Monday, September 24, 2012

Replacement Refs

We've been listening for three weeks now to almost every NFL broadcast team and sportswriter complain endlessly about the awful job the NFL's replacement refs are doing officiating professional football games, and I for one am getting a bit weary of it.

Sure the replacement officials are struggling. Sure they're slowing down the game and making bad calls, although I remember a lot of complaints about the officiating abilities of the regular refs, too.

But what's the alternative? Do those who're complaining so loudly expect the NFL to give in to the locked out officials' demands? That won't happen. Do they expect the regular refs to meekly eat crow and accept the owners' last offer? I doubt that'll happen either. So, the only alternative is for everybody to just accept the fact that the game is going to be less skillfully officiated than it otherwise would be and just shut up about it.

After all, with all the criticism these replacement guys have been getting I wouldn't blame them if they just said they're not going to take it anymore and just quit. Then there'd be no football season at all. How happy would the coaches, players, and fans be then? All the people who've been telling the substitutes how bad they are, how incompetent they are, how much they "stink," would turn on a dime and start begging them to come back on the job. They'd be grovelling in front of these guys, offering abject apologies for the way they criticized them over the first three weeks of the season and pleading with them to return to the field so that the fans can get their weekly football fix and the players and television networks can get their exorbitant paychecks.

The desperation that'd suddenly beset all these people if the replacement refs chose to walk off the field would be fun to watch. It'd serve them right.

Abdication of Leadership

The Daily Beast is owned and operated by the same folks who run Newsweek magazine so there's a lot of sympathy there for President Obama. Which is why it was surprising to find there an article written by two Washington lawyers named David Rivkin and Lee Casey which excoriates Mr. Obama for what they claim is a disastrous foreign policy.

The Daily Beast summarizes their critique this way:
The organizing principle of the administration’s foreign policy is one of weakness and passivity, coupled with a conspicuous rhetorical abdication of American leadership, write David Rivkin and Lee Casey.
After elaborating on the failures that led to the recent assaults on our embassies in Muslim North Africa and elsewhere the authors add this:
But all of this flawed crisis management pales in comparison with the administration’s strategic failures. The organizing principle of the administration’s foreign policy is one of weakness and passivity — whether in dealing with Russia, China, or Venezuela — coupled with a conspicuous rhetorical abdication of American leadership, evident in speeches by the president, secretary of state, and other administration officials. The ultimate irony for an administration oft-praised for superior rhetoric is that in today’s tightly knit global environment, words have palpable consequences.

This overarching problem is accentuated by the fact that everybody in the Middle East — our friends, foes, and folks in between — has correctly concluded that the administration has begun America’s disengagement from the region on a scale unseen since the days of the British withdrawal from “East of Suez.”

This has manifested itself in virtually every facet of our Middle East policy, from our failure to maintain any American military presence in Iraq and the consequent loss of diplomatic and economic influence in Baghdad; to Washington’s unwillingness to rally the American public to support our military efforts in Afghanistan and its repeated snubs of our strongest traditional Middle East ally, Israel; to our leading from behind on Libya and the total failure to lead from any direction on Syria; and last but not least, to our timidity in confronting the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

As a result, the Middle East elites and the proverbial “Arab street” have concluded that the U.S. is a waning power, Israel’s future is one of a besieged state that someday may disappear from the regional chessboard, and Iran has an excellent chance of becoming a regional hegemon, to be feared and placated.

These are self-inflicted wounds. The American disengagement has not been caused by military defeat or some adverse international developments that we have tried but failed to stop, but by an administration that has profoundly misunderstood the kind of world we live in, the types of threats we confront, and what constitutes vital American interests. The administration has amassed not just a middling or even moderately bad foreign-policy record, but an appalling one.

It is this record that is shaping the way the governments in the Middle East are handling the anti-American unrest. Unless the record is decisively reversed, it will lead to many disastrous developments down the road.
Strong words, but when you consider that the last time an American embassy was overrun was 1979 in Tehran during the presidency of Jimmy Carter you get some perspective on how deeply our current policy toward the Arab world has failed. This incident was far worse than the Iranian hostage crisis because in that affair, which brought an end to Carter's presidency, no one was killed. It is the obvious and unfavorable comparison to 1979 that explains why the Obama administration refused to admit that these assaults on American territory and lives was planned in advance. If they admitted this they'd have to answer the question why we didn't know it was coming and if the answer is that we did have intelligence that such a terrorist attack was coming why weren't we prepared for it?

By every measure, this is a disaster for the Obama administration. Mr. Obama can no longer say that he has kept us safe from terrorist attack nor can he take refuge in the boast that Osama is dead. Osama may be dead, but so is our ambassador.

Despite the fact that this is such a calamitous event, despite the fact that it appears that president Obama's approach to the Islamic world is an abject failure, despite the fact that were a Republican in the White House we would be reminded several times a day by the media of the incompetence of the administration, our media has instead been obsessed with trying to divert our attention with silly stories about Romney writing off 47% of American voters.

Are we really as shallow and stupid as our media evidently thinks us to be?