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March 2017

Raúl the Reformer and Other Cuban Fables President Trump should abandon his predecessor’s feckless policy toward the Castro regime. By José Cárdenas

In the run-up to President Obama’s decision to reverse U.S. policy toward Cuba in December 2014, the American public was fed a steady diet of assurances by Cuba experts. Raúl Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel in 2008, was “a pragmatic reformer,” they maintained — he recognized the country’s desperate need for change. Despite the lack of evidence that Raúl was ever anything but a hardline, murderous Communist, the experts insisted that he would boldly usher in a liberalizing transition to a Chinese- or Vietnamese-style “mixed economy” and that the U.S. needed to get in the game to “help” the process along.

No such reforms ever materialized. Instead, Raúl presided over an unprecedented expansion of the Cuban military’s control over the nation’s economy, especially in the tourist sector. In short, he cut his military cronies into government revenues to ensure their enduring loyalty. (U.S. tourists may as well write their checks out directly to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces and the repressive Ministry of the Interior.)

The experts blamed Fidel Castro. It seemed his presence even in retirement induced an “executive paralysis.” His vocal opposition to change resulted in a “psychological pressure on the system to keep it as it is,” as Alvaro Vargas Llosa of the Independent Institute told the Christian Science Monitor.

Fidel’s death, then, would serve as a liberating event for Raúl, removing the younger brother from his older brother’s shadow. “Now that Fidel is gone, there may be a boldening, a quickening of the economic reforms,” an analyst told CNN after the elder Castro died last November. “There may be a louder voice within the Politburo . . . from the side of the reformers, the modernizers to allow more economic progress.”

Suffice it say, no such boldening has occurred, and the bloom is now off the Raúl rose. Indeed, he is now merely a “transitional president” between the old guard and the future. He has said he would retire as president next year. As one proponent of Obama’s policy lamented to the Miami Herald, “Raúl Castro and his aging colleagues seem to lack the vision and energy to drive comprehensive reform, so the Cuban people will have to wait until 2018 when new leadership — a new generation — comes forward.”

That would be the 56-year-old Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Raúl’s designated successor. But the reality is that Diaz-Canel is a colorless civilian apparatchik with no power base who — if he survives — will be no more than a figurehead atop a military-dominated regime. That’s because what is being planned in Cuba is a transfer of power not to a new generation of Cubans but to a new generation of Castros — specifically, Raúl Castro’s son and his son-in-law.

Deterrence and Human Nature The dream of a therapeutic utopia without punishment for wrongdoing fails in practice. By Victor Davis Hanson *****

Deterrence is the strategy of persuading someone in advance not to do something, often by raising the likelihood of punishment.

But in the 21st century, we apparently think deterrence is Neanderthal and appeals to the worst aspects of our natures. The alternative view insists that innately nice people respond better to discussion and outreach.

History is largely the story of the tensions between, and the combination of, these two very different views of human nature — one tragic and one therapeutic.

The recent presidential election results favor a more pessimistic view of humans: that without enforceable rules, humans are likely to run amok — quite in contrast to the prior therapeutic mindset of the Obama administration.

Take illegal immigration. The Trump administration believed the answer was to persuade people not to come illegally into the United States, and to convince those who are already residing here illegally and who have broken American laws to go home. So his proposed wall on the border with Mexico and beefed-up patrols are a sort of insurance policy in case immigrants do not heed appeals to follow the law. Deportation and even the threat of deportation also serve as deterrents to persuade others not to enter the U.S. illegally, given the likelihood of being sent back home promptly.

The early result of that proposed deterrent policy is that in just two months, attempted illegal entries into the U.S. have fallen dramatically.

Past approaches to illegal immigration were largely therapeutic. Bilateral talks with Mexico, sanctuary cities, de facto amnesties, and non-enforcement of immigration laws supposedly would ensure that immigration was orderly and a positive experience for both hosts and guests. Instead, the border effectively became wide open and chaos ensued.

Currently, there are no real repercussions on campus for students who disrupt public discourse or prevent invited speakers from presenting lectures. Universities in theory claim this is a bad thing — a violation of the constitutional rights of free expression and assembly. But campuses rarely punish students for violating the rules. They seldom ask local law enforcement to apply the full force of local and state laws to (often violent) student lawbreakers.

German judges sanction Jew hatredOp-ed: A recent court ruling on a synagogue attack has fanned the flames of anti-Semitism in Europe Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein

November 10, 1938, 16-year-old Gertrude Rothschild was recruited by her rabbi to hurriedly enter the ruins of their synagogue in Konstanz am Bodensee to help gather up and bury the burned remains of their Torah scrolls, all that remained after the infamous night of violence, Kristallnacht. The story remained etched in Gertrude’s memory. She later survived the Gurs concentration camp, in Vichy, France.

Gertrude understood why people burned synagogues. Decades later, she embedded the memories of Kristallnacht in the minds of her children and grandchildren, one of whom is a co-author of this piece. We all knew from an early age that when a synagogue was attacked, the core of our Jewishness was defiled and threatened.

Post-World War II Germans understand this fact and have acted accordingly when such anti-Semitism reared its ugly head. That is, until the court in Wuppertal. We don’t have the courage to tell Gertrude, now in her nineties, that those blacked-robe judges (and the regional court that later confirmed the ruling), decided that three Muslims who set fire to a German synagogue were making a political protest against Israel’s actions in the Gaza War, and therefore could not be convicted of anti-Semitism.

If German history isn’t sufficient a guide, a definition of anti-Semitism has been adopted by 31 European nations, and should guide German jurisprudence in erasing this travesty. But the stain and pain remain.

As Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz put it, “The idea that attacking a synagogue can be justified as an anti-Israel political protest, rather than anti-Jewish hate act, is as absurd as saying that Kristallnacht was merely a protest against poor service by Jewish store owners.” Or, we might add, claiming that torching a mosque is a protest against ISIS. Or dismissing the desecration of the Cologne Cathedral as a consequence of long-simmering discontent over the medieval Crusades.

The German courts’ decisions will further fuel the anti-Semitism engulfing Europe. Jews are specifically warned not to wear kippot or other Jewish symbols in many European capitals. Holocaust survivors in Malmo, Sweden — where, ironically, they settled after escaping the Nazis — are fearful of walking to synagogue on the Sabbath because the anti-Israel political establishment won’t protect them or their rabbi from anti-Semitic threats. Armed guards are stationed in front of synagogues throughout the Continent — yet, according the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Jews do not feel safe inside their own houses of worship.

Maddow and MSNBC Make Fools of Themselves on Live TV The MSNBC host’s “breaking story” releasing Trump’s tax return on air breaks apart.Joseph Klein

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went on twitter Tuesday (March 14th) to hype her “breaking story”: “We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously).” This no doubt sent the Left into a state of delirium. Then, Maddow followed up with another tweet, lowering expectations slightly: “What we’ve got is from 2005… the President’s 1040 form… details to come tonight 9PM ET, MSNBC.” That was not quite accurate either. What Maddow finally revealed on her show, after all of her self-promotion, were only two leaked pages from President Trump’s 2005 tax return that she had received from former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston. Johnston claimed he just happened to receive them in his mailbox. And all that Maddow managed to prove was that President Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, at an effective rate of 24.5%, as compared to the Obamas’ payment of federal income taxes on their reported income at an effective tax rate of 18.7% in 2015. In anticipation of Maddow’s attempted “scoop,” the White House scooped her and released information on President Trump’s 2005 taxes before Maddow did.

While Maddow continued to spin her wild conspiracy theories about some nefarious connection between Russia and the Trump campaign or even President Trump himself, the tax documents she released on her show provided no substantiation of her charges.

The whole exercise rivaled the broadcast three decades ago of Geraldo Rivera’s hyped special focusing on the opening of a secret vault in the Lexington Hotel once owned by Al Capone. The vault turned out to be empty except for some dirt and several empty bottles. After the show, Rivera was quoted as saying “Seems like we struck out.”

Maddow also struck out, big time. She received criticism not only from the right, as expected, but also from more liberal circles. For example, a writer for “The Fix,” the liberal politics blog of The Washington Post, called the whole brouhaha over Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return “a total nothingburger.” CNN’s senior media reporter Dylan Byers‏ tweeted: “Disappointment for Democrats. Fodder for Trump supporters. Setback for serious journalists.” Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted: “Dems should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted by two pages from ’05 tax return.”

Anti-Semitism Dressed Up As “Education” The pernicious lies of the organization “If Americans Knew.”

Founded in 2001 by Alison Weir, If Americans Knew (IAK) describes itself as a “research and information-dissemination institute” that focuses primarily on “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and media coverage of this issue.” The organization’s mission — rooted in the premise that the U.S. media are largely infected with a pro-Israel bias — is to “inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported.”

IAK asserts that because of what it calls the “Israeli military occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians in those regions “live in an odd and oppressive limbo” where “they have no nation, no citizenship, and no ultimate power over their own lives.” By IAK’s telling, “Israel is one of the leading violators” of the Geneva Conventions, “a set of principles instituted after World War II to ensure that civilians would ‘never again’ suffer as they had under Nazi occupation.” Lamenting that “Palestinians live, basically, in a prison in which Israel holds the keys,” IAK claims that “Israeli forces regularly confiscate private land; imprison individuals without process — including children — and physically abuse them under incarceration; demolish family homes; bulldoze orchards and crops; place entire towns under curfew; destroy shops and businesses; [and] shoot, maim, and kill civilians.”

Arguing that it is only because of “the money and weaponry provided by the United States” that Israel is able to “impos[e] an ethnically discriminatory nation on land that was previously multicultural,” IAK calls for a complete cessation of all U.S. aid to the Jewish state. “American support of the Israeli government,” the group elaborates, “… places us [the U.S.] at war with populations whose desperate plight we are helping to create and … makes us an accomplice to war crimes and an accessory to oppression.” In addition, IAK charges that U.S. economic assistance to Israel not only “prop[s] up a system of discrimination that is antithetical to American principles of equality and democracy,” but also “interferes with American relations with the oil-producing nations” while siphoning vital tax revenues away from “domestic needs.”

In an effort to shield itself from charges of anti-Semitism, IAK is usually careful not to disparage “the Jews” explicitly; instead it typically refers to subsets of Jews such as “the Zionists,” “the Israel lobby,” or “the neocons” whose “dual loyalties” allegedly undermine America’s national sovereignty.

Geert Wilders and the Real Story of the Election The patriotic revolution continues. Daniel Greenfield

The Dutch Labor Party used to dominate Maastricht. The ancient city gave its name to the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union. In this election, the Labor Party fell from a quarter of the vote to a twentieth.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, which advocates withdrawing from the EU, is now the largest party in the birthplace of the European Union.

And the growing strength of the Freedom Party can be felt not only on the banks of the Maas River, but across the waterways of the Netherlands. A new wind of change has blown off the North Sea and ruffled feathers in Belgisch Park.

In The Hague, where Carnegie’s Peace Palace hosts the World Court while the humbler Noordeinde Palace houses King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, the internationalist institutions colliding with the nationalist ones, the United Nations rubbing up against the Dutch parliament and Supreme Court, the Freedom Party has become the second largest party despite the 15% Muslim population.

In Rotterdam, where Muslim rioters shouted, “Allahu Akbar” and anti-Semitic slurs and where Hamas front groups are organizing a conference, the Freedom Party is now the second largest political party. In that ancient city on the Rotte that had the first Muslim mayor of a major European city, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of the Labor Party who was being groomed for Prime Minister, estimates are that Labor fell from 32 percent to just 6 percent. That is strikingly similar to what took place in Maastricht.

But nearly half of Rotterdam is made up of immigrants. Muslims make up 13% of the population. But turnout hit 72% and after the Muslim riots, the Freedom Party only narrowly trails the ruling VVD.

The Freedom Party has become the largest party in Venlo while the Labor Party has all but vanished.

And that is the real story of the Dutch election.

The truly final results will only be known next week. But the current numbers show that the Freedom Party has become the second largest political party in Parliament having gained five seats while the Labor Party has disastrously lost 29 seats.

Greece: A Democracy in Crisis by Maria Polizoidou

The Greek people have just about reached the limits of their strength. The economic situation is tragic. Illegal immigration is out of control, criminality increases day by day. The political system is steeped in corruption and the media have stopped being the communication channel between citizens and the political system. The Greek media are functioning as the praetorian guard of the euro; they favor the massive admission of Muslim populations into Greece and they fiercely attack every voice that disagrees with them.

Bishop Ambrossios is urging people to revolt. He characterizes the illegal Muslim immigrants entering the country as conquerors. He also says that Christianity is under attack in Greece, while Islam is being daily reinforced. He says that Greek Orthodox churches are being desecrated, robbed and burned by Muslim immigrants while the state just sits by and looks on.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras does not fully control his political party; his biggest problem is his cabinet.

When a political system is corrupt, when the media only put out propaganda and not information, when oligarchs control public life, when the political system seems repeatedly directed against the interests of its own people, when a political system ignores the constitution and the will of the majority but draws its legitimacy once every four years through elections, then, although it may be called “democratic”, it is a democracy of junk. It is not the people’s democracy anymore; instead, it belongs to the elites.

If Greeks do not take back their homeland, wrote journalist Makis Andronopoulos on January 3, 2017, the guns may well have the last word. Andronopoulos wrote that he came to this conclusion after polls showed the detachment of the political system from the Greek people and their tragic way of life.

The director of the newspaper Kathimerini, Alexis Papahelas, wrote on January 29, 2017 that the people are exhausted, that democracy still does not have solution to the problems of citizens and that the situation in Greece reminded him of 2012, when the old political system was wiped out.

Bishop Ambrossios is urging people to revolt. He characterizes the illegal Muslim immigrants entering the country, as conquerors. He also says that Christianity is under attack in Greece while Islam is being daily reinforced. He says that Greek Orthodox churches are being desecrated, robbed and burned by Muslim immigrants while the state just sits by and looks.

Members of the governing coalition say that Germany wants to bring down the Greek government and bring the New Democracy party to power. The leader of New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is the most obedient and tenacious follower of the German policy in Greece.

Obama Judge Blocks Trump’s New Travel Order History is repeating itself, unfortunately. Matthew Vadum

President Trump’s new, narrowly tailored temporary ban on travel from select countries plagued by Islamic terrorism was put on hold at the eleventh hour yesterday by the latest in a series of soft-headed, left-wing federal judges determined to sabotage presidential efforts to secure the nation’s borders.

Lawyer Justin Cox of the George Soros-funded National Immigration Law Center, hailed the ruling, saying the judge in this case found that “the primary purpose of the executive order is to discriminate against Muslims.”

The temporary travel ban is “a shaming device” and “a dehumanizing device” that “perpetuates this myth, this damaging stereotype of Muslims as terrorists.”

Trump vowed to fight on at a high-energy rally in Nashville, saying the ruling was “terrible” and suggested it was “done by a judge for political reasons.” This was “an unprecedented judicial overreach,” he said, adding he would take the legal case “as far as it needs to go,” including the Supreme Court. “The danger is clear, the law is clear, the need for my executive order is clear.”

Trump critics like Cox deride the new executive order, falsely claiming it is a “Muslim ban,” even though it leaves out the vast majority of Muslim-majority countries on earth. Even if it did single out Muslims, it should still survive constitutional scrutiny, many legal experts say. The Constitution’s prohibition of so-called religious tests doesn’t apply to immigration policy, which is why no one raised a fuss during the Cold War when the U.S. set aside visas specifically for Soviet Jews escaping religious persecution.

And to make all of this even worse, it turns out the lawsuit ruled on yesterday was brought by a foreign-born Muslim cleric with ties to the international terrorist underworld. More on that in a moment.

The legal proceeding arose out of President Trump’s Executive Order 13780 which would have temporarily prevented visas from being issued to individuals from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria to provide the government with an opportunity to implement Trump’s “extreme vetting” measures aimed at weeding out visa applicants who pose a threat to U.S. national security. The order was also to suspend refugee processing for 120 days. The new order differs from Trump’s previous, broader directive, Executive Order 13769, also enjoined by the courts, “in that it omitted Iraq from the list of affected countries, did not affect any current visa or green-card holders and spelled out a robust list of people who might be able to apply for exceptions,” according to a Washington Post summary.

To no one’s surprise, the judicial officer usurping the powers of both the executive and legislative branches of the government, Honolulu-based U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Kahala Watson, was appointed to his post by President Obama in 2013. Federal judges in Washington state and Maryland are also expected to rule on EO 13780 soon.

Back to Nuclear Basics: Does Unilateral Restraint Work? by Peter Huessy

U.S. Air Force

Nuclear weapons are in the news multiple times each day, with unsettling events in North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia escalating the concern that the United States is entering an era of growing instability and uncertainty.

While there are serious and gathering nuclear threats facing the United States and our allies, there is no need to panic, nor believe that doomsday is just around the corner. However, we do need to get on with the task of modernizing our nuclear deterrent, enhancing our ballistic missile defenses and working effectively to stop the proliferation of such weapons.

This essay addresses the question of how best to maintain nuclear deterrence. Critics of the current US modernization plan urge the US to exercise restraint by curtailing the modernization of significant portions of our nuclear deterrent under the assumption that if the United States unilaterally stops “arms racing,” our adversaries such as Russia and China will as well.

My conclusion is three-fold: (1) recent history shows restraint does not work; (2) nuclear modernization is absolutely required; and (3) a renewed “peace through strength” policy will both reduce nuclear dangers and restore some stability in international affairs.

First, let’s review the facts of the nuclear landscape.

The United States has deployed in its strategic nuclear forces under 1600 nuclear warheads, at least 1000 warheads less than the Russians. [The Russians have to reduce these numbers to the New Start level by February 2018].

Second, the United States has a few hundred tactical or theater nuclear weapons, less than the 2000-5000such weapons held by Russia.

Third, the Russians are on pace to modernize at least 90% of their nuclear deterrent force by the turn of the decade, no later than 2021 it appears. By contrast, the U.S. modernization begins with the deployment of a new bomber, submarine, and land-based missiles no earlier than from mid-2027 through 2031, so U.S. modernization restraint is hardly called for.

Fourth, and just to be clear, current forces are capable but in need of significant investment. Most of the U.S. forces were fielded 30 or more years ago and are at the end of their service lives. They are thus actually way past due for modernization, and that is the only way they can remain credible and capable as the foundation of our deterrent. Four senior Air Force and Navy nuclear commanders underscored this point in House Armed Services Committee testimony on March 8, 2017.

In that context, how should we treat calls for major U.S. restraint in rebuilding our nuclear arms? Perhaps it would be instructive to review the impact of U.S. nuclear unilateral restraint just before and following the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now to be clear, the U.S. and the Soviet Union and then Russia jointly agreed to the INF (1987), START I (July 1991) and START II (January 1993) nuclear weapons treaties. However, we significantly invested in a simultaneous modernization of our entire nuclear deterrent during the Reagan administration while also seeking arms control. Peace through strength worked as we secured major reductions in Soviet-era nuclear weapons and the end of the Soviet Union.


“…a new world order is taking shape before our eyes. Will it be a world faithful to democratic values, and huddled under the umbrella of American military might, or a world delivered up to the logic of blackmail: we can do this to you because you don’t know how much we suffer and you can’t hit back at us because if you do we’ll send the whole world down the tubes.
What is happening to Israelis today will happen to every one of us tomorrow. Troubled Dawn, April 2002

July 2000. The Oslo Process reaches a dead end with the failure of the Camp David talks. What did you know about Islam then? September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon’s “provocative” visit to the Temple Mount triggers riots in Israel. Two days later, an international blood libel, the “killing” of Mohamed Al Dura, breaks the taboo against genocidal Jew hatred. Did you know the scene was staged? Al Aqsa Intifada! “Suicide bombers” go on a killing spree in Israel. In fact, they were martyrdom operations committed by shahids. The French called them kamikaze.

The floodgates opened, spewing murderous rhetoric and thuggish antisemitic violence worldwide. We were told peace process, national liberation, two-state-solution, and the Palestinian plight. Who knew that 9/11 was on the horizon? Did we understand why Israel and, by extension, the Jews were held responsible for endless atrocities committed against us? Accused of disproportionate force? What did I know about the history of jihad conquest?

American, Jewish, consecrated to the art of the novel, living in Paris since 1972, I found myself in the European heart of that upheaval. I set aside my literary research and focused on the 3-dimensional international novel unfolding before my eyes.

Troubled Dawn is the writer’s notebook I opened at that tipping point in contemporary history, my learning curve, a bildungsroman, a singular account of events as they unfolded. No retrospective reconstitution could ever convey the dramatic suspense of those years.

Perplexed, wounded, horrified by the power of the media and self-appointed experts to hone public opinion into a destructive weapon I forged my own tools to understand and resist those hostile forces. Hundreds of pages of notebook entries published here for the first time, interspersed with my earliest articles, trace my itinerary from an alarmed citizen to an internationally recognized journalist.