Entries from August 2005

A Sunni Hero In Iraq

David Frum August 30th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

The new Iraqi constitution is the right answer to the wrong question. As a document, the Iraqi constitution is hard to fault. It is a democratic, federalist document that protects the rights of individuals while acknowledging Iraq’s Islamic traditions.

But anybody hoping that this new constitution will make much of a difference — one way or the other — to the war in Iraq is making a very grave, even deadly, mistake. The threat to Iraq is a security threat, and what Iraq needs is a security strategy.

Indeed, it could be argued that the focus on the new Iraqi constitution gets the problem exactly backwards. The diplomats and politicians working to broker a deal with the leadership of Iraq’s Sunni minority hope that a political success will ease the security threat. It’s at least as likely, though, that it is the dangerous security situation that makes political compromise so difficult.

Sunni democrats open to compromise with their neighbours have been targeted for assassination. Mithal al-Alusi, the descendent of a famous family of Sunni religious judges, has been attacked four times — and both his sons murdered — by terrorists, precisely because he has sought to work with Iraqis of other faiths and to make peace with all of Iraq’s neighbours, including Israel. Al-Alusi is an unusually brave man, and has not quit. But not everybody can be a hero, and so long as Sunni politicians who advocate peace and freedom risk death, only the extremist and the violent will dare step forward to present themselves as Sunni leaders.

President Bush has worked the telephones all week to urge Shiite leaders to show generosity to the Sunni minority in hope of reaching a deal. The President’s work is reflected in Articles 109 and 110, which respond to the jealousies created by oil poverty of Iraq’s predominantly Sunni regions. Article 109 declares oil and gas the “property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces.” Article 110(1) vests control of existing oil fields in the federal government and requires wealth from those fields to be distributed equitably. Article 110(2) — added late in the negotiations — requires the federal and state governments to work together to develop new fields for the benefit of all the Iraqi people.

But it will be difficult for Iraq’s national and religious groups to co-operate so long as terrorists purporting to act in the name of Sunni Islam wage terrorist war on the rest of the population. Those terrorists have detonated suicide bombs at the holiest Shiite shrines on the holiest days of the Shiite calendar, killing and maiming hundreds of worshippers.

Thus far, the terrorists have failed. Some Iraqi Sunnis have even taken up arms to halt attacks on their Shiite neighbours: On Aug. 13, forces loyal to Jordanian terrorist Abu Zarqawi tried to expel Shiites from the city of Ramadi. Members of the Sunni Dulaimi tribe set up protective perimeters around the Shiite sections of the city and repulsed the terrorist gunmen.

Tragically, there are not nearly enough such successes.

Doubly tragically, when such successes happen, they only underscore one of the worst American failures of this war: the failure to see that the insurgency in Iraq is not a civil war, Iraqi versus Iraqi, but a regional war, that reaches across the whole Middle East.

The most important opponents of the Iraqi constitution do not live in Iraq at all. They are the Sunni Arab nationalists of the rest of the Middle East — whose governments are either actively supporting (Syria) or quietly abetting (Saudi Arabia) the anti-American struggle in Iraq. Listen, for example, to the words of Amr Mousa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, in an interview Monday with the BBC. He called the constitution a “recipe for chaos” because it denies Iraqs “Arab identity”: “The Arab League also shares the concerns of the Sunnis about not defining Iraq’s identity in the new constitution although it is an Arab country, and this has been done for the sake of a non-Arab minority like the Kurds.”

Mousa’s words are infused with the spirit of imperial entitlement. They deny that Iraq’s Kurds might have equal claim to define the identity of the country in which they live. They deny Iraq’s independence, downgrading a democratically elected government to nothing more than a subordinate component of an undemocratically ruled “Arab nation.” And it is the spirit behind his words — not the deficiencies, if any, of the Iraq constitution — that has excited the terror war against Iraq’s government.

Iraq will not be stabilized by more constitutional concessions to its Sunni minority. It will be stabilized by sealing its borders, by a serious policy of pressure upon Saudi Arabia and Iran to cut off aid to the insurgents, by hot pursuit across the Syrian border and air strikes against terrorist camps on the Syrian side, by a more serious approach to the war in Washington, and by more effective mobilization of Iraq’s resources in Baghdad.

There will be time later, perhaps, for constitutional amendments. Military victory has to come first.

The First Signs Of Neo-conservative Splintering Over Iraq

David Frum August 26th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Former Bush speech writer David Frum, in “National Review Online”, on the President’s failure to sell the war:

By now it should be clear that President Bush’s words on the subject of Iraq have ceased connecting with the American public. His speech [this week] to the Veterans of Foreign Wars is the latest–and one of the most serious to date–manifestation of the problem.

The polls tell us that the American public is losing heart. A substantial majority (56 per cent) now say that the war is going either “very badly” or “moderately badly”. More than 50 per cent now regard the war as a mistake. One-third want an immediate and total withdrawal.

Maybe most fatefully: a plurality now say that they believe that the President deliberately misled the country into war.

Supporters of the war can argue that the public is mistaken, overly influenced by biased news reporting. Yes, yes, but mistaken public opinion is just as powerful as sound public opinion. Again, supporters of the war can do our bit to try to change minds. But the biggest megaphone in the country belongs to President Bush–and much depends on whether he uses it well or badly. He is using it very badly indeed.

Let me mention just one single but maybe decisive problem. Again and again during the Bush presidency–and this week most recently–the President will agree to give what is advertised in advance as a major speech. An important venue will be chosen. A crowd of thousands will be gathered. The networks will all be invited. And after these elaborate preparations, the President says . . . nothing that he has not said 100 times before.

If a president continues to do that, he is himself teaching the public and the media to ignore him–especially when the words seem to utterly ignore the past three months of real-world events.

The President could have made news by itemizing the reasons to regard Iraq more positively than most journalists do. Or, alternatively, the President could have skipped the good news and delivered a blood, sweat, toils and tears speech: Yes things are hard, harder in fact than expected, but the stakes remain enormous–and here is why we must win, and why I am determined to fight this thing through to victory. As it is, though, he says nothing, and is perceived to say nothing, and soon nobody will be listening at all, if anybody still is.

Paul Johnson, in Britain’s “The Spectator”, on lying about immigration matters:

For half a century Home Office ministers [Britain's version of attorney-general and immigration minister] have lied about immigration, shamelessly, blatantly, in detail, and have permitted or even trained their officials to do likewise. When [hardline anti-immigration Conservative MP] Enoch Powell made his famous “rivers of blood” prediction–now in the process of being abundantly justified by events–he was vilified and penalized, by none more viciously than the late [Conservative prime minister] Edward Heath, one of the most practiced political liars of his generation, notorious for his systematic lies about the European Union. As immigration expanded, and was in due course supplemented by the new and essentially mendacious concept of the “political refugee” and the “asylum-seeker”, it was descanted by an endless succession of falsehoods by all parties.

The lies continue to this day. They are now supplemented by a new brand of lying, the “Islamic lie”. The politicians in power bring out a string of manifest falsehoods whenever a Muslim suicide-bomber strikes–that such “mindless fanatics” are “totally unrepresentative” of the “overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim community”, that Islam is “totally opposed” to such acts and that “there is no such thing” as “Islamic terrorism” and no such person as an “Islamic terrorist”.

The bill currently before Parliament, sold to New Labour by Muslim pressure groups in return for delivering the Muslim vote, will indeed make such expressions unlawful. So the lying goes on. Can we wonder that the entire political class is now not only despised but, increasingly, hated?

Tim Blair in “The Bulletin”:

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Ramsey recently published the angry claims of Robin Gollan, a World War II veteran, schoolteacher and retired ANU lecturer who believed John Howard had sold out Australian self-reliance “to curry favor with the most dangerous military power in history”.

Puzzlingly, Ramsey omitted something from his description of Gollan: that he was a lifelong Marxist of the type who’d curried favor with a military power far more dangerous than the US, namely the Soviet Union. Perhaps, despite their 23-year friendship, Gollan had simply never gotten around to telling Ramsey about this.

Lessons Of The Jean Episode

David Frum August 23rd, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

There’s a lot to learn from the Michaelle Jean story. Very little of it is pleasant. But almost all of it is important.

First, Canadians have learned some important things about the character of their prime minister, Paul Martin.

If Martin’s principal secretary Helene Scherrer is to be believed, Martin selected Jean on the basis of a hunch and a glimpse. That story does make sense: It seems unlikely that Martin would have knowingly signed up for the controversy he has brought upon himself with the Jean choice.

Canadians are discovering that their prime minister has tremendous difficulty making good decisions. Either he dithers and dodges or else he lurches and lunges. He either spends months procrastinating and vacillating–or else he gambles on an impulse. The one thing it seems he can’t do is make an informed decision in an orderly way. And that is alarming.

Second, Canadians have learned how much Martin’s government is a one-man show. This is not to say that the government lacks talent. It contains serious intellects and strong personalities. But it is clear that when decisions finally do come to be made, Martin does not pay much heed to his Cabinet or his party. It is hard for me to imagine that Stephane Dion or Irwin Cotler would have approved of the Jean appointment–or that Joe Volpe, Ujjal Dosanjh or Scott Brison would have failed to sense in advance how politically costly it would prove outside Quebec. Either they were not warned, or else they were not heard or else they perceived that the Prime Minister was committed and that there was no point in speaking up.

Instead, Martin relies on that tiny coterie of loyalists who served him throughout his 10-year-long undeclared leadership campaign. And that coterie seems to be enabling–rather than counteracting–Martin’s weak and jumpy leadership style.

Third, the Martin in-group seems to have genuinely convinced itself that the country loves and admires their boss as much as they do.

Throughout two scandals, first the sponsorship scandal and now the governor-general separatism scandal, the Prime Minister’s spokespeople again and again insisted that the Canadian people should trust the integrity of Paul Martin. But the fact is that while Canadians seem for the moment to have accepted Martin’s leadership as a lesser evil, they do not trust him: Almost two-thirds of Canadians in a Strategic Counsel poll conducted in May rated him the least trustworthy of the four major party leaders. Yet the Martinites seem unshakably convinced that the Prime Minister’s personal character is their greatest advantage rather than their most dangerous vulnerability.

In other words, and to sum up, the three lessons of the Jean episode are:

1. Canada is governed by an indecisive and impulsive prime minister;

2. This prime minister takes his advice almost solely from a tight circle of trusted aides;

3. Those aides are dangerously disconnected from political reality.

This seems like a formula for continuing political trouble, doesn’t it?

And even when the Martinites evade one problem, they do so in a way that brings new ones down upon their heads.

Go back to Jean for a moment. Yes, the government has probably successfully outfaced this embarrassment. In the absence of new revelations, media interest in Jean will subside. She will enter into office in September. She will do her vice-regal duties, deliver carefully homogenized speeches and fade away.

Or will she? It’s now being reported that Jean’s husband Jean-Daniel Lafond is at work on a new documentary about the U.S. role in the Middle East. Maybe the comforts of Rideau Hall will by then have tempered Lafond’s affinity for radical chic. Maybe he will allow the PMO to supervise his editing. Maybe the film project will quietly vanish as Lafond enjoys the comforts of his stately new home.

Or maybe instead the husband of the governor-general will produce an anti-American diatribe while commuting back and forth from Rideau Hall–and all of Paul Martin’s hard work to rebuild Canada-U.S. relations after the Chretien years will go up in smoke because he did not do his homework on the G-G nomination.

The Liberal Party of Canada has been so politically successful for so long that critics have naturally come to assume: These guys know what they are doing; they may be thugs, they may be crooks, but–the critics believe–surely they calculate risks and plan ahead? But maybe that assumption is wrong. Maybe it’s all one weird, wild, careening, jolting, bumping, herky-jerky, back-road ride driven by a man with no plan and no direction–except to twist the wheel as far as he can every time he hits a pothole.

And those potholes keep coming up faster and faster and faster ….

Cindy Sheehan And The Democrats

David Frum August 22nd, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

This summerÕs noisy protests against the Iraq war are a dangerous warning – but not dangerous to President Bush. They are dangerous to the Democratic party. And the great political question in the United States over the next few months is: Will the Democrats succumb?

No question, President Bush has political problems. A majority of Americans now say that the war in Iraq is going either “very badly” (28%) or “moderately badly” (another 28%) according to the latest CNN/Gallup poll. A majority (54%) agree that the country “made a mistake” in going to war in Iraq. And 33% of Americans want to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately.

But make no mistake: Americans are unhappy about the war in Iraq because they fear they are losing – not because they think the war wrong or immoral. Americans do not blame “American imperialism” for the problems of the Middle East. They know that Islamic terrorism threatens their country and favor strong measures to crush terrorism.

The so-called peace movement that has been drawing so much attention with its media stunts at the Bush ranch this summer thinks very differently. It opposed the Afghan war and now opposes the Iraq war because it opposes any and all American wars, successful or unsuccessful. It denies the reality of terrorism – or else thinks terrorism an unfortunate but understandable response to American aggression.

Here for example is Cindy SheehanÕs explanation of the war in Iraq. Sheehan of course is the summerÕs media sensation, the mother of a Marine killed in Iraq who kept a vigil at President BushÕs Crawford ranch until the end of last week:

“Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.”

[PNAC is the acronym for the "Project for the New American Century" - a three person think tank in Washington DC that fills a large place in the imaginations of America's left-wing.]

Those words come from an email Sheehan sent on March 15 to the producers of the ABC News program, “Nightline.” Sheehan has since claimed that these words were inserted into her letter by a supporter, but this claim has been exposed as false by the journalist Christopher Hitchens in the online magazine Slate. (See http://www.slate.com/id/2124788/sidebar/2124791/)

But SheehanÕs excuse is if anything even more revealing than the truth. It is indeed the case that the antiwar movement is heavily populated by people who regard the whole 9/11 war as a Jewish plot.

The more Americans see of the antiwar movement, the more appalled they will be.

There is great nostalgia on the American left today for the antiwar movements of the 1960s. Leftists now in their 60s remember the marches, the cheering, and of course the sex. What they forget is that it was the reaction against the riots and the protests of the 1960s that delivered the White House to the Republicans for 20 of the 24 years from 1968 until 1992.

Today an even more extremist antiwar movement is again beckoning to the Democratic party. Some Democrats are listening: It looks as if Ohio Democrats will run the violently antiwar Paul Hackett as their candidate in that stateÕs 2006 Senate race. Wisconsin Senator Russell Feingold is planning to run an antiwar campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

But the leaders of the national party – Bill and Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Harry Reid, and others – are resisting. They have seen this movie before – and they know how it ends: with the Democrats marginalized and the Republicans back in power.

A Master In The Art Of Political Evasion

David Frum August 19th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Modern spin doctors teach clients in trouble a very special kind of non-denial denial:

Q: “Did your company dump toxins into Lake Dithers?”

A: “I am very proud of my company’s environmental record.”

Q: “Was that you in those photographs frolicking with bikini babes in Bimini?”

A: “My wife and I are fully committed to our marriage.”

Q: “Is it true that the Mafia helped launch your singing career?”

A: “I have never belonged to a criminal organization.”

Over the past two weeks, a series of questions have been raised about governor-general designate Michaelle Jean and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond. On Wednesday, Jean answered those questions with a public statement.

Did Jean vote “oui” in the 1995 referendum?

“I want to tell you unequivocally that both [Lafond] and I are proud to be Canadians and that we have the greatest respect for the institutions of our country.”

Did she and her husband keep company with convicted terrorist murderers?

“We are fully committed to Canada.”

Was she filmed toasting political revolution and independence for Quebec?

“We have never belonged to a political party or supported the separatist movement.”

You have to give the new G-G credit. A month ago, she was just another mid-level CBC face. In just a few short days of study, she has thoroughly mastered the arts of political evasion. Of course, to do justice, she has had the benefit of intensive tutoring from some of Canada’s leading experts.

Then again, how expert at evasion does Jean have to be when the Canadian media are so pathetically eager to be spun?

Within hours–minutes really–of her statement, the airwaves and front pages of Canada were filled by commentators eager to declare the matter closed. As the editors of the Globe and Mail inimitably phrased it: “With yesterday’s forthright statement on the record, Canadians can move beyond any talk of loyalty tests and get to know their next governor-general better in her own right.”

Actually, by now I think most Canadians have learned quite a lot about their next governor-general. She is a person skilled at telling different groups of people what they want to hear. With the sovereigntists, she is a sovereigntist; with the revolutionaries, she is a revolutionary–and when offered Rideau Hall, she is “fully committed to Canada.”

But this story was never about Michaelle Jean. As an individual person, she seems harmless enough: personable, cultured, conformist, not precisely a high achiever, but also not blind to the main chance. She will adapt to the prevailing norms of Paul Martin’s Ottawa just as she previously adapted to the norms that prevailed in left-wing Montreal. And anyway, even if she did retain any tinge of sympathy for Quebec sovereignty–or (for that matter) for the murderous extremism of her husbandÕs friends and associates–what could she do about it in the powerless sinecure of the governor-generalcy?

No, this story is about the people who appointed Michaelle Jean. In that context, the “loyalty tests” so piously deplored by the Globe and Mail and (what a coincidence!) the Prime Minister’s spinmeisters suddenly become very relevant indeed.

Let us remember, please, that the one and only excuse offered Canadians for the unwholesome bargains that kept Paul Martin in office this spring was … the utter moral illegitimacy of having any contact of any kind with Quebec separatism.

So Paul Martin argued that it was intolerable to Canada to have an election when his poll numbers dipped after the sponsorship revelations because only “the separatists benefit from a premature election, and it is beyond belief to me why Stephen Harper wants to play that game.”

Jack Layton and the NDP had campaigned in 2004 on a promise to “get tough on sleaze.” Yet when the sleaze of the sponsorship scandal was exposed, Layton negotiated a deal to keep the sleazy in power. How did he justify that? In a speech in Halifax on April 28, he argued that as a Canadian patriot he had no choice: to vote against the government was to “get in bed” with the separatists.

And when the vote did finally loom, and the Martin government was saved by the surprise defection of Belinda Stronach, guess what reason she gave? Interviewed on Canada AM the morning after her switch, Stronach said: “I don’t believe it’s right to line up with the Bloc Quebecois, who have a separatist agenda, to bring down the government.” Then, to drive the point home, she repeated her little talking point three times more.

When it was useful to them this spring, the Martinites applied loyalty tests with a zeal that would have done credit to Senator McCarthy himself. But the spring was such a long time ago. In those buried and bygone days, it was an affront and an offense to join with separatists to defeat a corrupt government. But it is a very different matter to appoint apparent separatists to sustain a corrupt government! That’s OK! That’s better than OK! That is (in the words of my friend John Duffy in this newspaper yesterday) “an appointment that has given the Canadian cause in Quebec its first good day in a year and a half.”

If all the irresponsibility, all the slovenliness, all the mediocrity, all the arrogance, all the cynicism, all the hypocrisy, and all the deceit summed up in the Jean appointment add up to a good day, it is really impossible to imagine what would count as a bad one.

Has Martin Finally Gone Too Far?

David Frum August 16th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

“I’m not particularly interested in talking to somebody who wants to break my country up.”–Paul Martin, June 23, 2004.

- – -

Well, that was then. Today, the Prime Minister stands accused of designating just such a somebody to represent the Queen in Canada. Of course, it’s possible that the somebody in question has changed her mind since 1995. It’s possible too that her past views have been misreported, misconstrued, or misrepresented.

All that is known for sure, after all, is that the new Governor-General’s husband, Daniel Lafond, wrote a movie together with Francis Simard, worked with him for years, and considered him–along with former FLQ members Jacques Rose and Pierre Vallieres–among his very closest friends. Simard is one of four FLQ terrorists convicted of the murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte. Laporte was strangled to death–garroted I believe is the precise term–with a religious medal he wore. Simard has never expressed remorse for the crime.

But really, so what? Surely it is possible for a filmmaker to work closely for many years with an unrepentant terrorist killer without sharing his views, isn’t it? Especially since Lafond hinted in a 1999 interview that he was open to the argument that Simard was not a killer at all, but an innocent man: that it was indeed the government of Canada that murdered Laporte as part of an elaborate plot to discredit separatism.

Prime Ministerial spokesman Scott Reid has urged Canadians not to worry their little heads and to trust Paul Martin’s choice: “When the Prime Minister says Madame Jean and her husband are committed Canadians, you can rest assured they are committed Canadians.” Yet this “trust Paul” tactic may not be the cleverest line of defense: The last time Canadians were surveyed on the question, back in May, 61% of them said that Paul Martin would lie if it would help him politically; 63% rated him the most dishonest of the four major party leaders.

“Canadians are just going to have to take that to the bank,” Reid continued. Another unfortunate expression. As many Canadians may remember, a great many Quebec Liberals spent the past decade taking many tens of millions of misappropriated taxpayer dollars to the bank. The excuse given for the whole sponsorship scandal was the vital need to avoid a reprise of the separatist near-win in 1995. But if the 1995 referendum was important enough to justify $100-million in waste and fraud, why isn’t it important enough to justify one clear answer to one simple question: Which side was the next Governor-General on?

Is this an improper question? Reid insists it is. “We are not going to turn over people’s underwear drawers.” If Canada’s future de facto head of state voted to break away from Canada, if her husband consorted with anti-Canadian terrorists–why those are purely private, personal matters that nobody has any right to investigate. I’m surprised that Reid neglected to charge that anybody who pressed the point was a racist. But it’s August, and probably his mind is not fully on the job.

As it is, the Jean appointment is turning into a classic Paul Martin botch-up. First comes the bold, visionary announcement: An agenda for the cities! Redressing the democratic deficit! Canada’s first black Governor General! Then comes the cold shock of reality. The Martinites next try to bluff their way through by demanding that Canadians trust them (that’s the stage we’re at now). Then they’re caught lying. Then they call their opponents nasty names, cut dirty deals, and violate constitutional rules all to escape the mess they themselves created by their own weird combination of vanity and fecklessness.

How costly will this botch-up prove? Probably not all that much in the end–Canadians do not take the job of Governor General very seriously. (By contrast, the Australians have chosen a string of excellent GGs. The current Queen’s representative is Major General Michael Jeffrey, a former deputy chief of the Australian General Staff, a decorated veteran of Malaya and Vietnam–and incidentally a former head of Australia’s counter-terrorism service. General Jeffrey and Daniel Lafond should have a lot to talk about at Commonwealth gatherings.)

On the other hand, it’s also true that this scandalous appointment has stirred something in Canadians. I received more e-mail about last week’s column on her than I have on any other piece I’ve published in this newspaper this year. Again and again my correspondents make the same point: Other recent Governor General appointments may have been cynical and partisan–indeed, as with Romeo LeBlanc, rather more so–but there is something especially troubling about this one.

It is an appointment that expresses so much contempt for Canadian institutions. It is wrapped in so much dishonesty and pretense. It so nakedly seeks to exploit Canadians’ racial generosity and goodwill to stifle deserved criticism. It is, perhaps, just one outrage too many for Canadians to swallow from this prime minister and this government.

The Secret Of Gaza

David Frum August 16th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Why is Ariel Sharon evacuating Gaza?

It is not because he believes that a decent Palestinian state will emerge after the Israelis withdraw. Nobody believes that. The almost universal consensus among experts on the region is that post- occupation Gaza will become a Mediterranean Somalia: an unstable failed state in which gangs compete for power and extremist Islam finds a sanctuary.

Nor was Sharon responding to international pressure. His plan for unilateral evacuation surprised and displeased the United States and the European countries. They wanted Sharon to negotiate with Abbas.
They wanted the deal to involve all the Palestinian territories, not just Gaza. And they wanted the whole thing to happen very, very slowly.

IsraelÕs strategic situation did not force SharonÕs hand: Israel was more than capable of holding Gaza for years to come. Domestic public opinion is not the explanation: Sharon won IsraelÕs 2003 elections by opposing a Gaza withdrawal.

So why, why, why?

Let me try a theory.

Israel is the victim of an organized international hypocrisy.

After the experience of the 1990s, few people retain any illusions about the likely character of any Palestinian state. The Palestinian leadership is corrupt through and through. The only effective opposition to that leadership is violent and extremist. Palestinian public opinion utterly rejects coexistence with Israel. A Palestinian state, whatever its borders, will wage terror war against Israel – and give sanctuary to Islamic extremists from around the world. It will murder Israelis and threaten the security of Europeans and Americans.

European and American political leaders recognize this depressing fact. But they also recognize that Palestine issue has excited passions throughout the Muslim world – and among Muslim minorities in the West. These leaders believe that if they want to quell Muslim extremism, they must be seen to work toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

In Charles DickensÕ novel David Copperfield there is a character who answers every request with a sigh: Ah, if it were up to him, he would of course say “yes” with pleasure – but his partner, Mr. Jorrocks, is so very difficult ….. In just such a way, European and American political leaders favor a “peace process” that moves the Palestinians ever closer to statehood, without ever quite reaching it; a process that positions the Israelis as the Mr. Jorrocks of the world.

Ariel Sharon has decided to put an end to this play.

The world wants a Palestinian state? Very well – let them have it.
And the result, as we are seeing, is something close to panic in the foreign ministries of the West. Not just the West: the Middle East too. The Egyptians do not want a Hamas state on their borders. They had expected Ariel Sharon to place a cordon between Egypt and Gaza.
He has said he will not do so – that he is leaving the job up to the Egyptians. And indeed last month Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced that 750 Egyptian soldiers would soon arrive to replace the Israeli Defense Forces.

Is this Egyptian role on the border a precursor to a larger Egyptian role within Gaza? Egypt after all remains far more vulnerable to Islamic extremist ideology than Israel. The Egyptian authorities have crushed the extremist movement within their borders. Do they wish to see a jihadist state emerge on their borders? It seems unlikely.

Could it be that Sharon is calling the bluff of Western governments and the Arab states? By creating the very Palestinian state that those governments and those states pretend to want but actually dread – Sharon is forcing them to end their pretense and acknowledge the truth:

The Palestinian leadership is incapable of creating a state that can live at peace with anyone, not Israel, not the other Arab states, not Europe, not the world. Somebody else must govern the restless and violent Arab-majority territories west of the Jordan River. Israel has suffered four decades of condemnation for doing the job. Sharon is now resigning the task to anybody else who would like to step in and take over the job. Nobody wants to. But Egypt and Jordan may soon realize that they have no choice. If there is a secret behind SharonÕs plan – that is it.

Once A Prestigious Post, Now A Refuge For Partisans

David Frum August 9th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

If there’s any one person in Canada entitled to be outraged by the choice of Michaelle Jean as the new governor-general — and there are many — it is surely Adrienne Clarkson.

Like Clarkson or dislike her, there’s no disputing that she was a large figure in Canadian life for more than three decades when Jean Chretien named her. That she was also the first non-white and first immigrant governor-general was a wonderful extra.

But the selection of Michaelle Jean casts a brutal retrospective light on Clarkson’s elevation. Whoever picked the new G-G gave one order: “Find me a non-white francophone woman!” — and so you have to wonder whether they did not similarly regard the accomplished Clarkson as nothing more than a non-white anglophone woman. The only pleasure we can take in the Michaelle Jean selection is to watch Canada’s exquisitely correct reporters tripping over themselves to avoid reporting the most super-abundantly obvious truth.

In fairness to Ms. Jean, it should be said that she is not the most appalling governor-general ever appointed. That distinction still belongs to Romeo LeBlanc, the Chretien crony whose principal prior public achievement was to have set a record as the longest-serving minister of fisheries in Canadian history.

Yet if the Jean choice is not quite as disdainful of the decencies as the LeBlanc selection, it may in its own way bode even worse for the future of Canada.

Cast your eye down the roll of the past Governors-General of the country. What you see there is a long list of people who for one reason or another stood independent of the government of the moment.

First there are the great British lords: the earls, dukes, and royal cousins of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then come the self-made men of earned prestige: the British writer and explorer John Buchan; the Second World War field marshall Viscount Alexander; the Canadian war hero Georges Vanier.

Then, under Pierre Trudeau, comes a shift: to a series of superannuated politicians, each of them less impressive — and more desperately in need of a job — than the one before, finally hitting bottom with the LeBlanc appointment.

But now the Canadian government is exploring a new low: a governor-general of zero independent position or prestige, wholly beholden to the prime minister who bestowed this lavish patronage plum on him or her.

Most of the work of a governor-general is ceremonial. But the office does retain vague but very real powers to umpire the political game and uphold constitutional rules. And so, just as a precaution, prime ministers have step by step degraded the office, always with an eye to eliminating any possible brake on their own power. What better way to degrade the office than to choose successively more negligible people to fill it?

From Vincent Massey to Jules Leger, Canada’s Governors-General epitomized the ideal of nonpartisan, non-ideological public service. That ideal is dead, dead, dead. Michaelle Jean’s record of service to Canada may be short, but her identification with the leftward side of the ideological spectrum is strong. To choose her as the nation’s de facto head of state is to announce that conservatives and westerners do not deserve to be represented, do not really count as Canadians.

It is a strange thing about the Liberal Party. They constantly insist they are the party of patriotism and the party of national unity. Yet over four decades, they have systematically destroyed one Canadian institution after another, severing the connections between Canadians and their past. Their treatment of the governor-general is all too typical: They have stripped away the office’s authority, its purpose, and now its reputation for impartiality. Is there another country where the de facto head of state comes to office on such humiliating and useless terms?

The Liberals of course yearn to do away with the monarchy altogether and elevate the governor-general into the formal head of state. If they succeed, they will have eliminated the last vestigial restraint on the power of the chief executive — and broken the last visible link to Canada’s origins. Step by step, they will have built a country without memory ruled by power without limit.

But mere preservation of the monarchy is not enough. So long as the Queen’s representative is chosen by the prime minister at his sole discretion, it will be almost irresistibly tempting for him to regard the post as, at best, a fancy patronage plum and, at worst, a weapon of ideological and partisan war.

It’s long past time to find another way. Invite Prince Edward over from England and give him the job for a 20-year term. Or create a college of electors made up of 50 distinguished people and let them vote in conclave. Or put every name in Who’s Who in Canada into a drum and pick the G-G by lottery. Pure chance could not do worse than the Chretien/Martin Liberals — and would probably do a lot better.

Bush’s Secret Canadian Weapon

David Frum August 2nd, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Does George W. Bush owe his re-election victory to Canada? It’s a serious question–and some important new reporting suggests that the answer may be “yes.”

But maybe I should back up and start from the beginning.

American political scientists have long noticed the difference between voter turnout in Canada and the United States. Two countries, otherwise so similar–but in a typical election year, about three-quarters of Canadians will turn out to vote, while barely 50% of Americans will.

Five years ago, a breakthrough article in the American Political Science Review by two Yale political scientists, Alan Gerber and Donald Green, suggested a stunning explanation. As the suburbs spread after World War II, U.S. political parties shifted away from old-fashioned door-knocking. They developed expensive new techniques for reaching out to voters: phone banks, direct mail, radio and TV advertising. Canadian parties, with less money, continued with the old-fashioned method.

Gerber and Green conducted a series of experiments to study the effects of door-knocking as against the newer methods. The results: Face-to-face canvassing was dramatically more effective than any other technique in motivating people to go to the polls. The effect was strongest among the youngest voters–stronger still when the voter knew the canvasser–and became stronger still when canvassing was combined with issue advertising. (The Gerber and Green studies can be read at www.yale.edu/vote.)

Gerber and Green’s work appeared too late to make much difference in the 2000 election cycle. But it was seized on afterward by Karl Rove, George Bush’s chief political aide. Rove went to work building a nation-wide network of campaign volunteers, the largest network of campaign workers since the advent of television.

These volunteers made themselves felt in the 2002 congressional elections, in which the Republicans scored unexpected successes. Their full impact was reserved for 2004. The pre-eminent American political journalist Michael Barone tells the story in his introduction to the latest (2006) edition of the indispensable Almanac of American Politics.

Barone stresses that both Democrats and Republicans ran excellent get-out-the-vote campaigns–from a strictly technical point of view, the two best campaigns in perhaps half a century.

The Democrats relied heavily on television advertising by lavishly funded groups like ACT, Americans Coming Together. Much of what little canvassing the Democrats did was done by paid campaign workers: Total spending by anti-Bush campaigns exceeded that by pro-Bush campaigns by many millions of dollars.

The Rove machine, by contrast, relied on peer-to-peer volunteer campaigning. While the Democrats, by their own count, recruited 233,000 volunteers for all their campaigns, from the presidency down to state court races, the Republicans recruited 1.4 million, six times as many.

Republican advertising followed the Gerber and Green script and focused on sharply differentiating President Bush from Democratic nominee John F. Kerry on issues like taxes, social issues and national defense–with messages tailored for 32 different categories of voter distinguished by markers like age, race and favorite television shows. The rest of the story we all know: Total turnout jumped from 54% in 2000 to 61% in 2004, the best since the Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960.

But of course the Republicans turned out that all important little bit more: While Kerry drew 9 million more votes than Al Gore had drawn in 2000, Bush drew 12 million more votes than he had four years previously.

The work of Gerber and Green will certainly now influence every future American election. It contains some important lessons for Canada as well.

Ask yourself this: Why did the Liberals misappropriate all that sponsorship money? Some of it was stolen plain and simple, but much more was used to pay campaign workers in Quebec. The Bloc does not have to pay its campaign workers. Neither do the Conservatives or the NDP. Those three parties can recruit volunteers. The Liberals seem to be having greater and greater trouble doing so–and not only in Quebec.

Liberal tactics–paid campaign staff and negative personal advertising–look very much like John Kerry’s.

Can Canadian Conservatives in their turn learn from the Bush campaign?

If so, they would absorb four lessons:

1) Make the recruitment of volunteers your top organizational priority.

2) Empower volunteers to emphasize that part of the party message that resonates with their peers.

3) Put special emphasis on recruiting younger canvassers to influence younger and first-time voters.

4) Back up the peer-to-peer canvassing campaign with advertising based on issues rather than personality (remembering of course that Liberal corruption is one of the most important issues)

.

With their larger and more committed activist base, the Conservatives are the best positioned of any of the opposition parties to make use of these new-old techniques of campaigning. Best of all, a Conservative campaign that relies on public-spirited citizens rather than corruptly paid political operatives reaffirms the party’s core message: that Conservatives are in politics for what they can give to Canada; the Liberals, for what they can squeeze out of Canada.