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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: September 2013

As the mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio moves on, the revelation that the likely victor was a Sandinista supporter as a young man in the 1980s has begun to be noticed. It made de Blasio actually have to respond to his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, who had condemned him as a “Marxist.” But instead of saying something to the effect that he was young, idealistic, and perhaps wrong about Nicaragua, he openly defended his positions.

In an interview with Capital, a Manhattan-based publication, de Blasio argued that U.S. policies in Central America in the ’80s “were wrong,” and that he was only working with Jesuits and Catholics, with much of the work “done by nuns.” Well, there are nuns and then there are nuns. And de Blasio, by his own account, thinks he was on the right side, since those supported by the U.S. in the Reagan and Bush 41 years were regimes “very unfair to their own people.”

In standing firm in defense of his old positions, de Blasio has revealed how little he has learned.  The truth is that the Catholics he supported in Nicaragua — including the nuns — were part of the regime-created “Popular Church,” an attempt to fuse Catholicism with Marxism in support of the Sandinista Front (FSLN), and were advocates of “liberation theology,” popular among the Catholic left in the region in those years. The regular Church, as in Poland, condemned the Sandinistas and was a strong opponent of the drift to totalitarianism.

Today, in City Journal, my old friend Sol Stern has perhaps the single best article on what a de Blasio victory might mean for New York City, and for the nation.  As Stern writes, “Bill de Blasio was outed by the New York Times and then proudly stood his ground, politically and ideologically”:

De Blasio’s untroubled response to the Times’s revelations speaks volumes about New York’s rapidly changing political culture. It’s not that the next mayor will try to establish socialism or bring Sandinista ideas about the class struggle to government agencies. But de Blasio’s ascendency, perhaps even more than Obama’s, marks another step in the evolution of the Democratic party and big-city liberalism toward a twenty-first-century version of the old Popular Front. De Blasio’s City Hall will be open for business to each element of a self-styled “progressive” coalition of “inclusion.” No group or individual will be deemed too far to the left as long as they jump on the de Blasio bandwagon. Lining up to receive their fair share of the spoils will be the old Acorn organization, now renamed New York Communities for Change; the far-left Working Families Party; the United Federation of Teachers and other municipal unions; the radical Service Employees International Union, including the former Communist-led health-care workers’ union Local 1199; the civil liberties and homeless lobbies; and, of course, the onetime racial arsonist Al Sharpton, now posing as a wise elder and political power broker. To varying degrees, each will have a place at the municipal trough. Meanwhile, at the other end of City Hall—thanks to the successful efforts of the Working Families Party in many local races this year—the newly elected city council will tilt further left and will dole out even more cash to radical and activist community groups.”

Given that New York City is the financial center of our country, and hence important nationally, if the dark scenario laid out by Stern as a possible result of a de Blasio victory comes true, it bodes ill for our country as a whole. It is as important a development on the Left as was Scott Walker’s victory over the Left in Wisconsin.

To confirm how much the national Left is moving to support the de Blasio campaign, look no further than this article at Huffington Post by the New Left’s main 1960s leader and author of the Port Huron Statement that announced SDS to the nation, Tom Hayden. He likes de Blasio for one reason. His candidacy, Hayden writes, “should hugely excite the progressive base in New York politics after a long period of Republican rule. De Blasio did not leave his radical youth behind either; in the present day, he is a leading critic of stop-and-frisk and the massive economic inequalities dramatized by Occupy Wall Street.”

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We used to call young Americans who went to Sandinista Nicaragua in the ’80s “Sandalistas,” a name of derision meant to mock the sandal-wearing leftists looking to help Daniel Ortega build the socialist future in Central America. As we all know, what was going on was a fight for freedom against the Marxist-Leninists, which included most of the Sandinista leadership, by those who wanted to defeat their attempt to build a second Cuba in this hemisphere.

Bill de Blasio, who most likely will be the next mayor of New York, is not just a simple run-of-the mill “progressive.” The New York Times just published a major story on his background, timed to run after the the New York City primary, which was likely the real election. (Rudy Giuliani’s victory on the Republican ticket was an anomaly, and the working-class voters whose ballots put him in no longer live in the areas from which he got the necessary votes.) Had voters known about de Blasio’s background before the primary, he may have lost the critical number of votes for his victory.

Indeed, the Times tells us of a whitewash: “References to his early activism have been omitted from his campaign Web site.”

No wonder. The story by Javier C. Hernandez reveals de Blasio was a far-left socialist who worked with an outfit called The Quixote Center. But he was not simply tilting at windmills; he visited a Nicaragua on the road to communism, and came back with “a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.”

The Reagan administration was right in denouncing the Nicaraguan regime –which took power by a coup led by armed guerrillas — as a tyranny led by Communists. Hernandez writes: “Their liberal backers argued that … they were building a free society with broad access to education, land and health care.” The backers of Ortega’s coup were not liberals, but hardcore Marxists, socialists, and other anti-American members of the New Left. Soured on Cuba, they turned to Nicaragua as their new land of hope.

De Blasio told Hernandez: “My work was based on trying to create a more fair and inclusive world.” Like other blinded gullible leftists, he accepted the Marxist jargon peddled by the regime’s junta while ignoring that the Commandantes like Tomas Borge, Daniel Ortega, and the rest of the bunch were lining their own pockets with the most valuable properties. They were creating a wealthy nomenklatura modeled on Soviet lines which gave them access to the wealth and power no one else in the country could access. Led by Borge’s secret police, who were trained by the East German Stasi and quartered in a building with the sign reading “Sentinel of the People’s Happiness,” they crushed dissent, closed down the opposition newspaper La Prensa, and instituted major steps towards building a one-party system.

As the Times notes: “Mr. de Blasio became an ardent supporter of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries.” In 1990, he said publicly that his goal for America was “democratic socialism.”

As the New York Daily News reported, de Blasio took his 1991 honeymoon in Castro’s Cuba! I guess totalitarian Cuba is what he meant by “democratic socialism.”

De Blasio’s path to power reveals a local version of the path trod by Barack Obama — that of a “Long March through the Existing Institutions,” which is what the German New Left revolutionary leaders in the 1960s called the road to power. For the advanced capitalist countries, Mao’s Long March was not the way; rather, the path was political power by working through the existing political structure and moving to take over one of the mainstream dominant political parties.

In New York City, with his ally in the radical Working Families Party — affiliated with the former ACORN — de Blasio has shunned the real goal of socialism. Calling himself progressive, he has worked to create a majority to run New York that is anti-business and supports greater and greater entitlements. As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary,  de Blasio’s “left-wing populism and hostility to both the business community and the police tactics that have helped fuel New York’s revival bode ill for the city’s future.”

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If you want to understand how so many Communists and fellow travelers could defend Stalin’s bloodthirsty tyranny in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, look no further than the behavior of a section of the self-proclaimed anti-war Left today. Global Research, a division of International Answer, reported yesterday that former Attorney General Ramsey Clark (1967-69) is now in Syria, where he is leading a delegation in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Joining him on the trip is former six-term member of Congress from Atlanta, Georgia, the virulently pro-Arab and anti-Israel Cynthia McKinney. (Her father blamed the loss of her ongressional seat on the Jews, who, he claimed, “bought everybody.”)

Also along for the trip were Dedon Kamathi of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party and the left-wing Pacifica Radio, and Johnny Achi of Arab Americans for Syria.

They are sponsored by the revolutionary socialist group International Answer, which ran anti-war rallies during the Bush-era Iraq War. Organizer Sara Flounders, who wrote the report and is accompanying the group, reported: “If anything, support [in Syria] for the government is much stronger now.”

Flounders and the group also praised the legion of gullible Western volunteers, who have flooded to Syria to willingly serve as human shields for Assad. They positioned themselves in areas they thought likely to be targeted by bombs. Calling the action “Over Our Dead Bodies,” they formed an encampment in 50 tents in the Mout Qassioun area of Damascus. “Democracy,” proclaimed organizer Ogarit Dandash, “will not come with American weapons.”

Not that they want democracy. Unless, perhaps, it’s the “people’s democracies” imposed on Eastern Europe by Stalin at the end of the second World War.

BuzzFeed reported that McKinney praised the Assad regime on her Facebook page for its socially progressive policies:

I am in Syria now with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, where residents enjoy free education and free healthcare. … Visited a Damascus hospital, the Grand Mufti, a school that has been turned into residences for Internally Displaced Persons. Ended the Day with Ogarit Dandash who founded “Over Our Dead Bodies,” a group of young people who climbed atop Mount Qasioun and dared U.S. bombs to target them. They are still there in defiant resistance to any war against Syria. Mount Qasioun should be the site of a peace party, not bombing strikes.

Just like with Cuba, free health care and free education for the loyal portion of the Alawite minority trump the over 100,000 civilians killed by Assad in the past few years. What are their deaths compared to the joy of establishing socialism? Stalin, after all, killed millions in his valiant attempt to create the communist future. Now, with Assad, Clark and McKinney feel they once again have a chance to start off where Stalin failed.

To be fair, I should point out that Clark’s views are even too much for some on the Left. Writing in Salon, Ian Williams pointed out a few years ago that “Clark has become the tool of left-wing cultists who defend Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Rwandan torturers as anti-imperialist heroes.”

In his interesting profile, Williams also puts his finger on why so many of his leftist comrades are reluctant to criticize Clark:

Many liberals and leftists cut Clark a considerable degree of slack. For a start he is almost the only person the American left has had in high public office since World War II, even if it was a retrospective success, since his long march leftward only began afterward. His views as the former attorney general are listened to with a respect that would be accorded to few others with such eccentric opinions. As a revered spokesman of the left, he is a perfect symbol for its near-impotence in American politics today.

To put it another way, they may think Clark is cuckoo, but since he was one of their own who actually held high office, they do not want to publicly attack him. You never know, after all, when something they support will be attacked and they might need Clark to jump in and come to their defense.

As for McKinney, she supported Muamaar Gaddafi during the Obama administration’s actions to topple his regime, and appeared on Libyan state TV in defense of the ruler.

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Una Noche, A Film about Cuba You Have to See

September 16th, 2013 - 10:39 am

Reading Charles Lane’s important column in The Washington Post about a new indie film, Una Noche (One Night), I promptly rented it “On Demand” on my cable system. It is also available as an iTunes download.

(CLICK HERE to rent and watch on Amazon.com)

Filmmaker Lucy Mulloy is new to the business. This is her first film, and it is now available after premiering at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, as well as the Berlin Film Festival that same year. Unless you live in New York City where some theaters are showing it, you have to watch it at home.

What Mulloy has done is to reveal the truth about daily life in Communist Cuba, in a way that Western visitors to Cuba have little understanding. Indeed, the very week that Mulloy’s film has been made available for viewing, The New York Times Travel Section featured two different articles extolling tourism to Cuba, and in effect encouraging its readers to avail themselves of the opportunity to engage in well-managed Potemkin Village tours, in which representatives of Cuba’s tourism industry – controlled by Cuba’s state-security apparatus – guide the gullible Americans to show them how joyous and happy the people are, and how wonderful the regime is that gives its people such a good life. They come back extolling the virtues of the Cuban government, joining in calls to lift the embargo on Cuba, and reporting on how well off things are for the people.

The first Times article informs readers that “ Those eager to get to Cuba just have to pay, and agree to take part in a busy, highly organized tour with very little free time.” Sure, if you had time on your own, you might wander off and see the parts of Havana that Mulloy shows us, and see how people really live and learn what they really think. When I went there in the mid-1970s, I did just that, and ended up getting arrested and thrown into a local holding cell in a police station for six hours because I took a photo of a giant line in front of a nationalized Woolworth store that had just received a rare shipment of plastic shoes from Eastern Europe.

The second Times article notes that “nearly every major tour company is now jockeying for the hearts and wallets of American tourists.” Why not? The tours cost a great deal of money, the food is reportedly mediocre (perhaps better than when I was there, and it was close to inedible) and you are given little time for any R and R- continually shuttled to one orchestrated activity after another. As they put it, “you can’t simply show up and luxuriate at the beach.”

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On Monday of this week, Stalinist-Castroite filmmaker Saul Landau died at his home in Alameda, California. His death inspired major obituaries in our country’s leading mainstream newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and, as expected, the New York Times. If there is one thing you can count on old media for, it is that they will run laudatory tributes whenever a member in good standing of the far Left passes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if during the Academy Awards, when his photo is flashed and his name mentioned in the tribute to those who left the film colony in the past year, there is loud applause and the usual suspects stand in respect. After all, his current project was a film praising the convicted Cuban spies — the so-called Cuban Five — which he was filming with Danny Glover.

It is remarkable how Landau’s politics are described in the obits.

The headline of the NYT obit read: “Saul Landau, Maker of Films with a Leftist Edge, Dies at 77.” I love that term, “leftist edge.” It implies he was an objective observer of the subjects he filmed, but put a slightly leftist tint on them. As writer Douglas Martin put it, Landau “aspired to marshal art and literature to illuminate social and political problems.”

You would believe that was his goal, if you think that painting Fidel Castro as a humanist god on earth whose life is devoted to the welfare of the Cuban people is objective.

The Washington Post described Landau as a filmmaker who “made films with an unabashedly leftist point of view.” That might be a slight improvement over the NYT characterization, but it still muted the real truth: Landau made films taking the stance Lenin had called on all Communists to take in the 1920s.

Communists, the Bolshevik leader wrote, had to “powerfully develop film production, taking especially the proletarian kino [theaters] to the city masses.” Of all the arts, he added, “the motion picture is for us the most important.” In America, European cultural commissar Willi Munzenberg advised the comrades to “develop the tremendous cultural possibilities of the motion picture in the revolutionary sense.” Writing in the Party’s daily newspaper The Daily Worker on July 23, 1925, he called on all revolutionary Communists who worked in the field of “agitation and propaganda” to use film “and turn it against” the ruling class.

Saul — whom I knew quite well — spent a lot of time reading all the Marxist-Leninist “classics,” as they were called. I’m certain he had come across Munzenberg’s admonition; it was quoted in many places in the old Communist movement.

My acquaintance with Landau went back to my leftist student days at the University of Wisconsin, where Landau and I were both members of the Communist youth movement on campus and later worked on the radical New Left intellectual journal Studies on the Left. As I moved on and left those circles, we became bitter political enemies.

In the 1980s, when I went to Nicaragua to report for The New Republic and on human rights missions with Nina Shea for a group she led called the Puebla Institute, my experiences led me to become a critic of the Sandinistas and their program to turn Nicaragua into a second Cuba in the western hemisphere. It was as a critic of the Left in Central America at a time when the American left was leading “U.S. Out of Central America” marches and condemning the Reagan administration’s foreign policy in the region that I debated Landau in Washington, D.C. on the eve of one of their major pro-Communist rallies in support of the Salvadoran Communist rebels and the Sandinistas.

In those days before YouTube and iPhone cameras, there was no one filming it. I do, however, recall one major exchange. Landau tried to describe the Sandinistas as radical nationalists who simply wanted to gain independence from U.S. imperialism’s grasp, and to build a free and democratic society devoted to the poor rather than to the benefit of U.S. capital. I argued that, in effect, the Sandinistas used nationalism as a guise for their very real belief in Marxist-Leninist tenets, and I provided evidence to back up that assertion.

Landau replied that it was propaganda to claim that Daniel Ortega and company were Marxists.

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In politics, sometimes we come across the “strange bedfellows” phenomenon: joint efforts towards a common goal by those one would ordinarily consider to be mortal enemies. In England, this seems to become a regular pattern quite often.

For many years, radical Islamists joined with British Trotskyists in support of radical clerics and in opposition to the war in Iraq. Secular Marxist-Leninists vigorously opposed to all religion stood alongside fundamentalist advocates of jihad because of their mutual hatred of the Western powers who stood against Saddam Hussein.

Now, strange bedfellows unite over the threat of pending military action in Syria — which collapsed in Britain over a week ago when Prime Minister Cameron lost his move in Parliament when Labor’s Ed Miliband, at the last moment, backtracked on his promise of support. Miliband instead rallied his forces to gain a majority against the PM’s proposed resolution.

Now, a writer for the Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan, has uncovered a new and similar alliance to the one that materialized during the war in Iraq. Calling it “friends of Assad,” Gilligan notes that — working under the pretense of opposition to war and in favor of peace — the actual goal of the groups uniting behind Miliband and British Labor is victory for Assad. They regard Assad as an opponent of American and British imperialism, much as the communists in the era of Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo supported Milosevic as Tito’s successor among the Serbs, and as a heroic opponent of NATO and the American empire.

Like International Answer in the United States, the British group cleverly called the  “Stop the War coalition” is in fact composed of different sects of communists.

Key Miliband donors in the Labor Party include leaders of the new coalition. The Communication Workers Union policy chief is the group’s treasurer; the TSSA union’s chief is Stop the War’s deputy president and former chairman. And these groups were the ones who pushed Miliband to change his position and betray his promise to Cameron.

Stop the War’s current president is Kamal Majid, “a veteran communist and founding member of the Stalin Society, created in 1991 to ‘defend Stalin and his work’ and to ‘refute capitalist, revisionist, opportunist and Trotskyist propaganda directed against him.’”

Last year, Majid actually called Assad not simply a “reformer” — as the early Obama administration dubbed the Syrian dictator — but a man whose family had “a long history of resisting imperialism” and who had to be supported “because their defeat will pave the way [in Syria] for a pro-Western and pro-U.S. regime.”

As for the rebellion against Assad? It was part of an “imperialist plan to replace the Syrian government with a puppet state … which will do the bidding of the Americans and Zionists.”

Another leader of the Stop the War Coalition is Andrew Murray, the chief of the Unite union and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The Communist Party’s leader last week called for efforts to stop “tipping the military balance against President Assad’s regime,” since Assad’s defeat would “remove a critic of U.S. foreign policy and the illegal Israeli occupation of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese land.”

Communist Party International Secretary John Foster has called for “respect for the sovereignty and independence of Syria,” and “an end to the arming and financing of terrorist groups.” Keep in mind that he means not just al-Qaeda, which in this instance they oppose, but all groups and citizens of Syria opposed to Assad’s tyranny.

For the time being, the British pro-Stalin Communists have found themselves united as well with the even more sectarian British Trotskyists, including Socialist Action, whose website attacked “those on the Left who have mistakenly viewed the past two years’ battles in Syria as a progressive revolution.” Most recently, the group condemned the U.S. military, which it said was “preparing an immense assault on Syria.” It reminded the comrades: “U.S. imperialism does not make idle threats.” (I guess they have not included Barack Obama in their estimate of what America’s intentions are.) Also according to the group: “The proposed war is not about chemical weapons. Quite irrespective of whether the Assad regime used them or not, imperialism’s goal had been to remove the regime. The U.S. is planning a substantial intervention in Syria with the aim of qualitatively reducing Assad’s military and assisting the opposition forces.”

Evidently, the proposals made by John McCain and Lindsey Graham are confused by the group with the position of the U.S. government and the Obama administration.

Last May, Gilligan reports, the Stop the War Coalition hosted a talk by pro-Assad Syrian Issa Chaer, who joined the Stalinist CP leader Majid on the platform. Chaer described Assad as “the person who is now uniting the country,” and the Syrian people’s support for Assad, he argued, “gives President Assad the strength to carry on.”

Also aligned with the group is a pro-Iranian regime group called the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, or CASMII, whose chairman sits on the new coalition’s steering committee. Other members on the coalition’s board include a group in support of Hamas and which calls for a boycott of Israel.

What is important is that the group, not without reason, has claimed a leading role in causing Labor’s Ed Miliband to change course. It held a “Hands off Syria” mass rally in London last week, and told the crowds that Miliband’s new position showed that the demonstrations they led had worked.

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As we wait for Godot — I mean President Obama’s address to the American people on Tuesday night — it looks at present as if both the House and Senate will not grant him the “yes” vote that he is seeking on a Syria strike.

I have read virtually every op-ed and argument on all sides of the question that have appeared, from people on both sides whose views I respect, and one of the problems is that there are good arguments to make on both sides. Today I watched Fox News Sunday, the impressive panel on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, which included General Wesley Clark and Paul Wolfowitz, and a separate interview with Bernard Henri-Levy. And of course, as readers know, I have exchanged arguments on this site with Bryan Preston.

On the interventionist side, I have considered the views of Bill Kristol, Stephen F. Hayes, Eliot Cohen, Clifford D. May, and many others. Read them for yourself. If we have a stake in the outcome, and we do, we cannot ignore their arguments. This is particularly true if you believe that we must stay out of Syria.

On the non-interventionist side, I have read Kathleen Parker, Andy McCarthy, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles R. Kesler, Fareed Zakaria and others who hold a similar perspective. If you are on the side of those who favor a strike, you have the obligation to think and listen to their arguments against it.

One side makes the case; the other side rebuts it. That is what a serious debate should be. But let me single out one essay in particular and take up the problems with the interventionist perspective. The argument comes from none other than Rep. Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Cantor knows well that his position is unpopular among those who live Virginia’s 7th District, which he represents. As he writes, his constituents have let him know that they have “serious questions” about the propriety of U.S. involvement. He answers that he believes “America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction … especially by a terrorist state, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States.”

Cantor argues that Syria is more than a civil war, that it is also a proxy war — in which the victory of the Assad regime would be “a strategic victory for his Iranian patrons, [would] embolden the radical Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah…and convince our allies that we cannot be trusted.”

Cantor worries that if we do nothing, eventually the Assad regime will see to it that the chemical WMDs are eventually used against major U.S. interests; in other words, a strike would be a note to our enemies that they cannot take the slippery slope towards advancing military means that would threaten us in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Next comes the least convincing part of Cantor’s argument. He raises the point of those who question whether by intervening we would be “actually helping al-Qaida” and thus end up replacing “one evil with an even greater evil.” Here is what he then argues:

But extremist groups represent only a minority of those opposing Assad. Moderate opposition groups leading the fight against Assad are under attack by al-Qaida as well, and if this conflict draws on, more foreign jihadists will join the extremists and threaten moderate elements.

Continued American inaction will undermine these moderate forces and empower the extremist terrorists who seek to displace them. Right now, the extremists are exploiting the argument that the moderates cannot rely on the U.S. to come to their aid or even enforce our own red lines. It is in our interests that neither Assad – a primary sponsor of terrorism – nor al-Qaida comes out on top.

The problem is that intelligence reports, as Reuters let its readers learn, “contradict Secretary of State John Kerry’s public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence [and] appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.”

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Why We Must Support a Military Strike in Syria

September 4th, 2013 - 4:12 pm
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Why pro-military, pro-America hawks should stand with Obama against Assad.

I would like to thank Bryan Preston for writing a serious and excellent article in which he carefully lays out his disagreement with me on the issue of a congressional resolution in favor of a military strike on Syria. The conservative movement needs such a debate, and it has to be carried out in the manner in which Preston has written his remarks: without ad hominem comments, without distortion of an opponent’s argument.

I am actually in agreement with a great deal of what Preston says. I agree — and I am sorry if the way I stated my case caused confusion — that one can oppose support of this particular resolution without moving into the camp of isolationism. Preston himself is proof of this: he is an internationalist, understands well the role played in the world by the United States, and usually supports military action against America’s enemies. One would never confuse him with Rand or Ron Paul.

As readers know, two days ago I called Barack Obama an incompetent president and perhaps the worst our country has ever had, at least in the 20th and 21st centuries. So, I agree that Barack Obama is the elephant in the room. Every charge Bryan makes against him I second. Like him, I believe he has been a disaster for our country, and in foreign policy especially Obama has shown almost from the start that he was not suited for the job.

Indeed, he went after Colonel Qaddafi in Libya after the Libyan dictator had actually moved to dismantle his own nuclear capability and had begun to ease up on the terrorist activity his state had long sponsored. He moved to push him out of power on the grounds that if he did not act, Qaddafi might slaughter thousands of his own citizens. At the same time, Obama did nothing about the already existing pattern of slaughter by Assad in Syria — Obama’s administration, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was calling Assad “a reformer.”

It is not surprising that Obama has done little to make a case in favor of his own desired resolution. After all, he has not made a case for his cherished Obamacare, which is collapsing at the seams and for which he has had to call in Bill Clinton to make the case for him.

In the case of Syria, I agree that by announcing that the strike would be limited and of no consequence, Obama has already vitiated any salutary effect it might have. Moreover, he has given Assad assurance that he does not have to worry about regime change, and that the strike will not even substantially affect his regime’s military capability. It is my hope that in exchange for support from Republicans, the administration will do more than merely carry out what was their initial plan. That, at any rate, is what Lindsey Graham tried to negotiate with the president at the White House.

I can understand Bryan’s reluctance to trust the likes of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in particular. I was among those who opposed Hagel’s nomination for secretary of Defense and Kerry’s for secretary of State. Kerry’s long-standing leftist agenda certainly was valid ground for lacking trust, as were Hagel’s positions on Israel. But I was hopeful and surprised to see Kerry step up to the plate. Yesterday he called the United States “the indispensable nation.” As he defended America’s positive role in the world, he sounded quite the opposite of Barack Obama, and nothing like the leftist and anti-Vietnam War agitator of years past.

Yes, I also wait for verification. But I support the resolution on the grounds that the weakening of presidential power is dangerous. In the current situation regarding Iran — for which Syria is actually a proxy — failure to act is a signal to the mullahs that the U.S. word amounts to little. They will read inaction as an announcement that they can speed up and obtain a working nuclear bomb, and that they have little reason to fear the Obama administration will do anything to stop them.

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As the Obama administration goes to Congress to seek support for a resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria, the deep divisions in both the Democratic and Republican parties are at present making it problematic, at best, that he will gain the votes he needs for a consensus in favor of action.

The divisions today are eerily reminiscent of those at the beginning of the Cold War, when pre-war isolationists or, to use the term they preferred then and prefer now, non-interventionists once again came forth on both the Left and Right to oppose a strong response to Soviet expansionism.

Before Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt had to face convincing a strong isolationist sentiment at home, as well as a reluctant Congress, to do anything that could involve the United States in war. After running for the presidency with a promise to keep the nation out of war, once in office Roosevelt acted to strengthen the British resolve through the Lend-Lease program as well as putting through the famous trading of bases for destroyers.

At home, the America First Committee, headed by Charles Lindbergh and which included old liberals and progressives such as John T. Flynn and Oswald Garrison Villard as well as conservatives such as Col. Robert McCormick and William H. Regnery, became very influential. During the years of the Nazi-Soviet pact, the American Communist Party created its own front group, the American Peace Mobilization, which argued that FDR was seeking to wage an imperialist war for oil and urged Americans to keep out of war and focus their opposition on the nefarious plans for intervention favored by the British Empire.

Pearl Harbor put an end to the America First Committee’s efforts, as the nation united behind the president and thousands of young men flooded the recruiting centers to volunteer to fight against the threat to America’s security. At the war’s end, as the Soviets moved effectively to use the turmoil and insecurity to expand communism as far as they could in the East and the West, a new opposition emerged on both Left and Right against taking a firm stand against Stalin and his cadre.

On the Republican side, “Mr. Republican,” as Senator Robert A. Taft was called, vigorously opposed anything that he thought would lead the United States to “globalism” and a new empire. Taft opposed every measure that the Truman administration took to offset Soviet advances — including the Truman Doctrine, the creation of NATO, and the Korean War. When the communists took over Czechoslovakia in a coup in late February of 1948, Taft argued that it did not indicate any aggression and that the country had been placed in Russian hands and was in their “sphere of influence.”

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A case can now be firmly made that Barack Obama is the most incompetent and dangerous chief executive our country has ever had. While historians of the future will undoubtedly rate him very high — because he is the first African-American president and they support Obama Care, which they will say is a major accomplishment for his administration — they will overlook his glaring faults. Moreover, they will understand that if they rate him anything other than the highest level, they will be accused of being racists.

Yet in the past few days this has become so apparent that I do not believe anyone, including those who partake in the game of presidential ratings, can ignore the truth. Obama has shown the world that no one can or should take him seriously. After saying since over a year ago that “Assad must go” and then saying that the use of chemical weapons is a red line that Assad cannot cross, he has undercut John Kerry’s speech on Friday by withholding any action until Congress reconvenes in a week.

In effect, President Obama has learned the wrong lessons from Prime Minister Cameron’s shocking defeat in Parliament. Cameron was publicly humiliated; Labor betrayed him by first assuring him of their support and then, at the last minute, deciding that the unpopularity of a strike on Syria would give them political clout. Hence at the last minute they changed their position and gave the orders for their backbenchers to vote against any UK involvement.

Secretary Kerry said in his impassioned speech on Friday that Assad was a “thug” and a monster, and that his action could not go unpunished. The president then not only embarrassed Kerry by postponing action before even conferring with him, but put on hold all in his administration who were getting ready to gather support for a strike, which, as the president said, did not require any vote by Congress. Yet he has now asked for a vote, one in which he has no assurance that he can win. He has opponents on both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle, and they might very well have enough votes to go against his stated desire that a strike against Syria be taken.

The result, should he lose, will not only be further humiliation, but a damaging setback for the reputation and word of the United States. Our enemies throughout the world will be waiting in anticipation for such a failure. Already, the reports are arriving from the orchestrated celebrations in Syria, which has declared that the regime has already won. By delaying any action for what could be two weeks or more, Obama has given Assad even more time to assure that if a strike comes, it will not harm any of his troops, their weapons, or their strategic military capability.

President Obama, if he had read the Cameron defeat correctly, would have decided to act without consulting Congress, as John Yoo and others have argued is constitutional. Indeed, President Clinton ordered bombing strikes in Kosovo as Congress was deliberating and without waiting for the results of a vote. Eventually he got an endorsement, but he acted first. President Obama now says he is going to Congress even though he knows he does not have to. Do we really believe that if the vote in Congress goes against him, he will then act on his own? I doubt it. What he will do is precisely what Cameron did in Britain — throw in the towel and decide the U.S. really does not have to do anything.

Some would argue that President Obama favors a negative vote. That will give him the option to bow out by saying he is listening to the American people.  We know that he has announced what in effect is the kind of strike that will be only symbolic; one that will not harm Assad in any meaningful manner. That is why ardent hawks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are contemplating voting no; they think Obama’s planned strike will not accomplish anything. He could, of course — short of regime change, which he will not support — take out Assad’s air force and strategic capability, allowing the regime’s opposition to have a chance. Moreover, such a move would at least stop Assad from killing thousands of more civilians, which the dictator has shown he is capable of doing without using poison gas.

But one thing President Barack Obama is not is a leader. He has the title of commander-in-chief, but he continues to lead from behind and to command nothing. John Kerry, who I argued earlier should have resigned after being so humiliated, has buckled down for his president and had the task of going on all the Sunday talk shows to rationalize and support Obama’s decision to wait for Congress to return and go into session. Obama did not even decide to call Congress back into session on Labor Day or Tuesday, preferring to wait till the scheduled date of resumption.

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