Desperately Seeking Moderates, Ctd

Sep 16 2014 @ 3:22pm

The House is working on an authorization to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels:

The House Armed Services Committee has drafted an amendment to grant authorization to the President to arm and train Syrian rebels opposed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). There are some strings attached, including requiring that the Pentagon report to Congress 15 days before it plans to train and equip the rebels, and provide subsequent updates to relevant committees every 90 days. The language will be included as an amendment to a government funding bill that needs to pass Congress by the end of the month to avert a partial government shut down. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key member of the House GOP whip team, said the amendment will pass this week.

But these “moderates” we’re supposed to be counting on seem to be on their last legs, to the point that a major American support group for them disbanded last month:

On August 19, the Syrian Support Group, which had previously arranged a few shipments of nonlethal aid to the Free Syrian Army, sent a letter to donors explaining why the group was shutting its doors. “Over the last year, the political winds have changed,” the letter read. “The rise of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra [an Al Qaeda-affiliated opposition force in Syria] and the internal divisions among rebel forces on the ground have complicated our efforts to provide direct support.”

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Ukraine Splits The Difference

Sep 16 2014 @ 2:59pm

The Ukrainian parliament had two big items on its agenda today:

In a vote synchronized with the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Ukrainian lawmakers unanimously approved the association pact over objections from Russia, which fears the loss of a market for its goods and damage to its economy from an influx of European products through Ukraine. … Earlier Tuesday, legislators voted behind closed doors to approve two bills granting amnesty to rebels and greater autonomy for eastern regions as part of an effort to consolidate a tenuous Sept. 5 cease-fire and end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The decision on Tuesday to enshrine in law an amnesty and a framework for self-rule in the east represented a major concession to Russia that in many ways gave the Kremlin what it had been seeking since early in the conflict, long before the violence broadened and thousands died.

Bershidsky doubts Ukrainians will thank Poroshenko for this:

That, in effect, is Ukraine’s signature under the creation of a frozen conflict area.

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Boots On The Ground … For Ebola

Sep 16 2014 @ 2:38pm

Today, president Obama is announcing a major effort to help stem the spread of the outbreak in West Africa, relying primarily on our African military command:

The unprecedented response will include the deployment of 3,000 U.S. military forces and more than $500 million in defense spending drawn from funding normally used for efforts like the war in Afghanistan, senior administration officials outlined Monday. Obama has called America’s response to the disease a “national-security priority,” with top foreign policy and defense officials leading the government’s efforts.

The officials said Obama believes that in order to best contain the disease, the U.S. must “lead” the global response effort. In the CDC’s largest deployment in response to an epidemic, more than 100 officials from the agency are currently on the ground and $175 million has been allocated to West Africa to help combat the spread of Ebola. Those efforts will be expanded with the assistance of U.S. Africa Command, which will deploy logistics, command and control, medical, and engineering resources to affected countries.

Peter Grier explains why the Pentagon is leading this mission:

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Scotland Seats

The Economist explains how the Scottish National Party (SNP) came to power in Scotland:

The disadvantage of first-past-the-post systems … is that by raising the threshold of parliamentary dominance, they contain the possibility of sudden, violent shifts in political power in the event of individual parties crossing that threshold. Despite its conservative electorate, SNP had espoused a centre-left creed since the 1970s. With Labour in government during the 2000s, it began to win over working-class voters, but had to compete for them with the Liberal Democrats. The 2011 Scottish election, however, was a perfect storm: blue-collar voters disillusioned with Labour, a Labour leadership complacent after decades of dominance in Scotland, the Liberal Democrats now in government and suddenly unpopular. The SNP obtained a good (37%) increase in vote-share but a spectacular increase (152%) in seat-share on the constituency list. It could form a majority government and set about making plans for the referendum.

And, if the referendum succeeds, it will throw off the normal balance of power in the rest of Britain. Many political analysts have predicted, given Scotland’s liberal bent, that the Tories will benefit (after Cameron is forced to quit, I suppose). Elaine Teng is skeptical:

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Malkin Award Nominee

Sep 16 2014 @ 2:02pm

“This is all because, I mean, count the number of times he uses the word I in any speech, and compare that to any other president. Remember when he announced the killing of bin Laden? That speech I believe had 29 references to I – on my command, I ordered, as commander-in-chief, I was then told, I this. You’d think he’d pulled the trigger out there in Abbottabad. You know, this is a guy, you look at every one of his speeches, even the way he introduces high officials – I’d like to introduce my secretary of State. He once referred to ‘my intelligence community’. And in one speech, I no longer remember it, ‘my military’. For God’s sake, he talks like the emperor, Napoleon,” – Charles Krauthammer, psycho-analyzing the president.

Pity he is factually, demonstrably wrong. Meanwhile, one comes across this statement from George Will that we excerpted earlier today:

Building on the work of the first Roosevelt, the second Roosevelt gave us the idea, the shimmering, glittering idea of the heroic presidency. And with it the hope that complex problems would yield to charisma. This sets the country up for perpetual disappointment.

And what, one wonders, was the cult of Reagan all about if not a “heroic presidency”? And who, one wonders, was more of an advocate for it than Will?

(For a glossary of the Dish Awards, including the Malkin Award, click here.)

Pope Francis Celebrates Weddings During Sunday Mass

This fall, we’ll begin to see the impact of the new bishop of Rome on the church with the opening of the October Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focusing on the family and evangelizing in the modern world. There isn’t much chance of a change in doctrine on many of these issues – the ban on divorced Catholics re-marrying in church and receiving communion, the disapproval of cohabitation before marriage, the ban on contraception, and certainly the aversion to same-sex commitment and love. But Francis has already shown that he is prepared to take a non-linear approach to these questions – and he keeps surprising.

What Francis seems to be saying is that in all these questions, while the doctrine will not change, the call to mercy should be paramount. In other words, in individual cases, the decision to marry a couple who have been living together or have experienced one or more divorces should be left to a merciful pastor, not a rigid and distant dogma. How to get this point across? As so often, Francis uses his own actions, rather than words:

The Holy Father presided over the wedding of 20 couples Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. From a distance, the group seemed fairly typical: the couples ranged from ages 25 to 56 and were all from the Diocese of Rome. But the underlying storyline is far more telling: one bride was already a mother, some of the couples had already been living together, and others had previously been married.

This is what our beloved Joe Biden would call a BFD. Priests who might have married similar couples in the past could be subject to discipline from Rome. Now, the bishop of Rome himself is presiding over them. Elizabeth Dias explains why this matters:

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Dissents Of The Day II

Sep 16 2014 @ 1:22pm

The in-tray has been brimming with backlash over my criticism of the president on Iraq. I’m glad to air it – and it’s made me think hard about it again. And this email stung a little – but made me laugh:

[The above] commercial popped into my head after reading you on Obama, and I thought to myself, “I swear it’s Andrew, bless his hysterical heart.”

First big round of dissent here. Another:

I share every one of your concerns regarding Obama‘s initiative against ISIS, and yet there is a word in my thoughts that you, as far as I am aware, haven’t mentioned and that president Obama mentioned only once in his speech and in a passing way: genocide.

By both word and deed, ISIS has unequivocally declared its intent to exterminate any and all non-Sunni (and eventually non-Salafist) persons that it can. ISIS has clearly shown itself committed to a level of atrocity far above any usual sectarian blood-letting. They may well have the capacity to kill in numbers that rival Rwanda, perhaps even the Nazis. This thought disrupts my inclination to stand back. Don’t we suffer remorse over past genocides we failed to act against? Can we do much to stop this one? Probably not. Does that take away the moral burden to try? Probably not.

Another quotes me:

That simple lesson is as follows: American military force to pummel Jihadists from the skies can create as much terror as it foils. Our intervention can actually backfire and make us all less safe. How many Jihadists, for example, did the Iraq War create? Our intervention gave al Qaeda a foothold in Iraq and then, by creating a majority Shi’a state for the first time, helped spawn Sunni support for the Caliphate.

It’s not fair to compare an invasion, followed by nearly a decade of occupation and so-called “nation-building,” to the air campaign and soldier training that Obama is waging against ISIS. For one thing, there’s a great deal of support from Arab nations in the region and moderate Muslims around the world. Yes, we’re doing their dirty work, to some extent. But because that work doesn’t entail our soldiers traipsing through their streets – and since they’ve asked for our help, it’s a totally different dynamic.

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A reader writes:

Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD. If I’m right, my self-esteem will be temporarily bolstered.

Camden Yards actually wasn’t too far off. Another reader:

Looks like Harbor Yard, home of the Bridgeport Bluefish in Bridgeport, CT. It’s a great place to watch a ball game. Even if it’s wrong, it’s good to support the ‘fish.

Bridgeport was the most popular incorrect guess this week. Another reader rightly gets us to the Midwest:

I’m gonna say this is the Akron Aeros’ ballpark in Akron, Ohio, from a skybox in the left field area. I’ve been to a couple of Aeros games, which is a big deal because 1) I live 9 hours’ drive away; 2) the first time I went, a visiting player gave me his bat after the game; and 3) the second time I went, there was an earthquake in Akron. Yes, in Akron. The next night, in Toledo, Ohio, a tornado zipped through the parking lot of my hotel. (I think Ohio was trying to tell me something.)

Another throws up his hands:

I give up! I have spent far too much time on your addictive contest. Thought it might be Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, AZ. People can sit on the grass and watch there. Logo might be from Seattle team. Might also be Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha where College World Series is held. Or old Rosenblatt Stadium there. What stymies me is that long covered structure through which something is transported to top of the building like a grain elevator. That might make it in Minneapolis or St Paul. Found one picture of a tobacco transporter in the south but wasn’t quite right landscape.

Another was less discouraged:

I didn’t think it was possible for me to guess two windows in a row correctly. Okay, technically I’m not sure if last week’s window was the exact window, but I got the right building and that’s a win. But two easy windows in a row? Do you want all your readers to get out and enjoy the fall weather instead of hacking away for hours, yelling at the computer, sweating it because they can’t find anything in the picture?? Well, I for one, thank you.

With more than 500 entries, this contest was even more popular than last week’s. Another reader savors the correct city:

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Ali Murat Yel defends Turkey’s reluctance to join the war coalition against ISIS:

Public opinion in Turkey holds that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist and any terrorist cannot be a Muslim. In other words, terrorism and Islam cannot be reconciled. This public conviction is certainly the real attitude of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has formed the Alliance of Civilizations with Spain against the expectation in some quarters of a “clash of civilizations” and has been trying to restore peace with different ethnic groups in Turkey. The President himself and the majority of Turkish people believe that terrorism could be defeated intellectually not through waging war on them.

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The Bill Factor

Sep 16 2014 @ 12:31pm

Ben Jacobs calls Bill Clinton’s speech “the most memorable moment” of the pro-Hillary event in Iowa:

Bill Clinton lit into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing a tough reelection bid in Kentucky. Clinton trotted out a new attack line, slamming McConnell for saying the worst day of his political career was when President George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation. “I was profoundly sad,” Clinton said of McConnell’s remarks. “When I look back on my life in politics, after all those decades and fights and all those campaigns, if the worst thing that ever happened to me was an attempt to limit black bag contributions?” Why not 9/11, the farm crisis, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the ’80s, or the loss of coal mining jobs in Kentucky? Clinton suggested.

He’s such a talented politician – and Hillary such an awkward one – that their joint appearances may well be a mixed blessing in their coming juggernaut back to power. Ira Stoll suspects that “Bill Clinton will surely find a way, once the midterm elections and the Democratic primary is over, to tone down the partisan leftism and reach out to more centrist and independent voters”:

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