At first, I was appalled that Hollywood filmmaker Oliver Stone (JFK, Nixon) was appearing on a panel at this year’s conference of Students for Liberty, a nationwide libertarian youth organization. Stone is a conspiracy-monger of the first order whose twisted historical revisionism has deluded millions. He recently told the Daily Beast that the United States is an “international terror” that other nations should keep down.

But I was wrong; the event proved quite educational.

Stone appeared on a panel called “The National Security State,” along with Jeremy Scahill (the national-security correspondent for The Nation magazine) and Peter Kuznick (a history professor who co-wrote Stone’s loopy 2012 Showtime series Untold History of the United States).

The major surprise was just how bitter some left-wingers are with the Obama administration’s national-security record. Scahill tried to feed into the libertarian ethos of the 1,000 students in the audience by declaring that “when it comes to national-security policy, we only have one party: the war party.” But all the panelists reserved their tartest taunts for Democrats.

Scahill zinged Fox News for trying to paint President Obama as a “Muslim Manchurian candidate,” but also dismissed MSNBC as “like a DNC meet-up.” He blamed that network and other liberal outlets for defending Obama policies: “Obama has convinced liberals he is fighting a clean war,” he said, or, alternatively, “Democrats have checked their conscience at the door of the Obama presidency.”


This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and we should reflect on the “lessons” we have been taught so often on how to avoid another such devastating conflict. Chief among them seems to be the canard that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 that officially ended the war caused a far worse one just 20 years later — usually in the sense of an unnecessary harshness accorded a defeated Imperial Germany.

But how true is that common argument of what John Maynard Keynes called a “Carthaginian peace”?

Carthage, remember, was truly emasculated after the Second Punic War and utterly razed after the Third; in contrast, Germany was mostly humiliated after 1919. Indeed, Versailles was mild compared with what Germany had subjected France to in 1871 at the end of the Franco-Prussian war — and yet a vengeful France did not preempt Germany in pursuit of payback over the ensuing half-century. The humiliating terms that Germany forced upon Russia at Brest-Litosvk in 1918 were far harsher than anything that Germany suffered at Versailles, and yet did it not lead to Russian insurgencies against Germany, much less lasting enmity between the two states. Just 21 years later, Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression pact.

Perhaps the most draconian envisioned treaty in the history of Europe was what Germany might well have intended to inflict on a defeated France and Belgium, had the former won the war in 1914 — the infamous Septemberprogramm proposal, which, if adopted, would have redrawn the entire map of Western Europe. And what the Allies in 1945 demanded of a defeated Germany would have been considered unthinkable in 1919; and yet we have not had a World War III in the ensuing 70 years.

In truth, by the Germans’ own standards of Diktat, Versailles was not harsh. The problem was not so much its terms per se, but its timing, its language, and the methods of its enforcement. By the time the treaty was accepted by the major parties — over seven months after the cessation of fighting (an armistice rather than an unconditional surrender) in the West — many of the Allied forces in the field had stood down. There was certainly less chance of seriously occupying Germany to ensure enforcement. And while the Allied leaders often talked loudly and harshly about German culpability, they failed to grasp that such tough rhetoric without commensurate consequences would only incite a wounded adversary in ways that a combination of quiet and coercion would not. One of the lessons of the aftermath of World War I is that danger mounts when threats go unenforced, and sermons prove both annoying and empty.

There are also myriads of assumed causes of World War I, both immediate and longer-term. The list is well known: arms races, entangling alliances, unchecked nationalism, miscalculation and accidents, lack of diplomacy, ethnic tensions in the Balkans, irrevocable mass mobilizations, the lack of a League of Nations, and on and on.

But the crux is why exactly did Germany believe in late summer 1914 that it could invade neutral Belgium, start a war with France, draw in Britain and Russia (and eventually the U.S.), and expect the Schlieffen Plan to knock out France in a matter of weeks, allowing a redirection to Russia to ensure the same there?


Like a college student losing a weekend inside a tequila bottle, President Obama is going to lose the next month or more in another diplomatic binge. He has lined up a string of summit meetings with Middle Eastern leaders that will put his best foot back between his molars. Perhaps he will succeed for a time, but only in steering the media’s attention away from Obamacare and the latest rope-a-dope he’s pulled on Boehner and McConnell.

In the next weeks, Obama is going to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Saudi King Abdullah, and several other Middle Eastern heads of state. There’s little hope that he will do any good on any front, though he seems poised to poison a few more wells.

As even the Obama-friendly Washington Post has reported, Obama’s diplomacy on Syria has failed miserably. In a press conference last week with France’s Hollande, Obama admitted that there was enormous frustration on Syria. He added, “Right now we don’t think that there is a military solution, per se, to the problem. But the situation’s fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue.” Which, roughly translated, means that neither Hollande nor Obama has a clue of how to resolve the Syrian civil war, now going into its fourth year.

The so-called “Geneva 2” talks on Syria failed last week when Bashar Assad’s regime — who appear to be winning the civil war — stood fast against any “transition plan” that would result in Assad stepping down from power. No one beside Obama and John Kerry was surprised, nor should they have been. Why agree to what is a surrender when you’re winning the war?

That’s a question that pertains to the rest of the Middle East, one that will prevent any success in any other aspect of Obama’s binges of diplomacy.

Russia and Iran, both of which have men, money, and influence invested in Syria, will control the outcome there unless the Saudis can do anything about it. They, according to a Saturday report in the Wall Street Journal, are sending shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to the anti-Assad rebel forces. The Saudis, too, have a lot of people, funds, and influence at stake in what has shaped up to be an Iraq-Iran war in miniature, another Sunni-Shiite conflict that could go on for many years.

The Saudis exemplify the effects of Obama’s previous binges in diplomacy. They have broken with America, signaling very clearly that they will go their own way on foreign policy. They renounced a seat on the UN Security Council last year, saying it was a message to the Americans, not to the UN. Two facts show why Obama cannot bring the Saudis back under his spell.

First is that in Saudi Arabia’s eastern provinces, in which most of their oil facilities are located, the majority of the population are Shiites, and they have little or no loyalty to the Saudi regime. The Saudi royals fear an Iranian-inspired insurgency there more than they fear anything else. So to oppose Iran’s influence in Shiite areas, they have been willing to use their armed forces — an uncharacteristic move for a nation that wants Americans to fight its battles — in Bahrain in 2011 and may soon be sending more than money and arms to the Syrian rebels.

Palestinians: Keep Religion on ID Cards by Khaled Abu Toameh The row that erupted shows that among Palestinians, opposition to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state remains widespread. It also shows what awaits non-Muslims in a future Palestinian state controlled by Sharia Law. Regardless of Abbas’s motives, it is clear that Hamas and other Palestinians continue to seek and Islamic state where non-Musloms […]

Mass Destruction of Science: Charles Battig Perhaps given the chance to avert public eyes from his lackluster results with containing the deteriorating situation in Syria, nuclear talks with Iran, and the Middle East peace process, Secretary of State Kerry has chosen to flaunt his lack of scientific understanding as a needed diversion.   Kerry described those who do not accept […]

EILEEN TOPLANSKY: A DESTRUCTIVE PRESIDENT President Barack Obama never admits to a mistake. Instead, egregious lawlessness is fluffed away as “not a smidgen of scandal” in relation to the IRS targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. Instead of being a great leader, Obama distances himself and lets his appointees hide behind the law or simply exempt themselves […]

THE SHAME OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: HONORING RICHARD FALK-SOHRAB AHMARI A 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist who Also Blames Jews for the Boston Marathon Attacks No matter how deep into the political fever swamps some scholars wade, it seems, progressive academe won’t shun them. Consider Richard Falk, a retired international-law professor whose tenure as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s rapporteur on the Palestinian territories has […]


The weirdest thing about John Kerry’s weekend speech on

climate-change—other than the fact that this is the same guy who in 1997 voted

to forbid the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol—is that it begins by quoting

something Maurice Strong said at the U.N.’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro:

“Every bit of evidence I’ve seen persuades me that we are on a course leading to


Maurice who?

Mr. Strong, a former oil executive from Canada (he was Pierre Trudeau’s

pick to run state-owned Petro-Canada in the mid-1970s), was for many years the

U.N.’s ultimate mandarin. He organized many of its environmental mega-confabs,

including the 1972 Stockholm Conference and the 1992 Rio summit, before rising

to become Kofi Annan’s right-hand man. At various times Mr. Strong has served as

director at the World Economic Forum, chairman of the Earth Council and the

World Resources Institute, vice chairman of the Chicago Climate Exchange and

chairman of the China Carbon Corporation, to name just a few of his many

prominent affiliations.

In 2005 it emerged that Mr. Strong, who was the chairman of the U.N.

panel that created the Office of the Iraq Program, had accepted a check for

close to $1 million from a South Korean businessman named Tongsun Park, who in

the 1970s had been involved in an effort to bribe U.S. politicians. Mr. Strong

claimed that the check, from a Jordanian bank, was meant as an investment in a

family company that later went bankrupt. Mr. Park (who also sublet office space

from Mr. Strong) later went to prison for trying to bribe U.N. officials

overseeing the Oil-for-Food program that was propping up Saddam Hussein’s regime

in Iraq. Mr. Strong was accused of no wrongdoing and has denied involvement in

Oil-for-Food. He left the U.N. that year and moved to


America does not have a police state. Yet. East Germany had a police state. Syria has a police state. In police states, the government is afraid of the people. Our government is not all that afraid of us. Despite the liberal paranoia about militias and assault rifles, the training drills and TV shows where survivalists overrun the country, the people in charge don’t wake up every morning worrying about a revolution. If they did, then two people in your neighborhood would be informing on you weekly.

We don’t have militarized police forces, TSA agents and NSA eavesdropping because the government is afraid of us, but because the government’s policies have made life unlivable without them. The KGB wasn’t there to protect Russians from each other. Our police state is. And those parts of it that aren’t fly under the radar every time the Chicago death toll for the year appears on the evening news.

The police escalation that shows up on countless videos exists because the people demanded it. And the people demanded it because liberal social policies made entire cities unlivable. The militarized police forces out of cities like Los Angeles filtered down to the suburbs and the rural areas as the same policies and populations that made cities unlivable began spreading outward.


There is a worthwhile debate to be had over whether state laws that disenfranchise felons should be changed or even eliminated. There can be an interesting discussion of how the history of such laws affects that debate. But you would not have known that from Eric Holder’s treatment of the subject in a Feb. 10 speech at the Georgetown Law Center in Washington.

The U.S. attorney general told us that statistics can be read to show that felon disenfranchisement laws actually promote recidivism. He said that such laws, which vary from state to state, are rooted in outdated notions going back to colonial days (when no one did any voting). He said that they were used during Reconstruction intentionally, and have been used since (whether intentionally or not is left hanging in the air) to deny the vote to blacks—who make up a larger percentage of those convicted of felonies than they do of the general population.

The statistical argument derives from a recent study in Florida that showed a lower recidivism rate for felons whose right to vote had been restored than for those whose right hadn’t. However, there is more going on here.

Florida has had, and indeed has broadened, a system that requires felons to go through an application process before their voting rights are restored. Obviously, those who are motivated to navigate such a process self-select as a group less likely to repeat their crimes. Suggesting that the automatic restoration of voting rights to all felons would lower recidivism is rather like suggesting that we can raise the incomes of all college students if we automatically grant them a college degree—because statistics show that people with college degrees have higher incomes than those without them.

The history suggested by the attorney general is just as deeply flawed. A clue to the flaw lies in his failure to call for a federal law barring state felon disenfranchisement statutes. Why would an administration given to bold legislative action at the federal level—given to bold action even without legislation—shrink from calling for such action here?