third, equally important, factor is that the United States offers a degree of opportunity, safety, and liberty that vastly exceeds that available in Mexico, Guatemala, or the Caribbean in a way that cannot be compared to the (relatively) minor differences between the United States and Canada or Western Europe.

Iraq: What Might Have Been


290165818_4058f117ce_bIn a previous thread, Ricochet member Majestyk expressed a major complaint that he has about libertarians, liberals and even conservatives who gripe about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: What is your alternate scenario?

If we could unwind the clock of history and place you inside George W. Bush’s head (a la Being John Malkovich) what is your preferred policy prescription for U.S. foreign policy in the days following 9/11?

I never hear that question answered and I barely hear it asked.

Confessions of a Foreign Policy Expert


I’m a highly credentialed foreign policy expert. Amazing, but true. It would be very easy for me to point to many things I got right and lots of things I know. I’d love to exchange what I know for money or power–or even just to give it away, or frantically push it on people.

But it’s more important for me to focus on what I didn’t see coming and ask myself “Why.” I won’t feel secure in my judgement until I have a better sense of why I missed things. Have I been using the right set of tools to look at things? What kinds of cognitive biases have been at work? Are they, still? Can I correct for them?

Day of Infamy for Democrats


The most significant event that happened today may not be Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, but the response from Democrats — or non-response. Watching how many now join with Republicans to ask the Obama Administration to rethink its negotiations with Iran will tell us a lot about the party’s state of mind — not just about Israel, but about America in the world today.

The signs aren’t hopeful. The last count before the speech was that some 55 Democratic members of Congress had decided to boycott the event. Some were the usual progressive suspects, like Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken. Some who had announced they would boycott the speech decided at the last minute they wouldn’t, like New York’s Charlie Rangel and Florida’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Her non-attendance would have presented the truly bizarre spectacle of a Jewish Democrat speaking at AIPAC one day, then skipping, in protest, a speech by Israel’s prime minister the next.

Obama, Netanyahu, and Defining Statesmanship


Tension-between-Obama-and-NetanyahuIn his masterpiece, Crisis of the House Divided, the late, great Harry Jaffa undertook the task of defining statesmanship:

“The task of statesmanship, in part, is to clarify the alternatives that are before the country and to compel the people to a genuine and not a spurious or illusory choice.”

This implies that the first step in the process is to be honest in describing reality. I submit that Barack Obama, on virtually every foreign policy issue facing America, has been fundamentally dishonest in describing the issues facing America and the world.

The Ballad of Barry and Ben


399px-Barack_Obama_and_Benyamin_NetanyahuThe president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have never been very close, but during the sensitive negotiations with Iran — wherein it has been proposed that Iran take a 10-year break from nuclear development — the Prime Minister will be visiting Congress, in the process upsetting the president’s apple cart by providing a different perspective on the true dangers posed by the Iran deal.

Priorities seem to be truly skewed in this discussion. One of the president’s supporters (Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia) almost went as far as invoking the Prime Directive (against interference in the history of primitive cultures — a philosophical perspective evoked in the original Star Trek series) as somehow more important than addressing what is certainly an existential threat of nuclear proliferation by terrorist-sponsoring regimes, a threat to not only Israel and America, but to the rest of the world.

I, for one, can’t accept the shallow criticism that this is all about Israeli politics. Since when do we worry or care about Israel’s election calendar? Netanyahu didn’t invite himself. He was invited by the Speaker of the House, whose party was elected by the citizens of the United States. Our Senate will be there too, and they were also elected to be a Republican majority by the people of the states. The presidency is held by a Democrat, who is close to coming to blows with the Prime Minister. All of this owes to the fact that the people want to hear something from outside the echo chamber that is the Obama Administration.

What Ukraine Should Do Now


Vladimir_Putin_12024In a new piece I have up at Forbes, I lay out exactly what’s at stake for the West with Vladimir Putin’s continued aggression in Ukraine. In short, Putin wants nothing less than to unravel NATO. The U.S. has been decidedly unhelpful in assisting Ukraine, even though our allies there are much more reliable than the ones we’ve been arming in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. So what should Ukraine do now? My suggestion:

If I were Ukraine, I might concede Donbass and Crimea on a de facto but not de jure basis. Russia will not let them go under present circumstances. Let the Donbass (or that part that it presently holds) be a problem for Russia and the separatists to contend with; don’t let its self-appointed leaders dictate Ukrainian policy. When the time is right, the Donbass can come back into the fold. I would maintain a formidable standing army to defend the remaining Ukrainian provinces that have come to hate Putin’s Russia with a vengeance. I imagine that Odessa, Kiev, Zaporozhe and Lviv will make short change of self-appointed Muscovites when they arrive to proclaim new people’s republics. Who knows? If active hostilities ended, maybe even Barack Obama would supply defensive weapons. He’s good at shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

The upshot:

Toughness Is Not a Policy


IMG_0280.JPGWhen it comes to questions of America waging war, the conversation rarely gets past whether or not we should intervene. On the occasions that it does, it’s usually about how much we should, as if it’s a straight-line, single-dimension matter with appeasement on one end — followed by indifference, sanctions, drone strikes, and a limited air war — and a ground invasion on the other.

Stipulating that a political survey is probably not the best place to look for strategic insight, consider yesterday’s Pew Research Center poll showing that 63% of Americans now support the campaign against the Islamic State (up from 57% in October) and that support for a ground invasion has also increased to 47% (up from 39% in October). Among other questions, the poll also asked whether the greater danger is applying too little or too much force, and whether “overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world.”

Fine, but what does that actually mean? To delve into just one possible line of questioning, should our objective be to punish the Islamic State and deter those who would try again — whether with or without ground forces — or should we re-occupy the place and resume the Marshall Plan-like project President George W. Bush started? Put another way, is it in the United States’ interest to try to clean up the world’s messes after defeating belligerents, or is it sometimes best to adopt a “more rubble, less trouble” attitude that doesn’t obligate us to fix what we break? Which strategy would be best in the event of a nuclear Iran? Note that these are less questions of how much force to apply, but of what kind of force and to what ends (and even these questions are hardly exhaustive on those subjects).

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What qualifies me as the most-principled, least-electable conservative in the Republican field?  As a third-generation Californian, my connections offer the GOP the best chance of winning my state’s tantalizing 55 electoral votes. And my political experience here in the Golden State speaks for itself: I’m not only president of the Bay Area Republicans Club but I’m also the […]

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Jeb’s Foreign Policy Speech Hits the Right Notes


Jeb Bush’s foreign policy speech yesterday aimed at the exact center of the Republican Party, and it was sure to please. I was cheered by his rejection of both Obama’s disastrous withdrawal from U.S. leadership in the world and Rand Paul’s misguided libertarianism. Over the next few months, he will have to show that he has the chops not only to brush aside neo-isolationists, but also to take on Hillary Clinton and a more left-wing opponent.

Perhaps the most heartening takeaway from the speech was his rejection of misguided libertarianism in national security. In a part of the speech that received less attention than others, Bush described the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program as “hugely important.” He said, “For the life of me, I don’t understand the debate” over the program, despite the cries of civil libertarians that the NSA is violating individual privacy rights. Paul, for his part, is suing the NSA to stop the program (an odd approach for someone who sits in the Senate and has available the political process to oppose the program).

Dithering Toward Brutality



Of all the aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation classes and discussions I’ve had — with one teaching or concept yielding beautifully to the next as though a flower were opening to reveal succeeding layers of transcendent wonder — very little has captivated me like the quest for a patron saint. My admittedly rudimentary understanding of Catholic doctrine and history tells me that the saints are not mere corpses whose visage here and there adorn stained glass. On the contrary, they are intercessors on our behalf, whose devotion offers an example to emulate, and whose wisdom offers guidance to those who will listen.

Very well then. I’ve been invited to choose one who will be, upon confirmation, my Patron Saint. The Catechism describes the term, “communion of saints,” as “…the communion of ‘holy persons’ (sancti) in Christ who ‘died for all,’ so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.” In that regard, during my quest I’ve been struck by the writing and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas who, among other things, further developed Just War Theory as espoused by St. Augustine.

Victor Davis Hanson: Obama Is Not Incompetent


As President Obama’s foreign police seems to be falling apart, many conservative critics and commentators wring their hands and wonder why he seems blind to the horrors that fill the newspapers. National Security Agencies are today analyzing an internet video that appears to show the Jordanian fighter pilot shot down by ISIL being burned alive. Why, Obama’s critics ask, doesn’t Mr. Obama see the dangers in Islamic extremism? Why won’t he call it what is: Islamic terrorism?

For many, Obama seems hapless. They thus attribute his policy to incompetence. We often hear that his lack of experience and accomplishment is coming home to roost. That he is just in over his head.

When In Riyadh


Drudge is making a big deal of Michelle Obama’s decision not to hide her hair while in Riyadh with the President. Kudos to the First Lady? 

Pretend, for a moment, that the story does not concern two vile people who would sooner spit on you than respect you as a political opponent. What should be the general rule in regard to diplomatic presentation, as opposed to diplomatic content? When in Riyadh, do as the Saudis do? Or dress and behave like an American, always and everywhere?