Thursday, October 20, 2011

Obama and the Destroyers In Zuccotti Park

By Michael Goodwin

With each passing day, the Occupy Wall Street movement is picking up steam. The growing roster of A-list supporters at home and from around the globe is impressive, if that’s the right word.

Iran’s chief mad mullah, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, loves the protests, the government of China applauds them, and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is positively gung-ho.

Naturally, the American Nazi Party favors the lusty attacks on the “Judeo-capitalist banksters” while the Socialist Party USA and the Communist Party USA are happy passengers on the anti-Wall Street bandwagon.

Oh, and Barack Obama hearts the movement, too.

Because you should judge a man by his allies, our president might want to reconsider the villainous company he is keeping. Despite his claim that protesters reflect a “broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” the people sleeping in Zuccotti Park are not there to help him create middle-class jobs or save the ones that exist.

If they were, America’s crackpot foreign and domestic adversaries wouldn’t be cheering. Their support reveals what the movement is really about.

Plain and simple, the movement is about destroying capitalism, which most protesters see as the enemy. They don’t want to fix the financial system. They want to bring it down.

Movement leaders don’t want the economy to grow, which would mean the Big Bad Banks would be healthy enough to lend and Evil Corporations would be healthy enough to borrow. They want to redistribute wealth, not create it.

They hope banks and corporations go belly-up, except, of course, for those that produce cool stuff they like. The cool stuff, actually, all stuff, should be free because profits are filthy.

For the Wall Street campers, housing grows on trees and storks deliver small businesses. They oppose banks making money on home mortgages and loans to entrepreneurs. Pollster Doug Schoen finds a third are willing to use violence to get their way.

It is bad enough that Obama is trying to recruit this destructive cult for partisan purposes. It is even worse that he is not alone.

Mitt Romney, the probable GOP presidential nominee, foolishly gave credence to the protesters’ distorted vision that American society consists of a few haves oppressing a multitude of have-nots, with nothing in the middle.

“I don’t worry about the top 1 percent,” Romney told a New Hampshire audience. “They’re doing just fine by themselves. I worry about the 99 percent in America. And so I look at what’s happening on Wall Street, and my own view is, boy I understand how those people feel ... The people in this country are upset.”

Yes, yes, about 75 percent of Americans are upset about the economy and the lack of jobs. But it verges on insanity to say that the protesters in lower Manhattan are typical examples of that angst, and thus deserving of mainstream support.

To endorse the radical movement’s sentiments is to deny reality and make the jobs crisis worse. More taxes, debt and regulation would kill the future. If new entitlements are created, it’s game over.

Obama already has made the financial system a pinata. Now that it’s spilled its candy -- Goldman Sachs is losing money, hooray! -- he wants to beat it to death to get four more years. He certainly doesn’t need Romney’s help.

As I noted Sunday, New York City has about 3.7 million jobs, yet fewer than 500 committed leftists are holding the city hostage with their Woodstock tent city. Everybody knows they are torturing the First Amendment, but nobody has the guts to say “Enough!”

Mayor Bloomberg has come up especially small in this emergency. He laments the protesters selfishness in harming local businesses and residents, yet is too timid to forge a solution.

So he dispatches a garrison of New York’s Finest to baby-sit a group of hooligans who occasionally attack them, spew anti-Semitic rants and turn the streets into toilets. And working New Yorkers pick up the exorbitant tab for the stand-off.

Someday, there might be a comic angle to this drama, but not yet. For now, Occupy Wall Street is shaping up as a tragedy that will doom the hopes of millions of Americans who simply want an honest government and a decent job.

Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Have We Forgotten How to Raise Boys Into Men?

By William J. Bennett

Fashioning men has never been easy, but today it seems particularly tough. Boys need heroes to embody the everlasting qualities of manhood: honor, duty, valor, and integrity. Without such role models, boys will naturally choose perpetual childhood over the rigors of becoming a man—as many women, teachers, coaches, employers, and adults in authority can quickly attest to today.

Too many boys and men waste time in pointless and soulless activities, unmindful of their responsibilities, uncaring in their pursuits. Have we forgotten how to raise men, how to lead our boys into manhood?

In "The Book of Man," I try to chart a clearer course, offering a positive, encouraging, uplifting, realizable idea of manhood, redolent of history and human nature, and practical for contemporary life.

For boys to become men they need to be guided, through advice, habit, instruction, example, and correction. It is true in all ages.

Someone once characterized the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them? When the older generation fails to properly teach the younger males (and females) coming behind them, trouble surely follows.

Today, for the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious, and arguably more successful than men. Society has rightly celebrated the ascension of women. We said, “You go, girl” and they went. We praise the rise of women but what will we do about what appears to be the very real decline of men?

The data shows that there is trouble with men today. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women's earnings grew 44% from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men. In 1950, five percent of men at the prime working age were unemployed. Today twenty percent are not working, the highest ever recorded.

Perhaps most worrisome are the cultural indicators. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out of wedlock birthrate is over forty percent in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.

But you don’t need numbers. Just ask young women about men today, and you’re likely to hear how many believe their males counterparts are more like male children, refusing to grow up. Too many young women today are asking, “Where are the good single men?” Contemporary men exhibit a maturity deficit, and are in danger of falling further behind the more well adjusted women of today.

And so in our time especially there is a need for guidance, and the important role of men for boys is a particularly acute need. Of course there are successes. Every day great boys are raised to be great men, but there are other cases as well.

Confusions regarding manhood abound, including confusion about a proper understanding of virility. Fathers are missing from boys’ lives in devastatingly high numbers. Children are exposed to a dizzying array of cultural signals about what it means to be a man, signals both good and bad. Our society is moving forward so rapidly that it has forgotten much good from the past. And women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways.

As Hanna Rosin points out in her seminal article, “The End of Men,” women have now surpassed men in several categories that reflect economic and cultural standing. In American colleges, for every two men who graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, three women receive a B.A. Women now dominate thirteen of the fifteen job categories expected to grow the most in the coming decade. This has led some to ask: do we even need men?

So what’s the problem? Increasingly, the messages to boys about what it means to be a man are confusing. They mistake the machismo of the street gangs for courage. They fill the vacancy left by missing fathers with video games, television, and music. Gay culture, with its flamboyant display, often challenges traditional masculinity. Hollywood films glorify male characters who refuse to grow up. Too many men today treat women like toys, easily discarded when things get complicated. Through all these different and conflicting signals, our boys must decipher what it means to be a man, and for many of them it is harder to figure out.

We need to fight back against this culture and send our boys and young men a clear and achievable message of what it means to be a man. The founding virtues – industriousness, marriage, and religion, are still the basis for male empowerment and achievement. It may be time to say to a number of our young men, “Get off the video games five hours a day, pull yourself together, get a challenging job, and get married.” It’s time to bring back men.

William J. Bennett is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood. (Thomas Nelson)" Bennett is the Washington fellow of the Claremont Institute. He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and was director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To Keep America Safe We Must Address Our Intelligence Failures In Iran

Revelations that Iranian agents plotted an alleged attack to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and blow up the embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the heart of Washington should have surprised neither analysts nor journalists. The only thing certain about the Islamic Republic, after all, is its uncertainty.

More than 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, Iran remains a black hole for American analysts. The unknowns regarding Iranian command, control, and capabilities represent an intelligence failure the likes of which make the Central intelligence Agency’s 2002 false findings regarding Iraq weapons of mass destruction program look like small potatoes.

The first hint about the scope of America’s Iran intelligence woes came in 2005, shortly after the relatively unknown Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surprised analysts by becoming Iran’s president.

Almost immediately, a debate erupted about whether Ahmadinejad had been among the hostage-takers who seized the American embassy in 1979. The debate indicated an intelligence failure, not only about Ahmadinejad, but also about why, after more than a quarter century, the CIA has not parsed every single photograph of the embassy captors to determine the identity of each.

This would enable American officials to issue warrants, prosecute, seize or, at the very minimum, blacklist so that those who abused American hostages would not even now be able to enjoy the legitimacy a diplomatic conference room grants let alone gain visas to enjoy visits to Hollywood Boulevard or even Disneyland.

During his press conference outlining the terrorist plot, Attorney General Eric Holder fingered the Qods Force, an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), as responsible for the alleged assassination plot. It is ironic that while it is the IRGC that most concerns Western policymakers, American officials know very little about the group. After all, while analysts debate whether Iranian politicians are reformers, pragmatists, or hardliners, there is no corollary debate about the factions within the IRGC.

Both inside and outside government, many analysts argue that many recruits join the IRGC less on ideological grounds and more for the incumbent privileges: higher gasoline rations, advantages in university entrance exams, and job security amidst Iran’s economic woes.

That may be true, but without doubt, others join the IRGC for purely ideological reasons. General David Petraeus, the new director of Central Intelligence, can brag about an achievement as important as the Iraq surge should he illuminate what his predecessors failed to do and force the intelligence bureaucracy he overseas to map out who believes what within the IRGC.

There is no more important question. After all, as the guardians of the revolution, the IRGC will control Iran’s nuclear arsenal.

While pundits might debate Iran’s nuclear program as a whole, what should keep policymakers up at night is their failure to understand who would actually have their finger on the button. Ninety-nine percent of Iranians might be pragmatic, reasonable, and averse to national suicide, but if an ideologue willing to take the fight to America regardless of the consequences controls a nuclear bomb’s launch codes, then neither containment nor deterrence will work, and millions of Americans may be at risk.

Whether the Iranian plot on Washington was a rogue operation or not is irrelevant should the Iranian system allow the same rogues to achieve custody of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

American authorities also remain largely ignorant of Iranian decision-making. Any book purporting to explain Iranian politics comes replete with wire diagrams seeking to explain the relations among Iran’s myriad power centers. That not all wire diagrams match reflect some analytical confusion, but the real danger for Iranian analysis is that such wire diagrams may be increasingly irrelevant.

After all, the IRGC has executed a slow, creeping military coup d’├ętat. While Americans picture the Islamic Republic as a state run by ayatollahs and clerics, a cleric heads only one out of 22 ministries; most of the rest fall to IRGC veterans (or their wives).

Ahmadinejad himself is a veteran of the IRGC. The governorships are stacked with IRGC veterans, and the current parliament is stacked with IRGC veterans. Most of these IRGC members or retirees are veterans of the Iran-Iraq War. When predicting Iranian behavior, what matters most are not the formal networks outlined on wire-diagrams, but rather who served with whom on the frontlines with Iraq. When battle buddies can pick up phones and coordinate among each other, the formal network go out the window and the informal network—one about which the United States has little clarity—become everything.

Analytical ignorance, however, could mask good news. It is not certain that the Islamic Republic can survive. After all, over the 2,500 year expanse of Persian history, the ayatollahs represent an anomaly rather than a natural outcome of Iranian political evolution. Here, filling in another analytical blank becomes essential: In September 2007, the IRGC reorganized.

With threatening regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan gone, and declaring the Americans little more than paper tigers, IRGC head Mohammad Ali Jafari restructured the force to counter-internal dissent more than rebuff external enemies. It was partly because he had assigned one IRGC unit to every province and two in the capital of Tehran that the regime was able to weather the 2009 post-election uprising.

The question analysts should ask, however, is whether those staffing any particular IRGC unit hail from the province in which they are stationed.

If they do not, then that is a sign that behind Ahmadinejad’s bluster lays a country without the confidence to assume that their revolutionary guardians would obey orders to fire on crowds if there was a chance that their family members, neighbors, or classmates were among the protestors. A coherent strategy in such a situation would be to exacerbate Iranian internal divisions rather than cut a deal which would protect the status quo.

It is because of the fortitude of the Justice Department—as well as just plain luck—that the United States was able to avert a bloodbath in Washington, D.C.

Rather than shrug off the incident in the hope of further engagement, the Obama administration should recognize how little the United States knows about the power centers and relationships which matter within our chief adversary in the Middle East. Only when American analysts are able to fill in the blanks will President Obama or his successors be able to craft a strategy which can truly counter the Iranian threat and protect American national security interests.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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