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The Edge of Defense

Cutting Navy While Obama Pivots To Asia Does Not Add Up

April 1st 2012

Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk

You know it’s bad when the President’s own national security adviser calls the Secretary of Defense over for a meeting at the White House to explain exactly how the administration is “pivoting” to Asia yet shrinking the Navy and the Air Force. But that’s what happened earlier this year. It is no surprise given the administration’s budget-strategy mismatch. When President Obama unveiled his new strategic guidance in January, highlighted by a pivot to Asia, many assumed (incorrectly) that the Navy and Air Force would reap the benefits. But if the president’s own 2013 defense budget request did not make it clear to policymakers already, the release of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan confirms this is a pivot in name only.

The Navy would have fared better merely holding steady at last year’s resource levels before the pivot and budget cuts shrank the sea service. Five months later, the administration’s new plan stops paying even lip service to a 313-ship Navy, the same 313-ship plan that was considered the minimum needed by the last Chief of Naval Operations. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Who's Talking To Mary Bono Mack About Internet Privacy?

March 31st 2012

LectureTools student user

At a hearing yesterday on a proposed new law that would limit on how easily advertisers could track Internet users, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) seemed confused about what all the fuss was about:

"Before we do any possible harm to the Internet, we need to understand what harm is actually being done to consumers," Mack said. "Where is the public outcry for legislation? Today, I'm simply not hearing it. I haven't gotten a single letter from anyone back home urging me to pass a privacy bill." As Slate pointed out, this is strange, because a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, found that 65 percent of Americans do have serious reservations about their private data being collected on the Internet to help advertisers target them. Maybe Bono Mack really hasn't received any letters of support for the Don't Track Me Online Act of 2011, which would direct the Federal Trade Commission to set guidelines on what information can be collected from Internet users and how it may be used.

But what she definitely has received are tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies opposed to the new legislation.


The Edge of Justice

Supreme Court Scandals

March 31st 2012

Supreme Court at the 2010 SOTU

As the Supreme Court considers the healthcare law — and in so doing, possibly dominates a national election for the third time since since 2000 — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warns that a wave of corruption and scandal will result from the earlier high court decision in Citizens United.

As judicial precedent was abandoned in the Bush v. Gore and Citizens United cases, which transformed the Supreme Court into a protagonist in partisan and ideological wars, it is time to consider the dangers to the republic of a court whose majority — which could be on the brink of another election-changing party-line vote — increasingly acts as a partisan faction rather than a disinterested adjudicator of the law.

I supported the final healthcare bill, though I never compared it to landmark achievements such as Medicare and Social Security. It made the world a little bit better, but not as much as it should have, after the money-dominated meat grinder that destroyed the more profound reforms that I (and a majority of voters) supported, such as Medicare-for-all and the public option.

I believe the entire healthcare negotiation, the Supreme Court arguments in the Citizens United and healthcare cases and the ex parte speeches to interested parties by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia before they voted on Citizens United should all have been open to C-SPAN cameras and public review in real time. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

The State Department knows the Capital of Israel

March 30th 2012

Knesset (credit: Beny Shlevich)

American students are often ridiculed for their poor knowledge of geography, but the government institution responsible for U.S. foreign policy would be expected to have a better handle on such basic questions as the capitals of the nations of the world. Apparently, however, the State Department is unable to identify the capital of the State of Israel.

The following exchange took place on March 28, 2012, between State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland and a reporter:

QUESTION: Yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over an announcement that was made by the department about the travel of your boss ... Is it the State Department's position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed .... With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it's a permanent-status issue; it's got to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties. Read more ..

America on Edge

Undertanding the 1 Percent

March 30th 2012


I have often asked myself, and heard it asked by others, why so many wealthy people support liberal causes (this is the flip-side of the usual election-year frustration of the liberals with the working classes' clinging to their guns and religion). In this presidential election, as in 2008, the Democratic Party, who claim with less and less credibility to be the champions of the poor, have far more money to spend than the Republican Party, who are said to be the party of the greedy upper classes; how could this be?

The simple answer is this: wealthy liberals blatantly use social liberalism and big government regulation to protect their relative position in society. Big government regulation and taxation thwarts the economic mobility of those trying to move up, allowing the elites to remain elite, while still seeming pious for all their apparent efforts to help the little people.
Note that their idea of political action deals always with outcomes, never with principles: they see the federal government as a charitable organization, or a tool which they can use to reshape society-I'm not impugning motives; this is what they openly profess. Conservatives have an ideal government in mind, one that sticks to the principles of the Founders; liberals have an ideal society in mind, and they will tinker with the government until it creates one.
It's not hard to find examples: wealthy liberals fortifying their positions with their Robin Hood policies are in the news every day.  One we're all sick of hearing about is multibillionaire investor Warren Buffet, who supports raising capital gains and dividend taxes, despite having made his fortune this way. While I respect Warren Buffett, and do not begrudge him his wealth and success, he makes a highly disingenuous case for some very destructive policies. Not only has Buffett made the moral argument that it is "fair" or, just, to impose an alternative minimum tax of 30 percent on millionaires, but he has misrepresented both the salary of his secretary (who has allowed herself to be enlisted for his and the president's political purposes), and about the total percentage tax that he actually pays. What could explain such bizarre behavior from an octogenarian billionaire? Why would a self-made man want to punish success and reward failure? Read more ..

The Budget Battle

Defense Industry Needs to Bear its Share

March 30th 2012

The Pentagon

As indicated by the recent rollout of the House Republican budget strategy, the gloves are off in the battle to define the country’s spending priorities in the run-up to the November elections. But neither party adequately addresses the largest item in the discretionary budget: the Pentagon. The Obama Administration’s approach to curbing runaway defense spending has been far too timid, while Republicans—from Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney—actually want to increase spending substantially beyond current levels.

A key player in this debate is the defense industry, which is pulling out all the stops to get the Pentagon a free pass from future budget cutting. The industry’s main trade group, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), has financed two studies raising the specter of a million jobs lost from planned Pentagon cuts.

But in fact, maintaining Pentagon spending at current high levels while pushing the burden of budget cuts on domestic programs would result in a net loss of jobs nationwide. That’s because arms spending produces substantially fewer jobs than virtually any other use of the same money, including a tax cut. Structured properly, Pentagon spending cuts could actually give a boost to the economy. Read more ..

El Salvador on Edge

Oscar Romero and the Political Dimension of Opting for the Poor

March 29th 2012

Oscar Romero icon

One of the reasons for Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero’s continuing broad appeal has been his embodiment of both a liberation theology and a politics of emancipation. In a speech Romero gave less than two months before his death, he focused on how these two dimensions of praxis are related. 

Romero’s address, “La Dimensión Política de La Fe desde La Opción por Los Pobres” was delivered at the University of Louvain, Belgium, February 2, 1980, on the occasion of his acceptance of an honorary doctorate.  His address defined three central concepts within his vision of theological practice.  I will attempt to interpret the main categories of acercamiento, encarnación, and conversión in a way that makes them accessible to humanists generally, but at the same time honors Romero’s faith-based Christian point of view.

Opting for the Poor

The premise of “La Dimensión Política” is that the faithful and the church itself may enter into history through a “preferential option for the poor”. The opting for the poor urged by Romero is not, at first, motivated by any profound understanding of the experience of the poor. And one should concede right at the start that there is no guarantee that even an intimate experience of poverty puts one on the side of the poor. Indeed, one may have such experience and yet betray the interests of the community in order to obtain some personal benefit. In the El Salvador of 1980 there was no shortage of those willing to inform on their neighbors and collaborate with ORDEN and its death squads.

The distinguishing factor for champions of the poor is not a narrow self-interest, but faith, or, more generally, a good will, a will that seeks to realize the potential of our common humanity. The faithful one has some intuition, based on the moral law, that opting for the poor is consistent with willing the good, but this intuition, and its object, the good, remains as yet undeveloped. We are focused by Romero, then, on those who opt for the poor even before they have experienced or come to empathize with their situation. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

The Human Rights Crisis in Syria--A First Hand Look

March 28th 2012

Syrian security forces

With the help of the Turkish authorities, who have done a solid job of taking care of Syrians fleeing to their country, I was able to enter the refugee camp at Yayladagi, one of seven Syrian refugee camps near the Turkish-Syrian frontier in Turkey's Hatay province. The Yayladagi camp, which once was a tobacco factory, hosted around 4,500 residents in makeshift tents, each warmed with an electric heater provided by the Turkish Red Crescent. The residents seemed well taken care of, and Turkish control over entry and exit to the camp was complete.

The residents I interviewed hailed from either communities along the Syrian coast -- the ancestral homeland of the Alawites, the minority that dominates the Syrian regime -- or the conservative Idlib province. Like most if not all Syrian refugees in Turkey, they were Sunni; all those I interviewed were a mix of ethnic Arabs and Turkmens. All shared with me harrowing stories of their plight against regime forces in Syria, including in many cases having to flee in the wake of attacks by shabbiha -- armed gangs primarily of Alawites who terrorize Sunni villagers throughout the Syrian coast. Others from Idlib -- all of whom had already spent up to a decade of their lives imprisoned under the Assad regime -- spoke of the regime's brutal raid into their community of Jisr al-Shughour and their hurried exit across the border to Turkey for safety. None imagined returning to Syria unless the Assad regime collapses. And no one I met believed that would happen -- sooner or later -- without force. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

What is to be Learned by the Terror of Toulouse?

March 28th 2012

Terror in Toulouse

Mohammed Merah, the 24-year-old French Algerian jihadist who murdered three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi during a week-long terror spree, has been killed by police in a firefight after a 30-hour siege at his apartment in Toulouse.

A few thoughts on what it all means in terms of the bigger picture:

1) Merah's reign of terror represents the quintessential "Chip Away" style attack. As I describe in detail in my book, The Terrorist Next Door, we've seen a tactical shift by the jihadists these past few years in the West. While massive, 9/11-style attacks remain the ultimate goal and would obviously be ideal, Al Qaeda and its sympathizers in the U.S. and Europe have come to the realization that such history-altering terror events are becoming harder and harder to come by, for a variety of reasons. So, for now, the focus has shifted to smaller scale, low-tech, inexpensive attacks, often carried out, as we saw in France, by a lone actor.


Russia on Edge

Russian Politics Moves Online

March 27th 2012

Putin Ad

Social media today is becoming such a powerful political force that it might be called the fifth estate. And that fifth estate played an important role in Russia during the run up to the March 4 elections for that country's parliament and presidency. Georgians-who sustained combined Russian kinetic and cyber attacks in 2008-watched with more than passing interest. The Putin regime, it seems, turned some of the cyber techniques employed against Georgia against its own domestic opposition. The Kremlin openly wondered whether the Runet-as the Russian portion of the Internet is called-could become the fuse that ignited a Russian autumn to match the so-called Arab Spring.
"Look at the situation that has unfolded in the Middle East and the Arab world," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the National Antiterrorist Committee in February 2011. "It is extremely bad. There are major difficulties ahead...We need to look the truth in the eyes.  This is the kind of scenario that they were preparing for us, and now they will be trying even harder to bring it about." Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

George Zimmerman Is Casey Anthony – Only Question is will Zimmerman be Convicted?

March 27th 2012


I am sure Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad are enjoying the distraction this week due to potentially the most hated man in America right now, George Zimmerman.  In many high-profile stories there are two courts – the court of law, and the court of public opinion. No matter what transpired recently in that Sanford, Florida gated community where Trayvon Martin was killed by Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman is guilty in the court of public opinion  Now, he is in hiding and under attack by just about everyone.

The facts almost no longer matter, as churches and civil rights activists from coast to coast organize “hoodie” days and marches to show solidarity and empathy for young Trayvon Martin.  If Zimmerman did indeed shoot the teenager for racist or other malicious reasons, when the truth is finally known, he will be properly vilified and sentenced.  If, however, the facts prove that he at the very least acted in accordance with Florida’s probably well intentioned, but poorly planned, “stand your ground” Statute 776.013 (3), Mr. Zimmerman will find himself even more vilified by an even angrier public that cannot understand how a hoodie and a pack of Skittles posed a mortal threat to a seemingly large man at 250 pounds, in comparison to the 140 pound young man. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Getting Cybersecurity Right in Light of Mass Attacks

March 27th 2012

guy fawkes masks

Our nation’s computer systems are vulnerable to online attack. This is a growing threat to our economy and our national security. American businesses understand this threat — this is why last year they invested more than $80 billion in the security of their computer networks.

I came to Washington as the CEO of a manufacturing company. I know firsthand that the private sector is choking on a torrent of federal regulations. Job creators face a $1.75 trillion — and growing — regulatory burden. In his first three years, President Obama issued 106 regulations that each had more than a $100 million impact on the private sector, and hundreds more that imposed smaller but still heavy burdens. These days, businesses are more likely to hire a lawyer than a new employee.

Yet proposals in Congress, advocated by the White House, would give the federal government, namely the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), power to dictate cyber-regulations to the private sector. Such regulations would create a maze of assessments, audits and standards that must be obeyed by companies deemed by DHS to be “covered critical infrastructure.” I do not believe this is the right strategy because I have little faith in the ability of the federal government to be the leader on cybersecurity. First, the federal government’s “cyberhouse” is not in order. According to the Office of Management and Budget, there were 41,776 reported cyberattacks against federal networks in 2010 — a 39 percent increase from 2009. Over the same time frame, the number of incidents on private networks decreased by 1 percent. Even DHS has been the victim of high-profile hackings. Yet businesses are now supposed to trust government regulators to tell them how to do their security better? Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

MTN Has No Business Aiding Terror in Iran

March 26th 2012

Iranian women with mobile

MTN has a corporate responsibility to cease doing business with Iran and colluding with a state sponsor of terror that uses its technology to track, silence and kill its people. The South African government should take immediate action to prevent this abuse of the telecommunications industry.

MTN's business ties to Iran are significant and represent approximately a fifth of the company's revenue. It has a 49% stake in Iran's second-largest cellphone operator, MTN-Irancell, which has cornered almost half of the Iranian cellphone market. The remaining 51% is owned by the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC), a company affiliated with the Iranian government. Its principal shareholder, Iran Electronic Industries, has been blacklisted by both the US Treasury and the European Union for its role in proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

On January 27 an MTN spokesman said that while the company was monitoring events in Iran, it was conducting "business as usual" in the country. Minister of Communications Dina Pule further emphasised that there would be no pressure on MTN to pull out of Iran.

MTN has played a critical role in helping the Iranian regime to hunt down its opposition. In 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election, MTN-Irancell, along with Iran's other cellphone carriers, reportedly followed government instructions to suspend text messaging and block internet phone services such as Skype, which were used extensively by the opposition movement. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Global Reach and Flexibility of U.S. Air Force at Risk

March 26th 2012

KC-135, A-10s, and F-16s

For the men and women of the U.S. Air Force, March 2011—while slightly different than the NCAA men's division I basketball championship—is also known as "March Madness."


Because for the first time, according to the Pentagon’s Transportation Command chief, every combatant commander had a priority one mission requiring the help of the Air Force.
First, a tragic earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan last March—requiring vast support from American military forces, including airmen.

A week later, the U.S. military began its air war over Libya by enforcing a no-fly zone, consuming a large amount of resources and effort by America’s Air Force. Also last March, President Obama visited South America—a trip that required significant support from the Air Force. Then, while all of this was underway, U.S. forces were surging in Afghanistan and the Air Force helped them get there, kept the skies safe, and provided additional support for ground forces in combat.  Read more ..

The Budget Battle

The 2013 Homeland Security Budget: Misplaced Priorities

March 25th 2012

TSA Checkpoint

On February 13, President Barack Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request. The President’s request of $59 billion for the Department of Homeland Security represents a 1.5 percent decrease in total budget authority from FY 2012 enacted levels.

FY 2013 will take the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into its tenth year of existence. As the 10-year anniversary of DHS approaches, the President’s FY 2013 budget provides an apt opportunity to assess where the department now stands in terms of the development of key capabilities and the advancement of the nation’s homeland security enterprise.

Evolution of the Homeland Security Enterprise

On November 25, 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, calling for the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security with a primary mission to: prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; and minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.

The concept of homeland security has since expanded from the specific focus of the Homeland Security Act’s mandate, and has come to embody an “all-hazards” approach, focusing on measures to protect the nation from natural disasters and technological or other incidents caused by human error. Read more ..

The North Korean Threat

U.S. Should Allow South Korea to Extend Its Missile Range

March 24th 2012

Kim Jong Ul

As President Obama travels to South Korea for next week’s nuclear summit, North Korea’s threat to launch a missile in mid-April will overshadow the gathering of world leaders. The United States and South Korea should work the room to prepare a strong international response to yet another North Korean violation of U.N. resolutions. China will resist a stern U.N. Security Council response, but Washington and Seoul must make clear that Pyongyang’s increasingly dangerous actions and commensurately stronger allied responses are due partly to Beijing’s timid efforts to control its belligerent ally.

But there is another important Korean missile issue that merits President Obama’s attention: accepting Seoul’s entreaty to remove U.S. restrictions on South Korea’s ballistic missiles. At present, under the terms of a bilateral agreement with the United States, Seoul is precluded from developing any ballistic missile with a range greater than 300 kilometers (186 miles). The only way for South Korea to reach North Korean targets in the rear areas—including some of Pyongyang’s 700 Scud missiles—with ballistic missiles would be to place them along the demilitarized zone, well within range of North Korea’s artillery. Read more ..

The Budget Battle

It’s Time to End the Hidden Green Stimulus

March 24th 2012

Pres. Obama at Solyndra

Government spending has increased considerably over the past decade, and, unless a dramatic shift occurs, spending will continue to grow at unsustainable rates. Alleviating the huge debt burden that the government is placing on future generations, that is, reining in federal spending, must be a priority for Congress. Congress must make prudent cuts in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget and examine the role of each government agency. One good place to start is to cut the wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessary spending at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Congress’s ultimate objective should be to eliminate any Department of Energy function that does not support a critical national interest unmet by the private sector. This objective will require a broad reorganization, and could very well result in the elimination of the entire department. Elimination, however, should not be the immediate policy goal. A graduated approach that begins with reining in spending would likely enjoy bipartisan support and provide a foundation for further reform.

The Department of Energy’s budget grew from $15 billion in FY 2000 to $25.7 billion in FY 2011—a staggering 71 percent increase in only one decade. Many government programs included in various Presidents’ annual DOE budgets evolved from basic research and development to attempts at commercialization better left to the private sector. Other programs are politically correct pet projects of various Members of Congress that have little business being supported by taxpayers. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Does It Matter if He Was Neo-Nazi or Muslim?

March 23rd 2012

french cops

It was, it appears, a Muslim radical behind the massacre in Toulouse -- a French-born petty thief who traveled in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was already under surveillance by French authorities. It was not, as first thought, French neo-Nazis. To which the question arises, "Does it matter which?" Yes, it does, because the response of both governments and individuals differ depending on the culprit.

Neo-Nazis are part of the woodwork in Europe, but official society treats their outbursts like a social disease. Wealthy or important people given to ranting are like relatives with a drinking problem - fashion guru John Galliano was fired from Dior, fined and shuffled off to "rehab." Unwashed Nazis are punished. The original three suspects in the Toulouse shooting were cashiered from an elite unit of the French Army for appearing in a photograph in a private house draped in a Nazi flag.

There is no official tolerance for Nazis; this is not a complaint.

Radical Muslims, however, present Europe with a different sort of problem, one that frightens governments enough to make them treat their increasingly large, loud and sometimes violent minorities very, very gently. It would be unfair to say Muslim terrorism is tolerated, but Muslim crime certainly is and the French are not always clear on the difference. President Sarkozy immediately ordered additional police protection for Jewish and Muslim schools, as if it were a matter of crime targeting schools, not terrorists targeting Jews. Read more ..

Inside Iran

Five Million Goldfish Die for Nowruz – the Iranian New Year

March 23rd 2012

Jumping Fish

A longstanding Zoroastrian tradition, the Iranian New Year known as Nowruz is a time for spring cleaning, visiting friends, banishing the old, and preparing for the new. Beginning at the exact moment that the sun lies over the equator on the spring equinox, when light is spread evenly across the southern and northern hemispheres, this rich 12 day celebration is thought to have been invented by Zoroaster himself and is shared by nationals whose territories were at one time under control of the Persian empire. Like Israelis who celebrate Purim, which historians believe may have been adapted from Nowruz, Iranians observe numerous food and activity rituals, one of which has come under constant fire from local activists: the placement of goldfish on the Haft Sīn.

Promoting peace and goodwill through tradition

Before I say too much more about the goldfish, it’s important to underscore the positive side of a tradition that has been practiced for roughly 3,000 years and which in 2009 was officially registered on the  UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Time to Stop Incitement to Murder -- Again

March 23rd 2012

french riot police toulouse mar 2012

This week, after a young rabbi and three children were shot to death at a Jewish school in France, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas cabled condolences to French president Nicolas Sarkozy. In that brief cable, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas claimed that he always absolutely opposed any killing of civilians. And yet, just a few weeks ago, Abbas held a meeting in Turkey to honor the Palestinian prisoner, released by Israel as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, who had used the internet to lure an Israeli high school boy to his terrorist murderers last year.

This month also marks the first anniversary of the Fogel murders, for which two Palestinian teenagers were convicted of killing a family of five in the West Bank settlement of Itamar. At the time, Abbas condemned this attack, earning an acknowledgment from some American and even some Israeli observers. Nevertheless, on the very same day, the PA officially dedicated a major town square in honor of Dalal al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman implicated in the murder of thirty-seven Israeli civilians during a bus hijacking in 1978. And within a few days, official PA television broadcast a new song lauding the "heroism" of the killers at Itamar. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran Continues to Make Inroads South of the Border

March 23rd 2012

Rafael Correa and Mahmud Ahmadinejad
Ecuadorean President Correa and Iranian President Adhmadinejad

While the West continues to read Iran as a threat to world peace, the Middle Eastern nation aggressively seeks non-traditional friends and markets elsewhere in an often stress-driven attempt to prove that the country is not as isolated, feared and despised as many in Europe and the United States make it out to be.

To fight the sanctions that have been imposed on them from the outside, its leaders furiously attempt to enter into new allegiances is an imperative to boost the Iranian economy and support the ruling government’s self-interest.  Once labeled as a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, Iran has recognized the survival strategy of forging new partnerships while retaining old ones. While the West continues to read Iran as a threat to world peace, the Middle Eastern nation aggressively seeks non-traditional friends and markets elsewhere in an often stress-driven attempt to prove that the country is not as isolated, feared and despised as many in Europe and the United States make it out to be. To fight the sanctions that have been imposed on them from the outside, its leaders furiously attempt to enter into new allegiances is an imperative to boost the Iranian economy and support the ruling government’s self-interest. Once labeled as a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, Iran has recognized the survival strategy of forging new partnerships while retaining old ones. Read more ..

The Arab Winter in Egypt

Egypt is a Volcano, The West Snoozes, But Israel Won’t Play the Role of Pompeii

March 22nd 2012

Flames in Cairo

Reality: Those who are, or will soon be, governing Egypt view themselves as being at war with Israel for all practical purposes.  It matters relatively little that there is still a peace treaty. In Cairo, there are no thoughts of peace.

This is the second biggest disaster of the “Arab Spring.” The same applies to the Egyptian government’s attitude to the United States. That is the biggest disaster.

It is a disaster that U.S. policymakers and journalists have not even begun to recognize, much less counter. Same applies to the British.

Here’s the latest example. The Egyptian parliament voted unanimously to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador and the halt of all natural gas exports to Israel. Isn’t going to happen? Well, not this month. Of course, the military junta is still in control, but it won’t be by the end of June. And then the deluge begins.

The mechanics of this step are especially significant. The parliament’s Arab affairs committee issued a report that stated:

“Revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity (Israel), which we consider to be the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation. It will deal with that entity as an enemy, and the Egyptian government is hereby called upon to review all its relations and accords with that enemy.” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran, Israel and the United States -- What History Tells Us

March 22nd 2012

Obama and Netanyau

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that Israel cannot afford to wait too long before acting to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, President Obama warns that acting "prematurely" would affect U.S. interests.

This is not the first time that an American president and Israeli prime minister have disagreed and, if history is any guide, the alliance between the two countries is likely to grow stronger rather than more distant regardless of how the Iranian threat is handled.

In 1956, Israel joined Britain and France in an attack on Egypt after years of Egyptian provocations. President Eisenhower was furious because the attack took place a week before the presidential election, he wasn't consulted, and he feared the war could lead to a wider conflict that would involve the Soviets and undermine the future of the United Nations. Immediately after his reelection, he began to threaten Israel with draconian sanctions if it did not withdraw from the territory it captured. Israel capitulated and withdrew. Eisenhower's failure to demand a quid pro quo from Egypt sowed the seeds of the next war. Read more ..

Obama on Edge

Presidents, Emperors, and Volunteer Forces

March 21st 2012

Obama in deep thought

Some things should be difficult—like sending your sons and daughters to war. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, separated the commander in chief of the force from the war-making authority; it was designed to keep the president—who is not the king or the emperor—from seeing America’s troops as his troops and deciding to send them off to do his bidding. On the other hand, while Congress can determine that the time has come to defend the country, its allies, or its interests, once that decision is made, the troops can serve only one commander in chief.

Clever system … but hold that thought.

There is temptation these days to compare our posture in Afghanistan with that of the U.S. in the waning days of Vietnam. There we took over a long guerrilla war from the French. Our goals were unclear—what did we ever want from the Vietnamese? Our enemies wanted unity under communist rule, and they were willing to fight in their homeland until they won. We were willing to fight only until we weren’t—which was obvious even to our South Vietnamese allies. We negotiated our withdrawal with people who understood that we wanted “out” more than we wanted anything else.

You can see what of this applies to Afghanistan. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Islamic Jihad’s Attacks, Hamas’s Dilemma

March 21st 2012

Islamic Hamas rocket

In by far the sharpest escalation since late 2008, scores of rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel during recent days, following Israel’s killing of the Gaza-based leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) Zuhair al-Qaisi and one of his lieutenants. Al-Qaisi was in the last stages of planning a major terror attack when he was killed.

The rocket attacks, creating a dilemma for Gaza’s Hamas rulers, are mainly being carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with involvement from the smaller PRC.

From Hamas’s standpoint, the escalation comes at an unwelcome time. The movement is in the midst of a tricky political process whereby it is seeking to extricate itself from the regional bloc led by Iran and to realign with the Sunni rulers of Egypt and Qatar. This move comes as a result of both problems and opportunities opened up by political upheavals in the Arab world—especially the largely Islamist revolution in Egypt—and by Iran’s backing for the Syrian government’s assault on the largely Sunni Arab population in the civil war there. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem: Olmert Honors J Street – a Disgrace

March 21st 2012

Isi Leibler headshot

I must confess I rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I read that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at the J Street Conference Gala dinner on March 26.

By doing so, Olmert has sunk to an all-time low, not only destroying whatever remained of his battered political legacy but also shaming the State of Israel.

Let me state at the outset that I am acquainted with Olmert and once admired him. At 28, as the youngest member of Knesset, he developed a reputation, ironically as a crusader against crime and corruption. A successful fundraiser and networker, his engaging personality contributed towards making him the consummate politician. Olmert was loyal to his supporters and friends and made a distinguished contribution as health minister. I enthusiastically supported him when he was candidate for the mayor of Jerusalem, campaigning on the platform of a united city.

Let me also express the hope, for Olmert’s sake as well the reputation of Israel, that the courts will exonerate him from the charges currently confronting him. Few of us wish to see yet another former high-profile Israeli leader found guilty of corruption or consigned to prison.

Something snapped with Olmert when he effectively spurned his longstanding political roots and developed a penchant for crass political opportunism. This climaxed when he joined the Kadima bandwagon, and became one of the most enthusiastic promoters of Ariel Sharon’s devastating unilateral disengagement, paving the way for his appointment as deputy prime minister and succeeding Sharon. Read more ..

Broken Business

Lack of Leadership at the Top of the Corporate Ladder

March 20th 2012

Insurance policy fine print

As I was reading former Wall Street executive Greg Smith’s recent bombshell of an Op-Ed in the New York Times, I mentally inserted the names of the big for-profit health insurers—two of which I worked for—in place of Goldman Sachs, where Smith worked until resigning on the day his column was published.

Smith wrote that he decided to leave Goldman-Sachs because it had veered so far from the company he had joined straight out of college that he could no longer say in good conscience “that I identify with what it stands for.”

He put the blame squarely on Goldman’s current CEO and president. It was during their watch, he wrote, that “the firm changed the very way it thought about leadership. “Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.”

Had Smith been an executive at any one of the big investor-owned insurers that have come to control the U.S. health care system, he could have written the same thing. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

“Responsibility to Protect”

March 20th 2012

arab league observers

If Syria and Egypt have nothing to fear from the President of the United States, what will Iran fear?

“What is being done in Homs [Syria] … is simply appalling and shouldn't be allowed to stand in our world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington. The British, he said, are cataloguing “these crimes,“ and al-Assad should “always remember that international law has got a long reach and a long memory.”

Standing next to Mr. Cameron, President Obama demanded that Bashar al-Assad step down while reassuring him that the U.S. is unlikely actually to do anything about the problem. “The best thing we can do right now is to make sure that the international community continues to unify around the fact that what the Syrian regime is doing is unacceptable.”

Really? That's the best we can do? Who out there doesn't think what the Syrians are doing is unacceptable? The Russians? They know perfectly well it is morally unacceptable; they just don't care because a larger Russian interest is involved. As in Chechnya. As when the French and Germans said they were opposed to the Iraq war for moral reasons while they were taking Oil-for-Food kickbacks from Saddam. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obamacare Must Go

March 20th 2012

Obama pensive

It has been two years this week since the passage of Obamacare, and the firestorm it ignited has not abated but only spread and intensified. Most Americans have already made up their minds, understanding that until it is completely removed, the cancer of Obamacare threatens not only our healthcare and our economy but also our most fundamental liberties and constitutional self-government. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on its constitutionality, bringing this intolerable act to the forefront of the American mind once again and reminding the country that the issue of Obamacare is by no means settled. Nothing the Administration has done has made this law more palatable, quite the opposite, and none of the PR events the White House has planned for this week is likely to change people’s minds.

Nor will Obamacare likely be settled by the Supreme Court. As with such divisive questions in the past, this question will be settled by the American people who have throughout this failed episode signaled loud and clear that they want the whole monstrosity repealed once and for all. In its short 24-month life, Obamacare has done nothing but confirm our worst fears, being a signal failure from the very beginning. Obamacare promised to make healthcare more accessible and cheaper without increasing taxes or the deficit. If you liked your doctor, of course you could keep your doctor. No one would be made to do anything against their will. These promises have all been broken. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Ze’ev Jabotinsky Said It Best: Israel, Don’t Apologize!

March 18th 2012

Ze'ev Jabotinsky
Ze'ev Jabotinsky

It seems that Israe's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing one of the toughest decisions any leader could have – How to handle an enemy at their doorstep devoted to their destruction.  In facing Iran, Netanyahu has to also manage the relationship with the world’s most powerful man, President Barack Obama, someone who alliance with the State of Israel seems tentative, at best.

Rest assured, no matter what Netanyahu decides, it will not be long before the United Nations condemns Israel for action (spoken or otherwise) against Iran.  Nations will demand that Israel apologize for something or other. In 2011, Netanyahu was facing immense pressure from Obama and the world to compromise significantly to the Palestinians. Yet, Netanyahu handled it with the cunning and diplomacy we have come to appreciate of him.  As Dan Friedman wrote in an op-ed, Netanyahu “is finally in touch with his inner Ze’ev Jabotinsky, having delivered a stinging public rebuke upon meeting the president on Friday." It was less a response than a lesson in Jewish history and Jewish pride. About the President’s plans for the Jewish state, Netanyahu said flatly, “it ain’t gonna happen.” That left "Mr. Obama back on his heels and struggling to regain his balance.”

Clear language like this from Jabotinsky, the greatest Zionist leader ever, is precisely what is needed the next time the U.N., Obama or the world media condemns Israel. Israel as a nation is a modern miracle; fewer than 70 years after six Million Jews were murdered and the world stood by and watched; surrounded by enemies who have tried to destroy the nation many times over; Israel’s survival is a simple miracle.

Rather than quoting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling Zionists "the most detested people in all humanity" and the extermination of six million Jews during World War II "a myth," that 9/11 was “a big fabrication”, or that there are no homosexuals in Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu should stand up and say "loudly, clearly, coldly and calmly answer with the only argument that is understandable and accessible to this public: `Go to Hell!'" Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Missile Announcement Undermines Diplomatic Outreach

March 18th 2012

North Korea nukes

North Korea announced that it would launch a satellite in mid-April, a provocative move that jeopardizes a recent diplomatic agreement with the United States. Despite Pyongyang’s attempts to portray the launch as a peaceful civilian satellite program, it would be an unequivocal violation of U.N. resolutions 1718 and 1874, which preclude any North Korean “ballistic missile activity.”

The Obama Administration denounced North Korea’s announcement as “highly provocative” and “in direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions” and said that it ”poses a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches.” A North Korean launch would also break Pyongyang’s February 29 bilateral agreement with the United States to a “moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.” By doing so, it would postpone if not derail the Obama Administration’s recent attempts to offer 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance and diplomatic benefits as inducement for Pyongyang to resume its denuclearization commitments and refrain from provocative behavior. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Mauritania is Called to Surrender former Libyan Intel Chief for Alleged Mass Murder

March 18th 2012

Abdullah Senussi of Libya
Abdullah Sanussi, former Libyan intelligence chief.

Mauritania should promptly surrender Libya’s former intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he is wanted for crimes against humanity, declared Human Rights Watch in a statement. Sanussi was arrested on March 17 in Mauritania, news agencies have reported. A senior Libyan official confirmed the arrest to Human Rights Watch. "Sanussi’s arrest is a crucial step for justice given the magnitude of the crimes he is accused of," said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. "Now, to ensure justice, it’s imperative that Mauritania hand him over to the ICC for fair trial."

The brother-in-law of Muammar Gaddafi and long his senior intelligence official, Sanussi is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the government’s crackdown of protests in early 2011. He is also implicated in many serious human rights violations during Gaddafi’s rule, including the June 1996 killing of more than 1,200 prisoners in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison. Prisoners from that time told Human Rights Watch that Sanussi was the government’s chief negotiator, promising them safe treatment prior to the killings. Sanussi was also convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a passenger jet over Niger.

The ICC investigation into the 2011 crackdown was authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, adopted unanimously on February 26, 2011.States parties to the ICC have a legal obligation to cooperate with the court. Read more ..

The Edge of Religion

Don’t Penalize ‘Good Samaritans’

March 18th 2012

Catholic Edifice

A 15-year-old girl spray-painted the words on pale yellow aluminum siding perched oddly on a slab of concrete: “For sale! Fixer upper.” Hours earlier, the siding had been part of a wall and the slab the front porch of her grandmother’s home in Harrisburg, Ill. he good-humored graffiti was probably the rosiest reaction possible after 45 tornadoes swept through 10 states in the Midwest and South, flattening entire towns. In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels hailed citizens’ precautions to seek shelter from the storms. “Yet all things that mere mortals can do aren’t enough sometimes,” Daniels told reporters while surveying the damage. Even in the aftermath of what insurance companies call “acts of God,” we mere mortals still may feel powerless. “Fixing up” lives, homes and neighborhoods will require superhuman perseverance.

Thankfully, many angels of mercy have appeared in devastated communities. Religious groups such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and Catholic Charities are providing basic necessities.What’s more important, faith-based groups have the capacity to deal with deeper damage: psychological shock, grief over lost loved ones and fear of the unknown in a world turned upside down. And they have staying power to help storm-stricken survivors summon the will to persevere through months, if not years, of rebuilding. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Dishonorably Disarmed: Marines Insulted by Sec. Panetta

March 17th 2012

Leon Panetta Pensativo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was to address a mixed U.S.-Afghan audience at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan only weeks after six American solders were killed by Afghan soldiers, and days after an American soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians. That circumstance alone would ensure a tense atmosphere, but the decision to disarm the 200 Marines who planned to hear the secretary should set off further alarm bells.

The Marines were told to take their weapons out of the tent, deposit them in another location, and to return unarmed. Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall told news outlets that he was acting on orders: Something has come to light. … I was told to get the weapons out. All I know is I was told to get the weapons out. … Somebody got itchy, that's all I've got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.

Helmand province Commander Mark Gurganus told the New York Times: You've got one of the most important people in the world in the room.

He denied any link to the alleged murder of the Afghans. On the other hand, Gurganus also said he gave the order because he didn't want the Afghan soldiers — disarmed as they normally are under such circumstances — treated differently from the Americans: This is not a big deal. Read more ..

Campus Jihad

Victimology 101 at UC San Diego

March 16th 2012

AntiSemitism is hate protest

Adding to the evidence that California campuses have become the epicenter for anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American activism, student groups at UC San Diego led by Students for Justice in Palestine introduced — for the third time — an initiative aimed at divesting university funds from "U.S. companies that profit from violent conflict and occupation."

This year, the divestment call was aimed specifically at General Electric and Northrop Grumman — firms that "produce parts of Apache helicopters used by the Israeli Defense Forces against Palestinians" — with the empty ambition that "by removing investments from companies who assist in perpetuating the violence in the area [supporters would be instrumental in] setting up a forum where peace is achievable."

As had happened on two earlier occasions on the UCSD campus when a similar divestment initiative was presented, the proposal was roundly defeated in a 20-13 vote, stunning its supporters.

The rejection of calls for divestment from companies doing business with Israel mirrors what has happened elsewhere on campuses, where such campaigns represent the continuing effort by some activist members of the academic Left — joined happily by Islamists and other ideological enemies of the Jewish state — to prolong and enhance the demonization of Israel for the purpose of delegitimizing, weakening, and, it is hoped by these advocates, eventually extirpating Israel altogether. Positioned as a morally upright effort to assert and protect the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians, these efforts at demonizing Israel are not, in fact, benign gestures of peace activists and well-meaning academics in pursuit of social justice for the Palestinians. Read more ..

American on Edge

The New American Era of Socialism

March 16th 2012


We have veered so far from the vision of our Fathers that, unless the American people regain a strong commitment to the traditional American values of self - reliance, individual liberty, and equality of opportunity, our democracy will inevitably lead to socialism. In fact, it's hard to argue that we aren't already there. e live in an age when some banks are too big to fail-when the taxpaying minority of Americans must carry the burden of failed investment firms that were run into the ground by our best and brightest.
We have a government that has bought private companies, who picks winners and losers in the free market. e have an annual trillion dollar budget deficit, and the majority of that budget is made up of payments to individuals (meaning wealth redistribution) and interest on the national debt, entropy.

According to the Heritage Foundation, one in five Americans-not including government employees-is dependent on the government. But, since government is necessarily of the people and by the people, that really means that 20 percent of us are dependent on the other 80 percent. Since the United States government is the largest employer in the history of the human race, it is safe to say that the situation is even worse than that. A conservative estimate would be that 40 percent are dependent on the other 60 percent. What results from this state of affairs is that respect for other people's property rights has eroded, and individual responsibility declined. We have a President who, by simple executive fiat, tells insurance companies what they must provide for free. And, since nothing in life is actually free, he forces people to pay for other people to have unrestricted sex. Sexual profligacy is actually being encouraged.

We have got used to an entitlement mentality and class envy in our society. Our president, the leader of the free world, has made the main plank of his reelection platform, the main argument that we should keep him in office, the promise that he will take even more money from the successful. Instead of looking in the mirror, we look for scapegoats to explain our misfortune. Rather than working harder or changing careers, we have people here who blame free enterprise, who blame successful people for their problems. Do they really think that's a solution?Worst of all, this decline in our traditional values is being championed by the political establishment, including the President of the United States, the academic elite, and the main stream media in an unholy alliance. Who can stand against it? Read more ..

Campus Jihad

A New Anti-Israel Tactic

March 15th 2012

Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

The pro-Palestinian mantra revolves around the belief that the Palestinians are the Arab world's underdog; Israel is the Goliath and the Palestinians are the David. This message has been exported to the West and has engendered global sympathy for the Palestinian cause, as the quintessence of an injustice at the hands of the brutal, colonialist West.

Liberal and leftists groups ranging from women's rights, LGBT groups and human rights activists have all championed the Palestinian cause as a common denominator that unites or even embodies their respective causes. North American college campuses are the most successful environment for all these groups.

One of the primary reasons for this has to do with how academic freedom is abused in academia. Overwhelmingly, whatever speech or activities go on in a classroom is deemed protected by "academic freedom," whether it is academic or not. Only sexual harassment appears exempt from this blanket protection. Gradually, the entire campus has become an "academic freedom" zone, where protests and other activities now qualify as academic "speech."

The freedom to critique is, predictably, directed mostly at the "twin Satans," Israel and America. Although efforts to curtail speech that academics find unpleasant and unacceptable have been long standing in the form of "speech codes" and restrictions on "hate speech," attacks on Israel and America, no matter how vicious or false, are unrestricted. Clearly, academic freedom is a one-way street; only those having the correct opinions may claim it.

Of late, we have seen a new methodology employed by sympathizers of the Palestinians cause where they accuse pro-Israel groups and individuals of violating the same free speech rights they regularly demand. For example, Israeli generals and politicians have been threatened in Europe that they will be sued for crimes against humanity; IDF veterans (which includes nearly every Israeli) have been disinvited from academic panels, and now pro-Israel professors are being accused of "intimidating" pro-Palestinian student groups. Read more ..

Edge of Media Manipulation

The New York Times Plays Devil’s Advocate to God’s Messenger

March 15th 2012

Who is Greg Smith, and why do we care? He was an employee who quit Goldman Sachs in a public way and posted it in a New York Times op-ed. The better question is why should we care? After all, Goldman Sachs probably has had staff quit before for a whole host of reasons, from better opportunities to being disillusioned, to just not meeting the expectations or needs. Gee, I have had some really good people quit the firm where I work, and quit on me for that matter. Some wrote letters too.  It's not news; it's life.

Work is just that, work. Some love it, some hate it, and some find it a calling; others just work because they need to pay the bills. I work because I enjoy what I do, but also because I get bored doing nothing; and I can certainly use the money. So what is Greg Smith's deal that so many are now paying attention?

He quit one of the biggest financial institutions and lambasted it in perhaps the single most influential media venue still in print. Yet, it's not news. Goldman has some 30,000 people working for it, and what are the odds that Greg Smith was not the only employee to walk out that door this same week? It begs the question as to why the New York Times printed it in the first place. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Ripple Effect of 'Cost-Shifting' Uncompensated Medical Care

March 15th 2012

medicine and money #2

If I were trying to persuade the Supreme Court later this month that Obamacare should not be declared unconstitutional, I would tell the story of the woman who was the original named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of Independent Business, one of the fiercest critics of the health care reform law. The NFIB thought it had found the perfect person when one of its members, Mary Brown, a 56-year-old owner of an automobile repair shop in Panama City, Florida, volunteered to lend her name to the lawsuit. Brown was outspoken in her belief that Congress had gone beyond what the U.S. Constitution allows when it included in the reform law a requirement that, beginning in 2014, most Americans will have to obtain health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS. She said she was uninsured and was that way by choice. “She firmly believes that no one should have the right to tell her she has to use her own money to pay for health insurance,” Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB legal center, said when the NFIB filed its lawsuit in 2010. She turned out not to be such a perfect choice after all.

Last year Brown shuttered her business and filed for personal bankruptcy. Among her debts: nearly $4,500 in medical bills. More than $2,000 of that was owed to the Bay Medical Center in Panama City. The rest was to doctors in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The NFIB had to scramble to find another small business owner to replace Brown’s name at the top of the lawsuit. It settled on Kaj Ahlburg, a retired New York investment banker who now lives in Port Angeles, Washington. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

Cacophony of Voices Produces Discordant Iran Policy

March 14th 2012


Despite an ever-growing mountain of evidence conclusively indicating that Iran is hell-bent on obtaining nuclear weapons, many former and current officials in Washington continue to urge the Administration to use the lever of diplomacy to convince Tehran to “negotiate” a deal without conceding that Iran seeks to possess nuclear weapons in the first place.

Some “experts” do concede that Iran may indeed be pursuing nuclear weapons but they claim if Tehran is doing so it is in reaction to U.S. policy. Others assert that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon—yet—but if the United States does not pursue a diplomatic solution other voices suggest Tehran surely will.

Still other voices suggest that Iran may be seeking a nuclear weapon, but it is forced to do so for nothing less than regime survival. Or, that America forced them down this path because the United States supported a coup in Iran in 1953. Some even suggest that Iran legitimately sees itself as surrounded by hostile American and allied forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and, therefore, Tehran seeks nuclear bombs to defend itself.

Further confusing American policymakers are ideological narratives suggesting that those who warn of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons are either desirous of war with Iran, are seeking to justify spending more defense dollars, are being critical of the current Administration for political purposes, or are using the Iranian program as an excuse not to give the Palestinians a state. Read more ..

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