Preventing a Nuclear Exchange


shutterstock_95638939My view is that arguments about whether this is “a good deal” are missing the point; the point is that everyone within the time zone of sanity understands that, even in the best-case scenario, we’ve done no more than buy time. What do we plan to do with that time?

For the sake of argument, let’s take Fred Cole’s position as “the most optimistic that can be held while remaining in the time-zone of sanity.” Fred Cole asked, “And how long before they’re tired of having an Islamic republic and turn to liberal democracy?” My answer, Fred — and would you agree? — is, “We don’t know.” The assumption that everyone sooner or later wants a liberal democracy has been tested and found wanting. No one can count on this happening, no less make a confident prediction that it will happen within a given time frame.

I agree with Adam Garfinkle that this is the key point:

Iran: What Next?


shutterstock_116146858-2I was still fasting for Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av, according to the Hebrew Calendar) when the excitement began to travel around the office. It was July 27th, 2004 and a speech had been made. I didn’t know the content of the speech, and I’d never heard of the speaker, but I could recognize from the mood that history had been made. And it worried me. When history is made on the night after Tisha B’Av, it rarely turns out well. The speaker was Barack Obama. Roughly four years later, America elected him president. And seven years after that — during The Three Weeks — he signed a deal for peace in our time with the Islamic Republic.

From the destruction of the First Temple, to the Declaration of Crusades, to the beginning of the First World War, and from the Deportations to the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, Tisha B’Av has marked almost every national catastrophe suffered by the Jewish people. While Tisha B’av 2004 may yet be added to the list, we must recognize that the vast majority of Tisha B’Avs have passed without triggering catastrophe. Perhaps Obama’s entry into global politics will prove to be only a hiccup and not a prelude to another round of massive Jewish destruction and loss.

Nonetheless, these Three Weeks, I find myself fundamentally fearing for my people and for my family. In my lifetime, the future has never been so frightening and uncertain. The most basic of decisions — like where to live and why — have never seemed so fraught with danger and uncertainty. From nuclear weapons to a massively enriched and active terrorist state, the world — and we Israelis, in particular — face fundamental risks. The Jewish people will survive. They always have. But not all of our people survive, and that is the core of our fear.

The Iran Deal: Choosing Sides


194308Geraldo Rivera on Fox Business just now, rebuking critics of the Iran deal:

Too bad, we are moving forward. This is not an existential threat to Israel or any place else. This is the future.

On Facebook, our own Mona Charen:

Greece Gets the Worst of Both Worlds


greek facepalm-225x300It appears Greece has ended up paying two costs. It chose first to spurn the EU through a referendum and has suffered a banking system shuttered and a major contraction in its economy. It then spins around and takes a deal that is to most observers worse than the one it turned down the previous week. So it pays for a financial crisis and for more austerity.

Heckuva job, Alexis.

So while the European and US stock markets were having fun and the euro was trading down — never mind what happened in the Athens stock exchange — here is some of the mishegas happening in Greece as they approach nighttime.

A Primer on the Pontiff


Pope Francis

As Pope Francis continues making waves across Latin America, hailed as a socialist by the likes of Evo Morales (who recently presented to the Pope a crucifix in the form of a hammer and sickle), it is of the highest importance to understand how Pope Francis gained his world view of capitalism and socialism in his native land of Argentina.

An incident that can help us understand took place at the time of the famous event in Argentina called the Cordobazo in 1969, the same year Bergoglio (Pope Francis) became a priest. The Cordobazo was a watershed event where the free-market based ideas of Krieger Vasena, Finance Minister under the Dictator General Onganía, emerged but ultimately collapsed under immense social pressure. Argentina was slowly undergoing a shift from a protectionist economic state ruled by unions to a more free economy with a smaller public sector workforce. His reforms were various and effective.

Assessing the Threat of Radical Islam


640px-AQMI_Flag.svg-2From the Islamic State and al-Qaeda to the Islamic Republic of Iran and all their various affiliates — how dangerous is radical Islam to the West? There have been a number of posts on Ricochet that have touched on this subject. Paddy Siochain asked whether European democratic socialism can muster the will to fight for its own survival. In response, Majestyk argued that secular humanism — which he seems to define as scientific progress or rationalism — is so advanced in the West that Europe doesn’t need a will to fight because the barbarian, low IQ members of al-Qaeda, ISIL, and others can never really threaten us. This view was echoed in a comment by Jim Kearney, where he suggested that a will to fight is unnecessary, as we’ll soon have such advanced remotely-controlled or robotic weapons that we’ll never have to engage the Islamic radical man-to-man again. Though he admits that, in limited situations, there may be a need for actual human soldiers, I assume that he believes the Western cultures will be able to maintain a small warrior class of special forces operators who can carry out such limited actions.

So that got me to thinking that — even among the Ricochetti — there is a variety of views about the threat posed by radical Islam. I’m curious to hear what you think and why. For starters, I’ll lay out what I think.

The Current Threat

Katherine Archuleta, In the Name of God, Go


chinese-hackThe director of the federal Office of Personnel Management will not resign, despite bipartisan calls that she do so:

The escalating calls for Archuleta to be replaced came as the Obama administration disclosed on Thursday that the number of people affected by the federal breach — believed to be the biggest in U.S. history — was far higher than previously reported.

Hackers downloaded Social Security numbers, health histories or other highly sensitive data from OPM’s databases, affecting more than five times the 4.2 million people the government first disclosed this year. Since then, the administration acknowledged a second, related breach of systems housing private data that individuals submit during background investigations to obtain security clearances.

Pull No Foreign Policy Punches in 2016


As_Between_Friends_(Punch_magazine,_13_December_1911,_detail)Conservatives have reason to be optimistic about 2016. The ample supply of viable Republican candidates seems to grow every week, and should they (or at least the more comb-over adorned among them) keep the internecine squabbling short of apoplectic levels, the Republican nominee will enter the general election with the chance to put a fresh face on American leadership.

Opposing them is a Clinton campaign of the mind that generating no news is better than being held to account for anything uttered in the buildup to the primaries. Despite her perfunctory tour of the nation, the USS Hilldog rests in stagnant waters. The most prominent media it can expect for the near future will be the State Department’s monthly email dumps. These should fasten even more barnacles to She-Who-is-Inevitable.

Let us assume that Clinton is in fact just that, at least for the Democratic nomination. She will sell voters the following: inequality rhetoric, a hard-line on immigration, and defense of the Affordable Care Act. In short, she will present herself as their heir to Barack Obama’s coalition, using all the best practices in consultant-based identity politics, and like her predecessor, hers will be a domestic agenda.

The Democrats’ Trump Card


TrumpPresident Obama seems on the verge of the most abject diplomatic capitulation in American history – to Iran, our bitterest enemy – and Republicans are arguing about Donald Trump? The prospect of a deal with Iran is dumbfounding and infuriating, as the U.S. held all the cards in the protracted negotiations and yet executed serial surrenders to the Iranians, rather like a courtier bowing his way backwards from a monarch.

While the Obama Administration is paving the way for a possible mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv or New York in the near term, we’re all tying ourselves in knots about what Donald Trump said about Mexicans. The Democrats seem to have a Trump card.

Immigration arouses tremendous rage among both left and right. The left, always panting to push grievance buttons, transforms illegal immigrants into yet another clientele – as if those who enter the country illegally are entitled to legal status, benefits, and even citizenship. They establish “sanctuary cities” as if enforcing immigration laws amounts to persecution.

If There’s no Iran Deal, Then What?


A flurry of leaks and news reports seems designed to prepare us for the collapse of the Iran negotiations. We’re being told that Obama is “no longer sanguine” about the prospects.

Russian state media (for what that’s worth) reported that a senior official from the group of six told Zarif that if he didn’t want to reach a deal, they could end the talks right then and there. Iranian state media (for what that’s worth) identified that official as the Entity-Formerly-Known-as-the-European-Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. Zarif apparently barked, “Never try to threaten the Iranians.” Lavrov apparently added, “Nor the Russians.” What the Americans said went un-leaked, but there are rumors that Kerry was heard screaming at Zarif, and that his aide had to tip-toe in to warn him that everyone in the hotel could hear it.

A Bit of a Cyber-Coincidence?


CJZ15QgUwAAhRWmFirst United’s flights are halted owing to a “glitch,” and now the NYSE?

Trading in all securities were halted on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday following earlier reports of technical difficulties, although NYSE-listed issues was still trading on other exchanges.

After the halt, U.S. stocks extended their losses, but in low volumes, with the S&P 500 hitting a session low and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq both falling more than 1 percent.

Chekhov’s Midnight Raid on the Logistical Platform for the French Army’s External Operations


070715 miramas-m“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story,” Anton Chekhov advised. “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

This just really happened:

A pile of explosives, 180 detonators and around 40 grenades were stolen from an army base in Miramas in southern France, a source close to investigations said on Tuesday, despite the country still being on high alert following recent terror attacks.

Secular Humanism: Our Only Hope for Defeating Radical Islam


In response to Paddy’s thought-provoking suggestion that a secularized Western culture is doomed to fall before committed barbarians, permit me to start with a statement that might shock: Secular humanism defeated radical Islam centuries ago. Everything we’re doing now, essentially, is mop-up.

The story began when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first European printing press with movable type, one of the most important events in the arc of modern history, if not the most important. Before Gutenberg, the marginal utility of acquiring skills such as reading and writing was low, because the cost of books, laboriously copied by hand, was high. The price of a single Bible could easily exceeded the economic value of a village.

Obama on ISIS: ‘Ideologies Are Not Defeated with Guns’


ObamaISISAfter meeting with military leaders today at the Pentagon, President Obama held a brief press conference on his administration’s ISIS policy. With head hung low and slumped shoulders, a graying Obama breezed through a statement that raised more questions than clarified America’s strategy:

OBAMA: This broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas and more attractive and more compelling vision. So the United States will continue to do our part by continuing to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online. We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam. We are fighting terrorists who distort Islam and its victims are mostly Muslims.

We’re also going to partner with Muslim communities as they seek the prosperity and dignity they observe. And we’re going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can in conjunction with other people of good will against these hateful ideologies, particularly when it comes to what we’re teaching young people.

Oxi-Notes on the Morning in Europe


8af78d0e-fdf3-45f2-8677-72d06bd7b58c1) Headline writers throughout Europe have been manfully resisting all variants on the obvious Oxi-moron joke. This is perhaps because everyone on Twitter came up with it first. (I measured this.)

2) Game theorists are frantically trying to discern the strategy behind Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s abrupt resignation. Has he been inspired by Nash Equilibria or by Nash Schizophrenia? As yet unclear.

3) At least the result of the vote was overwhelming. I say “at least” because one of my fears was a vote so close as to make accusations of fraud and vote-rigging credible. So that’s a good thing, at least.

Introducing Secretary of State Thucydides-Machiavelli-Hobbes-Morgenthau-Kissinger-Waltz


screen-shot-2012-10-22-at-4-22-50-pmChairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey wrote the introduction to the Pentagon’s National Military Strategy, which has just been updated:

Today’s global security environment is the most unpredictable I have seen in 40 years of service. Since the last National Military Strategy was published in 2011, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode. We now face multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups – all taking advantage of rapid technological change. Future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield.

I note (with cool detachment) that the Kremlin “regrets [the] new military strategy targeting Russia.”

Tsipras Should Take No for an Answer


shutterstock_194968301In today’s Daily Shot, this paragraph describes what’s happened since I last wrote about Greece:

First, [Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] left bailout negotiations, insisting on a public referendum on the conditions Greece’s creditors were demanding. Then he let his nation go into default on its debt payments. Then, he suddenly realized how bad an idea that was, so he wrote a letter late Tuesday to other European leaders and the IMF, accepting the terms of their bailout. Then he started telling his voters to reject the measure.

I think the truth is worse than the paragraph suggests. Mr. Tsipras didn’t even accept the terms of the bailout. He made several modifications that were virtually a counter-proposal. The EU rejected this because it was a significant change in plans.

Perfectly Cowardly Answer: Publishing Religious Images That May Offend


BN-GK083_Charli_JV_20150112182529Sometimes I wake up thinking, “I could write something serious and original about the state of the world, or I could have a look at The New York Times and spend my morning shooting trout in a barrel.”

In my defense, the weather is quite hot and The Times made it too easy. Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The Times, yesterday tried to explain why the paper chose not to print Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons depicting Muhammad in the wake of the massacre of Charlie Hebdo staffers in Paris.

You may recall that afterward, their surviving colleagues went on television, begging the world media to show the cover of the first edition they published after the murders. They asked this, first, to show that the image was not, in fact, calculated to offend — unless one accepted the precept that any depiction of Mohammed was inherently offensive. Second, and far more important, they noted that if every publication printed the cover, they wouldn’t be singled out as targets. Beyond that argument, there is the further point that, obviously, the cover was newsworthy.