|8:19 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a statement to the press, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announces 350 more troops to Iraq "to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq."
"Today, the President authorized the Department of Defense to fulfill a Department of State request for approximately 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq. This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President's commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These additional forces will not serve in a combat role," reads the press secretary's statement.
"The President has made clear his commitment to doing whatever is required to provide the necessary security for U.S. personnel and facilities around the world. The request he approved today will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad.
"In addition to our efforts to protect our personnel, we will continue to support the Government of Iraq's efforts to counter ISIL, which poses a threat not only to Iraq, but to the broader Middle East and U.S. personnel and interests in the region. The President will be consulting this week with NATO allies regarding additional actions to take against ISIL and to develop a broad-based international coalition to implement a comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners in the fight against ISIL. As part of this effort, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, will be traveling separately to the region in the near-term to build a stronger regional partnership."
5:26 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul said this afternoon on CNN that 100-200 Americans are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria:
Said CNN host Wolf Blitzer, "The numbers we've heard, and you're the chairman of the committee so you probably have more precise numbers, maybe a dozen Americans have actually gone over to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Is that right?"
"No, that number is actually much larger than what you stated," said Chairman McCaul. "I believe based on the briefings I've received that we're talking somewhere in the range between 100 to 200 Americans that are over in Syria and Iraq joining the fight, in addition to the tens of thousands of other foreign fighters including a lot of Western Europeans, all of which, as you have pointed out, have Western passports and travel documents. Which is why the biggest -- what is the homeland security concern here? It's the fact that we have Americans and those with travel documents that can come back to the United States and perpetrate and act of terrorism. We're on a really high state of alert right now."
5:01 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
Say what you will about Barack Obama, but his approach to the Middle East has been ruthlessly consistent. He was elected on the promise to end America’s involvement in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn’t fulfill those promises as rapidly as his supporters wished – he preferred what his advisers thought would be a “responsible” retreat rather than a full-fledged bug-out, and in Afghanistan masked his withdrawal timetable behind a temporary troop surge – but he’s made and making good on his word. No event – not the slow-motion collapse of post-Bush Iraq, nor the many failures of governance in Afghanistan – has shifted the president from his course. Indeed, since the killing of Osama bin Laden, the pace of retreat has picked up measurably.
Beneath these strategic promises kept lies a geopolitical premise: The Middle East isn’t really that important. This was, initially, the logic of the “Pacific pivot,” but as the last several years have made plain, the pivot was not so much to East Asia as away from the Middle East. This isn’t an entirely ridiculous idea, at least so long as Iran stops short of fielding nuclear weapons. After all, energy resources are fungible and the United States is fracking its way to freedom. And though the region is full of dangers, none of the threatening actors seems strong enough to pose a serious balance-of-power challenge.
Besides, Obama & Co. don’t care much for balance-of-power politics. That’s so 19th-century, whereas the security agenda of the 21st century will center on the environment and other “transnational” concerns. Why worry about an Islamic State when the state is naturally withering away?
Thus, it’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances or a parade of atrocities – either qualitative, such as the beheadings of James Foley or Steven Sotloff, or quantitative, as in Syria – that forces a fundamental change on a commander-in-chief whose mind is made up. Indeed, the White House has so carefully created and nurtured the weary-of-war trope – both domestically and abroad – that all Obama has to do is chant the magic words “boots on the ground” and all argument ceases.
And so the keep-out strategy endures, embraced as fully by the opposition as President Obama. We do have a strategy, one on which there is deep bipartisan consensus: retreat.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:59 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the execution of another American by ISIS, and the GOP's prospects for retaking the Senate in 2014.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
2:41 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Kentucky senator Rand Paul tells the AP that he would seek to "destroy ISIS militarily" if he were president:
Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: "If the president has no strategy, maybe it's time for a new president."
In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: "If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."
Paul had recently expressed ambivalence about U.S. military action against the Islamist terrorists who are building a state in Iraq and Syria. "I have mixed feelings about it,” Paul said of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in early August. “I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing," he added.
2:23 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
With the president attending this week's NATO summit in Wales, and the heightened concerns among the organization’s members – especially the newer ones with experience of hand’s-on Russian domination and rule – it might be profitable for our “allies” to consider some facts reported by Gideon Rachman in the FT:
The pattern of Nato spending reflects Europe’s increasing reliance on the US. At the height of the cold war, America accounted for roughly half the military spending of the alliance, with the rest of Nato accounting for the other 50 per cent. Now, however, the US accounts for some 75 per cent of Nato spending. Last year, of the 28 Nato members, only the US, Britain, Greece and Estonia met the alliance’s target of spending at least 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence. Even the UK may soon slip below 2 per cent, with the British army on course to shrink to about 80,000, its smallest size since just after the Napoleonic wars.
Two obvious truths the leaders of NATO might want to discuss this week:
First, alliances and coalitions tend not work well when some members are sandbagging. And, second, the United States, of all NATO members, has the least to fear, in the way of direct consequences, from increased Russian aggressiveness. We have our own oil, a Navy, and are flanked by two big oceans that cannot be crossed by tanks.
1:08 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The former constituents who returned Eric Cantor to the private sector have reason to think, He is who we thought he was. As Mario Trujillo of The Hill reports:
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has joined the global investment bank Moelis & Company as vice chairman and managing director, the company announced Tuesday. Cantor, who resigned from Congress during the August recess after losing his primary in June, will also be elected to the company's board of directors.
When any member of the political class falls, it tends to be upward. And let none say that Mr. Cantor has gone over entirely to Wall Street.
As the Washington Post reports, Mr. Cantor will be opening a Moelis office in Washington. Where he has a lot of experiencing in banking.
12:03 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Amnesty International has found:
Fresh evidence ... that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities.
The phrase is repellant but accurate.
And if you know about it, then the question becomes, what can be done to stop it? And, if something can be done, should it?
And will it?
11:25 AM, Sep 2, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Just before the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend, the reelection campaign for Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced its campaign manager, Jesse Benton, was resigning. Benton was leaving the campaign, Politico reports, "citing potential distractions over renewed attention to a scandal from the Iowa 2012 caucuses."
Benton had served as chairman for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign (he's also married to Paul's granddaughter). The Paul campaign has been accused of paying for the endorsement of at least one Iowa state senator. The former senator, Kent Sorenson, pled guilty last week to switching his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in 2011—shortly before the Iowa caucuses—in exchange for more than $70,000 from the Paul campaign. Sorenson also said he was paid by the Bachmann campaign.
Benton hasn't been formally accused of any wrongdoing, but there have been allegations that the former McConnell campaign chair knew about the pay-for-endorsement arrangement. In a phone conversation recorded last year by a disgruntled former Paul supporter in Iowa, Sorenson said of his payment from the Paul campaign, "Oh, I know Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows."
In a separate phone conversation recorded by the disgruntled supporter from January 2013, Benton denied his involvement in or knowledge of the scheme. Asked about the allegations last year, the McConnell campaign declined to answer. On that call, Benton also told the supporter that he was "holding his nose" working for the Senate minority leader until the forthcoming presidential campaign by McConnell's fellow Kentucky Republican and son of Ron Paul, Rand Paul. Benton told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the recording of the call was "truly sick."
Benton and McConnell later made light of Benton's embarrassing statement by posing together with their noses held.
10:56 AM, Sep 2, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Writing in the New York Times over the weekend, Secretary of State Kerry argues forcefully for the creation of a strong and committed coalition of nations to resist and defeat ISIS.
This is not just blue sky, wouldn’t-it-be-nice, wool gathering, holiday weekend op-ed stuff. There is a plan:
Some [nations] will provide military assistance, direct and indirect. Some will provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance for the millions who have been displaced and victimized across the region. Others will help restore not just shattered economies but broken trust among neighbors. This effort is underway in Iraq, where other countries have joined us in providing humanitarian aid, military assistance and support for an inclusive government.
And there is precedent in history recent enough for the Secretary not only to remember but, also, to have played a part. As he reminds his readers:
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III did not act alone or in haste. They methodically assembled a coalition of countries whose concerted action brought a quick victory.
What the secretary neglects to mention is that … as a member of the Senate, he voted against the congressional resolution authorizing military force in Iraq in 1990.
Live and learn.
9:01 AM, Sep 2, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama addresses the "people of West Africa" in a video posted Tuesday by the U.S. State Department regarding the growing threat of the Ebola virus, which Centers for Disease Control director Tom Friedman just declared on CNN "completely out of control" in Africa (via HotAir). The president conveys his condolences to those affected by the outbreak and stresses that the U.S. government is working with the governments of West African nations to combat the disease:
Saying that it's important to know the facts, the president emphasizes that the virus cannot be spread through the air or by casual contact. He goes on in rather graphic terms to warn about the ways the virus can be spread: "touching the body fluids of someone who's sick or has died from it - like their sweat, saliva, or blood; or through a contaminated item, like a needle." He says that caring at home for those sick with Ebola and burial practices for those who have died from it are adding to the spread of the disease.
President Obama encourages those who experience symptoms of the disease, such as a high fever, to seek treatment immediately, since, with proper care, "nearly half of patients can recover."
The White House addressed Ebola earlier this summer, cross-posting a Centers for Disease Control blog item on the White House website. Just last week, the state department issued an alert entitled "Potential Implications for Travel Because of Ebola in Parts of West Africa," and Tuesday tweeted a link to the president's video above.
8:05 AM, Sep 2, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Slowly but surely, the anti-repeal wing of the Republican party is starting to reassert itself. The latest effort comes from Lanhee Chen, who was the top policy advisor on the Mitt Romney campaign. As readers will likely recall, that campaign refused to advance an alternative to Obamacare, failed to emphasize the horror that is Obamacare, and went 0-9 in the nine most important swing states. Hot off of that success, Chen now has some advice for the rest of us.
Writing at Bloomberg View, Chen favorably discusses Avik Roy’s newly released proposal, which would jettison the repeal effort and work instead to refine and enlarge Obamacare. Roy has written a lot of great stuff during the Obamacare debate, but his no-repeal message certainly isn’t offering conservatives the way forward from here. Chen is nominally for repeal, but only after we first work to “reform” Obamacare and “improve” it. He apparently thinks that, the better we can make Obamacare, the more determined the American people will be to get rid of it.
Chen doesn’t much mind the existence of Obamacare’s government-run exchanges, nor of the massive taxpayer-funded subsidies that flow through those exchanges to President Obama’s insurance-company allies. Nor does he express any concern over the fact that those subsidies almost solely benefit the near-poor and near-elderly (and the insurance companies), at great expense to the middle class and the young. He simply thinks that these government-run exchanges are overregulated (shockingly), and he wants the states to have more control over them. He writes, “I don’t believe that health-insurance exchanges are anathema to free-market thinking in and of themselves.” What we need, he says, are “state-based [exchanges] that return regulation to state authorities and are more responsive to the needs of their citizens.” In other words, he pretty much wants Romneycare.
Thankfully, the American citizenry doesn’t want Obamacare or its Bay State inspiration. The citizenry never wanted Obamacare and may like it even less now than when it was being debated — as all 156 polls taken during Obama’s second term have found Obamacare to be unpopular. The citizenry wants real reform, and — notwithstanding Chen’s and Roy’s assertions to the contrary — that isn’t possible within a framework of 2,700 pages of unprecedented federal largess.
7:32 AM, Sep 2, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Robert Gibbs, the first White House press secretary in the Obama administration, calls President Obama's "we don't have a strategy yet" comment about dealing with ISIS a "wince-able moment."
"Robert Gibbs, speaking of catching our breath," said the MSNBC host, "I'm just curious. Are there oxygen masks in the press secretary's office when the president says something like he said on last week where the oxygen masks drop and you can catch a deep breath before you go talk to him? I mean, that obviously -- we all know it was a slip. But that obviously, everybody in the White House had to gasp when he did that, right? You've been there. ... He's human--mistakes are made."
"I think whenever you have to go out next and say what somebody meant to say or what somebody was trying to say means you're trying to explain that wince-able moment that you see," Gibbs said this morning. "Unfortunately, there are not oxygen masks and there's no one to tell you fasten your seat belt because there is turbulence in the area."
11:22 AM, Sep 1, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
CNN host Brian Stelter told terror-supporting cleric Anjem Choudary that he "respect[s] that you try to get your message out however you can." He made the comments after Choudary said sharia was coming to America:
Stelter made the comments after Choudary said, "I believe that the sharia is the best way of life. I believe one day it will come to America and the rest of the world."
"When I hear you say that, as an American, I know you've said that in the last few days, it reads to me as something that's propesterous," said Stelter. "But I respect that you try to get your message out however you can."
The terror-supporting Islamist cleric refused to condemn the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
The part that really unsettled the CNN host was when the terror-supporting cleric joked about terrorism:
BRIAN STELTER: You talk about wanting the truth to prevail, but here's what bothers me. When we were setting up for our interview here, the audio engineer asked you to do what every guest does, to count to 10, check their mic. And you started to do that, but then you said "9-11, 7-7, 3-11." Is this all some sort of a joke to do that?
ANJEM CHOUDARY: Well, you know if you had a sense of humor, maybe you would have laughed. It was just a sound check. You know you shouldn't take any of these things that seriously. Obviously, you know —
STELTER: A sense of humor? A sense of humor.
CHOUDARY: We were setting, we were setting up the sound check, and I said "1-2-3-4-5-9-11-7-7" making sure you could hear me. It's not a big issue, it's not a big deal. If you want to make it a big deal, by all means do so. But it makes you look much more shallow than me.
STELTER: I have nothing more to say. But thank you for joining me.
CHOUDARY: You're always welcome.
STELTER: What a world we live in.
9:12 AM, Sep 1, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In 2014, President Obama has made much of his pen-and-a-phone strategy to accomplish his goals in the face of what he calls an "unprecedented pattern of obstruction" from Republicans in Congress. Apparently the president's supporters are on board with the idea of unilateral executive action. At a meeting last Friday, a supporter of the president asked about the possibility of "a state of emergency." The president relayed the story to another groups of supporters at a Democratic National Committee event later in the day at a private residence in Purchase, New York:
I was in a meeting earlier today and somebody asked, you know, Mr. President, what can you do, these folks, they just -- all they do is just oppose whatever you propose even if they used to be for it, now they’re against it; if you said the sky was blue, they’d say it was green; they deny the facts, they don’t have any ideas for growing the economy or helping the middle class -- maybe you just need to announce a state of emergency. I said, well, now, I’m not going to do that, that’s not how the Constitution works. (Laughter.)
Of course, "how the Constitution works" is at the heart of the dispute between the president and Republicans in the House who recently voted to move forward with a lawsuit against the president for overstepping his constitutional authority. Interestingly, regardless of how seriously President Obama took his supporter's question, he went on to tell his audience "there’s actually a solution to this that our Founders envisioned." However, he was not talking about executive orders:
I said to them, you know, there’s actually a solution to this that our Founders envisioned, and that is people being involved citizens and getting out there and voting, and bringing about change through the ballot box.
The president went on to tell his DNC audience that "we have the opportunity to do that during these midterms," although based on a recent email that President Obama sent on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Democrats may have already written off their chances of winning back the majority in the House elections in November:
I'm emailing you again because the Senate is at stake.
If the GOP gains just six seats, the same Republicans who just voted to sue me will control both houses of Congress...
Will you let Republicans take charge of everything from the future of Medicare to education? Or will you make sure Democrats stay in charge?
Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard