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Posts For: July 20, 2008

How Quickly They Forget

Remember the Iraq Study Group? At the time Democrats were thrilled with its recommendations and in fact two of its participants –Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta — are or should be on the short list for a Barack Obama administration. It is worth going back to recollect how dire things were when the report was published. Here is where things stood in December 2006:

If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized. Iraq is vital to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests. It runs along the sectarian fault lines of Shia and Sunni Islam, and of Kurdish and Arab populations. It has the world’s second-largest known oil reserves. It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including al Qaeda.

And was Iraq a distraction, a misguided lark we should easily run from? Not according to Lee Hamilton and company who wrote:

Iraq is a centerpiece of American foreign policy, influencing how the United States is viewed in the region and around the world. Because of the gravity of Iraq’s condition and the country’s vital importance, the United States is facing one of its most difficult and significant international challenges in decades. Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions, the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy.

And if Iraq had continued to decline, here is just a portion of the ISG’s predictions of what would have ensued:

Continuing violence could lead toward greater chaos, and inflict greater suffering upon the Iraqi people. A collapse of Iraq’s government and economy would further cripple a country already unable to meet its people’s needs. Iraq’s security forces could split along sectarian lines. A humanitarian catastrophe could follow as more refugees are forced to relocate across the country and the region. Ethnic cleansing could escalate. The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy. Freedoms could be lost. Other countries in the region fear significant violence crossing their borders. Chaos in Iraq could lead those countries to intervene to protect their own interests, thereby perhaps sparking a broader regional war. . . Ambassadors from neighboring countries told us that they fear the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world. Many expressed a fear of Shia insurrections—perhaps fomented by Iran—in Sunni-ruled states. Such a broader sectarian conflict could open a Pandora’s box of problems—including the radicalization of populations, mass movements of populations, and regime changes—that might take decades to play out. If the instability in Iraq spreads to the other Gulf States, a drop in oil production and exports could lead to a sharp increase in the price of oil and thus could harm the global economy. Terrorism could grow. As one Iraqi official told us, “Al Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald’s.” Left unchecked, al Qaeda in Iraq could continue to incite violence between Sunnis and Shia. A chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally. Al Qaeda will portray any failure by the United States in Iraq as a significant victory that will be featured prominently as they recruit for their cause in the region and around the world. Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden, has declared Iraq a focus for al Qaeda: they will seek to expel the Americans and then spread “the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.” A senior European official told us that failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country. The global standing of the United States could suffer if Iraq descends further into chaos.

So as Obama skates through an Iraq transformed by the surge and blithely tells us that Iraq’s turnaround has made no difference, or has distracted us from building an effective political and military response to Islamic terror, some enterprising reporter might ask him about his advisor’s report. Did McCain’s surge make a difference? Did it bring us back from the brink of disaster? Ask Lee Hamilton.

Remember the Iraq Study Group? At the time Democrats were thrilled with its recommendations and in fact two of its participants –Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta — are or should be on the short list for a Barack Obama administration. It is worth going back to recollect how dire things were when the report was published. Here is where things stood in December 2006:

If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized. Iraq is vital to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests. It runs along the sectarian fault lines of Shia and Sunni Islam, and of Kurdish and Arab populations. It has the world’s second-largest known oil reserves. It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including al Qaeda.

And was Iraq a distraction, a misguided lark we should easily run from? Not according to Lee Hamilton and company who wrote:

Iraq is a centerpiece of American foreign policy, influencing how the United States is viewed in the region and around the world. Because of the gravity of Iraq’s condition and the country’s vital importance, the United States is facing one of its most difficult and significant international challenges in decades. Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions, the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy.

And if Iraq had continued to decline, here is just a portion of the ISG’s predictions of what would have ensued:

Continuing violence could lead toward greater chaos, and inflict greater suffering upon the Iraqi people. A collapse of Iraq’s government and economy would further cripple a country already unable to meet its people’s needs. Iraq’s security forces could split along sectarian lines. A humanitarian catastrophe could follow as more refugees are forced to relocate across the country and the region. Ethnic cleansing could escalate. The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy. Freedoms could be lost. Other countries in the region fear significant violence crossing their borders. Chaos in Iraq could lead those countries to intervene to protect their own interests, thereby perhaps sparking a broader regional war. . . Ambassadors from neighboring countries told us that they fear the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world. Many expressed a fear of Shia insurrections—perhaps fomented by Iran—in Sunni-ruled states. Such a broader sectarian conflict could open a Pandora’s box of problems—including the radicalization of populations, mass movements of populations, and regime changes—that might take decades to play out. If the instability in Iraq spreads to the other Gulf States, a drop in oil production and exports could lead to a sharp increase in the price of oil and thus could harm the global economy. Terrorism could grow. As one Iraqi official told us, “Al Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald’s.” Left unchecked, al Qaeda in Iraq could continue to incite violence between Sunnis and Shia. A chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally. Al Qaeda will portray any failure by the United States in Iraq as a significant victory that will be featured prominently as they recruit for their cause in the region and around the world. Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden, has declared Iraq a focus for al Qaeda: they will seek to expel the Americans and then spread “the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.” A senior European official told us that failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country. The global standing of the United States could suffer if Iraq descends further into chaos.

So as Obama skates through an Iraq transformed by the surge and blithely tells us that Iraq’s turnaround has made no difference, or has distracted us from building an effective political and military response to Islamic terror, some enterprising reporter might ask him about his advisor’s report. Did McCain’s surge make a difference? Did it bring us back from the brink of disaster? Ask Lee Hamilton.

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Making Sense of Maliki

It’s good to see an Iraqi government spokesman explain that Prime Minister Maliki’s comments to Der Spiegel, in which he seemed to endorse Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”  According to CNN:

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.

That is, in fact, the position that Senator McCain (whose campaign I advise) has been pushing all along. He has been arguing for a “conditions based” withdrawal as opposed to the fixed timetable demanded by Obama. If Iraqis are ready to assume all responsibility for security by 2010, then it would be perfectly fine to withdraw most U.S. troops, and no doubt President McCain would do so. But it’s dangerous to commit to such a rigid timetable when it’s impossible to envision what the situation will look like at that time. Officers in the Iraqi Security Forces, who have a closer day to day view of the situation than does the Prime Minister, are not sanguine that a turnover by 2010 will be possible.

A recent Washington Post story contains this quote :

We hope they will stay until 2020,” said Brig. Gen. Bilal al-Dayni, a commander in the southern city of Basra, where about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers patrol the streets after a major offensive in March against extremist militias.

That matches the views of Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Qadir. Earlier this year the New York Times quoted him as follows :

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

And that also matches the view of General David Petraeus. He was just asked by Andrea Mitchell of NBC News: “Is 16 months a reasonable time to get U.S. troops out and turn it over to Iraqis?”

Petraeus replied:

It depends on the conditions, depends on the missions set, depends on the enemy. The enemy does get a vote and is sometimes an independent variable. Lots of different factors I think that would be tied up in that. The dialogue on that and the amount of risk, because it eventually comes down to how much risk various options entail. That’s the kind of discussion I think that is very important as we look to the future.

General Petraeus would never inject himself into domestic politics, so you have to pay careful attention to his pronouncements to glean his views. Sometimes what he doesn’t say is as important as what he says. Note that he most assuredly did not say that, given recent security improvements, we could withdraw all U.S. combat forces within 16 months with minimal risk.

Obviously if Iraq’s government decides it’s time for U.S. troops to leave, leave they will. But despite Maliki’s ambiguous comments, Iraq’s government has made no such decision. All they’re demanding is a nebulous “time horizon” for an eventual departure. To judge when such a withdrawal would be prudent, it is better to rely on professional military opinion–Iraqi and American–for a true assessment of the security situation rather than listen to the rhetoric of politicians who are forced to navigate the political currents. Especially when their words may lose something in translation.

It’s good to see an Iraqi government spokesman explain that Prime Minister Maliki’s comments to Der Spiegel, in which he seemed to endorse Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”  According to CNN:

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.

That is, in fact, the position that Senator McCain (whose campaign I advise) has been pushing all along. He has been arguing for a “conditions based” withdrawal as opposed to the fixed timetable demanded by Obama. If Iraqis are ready to assume all responsibility for security by 2010, then it would be perfectly fine to withdraw most U.S. troops, and no doubt President McCain would do so. But it’s dangerous to commit to such a rigid timetable when it’s impossible to envision what the situation will look like at that time. Officers in the Iraqi Security Forces, who have a closer day to day view of the situation than does the Prime Minister, are not sanguine that a turnover by 2010 will be possible.

A recent Washington Post story contains this quote :

We hope they will stay until 2020,” said Brig. Gen. Bilal al-Dayni, a commander in the southern city of Basra, where about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers patrol the streets after a major offensive in March against extremist militias.

That matches the views of Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Qadir. Earlier this year the New York Times quoted him as follows :

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

And that also matches the view of General David Petraeus. He was just asked by Andrea Mitchell of NBC News: “Is 16 months a reasonable time to get U.S. troops out and turn it over to Iraqis?”

Petraeus replied:

It depends on the conditions, depends on the missions set, depends on the enemy. The enemy does get a vote and is sometimes an independent variable. Lots of different factors I think that would be tied up in that. The dialogue on that and the amount of risk, because it eventually comes down to how much risk various options entail. That’s the kind of discussion I think that is very important as we look to the future.

General Petraeus would never inject himself into domestic politics, so you have to pay careful attention to his pronouncements to glean his views. Sometimes what he doesn’t say is as important as what he says. Note that he most assuredly did not say that, given recent security improvements, we could withdraw all U.S. combat forces within 16 months with minimal risk.

Obviously if Iraq’s government decides it’s time for U.S. troops to leave, leave they will. But despite Maliki’s ambiguous comments, Iraq’s government has made no such decision. All they’re demanding is a nebulous “time horizon” for an eventual departure. To judge when such a withdrawal would be prudent, it is better to rely on professional military opinion–Iraqi and American–for a true assessment of the security situation rather than listen to the rhetoric of politicians who are forced to navigate the political currents. Especially when their words may lose something in translation.

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Will They Notice?

After two days abroad Barack Obama’s game plan is coming into view: he’s not saying much in public and his interactions with world leaders are likely to be hidden from the public. He met with the troops, had lunch with President Karzai and smiled. Did he speak sense to Karzai or hear a rebuke for insulting Karzai? Who knows? He didn’t hold a presser with Karazai and no cameras were allowed into their lunch.

We’ll see if the pattern changes, but if he keeps this up all week he’ll have done exactly what he does at home: cling to that teleprompter and operate only within his “comfort zone.” He’s excluded and evaded the foreign press, kept the U.S. press at bay (at least for now) and given details on policy only through his surrogates. Does he lack the confidence and ability to operate without a net? I get the sense the Obama camp is counting down the days — two down and no gaffes yet. But he also hasn’t proved himself capable of doing much of anything other than walking and smiling. I wonder if the U.S. media will notice or have the nerve to explain the charade going on.

After two days abroad Barack Obama’s game plan is coming into view: he’s not saying much in public and his interactions with world leaders are likely to be hidden from the public. He met with the troops, had lunch with President Karzai and smiled. Did he speak sense to Karzai or hear a rebuke for insulting Karzai? Who knows? He didn’t hold a presser with Karazai and no cameras were allowed into their lunch.

We’ll see if the pattern changes, but if he keeps this up all week he’ll have done exactly what he does at home: cling to that teleprompter and operate only within his “comfort zone.” He’s excluded and evaded the foreign press, kept the U.S. press at bay (at least for now) and given details on policy only through his surrogates. Does he lack the confidence and ability to operate without a net? I get the sense the Obama camp is counting down the days — two down and no gaffes yet. But he also hasn’t proved himself capable of doing much of anything other than walking and smiling. I wonder if the U.S. media will notice or have the nerve to explain the charade going on.

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China Claims the Seas

Today, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reports that Beijing has been issuing threats to ExxonMobil, demanding that the U.S. firm terminate its exploration deal with state oil company PetroVietnam. The two energy companies plan to look for oil in the South China Sea in an area Vietnam claims. Hanoi’s position is based on the fact that the area is on its continental shelf and within its exclusive economic zone.

Beijing, however, also claims the site in question. In addition to asserting rights to Vietnam’s continental shelf, it claims the continental shelves of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Moreover, Beijing appears to maintain that virtually all of the South China Sea is an internal Chinese lake due to the voyages by its mariners in ancient times. If adjudicated before an international tribunal, Vietnam would certainly prevail.

Up to now, Washington has adopted a passive attitude on the ludicrous Chinese claims. Yet if China’s views on its borders were respected, American vessels and aircraft would need Beijing’s permission to transit the South China Sea and Washington would thereby surrender its role as protector of international waters and airspace.

The Chinese have always threatened neighbors in order to enforce their outsized territorial claims. Now, it is threatening an American firm. It’s time for Washington to defend every nation’s right of passage-and the interests of its own businesses.

I believe we maintain carrier strike groups for this very purpose.

Today, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reports that Beijing has been issuing threats to ExxonMobil, demanding that the U.S. firm terminate its exploration deal with state oil company PetroVietnam. The two energy companies plan to look for oil in the South China Sea in an area Vietnam claims. Hanoi’s position is based on the fact that the area is on its continental shelf and within its exclusive economic zone.

Beijing, however, also claims the site in question. In addition to asserting rights to Vietnam’s continental shelf, it claims the continental shelves of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Moreover, Beijing appears to maintain that virtually all of the South China Sea is an internal Chinese lake due to the voyages by its mariners in ancient times. If adjudicated before an international tribunal, Vietnam would certainly prevail.

Up to now, Washington has adopted a passive attitude on the ludicrous Chinese claims. Yet if China’s views on its borders were respected, American vessels and aircraft would need Beijing’s permission to transit the South China Sea and Washington would thereby surrender its role as protector of international waters and airspace.

The Chinese have always threatened neighbors in order to enforce their outsized territorial claims. Now, it is threatening an American firm. It’s time for Washington to defend every nation’s right of passage-and the interests of its own businesses.

I believe we maintain carrier strike groups for this very purpose.

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McCain Follows Obama Overseas

Following Prime Minister Maliki’s comments as he weaves and bobs between Iraqi public opinion and whatever he has jointly agreed with the U.S. is a trying exercise. Some reports suggest he didn’t mean to give Barack Obama all that much help. And it seems odd, and potentially risky, for Obama (or John McCain should he choose to go down that road) to try to cherry pick from the Maliki comments, praising only those with which he agrees and ignoring the rest. Besides, wasn’t Obama’s point all along that, regardless of the Iraqis’ views, we should look after our own self-interests?

But I think the remarkable part of the first day of coverage wasn’t the Maliki muddle, but the degree to which McCain successfully inserted himself into the debate and, even from home, kept pushing and counterpunching Obama. Obama claimed President Bush and McCain were following his lead, arguing that “the failure of the McCain-Bush foreign policy has forced John McCain to change his position, and to embrace the very same Obama approaches that he once attacked.” If you were baffled to learn why McCain has decided to embrace unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad, a fixed withdrawal schedule from Iraq and the propositon that Iraq has no impact on Afghanistan , don’t be. He really hasn’t embraced any of those propositions. McCain blasted back with this statement:

Let’s be clear, the only reason that the conversation about reducing troop levels in Iraq is happening is because John McCain challenged the failed Rumsfield-strategy in Iraq and argued for the surge strategy that is responsible for the successes we’ve achieved and which Barack Obama opposed. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has never ignored the facts on the ground in Iraq, he’s never avoided the warzone before proposing new strategy, and he’s never voted against funding our troops in the field. If John McCain was following Barack Obama’s lead on foreign policy, the United States would have already withdrawn from Iraq in a humiliating defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.

That plus McCain’s radio address, the drumbeat of statements from the McCain camp and his surrogates kept him in the news and the dialogue about the surge’s success going. His foreign policy message did break through: his surge worked.

Does all of this matter? It depends how stark the gap is between, on one hand, the facts on the ground and the advice of respected U.S. military commanders (which his trip has inadvertently highlighted, perhaps to the horror of the Obama camp) and, on the other, Obama’s rhetoric. (Even the fired, er “retired” Admiral Fallon gets on the “finish the job” bandwagon.) It is hard to say with a straight face that there has been no political progress and Maliki has not stepped up to the plate, just as the surge was intended to produce. At some point, you look like you’re living in a fairytale, as Bill Clinton aptly put it.

But the real push will come to shove if Obama hears — and the public hears — from respected sources that indeed our gains in Iraq against Al Qaeda have been impressive and boosted, rather than “distracted,” us in our larger war against Islamic terrorism. That will be a telling test as to how far Obama can stray from the ideological prism of his netroot base.

Following Prime Minister Maliki’s comments as he weaves and bobs between Iraqi public opinion and whatever he has jointly agreed with the U.S. is a trying exercise. Some reports suggest he didn’t mean to give Barack Obama all that much help. And it seems odd, and potentially risky, for Obama (or John McCain should he choose to go down that road) to try to cherry pick from the Maliki comments, praising only those with which he agrees and ignoring the rest. Besides, wasn’t Obama’s point all along that, regardless of the Iraqis’ views, we should look after our own self-interests?

But I think the remarkable part of the first day of coverage wasn’t the Maliki muddle, but the degree to which McCain successfully inserted himself into the debate and, even from home, kept pushing and counterpunching Obama. Obama claimed President Bush and McCain were following his lead, arguing that “the failure of the McCain-Bush foreign policy has forced John McCain to change his position, and to embrace the very same Obama approaches that he once attacked.” If you were baffled to learn why McCain has decided to embrace unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad, a fixed withdrawal schedule from Iraq and the propositon that Iraq has no impact on Afghanistan , don’t be. He really hasn’t embraced any of those propositions. McCain blasted back with this statement:

Let’s be clear, the only reason that the conversation about reducing troop levels in Iraq is happening is because John McCain challenged the failed Rumsfield-strategy in Iraq and argued for the surge strategy that is responsible for the successes we’ve achieved and which Barack Obama opposed. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has never ignored the facts on the ground in Iraq, he’s never avoided the warzone before proposing new strategy, and he’s never voted against funding our troops in the field. If John McCain was following Barack Obama’s lead on foreign policy, the United States would have already withdrawn from Iraq in a humiliating defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.

That plus McCain’s radio address, the drumbeat of statements from the McCain camp and his surrogates kept him in the news and the dialogue about the surge’s success going. His foreign policy message did break through: his surge worked.

Does all of this matter? It depends how stark the gap is between, on one hand, the facts on the ground and the advice of respected U.S. military commanders (which his trip has inadvertently highlighted, perhaps to the horror of the Obama camp) and, on the other, Obama’s rhetoric. (Even the fired, er “retired” Admiral Fallon gets on the “finish the job” bandwagon.) It is hard to say with a straight face that there has been no political progress and Maliki has not stepped up to the plate, just as the surge was intended to produce. At some point, you look like you’re living in a fairytale, as Bill Clinton aptly put it.

But the real push will come to shove if Obama hears — and the public hears — from respected sources that indeed our gains in Iraq against Al Qaeda have been impressive and boosted, rather than “distracted,” us in our larger war against Islamic terrorism. That will be a telling test as to how far Obama can stray from the ideological prism of his netroot base.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post editors ask the right questions: what’s the Fed doing as a super-regulatory body and how much risk are the taxpayers supposed to absorb?

The reason the Obama camp overreacted so badly to the New Yorker cover? Perhaps they read the liberal punditocracy and buy into the notion that he’s only a little ahead in the polls because he’s too “exotic.” Couldn’t be the flip-flops, the lack of experience, the heightened media criticism or his rejection of domestic energy production? Nah.

I’m not sure this phrase is one which will please the Obama team: “Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama got his first look at deteriorating conditions in war-torn Afghanistan on Saturday. . .” First, eh?

Nancy Pelosi is holding firm. You hang in there, Nancy. I’m sure the voters will understand. If not, how much lower can you really go?

Senator, you are no Ronald Reagan. There is something silly about a left-leaning, callow, 47-year old with no appreciation for use of American military power trying to grab onto Reagan imagery.

A well-drafted letter. Will Obama answer the concerns? If he does, it seems, it will be another about-face. You must recall that Obama doesn’t consider tough talk about Iran helpful. It would just engender sympathy at that bastion of decency, the U.N.

Why isn’t McCain “freaking out” conservatives more? Could be because McCain is pretty conservative and Obama scares the living daylights out of them. (And every day the candidates spend on foreign policy is another one the conservatives rally to McCain.)

Only people without them could say this: “children don’t make you happy, even though society tells you it does.” (Warning: the entire post is souless, self-absorbed and sad.)

The Washington Post editors ask the right questions: what’s the Fed doing as a super-regulatory body and how much risk are the taxpayers supposed to absorb?

The reason the Obama camp overreacted so badly to the New Yorker cover? Perhaps they read the liberal punditocracy and buy into the notion that he’s only a little ahead in the polls because he’s too “exotic.” Couldn’t be the flip-flops, the lack of experience, the heightened media criticism or his rejection of domestic energy production? Nah.

I’m not sure this phrase is one which will please the Obama team: “Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama got his first look at deteriorating conditions in war-torn Afghanistan on Saturday. . .” First, eh?

Nancy Pelosi is holding firm. You hang in there, Nancy. I’m sure the voters will understand. If not, how much lower can you really go?

Senator, you are no Ronald Reagan. There is something silly about a left-leaning, callow, 47-year old with no appreciation for use of American military power trying to grab onto Reagan imagery.

A well-drafted letter. Will Obama answer the concerns? If he does, it seems, it will be another about-face. You must recall that Obama doesn’t consider tough talk about Iran helpful. It would just engender sympathy at that bastion of decency, the U.N.

Why isn’t McCain “freaking out” conservatives more? Could be because McCain is pretty conservative and Obama scares the living daylights out of them. (And every day the candidates spend on foreign policy is another one the conservatives rally to McCain.)

Only people without them could say this: “children don’t make you happy, even though society tells you it does.” (Warning: the entire post is souless, self-absorbed and sad.)

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The Perils Of Foreign Travel

Maureen Dowd raises a good point about Barack Obama’s overseas travels: is ingratiating himself with Europeans going to win over Middle America? She writes:

Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats. He doesn’t want a picture of him nibbling on a baguette to overtake the effete image of the Europhile John Kerry windsurfing. . .Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there, when they can’t pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro’s chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords.

Well, even assuming that Americans can simultaneously care about gas prices and national security, there is a desire from many Americans (other than those who hang out at Aspen symposia) to not just see our president try to “get along,” but also to stand up for America. It would be nice if Obama could articulate in some fashion the accomplishments of his own country — in Iraq, in Colombia, in expanding free trade, etc. These are not just the accomplishments of a president, but of the country he seeks to lead.

If all he is going to do is apologize, confess, and avoid speaking ill of Americas enemies (or shy away from exhorting our allies to do better, in Afghanistan for example) he does run the risk that Americans will wonder whose interests — ours or that of some nebulous international public opinion — he values more. And if he’s afraid to confront the foreign press, some might legitimately wonder how equipped he is to deal with conflict and disagreement, which are, in the real world, inevitable in dealings with even the friendliest of countries.

Maureen Dowd raises a good point about Barack Obama’s overseas travels: is ingratiating himself with Europeans going to win over Middle America? She writes:

Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats. He doesn’t want a picture of him nibbling on a baguette to overtake the effete image of the Europhile John Kerry windsurfing. . .Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there, when they can’t pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro’s chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords.

Well, even assuming that Americans can simultaneously care about gas prices and national security, there is a desire from many Americans (other than those who hang out at Aspen symposia) to not just see our president try to “get along,” but also to stand up for America. It would be nice if Obama could articulate in some fashion the accomplishments of his own country — in Iraq, in Colombia, in expanding free trade, etc. These are not just the accomplishments of a president, but of the country he seeks to lead.

If all he is going to do is apologize, confess, and avoid speaking ill of Americas enemies (or shy away from exhorting our allies to do better, in Afghanistan for example) he does run the risk that Americans will wonder whose interests — ours or that of some nebulous international public opinion — he values more. And if he’s afraid to confront the foreign press, some might legitimately wonder how equipped he is to deal with conflict and disagreement, which are, in the real world, inevitable in dealings with even the friendliest of countries.

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