The Arab Winter as U.S. doctrine

Emboldened by their victory in Libya, the U.S. and its NATO allies have shifted their attention away from Muammar Gaddafi to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Not content with regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has decided to co-opt the Arab Spring to pursue a policy of military intervention in the Middle East starting with Libya, then Syria, and beyond.

Victory in Libya is the inevitable post-Gaddafi chaos

Gaddafi might be an evil man to his own people (and he was a longtime sponsor of international terrorism), but in the past decade he has shown an effort to normalize relations with the U.S. by ending his sponsorship of terrorism and disarming Libya. Relationship has improved so much so that the normally hawkish Sen. John McCain is revealed by newly released diplomatic cables to have been pushing the U.S. government to sell weapons to Libya. How does the U.S. and NATO reward Gaddafi? They oust him.

I say victory in Libya, because while Glenn Greenwald has argued that claiming victory or success in Libya is unwarranted, there are obvious reports that the deposal of Gaddafi is the be-all and end-all of the Libyan intervention. As pointed out by John Glaser, the reasons for the Libya War changed “almost immediately” from protecting civilians to regime change even after Barack Obama insisted that his administration’s goals for Libya is not regime change (of course, no one ever asks what the Libyan rebels’ goals are, which in this case is the establishment of an Islamist government based on Sharia law). If one were to keep to that definition of victory, the intervention in Libya was indeed a success, but I will offer a modification: success in Libya is the inevitable post-Gaddafi chaos.

What happens after this regime change is not a main concern for the U.S. or NATO; neither the establishment of a democracy nor peace. The vacuum of power left by the ouster of Gaddafi and theprolonged bloodbath that is sure to follow are self-justifying reasons for continued intervention there. Indeed, the complete collapse of order in Libya would be most beneficial to NATO; it gives them yet another “humanitarian” cause, this time for the pacification and administration of Libya. If Gaddafi’s fall was the goal, then the chaos that will ensue is the perk with Libya’s oil wealth the reward (and a weakened Libya would readily yield to the exploitation of its resources).

Syria is next

While the U.S.’s response to the situation in Syria is altogether too familiar, the outcome might be much different. Unlike Libya, Syria is surrounded by countries in the throes of their own upheavals: Jordan has its persistent protests, Israel recently experienced its largest protest movement in history, and in the case of Iraq, an increase in violence fueled by its eight-year old insurgency. Even Lebanon, which seemed to be left dry by the Arab Spring, cannot expect to escape the chaos if its larger neighbor falls. Syria’s collapse could prove to be the tipping point that would throw fuel into Jordan’s floundering protests, ignite Lebanon’s own protest movement, and increase violence in Iraq which would provide Defense Secretary Leon Panetta the iron-clad justification he needs to extend U.S. presence there. This is in contrast to Libya’s neighbors Egypt and Tunisia with their post-uprising transition already well underway.

Syria also hosts Lebanon’s Hezbollah, many Palestinian terror groups (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), as well as sheltering Baathist elements from Iraq and Al Qaeda. Because of this willingness to work closely with anti-Israel terror groups, Syria is seen by the Arab world as Israel’s principal threat. Say what you will of Gaddafi, but the only group with a past history of terror operating in Libya prior to the unrest there was Gaddafi himself after he expelled many terrorist organizations from Libya (on the other hand,NATO was fighting alongside Al Qaeda to depose Gaddafi).

The fall of Assad’s regime could be seen as an attempt by the West to rid Israel of its enemies. As pointed out by Justin Raimondo, Israel does stand to gain plenty from a defanged Syria. A regime change in Syria also weakens Iran as it loses its most closest ally in the Middle East; further provoking an already nervous Iran. Simply put, a regime change in Syria will have greater consequences in the region that any other unrest in the Middle East thus far, but these consequences would be horrifically amplified if the U.S. and NATO embark in a military campaign there.

But is there going to be a military intervention? All signs point to the likelihood of an intervention in Syria happening.

A greater bloodbath in a post-Assad Syria

The reports coming out from Syria has been nothing short of horror with many observers calling it a bloodbath. And it is that bloodbath that is being used by the U.S. and its Western allies, all former and current colonial powers, to justify yet another regime change in the Middle East. Not content with ademand for Assad to resign, the U.S. is already calling for sanctions. As seen in the past with Iraq and recently in Libya, sanctions along with “no-fly zones” are the steps necessary in the build-up to war. Conveniently, protestors in Hama are now demanding that the U.N. impose a “no-fly zone” over Syrian cities as well.

The corporate media, ever hungry for war carnage in its news coverage (except, of course, the wars raging for years in Iraq and Afghanistan), have earnestly started to “educate” the American public with the regime’s crimes. It is interesting that the five protestors killed recently in Syria is garnering more news coverage, including in outlets not normally devoted to covering casualties like the Daily Beast, than the dozen and more killed today in Iraq. Just as the corporate media willfully ignored or glossed over the Libyan rebels’ systematic massacre of Gaddafi loyalists and the civilian death toll from NATO’s bombs while amplifying Gaddafi’s crimes, so too will the corporate media ignore the armed insurrection fueling the violence in Syria and the inevitable NATO-caused deaths there.

When military intervention does occur in Syria, the question is not whether Assad’s regime will fall (it will fall when faced with the combined military might of the U.S. and NATO), but just how much bloodier the aftermath would be. Not only would the various terror groups take advantage of the void in power, but also help themselves to the deposed regime’s supply of conventional weapons, or worseits suspected cache of weapons of mass destruction. The sudden availability of these weapons will fuel an insurgency that would put Iraq’s to shame.

With a war still raging in Syria’s neighbor Iraq, we might soon be talking less about the eight-year Iraq War but a new label for the wars that would spill beyond both country’s borders. There is also that additional “perk” of opening the possibility of NATO’s involvement in Iraq if that were ever to happen.

The Arab Winter as U.S. doctrine

Here we are with an increasing number of Middle Eastern countries falling under the sway of the American Empire and no end in sight for any of the existing wars the U.S. is actively engaged in. In U.S. foreign policy, under the Bush-Obama presidency, the fundamental definition of victory and success has changed. No longer would unconditional surrender of an enemy be sufficient. A surrender, after all, leads to cessation of hostilities and eventually peace.

The foreign policy of the last decade (or if you believe Ron Paul or Chalmers Johnson, the last half century) has been the fomentation of violence and hatred towards us to justify further violence and Islamophobia towards the Muslim world. This perpetual war not only ensures future and continued business for the military-industrial complex, but also fuels the relentless growth of the State. There is not an “exit strategy,” but a strategy of “no exit.”

Barack Obama’s “success” in Libya is not a new era of foreign policy, but merely a more honest one (in a cruel redefinition of that term). It was never a Global War on Terror; it has always been just Global War. It has been a foreign policy of intentional invitation of blowback. No longer is George W. Bush’s doctrine of “preemptive strike” against imagined threats in force, but Obama’s fully and honestly articulated doctrine of perpetual Arab Winter; not just for the Middle East, but for the world.

Hi Jayel! My name’s Evelyn and I’m also a journalism student from California. What pushed you to become interested in global affairs and libertarianism? I see you’re also a Marine and served in Iraq- how would you sum up your experiences during that time? Thank you and glad to see you writing here!

I had an international upbringing and spent most of my childhood abroad. I never saw it as an interest in global affairs as being aware of what is happening in the world. When your worldview growing up included the whole of the world from the very beginning, it becomes rather difficult to voluntarily shrink that perspective within a national border.

My journey towards libertarianism is a bit unusual: it was an intellectual discovery motivated in part by copyright issues. It is a very abstract legal issue that most people do not care to think about (even Ayn Rand, a libertarian icon, is vehemently pro-copyright without ever articulating a convincing reason why). However, as a photographer and artist, I knew that there was something inherently wrong with it. I was not satisfied with the utilitarian arguments forwarded by such prominent copyfighters like Cory Doctorow. It was not until I discovered Stephan Kinsella’s “Against Intellectual Property” that I realized what was wrong with copyright: it is a privilege enforced by the violence of the State. With that realization, it did not take much of conceptual leap to connect the problems behind copyright to other issues affecting the world: the coercion and violence of the State.

My stint in the Marine Corps was definitely different. To say that it was an experience is an understatement. My stint was also documented thoroughly online through my photography, from my deployment to Iraq to my tour of Southeast Asia and everything in between. I might hold the unique distinction of being the first private first class or lance corporal or corporal of Marines to have been published or featured internationally in book covers, newspapers, blog posts, music videos, and The New Yorker (here is my curriculum vitae that is in dire need of update). As well as being featured by respectable people in languages I do not understand and do understand. Oh, what did I do as a Marine? I was not public affairs or a photographer; I was a cannon-cocker. So yeah, it was different.

I hope that answers your question and thank you for so much for reading! I really appreciate the feedback and the questions.

For the rest of you, why not introduce yourself and ask some questions?

Glik v. Boston: Court affirms right to record police actions

In a huge victory for free speech, transparency, and the public at large, the First Circuit Panel affirms the right of vigilant citizens to videotape police actions carrying out their duties in public:

The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.

[…]

As the Supreme Court has observed, “the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.”

[…]

The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.

Not only does Simon Glik v. City of Boston (PDF) establish that police officers are violating Americans’ First Amendment rights when they prevent, prohibit, or confiscate cameras of vigilant citizens recording the police actions, but as Cato’s David Rittgers have noted, might also strike at the heart of Massachusetts’ police use of felony wiretapping laws to punish citizens. The only issue that Rittgers neglected to point out is that Glik v. Boston seems to only apply to police actions in public.

Regardless, this sets a powerful precedent that will stymie the police state and hinder its attempts to cover up their public crimes against the unarmed citizenry they purport to serve and defend. The next step then is to extend First Amendment protections to all recording of police crimes: whether it be committed in the full sight of the public or away from its prying eyes.

Mixed Messages

Even as a private in the United States Marine Corps, I began to question the reasons that compel my country to send its young men, including myself, to risk life and limb in a needless conflict.

In October 3, 2007, I asked of these mixed messages:

Why do we expect trained killers, like myself, to enforce peace with the barrel of a gun pointed at those we claim to be fighting for?

The monster that is Saddam Hussein, the product of our interventionist policies, has been toppled and captured. Yet we insist in “staying the course.” How much longer?

It is troubling: that nearly four years later I find myself still asking these questions of not only Iraq, but Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and now Libya as well (not to mention our covert wars in over 120 countries);

That I am asking these questions under a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who promised to end the war in Iraq;

That we are extending our presence in a “pacified Iraq” nearly a year after the war “ended” there;

That we are “withdrawing” from Afghanistan with an increase in troops;

That we are liberating Libya with bombs and leading the deposal of its dictator without ever being at war with them;

That our interventionist actions in Libya, which so mirrors that of our actions in Iran half a century ago, is being touted as a success and a new era of foreign policy;

And that we are providing material support to the very same Islamists we are fighting against in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When confronted with these contradictions, it would be a mistake to conclude (as I did) that the message had been rendered obscure. That the lofty rhetoric of peace and liberty were merely lost in war’s misguidance. It is now clear that the message was never mixed, but had always been a travesty of the bloodstained truth: we must suffer perpetual war.

(Photo: Mixed Messages by Jayel Aheram)

Fareed Zakaria lauds Obama’s successful illegal war

The rise of the neoliberal foreign policy?

Fareed Zakaria is calling is a “new era in U.S. foreign policy”:

[N]ow that these critics are confronted with the success of the Libya operation, they are changing their tune and claiming paternity of the operation.  They are further arguing that if their advice had been heeded, the intervention in Libya would have been swifter and even more successful. But the Libya intervention is so significant precisely because it did not follow the traditional pattern of U.S.-led interventions. Indeed, it launched a new era in U.S. foreign policy.

Libya is a “success” in much in the same way the neoconservatives claimed “mission accomplished” in Iraq. More troubling was Zakaria’s assertion that because the six-month old Libya (but still ongoing) mission was relatively cheap, it is a successful model of intervention:

Compared to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Libya operation was a bargain.  It cost the U.S. about $1 billion.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan collectively cost the U.S. $1.3 trillion. In other words, success in Libya could be achieved at less than one-tenth of one percent of the cost of the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That’s not a bad model for the future.

I did not realize that engaging in needless wars was similar to discount shopping.

What exactly is the difference between neoconservative and neoliberal foreign policy? Apparently, this new approach to foreign policy is merely cheaper, but just as brutal and illegal.

If the west intended to have a lasting presence in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, they already would have ground forces deployed to cement their power. The Western intervention was only to support the rebels in their goal of overthrowing Gaddafi while protecting civillians from the regime.

Who are we to decide Libya’s future?

The dead have yet to be buried and already Europe’s corporate giants are scrambling to suck Libya’s oil wealth dry:

The fighting is not yet over in Tripoli, but the scramble to secure access to Libya’s oil wealth has already begun.

[…]

Western nations — especially the NATO countries that provided crucial air support to the rebels — want to make sure their companies are in prime position to pump the Libyan crude.

It can be argued that without NATO and U.S. intervention, the Islamist and Al Qaeda-backed rebellion would have had a tougher time ousting Muammar Gaddafi. If anything, NATO involvement ensures that the U.S. and its allies will have a claim in deciding Libya’s future.

NATO’s involvement will not end with the fall of the Gaddafi regime; there will always be justification for the continued bombing of Libya, whether it be pro-Gaddafi loyalists or the inevitable North African terrorists. In fact, United Nations and European Union are already planning for the administration of post-Gaddafi Libya with an American president promising even more intervention in Libya.

As the corporate media shift their attention away from Libya to shamelessly cheer yet another U.S.-led regime change, Libyans will learn that nothing good will come about with their devil’s pact with NATO.

Many are hoping and promising that Libya will not end up like Iraq.

Of course, the one question not being asked: who are we to decide Libya’s future?

Rick Perry’s progressive-corporatism

Two years ago, John McHale, an entrepreneur from Austin, Texas, who has given millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and causes, did something very unusual for him: He wrote a $50,000 check to a Republican candidate, Rick Perry, then seeking a third full term as governor of Texas. In September 2010, he did it again, catapulting himself into the top ranks of Perry’s donors.

[…]

Over three terms in office, Perry’s administration has doled out grants, tax breaks, contracts, and appointments to hundreds of his most generous supporters and their businesses. And they have helped Perry raise more money than any politician in Texas history – donations that have periodically raised eyebrows in Texas but, thanks to loose campaign finance laws and a business-friendly political culture dominated in recent years by Republicans, have only fueled Perry’s ascent.

“Texas politics does have this amazing pay-to-play culture,’’ said Harold Cook, a Democratic political consultant.

Rick Perry’s cronyism exposes him as just another right-wing progressive Republican who believes in the pretense that any government action can produce valuable private sector jobs. One only needs to look at Perry’s own state of Texas to see that his record is nothing to boast about: 1 in 14 out of job Americans are in Texas, almost 1 million Texans are unemployed, and 9.5 percent of Texans are earning less than minimum wage.

The meme that Texas is a job creator is as valid as the idea of Bank of America is a job creator. Bank of America, a recipient of the massive bailouts from Bush-Obama administration and a huge chunk of the $16 trillion corporate welfare from the Federal Reserve, is cutting 10,000 jobs.

Perry’s prescription for Texas (and America) is in direct contrast to his “small government” rhetoric. Texas’s debt under Perry grew a staggering 281%, a much faster rate than the nation he hopes to lead. He was also a big proponent of TARP, even writing a letter to Nancy Pelosi urging her to support that bailout. Texas also benefited greatly from the Recovery Act, which Perry used to cover 97% of the massive $6.6 billion deficit Texas incurred in 2009. Using New York’s or Nevada’s taxpayer money to plug your state’s deficit shortfall while touting your state’s record is not a “miracle,” but deception.

The real miracle is not Texas’s unremarkable economic record or Perry’s creative accounting; the real miracle is that 54% of likely Republican voters still support big government, right-wing progressives. Jack Hunter was wrong: this is not the end of right-wing progressivism.

I am not even sure why Republicans are enamored of Perry (or Romney for that matter). There is already a progressive-corporatist, warmongering, George W. Bush clone in the race: his name is Barack Obama.

CORRECTION (Aug 21, 2011): Bank of America never received “stimulus” money, but received billions more of bailout money. Also, Perry used the Recovery Act to balance his state’s budget, not TARP as the original piece claimed.

In Iraq, the youngest suffer the heaviest: a third of American deaths under 21, more than half the lowest ranks

In a hilltop graveyard overlooking this Stillaguamish River village lies a young soldier killed in the infancy of the Iraq war.

Army Spc. Justin W. Hebert’s story is sad and sadly unremarkable, a tragedy bound up in the tale of a grinding war that took young lives with grievous regularity. Nearly one-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were age 18 to 21. Well over half were in the lowest enlisted ranks.

For Hebert, the Army was an adventure. But it didn’t last long.

As an Iraq veteran, combat deaths like Justin Hebert’s or homefront suicides like Jared Hagemann’s not only fill me with grief, but also indescribable guilt. Grief, for these men are much too young to have needlessly die in a needless war. I can only imagine the suffering their family must be going through: their wives, their children, and their parents must live with the knowledge that their sons (or daughters) died for a lie.

And guilt, for I feel I have not done enough to dissuade young Americans to not participate in this injustice. Many young men and women have contacted me to inform me that my photography have “inspired” them into “service” of their country. I do not know how I would feel if I were to learn that these very same young Americans died during their “service.”

I wish I could tell them what awaits them: that they will bear a disproportionate number of the deaths in these wars, and if they survive, suffer massive psychological trauma that compels their comrade-in-arms to commit an increasing number of suicides. And that once the military is done with them, they will face disproportionately high unemployment rates, homelessness, and higher risk for suicides.

I feel personally responsible for my fellow veterans’ suffering and deaths. It is a shame and the ultimate tragedy that most Americans do not feel the same.

Firstly, I wanted to say that I REALLY like your blog. As a policy major, I find myself constantly reading about politics as well, and I feel as though you present logical arguments which is something, unfortuantely, many journalists fail to achieve. Do you think as we get closer to November 2012, if Ron Paul were to stay in the race, would he be able to pull some more liberal folks to his side, maybe people who voted for Obama in the last election?

Are we talking about someone principled or someone partisan? Even if Barack Obama’s last name was Bush, as long as he is in the right party, partisan Democrats will vote for him.

However, the question is not for whom will they vote, but will they vote at all? If Obama’s performance continue to be as lackluster and disappointing as it had been (and the polls are reflecting that), then the energetic grassroots that propelled him to the White House will not be significant enough to overcome the perception (I would say delusion) that Obama is ineffective.

In the end, it will not be the partisans who will determine the outcome of this race, but the independents that are not beholden to any party. Many supporters of Paul (who are, it must be said, decidedly not partisan) voted for Obama as a rejection of the Bush legacy that John McCain was promising to continue.

Will liberals vote for Paul if he is the Republican nominee? Maybe, especially if they do not hold welfare checks more important than the lives of those foreigners we kill.

Ron Paul is nuts for opposing nuclear holocaust in Iran

The real answer to the question posted by DC Decoder:

After the debt ceiling vote in Congress Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and most other neocon motormouths went nuts over the Left’s tactic of claiming that the tea party people, and the members of Congress they helped to elect, were “insane.”  One prominent leftist commentator even went so far as to interview a psychiatrist on his radio program who proclaimed that the tea partiers were “delusional” in the sense that a heroin addict seeking Nirvana is delusional.

The neocons went nuts over this because, as they correctly pointed out, this was the exact same tactic that was employed by the totalitarian communists of the twentieth century, from Stalin to Gorbachev:  Anyone who criticized socialism was “obviously” insane, they said, so off to the Gulag!

Well, guess how Rush Limbaugh described Congressman Ron Paul after his supurb performance in the debate in Iowa?  He used the words “nuts” and “insane” to describe Ron on his Radio show.  Mike Huckabee also used the words “nuts” to describe Ron on his Faux News Channel program. 

So Ron is “nuts” for opposing an invasion and possibly a nuclear holocaust in Iran, but the neocons who support such a thing, such as Limbaugh, Huckabee, Santorum, and the rest, are perfectly sane and level headed.  Someone here is crazy, and it’s not Ron Paul.

This is the reason why Michele Bachmann, while sharing (well, parroting) nearly the same views that Ron Paul holds, is considered to be a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination while Paul is not. She parrots Paul’s stance against the Federal Reserve, the debt ceiling ceiling deal (she joined Paul along with 20 other Republicans in the House to oppose their own party’s bill), and has publicly opposed Obama’s military intervention in Libya. However, Bachmann considers Iran to be a threat and Paul is rightly unconcerned about their potential quest for nuclear weapons.

Anyone who opposes the destruction of Iran and the deaths of its people could never be a serious contender for the White House. They are the fringe, the insane, the “nuts.”

For those seeking the office of the presidency, only would-be murderers are wanted; the true pro-life candidates need not apply.

The tea party mandate in Iowa

Now that Michele Bachmann had won the straw poll at Ames, the corporate media narrative has shifted from questioning the importance of the straw poll to reaffirming its relevance this presidential election.

However, there is a real message to be taken from the results where nearly 60% (Bachmann’s 28.5% and Ron Paul’s 27.6%) of the votes cast were for candidates who were aligned with the tea party.

If there was any backlash against the tea party after the very recent debt ceiling debacle, it is absent in Iowa and especially among the Republicans there.

People might quibble about the poll’s value as a predictor of the eventual Republican nominee, but it is clear today that in Iowans’ choice of Bachmann and Paul is a mandate for the tea party.

Ron Paul and liberals’ moral dilemma

A self-labeled liberal at Reddit watched last night’s GOP debate (read my recap and thoughts) in Iowa and he found himself convinced that he might vote for Ron Paul over Barack Obama.

Many of the other responders reminded him than Paul is against a lot of things that progressives hold dear. Obama, they reminded him, is a progressive; Paul’s views regarding Social Security, welfare, and abortion are too extreme.

Myself, I asked him a fair question:

Can you look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that the fat chance that Ron Paul would single-handedly gut Social Security and all of entitlement spending is morally equivalent to Ron Paul unilaterally stopping the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are victims of all our wars?

People forget that Social Security and Medicare are laws that Congress (not the president) decides whereas our illegal, unconstitutional wars are unilaterally waged by the president.

Ron Paul cannot end Social Security or Medicare alone, but he can and will end the wars.

I am tired of the argument that the potential of someone’s welfare check being cut is more important than immediately stopping the murders occurring everyday in our name.

We wonder why people in the rest of the world hate us. We are selfish; and we hold welfare checks more important than the lives of those we kill.

Thoughts on the GOP debate in Iowa

1. Jon Huntsman looked good and he positioned himself as the moderate. Unfortunately, as one of the moderators commented, he might be running in the wrong party. He also looks extremely polished; cosmopolitan, even. He is this election cycle’s John Edwards.

2. Tim Pawlenty is trying to run as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick. His attack on Michele Bachmann is nothing more than him proving to Romney that he could be the Biden to Romney’s Obama. He looked extra desperate tonight when he first went on the offensive against Bachmann. Bachmann might look crazy and her record of results as a congresswoman might be sub-par, but when put up against Pawlenty’s dithering and compromising, she looked principled while Pawlenty looked petty and political in comparison. It has only been over a week since the debt ceiling debacle and Republicans, rightly or wrongly, thought that their leadership capitulated to the Democrats. Pawlenty suggesting more of John Boehner’s leadership style will not endear him to Republicans.

3. Herman Cain’s answers were forgettable. Half the time, he was excusing and qualifying his previous statements. Blah blah blah shariah law blah blah blah Muslims.

4. Newt Gingrich was good as usual, except he looked and sounded he was stuck in the 1990s. It might be news to Gingrich, but Bill Clinton has not been president in over a decade. There is a decade worth of new voters that do not remember or care about the Clinton administration and the political hijinks of that time. At one point he was attacking the moderators! That made for good television, but Chris Wallace is not running for president. Gingrich’s performance in this debate is further proof his irrelevance.

5. Michele Bachmann was on fire tonight and survived Tim Pawlenty’s onslaught. She is not a dim-wit; she is a Sarah Palin with a brain. She was first to answer a question and was first to attack Barack Obama. Her performance might be excellent, but her actual answers were seriously lacking in substance. At one point, she repeated the flat-out lie that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. One thing I found interesting, however, was that she has decided to explicitly (and quite publicly on national television) oppose raising the debt ceiling. By claiming that she led the fight to oppose raising the debt ceiling, she is taking the blame (or credit) for it. This might win her points with the hardcore tea party base, but with that debate proving unpopular with the general public, it might not be so wise.

6. Mitt Romney just articulated a whole cadre of new positions tonight. Corporate media narrative that he is a front-runner was repeated the entire night. Fox News wanted to remind the viewers who the front-runner was tonight. He was uninspiring as usual.

7. Rick Santorum’s strategy tonight was to attack Ron Paul. He also hates the Constitution, it turns out. Santorum made clear that he is a Big Government neoconservative of the Bush variety (and that he hates homosexuals) and that he wants to legislate morality. Ineffective, desperate, and after this debate, his campaign is dead in the water.

8. Ron Paul made me holler and hoot at the television screen. Paul reminded me once against why he galvanized me to hit the dirt and campaign for him back in 2007. His first answer was lacking energy, but his subsequent answers and his clear, consistent, and principled antiwar views made him stand out among his fellow Republicans. Anyone saying otherwise is being intellectually dishonest.

Best moments: The fact that the Republicans rediscovered the Constitution (except Rick Santorum) and are articulating its importance. There is also the fact that the Federal is an actual topic in this debate. It is unthinkable that the Federal Reserve and its destructive monetary policies could even be a topic of discussion in an election debate, if it were not for Ron Paul.

Lowest moments: Rick Santorum constantly interrupting Ron Paul. Michele Bachmann’s migraine possibly acting up. Jon Huntsman looking so shiny and polished. All of Herman Cain.

Final thoughts: The moderators did a great job with their questions and the way they handled the candidates and kept control of the debate. I did not like that they only asked Ron Paul a few questions, but the questions they did asked him gave him the opportunity to differentiate himself from the Republicans.

The personal website of Jayel Aheram