On the Virtues of Humiliating Obama

Just a quick little post as we wait for the State of the Union, entertaining the question: why would Iran seize 10 American Sailors only hours before the President was scheduled to give his final state of the Union address.

The most obvious single answer is: in order to humiliate President Obama.

“What”, one may ask, “Does Iran gain by humiliating Obama?”

The answer is manifold, but there are three obvious benefits to Iran;

First: Iran has an audience for this action that is far larger then either the Iranian or American public. Iran is engaged in a ‘Game of Thrones’, so to speak, with other Islamic actors for the ascendancy in the Islamic world. That is, other state and near state actors, such as Saudi Arabia and ISIS, advance claims that they are the inheritors of Islamic leadership, the heirs of Mohammed, so to speak.

Osama bin Ladin famously stated that ‘people that see a weak horse and a strong horse will instinctively be drawn to the strong horse.’ By showing that they are able to seize American servicemen with impunity, and then having the President of the United States put on a mask of good humor, the Iranian regime not only shows Obama to be weak, but themselves to be strong. In this game, humiliating Obama is a relatively low-risk way for Iran to demonstrate that they can bend the ‘great Satan’ to their will.

Second: As I mentioned above, there is a larger audience for this action, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states. The Gulf Arabs, led by the Saudis, are engaged in a regional conflict for control of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The Saudis are, let’s say, not generally considered to be a serious military thread to Iran. Saudi Arabia instead must rely on the good will and military umbrella of the United States.

By humiliating Obama Iran sends a clear message to the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs that the United States which they rely on for protection may, in fact, be a paper tiger.

Third: Finally, Obama’s hope for a ‘Legacy’ rest entirely on the behavior of Iran in the following year and the years to come. This humiliation reminds Obama that it is Iran, not him, that holds the whip hand when it comes to how Obama will be perceived in the future. It cannot be forgotten that Iran is on the threshold of a 100+ billion dollar payoff; if Iran feels they want to have extra insurance, they can reliably estimate that Obama is the kind of man that will be moved to compliance, as opposed to defiance.

That alone should tell the neutral observer everything they need to know about Obama’s reputation on the world stage: Iran believes that seizing American Servicemen makes it more likely, rather then less likely, that they will receive 150 billion dollars from the United States.

Postscript: Iran apparently aired footage of their ‘arrest’ of the American Sailors (what, don’t ‘partners in peace’ do that?);

Oh, and just as a reminder,

The (academic) World of Pain

A spectacle is currently unfolding on university campuses across the nation: college students are marching, organizing sit-ins, promising boycotts of academic and sporting events, brandishing placards and harassing the staff. What truth are they attempting to ‘speak to power’? Topically, it’s about the idea that free speech may go so far as to cover ‘inappropriate’ Halloween costumes, but that’s only the surface. No, the greater point of the protest is that college is no place for an intellectual discussion.

It’s unacceptable when the Master of your college is dismissive of your experiences. The Silliman Master’s role is not only to provide intellectual stimulation, but also to make Silliman a safe space that all students can come home to. His responsibility is to make it a place where your experiences are a valid concern to the administration and where you can feel free to talk with them about your pain without worrying that the conversation will turn into an argument every single time. We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard.

But, in his ten weeks as a leader of the college, Master Christakis has not fostered this sense of community. He seems to lack the ability, quite frankly, to put aside his opinions long enough to listen to the very real hurt that the community feels. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.

Emphasis mine. The above quote is from an article that ran in The Yale Daily Herald. Or rather, I should say, was from that student paper: the article has been withdrawn at the request of the author, Jencey Paz, a Yale student. Ponder that for a moment: an article cited (critically, to be fair) all over the web is simply removed. Put aside any accusation of intellectual cowardice, what person working on the web today imagines you can just erase a controversial article?

Apparently, the Yale man…

Pain. That’s the key to this discussion, and the use of pain and therapeutic language is no accident: in an excellent article at The Atlantic, Greg Lukainoff and Jonathan Haidt use the term “vindictive protectiveness” to describe the pathological mode of thought that has overtaken the academy at this moment. But it is by no means limited to the academy (thought it is most pronounced there). Writing at National Review about a month ago David French discussed the case of  a lesbian couple and their 5 year old child. The couple wanted their child to attend a private, explicitly Christian school, and when the school averred, citing the fairly well known disfavor traditional Christianity has for same sex couples. This simply will not do, so let us take a look at how an attorney described the potential harm to a child not being admitted to a Christian school;

“Now the question is where do you draw the line?” [the attorney] asked. “If you have a religion that believed in human sacrifice or amputation of the arm or the hand for theft, would we permit that in the interest of permitting the free practice of one’s religion? I don’t think so, and one could argue that psychologically… this is as devastating to the little 5-year-old girl as some of those other vicious practices.”

Got that? A Christian school’s refusal to admit a child (from a family engaging in flouting the school’s tenants) is arguably as psychologically devastating as “human sacrifice” or amputating hands for theft. With that in mind it scarcely should be surprising that the campus police at University of Missouri are requesting you call the police if you view examples of hateful and/or hurtful speech.

The pathological mode is increasingly gaining ground at law schools as well. The laws that govern rape are some of the most complicated and nuanced areas of criminal law, and last year in the New Yorker Professor Jeannie Suk wrote about the difficulty in teaching this uniquely complicated subject at Harvard Law;

When I teach rape law, I don’t dwell on cases in which everyone will agree that the defendant is guilty. Instead, I focus on cases that test the limits of the rules, and that fall near the rapidly shifting line separating criminal conduct from legal sex. These cases involve people who previously knew each other and who perhaps even previously had sex. They cover situations in which the meaning of each party’s actions, signals, and desires may have been ambiguous to the other, or misapprehended by one or both sides. We ask questions like: How should consent or non-consent be communicated? Should it matter whether the accused realized that the complainant felt coerced? What information about the accused and the complainant is relevant to whether or not they should be believed? How does social inequality inform how we evaluate whether a particular incident was a crime? I often assign students roles in which they have to argue a side—defense or prosecution—with which they might disagree.

Though “[t]hese pedagogical tactics are common to almost every law-school topic and classroom,” instructors are encountering ever increasing push back from students: “asking students to challenge each other in discussions of rape law has become so difficult that teachers are starting to give up on the subject” to the extent that “a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students.”  Tellingly, the complaints focus on the pathological language once more, the lingua franca of such arguments;

Some students complained that I should have given them a “trigger warning” beforehand… For at least some students, the classroom has become a potentially traumatic environment, and they have begun to anticipate the emotional injuries they could suffer or inflict in classroom conversation. They are also more inclined to insist that teachers protect them from causing or experiencing discomfort—and teachers, in turn, are more willing to oblige, because it would be considered injurious for them not to acknowledge a student’s trauma or potential trauma.

By way of contrast, I currently am enrolled in a course through the Jewish Learning Institute. Titled “Journey of the Soul: An Exploration of Life, Death, and What Lies Beyond” I’ve just learned that the course (being conducted in Chabad institutions across the country) has an enrollment of over twenty-two thousand participants. Given that the old saying claims two Jews will produce three opinions, that’s plenty of room for offense to be taken, especially on weighty matters such as life after death, the nature of the immortal soul (and the nature of that immortality) and other matters that are both intensely personal and highly charged.

It’s a challenging exploration and a great privilege to study under a Rabbi who, while tactful, must travel treacherous waters. Not for the students alone, either: at Yale the thought of a badly done trick-treat outfit leaves a Yale student “not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns”, as the now withdrawn article above put it. Imagine then being an instructor and speaking candidly about your grandparents, murdered by the Nazis, their bodies desecrated in a direct violation of every tenant of Jewish law.

Yet for all that the Rabbi has imparted a lesson during the class that has nothing to do with the specific topic per se, but everything to do with learning: that when a topic is difficult, when it is something that you struggle to grasp, those topics are the most valuable when mastered. The students at Yale and Missouri turn this idea on its head, regarding those most challenging ideas and subjects as the ideas and topics least worthy of grappling with. It is a vision of the University not as a place for personal growth and exploration (after all, exploration, by definition, requires stepping outside of the familiar), but the University as a Safe Room writ large, complete with puppies and a barred door to keep any uncomfortable or challenging ideas at bay.

In the end, while there are less charitable interpretations, it’s very difficult to disagree with the conclusion Robby Soave at Reason comes to;

It’s clear that many of today’s students—at Yale, Missouri, and other campuses—don’t value free expression the way their radical predecessors did. But the Yale and Missouri incidents reveal something even more startling: they don’t value their own independence, either. Their goal is to re-enshrine in loco parentis. They want their administrators-in-chief to hold them while they cry, pat them on the back, and softly whisper into their ears, “you’re right, I’m so sorry.”

Will these same students, complain, I wonder, if their administrators start sending troublemakers to bed without supper, or preventing them from hanging out with their friends until they finish their homework? Keep in mind that prior to the ‘60s, administrators placed broad restrictions on students’ rights to socialize, organize, and speak. That’s what parents do, it’s what used to take place on college campuses, and it’s what awaits these students who are suddenly so desperate to be treated like children again.

 

Carly Fiorino and the Factless Fact-Checkers

Carly Fiorina had a good night on Wednesday. One way we can tell this is that the honest evaluations in the media of her good performance are being accompanied by (rather snide) ‘take down’ pieces in mainstream and liberal (but I repeat myself) ‘news’ outlets. Like mushrooms after the rain, these pieces seem to spring up in the wake of any significant movement in the GOP field. The tact they seem to have agreed on is that, yes, Fiorina did a fine job, but her rhetoric is a trick, designed to persuade the rubes of the GOP.

The reality is that many of the pieces follow the tact of this article on the Rachel Maddow blog (written by Steve Bennen), which is not so much a refutation as a disagreement. That is, as seems to be the habit on the left these days, Mr. Bennen labels opinions and interpretations of the facts that she does not share as ‘wrong’ and ‘false’, rather then simply differences of opinion. Consider the paragraph that is the meat of the article’s condemnation;

Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality. She said it takes “two-thirds of the states” to ratify a constitutional amendment, but it actually takes three-fourths. Her comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue. She insisted that Democrats, who’ve been pleading with Republicans for years to pass immigration reform, “don’t want” to pass immigration reform. Her defense of her failed tenure at HP was hard to take seriously. Her rhetoric about foreign policy was “bizarre.”

The only one of these things that Mr. Bennen cites that seems genuinely wrong is also the one thing that is almost certainly a slip of the tongue; that Constitutional ratification is 3/4 instead of 2/3.

Other then that, everything Mr. Bennen cites as “false” is either actually a difference of opinion, or actually true but something the left cannot acknowledge. Consider the statement that “Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality”. To support this Mr. Bennen references… an opinion piece by Amanda Marcott in Slate. Ms. Marcott in turn relies and links to other leftist opinion sources. The problem, of course, is that other sources of differing politics claim exactly the opposite: “Watch the full video for yourself. It does, in fact, show a fully formed fetus, heart beating and legs kicking.” writes Mollie Hemmingway at the Federalists. Given that Hemingway provides what she claims to be the video where the scene in question occurs, I am inclined to credit her accounting.

The other points are all variations of debatable, and often bad faith debates: for example, Mr. Benen baldly states “[Fiorina’s] comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue”, but then links to a Slate piece by Leon Neyfalk that points out (emphasis mine);

She is far from alone in perpetuating this idea—President Obama has done it too, along with just about every other mainstream politician who has expressed support for criminal justice reform in recent years.

Have Mr. Benen or his headliner Ms. Maddow similarly dismissed President Obama’s stance on Criminal Justice Reform as “simply untrue”? Moreover, given that her position is apparently shared by “just about every other mainstream politician”, is it not more likely, perhaps, that what Mr. Benen claims as “simply untrue” are

Mr. Benen seems to regard his denunciation on immigration as so self-evident as to require no source at all. I treat his dismissal in the same fashion, save to point out that if we take as gospel fact “pleading” from Washington, then Obama is Israel’s best friend, Iran is ready to join the community of nations and Global Warming is responsible for the refugee crisis in Europe.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s business leadership links to an analysis by Neil Irwin at the New York Times (hosted at the Boston Globe), which is scarcely the complete dismissal Benen presents it as. Rather it is a piece that points out that “Fiorina emphasized metrics of success that captured less of her success at leading Hewlett-Packard and more of the fact that she acquired a much larger competitor”, and that “many analysts view the merger, her defining action as chief executive, as ill-advised”. That many analysts disagree with her actions and the Fiorina chooses to emphasize what she sees as her strengths (and presumably gives greater credence to those analysis that do not disagree with her actions) is scarcely an open and shut case of dissimulation.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s “bizarre” foreign policy prescriptions links to (again) an opinion piece at Vox, where Ezra Klein pronounces himself puzzled that Fiorina thinks conventional strength would persuade Putin when “America has enough nuclear weapons pointed at Russia to level the country thousands of times over”.

Not to needlessly belittle Mr. Klein but his befuddlement seems rather more an indictment of his own tactical depth (or lack thereof) then an rebuttal of Fiorina’s ideas. After all, if we are to credit his statement as his actual beliefs, he would seem to be almost hopelessly naive in matters of the military. By contrast, serious military thinkers, such as Professor Victor Davis Hanson, have a rather less sanguine view of America’s tactical doctrines under Obama.

As I mentioned, this is all of a style: the left disagrees with a policy proposal and labels it ‘wrong’ for being a position other then their own. What makes this particular article such a case of bad faith is that in the instance of criminal justice reform, the position isn’t even one that the left disagrees with. Mr. Benen simply found a piece that labeled Fiorina wrong on the issue and linked to it, without pointing out that Fiorina’s position is shared by Barack Obama and a broad coalition of criminal justice reformers on both the left and right.

Trump takes the GOP Back to School

It seems that the Donald Trump phenomenon is something that pundits and commentators can’t seem to stop talking about, but also something they can’t seem to actually understand. One particular remark on Special Report Online struck me: Dr. Charles Krauthammer wondered how it was that a man born in wealth and with a tremendous fortune, how can he connect with middle and lower economic class voters?

The problem, it seems to me, may be that Dr. Krauthammer is a great intellect (and avid fan of baseball), but it seems he doesn’t watch enough movies. Because, as Ace of Spades explains, politics has become a a movie, analyzed in terms of a heroes journey and the sensibilities of plot, pacing and motivation. But how does that help us figure out the Trump phenomenon?

There are a lot of theories among pundits: some think he panders, some thing he simply shoots from the hip, some point out his crudity, borderline vulgarity and so on. All of that has some merit, but none of them capture the whole picture: Donald Trump is Thornton Melon.

Back to School is a great comedy, and a big part of the success is the ensemble cast. That’s because, just like Donald Trump, Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon is a man we root for in part in spite of himself. The thing is that if take away the loathsome, hidebound, patrician economics professor, the cartoon jock villains and the unctuous dean, and we’re left with Melon… who’s kinda an insufferable schmuck.

Insufferable perhaps, but a snappy dresser.

At the risk of fantastically over-analyzing a light 80’s comedy, Thornton Melon would be nearly intolerable in real life: he is constantly breaking the rules and suffering no consequences because he throws large amounts of cash at problems, he’s unashamed about being crooked and simply bribing public servants, he’s a womanizer, a coward and, most significant to the plot, he’s a cheater.

In Back to School we don’t root for Melon because he’s a hero, we root for him because he’s not actively a villain. Once we realize that, and that Paxton Whitehead‘s acerbic and patronizing performance is as important to the movie as Dangerfield’s own,  we understand Trump and his role in this film.

Because if Trump is Melon, who has been cast in the role of the uptight, head-up-his-ass professors that everyone wants to see get their comeuppance?

Heirs to the legacy of Lincoln, or two putzes in need of a pie to the face?

Since putting in the Republican Congress Republican Voters have been subject to one episode after another of what Ace aptly terms failure theater. No principle seems too big to sacrifice on the alter of expediency, no favor to donors too imbecile to come through on. The Republican base is appalled and feels betrayed. They’ve delivered both houses of Congress to their party only to be told ‘oops, turns out nothing worthwhile can be done without the White House too‘. The Republican leadership is running a con job on its voters, and they have noticed.  In other words, the base has collectively decided that it’s time to do something futile and stupid.

Enter Trump, stage right.

Not a Modern Holocaust: a response to ‘The Unspeakable Comparison’

At City Journal, a normally very reliable source for clear thinking articles and commentary, Guy Sorman presents a shocking article: The Unspeakable Comparison. In this article the author sets out a simple formulation; that the tide of refugees entering Europe at the moment is nothing less then the modern incarnation of the Jews fleeing from the Nazis in the 1939s. This is no idle speculation or sly innuendo but explicit in the article, which enters into the comparison within two sentences;

Several million refugees escaped from Germany, Poland, and the Baltic countries between 1933 and 1940, fleeing Nazism and throwing themselves against closed borders.

What makes the article so shocking is not so much its subject matter, but its quality, or rather the lack thereof. This article dramatically fails to live up to the (admittedly high) bar set for City Journal articles.

First, the article is filled with a number of dubiously truthful and bizarre non-sequiturs. Consider the author’s claim that “Outside the Jewish community, Nathan’s relatives and the 6 million other victims of the events that would later be named the Holocaust failed to inspire any kind of emotion, until Adolf Eichmann was tried in Jerusalem in 1961. The extermination of the Jews had previously been swallowed up by the collective unconsciousness, filed away as a collateral accident of the Second World War.”

This idea, that the Holocaust was unknown outside of the Jewish community until 1961 is simply untenable. As a simple point, the documentary film ‘Death Mills‘ (directed by Billy Wilder) was released in 1945. ‘The Stranger‘, directed by and starring Orson Wells (with Edward G. Robinson) and incorporating documentary footage of the camps, in a story about hunting a Nazi war criminal was released in 1946, becoming “the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success upon its release.” The film was nominated for an Oscar and made back triple the production costs.

In 1959 the film version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” would win 3 Oscars, and be nominated for a further 5. This is an adaptation of the Broadway play, which in turn was an adaptation of the book of the same name.

Simply put, to say that (at least in the United States), “the Holocaust failed to inspire any kind of emotion” seems irreconcilable with these (and many other) facts. This is but one of the offhand remarks the author makes that inspire puzzlement, rather then confidence.

Second, the author has a habit of simply asserting things, including the point that underlies the moral of his entire article: “This is not the Holocaust—not yet.” “YET”, the author says, with not a shred of justification. But lets go back, for the author seems to understand the weakness of his own argument, and the shameful inadequacy therein.

“Is this situation incomparable because Latifa, Ali, and Ahmed have not been exterminated with the same industrial efficiency as Samuel, Nathan, and Rachel? Why are they incomparable?”

The obvious answer, so obvious it’s painful, to “Why are they incomparable?” is because the author has not mustered a shred of evidence that these refugees are similar to Jews fleeing the Holocaust in the two ways that actually matter: Genocide, and the industrialized killing used to enact that genocidal intent.

The horror of the Holocaust doe not lie simply in the scale of the bloodshed, many more people in total numbers would die in defense of Soviet Russia, but in the deliberate and determined efforts of a nation to eradicate an ethnic group. This defining element of evil is simply not to be found in this conflict, or better put, not a defining characteristic of these refugees. More on this in a moment.

It is true that the conflict in Syria and Iraq is sectarian and barbaric, but it is sectarian and barbaric (for the most part) in a manner that is entirely consistent with the ancient religious wars of the area. “Convert or Die” is the bloody credo of ISIS, it is the way they seek to recapture the 7th century origins of their faith. What they are not is motivated by the pseudo-scientific race hygiene of the Nazis.

As an aside, it’s rather telling that the author pays no special attention to the clearly genocidal elements of the conflict that everyone has seen: the attempted eradication of the Yazidis and the indigenous Christian population. There is very little evidence presented that the refugee masses entering Europe are these critically endangered groups, and certainly none is mustered by Mr. Sorman. In a piece entirely directed to making the moral analogy with the Holocaust, it’s a curious omission.

Above and beyond anything else, while the author’s argument is ripe for being picked apart (so many other tendentious elements remain), it fails for not even mentioning the simplest and first point: that the very first quality of a nation is the ability of that nation, and that nation’s people, to decide who they wish to admit as citizens and residents. Without that, a nation is simply an area on a map.

What the author doesn’t say is again telling: he mentions 3 Muslim nations that “have somehow managed to welcome 3 million” refugees (Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, who may be themselves surprised to see the word ‘welcome’ used there…). Conspicuously absent from the list of “welcome” countries? Any of the sparsely populated, and very wealthy, nations of the Arabian peninsula.

Why exactly is it incumbent on the nations of Christian (or rather, post-Christian) Europe to put up this army of refugees, when their fellow Arab coreligionists close their own borders? Perhaps the author avoids this because he knows that the answer invalidates so much of his own assertion. He (amazingly naively) states “Do we really think Latifa, Ali, and Ahmed are risking drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, suffocating to death in a truck in Austria, or dying of thirst on some Greek road because they love to travel? Because they are looking for a part-time job in England? Of course not.”

Really? Putting aside that the USA regularly has seen economic migrants suffocating in container trucks, dying in the southern deserts and drowning on their way to the USA, if simple shelter from the conflict drives these refugees, why are they undertaking this arduous trip across a hostile Europe, instead of the much, much shorter trip to the Arabian peninsula?

Because these people are not fleeing a modern holocaust and have no interest in sitting in refugee camps in the Arabian desert. Sitting in the cafes of Europe? That, it would appear, is worth a bit of travel.

By the by, there is some debate about where this footage is from: the Youtube page claims German refugee busses. Other claim a bus in France in 2012. Such wonderful options…

Finally, the slipshod nature of the author’s argument spills into the comments section: a commentator identified as the author writes “Regarding the so called flight of French Jews to Israel , the numbers are stable”.

Which is directly contradicted by numbers supplied to the Washington Post by the Jewish Agency, which “says the number of French Jews leaving for Israel each year had been steady at about 2,000 until 2013, when it hit 3,400. Last year, it jumped to more than 7,000 — making France the leading contributor of immigrants to Israel and marking the first time that more than 1 percent of a Western nation’s Jewish population has left for Israel in a single year, according to Avi Mayer, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency.”
Overall, the greatest flaw in The Unspeakable Comparison is the near total lack of grounding in dispassionate principles. Rather, the entire article is framed as if accepting immigrants from this conflict is the penance that the West must pay for refusing shelter to Jewish immigrants generations ago. Mr. Sorman (in the comments) makes this moral framework explicit: “Angela Merkel is saving the honor of the western civilization” he declares. Quite the endorsement!

Reading The Unspeakable Comparison I could not help but think of an adage for Jewish thought, which I am told is one favored by the Lubavitcher Rebbe: The Head must be master of the Heart. Without calm and reasoned thinking, solutions become impossible, reason breaks down and morality gives way to the flush of excitement, that visceral reaction to doing something that ‘feels right’. Ironically, what the Jewish Mr. Sorman’s article lacks in dispassion, Thomas Sowell admirably supplies in his far superior The Past and Future of the Refugee Crisis. Without going into Dr. Sowell’s recommendations, he points out something that that entirely escapes Mr. Sorman’s jeremiad: that the best solution is not the importation of an indefinite stream of refugees, but acting to ameliorate conditions on the ground in the Middle East. Failing that, Dr. Sowell points out that far closer nations, such as Jordan and Egypt, could be offered compensation to alleviate their share of the refugee crisis and (potentially) provide a more attractive (and certainly closer) point of refuge.

In the end, the most curious part of The Unspeakable Comparison is the author’s… well, his failure to actually pursue the comparison. If, one accepts his argument, that the current refugees are the moral equivalent of the Jews fleeing the Nazis, then is not Assad’s regime and ISIS the moral equivalent of Nazis themselves? If this is to be the case, is not the clearest moral case not that Europe should suffer the tide of refugees, but rather take arms, that by opposition they may end the source of this conflict?

The admonition “Never Again” is, after all, not an admonition for the nations of the world to sit idly by, swelling their intake centers with those poor wretches lucky enough to flee their persecutors. No, it is an argument against allowing evils like the Nazis to hold sway. It is an argument against the indifference shown by the administration to ISIS, to Syria, to Iran, it is, in short, an argument for armed conflict as a method of destroying the greatest of evils.

But I suppose I have answered by own question: Mr. Sorman does not, and perhaps cannot connect that final dot and declare ISIS the moral equivalent of the Nazis, because that would cast his argument down. He desires exculpation from sin through ‘progressive’, ‘peaceful’ means. That these means ultimately do nothing to shorten the crisis… well, what’s a man seeking absolution to do?

America, Israel and Impossible Walls

So Donald Trump is promising to wall off the southern border. Whether you think this is a worthwhile endeavor or not depends on a great many things, but one strain of argument that has popped up is not so much that this is a bad idea, per se, but rather that it’s an idea beneath consideration, patently foolish and something no rational person would consider.

The response I have seen to this is very interesting and it often takes the form of “Israel has a border wall, why can’t the United States?”

What makes this question “Israel has X, why can’t we” so interesting is what it reveals, both about Israel and about the gulf between her and the other Western nations. It seems that Israel, alone among the Western nations, must engage in this kind of exercise in exclusion. Although England, at least, may soon be regretting the loss of their great moat against mainland Europe… The rest of Europe looks at such nationalism, such exclusion and shudders. Though, to be fair, European nations have more reason then most to rue forceful expressions of national pride.

This in turn fuels a feeling for some on the Right that Israel is the last truly Western nation, in the sense of being a nation that is distinctly modern and patriotic yet retaining its own cultural identity. In other words, that Israel is the last Western nation that is Western in the American sense. This would seem to be supported by the reviling of Israel in the most anti-American quarters of the Left, who despise Israel for precisely the characteristics that are admired by the right. The patriotism, seeing self-defense as a virtue and religiosity that the Right value are all characteristics far out of favor on the left.

Others will contend that a fence is useless, offering more picayune objections: citing tunnel infiltration and the abduction of Gilad Shalit. ‘Surely the wealthy Mexican cartels can surely replicate Hamas’ tunnel network?’, they declare. But this rebuttal would seem to miss the point; no one would seriously entertain the idea that condoms are useless because they have a (very small) failure rate. Yet to a certain kind of critic, the idea that the Israeli border walls are not 100% efficacious is the equivalent of them being useless.

In this way the Left is at least consistent: for years we were told that missile defense could never be practical. Which is true.. so long as you keep ratcheting up what constitutes “practical”. It’s also reminiscent of the attempt to ‘debunk the success’ of the Iron Dome system in the recent Gaza conflict.

This, I think, ties into the other reason the left find the question “Israel has a wall, why can’t we” so vexing: Israel has a wall because it retains a sense of self and a sense of sovereignty. European nations retain (with varying degree of success) distinct identities, but there is a terrible shame seen among the ‘elites’ in taking any pride in this. Israeli pride in Israeli identity is an uncomfortable reminder to many on the left, especially in Europe, of a time they want to forget.

There is also a rather amusing and circular argument and it goes like this;

“You can’t build a fence that won’t be scaled, or a wall that can’t be tunneled under.” Claims the opponent of a border barrier.

“Well,” goes the reply, “then we’ll put up X.” Where X is an ever increasing level of security, going from barbed wire topped fences to noveu-Berlin Wall affairs. As each new level is proposed, it is dismissed, until a point of security that everyone understands would be effective is proposed.

“Okay, may that would work,” admits the opponent, “but it would be sick. But I guess you want to see migrant children blown up by landmines/impaled on punji sticks/eaten by moat alligators?”

It’s a bit like the old example of a man that kills his parents then asks the court for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. The opponents of a border wall insist that innocuous measures will be ineffective, and effective measures would be too terrible for civilized people to actually deploy… oh, and you’re a dope if you propose innocuous measures, and a bloodthirsty savage for proposing the measures opponents understand would work.

Catch-22: it’s a way of saying ‘yes’ to the question “does a sovereign nation have the right to refuse access to non-citizens?” while at the same time ruling out any way to restrict access.

It seems in the end what is really being discussed is: if a nation will not put its own citizens before non-citizens, if it will not show loyalty first to its citizens, what loyalty then does that nation deserve from its citizens?

In the contrast of Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many Americans (especially on the right) see one leader that they feel, outside of any evaluation of competency, truly loves his country and is doing all he can for it. The other leader would be President Obama.

Will Obama give Biden the Democratic nomination?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton’ speech at the United Nations in March about her use of a private email server, was… well, perhaps Clintonian is what she was going for;

QUESTION: Were you ever — were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using — using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?

CLINTON: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.

So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.

We now know that at least half of that statement is untrue: there is classified material in her emails, and not merely classified material, but the most delicate and closely guarded of secrets;

The inspector general for the Intelligence Community notified senior members of Congress that two of four classified emails discovered on the server Clinton maintained at her New York home contained material deemed to be in one of the highest security classifications – more sensitive than previously known.

Remember that the four emails that are classified (two highly classified) were detected in a sample of forty (40) emails, this is not the total number of such records;

The four emails in question “were classified when they were sent and are classified now,” said Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for the inspector general. The inspector general reviewed just a small sample totaling about 40 emails in Mrs. Clinton’s inbox—meaning that many more in the trove of more than 30,000 may contain potentially confidential, secret or top-secret information.

The inspector general’s office concluded that Mrs. Clinton should have used a secure network to transmit the emails in question—rather than her personal email account run off a home server.

“None of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included IC-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network,” wrote Inspector General I. Charles McCullough in the letter to Congress.

We cannot now know, but if the sample examined is representative Secretary Clinton’s emails might be 10% classified and 5% highly classified… in other words, 3,000+ and 1,500+, respectively. So why do I mention this in the context of Joe Biden? Let’s consider what former CIA operative and CNN national security analyst Bob Baer had to say about this matter;

“Seriously, if I had sent a document like this over the open Internet I’d get fired the same day, escorted to the door and gone for good — and probably charged with mishandling classified information,” Baer said.

What does this have to do with Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama? As other have observed, Hillary Clinton is in trouble, but she should be in very big trouble, of the criminal kind. But she’s not, not yet. And she certainly should be;

Even for those of us who hold a very low opinion of Mrs. Clinton’s character, integrity, and judgment, this is a graver offense than many had contemplated. Merely the storage of “Top Secret” e-mails – never mind their dissemination over open channels to some individuals likely not cleared to read them — is a federal felony. On top of that, it is unthinkable that Hillary could have sent such sensitive information and not known at the time that it was sensitive.

At the moment it’s very difficult to see Hillary Clinton’s (relative) lack of legal trouble as anything but the application of double standards so shamefully common in Washington. Obama’s Justice Department could be more aggressive, and indeed, was more aggressive when it came to similar allegations against former General David Petraeus, and far, far more aggressive in pursuing penalties against lower level individuals for mishandling classified information.

So on the one hand we have Hillary Clinton, a walking disaster area of security crimes (at least). On the other hand, we have Joe Biden: late to the field, but motivated by the urging of both sons, including his late and much mourned son Beau.

Hillary would seem to have an almost insurmountable lead in the polls, as well as a frightening amount of campaign cash. Joe Biden hasn’t even begun to run, how can he possible overcome Clinton’s advantages?

The simplest way is for his friend and colleague Barack Obama to… do his job. Or rather, let his attorney general do the job she is sworn to do. It’s actually a win-win for Obama. President Obama has earned a great deal of criticism for his uneven treatment of leakers and draconian treatment of whistleblowers. Dislike of Hillary Clinton is not confined to the precincts of the right wing: plenty of progressives seem eager for anyone but Hillary.

In such an atmosphere, all President Obama needs to do to hand the nomination to his friend Joe is to treat Clinton as the law would dictate she ought to be treated and stop playing along with the Clinton charade. Hillary knows that her only chance at election is to reassemble the Obama constituency, leaving her with little to no ability to strike back at Obama should the White House, State Department and Justice Department spokespeople decide to stop dancing around questions and start answering plainly.

For the second time it seems that Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions are controlled by Barack Obama.