Category Archive 'Foreign Policy'
01 Dec 2009

Obama Fails at Diplomacy


You thought Obama’s economic policies have become unpopular domestically? Peter Wehner thinks the Chosen One is proving an even bigger disaster in foreign relations.

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable. …

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. The Economist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Times refers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. The Saudi “has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory,” according to Ajami. But “he is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.”…

It’s no mystery as to why. President Obama’s approach to international relations is simplistic and misguided. It is premised on the belief that American concessions to our adversaries will beget goodwill and concessions in return; that American self-abasement is justified; that the American decline is inevitable (and in some respects welcome); and that diplomacy and multilateralism are ends rather than means to an end.

Read the whole thing.

24 Oct 2009

Obama’s Chicago Way Stops at the Water’s Edge

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Mark Steyn
discusses the Obama-style of presidential leadership: Chicago tough on domestic media opponents, boot-licking to foreign adversaries.

If you’re going to attack the press, you need a lightness of touch, not a ham-fisted crowbar such as the White House wielded Thursday, attempting to ban Fox from the pool interviews with the “pay czar.” Another bit of venerable Disraelian insouciance, on the scribblers of Fleet Street: “Today they blacken your character, tomorrow they blacken your boots.” For two years, the U.S. media have been polishing Obama’s boots, mostly with their drool, to a degree unprecedented in American public life. But now it’s time for the handful of holdouts to make with the Kiwi – or else.

At a superficial level, this looks tough. A famously fair-minded centrist told me the other day that he’d been taken aback by some of the near parodic examples of Leftie radicalism discovered in the White House in recent weeks. I don’t know why he’d be surprised. When a man has spent his entire adult life in the “community organized” precincts of Chicago, it should hardly be news that much of his Rolodex is made up of either loons or thugs. The trick is identifying who falls into which category. Anita Dunn, the Communications Director commending Mao Zedong as a role model to graduating high school students, would seem an obvious loon. But the point about Mao, as Charles Krauthammer noted, is that he was the most ruthless imposer of mass conformity in modern history: In Mao’s China, everyone wore the same clothes. So when Communications Commissar Mao Ze Dunn starts berating Fox News for not getting into the same Maosketeer costumes as the rest of the press corps, you begin to see why the Chairman might appeal to her as a favorite “political philosopher”.

So the troika of Dunn, Emanuel and Axelrod were dispatched to the Sunday talk shows to lay down the law. We all know the lines from “The Untouchables” – “the Chicago way,” don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – and, given the pay czar’s instant contract-gutting of executive compensation and the demonization of the health insurers and much else, it’s easy to look on the 44th president as an old-style Cook County operator: You wanna do business in this town, you gotta do it through me. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but you can’t take the Chicago out of the community organizer.

The trouble is it isn’t tough, not where toughness counts. Who are the real “Untouchables” here? In Moscow, it’s Putin and his gang, contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) they’re still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it’s Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were told that Obama would use “soft power” and “smart diplomacy” to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama’s soft power is so soft it doesn’t even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders’ very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama’s “smart diplomacy” is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention?

The strange disparity between the heavy-handed community organization at home and the ever cockier untouchables abroad risks making the commander in chief look like a weenie – like “President Pantywaist,” as Britain’s Daily Telegraph has taken to calling him.

The Chicago way? Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight? In Iran, this administration won’t bring a knife to a nuke fight. In Eastern Europe, it won’t bring missile defense to a nuke fight. In Sudan, it won’t bring a knife to a machete fight.

But, if you’re doing the overnight show on WZZZ-AM, Mister Tough Guy’s got your number.

22 Oct 2009

“Politics Before Security”

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Last night, Dick Cheney gave a speech at the Center for Security Policy in which he surveyed the Obama Administration’s short and dismal foreign record. He condemned the cancellation of the missile defense of Central Europe, strongly criticized what he referred to as “turning the guns on” US Intelligence officers, and called upon Barack Obama to stop dithering and keep his word on Afghanistan.

Every time I hear Dick Cheney speak, I regret that he was occupying the second position on the Republican ticket in 2000 and 2004 instead of the first.

Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country’s word.

25:03 video

05 Oct 2009

“A Clinical Narcissist”

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Martin Peretz, at New Republic, is pessimistic about the future of the politics of personal charisma.

If Obama could not get Chicago over the finish line in Copenhagen, which was a test only of his charms, how will he persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons capacity or the Arabs, to whom he has tilted (we are told) only tactically, to sit down without their 60 year-old map as guide to what they demand from Israel.

What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an “optimal margin of illusion,” that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?

Chicago will survive its disappointments and Obama will, as well. It is the other stage sets on which the president struts–like he strutted in Cairo and at the United Nations–that concern me.

I know that the president believes himself a good man. My nervy query to him is: “Does he believe America to be a good country?”

07 Jun 2009

A Lesson From the Farm

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Barack Obama reminds Victor Davis Hanson of his youthful self.

Obama reminds me a little of myself–at 26. I had left the farm for 9 years to get a BA in classics, PhD in classical philology, and live in Athens for two years of archaeological study-all on scholarships, TAships, research-ships and part-time summer and school jobs tucked under the aegis of the academic, no-consequences world. By the end of endless seminars, papers, theses, debates, discussions, academic get-togethers, I had forgotten much of the culture of the farm where I spent years 1-18.

Then after the requisite degrees I left academia, and returned to farm 180 acres with my brother and cousin-and sadly was quickly disabused of the world of the faculty lounge.

Oh yes, I came back to Selma thinking, “I am not going to be the grouch my grandfather was, yelling at neighbors, worried all the time, nervous, seeing the world as rather hostile, hoarding a tiny stash of savings, worried as if bugs, the government, hired men, weather, and markets were out to destroy him. I’ll farm with my Bay Area manners and sort of think, “I will reset the farm, and things will at last work as they should” (not thinking that my grandfather raised three daughters, sent them to college while mortgaging the farm in the Depression, and spent on himself last, and was a saint compared to my pampered existence in the university).”

One small example of my late coming of age. A rather brutal neighbor (now dead and not to be mentioned by name (de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est)), an immigrant from an impoverished country, a self-made man, veteran of infamous fights and various bullying, shared a communal ditch. We talked and exchanged pleasantries–at first–at the standpipe gate. He lamented how rude my late grandfather had been to him, and even had made unfounded accusations that he was less than honest (he was also sort of playing the race card, remarking about the prejudicial nature of California agrarian culture).

I was shocked to hear that, and assured him that there would be no such incitements on my part on the new age of the Davis farm. No more ‘me first’, no more disdain for newcomers and upstarts. And then after about 3 months of sizing me up (at 26, I confess looking back I was not 1/8th the man my grandfather was at 86) he began stealing water in insidious ways: taking an extra day on his turn, cutting in a day early on mine, siphoning off water at night, destroying my pressure settings, watering his vineyards on days that were on my allotment. Stealing no less! And in 1980!

Here’s how I rushed into action. First, I gave a great Obama speech on communal sharing and why the ditch would not work if everyone did what he did. Farmers simply would perish if they did not come together, and see their common shared interests. He nodded and smiled-and stole more the next week.

Then I appealed to his minority status, and remarked how wonderful it was that he came from dire poverty abroad and now farmed over 500 acres. He growled-and stole even more.

I took the UN route and warned that that I would be forced to go get the ditch tender (a crusty, old hombre who enjoyed watching fights like these for blood sport); he pointed out that the tender was, in fact, on the alleyway across the street watching us, and meeting him for coffee in an hour.

I went to the irrigation district and filed a formal complaint. Nice people with smiles and monogrammed hats promised they’d look into it, but pointed out the season was half over anyway, and I should “get used to it” and start anew next year. Meanwhile, I noticed by July my vineyard was starting to be stressed, and his was lush. He watered so much that he began to flood the entire vineyard middle, the water lapping out the furrows and reaching berm to berm.

For a while I went the Clement Attlee mode and rationalized, “Hmmm, maybe all that watering is going to give his vines more mildew, while my dusty dry vines will aerate more. Do I really need my water? Did I offend him in some way? Do I really want to lower myself to his troglodyte methods?” A few meetings went well with his, “OK, it’s a misunderstanding.” I heard “No problem” about a zillion times the next two weeks.

Then by July 15, after three months of such aggrandizement I tried the empathetic route with the neighbor, “If you don’t stop this, I’ll have to turn on my pumps and spend hundreds of dollars to supply the water I’m supposed to get by virtue of my irrigation taxes. You know that’s not fair!” He laughed at the use of “by virtue of”.

I felt sorry for him, really did, that he had reduced a dispute over something as mundane as “water” into some sort of existential issue of regional peace. What did he wish me to do-descend down to his level, to become exactly like him, to settle differences on the basis of primate strength?

I thought about this for yet another seven days, compulsively so as I looked out at the parched vines. Couldn’t I just pay the power bill, pump for 10 days, and feel as his moral better that I had not descended to his cave-dwelling status? Oddly, I began to hear a once familiar voice in my head whisper, “He’ll take your crew next right when you need it. He’ll take over your alleyway. He’ll drive on your place like he owns it. He’ll…”).

Then in a trance-like fashion, I went out to restore deterrence. I got a massive chain and lock, and simply shut down his communal lateral. Locked the gate so tight, he couldn’t even get a quarter-turn. He’d be lucky if he got a 100 gallons in a week. Then I got a veritable arsenal of protective weaponry, got in my pickup, drove back over to the gate, and waited with ammo, clubs, shovels, etc.

In an hour he drove up in a dust cloud. He was going to smash me, get his football playing son to strangle me, sue me, bankrupt me, hunt me down, etc. He swore and yelled-I was a disgrace to my family, a racist, a psycho, worse than my grandfather. He was going to lock my gates, steal all my water, and indeed he leveled all sorts of threats (remember the scene in Unforgiven when Eastwood walks out and screams threats to the terrified town?-that was my neighbor). I got out with large vine stake and said something to the effect (forgive me if I don’t have the verbatim transcript-it has been 29 years since then), “It’s locked until you follow the rules. Anytime you don’t, it’s locked again. Do it one more time and I weld it shut. Not a drop. So sue me.”

He got up, screeched his tires, blew a dust cloud in my face, and raced down the alleyway-honking even as he left.

For the next ten years until his death, he was the model neighbor. He would stop me with, “Victor, I shut off tomorrow, half-a day early-why not take my half day to jump start your turn?” And indeed we finally began to have philosophical discussions (he was widely read) about Sun-Maid, Carter, Reagan, the US, literature, etc.

Here was his final compliment, one that apparently connected my once elite disdain for his grubby world of the muscular classes with my inevitable failure and bankruptcy to come. It went something like this, though after three decades I have forgotten his exact phraseology: “Victor, I used to drive by your grandfather’s house, and see you up there on the scaffold, scraping off the old paint. I’d say to my friends-look at that young fool, he’s painting my house. You see, I knew you’d go broke, and I’d buy your place. Always wanted it, and knew you were getting it ready for me. Why not let you finish before I took it?” (I didn’t tell him, that in fact he used to say that not just to friends, but to me as I was chipping away.)

He died about a month later. I still miss him, and grew to, if not trust him, in a strange way like him.

Obama will come to his senses with his ‘Bush did it’, reset button, moral equivalency, soaring hope and change, with these apologies to Europeans, his Arab world Sermons on the Mount to Al Arabiya, in Turkey, in Cairo, etc., his touchy-feely videos to Iran, his “we are all victims of racism” sops to Ortega, Chavez, and Morales. It is only a matter of when, under what conditions, how high the price we must pay, and whether we lose the farm before he gains wisdom about the tragic universe in which we live.

A sojourn at an elite university, you see, can sometimes become a very dangerous thing indeed.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

27 May 2009

“A More Aggressive Carterism”

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Presidents like to use catch phrases to identify their domestic and their foreign policies. Teddy Roosevelt had the Square Deal and Big Stick. Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal and the Good Neighbor Policy. No doubt admiring the Obama administration’s “angry letter to the Times” response to Iranian missile launches and North Korean nuclear bomb tests, Jules Crittenden proposes that Barack Obama might add A More Aggressive Carterism on the foreign policy side to his domestic New Foundation.

It’s like Carterism on steroids. Like Carter with abs. Cooler, too, I guess. It wears shades sometimes.

I was having lunch downtown the other day with a couple of my crazed war vet pals I hadn’t seen in a while, one left, one right, and the right one says, “So, what do you think about Obama?”

Like he needed to ask. I gave it a couple seconds thought on how to do it simply, without running off at the mouth, and said, “He’s like a more aggressive Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter kind of sat back and let things happen to him. Obama goes looking for it.”

“Ha ha” says the right one. “A more aggressive Carter. I like that.”

18 Jan 2009

The Left’s Foreign Policy Ambush

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Richard Perle evaluates the Bush record in foreign policy (to the limited degree that Bush was allowed by the federal bureaucracy to have a say in the matter) and attacks the left’s false narrative of the reasons for bringing about regime change in Iraq.

[T]he salient issue was not whether Saddam had stockpiles of WMD but whether he could produce them and place them in the hands of terrorists. The administration’s appalling inability to explain that this is what it was thinking and doing allowed the unearthing of stockpiles to become the test of whether it had correctly assessed the risk that Saddam might provide WMD to terrorists. When none were found, the administration appeared to have failed the test even though considerable evidence of Saddam’s capability to produce WMD was found in postwar inspections by the Iraq Survey Group chaired by Charles Duelfer.

I am not alone in having been asked, “If you knew that Saddam did not have WMD, would you still have supported invading Iraq?” But what appears to some to be a “gotcha” question actually misses the point. The decision to remove Saddam stands or falls on one’s judgment at the time the decision was made, and with the information then available, about how to manage the risk that he would facilitate a catastrophic attack on the United States. To say the decision to remove him was mistaken because stockpiles of WMD were never found is akin to saying that it was a mistake to buy fire insurance last year because your house didn’t burn down or health insurance because you didn’t become ill. No one would take seriously the question, “Would you have bought Enron stock if you had known it would go down?” and no one should take seriously the facile conclusion that invading Iraq was mistaken because we now know Saddam did not possess stockpiles of WMD.

Bush might have decided differently: that the safer course was to leave Saddam in place and hope he would not cause or enable the use of WMD against the United States. How would we now assess his presidency if, say, Iraqi anthrax had later been used to kill thousands of Americans? He would have been accused—rightly in my view—of having taken a foolish risk by not acting against a regime we had good reason to consider extremely dangerous. (And no one would be so stupid as to ask: Would you have left Saddam in place if you had known he was going to supply anthrax to terrorists?)

Read the whole thing.

01 Dec 2008

Obama’s Great Foreign Policy Shift


The New York Times announces the intended shift in President-Elect Obama’s future foreign policy resources from arms to Danegeld, but also hints that, Obama being democrat, he’ll probably just spend a lot more on both.

When President-elect Barack Obama introduces his national security team on Monday, it will include two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.

Yet all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. However, it is unclear whether the financing would be shifted from the Pentagon; Mr. Obama has also committed to increasing the number of American combat troops. Whether they can make the change — one that Mr. Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best — “will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently.

23 Nov 2008

Obama’s Fatal Dilemma

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It’s sad that we had to lose this year, but conservatives and Republicans can console themselves with Barack Obama’s unhappy prospects based upon the irreconcilable dilemma facing his presidency.

If he takes a thoroughly “progressive” course, agreeable to the democrat party’s leftwing base, he will assuredly produce economic calamity domestically and US humiliation in foreign affairs à la Carter, and he will then have a snowball’s chance in Hell of being re-elected.

On the other hand, if he tacks to the center, he will bitterly disappoint that extremist and highly volatile leftist base, which will turn upon him like the Furies, ultimately over time bringing into active and hostile opposition both the media and the community of fashion. In that case, like Lyndon Johnson, he will become a discredited, failed, and reviled president, unable to defeat primary challenges from the left, and not even able to run for a second term.

Will it be Door 1 or Door 2, President Obama?

As the Telegraph reports, his appointments of supporters of the war in Iraq signal a centrist direction, and the natives at Daily Kos are already becoming restless.

Mr Obama has moved quickly in the last 48 hours to get his cabinet team in place, unveiling a raft of heavyweight appointments, in addition to Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State.

But his preference for General James Jones, a former Nato commander who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department has dismayed many of his earliest supporters.

The likelihood that Mr Obama will retain George W Bush’s Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has reinforced the notion that he will not aggressively pursue the radical withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq over the next 16 months and engagement with rogue states that he has pledged.

Chris Bowers of the influential blog complained: “That is, over all, a centre-right foreign policy team. I feel incredibly frustrated. Progressives are being entirely left out of Obama’s major appointments so far.”

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos site, the in-house talking shop for the anti-war Left, warned that Democrats risk sounding “tone deaf” to the views of “the American electorate that voted in overwhelming numbers for change from the discredited Bush policies.”

A spokesman for the President-elect was forced to confirm that Mr Obama holds to his previous views. “His position on Iraq has not changed and will not change.”

But the growing disillusionment underlines the fine line Mr Obama must walk between appearing to reach out to former opponents and keeping his grassroot supporters happy.

06 Nov 2008

Pundits Debate Elvish Foreign Policy: Suicide at the Council of Elrond

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Red State Pundits argue whether Elrond Half-Elven started an unnecessary war which precipitated the dwindling away and passage to the West of his own people.

Besides, no One Ring was ever found when the allied armies invaded and occupied Mordor at the cost of millions of gold pieces per month, the loss of thousands of elves, dwarves, and men, which war-of-choice resulted also in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of orcs, trolls, wild men, and Southrons, and the enormous and wide-spread destruction of Mordorian infrastructure.

An anniversary has recently passed. On October 25, 3018 Third Age, Elrond Half-elven, son of Eärendil of the line of Thingol, bearer of Vilya the great Ring of Power, made a critical decision for his people.

Rather than allow the last remaining outposts of the Elves at Imladris and Lothlórien continue without disruption from the outside world, he chose to invest the Elves in a grand global fight to rob Sauron of his power permanently, in the process destroying the Rings of Power of his own and Galadriel’s. At the Council of Elrond, a Fellowship was constructed, representing Elves, Men, Wizards, Dwarves, and Halflings, all united by a supposed common cause.

But where are the Elves now? All gone West. Was this great act of foreign policy by Elrond a self-destructive act? Would Elves not have been better off allowing Sauron to remain, acting as a counterweight to the Men, and preventing Men from being an undisputed hyperpower in Middle-earth?

27 Sep 2008

Kissinger Rejects Obama’s Claimed Agreement

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Watchers of last night’s debate were bound to wonder if Henry Kissinger really told Barack Obama he agreed with him on presidential meetings held without preconditions with leaders of the world’s most hostile and unsavory regimes.

Stephen Hayes clears this one up.

Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized. He says: “Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”

11 Sep 2008

It’s Not Only Palin

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David From explains that Americans are still concerned about a president’s ability to protect the United States in a dangerous world, and that the public has not failed to recognize the democtrats’ record of insincerity and opportunism.

Democratic populism is destroying Democratic credibility on national security.

Let’s go to the numbers.

Republicans have owned the national security issue since the late 1960s. After 9/11, the Republican advantage on poll questions spread to an astounding 30 points.

But since 2005, the Republican advantage has dwindled. By the fall of 2007, the two parties had reached near parity on the issue, only 3 points apart—the best Democratic result since Barry Goldwater led the Republican party!

That parity did not last. Over the past year, Republican standing on the issue has revived while Democratic credibility has tumbled. In Greenberg’s latest polling, the Republicans now hold a 14-point lead, 49-35, a return to the kind of advantage they held in the 1980s.

What’s going on?

Greenberg advances three reasons, but here is the most important and provocative:

When asked to choose why they think Democrats are weak on security, the number one reason—picked by 33% of all respondents—is that Democrats” change positions depending on public opinion.”

“Moreover, when we ask respondents to compare the two parties, likely voters choose Democrats over Republicans as the party “too focused on public opinion” by a 27-point margin. Even Democratic base voters agree: liberal Democrats point to their own party as the one “too focused on public opinion” by an 18-point margin, and moderate/ conservative Democrats say this by 25 points.

In 2001-2002, Democrats chased public opinion in a hawkish direction. In 2004-2007, they chased public opinion in a dovish direction. In 2006, when the war seemed hopeless, that reversal paid off for Democrats. But as conditions have improved in Iraq, Republicans have been vindicated—and Democrats look weak and opportunistic.

Now when Bob Shrum talks of “populism,” he has something very specific and highly ideological in mind. But most Americans—and most working politicians—use the word “populism” in a more general sense. They use it to mean, “doing what is popular.”

You might think that doing what is popular is always good politics. That would seem true almost by definition!

And in the very short term, it has been true for Democrats.

But there is a longer term too. Voters remember. They compare results. They recall who stayed firm in the moment of decision and who flinched. And if the person who stood firm is also proven right—voters reward it.

Don’t misunderstand. There are prizes for the vacillating and the time-serving. John Kerry is still senator from Massachusetts after all. But there is a price to be paid too for too obvious vote-catching—and on national security, the Democrats have already begun to pay it. Just how high that price will go, we must wait until November to know.

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