Results of the Brexit referendum is a rebuke to Western elites: Rex Murphy, National Post, June 24, 2016— It’s an old concept I grant you, but nonetheless worth restating. If you want to know what people really think and feel about an issue, have them vote on it, have a referendum.
Get Used to the new Europe: John O’Sullivan, The Globe and Mail, June 24, 2016 — When Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington following the decisive American victory at Yorktown, the British military band retreating from the scene played an old drinking song The World Turned Upside Down.
The Syrian Catastrophe: The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2016— A day after CIA Director John Brennan testified that ISIS now boasts far more fighters than al Qaeda had at its peak, there’s more disagreement in the Obama ranks. Fifty-one State Department diplomats have signed a letter that assails President Obama’s Syria policy—and calls for military strikes and the ouster of dictator Bashar Assad.
Leader of U.S. Supported Syrian Rebel Group Backs Al-Qaida: John Rossomando and Ravi Kumar, The Investigative Project on Terrorism, June 1, 2016— Al-Qaida and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are allies fighting alongside each other for the same cause and should not be viewed differently when it comes to toppling the Assad regime.
On Topic Links
Britain just gave the GOP a tremendous gift: Seth Lipsky, New York Post, Jun. 24, 2016
A Peasant Revolt Upends Britain’s Ruling Elite: Quentin Letts, The Wall Street Journal, Jun.24, 2016
Chemical Weapons Could Change the Game in Syria: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, June 7, 2016
51 State Dept. Diplomats Slam Obama on Syria, Urge Military Strike: Newsmax, Jun.17, 2016
National Post, June 24, 2016
It’s an old concept I grant you, but nonetheless worth restating. If you want to know what people really think and feel about an issue, have them vote on it, have a referendum. It’s a principle we might want to hang on to in Canada, if it comes to changing how we vote. But for now the most firm illustration of its wisdom is the just-known results of the Brexit referendum.
The often-ignored, sometimes quite rudely deplored British people have spoken and, to the horror of enlightened opinion, respectable party leaders, the ever-guiding liberal intelligentsia, have decided they don’t want “in” the European Union. The vote comes as a mighty shock to broad-minded continentalists and supranationalists everywhere, but particularly the high elites of British politics. The Guardian’s readership will need special help — grief counsellors are already overwhelmed.
The EU vote is the most dramatic illustration to date of how the “guiding elites” of many Western countries have lost the fealty and trust of their populations. Of the gap between ordinary citizens, facing the challenges of daily life, and the swaddled, well-off and pious tribes of those who govern them, and increasingly govern them with a mixture of moralistic superiority and witless condescension.
But a decade ago, “Euroskeptics” were a slender group, derided by their betters as xenophobes and bigots, a splinter faction of regressive nationalists and illiberal tribalists. That, at least, was the approved version from on high. And from those smug heights, they dismissed with icy contempt the concerns of ordinary people that the “EU project” was draining their national identity, dissolving centuries-old democratic systems, and forcing their submission to an alien, unelected and unaccountable Brussels super-government.
Above all, they dismissed concerns about changing the nature of their country by the new rules on immigration, and the abolition of all borders between the ancient states of Europe.
The Europe-firsters of the British establishment — journalistic, academic and political — were essentially taking the hoary line of Gertrude Stein about Oakland — “There is no there, there” — and telling the broad mass of one of the oldest, most successful nation-states the world has ever seen, that such was Great Britain. There are lessons here for the U.S., particularly now with the emergence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the presidential campaign
Events in Libya, and Syria, and the mass migration from the Middle East flowing from the disasters of those and other countries, continued global Islamic terror, the gruesome attacks on London’s streets, and in Paris and Brussels, too, accelerated and intensified the concern and alarm of those who saw their country drifting away from them, losing its coherence, shedding its core identity.
There are lessons here for the U.S., particularly now with the emergence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the presidential campaign. Barack Obama shocked a great slice of the American public with his executive order (since suspended by the Supreme Court) — a pure fiat from the Oval Office — to exempt five million illegal aliens, what Time magazine described as “the largest single immigration action in modern American history.” He did this with a wave of his imperious pen. It was a decree less fit for a president than an emperor, a clear flight of that “Caesarism” which all good Obamaphiles prefer to see only in demon Trump.
It was effected without the consultations and accommodations with a concerned electorate that should always precede great changes in a nation’s character and circumstance. Nothing gave more of an uplift to Trump and Sanders (they’ve both been riding the same wave of distrust of the governing class) than Obama’s highhanded and supercilious dismissal of working-class worries on immigration.
Obama also bears not a little blame — if blame is the word — for the Brexit vote. His inactions in Syria, his famous declaration of the “red line” and the retreat from it, coupled with the mess of his (and Hillary Clinton’s) intervention in Libya, are heavily responsible for the great migratory convulsions of the Middle East.
To cap things off, during his trip to Britain during the referendum, Obama warned that if the country were to leave the EU, in any future trade deal it “would be at the back of the queue.” This was seen both as interference and an insult. The words of a Telegraph columnist capture the sentiment this intrusion provoked: “(T)he condescending tones that Mr. Obama used (may produce) the reverse effect” from the one intended.
Indeed. There is a price for governing from on high, for being detached from voters’ expressed concerns and anxieties, and for characterizing those concerns and anxieties always as small-minded, or proceeding only from anti-liberal biases, or xenophobia and racism. Might it not also be possible that people in turbulent times, in an uncertain economy, increasingly apprehensive that their leaders are not listening to them and do not care to listen, will finally decline to follow those leaders? David Cameron has just now learned that the hard way. He has announced his resignation as prime minister.
And if enough Americans in the coming election start to feel that Washington has “evolved” into a home-grown version of Brussels, a regulation- and executive-order driven, citizen-detached administration, those citizens may choose Trump for their president. Not so much because they see him as “saviour” but as a rebuke to those “better” leaders who so scorn him. The Brexit vote is an item in a larger wave of change, one that has immediate relevance for most Western democracies.
The Globe and Mail, June 24, 2016
When Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington following the decisive American victory at Yorktown, the British military band retreating from the scene played an old drinking song The World Turned Upside Down. That may be a myth; the story was originally told by someone who hadn’t been at Yorktown. But it’s a myth that has lasted right down to the present (being referenced most recently in the Broadway hit musical Hamilton) because it captures the widespread and serious consequences of Cornwallis’s defeat.
Well, it’s a bigger world today, but Brexit looks to be turning pretty much all of it upside down. Just consider some of the leading players and institutions hit by it:
David Cameron: He had been walking a tightrope as the Europhile leader of a Eurosceptic party who hoped to finesse the issue of Europe indefinitely. In order to fend off UKIP and a Tory rebellion, he promised a referendum, hoping that his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, would nix it in the next coalition. But he won an outright majority and had to keep the promise. Then, wanting the referendum out of the way, he held quick talks with the EU, asked for little, got less, and returned to London boasting of trivial concessions. Finally, he fought a tough campaign against half of his own party and lost it. It turned out that his Eurosceptic Tory opponents had a better sense of the Tory faithful (and U.K. voters generally) than he did. He fell off the tightrope with dignity, however, and will resign to allow a Eurosceptic to be elected Tory leader and prime minister who can conduct Brexit negotiations more plausibly than a Europhile.
Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the European Commission: If the European leaders negotiating with Prime Minister David Cameron over his package of concessions had been only slightly more generous, he might well have won yesterday’s referendum. A reformed Europe or a Europe à la carte was acceptable to many Brits who disliked an over-centralized and undemocratic one.
Such a looser Europe would also have solved or ameliorated their other problems such as the euro. But the Eurocrats calculated either that Mr. Cameron was bluffing or that the Brits would always halt at the brink of withdrawal. As a result Britain will soon be out of the EU, other euro-problems are growing worse, and the “contagion” of Euroscepticism has been given a boost throughout Europe.
Chancellor George Osborne, (Canadian) Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, the Lords of H.M. Treasury, the IMF, OECD, etc., etc.: Both men and institutions (and Christine Lagarde for the IMF) made extravagant predictions of the economic and financial disasters that would descend upon Britain following Brexit. One Tory commentator described Mr. Osborne as the first Chancellor to try to spook the markets. The financial markets were duly spooked – as always happens in response to a major uncertainty – but they seem now to be stabilizing. The reputations of institutions and their leaders are now on the line, however. If their long-term predictions (which were widely derided as simply made up) prove false, exaggerated, or misleading, they may need to follow Mr. Cameron into other professions.
President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department: Pressure on the U.K. to participate in an integrated European political entity has been a sustained theme in U.S. foreign policy since the early 1950s. Much of the time the Brits were reluctant or even hostile; Washington kept pressing. This time Mr. Obama made it personal. But the implied deal – you surrender your independence in order to advance our interests within the EU – is obviously a tad one-sided. And the referendum result is now an insuperable obstacle to Washington taking it up in future. Mr. Obama will simply have to learn several European telephone numbers – if only to ring more than one of the EU’s five presidents.
Almost all commentators inside and outside Britain: Opinion polls kept showing that large majorities of British voters were worried about loss of sovereignty, loss of democracy inside the EU, and their consequences in loss of U.K. control over immigration levels. Most commentators, including those who were otherwise acute in their observations, failed to take these concerns (especially democratic sovereignty) at all seriously.
They repeatedly discussed immigration in terms of racism, xenophobia, and fear of globalization, never seeing that many decent people were worried about loss of community. As journalist David Goodhart (not incidentally a social democrat) theorized, it was a case of “nowhere” people simply not grasping the outlook of “somewhere people.” They were still making the same mistake in their explanations of the result on Friday morning.
Almost every foreign leader: Everyone knew that Brexit was bound to fail. So they happily agreed to give Mr. Cameron a helping hand by saying what a bad thing it would be. The exception was Australia’s former prime minister, John Howard, who endorsed it. Moral: experience counts.
Now, everyone will have to adjust to a different Europe, a different Britain, and a different structure of international relations. This 52-48 victory for Brexit on a turnout of 72 per cent has more democratic authority than any election in Britain since 1945. The political reality is that it can’t be reversed. And if it works reasonably well – i.e., without the string of disasters predicted – then almost all its opponents will themselves have to adjust to it as the new dominant consensus of British politics.
The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2016
A day after CIA Director John Brennan testified that ISIS now boasts far more fighters than al Qaeda had at its peak, there’s more disagreement in the Obama ranks. Fifty-one State Department diplomats have signed a letter that assails President Obama’s Syria policy—and calls for military strikes and the ouster of dictator Bashar Assad.
This is remarkable. These rebels aren’t the “neocons” of liberal myth. They are career diplomats whose mission is to pursue the peace through diplomacy that Mr. Obama invokes as his highest foreign-policy principle. Yet they are indicting Mr. Obama’s Syrian diplomacy as a strategic and moral failure.
The 51 signers recognize that American priorities for Syria—a genuine cease-fire, relief for its suffering citizens and regime change—have failed because U.S. diplomacy is a wish list with nothing to back it up. A “judicious” use of military force, they say, would “undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic effort.”
The Russians understand this. When Mr. Obama was scrambling in 2013 for some way not to make good on his red-line threat over Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Vladimir Putin offered a face-saving climbdown: Washington and Moscow would work together to remove the weapons and persuade Assad to negotiate a cease-fire.
Assad never has given up all of his chemical weapons, and Mr. Putin has since used the opening to play the military card Mr. Obama wouldn’t. He has used Russian forces to prop up Assad and attack the regime’s opponents—all the while claiming to want a cease-fire. In Oslo this week after months of Russian and Syrian deception, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite.”
Really? Russia seems to understand Messrs. Obama and Kerry very well.
So Syria burns. Assad’s war on his own countrymen has left more than 250,000 dead and created millions of refugees. A Pew Research Center analysis this week says the percentage of the Syrian population displaced from their homes has reached 60%—“unprecedented,” it says, “in recent history for a single country.”
The numbers don’t convey the full horror. The city of Aleppo, home to the greatest resistance to the Assad regime, has been pounded for months by Russian and Syrian warplanes. Almost every day brings some new crime: the bombing of a hospital, attacks on women and children, and the Assad government’s successful efforts to prevent aid convoys of food and medicine from reaching besieged civilians.
Two decades ago the world stood by as thousands of Bosnian Muslims were rounded up and killed in Srebrenica. Aleppo is President Obama’s Srebrenica—not that a fawning press corps has noticed.
Syria’s chaos has also incubated the rise of Islamic State, set America against its traditional allies, sent refugees pouring into Europe, invited the Russians back into the region, fed Iran’s influence in a nervous Arab world and spread instability across the region. But Mr. Obama carries on with business as usual.
And why should anyone expect anything different? This is the President who stayed silent in 2009 when Iranians took to the streets to demand their freedom; who ignored his generals when he withdrew too quickly from Iraq and Afghanistan; who in 2012 rejected the call from his CIA Director (David Petraeus), his Defense Secretary (Leon Panetta) and his Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) to arm moderate Syrian rebels. Now add the diplomatic rank and file to the list of those he ignores.
Two years ago the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, resigned because he said he could no longer defend Mr. Obama’s policy. The only difference between the dissent now and then seems to be that the men and women at the State Department handling Syria are determined to make clear that the wreckage the world is witnessing in Syria is Mr. Obama’s handiwork, not theirs. They understand that Syria didn’t merely “happen” on Mr. Obama’s watch. It has unfolded so horribly because of the President’s abdication.
Mr. Obama came to office in 2009 scoring George W. Bush for the high price of his interventions abroad. In the human and strategic tragedy that is today’s Syria, the world is learning that the failure to intervene can exact an even higher price.
John Rossomando & Ravi Kumar
The Investigative Project on Terrorism, June 1, 2016
Al-Qaida and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are allies fighting alongside each other for the same cause and should not be viewed differently when it comes to toppling the Assad regime, said Anas al-Abdeh, president of the U.S.-backed National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.
"They are all in the same trench," Al-Abdeh told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on May 23. "We cannot differentiate between fighters whether they are Al Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham or the Free Syrian Army," Al-Abdeh said.
Al-Abdeh has had an association with the U.S. government since at least 2009. Classified cables released by Wikileaks show that U.S. taxpayers gave up to $6 million to his former group, the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, which al-Abdeh founded in 2006. The money funded the Syrian opposition channel Barada TV, headed by his brother, Malek al-Abdeh, and other activities inside Syria.
A secret 2009 State Department cable cited a Syrian source who described Movement for Justice and Development in Syria followers as "liberal, moderate Islamists," including ex-Muslim Brotherhood members.
Anas Al-Abdeh opposes the recent American effort to work with his group's Kurdish rival, the Syrian Democratic Forces, because he and his brother have supported Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey represses its Kurdish minority, opposes the idea of a Kurdish state and has used the Syrian conflict to attack Kurdish opposition forces.
In an interview with Rudaw on Monday, Al Abdeh criticized the SDF's recent offensive against Raqqa, ISIS's capital in Syria, because it is not part of the Syrian Revolution and aligned with Turkey.
The U.S. government spent more than $500 million to train and equip the Syrian rebels only led to the training of four or five fighters. Also, American weapons that provided to Al-Abdeh's group found their way into the hands of pro Al- Qaeda groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra.
Britain just gave the GOP a tremendous gift: Seth Lipsky, New York Post, Jun. 24, 2016— What a gift to the Republican Party. No sooner had Britons made their historic vote for independence than Donald Trump—already in Scotland—declared that they have “taken their country back” and called it a “great thing.”
A Peasant Revolt Upends Britain’s Ruling Elite: Quentin Letts, The Wall Street Journal, Jun.24, 2016—What indignation we had from London liberals when the result of Britain’s referendum on the European Union became clear early on Friday. By a majority of 52% in a high turnout, voters had opted to leave the Brussels-based union of 28 European countries.
Chemical Weapons Could Change the Game in Syria: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, June 7, 2016—The Syrian regime unleashed full military grade chemical weapons against IS several weeks ago, a move that occasioned little response from the wider world. The assault demonstrated that the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal has not been fulfilled.
51 State Dept. Diplomats Slam Obama on Syria, Urge Military Strike: Newsmax, Jun.17, 2016— More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo critical of U.S. policy in Syria, calling for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government to stop its persistent violations of a civil war ceasefire.