• UPDATED COMMENTARY on Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    It is increasingly obvious that the most important element of this whole story is

    • how low our public discourse has sunk,
    • how vile are the statements we make about political opponents, and, sadly,
    • how we impute the most foul motives to all our adversaries, turning them from “the loyal opposition” into “enemies and traitors.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Here are a few more thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.
      • The problem is not that CNN’s panels are false. It is the channel’s bizarre news judgment that the story merits round-the-clock coverage for days, driven, I am sure, by their (correct) conclusion that the story harms Trump.

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  • Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory: A Comment UPDATED

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    Here are a few thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • UPDATE: We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Important new book: How Pakistan and Iran supported Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

     Documenting how some states helped Al Qaeda

    Pakistan has long been known to have supported the Taliban and to have had links with al-Qaeda.  A new book by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, and reviewed here by one of America’s premier terrorism experts, Bruce Hoffman, documents not only how extensive the ties were, but also the important complicity of Iran.

    The authors detail Pakistan’s harboring of Osama bin-Laden. 

    Yet, due to the Afghan War and its difficult logistics requirements, the Bush administration was ineffective in pressuring the Pakistani regime to take a firmer line toward its own ISI military intelligence service and the refuge they provided.

    In turn the Obama administration walked a delicate line with Iran in the hope not only of reaching the nuclear agreement, but of establishing rapport with Tehran.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Bruce Hoffman’s Very Positive Review of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s The Exile

     Hoffman reviews the book at the War on the Rocks blog (link)

    The book’s main argument is that neither bin Laden nor the movement he created could have survived without the active support of persons at the apex of both Pakistan’s and especially Iran’s intelligence services. The critical roles played by both countries in sheltering and protecting key al-Qaeda leaders and their families has of course long been known. But no other publicly available source comes as close to The Exile in presenting this familiar story either in as much detail or from the first-hand perspective of the key dramatis personae. New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall’s 2014 book, The Wrong Enemy, for example, had forcefully advanced the same claim regarding Pakistan’s complicity. The Exile goes considerably further: both in fleshing out the story and providing additional substantiation through the new information from multiple first-hand perspectives that Scott-Clark and Levy rely on. –Bruce Hoffman review of Scott-Clark and Levy’s The Exile

    Hoffman concludes

    The Exile’s main value . . . is in the new light that it sheds on the day-to-day Herculean efforts required simultaneously to protect bin Laden and his family while maintaining open lines of communications to his deputies, acolytes, financiers, and factotums dispersed across Pakistan, Iran, and more distant battlefields.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • Economic Chart of Interest: Declining Labor Force Participation

    The decline has happened under both Democrats and Republicans, suggesting it reflects deep structural issues in the economy and public policies that transcend party.

    The chart comes from a report by Harvard Business School report, available here.

    Hat tip to the Zero Hedge blog post on this report.

     

    declining-labor-force-participation-chart