ISIS advances as Obama dithers

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said. . . .

Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces. . . .

Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.

The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.

In the meantime, Team Obama seems focused on telling people (including ISIS) what the U.S. won’t do to counter these terrorists. The president continues to insist that there will be no American “boots on the ground.” And now, Samantha Power has announced that the U.S. won’t conduct air strikes in Syria without the assistance of other nations.

Here’s a question: Why the hell not? President Obama claims he’s committed to “degrading and destroying” ISIS. Clearly, this requires air strikes in Syria, which is the only actual fighting Obama will the U.S. to engage in.

Air strikes are necessary if the Syrian rebels whom Obama expects to fight ISIS are to succeed even just in holding their own. To the extent Obama conditions American air strikes on the decisions of other nations, he demonstrates once again that he isn’t serious about “degrading and destroying” ISIS.

Rick Moran at PJ Media has another question: Is ISIS testing Obama’s new Syria policy? More likely, ISIS is acting on its conclusion that Obama’s new Syria policy has already failed its test.

In ISIS’s view, I believe, Obama’s Syria policy failed the test when his announcement of it wasn’t accompanied by air attacks in Syria. To hardened fighters, talk unaccompanied by action is just talk. A serious adversary would have acted in Syria first, then talked.

Moran points out that if the president sends planes into Syria to support the Kurds, a bipartisan group of lawmakers would be issuing a call for him to get congressional approval for the strikes. That’s true, but it’s no reason not to act.

Obama bombed ISIS in Iraq without congressional approval in response to the rout of the Kurds there. He should do the same in Syria under similar circumstances. Afterwards, he can sort out the question of authorization, either by seeking it or by deciding not to.

As Moran concludes, “the fallout from doing nothing won’t improve our credibility with the Kurds, or anyone else who might be thinking of signing on for the fight against ISIS.” And Obama’s credibility on this front sorely needs improvement.

Media Alert

I will be on the Bill Bennett radio show at 8:05 a.m. EST tomorrow, talking about the future of Obamacare in Minnesota now that the insurance company with 60% of the market has found the program “unsustainable” and dropped out. We will probably talk about other Minnesota-related stories, too; maybe this one.

If you don’t know where to get Bill show’s show on the radio dial where you live, you can listen online here.

Will the Obama EEOC sue the NFL over its new domestic violence policy?

The answer, of course, is no. If anything, the Obama administration seems to be pushing the NFL to prevent young black men who have been convicted of no crime from earning a living.

But my question isn’t frivolous, given the EEOC’s litigation policy towards employers that deny employment opportunities to blacks who get into trouble with the law. Indeed, the EEOC has no tolerance at all for employers who exclude applicants merely for being arrested or charged with a crime.

Ordinarily, only if the exclusions are based on actual convictions will the EEOC even listen to the employer’s defense. But the NFL and/or NFL teams apparently will suspend players in the absence of a conviction.

The Obama EEOC’s litigation position in cases involving exclusion criminal convictions also disfavors the NFL. In one case I worked on, the Obama EEOC sought damages and employment offers for dozens of applicants excluded due to their criminal convictions.

One of applicants for whom the EEOC sought such relief, a Hispanic female, was convicted of attempted murder for shooting at her husband in a college football stadium where he was working as a camera man. Talk about domestic violence!

The EEOC will attack an employer’s criminal conviction policy only if it thinks the policy has a disparate impact on a particular group. Will the NFL’s treatment of domestic violence offenders have a disparate impact on Black players? In other words, will Black representation among those disciplined significantly exceed Black representation among all NFL players? I don’t know, but based on the incidents I’m aware of, it seems quite possible.

If disparate impact exists, the employer must show that its policy is job-related or required by considerations of business necessity. Eschewing domestic violence has no relationship to one’s ability to play football.

The NFL would claim, however, (1) that it’s part of a player’s job to serve as a role model and (2) that it’s necessary for the league to exclude wife/girlfriend beaters in order to protect its image.

Whatever one thinks of these kinds of arguments, it’s clear that the Obama EEOC doesn’t think much of them. To argue to the EEOC that the employer needs to exclude criminals for reasons of “optics” is to waste one’s breath. In its view, the need to make Blacks with criminal records employable trumps all considerations of public relations.

Some sponsors have put pressure on the NFL to adopt tougher policies on domestic violence. This, though, seems mostly like noise. Will Budweiser really stop advertising on NFL games, given the millions upon millions of beer buyers in the audience?

To the Obama EEOC, it may not matter. In my experience, the Obama EEOC will not accept the existence of an employment policy that disproportionately excludes Blacks merely because the employer’s customers (or others who deal it) want such a policy.

Moreover, even a firm demand by a customer is unlikely to impress the EEOC. As it sees things, customer preferences are no excuse for “discrimination” (a circular argument when used in disparate impact cases, where a policy is only discriminatory if not justified by business necessity).

At a minimum, the Obama EEOC would insist that the NFL quantify and prove the amount of financial loss it would incur from not coming down harder on players who engage in domestic violence. There is no way the NFL could make such a showing to the EEOC’s satisfaction.

The NFL will not have to. The Obama administration doesn’t want to be perceived as soft on domestic violence. More than that, it doesn’t want to miss out on the fun of baying at the NFL over this issue. Thus, it will applaud, rather than attack, moves by the NFL that deprive Black players of portions, if not the entirety, of what is usually a short career.

I’m glad that the Obama EEOC will not sue the NFL over its new domestic violence policy. But the fact that it might very well sue an ordinary employer for doing what Team Obama wants the NFL to do demonstrates the unsoundness of the EEOC’s position on employers’ criminal conviction policies.

Barack Obama, Neocon?

A friend and Power Line reader has been emailing me to express outrage at the Democrats’ inconsistency in supporting President Obama’s implementation of the Bush Doctrine. I asked him to write up a post; here it is:

President Obama’s September 10 speech announcing his intention to “degrade” and “ultimately destroy” ISIL in Iraq and Syria poses a huge political and ideological problem for the Dems and the left. The reason is simple: Obama’s decision to wage war amounts to an endorsement of the Bush Doctrine of preëmption and a repudiation of the most fundamental rationale for His presidency in the first place: opposition to the Iraq War and, in general, “wars of choice.” It is also a repudiation of the anti-war Democrats who opposed the Iraq War Resolution and, more broadly, of the left’s ideology on foreign policy. Obama’s plan to attack ISIL has already caused huge cognitive dissonance on the left, which can only increase over time.

Virtually no one, NO ONE, opposing the IWR on the left, including Illinois state senator Obama, opposed it because he thought Iraq did NOT have WMDs. The argument was that there was no “imminent threat.” Of course, the Bush administration never argued the threat was “imminent”; just the opposite — that we could no longer wait for a latent or cumulating threat to become “imminent” after the experience of 9/11 — because we might never know or know too late. That was the Bush Doctrine.

Obama’s defining 2002 IWR speech is here. It is a classic expression of neo-isolationism: we can go to war only after we’ve been attacked. No preëmption of latent threats before they are “imminent”. He even rejected humanitarian intervention as a rationale for the IWR or any war that was not in response to an “imminent” threat or a prior attack. His examples of “good” wars were all responses to being attacked: the U.S. Civil War  (Fort Sumter); WWII (Pearl Harbor); Afghanistan (9/11).

This is standard left-wing ideology, post-Viet Nam and post-cold war: let things get as bad as they can be before doing anything (“imminent”) or wait for Pearl Harbor, then respond — with a police action like the Global War on just one guy (Osama bin Laden)!  Anything else is a “war of choice”. 

Some honest voices on the center-left have objected to the massive contradiction between Obama’s “war of choice” ideology and his plan for ISIL. See, for example, Conor Friederdorf’s scathing Atlantic article immediately after Obama’s speech. It is a devastating comparison of the rationale for attacking ISIL with the debate in 2002 on the Iraq War Resolution — and not a flattering one for Obama. The title and subtitle are beautiful:

Obama Urges War in Iraq Despite Known Lack of WMDs
The self-contradictory rhetoric of a shape-shifting president…

This summarizes the point:

Didn’t Hussein pose a bigger potential threat in 2002 than ISIS does now? “ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, including American citizens, personnel, and facilities,” Obama said. “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.” Nearly all of that could’ve been truthfully said about Hussein.

Bush said it.

Allahpundit also is devastating on the great Obama contradiction:

Obama isn’t responding to an “immediate” threat against the U.S. in hitting ISIS; he’s engaging in preemptive war to try to neutralize what will, sooner or later (likely sooner), become a grave strategic threat. It’s…like ousting Saddam circa 2003 for fear of what he might eventually do to America with his weapons program. Obama’s going to hit ISIS before cells nurtured in their territory hit us, and good for him. … If…Obama’s now willing to preemptively attack a brutal Iraqi enemy for fear of what he might do down the line to America and its interests, he should have also supported the war in Iraq in 2003. ISIS doesn’t have WMD either (we hope) and their nascent terror-state surely has a much shorter reach internationally right now than Saddam’s terror-state did. Why oppose Bush then if you’re willing to punch ISIS now? [emphasis added]

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Even Andrew Sullivan, probably Obama’s most enthusiastic and consistent supporter over almost 10 years, has concluded that “Obama [is] repealing a core pillar of his candidacy and presidency….Congress has effectively abdicated its democratic responsibility – and Obama is happy about that.”

Speaking of Congress, last seen successfully avoiding the kind of extended debate on a new war resolution that Bush insisted on and received, it is instructive to look at the rationales, such as they are, for those Dem congressmen and senators now supporting Obama’s ISIL non-war who also were against the Bush 2002 AUMF in the Iraq War Resolution.

There are 10 Senators who were in the Senate (or the House) in 2002 and voted No on the IWR and Yes on the ISIL authorization:

Boxer (D-CA)
Durbin (D-IL)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)(was in house)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D –CO) (was in house)
Wyden (D-OR)

In addition, the following Representatives are still in the House and voted No on IWR, Yes on ISIL:


Here is what they said in 2002 in justifying their “No” votes on the Iraq AUMF:

Nancy Pelosi:

I said that the intelligence does not support the threat that the administration is putting forth in Iraq, and that while there may be chemical and biological weapons, because they’re rampant in the region, there was no imminent threat that would justify our going to war. …

The point is, is there an imminent threat to the United States?

Carl Levin:

The resolution also would authorize the use of force on a unilateral basis, not requiring that there be an imminent threat, which is essential to using force in self-defense preemptively under international law…That would be a departure from the requirement in international law that the use of force in self-defense be for imminent threats.

Dick Durbin:

This resolution still authorizes a unilateral, go-it-alone invasion of Iraq. This resolution contains no requirement to build a coalition of allies behind us. …

We have always said to the world: The United States is not an aggressor nation…but if you threaten our territory, our people, our allies, our Armed Forces, you can expect the worst….No, we are a defensive nation. This new foreign policy reflected in the resolution before us is a dramatic departure from that. …

The argument is made that…[b]ecause we are now fighting terrorism, we can no longer wait for an imminent threat against the United States. We have to be able to move preemptively for what might be…a continuing threat. …

What does it mean? If you list the nations of the world that pose any threat to the United States…[i]t would not just be Iraq… One would certainly put Syria, Libya, and maybe many other countries on that list. [emphasis added]

What the President’s foreign policy is calling for is the right of the United States to attack these countries…without imminent threat. …

[T]his resolution says it is time for us…to argue we can preemptively strike Iraq or any other country before they pose a threat to the United States. That is a dramatic change.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard:

[T]he President has not made the case for granting him the far-reaching power to declare preemptive and unilateral war against Iraq.

There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous and unconscionable dictator with little regard for human life. And, there is no question that he must be disarmed and removed from power.

The facts presented thus far however, do not support the premise that Saddam is an immediate danger to our country.

I saved the best for last, the strident left wing Senator Barbara Boxer:

[T]his administration started out thumbing its nose at the Constitution and the role of Congress in terms of war and peace. This administration did not want to bring the debate on this war to Congress….They did not want the President to go to the United Nations. Indeed, they said he did not have to go there; he did not have to come here; he did not have to do anything.

“We have never pulled the massive trigger of our weapons on a nation that has not attacked us first,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, slamming her fist on a lectern. [emphasis added]

But compare and contrast; this has to be seen to be believed:

Her vote against the IWR was her “proudest moment” in the Senate. But now she enthusiastically supports preëmptive strikes against ISIL. In 2002, there was no “imminent threat” and Saddam’s atrocities were not our concern.

But NOW we have ISIL atrocities, like sex slavery and rape, so that’s it! No more questions. She isn’t even making the chicken hawk smear, as she did to Condoleezza Rice.

Maybe Boxer should recall this:

A Harvard study on practices against women during Saddam’s rule reported:

The Iraqi Government uses rape and sexual assault of women to achieve the following goals: to extract information and forced confessions from detained family members; to intimidate Iraqi oppositionists by sending videotapes showing the rape of female family members; and to blackmail Iraqi men into future cooperation with the regime. Some Iraqi authorities even carry personnel cards identifying their official “activity” as the “violation of women’s honor”.

Amnesty International and other organizations also reported the following violence against women:

Under the pretext of fighting prostitution, units of “Fedayeen Saddam,” the paramilitary organization led by Uday Hussein, Saddam’s eldest son, have beheaded in public more than 200 women throughout the country, dumping their severed heads at their families’ doorsteps. Many families have been required to display the victim’s head on their outside fences for several days. These barbaric acts were carried out in the total absence of any proper judicial procedures and many of the victims were not engaged in prostitution, but were targeted for political reasons. For example, Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, was beheaded after criticizing the corruption within health services.

At a minimum, both Obama and the congressmen who opposed the Iraq War Resolution but support the attacks on ISIL should be required to explain why the ISIL situation isn’t identical to Iraq, 2002. Why ISIL does not reflect the Bush Doctrine…why this one isn’t a “dumb” war. And how, even though ISIL did not attack us on 9/11 and had nothing, nothing to do with it…how there is no “imminent threat” to us…how genocide doesn’t justify intervention…how this time it’s so totally different. Because not Bush? Because Obama is a lightworker or something…kind of a god, ya know?

There are some exceptions to the general bobbing and weaving, double talking, sophistry, back flips and disingenuousness on the intellectual left. I cited two above but this is worthwhile as well, and notable for suggesting that Obama has outright betrayed them, as is this insisting that Obama is required to get a congressional vote. But will the left become all outraged? Will there be demonstrations? “Obama Lied, People Died”? Will the MSM be tracking various “grim milestones” as the intervention escalates? Even and codepink (who devastated Boxer on Twitter), while urging resistance, are nowhere as animated as with the IWR, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

Most of the left has been largely muted or outright supportive of the ISIL war. As reported by RealClearPolitics, here is Jon Stewart:

Bush Obama is doing the right thing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein ISIL and Syria, even though it’s confused and chaotic. [edited for…clarity!]

Here’s Robert Kuttner endorsing, albeit half-heartedly, Obama’s assumption of the Bush Doctrine because…not Bush, I guess. And here is The New Republic on how marvelously thoughtful and reflective Obama is about all this, totally not poll driven. Power Line has already reported on the flimflam and double talk from The New York Times and from E. J. Dionne. These examples could be multiplied indefinitely.

Obama’s ISIL speech is a direct repudiation of his opposition to the IWR in 2002.  It is an implicit endorsement of the Bush Doctrine. Indeed, it is a direct repudiation of the basic rationale for his presidency from the beginning!

Yet there is little acknowledgement, let alone sense of shame, from the Dems, the left or the double-talking MSM. The only conclusion their cynicism, duplicity, and double-talking sophistry permits is that they are transparently partisan opportunists.

The People’s Climate March: What’s It All About? [Updated]

The “People’s Climate March” is underway in New York City, with coordinated events occurring in other locations. Tom Steyer, who abandoned an honest career as a coal magnate to become a “green” scammer, thinks the march shows how important climate is a political issue:

I think the point of this is to show that this has widespread support, that it is a first-tier political issue, that the ability to sweep this under the rug is over.

But public opinion surveys consistently place “climate change” at the bottom of Americans’ political priorities, presumably because most people have enough common sense to realize that giving the government more money and power won’t change the weather.

As for the People’s Climate March, this tweet probably gives more insight into what it is really all about:

UPDATE: Oliver Darcy of The Blaze reports on the climate march: “‘F*** the Police’: Communists, Radicals Spotted Throughout Climate March in New York City Demanding ‘Revolution, Nothing Less.’” Socialists were everywhere:


Do these people not understand that free enterprise has produced a better environment than any other system, and that socialism has been an environmental disaster? Actually, I think they probably do know that. The fact is, they couldn’t care less about the environment. They just want power and money.

Climatistas Can’t Keep Their Story Straight

We take time out from the conformism of “the science is settled” (because 97 percent!) to remind everyone to do their good deed and plant a tree for the planet. Except—what’s this? Planting trees might not be good for the planet? That’s the argument that appeared yesterday in the New York Times from Yale chemist Nadine Unger. Yup: the article is “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees.”

Start oiling up your chainsaw, because:

Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land.

That is the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

In reality, the cycling of carbon, energy and water between the land and the atmosphere is much more complex. Considering all the interactions, large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse.

Complex, you say? Maybe we don’t understand the phenomenon fully? But 97 percent!

Anyway, to continue:

In order to grow food, humans have changed about 50 percent of the earth’s surface area from native forests and grasslands to crops, pasture and wood harvest. Unfortunately, there is no scientific consensus on whether this land use has caused overall global warming or cooling. Since we don’t know that, we can’t reliably predict whether large-scale forestation would help to control the earth’s rising temperatures. . . (Emphasis added.)

The science says that spending precious dollars for climate change mitigation on forestry is high-risk: We don’t know that it would cool the planet, and we have good reason to fear it might have precisely the opposite effect. More funding for forestry might seem like a tempting easy win for the world leaders at the United Nations, but it’s a bad bet.

I say we better chop down a lot of trees just to be safe. Precautionary principle and all that.

The Roosevelts: A hagiography

When writer Mark Gauvreau Judge was repeatedly invited to review Ken Burns’s 10-part, 18-and-a-half hour documentary on the history of jazz in 2000, his response was always the same: “I don’t need to see it to write a review. It’s Ken Burns, hippie granola-head and king of the documentary-melodrama, which means we’re in for yet another race-obsessed orgy of political correctness.” (In retrospect, Judge concedes, he was only “half-right.”)

With slight variation necessitated by the differing subject matter, I think Judge’s critique applies almost perfectly to Burns’s current offering, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, written by Burns’s long-time collaborator (and Roosevelt biographer) Geoffrey Ward. And Judge would have been all right, not half-right.

The series can be streamed online here. Part 7 of the 14-hour documentary aired last night. At long last it was over. I’m pasting in the video of Part 5 (1933-1939) so interested readers can easily take a look for themselves.

The documentary covered the lives of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt in what I found to be the predictably insufferable fashion Judge would have anticipated. Though Franklin Roosevelt died nearly 70 years ago, Burns’s work is not for those in search of cool judgment or historical detachment. The series was a love letter to Progressives, Democrats, and liberals. Part 7 traced FDR’s political heritage to Barack Obama, of course, which means it’s a good thing FDR was good in all his works.

The timing of the series is interesting. Arriving six weeks in advance of the midterm elections, the series allowed PBS to make its in-kind contribution to the Democrats in a big way this year. Those looking for historical detachment or impartial judgment or simply a balanced perspective had best look elsewhere.

The Roosevelts have given rise to a critical literature that is of great assistance in raising issues and rendering judgment beyond hagiography. We did not hear from Amity Shlaes, for example, in the series’ 14 hours (or Jean Yarbrough, or Gene Smiley, or Peter Collier, or Burt Folsom). George Will, whom we did hear from, did not fill the gap.

Having written a revisionist history of the Great Depression in which FDR is not the hero, Amity Shlaes was too hot to handle. Amity takes a critical look at the series, however, in the NRO column “Progressives enthroned.”

The Roosevelts leaves us in the realm of hagiography. Seventy years after FDR’s death, it is apparently too soon to ask Burns et al. to strive for a balanced perspective on the Roosevelts. My mom was a teen-age girl who cried when she heard that FDR had died; Ken Burns essentially wants his viewers to retain the perspective of a teen-age girl circa 1945 on the Roosevelts. This is “history” for wide-eyed innocents.

Among the (mostly) positive assessments of the series are reviews by Neal Genzlinger in the New York Times, Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times, and Mason Williams in the New Republic.

Interviewing Burns for a feature occasioned by the documentary, the Wall Street Journal asked what president from our history we would elect today. Burns responded with this mindless takedown of the American people: “I think we could perpetually elect the Warren G. Hardings of the world, not asking the essential questions about honesty and whatever, because they looked the part—they’re out of central casting. And our greatest presidents, thankfully, are not out of central casting. They’re actually themselves.” Burns’s disparagement of the American people certainly applies to our election of the current occupant of the Oval Office, but you can bet that is not what he has in mind with his pseudosophistication that achieves vapid left-wing stupidity.