Airstrikes in Syria
We felt, as we suspect most Americans did, a surge of satisfaction at President Obama’s decision to take strong military action against an organization as manifestly evil and dangerous as ISIS. As The Wall Street Journal put it, “The initial bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Syria Monday night mark a welcome offensive that takes the war to the terrorists who beheaded two Americans and threaten U.S. interests in the Middle East and security at home.” The New York Times, on the other hand, saw it as a “bad decision,”criticizing the President for proceeding “without allowing the public debate that needs to take place before this nation enters another costly and potentially lengthy conflict in the Middle East.
A period of relative calm had pushed Ukraine out of the center of media and public attention for a brief time when President Petro Poroshenko addressed Congress on September 18. It is, however, a situation that we dare not lose sight of for very long. President Poroshenko gave an eloquent speech that drew several standing ovations. He may be Ukraine’s most important single asset: a leader of vision, courage and pragmatism. While it is doubtful that Ukraine will receive the weaponry that he seeks, Poroshenko gave the impression that he will find a way for Ukraine to survive. Continue reading
Back on July 30, we posted Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis. In that post we observed that on June 13 President Obama had belatedly acknowledged for the first time the existence of an threat by ISIS that demanded his attention. The action he had announced, however, was conspicuously limited—dispatching 300 military advisers to assess the situation—and he insisted the problem was a regional one posing a threat to “American interests” that was at most remote and contingent. For our part, we quoted current and former government officials who saw a far more serious and immediate danger to the United States, and we urged Republicans “ to press for the articulation of some coherent and realistic strategy” to meet that danger. Continue reading
For several weeks of August, the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri received massive coverage from the media, nationally and internationally. Although the actions of Brown and Wilson took only a few moments, they exposed long-standing racial tensions that are found not only in Ferguson but in cities around the country. For the moment, relative calm has returned to Ferguson and the city has moved out of the media spotlight. While both of those conditions may change, this may be a time to take stock of what we know and don’t know and to consider the implications of Ferguson for other cities. Continue reading
As regular followers of RINOcracy.com know, our interest sometimes extends to matters beyond the world of politics. One such matter is the current state of top-level college athletics, recently a subject of increasing controversy. We invited a guest blog from an old friend, Roger M. Williams, who has closely followed college athletics while pursuing his long career as journalist, author and editor. He responded with an essay that we think you will find both interesting and thought- provoking.
* * * *
Real Reform in College Sports
By Roger M. Williams
It’s a contentious time in “Bigtime” college sports, with the spotlight at last shining steadily on a hypocritical and broken system. Never before has the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which controls the system, been under such pressure to reform. Continue reading
One does not have to be Republican—RINO or otherwise—to be critical of President Obama’s foreign policy. It would be sufficient to be a member of what some have described as the “Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.” In an interview in The Atlantic, Ms. Clinton made an observation that would be widely quoted: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” The reference to not doing stupid “stuff” was immediately recognized as a quote that White House aides had attributed, in a somewhat saltier version, to President Obama. Continue reading
We will soon post, as promised, Parts II and III of Blog No. 43 with our thoughts on Afghanistan and Ukraine (and perhaps even a few more on ISIS). Meanwhile, however, the recent activities (and inactivities) of Congress seemed to demand some comment before they are entirely forgotten. When Congress skipped town for its August recess (some things, after all, are sacred), it did so in considerable disarray. Most notable, of course, was the failure to address the problems created by the influx of unaccompanied children at our border with Mexico. But there was no shortage of other issues left unattended. An article in The New York Times noted a few:
The immigration system is still in crisis. Companies are renouncing their American citizenship over tax breaks. The Highway Trust Fund is running on empty as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles, and entitlement programs are creaking under the weight of an aging population.
Given its performance, it is not surprising that public opinion of Congress could hardly be worse. While Obama’s numbers are at an all time low, Congress’s are far lower. According to a recent NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll only 14 percent approve of the job Congress is doing – the seventh-straight NBC/WSJ poll dating back to 2011 when this rating has been below 15 percent. In addition, “A whopping 79 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the U.S. political system, including nearly half who are very dissatisfied. The words of Yeats’s “Second Coming,” written in 1919, seem to resonate once again… “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold….The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” And Congress itself perhaps, is Yeats’s rough beast, slouching not towards Bethlehem but November. Continue reading
In Blog 43, Part I, we discussed the ISIS Crisis and the President’s apparent failure to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and to disclose to the public his plan for responding to it. On August 7, nearly eight weeks after his initial statement on ISIS (or ISIL as the President prefers), events forced the President to break his silence and to announce, with visible reluctance, that he had authorized limited military action. Unfortunately, however, his August 7 statement, and amplifications over the two following days, gave little indication that he has yet grasped (or is willing to admit) the extent of the threat that ISIS poses not only to Iraq, and to Americans in that country but to the United States homeland. Continue reading
I knew Jim Brady before he was famous. Just forty years ago, we were both working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (where I had sought refuge after concluding that I was no longer comfortable serving in the White House Counsel’s office). Jim held the number two position in Public Affairs and was located across the hall from my office as Deputy General Counsel. Continue reading
As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, much has been written about President Obama’s approach to foreign policy and what appears to many, both here and abroad, to have been a projection of weakness. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy—reliance on allies with minimal direct intervention by the United States—is just that, an approach. In the abstract, there is something to be said for Obama’s approach (just as there was to the approach George W. Bush’s in the 2000 campaign when he promised humility in a foreign policy unburdened by nation building.) But an approach to policy is not a policy itself, much less a strategy (a plan to achieve specific goals), and it must be flexible enough to respond to changing threats. Does Obama’s approach have that flexibility? Back on March 16, David Sanger wrote a perceptive analysis in The New York Times, “Global Crises Put Obama’s Strategy of Caution to the Test.” Since that time, as the crises have grown more urgent, the tests have only gotten tougher and it is far from clear that Obama’s “strategy” (more accurately, approach or instinct) is passing them.
At the moment, events in Ukraine have forced the President into engagement and leadership. Considerably aided by the tragic downing of the Malaysian airliner with its many Dutch passengers, he has been successful in persuading European countries to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia than many had thought possible. Nevertheless, effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be seen, and the extent of the Europeans’ commitment, the President’s–and ours–remains uncertain. Equally uncertain are the outlines of an overall strategy for Ukraine and more broadly, Europe. What will Europe and the United States do if the sanctions fail to have the desired result or, worse yet, if Russia takes even more aggressive actions. Is providing Ukraine with arms and other military support a good idea or bad idea? If Putin persists in his apparent attempt to revise the post Cold War map of Europe, do the EU and NATO have the resources and the will to resist? These and related questions will be addressed in a subsequent post, but here we will focus on a crisis that, for the moment, has lost prime attention from the media: ISIS.