David Friedman on Libertarians vs. Big Government Republicans

Jonah Goldberg had an essay in December in which he dismissed the idea of a liberal and libertarian alliance and instead call for libertarians and conservatives to recommit themselves to the fusionist project” even if they need counseling. David Friedman, who has suggested areas of common ground between libertarians and liberals in the past disagrees. He dismisses the idea of libertarians remaining alligned with Republicans noting, “Since Republicans at the moment support more government—more even than Democrats as of the last time they were in power—it is worth looking for other allies.”

Thanks to Bush We Are At Increased Risk of Terrorist Attack

Newsweek reports on assessments that we are at an increased risk of terrorist attacks, with resentment against the United States for Iraq being a major factor (emphasis mine):

Intel director John Negroponte gave Congress a sobering assessment last week of the continued threats from groups like Al Qaeda and Hizbullah. But even gloomier comments came from Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator. An ex-CIA operative, Crumpton told NEWSWEEK that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. “Certainly, we haven’t made any progress,” said Crumpton. “In fact, we’ve lost ground.” He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States. 

Crumpton noted some successes, such as improved joint efforts with foreign governments and a weakening of Al Qaeda’s leadership structure. But he warned of future attacks. “We don’t want to acknowledge we’re going to get hit again in the homeland, but we are,” he said. “That’s a hard, ugly fact. But it’s going to happen.” Crumpton cited no specific intel, but said the most worrisome scenarios involve lone operatives who slip into the country and take directions through cyberspace. “How do you penetrate that?” he asked. Citing family financial pressures, Crumpton leaves office in two weeks. A State official, anonymous when discussing personnel matters, said no one has been nominated to replace him, so it could be a while before the post—a top counterterror job—is filled.

So much for the absurd claim that we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we don’t have to fight them here. In reality, there are far more terrorists to fight due to Iraq, not to mention increased risks from Iran and North Korea.

Hagel Explains Reality of Iraq to Lieberman


I’ve been reluctant to go along with those who wanted to throw Joe Lieberman out of the party as it is worth putting up with him if this is the cost we must pay to have the Democrats in control of the Senate. Maybe we can arrange a swap. While I disagree with Chuck Hagel on most positions, he has two virtues that Lieberman lacks–an accurate view of the Iraq war and integrity.

Today on Meet the Press  Lieberman fell back on 9/11 hysteria to justify the war saying, “we’ve been working in the larger context of the war on terrorism, the war against the Islamic radicals who attacked us on 9/11.” He went on to claim “ultimately, there are two exit strategies.  One is called victory; the other is called defeat.” It took Republican Chuck Hagel to set the record straight:

First, as I said before, I am not, nor any member of Congress that I’m aware of, Tim, is advocating defeat.  That’s ridiculous, and I’m offended that any responsible member of Congress or anyone else would even suggest such a thing.  Senator Lieberman talks about his children and grandchildren.  We all have children and grandchildren.  He doesn’t have a market on that, nor do any of my colleagues.  We’re all concerned about the future of this country.  But we have an honest disagreement here, and that’s what democracies are about.

Now, the fact is we can talk all we want, and we can go to all the specialists in the world, the fact is, the Iraqi people will determine the fate of Iraq.  The people of the Middle East will determine their fate.  Now, when we continue to interject ourselves in a situation that we never have understood, we’ve never comprehended, and I think after four years it’s becoming quite clear of that, that tells us something very, very clearly.  And we now have to devise a way to find some political consensus with our allies, especially the people in the Middle East, that is going to require to find a political framework for some progress with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  It’s going to require listening to our allies in the Middle East.

You know, Tim, I hear this talk about generals and military involvement.  The two top American generals in Iraq in November and December, the last 60 days, both in open testimony and interviews took exactly the opposite approach of what President Bush was talking about on Wednesday night.  Now, someone is, is not listening here.  There is a major disconnect.  And we talk about the future for our country.  The future of the Middle East as a region is in play now at a very, very defining time.  That’s what we should be thinking about.  We need to get out of the bog of where we are of tactical thinking.  Of course 50,000 troops in Baghdad are not going to turn that around.  That is a tribal sectarian civil war, and we need to do everything we can with some smart thinking.

Let’s just take one thing.  Why not take American troops, put them on the border?  I hear a lot from this administration about this border being porous, all the terrorists leaking in there.  The terrorist problem isn’t the biggest problem today in, in Iraq.  Are terrorists there?  Yes.  It is Iraqis killing Iraqis, Tim.  It’s Shias killing Shias.  That’s the biggest problem, that’s not going to be solved by the American military.

Video available at Crooks and Liars.

Doonesbury on Republican Science


US Policies Have Made Israel Less Safe–Better For Israel For US To Get Out of Iraq

I’ve often written that Bush’s policies have made us less safe. Now many in Israel are coming to the same conclusion:

After years of supporting the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East, a growing number of Israelis are openly criticizing the United States for creating more, not less, danger for Israel.

Israeli experts contend that American policies have destabilized Iraq, emboldened anti-Western forces from Iran to Lebanon and paved the way for militant Islamists to gain control of the Palestinian Authority.

“The threats to Middle East security and stability worsened in 2006,” experts at Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies recently warned. “The American failure in Iraq has hurt the standing of the U.S. in the Middle East.”

Perhaps most strikingly, in their annual evaluation of the situation, the Israeli analysts concluded that it was better for the United States to get out of Iraq than to add troops, as President Bush is proposing.

“There’s no Israeli interest being served by continued American presence in Iraq,” said Mark A. Heller, a Jaffee Center researcher who helped produce the group’s annual “Middle East Strategic Balance” report.

“There’s a basic overall interest in not having the United States perceived as a weak or failing power,” Heller said. “But any initial goals that might have been served by getting rid of Saddam Hussein have long since been banked.”

The Bush administration is “simply discredited in the region as a player,” Yossi Alpher said. Alpher, a former head of the Jaffee Center, now serves as co-director of www.bitterlemons.org, a joint Palestinian-Israeli Web site financed by private donations and a grant from the European Union.

Bush Finds It Easier To Be a Dictator

Bush still doesn’t understand that he is working in a democracy with other co-equal branches of government. Last week Tony Snow claimed that Bush isn’t subject to the laws passed by Congress as he said “The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.” Raw Story reports that, in an interview to appear on 60 Minutes, Bush similarly claims he is not obligated to follow the law:

In an interview set to air on this Sunday’s 60 Minutes, President George W. Bush vows to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq “no matter what” the Democratic-controlled Congress tries to do.

“Do you believe as Commander in Chief you have the authority to put the troops in there no matter what the Congress wants to do,” 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley asks Bush in the short clip uploaded to the CBS News web site Friday night.

“I think I’ve got, in this situation, I do, yeah,” Bush said.

“Now I fully understand they will,” Bush continued, “they could try to stop me from doing it, but, uh, I’ve made my decision and we’re going forward.”

Of course we saw coming all along. The first sign was seen even before Bush was sworn in:

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Frank, President- elect George W. Bush came to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the election intending to listen to congressional leaders, the bipartisan congressional leadership. But he also made it clear to them, in more than two and a half hours of meetings, that he intends to stand by his tax cut proposal and other planks in his campaign agenda.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I told all four that there were going to be some times where we don’t agree with each other. But that’s OK. If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.

For once George Bush’s acts may turn out to be consistent with his words.

Update: Video at Think Progress 

Frank Rich: Bush is in the Bunker Now

Frank Rich wasn’t impressed with Bush’s new product–his plan for Iraq. Discussing Wednesday’s address he wrote, “Mr. Bush seemed to know his product was snake oil, and his White House handlers did too.” He writes that very few now support Bush:

Mr. Bush’s own support from the American people is not coming back. His “new” Iraq policy is also in defiance of Iraqi public opinion , the Joint Chiefs, the Baker-Hamilton grandees, and Mr. Maliki, who six weeks ago asked for a lower American profile in Iraq. Which leaves you wondering exactly who is still in the bunker with the president besides the first lady and Barney.

It’s a very short list led by John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and neo-conservative dead-enders like William Kristol and Frederick Kagan, who congregate at The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington think tank. The one notable new recruit is Rudy Giuliani, who likened taming Baghdad to “reducing crime in New York” without noticing that even after the escalation there will be fewer American troops patrolling Baghdad than uniformed police officers in insurgency-free New York City.

Most don’t believe escalation of the war will work, and those who do still believe a military victory is possible recommend a far larger surge than Bush is planning as that “would mean asking Americans for sacrifice, not giving us tax cuts.”

Yet Mr. Bush doesn’t even have the courage of his own disastrous convictions: he’s not properly executing the policy these guys sold him. In The Washington Post on Dec. 27, Mr. Kagan and General Keane wrote that escalation could only succeed “with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops” — a figure that has also been cited by Mr. McCain. (Mr. Kagan put the figure at 50,000 to 80,000 in a Weekly Standard article three weeks earlier. Whatever.) By any of these neocons’ standards, the Bush escalation of some 20,000 is too little, not to mention way too late.

Rich believes that if Bush is to be stopped it won’t be done by the Democratic Congress. Just as conservatives abandoned Richard Nixon, they must abandon George Bush for the good of the country, or at least to keep thier own election chances alive: (more…)

David Brooks Finds Democrats Less Radical Than Previously Feared

David Brooks looks at increasing income inequality noting, “Income inequality is on the rise. The rich are getting better at passing their advantages on to their kids.” He questions to what degree Americans will demand policies to reverse this trend. After reviewing different possibilities he finds that “Americans have for centuries embraced individualistic, meritocratic, antistatist values, even at times when income inequality was greater than it is today.” He concludes:

Political movements that run afoul of these individualistic, achievement-oriented values rarely prosper. The Democratic Party is now divided between moderates — who emphasize individual responsibility and education to ameliorate inequality — and progressive populists, who advocate an activist state that will protect people from forces beyond their control. Given the deep forces in American history, the centrists will almost certainly win out.

Indeed, the most amazing thing about the past week is how modest the Democratic agenda has been. Democrats have been out of power in Congress for 12 years. They finally get a chance to legislate and they push through a series of small proposals that are little pebbles compared to the vast economic problems they described during the campaign.

They grasp the realities Marty Lipset described. They understand that in the face of inequality, Americans have usually opted for policies that offer more opportunity, not those emphasizing security or redistribution. American domestic policy is drifting leftward, but there are sharp limits on how far it will go.

While we must always take it with a grain of salt when David Brooks comments on Democrats, ultimately what Brooks is saying is that the Democrats are not behaving as radically as the Republican rhetoric claims they would. Of course we knew all along that the Republican claims about Democratic plans were no closer to reality than Republican views on science.