The President is to be commended for opening offshore areas for oil exploration. According to The New York Times of March 31st, the president is ending “a long-standing moratorium on oil exploration along the east coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.”
Obviously, the action is intended to respond to the United States’ need for oil and our dependence on foreign sources. One large foreign source currently is Venezuela, whose leader, Hugo Chavez, is a sworn enemy of the U.S. According to The Times of April 3rd, “Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited Venezuela on Friday to sign a series of military and oil agreements with President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking to expand ties with Russia as a way of countering the influence of the United States in Latin America.” The Times also reported that “Mr. Chavez had suggested before Mr. Putin’s arrival that the countries could cooperate ambitiously on nuclear energy and a satellite-launching base in Venezuela.”
What would we do if Venezuela invited Russia to build a missile launch pad, or Russia provided Venezuela with the plans and materials for building nuclear weapons? Would there be a replay of the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s?
Based on our continuing failure to confront North Korea and Iran with regard to their nuclear activities, I suspect we would do nothing. I fear that we have lost the battle and lost our nerve. It appears that the Obama administration has decided to live with the idea that these two rogue states – North Korea and Iran – can do as they please on the nuclear front.
There is a foul whiff of Munich and appeasement in the air. A harbinger of what is to come is the Obama administration’s abysmal treatment of our close ally, Israel. Some see Obama's willingness to throw Israel under the bus as an attempt to court better relations with the Sunni Arab countries. Obama apparently believes that better relations with the Sunni Arabs will mean less hostility to the U.S. and greater access to oil.
However, hatred of the U.S. has little to do with what we do and a lot to do with what we are – a free, secular and democratic country that protects the rights of women and minorities. No amount of appeasement will change this undeniable fact. Someone also has to explain to me how distancing ourselves from Israel is going to prevent Muslims from killing Muslims by the tens of thousands in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s statement, “Goyim [Gentiles] kill goyim and they come to hang the Jews,” comes to mind.
One well known supporter of Israel, with great access to the White House, said to me recently, “I have never been so terrified.” Me too.
Mayor Bloomberg’s 3-year pilot program gave parents monetary rewards for doing things, as The New York Times of March 31st reported, “like going to the dentist ($100) or holding a full-time job ($150 per month). Children were rewarded for attending school ($25 to $50 per month) or passing a high school Regents exam ($600).”
The program, which cost about $40 million of privately-raised funds, will finally end in August of this year. It was called Opportunity NYC Family Rewards and involved 2,400 families. Those who participated “earned on average more than $6,000 a year in the first two years.” The program was terminated apparently because it was determined to be too complicated.
I suggest a smaller and simpler program targeted to schools – again, with private monies – rewarding children who reach certain academic goals with monies to be deposited into college trust accounts and held for them until they graduate from high school. I would also give rewards – again, on meeting some educational standards – of bicycles and designer clothes for students. Deputy Mayor Lucinda Gibbs has said with regard to the terminated pilot program, “Big lesson for the future? Got to make it a lot more simple.” Kudos to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor for trying out new programs. Also commendable is their ending programs that don’t work or don’t work well enough.
According to our government, we are in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from retaking the country. Yet, the Karzai government’s policy is to invite Taliban leaders back into the government, a policy that the U.S. government supports. Now, President Karzai is blaming the U.S., among others, for the fraud in the recent Afghan Presidential election. Karzai won that election, notwithstanding the fact that the monitoring commission found that fraud permeated the vote in Karzai’s favor, and called for a new election. However, there was no rerun because Karzai’s opponents decided not to challenge the results. So, now the U.S. is keeping in place a repudiated Afghan leader for another 5 years with our soldiers used as a Roman praetorian guard. We have also ok’d Karzai’s policy on maintaining the right of Afghan farmers, at least in Helmand province, to continue to grow and manufacture opium from which heroin is made. The heroin is ultimately sold in the U.S. with domestic consequences to our society, while the profits of the opium trade go, in large part, to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Adding insult to injury, Karzai is lashing out at the U.S. as reported in The New York Times of April 3rd:
“The rambling speech of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday was alarming. His delusional criticism of the United Nations and governments whose troops are risking their lives by fighting the Taliban complicates the difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan. And it undermines the fragile public support for President Obama’s strategy, which focuses on protecting and improving the lives of Afghan civilians as well as on defeating the Taliban. That effort depends on credible leadership in Kabul. It has long been unclear whether Mr. Karzai can provide it, and his latest comments do not help. Rather than acknowledge his failings and seek to correct them, Mr. Karzai decided to accuse others of falsely criticizing him.”
Worse still, over the weekend, President Karzai is reported in The New York Times of April 5th as having said, “If you [the Afghan Parliament] and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban.”
For such a leader and “ally,” and for such a country, we continue to spill the blood of young American soldiers? Bring our troops home now.
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989.