It’s official. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll finds that American attitudes about Iraq are schizophrenic—at least on the surface.
In a sampling taken May 4-6, 68 percent of respondents said that they think it is likely a withdrawal of U.S. forces would lead to “a full-scale civil war and result in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis.” 66 percent believe “al Qaeda would use Iraq as a base for its terrorist operations.” 52 percent believe “a broader war involving several countries in the Middle East would break out.” And 55 percent believe “there would be new terrorist attacks against the U.S., like the ones that occurred on 9/11.”
All of those conclusions would seem to strengthen the case for “staying the course,” as President Bush proposes. Yet 59 percent of respondents say that we should “set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq at that time.” Only 36 percent say that we should “keep a significant number of troops in Iraq until the situation gets better.”
Powerline.com has a broad national following. But one of the things that makes it such an engaging and successful site is the way it reports on local happenings in and around Minneapolis. Today, for example, it takes apart a column about local real estate by a Star Tribune regular, whom powerline calls, in its unabashed voice, “a third-rate columnist for a second-rate newspaper.” Never mind that the issue—the size of a particular house on the shore of Minneapolis’s Lake Calhoun—is of little moment to a Brooklynite like me. Powerline manages to bring alive the mindless passions and petty resentments and politically correct politics that seem to permeate the local newspaper of record.
The point is that many of the local stories powerline brings to a national audience are not local at all. The website has been on top of the Flying Imams case from the beginning. It has introduced us to the imposition of shar’ia law in Minneapolis, with “Somali taxi drivers who refuse to transport passengers carrying alcohol” and “Target cashiers who refuse to ring up pork products.” Are such things happening elsewhere in the country, one wonders, or only in the twin cities?
My own hunch, on that score, is that the only thing truly special about Minneapolis is the presence there of a small band of extraordinary guys working away in their pajamas.
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Last week the Bush administration publicly suggested that Taiwan should halt plans to produce long-range missiles capable of hitting targets in mainland China. “The U.S. view is that the focus should be on defensive weapons, not on offensive weapons,” said Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. The administration instead proposes to sell Taiwan the Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system as part of a larger $18-billion package of American arms.
But Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian is not content with purely defensive missiles: he wants a real deterrent. Washington seems to forget that China has more than 900 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is, by all accounts, increasing the size of its offensive arsenal by about 50 missiles a year. Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-2 and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles can reach China’s Fujian province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, though they would not be accurate if used against surface targets. Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is developing surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting Chinese military bases. But it remains unclear if the U.S. will provide the Taiwanese with the sophisticated guidance systems necessary to operate them. Read More
Peter Hoekstra, until January the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, has a noteworthy piece in the Wall Street Journal today, Environmental Intelligence, which takes up where I left off last month in my posting, CIA vs. MPG.
As I noted there, thanks to Clinton-era mandates the CIA has been spending a lot of time trying to reduce the amount of gasoline its operatives consume while driving LDV’s—the CIA acronym for a “light-duty vehicle,” otherwise known as a car.
Hoekstra, one of the best-informed and most thoughtful students of intelligence issues in Congress, reports on renewed efforts by the Democratic majority to green the spy agency even further. Among other things, its proposed 2008 intelligence authorization bill will compel the CIA to produce a National Intelligence Estimate on the effects of environmental change.
Sandmonkey, the well-known Arab blogger who recently announced an end to his blogging, may have been the most deliciously irreverent voice in the entire blogosphere. A 26-year old Egyptian, he went to college in Massachusetts, where he cultivated fluency not only in the American tongue but also in the folkways of global youth culture. (His moniker is a pejorative term for Arab, he explained to me when I first met him, amazed that I didn’t know it. Brandishing it was typical of his in-your-face style.)
Sandmonkey reveled in freedom; back in Egypt, he behaved as if he were free, almost. With the help of the Internet he spoke his mind pseudonymously, but with breathtaking audacity. His website, for instance, appealed for financial contributions by asking readers to “Support the Neo-con American Right-wing Zionist Christian Imperialist Conspiracy in the Middle-east!”