Week in ReviewNoteworthy news and opinion items from the week ending April 24, 2011

  1. The Syrian Rebels’ Efforts and America’s Self-Interest
  2. Will Libya be Obama’s Vietnam?
  3. Phantom Federal Budget “Cuts”
  4. Peter Schiff: S&P Late to The Party . . . Once Again
  5. The United Nations “Climate Refugee” Prediction . . . D’oh!

1. The Syrian Rebels’ Efforts and America’s Self-Interest

The fall of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria would substantially weaken the regime in Iran—which has long relied on Assad’s regime as a means to provide Hamas and Hezbollah with weapons and aid—and this would certainly be in America’s and Israel’s best interest. An AP report touching on some of the relevant facts begins:

When Syria's president visited Iran late last year, he received a heroes' medal and spoke about unbreakable bonds in a ceremony broadcast on national television.

Now, a nervous leadership in Iran has imposed a media blackout on Bashar Assad's struggle against a swelling Syrian uprising and Tehran faces the unsettling prospect of losing its most stalwart ally in the region.

The Islamic Republic managed to choke off its homegrown "Green Revolution" after the disputed June 2009 presidential election. But now it is being dragged into the uprisings sweeping across the Middle East and stirring unrest in Syria, and unfriendly neighbor Bahrain.

On the deadliest day of the Syrian rebellion Friday—when more than 100 people were killed by authorities—President Barack Obama accused Assad of seeking Iranian help to use "the same brutal tactics" unleashed against demonstrators almost two years ago.

For Iran, its ties with Syria represent far more than just a rare friend in a region dominated by Arab suspicions of Tehran's aims. Syria is Iran's great enabler: a conduit for aid to powerful anti-Israel proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Should Assad's regime fall, it could rob Iran of a loyal Arab partner in a region profoundly realigned by uprisings demanding more freedom and democracy. . . .

Read the AP report here.

The good news is that Syrian rebels are working to bring about regime change. The bad news is that, while Assad’s thugs are slaughtering the rebels (more than 200 in the last few weeks), the Obama administration can’t muster enough pro-freedom or pro-American sentiment to morally condemn the regime or encourage the rebels. In response to the Friday massacre, White House spokesman Jay Carney said,

We call on the Syrian government to cease and desist from the use of violence against peaceful protestors; call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence; and also call on the Syrian government to follow through on its promises and take action towards the kind of concrete reform that they promised.

If that tough talk didn’t discourage the regime or encourage the rebels, perhaps a statement directly from the president would. And, as Yahoo reports, Obama was even more “firm.”

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now. . . . We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people. . . . [We denounce these] outrageous human rights abuses. . . . Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies.

We strongly oppose the Syrian government's treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups.

How ever will Assad and his murderous thugs regain their composure?

Read the whole Yahoo piece here.

Granted, we have no idea how rational or pro-freedom the rebel forces in Syria are, but the Assad regime is as anti-America and anti-Israeli as a regime can get, so whether or not the U.S. should morally support the effort to remove him is practically self-evident—unless one’s goal is not to protect America’s interests. Unfortunately, as Caroline Glick explains in Obama’s Altruistic Foreign Policy, this administration’s goal is explicitly not to protect America’s interests. Glick writes that Obama’s senior national security advisor Samantha Power

and her colleagues find concerns about US national interests parochial at best and immoral at worst. Her clear aim—and that of her boss—has been to separate US foreign policy from US interests by tethering it to transnational organizations like the UN.

Given the administration's contempt for policy based on US national interests, it would be too much to expect the White House to notice that Syria's Assad regime is one of the greatest state supporters of terrorism in the world and that its overthrow would be a body blow to Iran, Venezuela, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaida and therefore a boon for US national security.

Read Glick’s article here.

2. Will Libya be Obama’s Vietnam?

Steve Chapman describes the dismal state of Obama’s war/non-war in Libya, and sums up the situation by quoting President Lyndon Johnson “as he pondered Vietnam in March of 1965, before the big U.S. buildup: ‘I can't get out. I can't finish it with what I've got. So what the hell can I do?’” (What was it that Napoleon said about never getting into such a situation?) Chapman’s piece begins:

Is it too early to declare our intervention in Libya a failure?

More than a month after we started bombing, the insurgency has suffered a string of defeats. The government in Tripoli suddenly looks as permanent as the Sahara.

The U.S., after handing off the combat responsibilities to other countries, got

pulled back in last week to launch drone attacks. Britain and France are sending military advisers to try to turn the rebels into a semblance of a real army.

These forces are not only poorly trained and badly led but grossly outgunned. As a New York Times reporter on the scene noted Thursday, "Taken together, the rebels' mismatched arsenal and their inexperience and lack of discipline have made achieving the revolution's military goal extraordinarily hard." If not a failure, this effort is certainly not a success.

The NATO campaign may have accomplished its simplest goal: keeping Moammar Gadhafi's forces from capturing the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. President Barack Obama, on the basis of scant evidence, claimed that was necessary to prevent a bloodbath.

But any innocent lives saved in Benghazi may be lost elsewhere as the war settles into a bloody stalemate. Already, hundreds of civilians have been killed in the siege of Misrata, a city of 300,000, and the fight is not over.

The Obama administration imagined that a taste of the lash would put Gadhafi in his place. Either he would stop his attacks, or he would be forced from power, or both. But neither has happened, and neither is about to. Some insiders even worry that he will soon be able to launch a new offensive to take Benghazi. . . .

Read the whole thing here.

3. Phantom Federal Budget “Cuts”

In his latest Forbes column, Richard Salsman considers our politicians’ M.O. in regard to spending cuts, and focuses on both President Obama’s and Rep. Paul Ryan’s plans for the continuing redistribution of our wealth. The article begins:

When financially hard-pressed Americans and firms work diligently to cut spending so as to bolster their solvency, they know the word “cut” had better mean “decrease”—and certainly not its opposite (“increase”)—or they’ll fail to be fiscally prudent. But that’s not the way of it in Washington, where public officials and the breathless media shills claim incessantly that there’ll be a “cut” in spending, when in fact what they mean is: an increase, but at a slightly lesser rate than initially intended (under some previous “baseline” growth rate)

In watching this sleight-of-hand, imagine you’re Alice in Wonderland, hearing Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” If, like Alice, you ask how a word can mean “so many different things,” you’ll hear this: “The question is—Which is to be master? That’s all.”

Indeed, the crucial political question of our day is “which is to be master,” and we, who deserve to be free citizens in a constitutionally-limited Republic, face masters in government, not only when officials presume it is valid to take and squander our wealth, but also to mislead us about their ways and means of doing so. . . .

Read the whole thing here.

If you’d like to draw a little laughter out of this sad situation, Holman Jenkins has penned a parody in which Obama mocks Ryan’s plan from the perspective of how helpful it is toward Obama’s statist goal. Obama-Ryan Plan: A Progress Report begins:

Good week! We're getting closer to the goal! I went to GWU and denounced the Paul Ryan plan as a radical Republican plan. You should have heard the howls!

The GOP should put me on the payroll—the tea partiers and their congressmen were rushing to support a proposal that remakes (one more time!) the Republican peace with the welfare state! The Ryan plan got 193 votes in the House by the time I finished selling it. Hoo boy, I amaze myself more than ever—and that's saying something, since I've written two autobiographies to describe how amazing I am to myself!

A radical Republican plan would replace Medicare and Social Security (which Ryan barely mentions) with personal accounts. This is what radical Republicans have wanted for decades—turning a pay-as-you-go welfare state into one based on real savings, real investment and pro-growth incentives.

Ryan is not radical. Ryan gives us "premium support"—which, when you think about it, is a "New Democrat" idea, promoted by Bill Clinton's Medicare commission, though poor Bill was too tangled up in Monica to do much about it. Premium support makes pay-as-you-go Medicare permanent.

In my speech, I pretended the Ryan plan was a scheme to throw seniors to the wolves because Medicare would no longer cover everything. I still chuckle when I think about it. In case you haven't noticed, Medicare today doesn't cover everything! Why do you think seniors buy MediGap insurance? . . .

Read the whole parody here.

4. Peter Schiff: S&P Late to The Party . . . Once Again

On April 18, Standard & Poor’s released this gem: “Because the U.S. has, relative to its 'AAA' peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable.” Peter Schiff replied with this one:

The only thing more ridiculous than S&P’s too little too late semi-downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt was the market’s severe reaction to the announcement. Has S&P really added anything to the debate that wasn’t already widely known? In any event, S&P’s statement amounts to a wakeup call to anyone who has somehow managed to sleepwalk through the unprecedented debt explosion of the last few years.

Given S&P’s concerns that Congress will fail to address its long-term fiscal problems, on what basis can it conclude that the U.S. deserves its AAA credit rating? The highest possible rating should be reserved for fiscally responsible nations where the fiscal outlook is crystal clear. If S&P has genuine concerns that the U.S. will not deal with its out of control deficits, the AAA rating should be reduced right now.

By its own admission, S&P is unsure whether Congress will take the necessary steps to get America’s fiscal house in order. Given that uncertainty, it should immediately reduce its rating on U.S. sovereign debt several notches below AAA. Then if the U.S. does get its fiscal house in order, the AAA rating could be restored. If on the other hand, the situation deteriorates, additional downgrades would be in order.

AAA is the highest rating S&P can give. It is the Wall Street equivalent to a “strong buy.” If a stock analyst has serious concerns that a company may go bankrupt, would he maintain a “strong buy” on the assumption that there was still a possibility that bankruptcy could be averted? If the company declared bankruptcy, would the analyst reduce his rating from “strong buy” to “accumulate”? . . .

Read Schiff’s whole article here.

5. The United Nations “Climate Refugee” Prediction . . . D’oh!

Because the United Nations is nothing if not an irrational organization, one should not be surprised when its predictions about the climate, “global warming,” and the like turn out to have no correspondence to reality. Nevertheless, in the battle against irrationality it is helpful to see the facts and numbers surrounding the enemy’s various Big Lies, and in regard to this one, Patrick Michaels delivers the goods.

It’s now one year past the date by which, according to the UN, “global warming” was going to have created 50 million “climate refugees.” Michaels explains why the UN’s prediction was a tad off:

When will our greener friends at the UN learn that it’s just not a good idea to make definite predictions about certain disasters?

This time they have been called out on their 2005 prediction that by now there would be 50 million “climate refugees”—people choosing to emigrate because of bad weather. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) even came up with a global map showing precisely where people would migrate from.

Pretty much every forecast about climate change or its effects should be viewed as a hypothesis rather than a fact. After all, as Firesign Theater once noted, “the future’s not here yet”. But the UN named a specific year (2010) which allows for an actual test of their prediction.

Census takers around the world have inadvertently adjudicated the UN’s forecast. It was dead wrong. Pretty much every recent census reveals that populations are growing rapidly precisely where everyone was supposed to be migrating from. . . .

Folks were supposed to be streaming away from low-lying tropical islands because of worse and more frequent hurricanes. The population of the Bahamas, which catches about as many tropical cyclones as any place on earth, is up 14% since 2000. The Solomons, up 20%. Sychelles: 9%.

Did I mention that global hurricane activity has recently sunk to its all time measured low, despite the UN’s strident statements about more frequent and terrible storms? (Note that the hurricane data is only reliable for the last fifty years or so, hence the word “measured”.)

Is this exaggeration of an affect of climate change by the UN an isolated incident? Hardly. Recent history reveals the UN to be a systematic engine of climate disinformation. . . .

Read Michaels’s whole piece here.

Unsurprisingly, rather than admit it was in error, the UN has attempted to disown its absurd prediction by deleting the damning data from the internet. As Anthony Watts writes:

[G]overnment idiocy at its finest. Not only is the original claim bogus, the attempts to disappear it are hilariously inept. Apparently, they’ve never heard of Google Cache at the UN. Rather than simply saying “we were wrong,” they’ve now brought even more distrust onto the UN. . . .

Fear not, dear readers, because as astoundingly smart as those UN people think they are, they forgot one very important yet tiny detail. The map links to a hi-resolution version of the “climate refugee map,” and if you delete the page above and the map it contains, you also have to delete the hi-res image it links to.


I’m always happy to help the UN in times of “need,” so I’ve recovered it and saved it. . . .

Read Watts’ piece and see the UN maps here.

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We hope you enjoyed this edition of TOS’s Week in Review. Feel free to forward the link to others who might enjoy it as well.

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