Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:26 AM
By LARA JAKES
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is poised to become the first U.S. leader in three decades to attack a foreign nation without broad international support or in direct defense of Americans.
Not since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan ordered an invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada, has the U.S. been so alone in pursing major lethal military action beyond a few attacks responding to strikes or threats against its citizens.
It’s a policy turnabout for Obama, a Democrat who took office promising to limit U.S. military intervention and has cited the 2011 withdrawal of troops from Iraq as one of his administration’s top successes. But over the last year he has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that his government’s use of chemical weapons in its two-year civil war would be a “red line” that would provoke a strong U.S. response.
So far, only France has indicated it would join a U.S. strike on Syria.
Without widespread backing from allies, “the nature of the threat to the American national security has to be very, very clear,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Charles Brower, an international studies professor at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.
“It’s the urgency of that threat that would justify the exploitation of that power as commander in chief — you have to make a very, very strong case for the clear and gathering danger argument to be able to go so aggressively,” Brower said Friday. “He needs partners, and he needs to be able to make that clear to have the legal justification.”
Obama is expected to launch what officials have described as a limited strike — probably with Tomahawk cruise missiles — against Assad’s forces.
Two days after the suspected chemicals weapons attack in Damascus suburbs, Obama told CNN, “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it; do we have the coalition to make it work?” He said: “Those are considerations that we have to take into account.”
But lawmakers briefed on the plans Thursday indicated an attack is all but certain and Obama advisers said the president was prepared to strike unilaterally, though France is prepared to join the effort.
The U.S. does not have United Nations support to strike Syria, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged restraint. “Diplomacy should be given a chance and peace given a chance,” he said Thursday.
Expected support from Britain, a key ally, evaporated as Parliament rejected a vote Thursday endorsing military action in Syria. And diplomats with the 22-nation Arab League said the organization does not support military action without U.N. consent, an action that Russia would almost certainly block. The diplomats spoke anonymously because of rules preventing them from being identified.
France has said it is ready to commit forces to an operation in Syria because the use of chemical weapons cannot go unpunished.
“Presidents always need to be prepared to go at it alone,” said Rudy deLeon, who was a senior Defense Department official in the Clinton administration.
“The uninhibited use of the chemical weapons is out there, and that’s a real problem,” said deLeon, now senior vice president of security and international policy at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress in Washington. “It can’t be ignored, and it certainly creates a dilemma. I think (Obama) had to make the red-line comment, and so Syria has acted in a very irresponsible way.”
The nearly nine-year war in Iraq that began in 2003, which Obama termed “dumb” because it was based on false intelligence, has encouraged global skittishness about Western military intervention in the Mideast. “There’s no doubt that the intelligence on Iraq is still on everybody’s mind,” deLeon said.
Both Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton had U.N. approval for nearly all of their attacks on Iraq years earlier. Even in the 2003 invasion, which was ordered by Republican George W. Bush, 48 nations supported the military campaign as a so-called coalition of the willing. Four nations — the U.S., Britain, Australia and Poland — participated in the invasion.
The U.S. has relied on NATO at least three times to give it broad foreign support for military missions: in bombarding Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, attacking Kosovo with airstrikes in 1999 and invading Afghanistan in 2001.
Only a few times has the U.S. acted unilaterally — and only then to respond to attacks or direct threats against Americans, such as the 1993 missile strike that Clinton ordered in retaliation against an Iraqi plot to assassinate the elder Bush.
Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:25 AM
BY U.S. SENATOR
There is no greater friend of conservation and no greater protector of the natural treasures of our country than America’s sportsmen. Every year, sportsmen pump billions of dollars into the economy. At the same time, they provide the money through taxes and fees that fund wildlife officers and conservation efforts in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and on private land.
Despite all these contributions, there is still much that we need to do to protect the rights of sportsmen and to ensure that our nation’s natural resources remain open and available to future generations of those who love the outdoors. The Sportsmen’s Act—legislation I am cosponsoring in the United States Senate—is designed to do just that.
Countless Ohioans enjoy hunting and fishing, but not all of them have access to private land where they can partake in these activities. It’s not surprising that access to public lands is the number one issue for America’s sportsmen, and loss of that access is the number one reason people stop hunting and fishing. Reports by the Department of Interior have found that large amounts of public land have inadequate access for sportsmen.
The Sportsmen’s Act helps to address that problem. This legislation would protect the public right to engage in recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting on public lands. It requires that all lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service remain open to outdoorsmen. And it provides legislative support to Executive Order 13443, which directs federal land management agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting on federal lands, and ensures sound scientific management of wildlife and their habitat.
This legislation also removes some of the regulatory barriers that make taking advantage of our public lands so difficult. It removes the arbitrary limitation that allows firearms to be transported across national parks but not bows. It codifies that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the ability to regulate ammo and fishing tackles, leaving that authority to state fish and game agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Service where it has always resided. And it requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars be made available to secure access to existing federal public lands that have restricted access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses.
We must ensure that the lands we have available for public use are open to the American citizens they are meant to benefit.
As generations of Americans know, our nation has no greater resource than our natural treasures. If we don’t keep them open for everyone to enjoy, we risk having a generation that doesn’t appreciate how precious they are and the importance of good stewardship.
Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:24 AM
MOUNTAINTOP, N.C. — If opinions differ on Miley Cyrus’ raunchy performance during MTV’s recent Video Music Awards, on one thing we all can agree: Miley loves her tongue.
Throughout her lively exhibition, the 20-year-old former Disney starlet and erstwhile Hannah Montana was busy extending her gustatory hydrostat. It is a healthy tongue, indeed, and as tongues go, Cyrus is justified in being proud of hers.
She is also, apparently, proud of the results of her successful passage through puberty, which she felt compelled to share. Highlights of her nearly X-rated performance can be found easily enough. Readers of op-ed pages don’t sign up for such descriptions when they seek opinion so I will spare the details except to mention that she was dressed in her undies and employed a foam finger with which to stimulate her performance partner, singer Robin Thicke.
“That was dope,” Thicke tweeted afterward, which ostensibly was intended as an expression of praise rather than commentary on his “dance” partner. Apparently, Thicke’s wife, actress Paula Patton, was also fine with the performance.
So who are we to protest? Who are we not to?
By far the best commentary — in the picture-worth-a-thousand-words category — was Rihanna’s blank stare. Maybe she was thinking about her next dental appointment, but her expression of utter ennui spoke for me and doubtless others.
The usual critiques have included mockery of the right wing, which apparently includes anyone who cares about the culture we’re providing our children. But other commentary makes one hopeful that we may be experiencing a broader desire for greater decorum. Call it post-modern prudery.
This is possibly a false hope, I concede, but there’s some basis for imagining that the pendulum might find its way back toward civilization’s center. Even by the dubious standards of MTV, Cyrus’ performance was widely considered over the top. Or should we say, under the bottom? At a reported rate of 300,000 tweets per minute during the broadcast, viewers tweeted reactions that included shock and outrage. Not all, obviously, but enough to suggest a tipping point in America’s slow decline into prurient voyeurism.
This is not the first offensive display — and probably not even the worst. I pretend to no authority but have seen enough to know that MTV videos often resemble soft-porn mini-movies. Children marinating in a culture of online porn, sexting, rainbow parties and worse have little experience with other ways of relating emotionally.
Hard to believe, I know, but there was once a time when entertainers could get through a song without actually touching themselves. Or simulating fellatio, as Cyrus did. The impulse to replicate animal behavior — now called “twerking” (the lascivious gyrating of one’s fleshy extremities, according to my handy slang dictionary) — now is mainstream entertainment. So inured have we become to grotesque behavior that even a congressman’s sexting expeditions, at least initially, were blithely disregarded as errors in judgment.
The notion of community standards, meanwhile, has become quaintly irrelevant. How does one impose standards when almost every citizen has his own videocam and vast audiences can be summoned with a tweet? One doesn’t. In free societies, the call to civilized behavior is strictly voluntary. Like democracy, it has to be willed by the people by community consent.
To that end, Cyrus inadvertently may have performed a public service. She didn’t just tip the point, she forced the shark to jump the shark. There are only so many ways to shake one’s booty, after all. Everybody has a tongue. Sex is universal. Given those circumstances, what’s a girl gotta do to get attention?
The grinding image of Cyrus playing nasty while sticking out her tongue at the world ultimately was mostly sad and, as Rihanna so perfectly projected, kind of boring. Provocation for the sake of provocation is rarely provocative. And sex in the hands of a Cyrus-gone-wild has all the appeal of rutting season at the zoo. Whither mystery?
Even posing such a question usually invites dismissal as out-of-touch old-fogery. The planet’s young, having discovered sex anew, have always imagined their predecessors as hopelessly square, forgetting until they themselves become parents that certain acts of passion were involved in their invitation to the circus. This time may be different. This time, even the young are offended.
Just possibly, America has had enough. When all things are permissible, then permissiveness loses its allure. And the pendulum always comes back.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is
Saturday, August 24, 2013 12:00 AM
BY U.S. SENATOR
Big scandals start off as small stories. The controversy engulfing the Internal Revenue Service seems to grow bigger every day. What began as what the Obama administration said was a handful of “rogue agents” in a local Cincinnati office has turned into a scandal that runs all the way to the highest levels of the IRS and maybe beyond. The question every American should be asking is this: Just how far does this story go, and when is President Barack Obama going to do something about it?
In the run-up to the last election, I started receiving troubling reports from conservative groups in Ohio about alleged mistreatment by the IRS. In response, in March 2012, I spearheaded a Senate letter to the IRS demanding answers. Six weeks later IRS officials assured us that only legitimate criteria were used to evaluate tax-exempt groups. That assurance proved false, and instead of correcting the record when they say they learned the truth a week later, the IRS remained silent. The truth was uncovered only when the press began to report on the agency’s ideological targeting.
But the cover-up didn’t end when IRS misconduct became public. Initially, the IRS sought to explain away its political targeting as a “shortcut” to deal with a “surge” in tax-exempt applications. But the record soon revealed that tax-exempt applications actually declined the year the targeting began. Then the IRS claimed that any misconduct could be attributed to a handful of “rogue” employees from a regional office, rather than at the direction of senior officials in Washington, D.C. But investigators soon found letters targeting Tea Party groups signed by Lois Lerner, the Washington-based IRS official who led the division that carried out the targeting policy. Ms. Lerner refused to answer questions from a congressional committee investigating this issue, choosing instead to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Now an IRS whistle-blower has confirmed what many had suspected but could not prove — the misconduct involved not only Ms. Lerner and the Washington office generally, but specifically included the IRS chief counsel, one of only two Obama political appointees in the entire agency. Several news outlets have now reported that the chief counsel may have met with the president at the White House on April 23, 2012, just two days before the IRS issued a revised set of “be on the lookout” instructions to IRS agents reviewing tax-exempt applications that appear to target Tea Party groups for more stringent review. Perhaps most troubling, the White House’s timeline of events — who knew what and when — has changed repeatedly since news of improper targeting first became public.
And the scope of the scandal is growing. Just a few days ago, congressional investigators released emails suggesting that staff at the Federal Election Commission were engaged in conservative targeting of their own, perhaps with improper help from Ms. Lerner and the IRS. Now evidence is mounting that one of the most powerful agencies of the federal government — the Securities and Exchange Commission — has also engaged in political targeting. In a letter to the chairwoman of the SEC, congressional leaders revealed that documents produced for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “indicate that the SEC has been under immense pressure from elected officials and special interest groups as part of a government-wide effort to stifle political speech.”
With each new revelation we discover more incompetence, and more examples of politicized enforcement of the law — all enemies of good governance. And while the Obama administration has voiced outrage about government misconduct, it has failed to provide the American people and congressional investigators with critical information and promised transparency. Outrage has not led to action.
Instead, the president and his administration have ignored requests for more information — including multiple specific requests from me. They also have not fully answered a bipartisan investigation by the Senate Finance Committee of which I am a member. In total opposition to the words and assurances of the White House, the IRS, which answers to the president, has simply failed to comply with many of the committee’s requests.
Based on its conduct, the position of the Obama administration seems to be that if they ignore these scandals long enough, they will simply go away. The White House has gone so far as to refer to the outrage surrounding revelations about the IRS as a “phony scandal.” That’s a shame. This pattern of misconduct represents everything that is wrong with Washington, and it is behavior like this that has shattered the trust of the American people in their government.
If the Administration does not come clean soon, the stain from this scandal will not just be on the IRS, but on the Administration as a whole.