Tag Archives: President Obama

Christian Martyrdom

“Jihadists are de-Christianizing the Mideast, where Christianity began.” Peggy Noonan

The Genocide of Mideastern Christians

Americans haven’t suddenly turned interventionist. They’re moved by the Islamic State’s particular evil.

Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, September 13-14, 2014, p. A 13

Christian refugees take shelter in an empty construction site in Erbil, Iraq, Aug. 28. Zuma Press

President Obama would have been rocked the past few months by five things. One is the building criticism from left and right about his high need for relaxation—playing golf while the world burns. Another is that he misread the significance and public power of the beheadings of American journalists. Third, he has been way out of sync with American public opinion on Islamic State, which must be all the more galling because he thought he knew where Americans stood on the use of military force. Fourth, with his poll numbers declining (32% approval for his handling of foreign policy, according to The Wall Street Journal and NBC), it has probably occurred to him that he is damaging not only his own but his party’s brand in foreign affairs. (Yes, George W. Bush did the same to his party, but Mr. Obama was supposed to reverse, not follow, that trend.) Fifth, he surely expects he is about to take a pounding from the antiwar left.

Most immediately interesting to me is the apparent change of mind by Americans toward military action in the Mideast. The president’s long-reigning assumption is that a war-weary public has grown more isolationist. But, again according to the WSJ/NBC poll, more than 6 in 10 back moving militarily against Islamic State. Politicians and pundits believe that this is due to the gruesome, public and taunting murders of the U.S. journalists—that Americans saw the pictures and freaked out, that their backing of force is merely emotional.

I think they’re missing a big aspect of this story. Continue reading

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ISIS

“ISIS is also threatening the obliteration of the Christian population in northern Iraq.” The Wall Street Journal

The Jihadist March in Iraq

Only the U.S. can prevent a humanitarian and strategic disaster.

The Wall Street Journal, editorial, August 8, 2014, p. A 12

isis-iraq-war-crimes.siPerhaps history will mark this as the week that President Obama recognized that evil unimpeded will devour everything before it. We say perhaps because with this President you never know.

President Obama said Thursday night he authorized limited air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to stop the Sunni jihadists from carrying out a genocide in northern Iraq. What he didn’t do, but should, is make a larger U.S. military commitment against ISIS both to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and protect American security interests.

After routing Iraq’s army from Mosul and most of northern Iraq in June, ISIS has grown as a military force. It captured significant war materiel, including armored U.S. Humvees, and has attracted hardened jihadist fighters from Syria and elsewhere. In addition to the sums it looted from Mosul’s banks, the group has the potential to gain access to revenue from oil fields in northern Iraq.

ISIS is also threatening the obliteration of the Christian population in northern Iraq. An assault by ISIS’s forces in northern Nineveh province has emptied towns of their Christian populations. Some 40,000 Yazidis, a minority who have lived in Iraq for millennia, are now isolated with little food or water on Mount Sinjar. ISIS controls all roads out and has proven it will have no compunction to slaughter those who try to flee. Continue reading

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$18 Trillion

“The federal government’s total debt is approaching $18 trillion. Its operating deficit was more than $1 trillion in each of the years 2009-12 and $680 billion in 2013. These numbers are too immense and unfamiliar to be useful. (A trillion is not yet even a standard measure—it means a thousand times a billion in the United States and a million times a billion in much of Europe.) Christopher DeMuth

Our Democratic Debt

Christopher DeMuth, National Review, July 21, 2014, p. 28, 29

Content imageThe federal government’s total debt is approaching $18 trillion. Its operating deficit was more than $1 trillion in each of the years 2009–12 and $680 billion in 2013. These numbers are too immense and unfamiliar to be useful. (A trillion is not yet even a standard measure—it means a thousand times a billion in the United States and a million times a billion in much of Europe.) Better to convert them to portions of the economy and government, so that the current debt is 103 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and the 2013 deficit was 4 percent of GDPand 20 percent of federal spending. These ratios put the dollar figures in perspective. The GDP ratio shows the burden of the debt (a larger economy can afford to borrow more, just as a higher-income family can afford a larger home mortgage), and the spending ratio shows how much of our government we are declining to pay for with our taxes. And they facilitate comparisons over time (effectively adjusting for inflation) and across nations with larger and smaller economies. But ratios are still just numbers: They need interpretation to tell us what they mean for our personal circumstances and those of our government.

We are not getting much help from public officials and policy experts, whose interpretations tend to be abstract and amorphous. The consensus formulation, embraced by President Obama, Speaker of the House Boehner, and the Congressional Budget Office, among many others, is that our current debt and deficits are “unsustainable.” This suggests that they are tolerable for the time being but will need to be reduced by some degree sometime in the future. Such a judgment has the advantage of sounding responsible and admonitory while suiting the short time horizons of democratic politicians and their preoccupation with immediate electoral exigencies.

And they have a point: Why not kick this can down the road? Experts have been warning for decades that our debt and deficits are unsustainable, yet here we are today, out and about and being sustained by an economy and government that continue to chug along even though the debt is bigger than ever. The only debt crises most of us have noticed have been the periodic impasses between the president and Congress over the debt ceiling—the statutory mechanism for enforcing Congress’s second enumerated power (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution), which is to “borrow money on the credit of the United States.” Recurring annual deficits have obliged the Treasury Department to ask Congress to raise the ceiling a dozen times since 2000, and Congress is always reluctant to recognize the gap between spending and tax revenues that its policies have created. The most recent stand-offs threatened, in July 2011, default on U.S. debt service payments or drastic cuts in government spending, and then produced a two-week government shutdown in October 2013. But Congress invariably resolves these crises by raising the ceiling to make room for additional borrowing, whereupon everyone sighs in relief and gets back to business.

A somewhat edgier formulation of our fiscal situation is that debt and deficits are “robbing our grandchildren.” This is Speaker Boehner’s position today, and it was President Obama’s position when, as a senator, he opposed President Bush’s proposed debt-ceiling increase in 2006—but Obama renounced it when campaigning for his own increase in 2011. It seems to be the position of the opposition party—an attempt to use moral suasion when practical forms of persuasion are unavailable. I think there is much truth in the expression but that it is too broad and rhetorical. When a city sells revenue bonds to finance highway or airport improvements, is it robbing from future generations? The “greatest generation” of Americans that fought and won World War II borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars to do so; was it robbing from the future or securing the future? Continue reading

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