By its handling of China’s claim of a defense zone in international waters, Obama & co. violated diplomacy’s timeless fundamentals. First they loudly declared that America continues to regard the zone as international waters, and sent nuclear-capable B-52 bombers into the area to underline the point. Then they told US airline companies that the US government would not try to protect them in these international waters and advised them to submit to Chinese authority therein. Finally, when the Japanese government asked for US support for its own claims in the area, Vice President Biden told the Japanese to deal with China as best they can – much as the Administration had told US citizens. People who act this way should not be allowed near positions of power. They could not pass a basic exam in the field.
“Abortion Cases in Court Helped Tilt Democrats Against the Filibuster.” This New York Times front-page story was a press release rather than an investigative report. Through it, the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party cast aside their pretense that they had turned the Senate into a purely partisan body for any public-spirited reason, and broadcast to their most faithful supporters a powerful message: We are packing the Federal Courts for you! Democrat constituencies whose daily bread comes from partisan regulations – the alternative energy industry, for example – knew that already. But less sentient parts of the “base” needed to have it spelled out that the Party uses absolutely all its powers to serve them.
It took Woodrow Wilson a century and a quarter, and help from Harry Reid, but America now has what Wilson said we needed in 1885: government by a majority party empowered to do whatever it wants to push the country along the paths of progress – just like in Europe. Harry Reid and the Obama Democrats’ unilateral change of rules to make the US Senate run strictly on majority votes simply capped a long process of growth in partisanship that has Europeanized public life in America without changing a word in the Constitution. This is not how Wilson wanted to do it, but the unlovely results are the same.
Obama is making sure that nothing will stand in the way of Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Veiling that with a transparently insincere claim to be “freezing” Iran’s quest, and leaving in the lurch governments and peoples that had counted on his promises, he dishonors America. Thus does he guarantee that many more governments will acquire such weapons, and consigns to history the very ideal of nuclear non-proliferation.
But let us look on the bright side: There is value in leaving no doubt about reality.
Well before incurring 2013’s embarrassments vis a vis Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran, Obama &co. had lost confidence in their ability to deal with the problems coming America’s way from the Middle East. Long since having blurred the lines between “politics as a game of perception and policy as the pursuit of national objectives” (Bret Stephens), and trying to cut their PR losses at home, the Obamians decided to “pivot” US policy away from the Middle East to more tractable and important regions – principally the Western Pacific.
Democracy has no cure for a corrupt demos. Politicians’ misdeeds taint them alone, so long as their supporters do not embrace them. But when substantial constituencies continue to support their leaders despite their having broken faith, they turn democracy’s process of mutual persuasion into partisan war.
Technical prowess notwithstanding, US communications intelligence is dumb congenitally. In a previous column I explained that NSA’s use of sensitive antennas to capt the electronic spectrum, of supercomputers to record “the take,” and of sophisticated algorithms to search it suffer from the same deadly lack of quality control (counterintelligence) that afflicts human collection; moreover that elementary countermeasures reduce even the possibility of capting useful information. The latest revelations that the NSA has been listening to such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private conversations as well as to Cardinals at papal conclaves highlight a more fundamental flaw, namely US government officials’ misunderstanding of intelligence, of the very reason for spying.
Increasingly, the US government’s many police forces (often state and local ones as well) operate militarily and are trained to treat ordinary citizens as enemies. At the same time, the people from whom the government personnel take their cues routinely describe those who differ from them socially and politically as illegitimate, criminal, even terrorists. Though these developments have separate roots, the post-9/11 state of no-win war against anonymous enemies has given them momentum. The longer it goes on, the more they converge and set in motion a spiral of civil strife all too well known in history, a spiral ever more difficult to stop short of civil war.
Democrats and Republicans, by entering and exiting the 2013 “government shutdown” without regard to America’s traditional Constitutional practices, practically instituted among us the European practice of single “crisis” votes that enable or disable governments. The remedy lies in removing any doubt as to what the US Constitution means.
Last week, US special forces captured one Abu Anas Al-Libi, suspected of having taken part in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Africa that killed 224 and injured some four thousand. Good. But the US government treated the event much as The New York
Times and especially The Wall Street Journal described it, “a major victory” especially for US intelligence in the “war against al Qaeda.” The Journal went on to describe Al-Libi as “an intelligence gold mine” who can tell us “the ways that al Qaeda is decentralizing and expanding in Africa,” and to urge the government to get this war-winning information out of him by…well, you know… This is fantasy.