|10:31 AM, Sep 15, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
We have learned much about ISIS in the last few weeks, virtually all of it troubling. The CIA has upped its estimates of the number of ISIS fighters to something in the neighborhood of 30,000. And from Ken Dilanian of the AP we learn that through various methods, it can raise the money it needs to fund operations.
Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts. The extremist group's resources exceed that "of any other terrorist group in history," said a U.S. intelligence official …
So, they have fighters, weapons, and money. Hardly sounds like the JayVee.
9:52 AM, Sep 15, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Regarding the economy, we have come to expect the unexpected which is, it sometimes seems, the only thing one can count on. For instance, Shobhana Chandra of Bloomberg is reporting today that:
"Industrial production in the U.S. unexpectedly declined in August for the first time in seven months as automobile making cooled. Output at factories, mines and utilities fell 0.1 percent after a 0.2 percent gain the prior month that was smaller than previously reported, figures from the Federal Reserve showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 79 economists called for a 0.3 percent rise. Automakers scaled back following the biggest surge in almost five years."
7:41 AM, Sep 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The banner, featuring a cartoon condom with a smiling face, reads: "I am Mr. Condom. Use me whenever you want to have sex. I will protect you from STDs, early pergnancy [sic], and unwanted pregnancy." Across the top of the banner are the words "I took the condom pledge," the slogan from which the non-profit organization responsible for the banner takes its name. And while the stated goal of the group, which recently conducted a fundraising campaign in partnership with the U.S. State Department for a project in Sierra Leone, is "normalizing condom use in youth populations around the globe," the photos shared by the group make clear that "youth" includes some very young children indeed.
The Condom Pledge organization is careful to utilize the word "youth" on its website (the word appears more than a dozen times) and avoid "child" and "children" altogether. However, a video produced for the Pledge and the group's Facebook page include images of young children holding signs, children such as these young girls and boys, clearly well below the target ages of sixteen to twenty-six:
While the U.S. State Department usually makes headlines for its role in negotiating political treaties and mediating military conflicts, the agency also plays a less visible role working to bring about social change throughout the world. One such effort is a program described in a recent blog post on State's website as "the Alumni Engagement and Innovation Fund (AEIF) 2.0, an initiative created in partnership by the U.S. Department of State and Rockethub, an online crowdfunding platform." Currently thirty-three AEIF projects are underway, run by alumni of the State Department's international exchange program. Projects range from providing business opportunities and training for low-income women in Nicaragua to training English teachers in Vietnam to eco-tourism in Bangledesh.
6:31 PM, Sep 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Hillary Clinton was confronted on the rope line after an event today in Iowa by immigration activists. Her response: “You know, I think we have to elect more Democrats.”
Clinton's response about electing more Democrats was in response to a question about whether she "stand[s] by the president's delay on immigration."
Clinton ignored follow-up questions.
What difference does it make?11:42 AM, Sep 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
John Kerry argued that it doesn't really make a difference if we call U.S. action against ISIS a "war." He criticized the "tortured debate" this morning on CBS:
"Mr. Secretary, thank you so much," said CBS host Bob Schieffer. "Can I clear up one thing first. This week you went to some lengths to say you wouldn't call this a war, but yet at the Pentagon and at the State Department even they were saying we are at war with ISIS. Are we at war?"
"Well, Bob, I think there's frankly a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology," Kerry responded. "What I'm focused on obviously is getting done what we need to get done to ISIL.
"But if people need to find a place to land: in terms of what we did in Iraq originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground. It's not hundreds of thousands of people. It's not that kind of mobilization.
"But in terms of al Qaeda, which we have used the word war with, yeah, we're at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. And in the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we're at war with ISIL in that sense.
"But I think it's a waste of time to focus on that, frankly, let's consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL, and that's what I'm frankly much more focused on."
Not ready for Hillary.10:19 AM, Sep 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Tom Harkin, the top Democrat in Iowa, tells ABC News that he has serious questions about where Hillary Clinton stands on the issues:
"But some Democrats still have their doubts," says ABC's Jonathan Karl. "Some progressives are a little uneasy with Hillary Clinton and is she going to be too hawkish on foreign policy, is she going to be too moderate on economic issues?"
"We're always nervous about people moving too far to the right," said Harkin, who Hillary is visiting with in Iowa this weekend. "See, a lot of us believe the center ought to be moved back--that the center has moved too far right."
Asked Karl, "So where's Hillary on that?"
"Well, I don't know," responded Harkin. "I think this is something that will be developed and we'll find out when -- if when and if she decides to run, you know, what's her vision for America?"
"So you still have real questions about where she stands on those central issues?"
"I do everybody," said Harkin.
Daniel Halper is online editor at The Weekly Standard and author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.
5:08 PM, Sep 13, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Hillary Clinton spent the summer in the Hamptons. And, as the New York Times reports, she's been asking friends about income inequality as she gets ready to run president of the United States.
"Mrs. Clinton spent August in the Hamptons, a working vacation that gave her plenty of time to interact with donors without the glare of the news media. Liz Robbins, a Washington lobbyist with a home in East Hampton; the investor Dan Neidich and his wife, Brooke Garber Neidich, an arts executive; the hedge fund manager Richard C. Perry and his wife, Lisa Perry, a fashion designer; and Susie Tompkins Buell, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur, are among the friends and donors who hosted events for the Clintons," reports the Times.
Amid the small talk, Mrs. Clinton would offer telltale signs that she intends to run, said several people who crossed paths with the former first lady on the shores of Long Island.
She would pose political questions and field thoughts on policy, asking, for example, Wall Street executives and business leaders what they thought of Mr. Obama’s efforts to eliminate inversions.
She's also been trying to develop a message. "Fledgling efforts to develop a message are quietly taking place, said the people close to Mrs. Clinton. Without discussing her 2016 plans, she has talked to friends and donors in business about how to tackle income inequality without alienating businesses or castigating the wealthy," reads the report.
"That message would likely be less populist and more pro-growth, less about inversions and more about corporate tax reform, less about raising the minimum wage and more long-term job creation, said two people with firsthand knowledge of the discussions."
Even a Washington Post reporter found the news ironic:
On the war against ISIS and droning American citizens, he's not entirely sure anymore.1:40 PM, Sep 13, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Rand Paul's views on war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to evolve. Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail Friday afternoon, the Kentucky senator didn't rule out supporting the deployment of U.S. combat troops on the ground in Iraq.
"Senator Rubio this week said that combat troops on the ground--American combat troops--could be a possibility if the current strategy doesn't work," one reporter said after a campaign event featuring Paul and New Hampshire senatorial candidate Scott Brown. "Senator Paul, would you support such a move?"
"I think some of it depends on what the events are. So events do change over time," Paul replied. "I'm a stickler for the Constitution, and the Constitution says Congress needs to determine these things." Back in June, Paul wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "we should not put any U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, unless it is to secure or evacuate U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities."
Paul also told reporters that it would be legal for the U.S. military to target U.S. citizens with lethal force in Iraq and Syria if they are engaged in battle--a position consistent with his past statements. But Paul declined to say if it would be legal to kill a U.S. citizen and ISIS member who is only plotting a terrorist attack in Iraq and Syria.
"If you are engaged with battle against the United States, you really do not get due process on the battlefield. If you want to fight against the United States, you’re a target. Already, I think two Americans have been killed," Paul said.
Paul has been very critical of the Obama administration's decision to kill U.S. citizen and al Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki in Yemen with a drone strike. The issue prompted him to wage a 13-hour filibuster with the sole purpose of getting the president to say it's illegal for the government to kill Americans with a drone strike "in a cafe in San Francisco" or anywhere else on American soil.
Earlier this year, Paul objected to the nomination of a judge over the issue. Paul wrote in the New York Times that he couldn't support a nominee without "fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens."
"Under our Constitution, [Awlaki] should have been tried — in absentia, if necessary — and allowed a legal defense," Paul wrote. "The Obama administration has established a legal justification that applies to every American citizen, whether in Yemen, Germany or Canada."
I asked Paul twice if it would be legal to target a U.S. citizen in Iraq or Syria who was in a similar situation to Awlaki's, but the senator didn't directly answer the question.
"Let me jump in on that," Scott Brown interjected. "When people are in ISIS, then they’ve left their citizenship at the door."
5:39 PM, Sep 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Jeffrey H. Anderson, writing for National Review Online:
Republicans still have a long way to go to take control of the Senate, but as the Hill reports (and John Fund notes below), if they achieve their goal, four things will “top their list” of to-do items in the first 100 days: “Authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, approving ‘fast-track’ trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax.” For those scoring at home, that’s three things that have nothing to do with Obamacare and one that would help improve Obamacare on the margins and therefore make President Obama’s centerpiece legislation just a little bit less likely to be repealed.
No mention is made of the most important thing for a GOP Congress to do — advance a winning alternative to Obamacare. Nor is there any mention of the most important Obamacare vote for Republicans to take as soon as possible — a vote to stop the bailout of insurance companies.
With Democrats firmly committed to a big-government liberalism that consolidates money and power in Washington at the expense of everyday Americans in the tributaries, Republicans can win elections (and not just midterm elections) if they’ll simply make clear that they’re the party of Main Street, U.S.A. But it’s hard to make that case when your agenda suggests you’re still the party of corporate America.
Well-funded corporate lobbyists want Obamacare’s medical device tax to be repealed, while the similarly well-funded insurance lobby doesn’t want Obamacare’s insurer bailout to be stopped. Repealing the medical-device tax, however, doesn’t undermine the structure of Obamacare in any way. Its repeal would simply help more Republicans make peace with the overhaul of American medicine. Stopping the insurer bailout, on the other hand, would not only save taxpayers about $1 billion annually but would put pressure on Obama’s insurance-company allies to price their Obamacare exchange policies honestly, rather than lowballing prices in anticipation of being bailed out by taxpayers. Thus, stopping the bailout would hurt Obamacare’s enrollment and improve the prospects for repeal. As Jim Capretta writes, Obamacare’s insurer bailout “is one of the most important features of the entire law,” and congressional Republicans should make stopping it “among their highest legislative priorities.”
Whole thing here.
4:27 PM, Sep 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
"A Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State," by Kimberly Kagan, Frederick W. Kagan, & Jessica D. Lewis. A must read for those contemplating how to win in the Middle East.
Here's the executive summary of the report:
• The Islamic State poses a grave danger to the United States and its allies in the Middle East and around the world due to its location, resources, the skill and determination of its leaders and fighters, and its demonstrated lethality compared to other al Qaeda-like groups.
• In Syria, the Assad regime has lost control of the majority of the state, and the regime’s atrocities and sectarianism have fueled violent Islamists, particularly ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN).
• In Iraq, the government has lost control over large portions of territory that the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga are incapable of retaking without significant foreign support.
• The Sunni Arabs of Iraq and Syria are the decisive human terrain. Al-Qaeda and similar groups can only flourish in distressed Sunni communities. Any strategy to counter al-Qaeda requires working with these communities, as the U.S. and the Iraqi government did during the Awakening in 2007.
• Having neglected Iraq and Syria, the U.S. currently lacks the basic intelligence and contextual understanding to build a strategy. The U.S. must adopt an iterative approach that tests assumptions, enriches understanding, builds partnerships with willing Sunni Arabs, and sets conditions for more decisive operations.
Four Strategic Objectives for the Region:
• Defeat and destroy ISIS and JN; defeat or reconcile their locally-focused partners.
• Restore sovereign, legitimate states in Iraq and Syria so they can prevent the reconstitution of al-Qaeda-like
groups reject Iranian political control and Iranian military forces on their territory.
• Prevent Iran from achieving regional hegemony to preserve U.S. allies and lessen regional sectarianism.
• Ensure the survival of sovereign states currently threatened, especially Jordan and Lebanon.
Proposed Political-Military Operations:
• An initial military movement-to-contact phase has the following goals:
o Find and fix the enemy in order to
Prevent ISIS from renewing offensive operations to take the Euphrates River Valley from Haditha to Ramadi, the area south of Samarra along the Tigris River, the Bayji oil refinery, and Baghdad itself.
Force ISIS to culminate before taking Aleppo or the key opposition supply lines from Turkey.
Establish positions from which to launch subsequent operations.
Set conditions for subsequent operations.
o Disrupt the enemy, including its leadership.
o Reconnoiter the human terrain to identify potential acceptable local partners and develop relationships with them.
o Prevent the ISF from eroding further and understand its command and control, particularly with respect to external actors, including Iran.
• Politically, the U.S. must use its leverage to continue to shape the emerging Iraqi government to be as inclusive and non-sectarian as possible.
2:32 PM, Sep 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The White House now definitively says that the "U.S. is at with with ISIL," a position the Obama administration has been hesitant to state in the last couple days:
"This is not a situation where it's the United States against ISIL," said spokesman Josh Earnest. "The fact is, ISIL has indicated that they're ready to go to war against the world. And this president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up to lead an international coalition to confront that threat, and to deny ISIL a safehaven.
"And ultimately this international coalition will be responsible for degrading and destroying ISIL.
"I think what you conclude from this is that the U.S. is at war with ISIL, in the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its al Qaeda affiliates all across the globe."
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:16 PM, Sep 12, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama and the upcoming 2014 elections.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
The Books & Arts Podcast is Hosted by Philip Terzian 12:15 PM, Sep 12, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Books & Arts Podcast with Philip Terzian, on the September 8th Issue's Books and Arts section.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
11:37 AM, Sep 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Rep. John Fleming critiques President Obama's ISIS strategy:
Others still want the president to go further. Rep. John Fleming said many see the president's strategy as not nearly enough.
"This is a stalemate strategy," he said. "I think that we would want to see an all-out war, shock and awe. We put troops on the ground, we put all of our assets there after properly prepping the battlefield, and in a matter of a few weeks we take these guys out … and we leave a stay-behind force to keep our friends up and going, and also maybe a no-fly zone in Syria over the area Assad controls."
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