Obama and Putin’s Savage World Order By Daniel Greenfield

Whether it’s Obama sneering “Sue me” to critics of his abuses of power or Putin shrugging at yet another atrocity, we are no longer in the civilized urbane precincts of law and government.

What both men have in common is a hard left background which has taught them that the only defining principle in politics is Lenin’s “Kto-Kovo”. Kto-Kovo or Who-Whom reduced all interactions to warfare. The Bolsheviks ushered in the end of rules, decency or honor. All that mattered was who would be able to destroy whom. It didn’t matter whether you had justice on your side, but what you would do about it.

Obama and Putin have the same message for America. “Kto-Kovo.” “Sue me.” “So what?” “I won.”

Both men are mocking the impotence of their opponents who by failing to stop them have shown that they are weak and worthless. Instead they use them to divert attention from their own crimes.

In a Kto-Kovo world, there are no compromises and no morals. There are no laws and no limits.

If you can do something, you do it. If your opponents can’t stop you, then you have the right to do it. The true radical, the man of destiny, will do anything he wants because that is what makes him great. Lies are constant and utterly shameless. No lie can ever be exposed because the liar moves on to the next lie and then the one after that. Truth is as meaningless in a Kto-Kovo world as law.

Words and laws are just means to power. And in a Kto-Kovo world, power is all that matters.

A Kto-Kovo leader, whether in the 7th century or the 21st century, operates by rallying his followers through bold acts that expand their power and humiliate and destroy the morale of their enemies.

Whether it’s Putin invading Ukraine or Obama unilaterally running his amnesty, a Kto-Kovo leader attacks and challenges his enemies to stop him. He ignores any authority not under his control and does what he wants and by doing so he demonstrates that his power is the only authority that counts.


Barack Obama’s team recently took credit for improving the “tranquility of the global community,” and the president made it clear just what a calm place the world has become during his tenure.

But this summer Obama’s tranquil world [1] has descended into medieval barbarism in a way scarcely seen in decades. In Gaza, Hamas is banking its missile arsenal in mosques, schools and private homes; even Hitler did not do that with his V2s. Hamas terrorists resort to trying to wire up animals [2] to serve as suicide bombers. Aztec-style, they seek to capture Israeli soldiers to torture or trade — a sort of updated version of parading captive soldiers up the Templo Mayor [3] in Tenochtitlan.

Hamas cannot build a hotel, but instead applies its premodern cunning to tunneling [4] and killing in ever more insidious ways. Yet it proves incompetent in doing what it wishes to do best — kill Jewish civilians. Its efforts to kill Jews while getting killed in the process earn it sympathy from the morally obtuse [5] of the contemporary world who would have applauded Hitler in 1945 as an underdog who suffered greatly as he was overwhelmed by the Allies that he once tried to destroy.

In Paris, just seventy years after the Holocaust, sympathetic rioters hit the streets to cheer on Hamas’s efforts to kill more Jews with their crude versions of Vergeltungswaffen [6]. The passive French solution apparently is once again to encourage Jews to leave the country, given the growing number of new Nazis in their midst. Whether Hamas or Putin, the European response is always the same: why cannot they just go away to bother to some Jews or Americans, and leave us alone?

Russian operatives, role-playing as Ukrainian separatists [7], shot down a civilian airliner, then tried to doctor the debris field, then let the bodies decay, and now are looting the wallets of the dead. You cannot get much less tranquil than that.

In Iraq, ISIS, not content with the usual Middle East savagery, resorts to warring on religious icons, as if torture and murder of the living do not offer enough outlet for their barbarity. They blow up mosques, shatter tombs, and deface graveyards, in their eagerness to restore the 7th century. All that seems more Dark Age than merely medieval.

Iran just missed our “deadline” [8] that was supposed to result in fewer centrifuges in exchange for suspending the sanctions. No sane person now believes that the Iranians will stop nuclear enrichment, or will not get a bomb, or will not threaten to use it when they get one. What will Secretary Kerry do, now that the currency of “red lines,” “deadlines” and “step-over lines” has been all used up?

Territories Free of ObamaCare :The White House Issues Another Illegal Exemption.

Last week’s burst of world disorder was ideal for a news dump, and the White House didn’t disappoint: On no legal basis, all 4.5 million residents of the five U.S. territories were quietly released from ObamaCare. Where does everybody else apply?

The original House and Senate bills that became the Affordable Care Act included funding for insurance exchanges in these territories, as President Obama promised when as a Senator he campaigned in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other 2008 Democratic primaries. But the $14.5 billion in subsidies for the territories were dumped in 2010 as ballast when Democrats needed to claim the law reduced the deficit.

As a consolation, Democrats opened several public-health programs to the territories and bestowed most of ObamaCare’s insurance regulations, which liberals euphemize as “consumer protections,” such as requiring insurers to accept all comers and charge the same premiums regardless of patient health. “After a careful review of the law,” said Health and Human Services in a 2012 letter, HHS granted the territories’ request to apply these rules “to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

These uneconomic mandates promptly caused insurance rates to soar and many insurers to flee the territorial markets. You can’t buy any policy at any price in the Mariana Islands. So the territories have spent the last two years beseeching HHS for a regulatory exemption.

As recently as last year, HHS instructed the territories that they “have enjoyed the benefits of the applicable consumer protections” and HHS “has no legal authority to exclude the territories” from ObamaCare. HHS said the law adopted an explicit definition of “state” that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates and the public-health programs, and another explicit definition that excludes the territories for the purpose of the subsidies. Thus there is “no statutory authority . . . to selectively exempt the territories from certain provisions, unless specified by law.”


Asininity is a common malady of the political class. Nevertheless, one of the more moronic examples I have seen was a letter by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to House Committee on Way and Means Chairman Dave Camp on July 15th. In the letter Mr. Lew argues we should fence in American corporations, calling for “a new sense of economic patriotism.” He argues that American companies, in being responsible stewards of their owner’s wealth, are “effectively renouncing their citizenship.” That was a curious metaphor for an Administration that argues, in cases like Citizen’s United and Hobby Lobby that corporations are not individuals. To whom is owed a corporation’s primary loyalty – the government of the United States, or their shareholders, customers and employees?

Most importantly, the letter was not a serious attempt to resolve a real problem. It was political spin. Mr. Lew is upset about the practice known as corporate inversions. A corporate inversion is a strategy employed by companies with significant overseas operations to reduce U.S. taxes on earnings generated abroad. The United States, besides having the highest corporate tax rate among major countries, is the only one of the Group of Seven to tax earnings generated abroad, even though these companies have already paid taxes in the country in which the earnings were generated. It is the main reason why multinational U.S. companies keep high levels of cash abroad. Inversion is a legal strategy, permitted under the U.S. Tax Code.

What made the letter especially feeble was that Mr. Lew knows what should be done. He begins his fifth paragraph: “The best way to resolve this situation is through business tax reform that lowers the tax rate, broadens the tax base, closes loopholes and simplifies the tax system.” Amen and Hallelujah! Bipartisan support could be found for such proposals. These are all ideas recommended by Republicans like Paul Ryan. So why not work with Congress to pass tax reform? Mr. Lew urges that time is of the essence, but the question goes unanswered. There is little doubt, however, that Mr. Lew would raise such standard objections that obstreperous Republicans in Congress have no interest in working with selfless Democrats like himself. Instead he decided to pursue a cockamamie idea that will cause political opponents to retreat even deeper into their respective corners.

What the Treasury Secretary would like Congress to do is to pass legislation that would negate the aspect of the Tax Code that specifies the terms and conditions under which inversion is permitted. His wording is disingenuous. He makes no mention that corporate inversions are legal under the tax code: He writes, “Congress should enact legislation immediately – and retroactively to May 2014 – to shut down this abuse of our tax system.” His claim is that companies adopt such measures to avoid paying their “fair share of taxes,” as though obeying the law is not what corporations should do. There is, of course, no attempt to define “fair share” – a meaningless phrase solely designed to provide the speaker or writer a sense of moral superiority.


The terror group wants to infiltrate Israel to grab hostages and stage attacks as in Mumbai in 2008.

Early in the current clash between Hamas and Israel, much of the drama was in the air. The Palestinian terrorist group launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel responded by knocking down rockets in the sky with its Iron Dome defense system and by bombing the rocket-launch sites in Gaza. But the real story has been underground. Hamas’s tunnels into Israel are potentially much more dangerous than its random rocket barrages.

Israel started a ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, intending to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network. The challenge became obvious on Saturday when eight Palestinian fighters wearing Israeli military uniforms emerged from a tunnel 300 yards inside Israel and killed two Israeli soldiers in a firefight. One of the Palestinian fighters was killed before the others fled through the tunnel back to Gaza.

According to Yigal Carmon, who heads the Middle East Media Research Institute, his organization’s monitoring of published material and discussions with Israeli officials indicate that Hamas’s tunnels—and not the well-publicized episode of kidnapping and murder involving young Israelis and a Palestinian teenager—were the spark for the conflict.

Consider: On July 5 Israeli planes damaged a tunnel dug by Hamas that ran for several kilometers from inside the Gaza Strip. The tunnel emerged near an Israeli kibbutz named Kerem Shalom —vineyard of peace.

That Israeli strike presented Hamas with a dilemma, because the tunnel was one of scores that the group had dug at great cost. Were the Israelis specifically aware of the tunnel or had their strike been a random guess? Several members of the Hamas military leadership came to inspect the damage the following day, July 6. A later official Israeli report said that the Hamas inspectors were killed in a “work accident.” But what if the Israelis had been waiting for the follow-up and struck again?

Hamas now saw its strategic plan unraveling. The tunnel network gave it the ability to launch a coordinated attack within Israel like the 2008 Islamist rampage in Mumbai that killed 164 people. Recall that in 2011 Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, more than 200 of whom were under a life sentence for planning and perpetrating terror attacks. They were exchanged for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been taken hostage in a cross-border raid by Hamas. Imagine the leverage that Hamas could have achieved by sneaking fighters through the tunnels and taking hostages throughout Israel; the terrorists intercepted Saturday night were carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs.


The treatment of Lydda by Ari Shavit and my respondent Benny Morris has consequences even they didn’t intend.

The entry of historians into the debate over Ari Shavit’s Lydda chapter, in his bestselling book My Promised Land, constitutes progress. Efraim Karsh and Benny Morris, who for decades have been in almost continuous dispute over the events of 1948, seem to have converged in opposition to Shavit’s turning the July 1948 events in Lydda into the “black box” of the 1948 war and of Zionism. In response to my essay, Karsh writes: “Lydda was one of the very few exceptions that proved the rule, not—as Shavit argues—the rule itself.” And Morris concurs: Shavit “defined ‘Lydda’ as the key to Zionism. Well, it isn’t and it wasn’t. . . . Lydda wasn’t representative of Zionist behavior.”

But that’s where the convergence over Lydda ends. Karsh congratulates me for “putting to rest the canard of an Israeli massacre of Palestinian Arab civilians in that city in July 1948.” Morris condemns me for “effectively denying” that the expulsion of the city’s inhabitants “was preceded by a massacre, albeit a provoked one.”

It would have been quite an accomplishment to put to rest the “massacre” claim or “effectively” disprove it. My purpose was more modest. I sought to plant a seed of doubt regarding Shavit’s baroque narrative of it, using the same range of oral sources he used. This I believe I have done, and as long as Shavit remains silent, that seed of doubt should grow.

In the New Yorker abridgment of his Lydda chapter, Shavit invokes Benny Morris as his source. (Morris isn’t mentioned in the book, but the magazine’s fact-checkers apparently demanded a published source for the “massacre” claim.) And indeed, Shavit’s account ultimately rests on the foundation laid by Morris. Morris’s narrative of the “massacre” is austere in comparison to Shavit’s, because Morris claims he never resorts to oral testimony to establish a fact, only to add “color.” But his own paternity of the “massacre” trope can’t be denied, even if he is repelled by the way Shavit has framed Lydda as a litmus test of Zionism. That being the case, in my remarks here I’ll focus on Morris in lieu of Shavit, who has not deigned to respond to my essay.

As Morris himself admits, not a single contemporary Israeli document makes any mention whatsoever of the events of July 12, 1948 at the Dahmash mosque: the “small mosque” that was supposedly the scene of one Israeli massacre. What Morris calls the “crystal-clear” documentary proof of a wider “massacre” on the same day is an Israeli military summary of the fighting that lists “enemy casualties” at 250 versus four Israeli dead. According to Morris, “this disproportion speaks massacre, not ‘battle.’” And that’s it. On this slim reed rests Morris’s claim not only that there was a “massacre” at Lydda but that it was the “biggest massacre” of the 1948 war.


Of course it’s ribald, and it’s entertaining, too.
History, Marx famously remarked, repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. But for the eight years beginning January 20, 1993, history, in the form of the Clinton White House, seemed to skip the repetition and go straight for farce. The cast, the clashes, and the crack-ups of those years are brought together in the ribald new musical, Clinton, which is appearing in New York City as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. It is every bit as outrageous as you might think, but, then, an Eisenhower musical would not be nearly as much fun.

Clinton opens on January 20, 1993, with the president-elect taking the oath of office. “I, William Jefferson Clinton,” he begins — then, at his shoulder, “And I, Hillary Rodham Clinton . . . ” That gag sets the tone for the rest of the show, which is constantly inquiring, Who was in charge of this circus? To dramatize the question, there are actually two Bill Clintons: William Jefferson (Karl Kenzler), whose suit and slicked-back gray hair declare “Mr. President,” the scrupulous servant of the people; and Billy (Duke LaFoon), WJ’s caddish alter ego, an incorrigible skirt chaser with a touch for political showbiz. Whenever WJ’s starchy podium performances begin to bore, Billy Clinton is there, saxophone in hand, to give the crowds the old razzle-dazzle. Back and forth the show oscillates between their two approaches, parodying the schizophrenic feeling of many observers in the ’90s: that there was a Sunday-morning Bill and a very different Saturday-night Bill.

On the rare occasion when Bill is not his own worst enemy, he is the target of two antagonists: a megalomaniacal Newt Gingrich (Tom Souhrada), whose supervillain laugh is accompanied by a grand vision of making History by returning America to the golden days when everyone was “Christian, straight, and white.” To help him in his quest are several zombie-fied members of “the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.” It is because of Newt and his minions that the scoop-hungry press begins to ask questions about Whitewater and Paula Jones, and to coax them on is Kenneth Starr (Kevin Zak), an Igor-like investigator whose show-stopping number has him stripping down to combat boots, fishnet underwear, and a leather chest harness. Why Kenneth Starr is a male dominatrix here is a mystery, but in a show this bawdy, it somehow fits.

And bawdy it is. Once Monica Lewinsky (Natalie Gallo) makes her entrance, the innuendos are unceasing, and while the jokes are, like the women in Clinton’s orbit, sometimes too easy, there is plenty of cleverer fare. Yes, much of the show is puerile and sophomoric, but it’s a musical about Bill Clinton — you don’t expect Lear. That said, one song is a bit too blunt: Lewinsky’s postcoital girl-power solo, “I’m F***ing the F***ing President, Oh Yeah.” Even Sade knew to be subtle on occasion.

The show blasts through the Clinton administration’s eight years in two hours, with tributes to many of the era’s central moments: the 1994 midterm landslide, the 1995–1996 government shutdown (resolved here with a toe-to-toe boxing match between Gingrich and the two Bills), Hillarycare, and Clinton’s linguistically agile testimony before various congressional bodies. A beanbag dressed up in a suit — Bob Dole — makes a guest appearance, as does cardboard-cutout Al Gore. “Recyclable?” WJ asks. “Good, that’s what he would have wanted.”

Tenured Partisans: The Promise of Employment for Life has Bred Corruption in the Civil Service and Should be Eliminated. By Richard Samuelson

Something has gone wrong in our civil service. Consider some recent developments. The IRS was forced to pay the National Organization for Marriage $50,000 for leaking the group’s donor list. Tea-party organizations and donors were much more likely than others to be audited by the IRS. This misbehavior was not the work of a few rogue employees in Cincinnati. In general, the IRS stalled tea-party applications for status as 501(c)(4) groups.

Meanwhile, April Sands, an employee of the FEC, recently pleaded guilty to violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from campaigning at the office. Ms. Sands, who worked in the office charged with enforcing our election laws, recently said, “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican.” What business does such a person have in that office in the first place? Somehow the FEC managed to wipe her computer clean, weakening the case against her. Perhaps that answers our question. These cases reflect a larger pattern. Our civil service is putting a thumb on the scale of justice.

Thomas Jefferson described the ideal this way in 1776: “Let mercy be the character of the lawgiver, but let the judge be a mere machine.” Justice is blind. The law applies equally to all, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, their wealth or poverty, or their race. Moreover, it applies to government and the governed equally. Judges make this clear in their oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.” That principle applies across government. Jefferson continued: “The mercies of the law will be dispensed equally & impartially to every description of men; those of the judge, or of the executive power, will be the eccentric impulses of whimsical, capricious designing man.” The law can hardly be said to rule when it is applied or enforced in a biased manner, or when government employees exempt themselves from its reach.

How did we get here? With the rise of the Second Party System in 19th-century America came the spoils system, replacing the quasi-aristocratic republican old-boys’ network that had upheld the ideal of the gentleman as public servant. After a deranged office seeker assassinated President Garfield, the United States began to embrace the ideal of a non-partisan and professional civil service. Government employees began to be hired for their professional competence, determined by tests, rather than for party connections. Once hired, these government workers would be given civil-service protections — tenure as a security against partisan pressure. The goal was also to ensure that citizens voted for a candidate because he would pursue good policies, not because their idiot brother-in-law would get a job if their guy won.

Today we have the worst of both worlds: a tenured and partisan civil service. Government employees have civil-service protection and are seldom fired, only for the most egregious of crimes. Yet they lean to one party. From 1989 to 2012, two-thirds of donations from IRS employees, for example, went to Democrats. Even so, our civil servants seem to think that they are politically neutral. Hence the em


Gaza-Israel: it doesn’t add up

English version of an article written in French

Israel, they say, harumph, has the right to defend itself, but… But not entirely. Both sides are asked to act with restraint. Not exactly both. Because the conflict is lopsided: 37 then 58, 102, and now more than 200 Palestinians killed. The vast majority, according to Palestinian sources, are civilians. Women, children and the elderly, to say nothing of the thousands of wounded. On the other side, zilch. That’s it, the stage is set, the lethal narrative has wheels and it’s going to be fueled daily, automatically, unapologetically.

How might Hamas act with restraint? Its goal is to kill all the Jews and occupy all the territory from the Jordan to the sea. Whereas the Israelis want zero dead, zero wounded, and the pursuit of a productive life in an intact nation. So what would restraint amount to? Hamas would kill half the Jewish Israelis? There is no justification for this cooking-the-books vision of a confrontation with worldwide ramifications: The frontier between civilization and savagery runs along the Gaza-Israel border.

The Israeli army could crush Hamas in the space of 24 hours, simply by disregarding the fate of civilians caught in the interstices of a war machine built instead of a decent place for living creatures. Israel doesn’t use its power that way.

If the heroic Iron Dome were struck with a malediction and all eight batteries suddenly went dead, if ever Hamas got the upper hand, the rockets launched from Gaza could quickly balance the books. Would that be okay? 200 victims on each side. A draw? The competing teams shake hands and go home happy to have played a good game? No. Hamas would pursue its genocidal enterprise without the slightest restraint. What would they say then? The president of the United States, his secretary of state, European leaders, the General Secretary of the United Nations, journalists and readers eager to comment on the “conflict.” If ever Israel became weak like the helpless people of Iraq or Nigeria, what would public opinion say? Sorry, guys. It turns out you should have hit the enemy with all your might. Contemporary public opinion has taken a strong stand on that old-fashioned genocide, the Shoah. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out: it was a terrible tragedy that is sincerely regretted Or almost.

Thirty-seven killed on the Palestinian side in the first days of the operation and nothing on the opposite team, how dare they? Genocide, dixit Mahmoud Abbas. From then on, every day has its lot of tribulations, the toll is rung up at the end of each newscast on channels all over the world, the proportion of civilians increases from many, to more than half, to almost all. Where do these figures come from? Palestinian sources. Who can verify them? Don’t bother. Every confrontation involving Israel uses the same accounting methods. A man who launches a rocket–from someone’s patio– aimed at civilians in Israel becomes, if hit by the counter-attack, a civilian. While all Israelis, all Jews, including the three students assassinated in June, are soldiers.


Testing, testing, testing…

The horror of 298 innocents, oblivious to the warfare 33,000 feet below them, blown out of the sky by criminally negligent fanatics supported by Russian Vladimir Putin, forebodes greater catastrophes.

The incident is a part of a worldwide scene wherein Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s strategy of withdrawal from what he — and a large part of the apolitical war-weary American people – sees as overreaching worldwide projection of U.S. power.

But Obama’s clumsy retreat has led to a continuing welter of probes by opponents – and even allies — of Pax Americana. Whatever the merit of arguments about a declining U.S., its power and influence on the rest of the contemporary world remains enormous. Obama’s withdrawal creates an international and regional power vacuum, setting up the kind of ambiguities that throughout history has led to misperceptions, and, often, major wars.

The classic example, often cited if by simplistic interpretation of a very complex episode, is Dean Acheson’s speech to the National Press Club on January 12, 1950. In what was considered a seminal statement, the secretary of state did not include the KoreanPeninsula in a statement of the all-important United States “defense perimeter”. Its omission was widely interpreted as a signal that Washington would not defend South Korea, a product of the division of the Peninsular at the 38th parallel at the end of a 50-year-Japanese Occupation on Tokyo’s World War II surrender.

With concentration on the postwar Soviet takeover of Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. had absent-mindedly occupied the Peninsular with only a vague understanding of its potential threat to highly industrialized if decimated Japan. Into that vacuum, the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin, riding the full thrust of the developing Cold War, instigated his puppets, the well disciplined army led by Kim Il Sung, a former Soviet officer, to attack the South with the intention of reunifying the country as another Moscow satellite. The U.S. responded, if lamely in the beginning, but in force, and initially was victorious in threatening a complete reversal of the two superpowers’ goals.

But Mao Tse-tung, frightened by the prospect of a reunited Korea, an American ally on Communist China’s most important northeastern land frontier, hurled tens of thousands of former surrendered Nationalist troops as cannon fodder into the combat. Pres. Harry Truman, engaged on other European and Middle Eastern “fronts”, denied Gen. Douglas Macarthur his “all-out” strategy for a military victory even were it to bring on possible direct and perhaps nuclear conflict with Beijing, and the war ended in stalemate. “The Forgotten War” cost five million lives – including almost 40,000 U.S. soldiers — devastated the Peninsular, and left a festering international problem.

Today, looking around the world, there are too many places where just such complex unsolved geopolitical nodules present the same sort of potential.