…WikiLeaks has yet again flooded the internet with thousands of classified American documents, this time state department cables. More troubling than WikiLeaks’ latest revelation of US secrets, however, is the Obama administration’s weak, wrong-headed and erratic response. Unfortunately, the administration has acted consistently with its demonstrated unwillingness to assert and defend US interests across a wide range of threats, such as Iran and North Korea, which, ironically, the leaked cables amply document.
On 29 November, secretary of state Hillary Clinton lamented that this third document dump was “not just an attack on United States foreign policy and interests, [but] an attack on the international community”. By contrast, on 1 December, the presidential press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the White House was “not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop”. Hours later, a Pentagon spokesman disdained the notion that the military should have prevented the WikiLeaks release: “The determination of those who are charged with such things, the decision was made not to proceed with any sort of aggressive action of that sort in this case.”
Clinton is demonstrably incorrect in being preoccupied with defending the “international community”, whatever that is. Her inability to understand WikiLeaks’ obsession with causing harm to the US is a major reason why the Obama administration has done little or nothing in response – except talk, its usual foreign-policy default position.
At least Clinton saw it as an attack on someone. The White House/defence department view was that the leaks were no big deal. Obama’s ideological predecessors welcomed publication of the Pentagon Papers, and suspected subsequent presidencies of nefarious clandestine dealings internationally, capped by Bush administration “intelligence cherry-picking” on Iraq. The prior WikiLeaks releases were largely military information, which made the Pentagon’s earlier rhetoric more high-pitched, but the outcome for all three was the same: no response. What does it matter if half a million classified US documents become instantly unclassified and downloadable by friend and foe alike?
This sustained, collective inaction exemplifies the Obama administration’s all-too-common attitude towards threats to America’s international interests. The president, unlike the long line of his predecessors since Franklin Roosevelt, simply does not put national security at the centre of his political priorities. Thus, Europeans who welcomed Obama to the Oval Office should reflect on his Warren Harding-like interest in foreign policy. Europeans who believe they will never again face real security threats to their comfortable lifestyle should realise that if by chance one occurs during this administration, the president will be otherwise occupied. He will be continuing his efforts to restructure the US economy, and does not wish to be distracted by foreign affairs.
Monday, December 6th, 2010
As the GOP November surge sinks into progressive skulls, ricocheting around like pebbles in a maraca, it’s driving some batty.
How else to explain NYT Frank Rich’s nutso conclusion that Obama suffers from Stockholm Syndrome?
THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”
This dynamic was acted out — yet again — in President Obama’s latest and perhaps most humiliating attempt to placate his Republican captors in Washington. No sooner did he invite the G.O.P.’s Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap — postponing the date for two weeks because of “scheduling conflicts.” But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors’ “good side.”
And so, as the big bipartisan event finally arrived last week, he handed them an unexpected gift, a freeze on federal salaries. Then he made a hostage video hailing the White House meeting as “a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together.” Hardly had this staged effusion of happy talk been disseminated than we learned of Mitch McConnell’s letter vowing to hold not just the president but the entire government hostage by blocking all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts were extended for the top 2 percent of American households.
The captors will win this battle, if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think. That pay freeze made as little sense intellectually as it did politically. It will save the government a scant $5 billion over two years and will actually cost the recovery at least as much, since much of that $5 billion would have been spent on goods and services by federal workers with an average
The Bush administration, backing away from a controversial anti- terrorism plan in the face of a public backlash, said Friday that it will not solicit terrorism tips from utility workers, postal employees and anyone else with access to people’s homes.
That pledge scales back President Bush’s recently unveiled plan to set up a nationwide network of domestic tipsters from within the U.S. work force who the administration believes are in a “unique position” to report suspicious activity.
The administration still plans this fall to enlist potentially hundreds of thousands of workers as part of Operation TIPS. But officials have decided that workers with access to homes and private property will not be authorized to use the special, nonpublished tipster hot line, Justice Department officials said.
The notion of cable workers or meter readers reporting what they considered to be suspicious activity in someone’s house had riled senators and civil libertarians, sparking protests and congressional opposition.
“People were obviously uncomfortable with that, and we were sensitive to that and wanted to listen to the public’s concerns,” said a Justice Department official who asked not to be identified…
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the expansion of the Department’s national “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country—launching a new partnership between DHS and Walmart to help the American public play an active role in ensuring the safety and security of our nation.
“Homeland security starts with hometown security, and each of us plays a critical role in keeping our country and communities safe,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I applaud Walmart for joining the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign. This partnership will help millions of shoppers across the nation identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to law enforcement authorities.”
The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign—originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and funded, in part, by $13 million from DHS’ Transit Security Grant Program—is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.
More than 230 Walmart stores nationwide launched the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign today, with a total of 588 Walmart stores in 27 states joining in the coming weeks. A short video message, available here, will play at select checkout locations to remind shoppers to contact local law enforcement to report suspicious activity.
Over the past five months, DHS has worked with its federal, state, local and private sector partners, as well as the Department of Justice, to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign and Nationwide SAR Initiative to communities throughout the country—including the recent state-wide expansions of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign across Minnesota and New Jersey. Partners include the Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, sports and general aviation industries, and state and local fusion centers across the country.
For those unfamiliar with satirist Tom Lehrer, here’s Wiki
And then there’s his ode to Spring.
National Review Online interviews Deidre McCloskey.
Economic history looks, in graphic representation, like a hockey stick. For tens of thousands of years we traced nasty, brutish, and short lives along the shaft. Children anticipated a world no different from their grandparents’. Shakespeare’s audiences had only marginally better lives than Sophocles’. But at the beginning of the 18th century, mankind — beginning with the British and Dutch — hit the blade of that hockey stick, enjoying an unpreceAdentedly sharp and irreversible upturn in prosperity, life expectancy, and health. Ever since, the world has changed more quickly in every generation than it had previously in millennia. By all criteria, human life has improved in ways unthinkable 300 years ago.
Solving the mysteries of the birth of the Industrial Revolution (and, subsequently, the modern world) has been the primary task and test of economic history. And, according to Deirdre McCloskey, all explanations so far have failed. Those failures, in turn, indicate the failings of modern economics. Her magnum opus, an explanation of the birth and flourishing of the bourgeoisie and its subsequent transformation of the modern world, will occupy at least six volumes. This month, Chicago University Press releases the second installment: Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World.
Traditional economic models — the ones we find in Econ 101 — center on labor, capital, technology, population, etc. McCloskey’s economics incorporates two more factors: dignity and rhetoric. Economics, she argues, has failed be a humane science that accounts for the ways in which things like human speech — rhetoric — influence the way a society lives and works. After a detailed examination of traditional explanations of economic growth, McCloskey concludes that each is inadequate, and that the only explanation for the peculiar birth of the modern world is speech: At the beginning of the 18th century, people in the Netherlands and Britain began talking about commerce as a good thing — a novelty at that time. They gave dignity to the bourgeoisie. And that drove capitalism, giving birth to the modern world.
McCloskey is a renaissance intellectual, with appointments in both the social sciences and the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and writings on everyone from Euler and Gödel to Plato and Derrida. This ferocious intellect talked with NRO’s Matthew Shaffer about her latest book and the state of modern economics.
NRO: You approach the Industrial Revolution as something peculiar. We who don’t spend our lives thinking about it assume it was inevitable — only a matter of time. But you think it’s weird that this idea — that being economically productive was a good thing — caught on. Are we very lucky? What would the world be like today if bourgeois dignity hadn’t caught on?
McCloskey: You got it. We would be at $3 a day, as a good deal of the world still is. It was a weird idea, historically speaking. Especially we Americans, in this most bourgeois-admiring of cultures, don’t notice the ideological water in which we are swimming. Humans in northwestern Europe, and now much of the world, were lucky. It was luck, not some ancient virtue of the English constitution, and least of all some biological superiority of Europeans or Us British or the like. It was not inevitable in 1600. By 1800 it was, and by 1900 everyone not blinded by some millennial fantasy, Left or Right, could feel it.
NRO: “Bourgeois” and “rhetoric” are, for many, terms of derision. But they are superlatives for you. Explain. In what sense, and in the vein of which intellectual traditions, do you use the words? Hegel and Aristotle?
McCloskey: Aristotle for sure. Plato was disdainful of rhetoric, which he rightly saw as an instrument of democracy. And Plato hated democracy. He wanted the rule of the best, hoi aristoi. That doesn’t leave room for democratic assemblies and law courts, or Fox News or MSNBC.
But Aristotle studied the democratic constitution of Athens with sympathy, and he wrote the book on rhetoric. He defined it as “the study of the available means of [uncoerced] persuasion.” But the hard men of the 17th century turned against it, in favor of absolute, geometric, neo-Platonic Truth. Thus Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza.
I prefer the old sense of the word, which does not have to mean “blather”: We have scores of words in English for bad speech. We need one for persuasive speech, the sweet talk for which one-quarter of us in a modern economy are paid.
As for “bourgeois,” Hegel used the word Burger, which is a cognate; and most of the advanced European thinkers circa 1810 praised the middle class just then emerging. It’s later, especially after the failed liberal revolutions of 1848, that the clerisy turned against the bourgeoisie.