Monday, November 26, 2007

A Checkered Story in The Game of Mid East Chess

Shelby Steele and Bernard Lewis wrote two outstanding op ed pieces in Monday's WSJ.

Steele wrote about the distinction between wars of choice and survival and that Obama could be right in suggesting we talk directly with Iran's leaders because, at the very least, it would give us moral standing.

Steele's concept of choice and survival wars is a valid one. However, as the distinction between them greys, as rogue nation states come to possess nuclear capability and possibly so will terrorists in due course, making this distinction could mean taking on a more ominous risk. Steele is correct in linking a war of choice with a moral mantle, because again, as he points out, it has proven difficult, if not impossible, for us to sustain a war of choice in the absence of moral weight and authority.

The op ed by Bernard Lewis makes a simple point. If the Annapolis Conference is about boundaries then there is a basis for reaching some accord. However, if the conference is about Israel's survival then there should be nothing to negotiate. If the Arabs and the Palestinians expect Israel to concede its existence a lot of air travel and concomitant gasoline has been wasted.

The Palestinians once again have a choice to make - peace with a neighbor whom they accept has a legal and moral right to exist or a neighbor they wish to continue thinking about and exploring ways of destroying. History does not favor Palestinians making intelligent and sensible choices. They seem to prefer victim hood status because it has earned their corrupt leaders "big bucks," which the world continues to throw their way and it permits Arab leaders to manipulate the Arab street as their peoples sink lower and lower economically.

Olmert, too has a choice. He can meet the extreme demands of the Arabs, doing so at his political peril and possibly Israel's survival or he can make reasonable concessions. If his concessions are rejected, Olmert can pick up his marbles and go home. In the event the Annapolis Conference is a failure, no doubt Israel will be blamed, but Olmert can, at the very least, return home with a clear conscience - a commodity he might find comforting in view of a possible indictment and the forthcoming Winograd Report.

Going beyond Annapolis let's take a simplistically broader view of what has been happening in the region over the last 60 years as Israel begins the celebration of a six decade birthday.

First, the Arabs, unhappy with the establishment of Israel, encouraged the Palestinians to renounce the U.N.'s offer of creating a Palestinian State. After all, the Arabs said, we plan to attack Israel and you can have it all. Time after time the Arabs did attack Israel and time after time they lost. Many Palestinians were displaced and as Professor Lewis points out were abandoned by their Arab brothers for a variety of reasons but mainly because they caused trouble as in Jordan or were a convenient excuse to stir the Arab street and perpetuate Arab hatred of Israel.

Meanwhile, for decades the Saudis created and financed a monster through various religious schools. The consequence of this religious education one can liken to the formation of an Islam Mafia. As a result of Sadaam's attack on Kuwait, the elder Bush began the The Gulf War and we stationed forces on Saudi soil defiling Islamic sand according to Mafia leadership. This became the pretext for the Islamic Mafia to strike at us - 9/11. Prior to 9/11, Iran and Libya had been killing both our own citizens and military as well as those of other nations. Iran's murderous reach extended to Argentina, Lebanon and beyond.

Then came the Saudi Tower episode after which the Saudis both kicked us out as well as impeded our investigation. The threat to the Royal Family and their kingdom, however, continues to build so they have begun playing the Arab game of pandering to both sides again. Egypt did it, the Saudis do it and now various Gulf Region states are beginning to do it. On the one hand the Arabs seek our help and military equipment and on the other they are beginning simultaneously visits to Russia and are making diplomatic overtures and purchases from them.

Russia helped create another monster - a nuclear Iran - which is causing angst among the same Arab Sunni world which is causing them to turn to Russia to purchase arms. Russia needs to sell arms to finance its own military renaissance while China needs oil from Iran. Europe needs to sell a variety of goods and services so it continues doing business with Iran and everyone either looks to the United States to now protect them. In the case of Russia and China, they are involved in thwarting our efforts to stop Iran.

Consequently, GW, becoming fearful Israel may choose to attack Iran unilaterally, succumbs to Sec. Rice and Arabists within our State Department and creates a conference in Annapolis whose purpose is two fold - bring the Arab Sunni concern regarding Iran into the open while at the same time bring pressure on Israel to make concessions to untrustworthy partners in order to pacify these same Arab Sunnis. These are the same Arab Sunnis who have demonstrated continual contempt for the Palestinians and who could have solved the Palestinian problem which they helped create when they repeatedly attacked Israel starting from the time of its birth in '48.

The U.S.'s involvement has not been always on the up and up either. We too have been engaged in playing one Middle Eastern nation against the other because of our own initial desire to thwart Russian intrusion into the region during the Cold War and because we continually need Saudi oil or just oil from wherever.

We brought down governments in France and England as a favor to the Egyptians who were leaning towards Russia and who were about to lose the Suez Canal. We helped prop up Iran's tyrannical leadership, lost and then financed and assisted Sadaam in his "gas" war against Iran. We ignored Sadaam's blatant slaughter of the Kurds after signalling we would assist them and, as stated above, assisted Kuwait in rescuing them from the clutches of this same Sadaam!


Somewhere in there, after a period of indifference, we even began assisting Israel so it could survive and eventually saw them as a strategic democratic ally but in doing so infuriated the Arabs whose oil we need.

Coldly and objectively speaking what has evolved is the old story of the criminal coming into court after murdering his parents and pleading orphan status.

Let's face it, throughout recent history, Arabs have used Palestinians as pawns in their game of Middle East Chess. Quite a "checkered" story to say the least and the West has also used the Arabs as pawns for their own nefarious and narrow purposes. In the scope of human history, nothing has really changed except rogue states now have nuclear capability and can make a lot more trouble than ever before.

Dick

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Review of Bolton's last few chapters _"Defeat Is Not An Option."

I consider the Wall Street Editorial; page an antidote to the poison that drips from the pens of the editorial staff of the New York Times.

In Saturday's WSJ there was an interview by David Rifkin, Jr. of former Sec of State , Henry Kissinger. Frankly I did not get a lot out of it because it was more wordy than concrete but I am sure there are those who might challenge that view. Mr. Kissinger believes diplomacy in the new era will be more difficult because of technology and the breaking down of nation states.

As for unilateralism he believes, as John Bolton pointed out by quoting George Washington (see my previous memo,) national interests remain paramount but that we have to be more empathetic to the demands of our allies even though they are less capable of doing for themselves because they cannot call on their citizens as in former years.

Kissinger also raised the question whether Americans have the patience for long term solutions. As I said in my speech, which I made at a local University recently, we are a "come on something" people.

Rifkin closed by stating the future appears uncertain.

Perhaps Rifkin was limited in space and thus unable to expand more fully on the depth of Kissinger's thinking or perhaps Kissinger's thinking has no more depth.

I never was enamored with Kissinger's talents and believe he really never understood the soul of America as say, in my opinion, Newt Gingrich does. Kissinger's willingness to negotiate our defeat in Viet Nam will, forever, leave a bad taste in my mouth and will forever be a sad legacy for our nation. Bolton is correct when he writes "Defeat is Not an Option" nor should it ever become one. However, Kissinger validated our defeat and it continues to hang as an albatross around our neck so I am not sure Bolton's view will obtain.

The lead editorial praised Bob Zoellick for kicking out a few inflated personnel at The World Bank and the editorial reminded me that it would be nice if Zoellick could do the same at the U.N. Bolton urged U.N. reform but his efforts were eclipsed by Annan. Both The World Bank and the U.N. are bloated with self-serving egos. Both organizations waste billions in pursuit of projects that create more despair than fulfillment, and conclude in more corruption than effective accomplishment.

The second editorial highlighted the fiscal practices of the Democrats as being no better than the Republicans they replaced notwithstanding their initial high sounding platitudes and promises of responsibility. As I have said repeatedly, Congress is The Best Little Whorehouse in America.

Bolton's chapter on Israel and Lebanon forces the reader to recognize how the conflicting goals of the Perm 5 and a weak Secretariat in the name of Annan, has led to a dead end investigation of the Hariri assassination. Yet, all fingers point to the highest levels of Syria which has now been invited by Sec. Rice to participate in Annapolis so Assad can make claim on The Golan. Reward the murderer, bury the victim and avoid offending seems to be the West's prescription for world peace because that is what consistently oozes from the auditorium of that august debating body.

In the case of Israel's "disproportionate" response to Hezballah's unprovoked attack against Israel, Bolton serves the reader up another dish of "trash talk" by U.N. members led by Annan. They complained, since Hezballah only captured a few Israelis and killed a few others, Israel's response was deemed "excessive." "Amoral equivalency" is the steady porridge served in the U.N debate cafeteria. Bolton posed to the media, which was quick to pick up on Annan's biased claims, whether killing a few thousand Japanese and sinking some of their ships, after Pearl Harbor, would have been considered a proper response and we should have ended then and there. The media seemed speechless but that did not deter them from their constant badgering of Israel with "over the top" accusations. The fact that Israel rightfully acted in self-defense seemed to escape the prejudices of the U.N. and their media midget compatriots. Israel,in Bolton's mind, was simply used as a surrogate because the media and Annan's intended target, all along, was the U.S.

With respect to GW's support of Israel's retaliatory efforts, Bolton writes GW was unequivocally unflappable.

Bolton served as an interim appointment and when it came to an end Senator Chafee, in an act of outright selfishness and cupidity, held Bolton's re-momination hostage to his own re-election efforts, which Chafee subsequently lost. After the Democrats captured the House and Senate, though they appeared willing to vote in favor of Bolton prior to their political victory, it was obvious they would not now do so. Bolton told GW he did not wish to serve any longer.

Also motivating Bolton was his disappointment that after the famous Florida vote which at the behest of former Sec. of State James Baker, Bolton assisted in, it was evident the administration had drifted far away from its pronounced foreign policy moorings. Though Bolton never comes out and writes it, no doubt his respect for Powell, Rice, the way the president dumped on Rumsfeld the day after the mid-term election, and the purposeless and futile machinations of the U.N. had completely turned him off and left him dispirited.

In his concluding chapter, Bolton focuses predominantly on the failure of former secretaries of state to reform The State Department so that the department runs itself with the consequence our ability to advocate our interests in foreign affairs has been impaired. Too much of the State's permanent bureaucracy thinks it is responsible for both setting as well as implementing policy but it has no constitutional authority to engage in the former.Only the president, and the vice president as an adjunct of the president, does. In Bolton's view the prototypical State Department professionals and civil-service are an endangered species because of the self-selection process and dominance of and uncontested nature of State's liberal bias. Second, they yearn to operate as in Europe where the "mandarins of Whitehall" hail forth with little interference and third, presidential ineptitude, cannot be ignored.

These factors morph into a State Department rife with "clientitis", ie. an inability to distinguish whose interests should be served. Furthermore, the "High Minded", as Bolton calls them, succumb to the "moral equivalency" disease whereby they ten to equate Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli defensive responses as contributing to the "circle of violence." Another version of State a long list of afflictions is "blame America first" which is based on the confused premise if America behaved or changed the world would become benign. Then Bolton comes to the "mirror image" problem which is rooted in the fact that State, all too often, concludes failure to reach agreement is our fault so we concede more and more and come across appearing wimps.

Bolton proffers State careerists are schooled in accommodation and compromise as opposed to aggressive advocacy of U.S.interests.Adversarial violation becomes non-compliance for fear of offending sensibilities. Straight talk is subordinated to accommodation. By giving adversaries the benefit of doubt gratuitously we wind up watering down our own negotiation strategy before we even begin. We have allowed ourselves to be played like a musical instrument. Our diplomatic concept of negotiation eventually boils down to supremacy of process over substantive results - again N Korea, Iran, Lebanon, UNFIL comes to mind and the list is unending. The State Department operates in a manner that self-perpetuates its own culture of failure prone behavior. It is as if the alternative to diplomatic talk carries an unthinkable cost but legitimizing outlaw regimes also carries an enormous cost - increased opportunities for propaganda and disinformation among others. Lastly, time and consequently delay become ever more costly, particularly when WMD are the issue.

Bolton's other most pressing concern is the spread of WMD undertaken predominantly by Russia and China. He submits nations engaging in this practice have not fully internalized the long term threats because of the perceived near term rewards. He explains the US position as one of foregoing "profits" from such endeavors as an investment in future security. As for the "EUroids," they too are myopic and overly focused on mercantilism, disregarding the threats over the horizon. Having placed their faith in global governance they have misread their own history.

Returning to Russia, Bolton argues the Bush Administration thought Putin would be equally concerned about the threat of terrorist possession of WMD. However, for a variety of reasons (great power aspirations,economic incentives, feelings of being slighted and basic distrust)Putin has pursued a different course. The Bush Administration has lost all illusions about Putin, according to Bolton. Russia's support of Iran and N Korea in the Security Council reaches Cold War proportions.

Bolton laments the "watered down" versions of meaningless policies that emanate from the EU -3 and their wrong headed advice that we also must tread softly in order to bring Russia aboard. The consequence being weak signals sent to rogue regimes with nuclear intentions.

The case of China is somewhat more mixed in that, when we have challenged their commercial interests, they have taken notice. There is strong divergence over N Korea which China feels less threatened by, according to Bolton, although they fear the eventual collapse of Jung-il's regime. China's concerns are based on fear of an influx of immigrants and the political instability such would create and fear of the re-uniting of N and S Korea. Bolton views their first concern transitory and the second, inevitable, ie re-unification will eventually occur. In the final analysis China's foreign policy will continue to be driven by securing reliable and expansible energy sources.

Japan, Bolton sees, is at a crossroad in terms of deciding to build up its own military and , for the moment, appears content to remain positioned under our own nuclear umbrella but that means we must demonstrate to Japan we are reliable and thus how the N Korea and Iran nuclear situation evolves is critical. Bolton then discusses India's growing desire to expand its naval force and nuclear capabilities as it sees China's regional influence spreading.

What GW did regarding Iraq comes into play because if we are unwilling to stop a regime that threatens our long term interests, as Bolton believes Sadaam did, then it sends a signal to more rogue regimes they are free to "nuclearize." This is not to say how we handled Iraq post the war was correct but taking Sadaam down, in Bolton's view was. Regime change and post overthrow are not, in Bolton's view, equatable and it is dangerous to do so. Nor does he argue regime change by force is preferable but in the case of N Korea , Iran , Sadaam etc. we probably have little rational choice or options. Possession of nuclear weapon status is something these nations are not likely to renounce willingly.

Again, returning to the issue of our pressing discussions and/or peace overtures on with Paletinians by Israel; Bolton, like myself, points to Hezballah and Syria's desire to control Labanon, Hamas' split with Fatah, and Iran's continued financing of all three as evidence that were Israel to disappear the problems presented Iran's voracious appetite to fund Islamic terrorism and fascism would not disappear.

Pakistan also remains a cause of concern, and remember Bolton wrote his book before recent events. Bolton also believes we should eliminate remaining remanants of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan because of the collateral political and propaganda benefits that would accrue by destroying this theological Fuhrer. Most particularly for Musharraf.

Finally, the U.S. must continue to avoid the trap of laundering our efforts thru the U.N. when such does not serve out national interests. Bolton points out all 192 member nations use the U.N. as an instrument of their national foreign policy but only we are criticized. He acknowledges the "High Minded" elites would have us worship at the altar of the "Secular Pope" and he cautions against this repeatedly.

Bolton enumerates such issues as family planning. abortion, right to keep and bear arms, environmental policy, death penalty, even taxation as items once exclusively within the purview of nation states is now actively being dragged into the international arena - often by the members of the U.S. Left.

Bolton states emphatically the U.N. needs to be made transparent in the distant hope it will become more effective. Here again Bolton offers voluntary must replace assessed contributions as the best approach. This approach will be resisted but it should begin with Congress forcing the initiative. Meanwhile, the new SG - Ban-moon, should be given support in his reform efforts, such as they have been to date. Furthermore, we should withhold contributions to UN activities we consider illegitimate like the Human Rights Council.

Bolton further cautions against our propensity to allow the EU to become an increasing U.N. broker where our interests are involved and points out the fallacy of such calling to mind their failed and time wasted Iranian diplomatic initiatives and, beyond, our own pleading with China to host Six-Party Talks on N Korea.

Speaking of the State Department. (See 1 below.)

Dick

1) Washington announces a Middle East conference “later this fall” amid reports of a tendency to postpone the event for a year: Rice still believes she can pull it off.

In an communique released to the media Sunday, Nov. 18, the US President and Secretary of State announced they would host a Middle East conference with the support of prime minister of Israel Ehud Olmert and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas later this fall. There was no mention of invitations or when they would be sent out. The date and the time of the meeting will be announced subsequently. Therefore, the state department would like the accreditation process to begin. When the date is finalized, arrangements for collecting accreditation will be announced. A senior US official stated, even if the meeting does take place - on Tues. Nov. 27 as presumed in the Middle East - it will be no better than a “Potiomkin village-type” fa├žade behind which a sham peace conference performs.

Our Washington sources report that in recent conversations, Rice confessed to overrating the chances of bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together on joint statements and that, at best, they would agree to carry on talking.

The Secretary had no solution for the Gaza situation and the Hamas takeover of government there. The administration would try and put the Bush two-state vision to the test in the course of 2008, but she already understands that the process will pass to the next US president as a vision rather than reality.

Rice said she would try and persuade some Arab governments to make token gestures towards Israel. But she could not explain how Mahmoud Abbas’ flat opposition to any such Arab gestures could be overcome.

All the Secretary of State was able to extract from the two parties, she said, was their consent for the first time to implement the first clause of the Road Map independently and irrespective of whether the other side carried out its part.

The Palestinians accordingly agreed to disband terrorist structures on the West Bank, while Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity.

Prime minister Olmert also said Israel’s military would withdraw to the positions it held on Sept. 28, 2000, prior to the Palestinian uprising, although this step was contingent on security.

Palestinian interior minister Abd Razzak Yihye vowed Sunday to go ahead and dismantle all the armed militias, i.e. Hamas, Jihad Islami and the radical Fronts. Abbas’ Fatah-Tanzim leadership declared Hamas on the West Bank “a cancer to be rooted out.”

Hamas and Jihad Islami fought back on the instant by establishing a joint command for their West Bank forces, calling it “Guardians of the Walls.” The Popular Front joined the terrorist coalition after its gunmen were attacked by Palestinian security forces in the Al Ain district of Nablus. All three announced they would forcibly resist any attempt to disband them.

Washington sources reported earlier:

The growing tendency to postpone the event was further spurred last week by urgent private messages from Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They warned the administration that, if the Annapolis conference were to be staged as a photo-op lasting a few hours and sidestepped the core issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem, borders and refugees, as Olmert plans, serious damage would blow back on the Muslim governments which backed the US against Iran.

State Department officials advised Rice to reply that calling off the conference would reflect badly on the US government, showing it to be short of the clout for convening a meeting of anti-Iran Sunni Arab rulers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Liberal loathing and Bush hatred borders on psychotic!

Yesterday (Wednesday) Peter Berkowitz had an op ed piece in the WSJ entitled: "The Insanity of Bush Hatred." In his article he quoted from Prof. Paul Starr's "Freedom's Power" as follows: "...the problem with progressives who have succumbed to Bush hatred is not their liberalism; it's their betrayal of it..."

Berkowitz points out that hating presidents is as old as our nation but Bush hatred is a particularly venal kind. He points out Bush hatred is distinguished by the pride intellectuals display in their hatred. They openly endorse it as a virtuous undertaking and wear it with pride as if it were a medal. Their hatred signifies not only a response to his policies but also is seen as a display of moral hygiene.

There are many reasons to find discomfort and disagreement with president Bush and his Administration's failures but the level "liberal loathing" has reached only serves to distort their judgment and when it reaches a frenzied level, as if often does, it only serves to cause one to ponder the mental health of the venomous.

A true liberal, in my mind, is someone capable of entertaining differing views without blowing a gasket and who is intellectually capable of a sensible, well thought out and reasoned rejoinder based on fact not fantasy, lies and distortions.
A liberal may hold views that are far more expansive than my own and that is their right. I may disagree with their views and may challenge the very premise on which they are based but all the while willing to engage in civil discourse.

Political rhetoric, when it becomes so overboard, heated and psychotic, loses its effectiveness.

For the good of our nation we need to take a step back, cool it and return to reason rather than invective. I am not holding my breath however because the Biden's, Pelosi's, Reids and their like believe there is much power to gain from hating Bush. (See 1 below.)

Gideon out, Gomorrah in.So what's new? (See 2 below.)

I was sent this e mail by a fellow memo reader and do not know whether it is the actual reflections of Gen Cash but whether it is or not., it speaks legions. (See 3 below.)

I am still reading John Bolton's "Surrender is Not an Option" and would love to have more time to complete it in one final consecutive reading because it is fascinating and very readable. Time constraints do not permit such, however. The chapter on electing the current Sec. General -Ban Ki-moon was extremely interesting but the following chapter on N Korea took the cake.

First, some comments from the chapter regarding Ki-moon pertaining to GW's assessment of The U.N. GW believed Ki-moon should get rid of the entire senior staff of The U.N. and specifically Malloch Brown who now is in Britain's new cabinet. GW stated the U.N. is not run well, does not believe in consequences just rhetoric. I could not have said it more precisely.

Then the chapter on N Korea.

Bolton began with this quote by George Washington :
"It is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind, that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will venture to depart from it."

Bolton describes the events pertaining to getting the "Perm 5" members of The Security Council and then the entire U.N. to vote on strong sanctions. Russia and China were reluctant to do so because of the message it would send to Iran. The Brits and French were worried that without Russian and Chinese participation it would reveal their own diplomatic initiatives with Iran had failed as the world already knew was the case. Japan, who was most threatened and was the second largest financial supporter of The U.N., vacillated back and forth but ultimately came through.

Even Sec. Rice waffled until GW stated we should proceed with "spine" to get that august body to do what was right and let the diplomatic chips fall where they might. By then China had dug itself in a hole and eventually caved as did Russia but the vote took the form of a U.N. "president's letter." This is less than we had sought and signaled to both N Kora and Iran the U.N. and world body were not truly serious.

Bolton ended the chapter stating even GW has strayed off course either because of constant political attacks (see 1 below) the loss of The House after the election and /or because the permanent government (read bureaucrats) had triumphed over him. Previously Bush had told Putin that N Korea's Kim Jong-il acted like a baby who throws his food on the floor after a temper tantrum and the world keeps putting it back on his plate and that the world should stop and let the food stay on the floor.

Bolton further pointed out the departure of "hardliners" left GW vulnerable to the softies in the State Department and that Rice vacillated from tough rhetoric to appeasing rhetoric. From an historical standpoint, Bolton believes N Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons and that when their cheating is finally exposed he hopes GW will be on course and point out and repudiate the charade the "Risen Bureaucracy" has perpetrated.

The next chapter, which I have yet to read, is about Iran.

Bolton's book is a must read for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of this swamp that resides in New York called The U.N. and why it will continue to be both unresponsive and inefficient until real reform is undertaken. That real reform is a possibility is a long shot too because the organization is unwieldy and being so serves the interests of all nations which are more interested in posturing than accomplishing anything productive.

Lastly, the ability for The U.N. to act swiftly is also impossible because each representative must get instructions from their governments and time zones alone impede efficiency. So we remain stuck with a U.N.incapable of accomplishing much beyond verbiage and this actually serves the interests of renegade nations because it reveals the weakness of the world's collective nation states whose tendency is to appease and not follow through in any event.

A sad state of affairs and we are now witnessing a replay as the United States begins to demand facts with respect to Iran's nuclear program from el Baradei as I previously indicated would happen. Baradei should be fired as Kofi Annan should have been fired but The U.N. is not a public corporation and the Bush Administration chose not to press the issue because, as Bolton said, GW chose to focus on getting a better new Sec. General to replace Annan and for him to have time to get his arms around the porblems. Consequently, Annan remained after Volcker's revelations of corruption etc., over the Iraq Food program.

Tie this in with Annapolis and Sec. Rice's warning to Israel and you have some interesting developments. (See 4 and 5 below.)

Evelyn Gordon raises some interesting questions regarding Olmert and Sec, Rice's demand that Israel live up to its obligations while letting the Palestinians off the hook. (See 6 below.)

Dick

1) The Insanity of Bush Hating
BY PETER BERKOWITZ

Hating the president is almost as old as the republic itself. The people, or various factions among them, have indulged in Clinton hatred, Reagan hatred, Nixon hatred, LBJ hatred, FDR hatred, Lincoln hatred, and John Adams hatred, to mention only the more extravagant hatreds that we Americans have conceived for our presidents.

But Bush hatred is different. It's not that this time members of the intellectual class have been swept away by passion and become votaries of anger and loathing. Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition. Bush hatred, however, is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly
endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene.

This distinguishing feature of Bush hatred was brought home to me on a recent visit to Princeton University. I had been invited to appear on a panel to debate the ideas in Princeton professor and American Prospect editor Paul Starr's excellent new
book, "Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism." To put in context Prof. Starr's grounding of contemporary progressivism in the larger liberal tradition, I recounted to the Princeton audience an exchange at a dinner I hosted in Washington in June 2004 for several distinguished progressive scholars, journalists, and policy
analysts. To get the conversation rolling at that D.C. dinner--and perhaps mischievously--I wondered aloud whether Bush hatred had not made rational discussion
of politics in Washington all but impossible. One guest responded in a loud, seething, in-your-face voice, "What's irrational about hating George W. Bush?" His vehemence caused his fellow progressives to gather around and lean in, like kids on a playground who see a fight brewing. Reluctant to see the dinner fall apart before drinks had been served, I sought to ease the tension. I said, gently, that I rarely found hatred a rational force in politics, but, who knows, perhaps this was a special case. And then I tried to change the subject. But my dinner companion wouldn't allow it. "No," he said, angrily. "You started it. You make the case that it's not rational to hate Bush." I looked around the table for help.

Instead, I found faces keen for my response. So, for several minutes, I held forth, suggesting that however wrongheaded or harmful to the national interest the president's policies may have seemed to my progressive colleagues, hatred tended to cloud judgment, and therefore was a passion that a citizen should not be proud of being in the grips of and should avoid bringing to public debate. Propositions, one might have thought, that would not be controversial among intellectuals devoted to thinking and writing about politics. But controversial they were.

Finally, another guest, a man I had long admired, an incisive thinker and a
political moderate, cleared his throat, and asked if he could interject. I welcomed his intervention, confident that he would ease the tension by lending his authority in support of the sole claim that I was defending, namely, that Bush hatred subverted
sound thinking. He cleared his throat for a second time. Then, with all eyes on him, and measuring every word, he proclaimed, "I hate the way Bush talks."


And so, I told my Princeton audience, in the context of a Bush hatred and a corollary contempt for conservatism so virulent that it had addled the minds of many of our leading progressive intellectuals, Prof. Starr deserved special recognition for keeping his head in his analysis of liberalism and progressivism. Then I got on with my prepared remarks.

But as at that D.C. dinner in late spring of 2004, so again in early autumn 2007 at dinner following the Princeton panel, several of my progressive colleagues seized upon my remarks against giving oneself over to hatred. And they vigorously rejected
the notion. Both a professor of political theory and a nationally syndicated columnist insisted that I was wrong to condemn hatred as a passion that impaired political judgment. On the contrary, they argued, Bush hatred was fully warranted considering his theft of the 2000 election in Florida with the aid of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore; his politicization of national security by making
the invasion of Iraq an issue in the 2002 midterm elections; and his shredding of the Constitution to authorize the torture of enemy combatants.

Of course, these very examples illustrate nothing so much as the damage hatred inflicts on the intellect. Many of my colleagues at Princeton that evening seemed not to have considered that in 2000 it was Al Gore who shifted the election controversy to the courts by filing a lawsuit challenging decisions made by local Florida county election supervisors. Nor did many of my Princeton dinner companions take into account that between the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 of 16 higher court judges--five of whom were Democratic appointees--found equal protection flaws with the recount scheme ordered by the intermediate Florida
court. And they did not appear to have pondered Judge Richard Posner's sensible observation, much less themselves sensibly observe, that while indeed it was strange to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide a presidential election, it would have been even stranger for the election to have been decided by the Florida Supreme Court

As for the 2002 midterm elections, it is true that Mr. Bush took the question of whether to use military force against Iraq to the voters, placing many Democratic candidates that fall in awkward positions. But in a liberal democracy, especially from a progressive point of view, aren't questions of war and peace proper ones to put to the people--as Democrats did successfully in 2006? And lord knows the Bush administration has blundered in its handling of legal issues that have arisen in the war on terror. But from the common progressive denunciations you would never know that the Bush administration has rejected torture as illegal. And you could easily overlook that in our system of government the executive branch, which has principal
responsibility for defending the nation, is in wartime bound to overreach--especially when it confronts on a daily basis intelligence reports that describe terrifying threats--but that when checked by the Supreme Court the Bush administration has, in
accordance with the system, promptly complied with the law.

In short, Bush hatred is not a rational response to actual Bush perfidy. Rather, Bush hatred compels its progressive victims--who pride themselves on their sophistication and sensitivity to nuance--to reduce complicated events and multilayered issues to simple matters of good and evil. Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent. Prof. Starr shows in "Freedom's Power" that tolerance, generosity, and reasoned skepticism are hallmarks of the truly liberal spirit. His analysis suggests that the problem with progressives who have succumbed to Bush hatred is not their liberalism; it's their betrayal of it. To be sure, Prof. Starr rejects Bush administration policies and thinks conservatives have the wrong remedies for what ails America today.

Yet at the same time his analysis suggests, if not a cure for those who have already succumbed, at least a recipe for inoculating others against hating presidents to come. The recipe consists above all in recognizing that constitutional liberalism in America "is the common heritage of both modern conservatives and modern liberals, as those terms are understood in the Anglo-American world," writes Prof. Starr. We are divided not by our commitment to the Constitution but by disagreements--often, to be sure, with a great deal of blood and treasure at stake--over how to defend that Constitution and secure its promise of liberty under law. The conflict between more conservative and more liberal or progressive interpretations of the Constitution is as old as the document itself, and a venerable source of the nation's strength. It is wonderful for citizens to bring passion to it. Recognizing the common heritage that provides the ground for so many of the disagreements between right and left today will encourage both sides, if not to cherish their opponents, at least to discipline their passions and make them an ally of their reason.


2)Hotels replace Gideon Bibles with "sex kits."

The latest fad with some hotels is to replace their Bibles with "intimancy kits." For instance, at New York City's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy a gourmet mini-bar, an iPod, a flat-screen TV and even the company of a complimentary pet goldfish. But no Bible.

Parent company Accor Hotels decided to replace the Gideon Bibles with "intimacy kits." For Accor, providing travelers with sexual paraphernalia is more important than the Bible. Accor Hotels owns several chains including: Motel 6, Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, All Seasons, Etap, Formule 1. While these chains are mostly located in Europe, Accor is expanding to many U.S. markets.

Since 2001, the number of luxury hotels with Bibles in the rooms has dropped by 18 percent. The same companies that own these luxury hotels also own some of the typical hotels and motels you and I might use. For example, Accor Hotels owns Motel 6. Without action now, it is simply a matter of time before other chains remove the Bibles.

3) Middle East Imperative
BY: JIM CASH, Brig. Gen., USAF, Ret.



I wrote recently about the war in Iraq and the larger war against radical Islam, eliciting a number of responses. Let me try and put this conflict in proper perspective.

Understand, the current battle we are engaged in is much bigger than just Iraq. What happens in the next year will affect this country and how our kids and grand kids live throughout their lifetime, and beyond. Radical Islam has been attacking the West since the seventh century. They have been defeated in the past and decimated to the point of taking hundreds of years to recover. But they can never be totally defeated. Their birth rates are so far beyond civilized world rates that in time they recover and attempt to dominate again.




There are eight terror-sponsoring countries that make up the grand threat to the West. Two , Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, just need firm pressure from the West to make major reforms. They need to decide who they are really going to support and commit to that support. That answer is simple. They both will support who they think will hang in there until the end, and win. W e are not sending very good signals in that direction right now, thanks to the Democrats.

The other six, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya will require regime change or a major policy shift. Now, let's look more closely.



Afghanistan and Iraq have both had regime changes, but are being fueled by outsiders from Syria and Iran . We have scared Gaddafi's pants off, and he has given up his quest for nuclear weapons, so I don't think Libya is now a threat.



North Korea (the non-Islamic threat) can be handled diplomatically by buying them off. They are starving. That leaves Syria and Iran. Syria is like a frightened puppy. Without the support of Iran they will join the stronger side. So where does that leave us? Sooner, or later, we are going to be forced to confront Iran, and it better be before they gain nuclear capability.

In 1989 I served as a Command Director inside the Cheyenne Mountain complex located in Colorado Springs, Colorado for almost three years. My job there was to observe (through classified means) every missile shot anywhere in the world and assess if it was a threat to the US or Canada. If any shot was threatening to either nation I had only minutes to advise the President, as he had only minutes to respond. I watched Iran and Iraq shoot missiles at each other every day, and all day long, for months. They killed hundreds of thousand of their people. Know why? They were fighting for control of the Middle East and that enormous oil supply.



At that time, they were preoccupied with their internal problems and could care less about toppling the west. Oil prices were fairly stable and we could not see an immediate threat. Well, the worst part of what we have done as a nation in Iraq is to do away with the military capability of one of those nations. Now, Iran has a clear field to dominate the Middle East, since Iraq is no longer a threat to them. They have turned their attention to the only other threat to their dominance, they are convinced they will win, because the US is so divided, and the Democrats (who now control Congress and may control the Presidency in 2008) have openly said we are pulling out.




Do you have any idea what will happen if the entire Middle East turns their support to Iran , which they will obviously do if we pull out? It is not the price of oil we will have to worry about. Oil WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE to this country at any price. I personally would vote for any presidential candidate who did what JFK did with the space program---declare a goal to bring this country to total energy independence in a decade.



Yes, it is about oil. The economy in this country will totally die if that Middle East supply is cut off right now. It will not be a recession. It will be a depression that will make 1929 look like the "good-old-days". The bottom line here is simple. If Iran is forced to fall in line, the fighting in Iraq will end over night, and the nightmare will be over.



One way or another, Iran must be forced to join modern times and the global community. It may mean a real war---if so, now is the time, before we face a nuclear Iran with the capacity to destroy Israel and begin a new ice age. I urge you to read the book "END GAME" by two of our best Middle East experts, true American patriots and retired military generals, Paul Vallely and Tom McInerney. They are our finest, and totally honest in their assessment of why victory in the Middle East is so important, and how it can be won. Proceeds for the book go directly to memorial fund for our fallen soldiers who served the country during the war on terror. You can find that book by going to the Internet through Stand-up America at www.ospreyradio.us




or www.rightalk.com.

On the other hand, we have several very angry retired generals today, who evidently have not achieved their lofty goals, and insist on ranting and raving about the war. They are wrong, and doing the country great harm by giving a certain political party reason to use them as experts to back their anti-war claims.




You may be one of those who believe nothing could ever be terrible enough to support our going to war. If that is the case I should stop here, as that level of thinking approaches mental disability in this day and age. It is right up there with alien abductions and high altitude seeding through government aircraft contrails. I helped produced those contrails for almost 30 years, and I can assure you we were not seeding the atmosphere. The human race is a war-like population, and if a country is not willing to protect itself, it deserves the consequences. Nuff-said!!!




Now, my last comments will get to the nerve. They will be on politics I am not a Republican. And, George Bush has made enough mistakes as President to insure my feelings about that for the rest of my life. However, the Democratic Party has moved so far left, they have made me support those farther to the right. I am a conservative who totally supports the Constitution of this country. The only difference between the United States and the South American, third world, dictator infested and ever-changing South American governments, is our US Constitution.




This Republic (note I did not say Democracy) is the longest standing the world has ever known, but it is vulnerable. It would take so little to change it through economic upheaval. There was a time when politicians could disagree, but still work together. We are past that time, and that is the initial step toward the downfall of our form of government.



I think that many view Bush-hating as payback time. The Republicans hated the Clinton's and now the Democrats hate Bush. So, both parties are putting their hate toward willingness to do anything for political dominance to include lying and always taking the opposite stand just for the sake of being opposed. JUST HOW GOOD IS THAT FOR OUR COUNTRY?

In my lifetime, after serving in uniform for President's Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush I have a pretty good feel for which party supported our military, and what military life was like under each of their terms. And, let me assure you that times were best under the Republicans.




Service under Jimmy Carter was devastating for all branches of the military. And, Ronald Regan was truly a salvation. You can choose to listen to enriched newscasters, and foolish people like John Murtha (he is no war hero), Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Michael Moore, Jane Fonda , Harry Reid, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and on-and-on to include the true fools in Hollywood if you like. If you do, your conclusions will be totally wrong.



The reason that I write, appear on radio talk shows, and do everything I can to denounce those people is simple. THEY ARE PUTTING THEIR THIRST FOR POLITICAL POWER AND QUEST FOR VICTORY IN 2008 ABOVE WHAT IS BEST FOR THIS COUNTRY. I cannot abide that. Pelosi clearly defied the Logan Act by going to Syria , which should have lead to imprisonment of three years and a heavy fine. Jane Fonda did more to prolong the Vietnam war longer than any other human being (as acknowledged by Ho Chi Minh in his writing before he died). She truly should have been indicted for treason, along with her radical husband, Tom Hayden, and forced to pay the consequences.

This country has started to soften by not enforcing its laws, which is another indication of a Republic about to fall. All Democrats, along with the Hollywood elite, are sending us headlong into a total defeat in the Middle East, which will finally give Iran total dominance in the region. A lack of oil in the near future will be the final straw that dooms this Republic. However, if we refuse to let this happen and really get serious about an energy self-sufficiency program, this can be avoided. I am afraid, however, that we are going in the opposite direction. If we elect Hillary Clinton and a Democrat controlled congress, and they carry through with allowing Iran to take control of the Middle East, continue to refuse development of nuclear energy, refuse to allow drilling for new oil, and continue to do nothing but oppose everything Bush, it will be over in terms of what we view as the good life in the USA ..

Now, do I think that all who do not support the war are un-American -- of course not. They just do not understand the importance of total victory in that region.




Another failure of George Bush is his inability to explain to the American people why we are there, and why we MUST win. By the way, it is not a war. The war was won four years ago. It is martial law that is under attack by Iranian and Syrian outside influences, and there is a difference.



So, what do I believe? What is the bottom line? I will simply say that the Democratic Party has fielded the foulest, power hungry, anti-country, self absorbed group of individuals that I have observed in my lifetime. Our educational system is partially to blame for allowing the mass of America to be taken in by this group. George Bush has done the best he can with the disabilities that he possesses.



A President must communicate with the people. And, I would tell you that Desert Storm spoiled the people. Bush Senior's 100-hour war convinced the people that technology has progressed to the point that wars could be fought with no casualties and won in very short periods of time. I remember feeling at the time, that this was a tragedy for the US military. To win wars, you must put boots on the ground. When you put boots on the ground, soldiers are going to die. A President must make the war decision wisely, and insure that the cause is right before using his last political option. However, CONTROLLING IRAN AND DEMOCRATIZING THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE ONLY CHOICE IF WE ARE HELL-BENT ON DEPENDING ON THEM FOR OUR FUTURE ENERGY NEEDS.

Jimmy L. Cash, Brig. Gen., USAF, Ret.
Lakeside , Montana 59922
****************************************
"I'll tell you what war is all about, you've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough they stop fighting."
Gen. Curtis LeMay

4)Olmert’s instruction to prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran was leaked to Reuters hours before the nuclear watchdog’s ElBaradei released his report


The agency indicates that the Israeli prime minister ordered cabinet officials in a secret memorandum to present proposals for “the day after” Iran owned atomic warheads, meaning the day after Israel loses the military edge of its monopoly as the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East.

Without disclosing the contents of the proposals, Reuters quotes two Israeli sources as referring to the long-term ramifications to be addressed on Israel’s security and response capabilities and the effect on the public.

The leak, albeit denied by the PM's spokesman, pointed to Olmert’s conviction that US-led diplomacy and sanctions for halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon have reached a dead end, and the only option left to the US or Israel is a pre-emptive military strike, just as Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

The report Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei is due to present is not expected to prove otherwise.

Our sources note the proximity of the prime minister’s presumed leak to the US-promoted peace conference in Annapolis on Nov. 26.

What it says is that if the Bush administration cannot meet its pledge to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb, which is an existential threat to Israel, how can the same administration be trusted to deal effectively with the issue of an Israel- Palestinians settlement in consequence of the Annapolis meeting?

It may therefore be postulated that the Israeli prime minister acted to derail the conference by drawing a red line which Israel refuses to cross in the interests of its security.

The Reuters report may even be his response to the “Israel should make painful sacrifices” speech which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered to a Jewish audience Tuesday, Nov.13, in Nashville, Tennessee. Her argumentation sent a shudder through Israel’s intelligence and defense community.

Analysis of the speech, which the State Department quickly released in full plus video, shows strikingly that “Palestinian statehood” has been substituted for “Middle East peace” as a central US policy objective. Peace and peacemaking have therefore been exed out as a prerequisite for the Palestinians.

By presenting a Palestinian state as the main bulwark against Middle East extremists, she placed Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad at the forefront of the battle against Hizballah, Hamas and Iran, and deposited the security of the entire Middle East in their hands.

This thesis left Israeli security circles long familiar with the pair’s capabilities aghast - especially after their defeat in Gaza.

Therefore, the report claiming Olmert had given instructions to start preparing for a possible nuclear-armed Iran may equally apply to the bombshell Rice dropped on Israel’s head, and a signal to the Bush administration that Israel proposes to look after its own security rather than leaving it in other hands.

5) IAEA: Iran cooperated with UN nuclear probe, but still defying demands

A report from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency on Thursday found Iran to be generally truthful about key aspects of its nuclear history, but warned that its knowledge of Tehran's present atomic work was shrinking.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report also confirmed that Tehran continued to defy the UN Security Council by ignoring its repeated demands to freeze uranium enrichment - a potential pathway to nuclear weapons.

A UN diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity described the report as a glass half-full or half-empty.
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The report's findings, and Iran's continued lack of full disclosure, may open Tehran to a third round of sanctions imposed by the West in efforts to prevent the Islamic republic from gaining nuclear capabilities.

Tehran says it seeks only nuclear-generated electricity.

Iran has further expanded uranium enrichment despite UN demands to stop, raising the number of centrifuge machines to 3,000, the IAEA report said. This number is enough to start industrial production of nuclear fuel.

"[Iran's] cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive," the report said. "Iran's active cooperation and full transparency are indispensable for full and prompt implementation of the work plan."

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the report showed Iran had been telling the truth about its nuclear plans and was right to resist Western pressure, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We welcome this, that the International Atomic Energy Agency has found its role and with the publication of [IAEA chief Mohammed] ElBaradei's report the world will see that the Iranian nation has been right and the resistance of our nation has been correct," Ahmadinejad said.

He also said that with publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report "the world will see that what the Iranian nation has said [about its nuclear program] from the start has been right".

Six world powers agreed in September they would have the UN Security Council vote on wider sanctions unless reports by the IAEA and the EU's top diplomat, Javier Solana, showed Iran had come clean on its program and was moving to suspend it.

A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said: "... as the Prime Minister [Gordon Brown] has indicated, if Javier Solana's talks with the Iranians do not show a positive outcome, and as the IAEA report now shows that Iran has still not addressed several issues about its nuclear program, we will pursue further Security Council and EU sanctions."

The report said that after years of stonewalling, Iran had provided much documentation and allowed interviews with nuclear officials related to its secret development of centrifuges, which refine uranium for power plant fuel or the core of bombs, in the 1980s and 1990s.

"The agency has been able to conclude that answers provided on the declared past P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programs are consistent with its findings.

"We will however continue to seek corroboration and to verify the completeness of Iran's declarations," the report said.

"Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provided clarification and amplifications on issues raised in the context of the work [transparency] plan," it said.

The UN watchdog remained unable to ascertain that Iran did not have a secret, parallel military enrichment program because Tehran was still denying inspector visits to anything but its few declared nuclear facilities.

On Wednesday, Gregory Schulte, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said the agency's 35-nation Board of Governors and Security Council members would not be content to see a little bit more information here, a little more there" from Iran in the report.

"Selective cooperation is not good enough," he told reporters.

An IAEA board meeting next week will debate the report.

Solana is widely expected to confirm in his report on recent talks with Iran that it remains unwilling to consider a suspension.


6) Civil Fights: Ehud Olmert's misplaced trust
By EVELYN GORDON


It is too soon to know the full extent of Ehud Olmert's pre-Annapolis concessions. But already, according to press reports that his office has not denied, he has made one concession devastating to Israel's security: accepting Washington as the arbiter of whether the Palestinians have fulfilled their counterterrorism commitments under the road map.


The road map states that as the Palestinians progress on counterterrorism (arresting terrorists, confiscating weapons, reforming their security services, etc.), Israel must dismantle its own counterterrorism measures: For instance, it must remove checkpoints and withdraw the IDF to the September 28, 2000 lines. Clearly, taking these steps before the Palestinian Authority is both willing and able to prevent attacks would leave Israel vulnerable to the same relentless terrorism that characterized the first years of the intifada, before these measures were in place. Thus a premature determination that the PA is in fact willing and able to take over is a recipe for renewed suicide bombings in Israel's heartland.

The crucial question, therefore, is whether the US can be trusted to make this determination in Israel's stead. Since America has long been Israel's staunchest ally, entrusting it with this task might seem unobjectionable. However, there are two reasons why the US cannot be trusted to protect Israel's security needs in this case: Keith Dayton and Condoleezza Rice.

LIEUTENANT General Dayton is the official US security coordinator for the "peace process." His mission includes helping the PA reform its security services and monitoring Palestinian progress on counterterrorism. As Washington's point man for security-related issues, he would naturally be the one to decide whether the PA had in fact fulfilled its counterterrorism responsibilities sufficiently to mandate reciprocal Israeli measures.

Unfortunately, Dayton has proven himself an utterly incompetent judge. This past June, when Hamas launched its takeover of the Gaza Strip, it crushed Fatah's forces in a mere five days. Yet during weeks of preliminary skirmishes, Dayton - virtually alone among journalistic and diplomatic observers - had insisted that Fatah was fighting much better than anyone gave it credit for and would win a decisive clash if one came.

Why Washington did not recall him after this fiasco remains a mystery. What is certain, however, is that a man who so badly overestimated Fatah's will and ability to fight Hamas in Gaza cannot be trusted to correctly estimate its will and ability to fight Hamas in the West Bank. Yet that is precisely what Olmert is trusting him to do: By accepting the US as an arbitrator, Olmert has effectively pledged to withdraw the IDF from much of the West Bank the moment Dayton declares the PA both willing and able to fight terror - even if his judgment is as delusional as it was last summer.

THE SECOND problem is Dayton's boss, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Since she will be responsible for making Israel obey Dayton's decisions, Israel could theoretically appeal to her should it consider these decisions flawed. In practice, however, there is no chance of her accepting such an appeal - because if there is one thing Rice has proved definitively over the past two years, it is that she has no interest whatsoever in Israel's security concerns.

If that assessment seems harsh, consider her behavior over the Agreement on Movement and Access, which she brokered following the August 2005 disengagement.

The agreement was meant to ensure the free flow of goods and people to and from Gaza, including between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel's consent, however, was predicated on the assumption that Fatah, then in sole control of the PA, would work to suppress Gaza-based terror. Instead, rocket fire on southern Israel from Gaza not only continued, but intensified: In 2006, the first full year post-disengagement, the number of rockets launched from Gaza at Israel more than tripled compared to 2004, the last full year pre-disengagement. And Fatah forces made no effort whatsoever to stop this fire.

Israel thus refused to allow regular convoys between Gaza and the West Bank unless and until the PA, which would be responsible for security on these convoys, took serious action against the rocket threat. That was an obviously vital security measure: Because the West Bank, unlike Gaza, is in rocket range of all of Israel's major cities, rocket technology must be kept out; yet with the PA demonstrably unwilling or unable to fight the rocket plague in Gaza, it clearly could not be trusted to ensure that Gaza-West Bank convoys were not used to transfer this technology.

Rice, however, did not see it that way: She demanded that Israel honor its commitments regardless of whether the Palestinians were honoring theirs. Indeed, she continued pushing this issue up until Hamas kicked Fatah out of Gaza in June. As late as May, she was still promoting Dayton's "benchmark" plan, which called for starting Gaza-West Bank convoys on July 1, even though it required the PA to deploy a revamped security service in Gaza - i.e. one willing and able to fight Gaza-based terror - only by the end of 2007.

In other words, Rice thought Israel should enable convoys to the West Bank six months before PA forces were even in position to keep them from transporting rocket technology, much less demonstrably doing so. The message could not have been clearer: She considered rocket fire on Tel Aviv an acceptable price to pay for Palestinian freedom of movement.

TO HIS credit, Olmert resisted her on this issue. But now, in his desperation to demonstrate "progress" at Annapolis, he has pledged to dismantle Israel's entire security network in the West Bank merely on Dayton's and Rice's say-so. He has thereby created an impossible trap: Either Israel will indeed have to dismantle its security measures prematurely, leaving the country vulnerable to a new wave of suicide bombings, or it will have to mortally insult its closest ally by refusing to accept its decisions even after having promised to do so.

If that is the measure of Olmert's judgment in the pre-Annapolis talks, none of us should be sleeping well at night.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Save me and my nation from mindless do-gooders!

State Department pulls out all stops and plays the religious card in advance of Annapolis. (see 1 below.)

Sec. of State, Rice, met resistance when she stated that if enough State Department officers do not volunteer for the Iraq post she will have to order some officers to go. There were howls of protest from some quarters in the building at Foggy Bottom - what a great name for the Department's location.

In today's Wall Street Journal there are two op ed articles which pertain to different subjects and thus, seemingly have nothing in common, but they do. The first is about Hillary's flip flop support for New York's arrogant governor who believes it wise to issue legal drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. The thrust of the article is the threat such would have in creating increased voter fraud.

Do-gooders are in favor of the governor's actions because it gives entitlement to illegals and we citizens must be sensitive to the needs of illegals even if our most sacred right of voting is debased and threatened by voter fraud.

The second article is about the LAPD's efforts to enforce vagrancy laws and thereby clean up the city's crime and health related problems which are destroying neighborhoods. The LAPD have been embraced by the homeless because law enforcement has made their life saner, safer and better.

But these facts do not phase the do-gooders. They are challenging the LAPD in court because vagrancy enforcement, they claim, abridges the constitutional freedoms of street people to "crap" wherever they choose and for gangs to distribute their wares , ie dope etc.

Society needs do-gooders when they do good but most of the time their mindless focus on the needs of their constituents disregards the rights of other citizens and in the case of LA residents most assuredly so. These LA residents are simply trying to keep peace in their neighborhoods, prevent them from deteriorating while maintaining home values so they can live and conduct business in a safe and productive manner. But this is of no concern to do-gooders because they are on a holy and self-righteous mission.

It is one thing to be a voice of reason. It is yet another to be oblivious to the greater harm created by witless concepts which impose on others circumstances do- gooders never experience themselves.

Mitchell Bard has written a provocative book entitled:" Will Israel Survive." He acknowledges the greatest threat to Israel is an Arab nation with nuclear capability but concludes:
a) "...the fortitude of the Israeli people will allow them to overcome their adversaries for the next 60 years and beyond." and

b) Bard's confidence the relationship between the U.S. and Israel will persist is based upon "... the bedrock values and interests that the two nations share that gives me confidence the United Sates will remain Israel's staunchest ally."

Bard also pointed out to the reader that: "Israel might be the only country in the world whose right to exist is debated and whose future is questioned."

The problem is Bard seems not to offer much evidence to support his conviction other than the 5000 plus history of Jewish survival.

Did a U.S. drone kill a slew of Taliban in Pakistan? Would not seem likely while Admiral Fallon was meeting with Musharraf but then again it might have been launched specifically to let Musharraf know we mean business and territorial matters might not stop us from our goal. (See 2 below.)

al Qaeda is crumbling? According to Ray Robison it is but the media seems unwilling to report as much because to do so would bolster Bush and the Administration. (See 3 below.)

Has Russia and China had a change of heart and are they about to do an about face vis a vis more sanctions against Iran? (See 4 below.)

Barry Rubin see little possibility of any agreement between Palestinians and Israel as of the moment because of Palestinian rules of the game, which he enumerates. (See 5 below.)

Gerard Baker, like myself, believes the Republicans, not the Democrats can defeat Hillary. She is beatable because she is not a person Americans find likeable. She is as slick as her husband ever was but can't carry it off as well as "aw shucks Bill."(See 6 below.)

Dick


1)A group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish clerics based in Jerusalem invited for week-end trip to Washington to meet Bush


Our Middle East sources report the scheme was initiated by the State Department ahead of the forthcoming Annapolis peace conference in an effort to impart spiritual weight to the conference and so offset the empty chairs. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will back in the Middle East for a last-ditch effort to finalize a date and an agenda capable of drawing participants from the region, including the very reluctant Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The invitees include the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theolophilos III, the Latin Patriarch Dr. Michel Sabah, head of the Lutheran Church Bishop Mounib Younan, head of the Episcopal Church Rev. Suheil Dahana, the Armenian Patriarch Torkom II, Head of the Palestinian Sharia Courts,Sheikh Tasir Tamimi and Palestinian Minister of Endowments Sheikh Jamal Buwatani.

Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yonah Metzger and Bakshi Doron were also invited, but they have decided not to go because the trip is aimed at promoting a conference that will discuss renunciation of parts of the Land of Israel.

2)A suspected US missile strikes Taliban or al Qaeda hideout, killing 10 people, in Miran Shah, capital of Pakistan’s North Waziristan


Later, armed men surrounded the scene, 20 km from the Afghan border, and carried away the dead and wounded. al Qaeda makes it a rule to evacuate the dead and wounded so as not to disclose their identities, especially when a prominent operative is hit.

Witnesses reported seeing a drone flying in from the West before a big explosion.

Two foreigners, usually associated with al Qaeda in the tribal regions, were among the dead, according to locals. They said the house targeted was a training base for insurgents loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, leader of Pakistan-based Taliban terrorists who are blamed for suicide attacks which have killed 400 people since July.

The attack, denied by a US military spokesman, took place as U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William Fallon was in Pakistan to meet President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Suspected US missiles have struck extremist hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal regions in the past but were never acknowledged.

Muslim extremists have spread out of Pakistan’s tribal belt to the Swat Valley, beyond the North-West Frontier Province, where pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah is trying to impose strict Sharia law on formerly Buddhist villages. Friday, masked men paraded 48 men claimed to be Pakistan paramilitary troops who had surrendered in clashes after 2,500 troops were moved into the valley.

3) Al Qaeda's Taliban Troubles
By Ray Robison

The signs of al Qaeda's downward spiral are accumulating. If the media were as anxious to find signs of victory as signs of failure in our war with al Qaeda, the incipient crumbling of its support in South Asia would already be noted. But of course that would require giving credit to the Bush Administration's war policies.

Already beleaguered in Iraq, where tribal leaders have turned against it, al Qaeda faces a crumbling of its tribal alliances in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderland regions. New reporting reaffirms my belief that substantial portions of the Taliban, a tribal entity which is under the influence of the Maulana Fazlur Rahman, have turned against al Qaeda. To be sure, not every Taliban leader is going to turn, but a significant portion of them will.

The Maulana is already a target of al Qaeda, and he is working against them.

President Mushareef finally showed the will to act against the Maulana and his jihadists with a raid on a mosque a few months back, letting him know there is pressure. In addition, Mushareef is now sending forces -- which have been getting trounced by Taliban and tribal forces so far -- into tribal lands.

Enter back into the Pakistani political mix former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazeer Bhutto. She worked closely with the Maulana when she was PM. He was then and is still the political leader of the militant Islamic faction in Pakistan. Bhutto will help bring him back into the inner circle. Though he will not act by proclamation and his changes will be covert, he will affect the Taliban by internal political maneuvering within his jihad-centric political parties.

Al Qaeda has targeted the Maulana. Undoubtedly the U.S. is applying more than a little bit of pressure on him, and his former foreign sponsors Saddam and Qaddafi are no longer pumping millions to his jihad groups. The new Bhutto/Mushareef alliance leaves him divided from the military and democratic political interests of Pakistan. He is increasingly isolated.

But Bhutto also gives the Maulana an escape valve; a chance to earn a powerful ally. The Maulana is no fool and he sees the weakness of al Qaeda and the end of the current incarnation of its international jihad just around the corner. Already his vitriol against the United States has lessened.

He is positioning the Taliban to start making peace agreements.

Faced with the looming conflict with the Maulana, Al Qaeda is concentrating its forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times describes a new influx of foreign fighters into Pakistan and Afghanistan. As always, the Times spins the hollowest analysis to portray defeat for the United States. But there are some questions the Times didn't bother to ask or answer, beyond the usual "the U.S. made them do it" tripe anyway. Chiefly, "why are they coming to Afghanistan"?

As the Times notes, many of these new foreign fighters in Afghanistan are being placed in leadership positions within the Taliban, usually under newer, younger Taliban commanders. The article even notes that this is a somewhat "new" vs. "old" battle for Taliban leadership. The Times fails to realize the obvious, that these are al Qaeda fighters, and instead refers to them as new Taliban recruits. But the timing of this "new phenomenon" makes the reality self-evident.

These fighters were meant for Iraq but the core al Qaeda leadership has realized that the war there is lost. They are no longer sending the new recruits in large numbers. In the current environment, only small teams can go unmolested in the Iraqi lands al Qaeda used to control. Since al Qaeda can no longer send large numbers of fighters to Iraq and since their Taliban support base is slipping away at home they have one option left to them.

Al Qaeda is attempting a hostile takeover of the Taliban.

And that signals the end of al Qaeda in Pakistan/Afghanistan just as it did in Iraq when they tried to take over from local chieftains.

Other tribal leaders are also reported to be turning against AQ. The Telegraph reports:

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.

Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.

Military sources said British forces in the province are "observing with interest" the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq's western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa'eda allies.

Older Taliban commanders are flipping to our side. In response, al Qaeda is seeking out young leaders to take over with the support of al Qaeda fighters. Now we know that UBL's latest statement was about more than just the split of his jihadists in Iraq. It is about the coming crumbling of the Taliban in Southern Asia.

You can bet that Taliban commanders like Mullah Salaam would not be making deals if they didn't have the support of the major players in Pakistan, namely Maulana Fazlur Rahman. If this "new" vs. "old" stew with al Qaeda stirring the pot comes to a boil, the fighting will resemble the Iraqi sectarian fighting, except this time is will be all Taliban and al Qaeda fighters killing each other in an all out war. And here is the bad news for The New York Times. When that happens, we win.

In fact, al Qaeda is now engaging in a propaganda effort to conceal its' Achilles heal of fractionalization. The Times of India is now reporting that a significant Taliban leader has just released a rare video reaffirming his commitment to al Qaeda:

A top Taliban commander has said his group maintains good relations and military cooperation with the Al-Qaida insurgents not only in Afghanistan but in Iraq as well.

"We have good and strong relations with Al-Qaida mujahideen in Iraq, provide them with our expertise and share with them military information," Taliban southern commander Dadullah Mansoor on Wednesday said in a video produced by Al-Qaida's media production wing, as-Sahab .

How very interesting that al Qaeda is so concerned about the jihadist split that it is running videos from sympathetic Taliban commanders to refute it.

Hold on to your seats, things are about to get messy in South Asia. A war is shaping up between New Taliban backed by al Qaeda on one side and Old Taliban backed by Fazlur Rahman/Mushareef/Bhutto on the other side. The first shot came with the bombing of Bhutto's motorcade, which killed over a hundred.

When these murders are fully targeting on each other instead of innocents they will kill thousands of their own fighters.

4) Russia, China fall in line with Security Council on nuclear Iran


The five permanent members of the UN Security Council agreed Friday to move toward a third set of sanctions if Iran fails to answer key questions on its nuclear program, the British Foreign Office said.

The Foreign Office said diplomats from the US, Russia, China, Britain and France agreed, along with Germany, to come up with a new sanctions resolution with the aim of voting on it if November reports by the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency do not show improved Iranian cooperation.

Russia and China did not comment, and the agreement seemed at odds with weeks of public opposition, primarily by the Kremlin, to new sanctions against Iran.

Still, a senior diplomat from one of the six nations meeting in London suggested Russia's statements on the issue were not necessarily a reflection of its "determination, along with the other five (countries) to prevent an Iran armed with nuclear weapons." He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.

A senior Security Council diplomat at UN headquarters in New York said the five permanent members have not yet agreed on sanctions to be included in the new resolution. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions are continuing.

Friday's agreement seemed to reflect earlier consensus among the six about the possibility of new sanctions.

Iran has repeatedly said it would not freeze enrichment and IAEA officials have privately said Teheran is expanding the program.

The diplomats who met in London on Friday will hold talks again on Nov. 19 to assess the pending reports, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

He said the Security Council members and Germany had agreed to "finalize a text for a third UN Security Council Sanctions resolution with the intention of bringing it to a vote in the UN Security Council unless the November reports of Dr. Solana and Dr. ElBaradei show a positive outcome of the efforts."

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns had urged China and Russia to support harsher UN sanctions, saying the two nations were key to a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

"The US believes very strongly there is a need to accelerate the diplomacy, to strengthen the sanctions," Burns told The Associated Press.

"We want a diplomatic solution, we do not want to give up on diplomacy, but we need the help of the P5 (permanent Security Council member) countries to do that, particularly the support of Russia and China."

Britain and France have backed the US call for a resolution on a third round of UN Security Council sanctions if Iran continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment.

Burns said the US believes China has increased trade with Iran in the last six months, sending the wrong signal about the international community's attitude toward the nuclear program.

Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Friday in Teheran that talks between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog were making progress and he warned the US to avoid resorting to threats.

Burns said participants at Friday's meeting in London did not discuss an offer from Saudi officials to create a Middle East consortium of users of enriched uranium.

The proposal by the Arab nations around the Persian Gulf is to build a uranium enrichment plant in a neutral country to supply the region's states, including Iran, with reactor fuel for nuclear energy programs.

Burns said Washington would look carefully at the offer, but stressed a similar proposal from Russia - to host Iran's uranium enrichment facilities on its territory to allay Western concerns about monitoring - had been ignored.

5) The rules of Palestinian politics ...
By Barry Rubin

Several Fatah security force officers assigned to protect Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he went to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas, it has just been revealed, planned to assassinate him instead. This event should be amazing enough to get people to rethink their premises. After all, it is late 2007, with a supposedly moderate leadership running the PA and Fatah, and this kind of thing is still happening.


It should be emphasized that the would-be assassins were Fatah, not Hamas, and that they were quickly released by PA authorities before outside pressure forced their re-arrest. (Prediction: they will be freed soon with little or no international media coverage.)


But this is merely the same basic pattern as happened with the assassins of Israeli government minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001 or the gunmen who seized the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002: international indifference, a show of PA law enforcement, and terrorists go free. Not to mention thousands of other attacks when the PA had a chance to teach its own people about the politically counterproductive — not to mention immoral and divisive--nature of terrorism.


The PA has never really punished anyone for murdering or trying to kill an Israeli or for attacking Israel. Occasionally, in the 1990s, there were convictions but only on charges of damaging the Palestinian cause which meant attacking at an embarrassing time. Even those prisoners were quickly released.


Remember that the conspirators, if successful, would have tremendously damaged the PA and Fatah before an international summit meeting from which Palestinians hoped to benefit. If they'd actually started shooting, much less killed or wounded Olmert, the PA, Fatah, and the Palestinian cause would have been so discredited that it would take years before they were offered a state or lavish Western aid again.


Consequently, based on his own interests, Abbas should have them shot, which is what the PA does to people it deems traitors. But they probably won't even get community service in the end.


Why? Because of the rules of Palestinian politics which are absolutely fatal to the hope of getting a Palestinian state, becoming more moderate, ending terrorism, or stopping even officially sponsored PA incitement to commit terrorism. Palestinians know these rules well though outsiders seem largely unaware of them. Exceptions can be found but few and since these are considered shameful they go unpublicized and thus form no precedent for changing the rules, which are:


1. Palestinians cannot stop other Palestinians from attacking Israel. To do so would be betraying the cause, becoming Israel's lackey. This applies even if the Israelis are bringing in supplies or providing jobs to Palestinians, or if the attack damages Palestinian interests. If the victims are schoolchildren or shoppers or people riding on a bus, of course, is irrelevant in this world view.

2. He who is most militant is always right. Extremism equals heroism. This is one reason why Fatah has such a difficult time competing with Hamas. It cannot denounce these rivals for being too hardline and intransigent. Suicide bombers along with those who incite and manage them are role models, not misled individuals, much less evil ones.

3. More violence is good and a victory if it inflicts casualties or damage on Israel. Other than ritual denunciations for the foreign media, these are matters for pride, with the implication being that they advance the cause rather than sabotage it.

4. No Israeli government can do anything good. Thus, Olmert is no better than anyone else even as he withdraws from the Gaza Strip, offers to accept a Palestinian state, and is ready to give up east Jerusalem. Some Palestinian leaders can talk privately to Israeli counterparts about cooperation and even their dream of peace but don't tell this to their own people.

5. Since Palestinians are the perpetual victim they are entitled to everything they want and never need to give anything in exchange for Israeli concessions. Thus, the preferred PA diplomatic option is that Israel withdraws from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, recognizes an independent Palestinian state, releases all Palestinian prisoners, and then talks can begin. (Note: I thought of this as a satire but a high-ranking Syrian official just proposed the equivalent on that front.)

6. No Palestinian should be imprisoned for attacks on Israel one minute longer than required by international public relations' needs. After all, if they are doing heroic deeds against an evil enemy — even by murdering civilians on purpose — why should they be punished?

7. Fatah won't discipline or expel anyone for launching attacks.

8. Wiping Israel off the map is morally correct. If anyone says anything different they will be scared or ashamed, justifying their lapse as a temporary tactical measure or way to fool enemies.

9. While pretending to be nationalist, the movement sets as top priority the so-called "right of return," the demand that all Palestinian refugees or their descendents — several million people — must be allowed to live in Israel. It is better not to get a state than to give up this demand. Even though having many Palestinians go live in Israel would make Palestine weaker and poorer it is better to focus on destroying Israel from within.

10. It is more important to be steadfast and patient with a terrible status quo than to make big gains by ending the conflict forever. To do so would give up future Palestinians' chance to seek total victory. Their right to all of the land cannot be given away.

11. No speeches, no foreign aid, and no international plans or meetings have altered these basic rules. Palestinian leaders may sincerely voice their dismay with this problem privately but won't fight to smash them. If they ever really do change we'll know. But until then, these are the reasons why the Palestinian side cannot and will not reach for peace or keep existing commitments very well. Even if a handful of top Palestinians want to reach agreement with Israel, they cannot — and even worse, dare not — violate these commandments.

6) Hillary's choice: be a bully or delicate flower Mrs Clinton's opponents haven't a clue how to take on a woman
By Gerard Baker

There's an essential paradox about successful women in politics that we flat-footed men have never really grasped.

To succeed in anything, but especially in the cold brutality of politics, you have to be hard as nails, ruthless, willing to win at all costs. Life and love have taught us that these are qualities we associate mostly with the selfish, hardened, ambitious male.

But the few women who do possess these traits are unusually blessed. They are after all, still female, and as such have, or at least are deemed to have also those feminine qualities that speak to a different kind of leadership - maternal solicitude, selflessness, enduring loyalty.

I pondered this chromosomal dimension to political competition as I watched the latest American presidential debate.
Background

* Rats scrabble to take over sinking ship

* Hillary Clinton, new pin-up of the Republican right

* Who can stop President Clinton II?

* Remarkable death of Dixie America

The campaign for the Democratic nomination entered a new phase this week. Lagging Hillary Clinton ever farther in the opinion polls with only two months until the first votes are cast, her increasingly desperate rivals have decided to go on the attack.

Instead of politely setting out an alternative that nobody seems to want, they have chosen to come at her with pitchforks and steak knives. At the debate in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, they went for the jugular and it wasn't an edifying spectacle.

There stood Mrs Clinton, the little woman, caught like a frightened doe between her two principal rivals. The shameless John Edwards pounded her repeatedly over her tough foreign policy stance and her dishonesty. Barack Obama, the more reluctant pugilist, landed softer jabs, still designed to tenderise her. From the wings, the also-rans - all male - threw a few lusty punches.

Needless to say, the Clinton campaign seized on the opportunity that the spectacle presented. They issued a video after the debate that emphasised the narrative - Little Woman Waylaid by Big Bullies.

It was pure Clinton. Having spent a lifetime insisting that women should be treated exactly the same as men, Mrs Clinton has been quite brilliant at exploiting her femininity.

She campaigned for years for the rights of women to stand up to abusive men, and then defended her husband as he treated vulnerable female employees as playthings for his own sexual gratification. Better still, she exploited her own status as the helpless, wronged wife of a multiple philanderer to launch her campaign for the Senate from the humiliating ashes of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

In that campaign, the most telling moment came in a debate with her Republican rival, Rick Lazio. The witless Mr Lazio had happened upon a brilliant wheeze to challenge Mrs Clinton directly over some issue by striding towards her podium and insisting that she sign some piece of paper. As Mrs Clinton visibly flinched, the election was clinched. Who wants to vote for a man who would treat a woman like that?

Now she's under attack from a whole gang of men, and tactically speaking it's a no-lose situation for her. If her opponents play tough, she can shrink and look like the intimidated woman beset by brutal men. If they treat her with kid gloves - all gallant forbearance and courtly deference - she can open up a can of whoop-ass on them as eagerly as a dockside bully.

Mrs Clinton, of course, is not the first woman to spot the possibilities of this duality. Elizabeth I, when she wasn't putting Spaniards to the sword overseas or lopping off the heads of Catholics at home, softly reminded her courtiers that she had the body of a weak and feeble woman. Margaret Thatcher could beguile any opponent with her feminine wiles even as she demonstrated repeatedly that she was the proud owner of the largest pair of steel balls in the Cabinet.

All this merely emphasizes again her rivals cannot really defeat her. Only Mrs Clinton can. And it is also why the most revealing moment of the debate was a self-inflicted wound.

Asked whether she stood by an earlier remark that she supported a plan by the Governor of New York to give driving licenses to illegal immigrants, she said, essentially, of course she did. But when one of her opponents said he didn't agree - that driving licenses were a privilege that ought not to be extended to people who were here illegally, Mrs Clinton backtracked furiously.

It was a startling moment - a rare blunder and an insight into the candidate's fundamental weakness - a powerful impression that she will say and do anything to get elected, even if it means contradicting herself in consecutive sentences. It was a reminder, too, that for all the advantages she and the Democrats possess, both remain deeply vulnerable.

It's been tempting to write off the Republicans, but history suggests that it would be unwise. They have proved remarkably good at winning elections. Since the Republican party was founded in the middle of the 19th century there have been 39 presidential elections. In 23 of those the winning candidate secured a majority of the popular vote. Of those majority winners, 17 were Republicans – beginning with Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and ending with George Bush in 2004 (there's a pair of bookends for you). Only six of those elections were won by Democrats and, get this, four of those winners were Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

So in 150 years, only three Democrats have been elected to the presidency with the support of a majority of voters — FDR, Lyndon Johnson (by a landslide in 1964) and Jimmy Carter (he scraped home with 50.1 per cent in 1976). Now, to be fair, there have been sometimes been special circumstances - Bill Clinton surely would have won a majority in 1996 had it not been for the late entry of the quixotic Ross Perot as a third-party candidate.

But the numbers are so stark that they suggest something quite enduring. The Republicans have been brilliant at assembling winning coalitions over the years — social conservatives, business interests, libertarians, national security hawks. And it is still true that Americans are, deep down, rather conservative.

For most of the past 150 years the Republican message of free markets, traditional values and a strong defence has seen off a steady succession of ambitious Democratic men. Who's to say it won't do the same for a Democratic woman?