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Understanding The Middle East

Wednesday, October 1, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

This, from the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor, is very good.

My conversation yesterday with The New York Times’ John Fisher Burns adds more background from the most experienced foreign correspondent in the world.

But Christian C. Sahner’s new book, Amid the Ruins: Syria Past and Present, is a revelation.  He will be my guest today in the third hour of the show.



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“Because Ebola is not contagious until symptoms develop…”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Of course I believe the CDC on this point.  And of course fanning panic or even hysteria would be contemptible and immoral.  That  is the key point that the CDC was trying –not very effectively– to make in the presser today.

But because the level of trust is so low in government –IRS, VA, and now the Secret Service to name just the three most obvious answers to the question “Why?– the CDC has to go the extra mile to assure people that anyone who might have contracted the disease that they have been notified, and that they can seek beneficial treatment early in the course of the disease.  Those who have been following the path of the disease in Africa know that this early warning system is crucial to containing the disease wherever it appears.

That means publishing the flight Patient Zero-USA took from Liberia, as well as as many details of his or her movements in Dallas upon landing as they become known.  The protocol that develops in the aftermath of the first unannounced arrival of the disease in the U.S. matters a great deal to establishing credibility of the agency over the long term.  The CDC cannot share too much information.  Since the “R nought” is believed to be around two, journalists have to assume that two people have been infected by Patient Zero-USA.  So who are they, and where did they encounter the patient, and have they been cared for in such a way as to reduce the “R nought” factor to less than 1 in the U.S.?

More information is always better than less when the public’s attention is engaged on the responsiveness of the government to a crisis.  Protect the patient’s privacy of course, but alert everyone who might have come in his or her path, however minimal their risk of developing the disease.  If the CDC is in tune with the vast reach of social media –both responsible and irresponsible– they will have already figured out that misinformation travels much faster than fact, and will have already agreed upon the course described.  If it is “bureaucracy-bound,” the CDC will respond sluggishly and lose the confidence of the public.

Watch that space.  Closely.

John Fisher Burns on Ebola, China, and ISIS

Tuesday, September 30, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Two time Pulitzer winner and chief foreign correspondent for the new York Times, John Burns, joined me to talk about the turmoil in Hong Kong and the Middle East.




HH: I am joined by John Fisher Burns, New York Times’ chief foreign correspondent from London, and John Burns, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.

JB: Likewise, Hugh.

HH: I want to begin by, ten years ago, you were in Iraq beginning a long run as the Times’ bureau chief there. Flash forward ten years from now. Do you think that the great worry of then will be instability in China or the ISIS revolution that’s unfolding in front of our eyes? In other words, what ought we to be worrying about the most? Or is it even the Ebola story that’s big headlines today?

JB: I don’t think you can make a clear distinction between those two. It seems to me that both of them are long-running and probably insoluble conflicts, there will be repeated upheavals both in China and in the Middle East, and they’re going to shake our world.

HH: Well, that’s not optimistic. John Fisher Burns, weren’t you expelled from China back in the day?

JB: I was indeed.

HH: And so they’re still not very democracy-friendly, are they?

JB: No, and I don’t myself believe that the Community Party of China is capable of reforming itself and accepting anything like genuine democracy. I think that’s one reason why we in the West who have worried so much about the possibility of declining American power and a rising Chinese power, is China the next superpower? If there’s any comfort to be taken from these events currently unfolding in Hong Kong, it might be this, that the Chinese Communist Party might find itself increasingly confronted, and not just in Hong Kong, but in other places closer to the heartland of China. It will resist, the country will become an increasingly fractious place in which a lot of energy, political energy and economic energy is squandered, and I think that the Chinese hopes, and they were made quite clear when Mao died and was succeeded by Deng Xiaoping, the preface was not just to get rich, or even mainly to get rich, it was to restore China as the number one power in the world, as Deng Xiaoping told us it had been at the end of the Ming Dynasty in the 17th Century. So that is their goal, but I personally doubt whether they will achieve it, because they have not even begun, really, to address the principal political problem. What do you do as you get increasingly rich, your people become increasingly educated, and as we’ve seen in Hong Kong, increasingly unwilling to accept top-down government autocracy. Continue Reading

Bill Kristol On The Crises Abroad

Tuesday, September 30, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Bill Kristol joined me on the show today.  The interview covered a lot of ground:




HH: Joined now by Weekly Standard editor, Bill Kristol. Bill, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you.

BK: Good talking to you, Hugh.

HH: I want to get to the crises in the Middle East, Afghanistan and China, but before I do, you’re a veteran of the White House. You had an office there for many years. You go in and out a lot. And I’ve been talking to people who any time ever officed there. How shocked are you that this intruder got in the front door?

BK: No, I’m pretty shocked. I mean, I’ve been struck over the years since I was there 20 years ago how much tougher it’s been to get in. And I don’t say this critically. It may be necessary because of the threats. Just as a visitor, someone who’s cleared in for a meeting, let’s say, or for a lunch during the Bush administration with a friend, as I say, I’m not critical of that, but given how much time one often has to wait for them to make sure you really are the right person that you say you are, and they look at your driver’s license, and call back to make sure that you’re cleared and expected, it is, someone just waltzing in there? It’s really unbelievable.

HH: I have been thinking of it as a metaphor for homeland security generally, that we are putting everyone through TSA checks and elderly ladies and little children, and maybe we’re not thinking outside of the box about what rapid response to obvious problems like this beheader in Oklahoma.

BK: Well, and you know, the Secret Service’s reaction was very curious, very interesting and sort of characteristically bureaucratic in the way that you’re suggesting, which is you know, when the story broke, as I recall this, we may have to set up checkpoints and sort of new barriers for people two or three blocks from the White House to sort of get a first look at them there, as if that would have had anything to do with this. And they’re going to inconvenience a huge number of tourists and regular people going to appointments and meetings for the sake of not dealing with the problem, which I think has generally been too often our approach. You know, TSA, you hate to sound like you’re just griping, you’re trying to get on a plane and you’re delayed and it seems annoying. But I do wonder whether all this doesn’t hurt the effort to fight the war on terror rather than help. It makes the whole thing look like a bureaucratic game. I think if you’re a citizen, and you’re standing there taking your shoes off and watching your grandmother in front of you having, who has an artificial hip being sort of patted down, and it’s just a game. And the way the TSA agents, most of them are mostly decent people, obviously, they, for them, it’s kind of check the right bureaucratic box. I don’t know how many of them are really saying hey, is there possibly a terrorist in this group, or how many are saying hey, the bureaucratic rules say that if this thing meets this category, we should stop this person in this way. So does my colleague, Steve Hayes, who was on the TSA watch list. You know, I used to think well, okay, it’s an inconvenience, but I guess we put up with it. But I really wonder whether it isn’t actually sort of debilitating to civic morale, to citizen morale in this effort that we’re all, should be engaged in. Continue Reading

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