Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jihad in Oregon

In case you missed it, here's a report on the trial of a group of men who wanted to set up a jihadist training camp in Oregon in the late 1990s. Note the arms-training that took place in a now-defunct mosque in Seattle. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Islam in Europe

Here's a report of a talk by a prominent scholar of Islam, Ralph Ghadban, given to a small audience at Ohio State University. He argues that many Muslim immigrants never intended to integrate into Western society, and that one of the biggest shocks they received in Europe was their encounter with secular legal systems.

Ghadban is also very critical of Tariq Ramadan, the controversial figure viewed by some as the face of 'moderate' Islam in Europe. Ghadban considers him a dangerous man because he wants to keep Muslims segregated from their host European societies. Ghadban, who was born in Lebanon and spent many years in Germany, is now at Princeton. He's written a very interesting book on Ramadan and the Islamization of Europe (unfortunately, I don't think it's been translated into English).

No Jews, thank you

Elaina Cohen sought to represent the UK Labour Party in an inner-city ward but says she was turned down by Labour councillor Mahmood Hussain. His reason: 'my Muslim members don't want you because you are Jewish'. She has lodged an official complaint; Hussain, a Muslim and former lord mayor of Birmingham, denies the report. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Christians in Muslim lands

Jihad Watch carries a steady stream of items about Muslim violence against unarmed Christians which frequent accompanies jihadist activity. Today there were two items: Muslim crowds attack Christians living near Karachi in Pakistan (nearly 700 miles from the Swat valley, now controlled by the Taliban); police reportedly stood by as a Taliban-assembled mob attacked the Christians.

In Kirkuk, Iraq, gunmen opened fire on two Christian homes, killing three. In this case, leaders of the Muslim community attended their funerals and Muslim authorities, including vice president Mahdi, decried the violence.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

California Anti-Libel Tourism Act

While the Free Speech Protection Act languishes in Washington, the judicial committee of the California state senate just approved by 5-0 a bill to protect California authors and publishers from libel tourism judgments.

The Anti-Libel Tourism Act would prohibit California courts from enforcing a defamation judgment obtained in a foreign jurisdiction, unless the court determines the defamation law applied in the case provided at least as much protection for freedom of expression as that offered by the U.S. and California Constitutions. See this earlier entry for background on the U.S. bill, and this one for background on the lawsuit against Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld which focused attention on this problem.

New York State and Illinois have already adopted similar legislation.

Misreading the Mideast

Security analyst Caroline Glick argues here that the Obama administration has completely misread the situation in the Mideast. Egypt and Jordan, far from ostracizing Israel for not dismantling its settlements in the West Bank and pursuing a separate Palestinian state, are telling the Netanyahu government that they agree with its policies.

Indeed, she presents evidence to show that throughout much of the Mideast, Arab governments are hoping that Israel will knock out Iran's nuclear weapons program before it succeeds.

Critics of the Bush administration charged former Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld with living in the past and failing to understand the nature of today's threats. Looks like that criticism applies in spades to the Obama administration.

Then and now

I highly recommend The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes. I've had it on my night stand for some time now, intending to read it to increase my understanding of the Great Depression. She argues that many of the government's actions not only failed to cure the Great Depression, but made it worse.

When I finally picked it up yesterday, I was so startled by the parallels in what she describes to what's going on today that I wrote this short piece that has been published by The American Thinker. Down to the presidential urge to expoit the opportunities inherent in crisis situations and the governmental itch to micromanage businesses, it's uncanny.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


That's the abbreviation for 'lots of laughs' (for those of you who don't send text messages or twitter all day long), and it applies in spades to the new novel by Libby Malin, Fire Me! OK, I have to add a disclaimer: she is a close and much-loved relative. But aside from that, if you want a funny yet thoughtful book, I strongly recommend it. As for me, I'm waiting for the movie.

The inside scoop on the Somali pirate incident

Thanks to Joe, who forwarded me this version (which I have slightly edited) of just what happened in the Somali pirate incident:

"Having spoken to some SEALs here in Virginia Beach yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, the following info emerged.
1. BHO (Obama) wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger.
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the pirates all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction.
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the pirates were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams.
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead pirates.
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.

For those of you who prefer your news without acronyms:

Philips’ first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn’t worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country’s Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors — and none was taken.
The guidance from National Command Authority — the president of the United States, Barack Obama — had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage’s life was in clear, extreme danger.
The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates — and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance from Washington and a mandate from the commander in chief’s staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a “peaceful solution” would be acceptable.
After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night , the on scene commander decided he’d had enough.
Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer — unnamed in all media reports to date — decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips’ back was a threat to the hostage’s life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.
Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.
There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday’s dramatic rescue of an American hostage.
Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in the Indian Ocean and [1] declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president’s toughness and decisiveness.
Despite the Obama administration’s (and its sycophants’) attempt to spin yesterday’s success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort.
What should have been a standoff lasting only hours — as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location — became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship."

Well, one reader told me I should not have apologized for doubting Obama's resolve. I see he was correct.

Another form of Holocaust 'denial'

Not denial that the Holocaust occurred, but a demonstration that it did not achieve its goal. Here's another video from the Israeli Defense Forces, this time of Israeli F-15s flying over Auschwitz.

How Hamas operates

The Israeli Defense Forces have prepared a short video describing how Hamas operates among the civilian population of Gaza. There's nothing in the video that hasn't already been reported, but it's useful to see it all put together in one place.

At one point, the narrator says that Hamas is known to have prevented civilians from fleeing the battle zone. Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic also used that tactic. He made it very difficult for people to leave Sarajevo during the Serb bombardment; they were useful as potentially media-worthy collateral damage.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hold the lox!

I hadn't realized it, but Norway has been trying for years to boycott Israeli products. The latest move, as reported by Bennett Epstein, is for some supermarket chains to place special identification stickers on products from Israel. (Unfortunately, no link is available to his article.)

Earlier efforts have included the refusal of Norwegian labor unions to off-load Israeli farm produce; a demontration last year against Israeli singers in the Eurovision song contest, organized by a Norwegian "labor youth movement;" and a boycott of Israeli oranges since the early 90s by yet another group (which is dumb as dirt, considering how good Jaffa oranges are).

Norway loves to negotiate peace agreements between warring parties. Oddly enough, I'm not aware of any other conflict where Norwegians are boycotting the products of one side as a means of inducing peace.

Epstein's recommendation: hold off on the Norwegian lox and take your custom to a non-Norwegian cruise line. (Thanks to Rachel.)

Woodbury Tea Party

This is a truth-in-advertising message. I do indeed support the Tea Party movement - and in fact participated today's party in Woodbury, Connecticut. It was locally organized, with no outside funding. The crowd was probably a couple hundred strong, a good size considering that Woodbury is a small town with a lot of competing events. Also a good mix of ages: kids, people with young children, through senior citizens.

A number of participants confessed that, like me, they normally would never consider attending a political event. They came because they are worried, very worried. And angry. It's not just the federal government, although the Dump Dodd movement is clearly alive and well. The Connecticut state government is also in a parlous cycle of tax, spend, and drive private business out of the state.

The crowd primarily opposed incumbents, regardless of party affiliation. Absent major reform, the Republicans will have a hard time exploiting this grassroots momentum.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NATO, the EU and Turkey

For those who missed this story, here is an excellent analysis by Thomas Landen of a dispute that marred the NATO summit earlier this month. The Turkish AKP government objected to the nomination of Danish prime minister Rasmussen to be Secretary General of NATO. The reason: he defended the freedom of expression of Danish cartoonists to depict Muhammad.

President Obama brokered a 'compromise': the Turks would take back their objection, and Rasmussen would accept a Turkish deputy and apologize to the Turks. Which Rasmussen promptly did in Ankara: “I would never myself depict any religious figure, including the prophet Muhammad, in a way that could hurt other people’s feelings. […] During my tenure as the secretary general of NATO I will pay close attention to the religious and cultural sensibilities of the different communities that populate our increasingly pluralistic and globalized world.”

This presumably satisfied Obama. French foreign minister Kouchner, however, declared that he was no longer in favor of admitting Turkey to the EU. “I was very shocked by the pressure that was brought on us,” Mr. Kouchner said. “Turkey’s evolution in, let’s say, a more religious direction, towards a less robust secularism, worries me.”

As Landen points out, "ideological Islam has replaced Marxism as the main threat to the freedoms of the West ... NATO ... should stand strong against every attempt at intimidation by ideological Islam. Instead of giving in to AKP threats it should forcefully reject them." Wouldn't it be nice if the American president understood this? (Thanks to Brussels Journal.)

Funding Hamas

Secretary of State Clinton, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, sought to provide assurances that assistance to the Palestinian authority would not end up supporting a government that included Hamas.

Clinton claimed that the State Department will enforce strong oversight, including employee background checks and providing staff lists to the United States and Israel, of the Palestinian organization distributing the assistance. "We intend to hold any entity that receives American aid to a very high standard," she said.

Would this be like AIG bonuses, or does she see State as getting into business similar to guaranteeing GM cars? (Thanks to Jewish World Review.)

Deteriorating Pakistan

Although this story is being well-covered in the mainstream media, I am including it so you can follow the story that began with the Pakistani government ceding control of the Swat valley to jihadists. Now those same Islamist groups are within 60 miles of the capital.

This is dreadful news, and not clear what the United States can or should do about it. For starters, though, it would probably be wise to delay some of the assistance that has been promised Pakistan, at least until it's clear the Pakistani government has committed itself to what is truly a life-or-death struggle with the Islamists. Secretary of State Clinton's contradictory remarks on the subject suggest that she has little confidence that the government will indeed rise to the challenge.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reflections on the Danish cartoons

Flemming Rose, the Danish editor who published the controversial cartoons of Mohammed in 2006, says the violent response to them caught him by surprise. Similar cartoons had been published previously, even one depicting Mohammed as mentally ill, with no particular reaction.

As to why Muslims had reacted so harshly to the cartoons, Rose said, "According to [Mideast expert Bernard] Lewis, this is the first time Muslims try to impose Islamic law on non-Muslim countries." He attributed the riots to "Muslim immigration to Europe and the fact that there are Muslims who don't want to be integrated… There's a problem with Muslims in Europe and it must be dealt with – but limiting freedom of expression is not the solution."

(Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Russia threatening Georgia?

A news reports from Ukraine indicates that Russian forces are occupying positions only 25 miles from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in direction violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire put in place last year. In addition, the Russians have significantly increased the forces stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhasia, the two provinces it took over last summer.

I agree with Rick Moran, who speculates here that neither the United States nor the EU will protect Georgia.

Fidel is right

Fidel Castro appears to have been angered by the conciliatory tone adopted by brother Raul after President Obama suggested improvements in U.S.-Cuban ties. Obama had called for an end to taxation of remittances from relatives living in the United States. In an essay on the Cuban government's website, Fidel rejected that proposal, saying: "Not all Cubans have family members overseas that send remittances," and that Cuba uses the tax revenues on free health care, education and subsidized food to all Cubans.

So why does Obama, who so fervently desires redistribution of wealth, cavil at the Cuban system? Isn't he guilty of 'superficiality, as Fidel charged? (Thanks to CNS News.)

Anyone see a trend?

President Obama's foreign policy preferences are becoming clear. He is happy to bow to the King of Saudi Arabia, to shake hands with and accept an anti-American book from Venezuelan president-for-life Chavez, sit through an anti-American tirade by Nicaraguan president Ortega, and look forward to getting together with Russian prime minister Putin, but not to meet with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Good thing we got that straight! (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

At least Obama's consistent. This story matches last month's one about Israeli chief of staff Ashkenazi being denied access to U.S. cabinet members.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Right-wing extremism

So much has been written about the Department of Homeland Security memo about right-wing extremism that I finally broke down and read it. Well, that isn't completely accurate: I skimmed it. I also read the companion piece on left-wing extremism. (Thanks to Jeff for providing links to both.)

The memo on left-wing extremism talks about the danger that environmentalists, animal activists or anarchists may hack into and destroy computer systems of companies whose actions they oppose. It lists a number of recent incidents and describes how the reliance of various companies on their IT systems continues to grow in order to make its point. All in all, it struck me as a reasonable piece of analysis. It left open the question of the relative threat posed by other activities of these groups, such as arson, but at least it made sense internally.

The memo on right-wing extremism consists of speculation; what facts it marshalls date from the 1990s. Analytical pieces based on 20-year-old, spotty data usually don't see the light of day. (Was Timothy McVeigh part of a trend? No evidence of that.) It came to light just as Obama top advisor Axelrod was characterizing the tea parties as 'unhealthy' - a context that certainly puts it in a highly unfavorable light.

The White House has distanced itself from the report. If President Obama is smart, he'll disown it.

Getting Colombia right

Here's a piece of good news (thanks to Investor's Business Daily): it looks as if momentum is building in the United States to sign the free trade pact with Colombia. Congressional Democrats have blocked the agreement for some time now, arguing - falsely - that the Colombian government did too little to protect trade union leaders from terrorist attacks.

But President Obama promised Colombian President Uribe that he would push for passage; that promise follows several weeks of other positive signs, such as a pro-trade Democratic delegation that visited Colombia. Obama invited Uribe to Washington and said he would visit Colombia himself.

Uribe has done a magnificent job of ridding his country of terrorism and restoring democracy. The United States needs to give him its full support; if we're about to do so, I'm all for it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Update on Durban II

As the Huffington Post reports, Iranian President Ahmedinejad's speech to the Durban II conference was so awful that large numbers of Western diplomats walked out. (Watch the video - this is an unusual scene for a UN conference.)

I'm glad they walked out, but I do wonder just what it was they were expecting. After all, Ahmedinejad has never made a secret of his views.

Polygamy in Denmark

Although exact data are hard to obtain, here's a report about polygamy among Muslims living in Denmark. Danish parliamentarian Naser Khader, who has been at the forefront of seeking to define a European Islam that conforms to Western law, warns: "It should be taken very seriously and fought in all ways. One can't just ignore it and say that it's part of Muslim culture."

Honor roll

At the last minute, the United States announced that it will boycott the Durban II conference on racism (actually, an antisemitic hatefest), which opened today in Geneva. Israel, Canada and Australia had already said they would not attend; Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden will also stay away.

The United Kingdom, Ireland and the Czech Republic will be represented, but only at a junior level. Belgium is busy trying to round up EU members to attend, while France has announced that it will be there "in order to articulate its standpoint on human rights issues," according to a French spokesman. The French will have to compete with Holocaust denier and would-be Israel-destroyer Iranian President Ahmedinejad, the featured speaker on opening day.

In 2001, the United States and Israel were alone in walking out of the first Durban conference. This time, the United States made its decision "with regret," and despite "deep dismay" on the part of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Plain speaking

The United Kingdom, like the United States, has chosen to spend its way out of the current economic difficulties. Neither one has been able to persuade France or Germany to follow suit (fortunately, for those countries). This video shows British conservative Daniel Hannan telling UK prime minister Gordon Brown what he thinks of such spendthrift policies, calling him "the devalued prime minister of a devalued country." Enjoy!

Ahmedinejad responds to Obama

Iranian president Ahmedinejad, in response to Obama's April 1 speech calling for better relations, responded on April 15 with a speech in which he emphasized that the West was weak and could not force anything on Iran. According to MEMRI's translation, Iran's "demands included the withdrawal of Western forces, the destruction of the West's entire nuclear arsenal, and respect for Iran's right to its nuclear program."

However, there's no reason for despair, according to the U.S. State Department: a senior official described the 'contacts' recently proposed to Iran by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana as 'discussions' that will in turn provide an 'opportunity for serious negotiations.' This opportunity will in turn provide a 'possibility to solve the intricate problem... and then the joint work will begin, to deal with the international problem concerning Iran's nuclear program.'

I hope no one got lost in that maze. Especially since Solana and other EU senior officials have been negotiating with Iran since 2003 and have achieved precisely nothing.

Another 'first'

We now have a second 'first' for the United States: an Iranian-American citizen, working as a journalist in Iran, is convicted on espionage charges.

The other 'first' was the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama - the first pirate attack on an American vessel in some 200 years.

Maybe these are random occurrences, and are in no way linked to President Obama's new policy of rapprochement with the Muslim world, especially Iran. Maybe, for example, Iranian hardliners acted to block any improvement in ties with the United States. But maybe it's because Obama's gestures of reconciliation are being interpreted as signs of weakness.

Regardless, let's hope we don't get any more 'firsts' like these ones.

Pirates on my hands

Given the legal issues discussed in the previous entry, what do countries do when they capture pirates? Well, if you're Dutch, operating under a NATO flag, you let them go. Here, thanks to Jihad Watch, is what happened after NATO forces captured pirates that had tried to hijack a ship carrying small arms and rockets:

"Seven Somali pirates were detained, but they were soon released because 'NATO does not have any detainment policy,' [NATO commander] Fernandes said. The seven could not be arrested or held because they were seized by Dutch nationals and neither the pirates, the victims nor the ship were Dutch, he explained."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The rules of war

The Spanish attorney general will recommend against investigating torture allegations directed at senior Bush administration officials. Spanish judge Baltazar Gazon had proposed just such an investigation; the attorney general said, "if one is dealing with a crime of mistreatment of prisoners of war, the complaint should go against those who physically carried it out." (Thanks to CNS News.)

The Spanish attorney general framed his argument in terms of 'prisoners of war,' implying that Al Qaeda fighters were just like regular soldiers. To see why this makes no sense, here's a parallel argument by FPRI's Mackubin Owens, regarding pirates. (Thanks to Jeff.)

Owens notes since Roman times pirates have been considered as outlaws - people to whom the regular laws did not apply. "The Romans distinguished between bellum, war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy, and guerra, war against latrunculi - pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws - 'the common enemies of mankind.' The former, bellum, became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions and other legal protections were meant to apply. They do not apply to the latter, guerra - indeed, punishment for latrunculi traditionally has been summary execution, although the extreme punishment was not always exacted. The point is that until recently, no international code has extended legal protection to pirates."

President Bush received a tremendous amount of abuse for insisting that fighters captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere were not 'enemy combatants'; that they should be treated more like outlaws, or pirates. European governments are, however, indirectly confirming his assessment by refusing to take custody of Guantanamo internees. It's not just a question of how dangerous these individuals are. Saying that terrorists or pirates are 'legitimate' then raises a whole series of difficulties as to how they should be treated.

As Owens points out: "... European navies have been advised to avoid capturing Somali pirates since under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in a European state, with attendant legal rights and protections." And, indeed, the British navy last year warned that it would not arrest pirates, simply because it didn't want to have to deal with their subsequent claims.

European governments may be squeamish about U.S. detainees, but they have arrested and prosecuted terrorists. With the notable exception of the French, though, they're unlikely to take on the pirates. That will require U.S. leadership.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some perspective on Iran

Analyst Michael Rubin offers some historical perspective on Western desires to have better relations with Iran, and Iran's consistent determination to acquire nuclear capabilities.

He starts his tale in 1989, with then President Bush announcing that: "Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on." That was the same year that the Russians agreed to complete the nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Some 10 years later, then Iranian President Khatami spoke of a "Dialogue of Civilizations." The Europeans expanded trade with Iran, and starting in 2003 negotiated with it to, among other things, abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons. As Khatami's former spokesman put it in June 2008: "We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the [nuclear] activities."

Rubin then fast-forwards to day: "When Mr. Obama declared on April 5 that 'All countries can access peaceful nuclear energy,' the [Iranian] state-run daily newspaper Resalat responded with a front page headline, 'The United States capitulates to the nuclear goals of Iran.' With Washington embracing dialogue without accountability and Tehran embracing diplomacy without sincerity, it appears the Iranian government is right."

Defining extremism

The Policy Exchange think tank in the UK has just published a report, Choosing our friends wisely, that reviews British policy for countering extremist Muslim ideology and finds it severely flawed.

One major drawback it identifies "is the premise that non-violent extremists can be made to act as bulwarks against violent extremists." As a result, "Some of the government's chosen collaborators in 'addressing grievances' of angry young Muslims are themselves at the forefront of stoking those grievances against British foreign policy; western social values; and alleged state-sanctioned 'Islamophobia.'"

The report is chock-full of information and pulls no punches; good job by Policy Exchange. (Thanks to Jeff).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I take it all back

It's wonderful news that the U.S. navy rescued Captain Phillips, and even better that he was unharmed. Beyond the obvious value to Captain Phillips, this incident sends a message that Americans will defend themselves. Bravo to all, including President Obama as commander-in-chief, and shame on me for doubting.

Some mysteries remain: why is it that a merchant marine ship cannot defend itself if it sees strangers boarding it, clearly with evil intent? I understand that the merchant marine must be clearly distinguished from the navy, but what's wrong with self-defense? Also, why did military commanders have to obtain permission not once but twice from President Obama to use force? Hopefully answers to these questions will emerge in the next few days.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Muslim contributions to America

President Obama recently stressed the contributions that Muslims have made to American culture. I've been puzzling over that ever since, since those contributions haven't received much media attention. But then I realized I was missing The Big One: the actions of the Barbary Pirates, who were conducting jihad on infidel shipping, led to the creation of the U.S. Marine Corps. If that isn't a big contribution, I don't know what is.

What's wrong with this picture?

The American captain of a U.S.-flag vessel is held hostage while a U.S. warship stands helplessly by. Meanwhile, French commandos storm a French boat also seized by pirates. One hostage and several pirates killed, the remaining hostages captured. This is the third time French commandos have attacked pirates.

President Obama may view the pirates off Somalia as a 'distraction,' but the rest of the world is watching. Here's how the Indian press sees it: "The Indian Ocean standoff between an $800 million United States Navy destroyer and four pirates bobbing in a lifeboat showed the limits of the world's most power military as it faces a booming pirate economy in a treacherous patch of international waters."

I'm all for listening and humility in foreign policy. So what's wrong with learning a lesson from the French?

Read more details here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama, the United States and the world

This editorial by Charles Krauthammer 'bout sums up the president's recent trip to Europe. Obama, he says, has assumed the role of a "philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating between his renegade homeland and an otherwise warm and welcoming world."

Obama offered nuclear disarmament and got a North Korean missile launch, carried out by the North Koreans without even a slap on the wrist from the 'international community' that Obama apparently thinks can run world affairs. (Simultaneously, Obama further dismantled U.S. missile defenses - does this make sense to anyone?)

The Europeans soaked up his criticisms of the United States but offered little in return, whether on troops for Afghanistan or help in taking detainees from Guantanamo. France will take one; Austria none, and this after the dismantling of Guantanamo was Europe's rallying cry for years.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

So what do Muslims think?

President Obama has set out to take the Muslim world by storm. Part of his strategy includes making 'peace gestures' to Muslim leaders like Saudi King Abdullah and President Ahmedinejad of Iran. Unsurprisingly, his efforts have stirred up protests from various quarters.

Among those disgusted by Obama's words and actions is Iranian dissident Amil Imani, who asks: "Why is it so difficult for you to comprehend that the Islamic Regime is a terrorist entity and the Iranian nation is fed up with them?" (Thanks to Melanie Phillips.)

The bow that Obama made to King Abdullah has also generated controversy. The White House now denies that he made one, but this video shows him doing just that.

I don't mind if the policies of an American administration generate controversy. I just wish they were right instead of wrong.

Muslim divorce in the US

Here's another case in which a Muslim man residing in the United States tried to obtain a traditional Muslim divorce overseas. A court in Oakland County, Michigan, accepted the validity of a divorce obtained in India, granted when the man certified that he had said "I divorce thee" three times. The wife wasn't even present. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Needless to say, a woman has greater rights under U.S. divorce law than under sharia law. Fortunately, the state appeals court recognized this fact and overturned the decision, stating: "To accord comity to a system that denies equal protection would ignore the rights of citizens and persons under the protection of Michigan's laws."

This outcome is similar to a Maryland court decision last year involving a couple originally from Pakistan. That's the good news; the bad news is that the Oakland County court let itself become confused. Wider publicity of these cases would help reinforce existing law.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

President Obama, on his recent trip to Turkey, went out of his way to emphasize that the United States was not at war with Islam. Aside from the fact that President Bush repeatedly said the same thing, I have to agree with Jihad Watch: what is the point of that statement? Large numbers of Muslims have declared they are at war with us. Why does suppressing that fact improve matters?

As Jihad Watch puts it: "In saying this, Obama is declaring that he is not going to engage those Muslims on that level -- in other words, he is dismissing the importance of understanding the belief-system and goals of the enemy. Can the U.S. defeat an enemy it is not prepared to name or understand?

Creeping sharia in Germany

Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim professor of sociology, describes the ways in which sharia is creeping into German law, schools and the Foreign Office. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

He recounts the case of a German woman, married to an Egyptian, who sued for divorce and asked for protection for herself and her 17-year-old daughter. She claimed her husband wanted to kill her daughter because the daughter had been raped - in his eyes, rape is equivalent to adultery. The judge ruled last January that the woman could not be legally divorced for at least a year, because time was needed to re-educate the husband. "Muslims have a different understanding of rape than Europeans, and this must be taken into account."

In another case, last February, a German judge ruled that a man could beat his daughter for refusing to wear a headscarf, quoting the Koran to make his point. These, according to Alrabaa, are just examples of numerous recent cases in which German courts have used sharia in their judgments.

Some Germans have protested, as Alrabaa reports. Sounds like there need to be a lot more of them.

Negotiating for Durban II

The dynamics of the current negotiations over the text to be adopted at the April 20 Durban II conference, as described by Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN, make for unsettling reading.

-- The United States keeps quiet, so as not to tip anyone off about whether it will attend.

-- The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) pushes its longstanding goal of delegitimizing Israel, adding new accusations against the West, including a new charge of 'anti-Arabism,' to create additional negotiating room for itself.

-- The EU does its best to go along with the OIC, squashing any protests by individual EU member states.

-- Any interests that Israel or Jews have are ground up in the process.

As Bayefsky puts it: "Watching the U.N. conduct the business of human rights is revealing. It teaches us how negotiations between fascists and democrats proceed. Democrats “show restraint,” while fascists don’t care who they offend or what they say. And more often than not, Jews and the Jewish state are the political football. The farthest thing from this playing field is true concern over the protection of human rights."

My bet is that the Obama administration will indeed announce at the last minute tht it will attend. It will choose the deadest point of the news cycle to do so, and will cite some breakthrough in the negotiated text. The EU will be delighted, since U.S. attendance gives it all the cover it needs. The OIC will say nothing - just push for further concessions during the conference itself. Just please don't ask me what this charade has to do with human rights.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Slandering Muslims

Jihad Watch reports here on an effort by the Council on American Islamic Relations to silence two radio commentators in San Francisco who joked about Islam. Note that they said nothing that was untrue, whether with regard to honor killings or attitudes toward Jews. In traditional Islam, though, 'slander' is defined as 'mentioning anything concerning a person that he would dislike.'

Thursday, April 2, 2009

German views of America

In honor of President Obama's upcoming visit to Germany, here's a description of the anti-American views of some prominent German intellectuals, expressed two days after the 9/11 attacks. As German pundit Henryk Broder puts it:

"It was barely 48 hours after the attacks in New York and Washington. And in the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, at Berlin’s House of World Cultures, a show trial was coming to a close. At this show trial, the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth did not apply. Instead, a mass murder was excused and tacitly condoned, because the victims of the abomination were supposed somehow to be associated with capitalism, imperialism and globalization…

If you have the stomach to read the details, you'll get the full picture. (Thanks to John Rosenthal.)

Iranian sanctions

Defense Secretary Bob Gates, in a recent Fox interview, said that he thought the best way to alter Iranian behavior was to impose economic sanctions. A cynic might say that he was recommending policies that involved departments other than his, while a realist might say that economic sanctions are highly unlikely to alter the Iranian determination to produce a nuclear weapon.

But there are other objections, even if you assume economic sanctions are a good tool for this problem. To be effective, they must be imposed by all the major trading nations. Which brings us to ... Germany, historically a very important trading partner for Iran.

According to journalist Benjamin Weinthal, speaking at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, Germany racked up some 4 billion euros in trade with Iran last year, an increase of 10.5% over the previous year. Some German exports were even supported by government subsidies. Of 5,000 known business deals, some 39 involved dual use technology (good for both military and civilian uses).

Unsurprisingly, the Bush administration failed to elicit much German enthusiasm for sanctions, which would impede this trade flow. My question: does the Obama administration think it can improve on this dismal record and, if so, why?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Joining the UN Human Rights Council

The Obama administration has decided to compete for election to the UN's Human Rights Council. The United States will most likely win; we will then be well-positioned to legitimize the efforts of countries like Libya, China and Iran to attack Israel while covering up their own human rights abuses.

You can also expect the administration to claim victory at the Council: we will for sure cite occasions when we have succeeded in changing the wording of a resolution, or perhaps even keeping one or two anti-Israel resolutions off the table. It is highly unlikely, though, that we will ever be able to point to a case in which we actually protected human rights.

If we don't kick up too much dust, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the EU members of the panel will be happy - after all, we'll be providing them cover and respectability. And we will imagine we are currying favor with the Organization of the Islamic Conference; we'll overlook the OIC's tendency to pocket any concession while demanding more.

Gee, what an outstanding use of my taxpayer dollars!

Self-promotion time

Mark Richard, a former senior Justice Department official, and I have written an article that appears in the latest issue of Policy Review. We discuss U.S.-EU information sharing, which is a key element in combating terrorism and serious organized crime. We analyze both the potential problems in this area linked to the EU's draft Lisbon Treaty, and the potential gains from implementing the new U.S.-EU mutual legal assistance treaty.

Syria on my mind

Or, more accurately, on President Obama's mind, given that he dispatched a personal envoy to Syria early on in his presidency. Syria has long loomed as the elusive objective of various Mideast peace initiatives. Then Secretary of State Warren Christopher travelled there numerous times during the Clinton years; in late 2006, the Iraq Study Group recommended overtures to Syria; and former Secretary of State Condi Rice included Syria in a November 2007 peace conference.

But what are the chances of success for this policy? Bret Stephens argues here that Syrian president Bashar Assad is closer to countries like Iran and North Korea than was his father. He is also rebuilding Syria's stranglehold over Lebanon. Nor has he given any sign of making concessions regarding Syria's principal bone of contention with Israel, control of the Golan Heights.

A recent MEMRI report records public Syrian responses to recent overtures by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry and Rep. Howard Berman. The Obama administration seems to have bought itself the worst of both worlds, by combining a conciliatory public approach with requirements for substantive policy changes from the Syrian government. The Syrians, who have no intention of making concessions, simply view the conciliatory words and actions as signs of weakness.

I'm grateful the administration hasn't immediately thrown long-standing U.S. policy requirements out the window in its effort to improve relations with Syria - and hope it won't do so in future. I also hope that it will quickly realize that appeasing or conciliatory gestures are most likely to elicit a Bronx cheer from many in the Muslim world, especially the heads of repressive, thuggish governments and their supporters.