Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 27, 2009

Re:Re: Tom Ricks

Pete, I find Ricks’s position an odd one. To recap (before he descended into name-calling), he stated:

I think that invading Iraq preemptively on false premises, at the time that we already were at war elsewhere, was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Everything we do in Iraq is the fruit of that poisoned tree. But I think also that there are no good answers in Iraq, just less bad ones. I think staying in Iraq is immoral, but I think leaving immediately would be even more so, because of the risk it runs of leaving Iraq to a civil war that could go regional.

Well then was it immoral for candidate Barack Obama to have advocated immediately bugging out of Iraq during the campaign? Was it still immoral when he slightly modified his position to put us on a fixed 16 month time-frame, which would be nearing an end by now? Ricks accepts that now it is right for the U.S. to remain in Iraq in order to prevent regional conflict, but then one wonders why he was not excoriating candidate Obama (and Clinton for that matter) who vehemently opposed this very approach.

This critique, of course, applies to much of the left punditocracy which vilified George W. Bush and John McCain for the “endless commitment” to Iraq. That President Obama has adopted almost entirely the approach advocated by his presidential opponent (minus the rhetoric) perhaps creates too much cognitive dissonance for them. Those who supported the surge are delighted and readily credit the president for continuing the Bush Iraq policy (in the words of his nominee Chris Hill, “I just don’t want to screw it up”) – and committing himself to success in Afghanistan as well. Perhaps the Left will throw in the towel (rather than reply with ad hominem slurs) and concede that President Obama is right and candidate Obama was wrong. Maybe not the “biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” — but following candidate Obama’s advice would have come close.

Pete, I find Ricks’s position an odd one. To recap (before he descended into name-calling), he stated:

I think that invading Iraq preemptively on false premises, at the time that we already were at war elsewhere, was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Everything we do in Iraq is the fruit of that poisoned tree. But I think also that there are no good answers in Iraq, just less bad ones. I think staying in Iraq is immoral, but I think leaving immediately would be even more so, because of the risk it runs of leaving Iraq to a civil war that could go regional.

Well then was it immoral for candidate Barack Obama to have advocated immediately bugging out of Iraq during the campaign? Was it still immoral when he slightly modified his position to put us on a fixed 16 month time-frame, which would be nearing an end by now? Ricks accepts that now it is right for the U.S. to remain in Iraq in order to prevent regional conflict, but then one wonders why he was not excoriating candidate Obama (and Clinton for that matter) who vehemently opposed this very approach.

This critique, of course, applies to much of the left punditocracy which vilified George W. Bush and John McCain for the “endless commitment” to Iraq. That President Obama has adopted almost entirely the approach advocated by his presidential opponent (minus the rhetoric) perhaps creates too much cognitive dissonance for them. Those who supported the surge are delighted and readily credit the president for continuing the Bush Iraq policy (in the words of his nominee Chris Hill, “I just don’t want to screw it up”) – and committing himself to success in Afghanistan as well. Perhaps the Left will throw in the towel (rather than reply with ad hominem slurs) and concede that President Obama is right and candidate Obama was wrong. Maybe not the “biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” — but following candidate Obama’s advice would have come close.

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Matthew Yglesias’s Hutu Power Rhetoric

Courtesy of Mickey Kaus, we now have a view into the infamous “Journolist,” on which over 300 liberal journalists and activists debate — er — gossip all day like a group of high schoolers. Kaus got his hand on one thread, dated March 24, in which Center for American Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias starts off a discussion by exposing the supposed racism of Marty Peretz.

Today, Yglesias writes about the Foreign Policy Initiative, a new think tank/advocacy group founded by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. He opines:

When I was a kid, I remember hearing that cockroaches would not only survive the sure-to-happen US-Soviet nuclear holocaust, but actually emerge stronger than ever as they devour our irradiated corpses. Similarly, there’s a new think tank in town, headed by Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesguy Dan Senor.

The use of the word “cockroach” to describe undesirable persons has a long history, but there’s a specific and ugly context that is most pertinent. In the run-up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 — in which nearly 1 million people were massacred over the course of just 100 days — “Hutu power” radio stations used the word repeatedly to describe members of the minority Tutsi tribe. Historians and political scientists who study Rwanda cite the intensity and pervasiveness of this hate speech as playing a crucial role in mobilizing Hutus to kill so many their fellow countrymen. Such language is used to dehumanize.

As an expert on nearly everything, surely Yglesias is aware of the word’s loaded history. That he would simultaneously act as traffic cop for internet civility is risible.

Courtesy of Mickey Kaus, we now have a view into the infamous “Journolist,” on which over 300 liberal journalists and activists debate — er — gossip all day like a group of high schoolers. Kaus got his hand on one thread, dated March 24, in which Center for American Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias starts off a discussion by exposing the supposed racism of Marty Peretz.

Today, Yglesias writes about the Foreign Policy Initiative, a new think tank/advocacy group founded by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. He opines:

When I was a kid, I remember hearing that cockroaches would not only survive the sure-to-happen US-Soviet nuclear holocaust, but actually emerge stronger than ever as they devour our irradiated corpses. Similarly, there’s a new think tank in town, headed by Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesguy Dan Senor.

The use of the word “cockroach” to describe undesirable persons has a long history, but there’s a specific and ugly context that is most pertinent. In the run-up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 — in which nearly 1 million people were massacred over the course of just 100 days — “Hutu power” radio stations used the word repeatedly to describe members of the minority Tutsi tribe. Historians and political scientists who study Rwanda cite the intensity and pervasiveness of this hate speech as playing a crucial role in mobilizing Hutus to kill so many their fellow countrymen. Such language is used to dehumanize.

As an expert on nearly everything, surely Yglesias is aware of the word’s loaded history. That he would simultaneously act as traffic cop for internet civility is risible.

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Commentary of the Day

Herodotus, on Peter Wehner:

Yes, Ricks went to Iraq and supposedly “reported” what he saw and came home to write books reflecting that so-called reporting. But people who know Ricks also know that he went to Iraq having pre-judged that the war was wrong from his “progressive” perspective, and what he “reported” conveniently fit his biases. Much like the distorted reporting of Herbert Matthews who saw what he wanted to see in Castro, not the incipient Communist dictator but a reformer anxious to introduce social democracy, Ricks uses only that evidence which comports with his political biases. The only reporter worth reading about the Iraq War was John Burns of the Times whose professionalism, accuracy, and insight always stood in sharp contrast to Ricks’s empty dispatches in the Washington Post.

Herodotus, on Peter Wehner:

Yes, Ricks went to Iraq and supposedly “reported” what he saw and came home to write books reflecting that so-called reporting. But people who know Ricks also know that he went to Iraq having pre-judged that the war was wrong from his “progressive” perspective, and what he “reported” conveniently fit his biases. Much like the distorted reporting of Herbert Matthews who saw what he wanted to see in Castro, not the incipient Communist dictator but a reformer anxious to introduce social democracy, Ricks uses only that evidence which comports with his political biases. The only reporter worth reading about the Iraq War was John Burns of the Times whose professionalism, accuracy, and insight always stood in sharp contrast to Ricks’s empty dispatches in the Washington Post.

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Academic or Political Consultant?

Donna Brazile is feeling the heat for her speaking engagement at the Justice Department. News outlets have picked up on the fact that the Justice Department seems to be running a politically partisan event. However, now she contends she is going there “in my capacity as an Adjunct Professor in the Women and Gender Studies at Georgetown University — not as a CNN contributor, ABC news consultant or Vice Chair of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].” But that’s not how she was billed. The flyer distributed to Justice Department employees (provided to me by one of the recipients) lists her as: “Donna Brazile, Brazile and Associates, LLC.” That would be a Democratic political consulting firm. Perhaps the Justice Department and Brazile should have gotten their stories straight.

Donna Brazile is feeling the heat for her speaking engagement at the Justice Department. News outlets have picked up on the fact that the Justice Department seems to be running a politically partisan event. However, now she contends she is going there “in my capacity as an Adjunct Professor in the Women and Gender Studies at Georgetown University — not as a CNN contributor, ABC news consultant or Vice Chair of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].” But that’s not how she was billed. The flyer distributed to Justice Department employees (provided to me by one of the recipients) lists her as: “Donna Brazile, Brazile and Associates, LLC.” That would be a Democratic political consulting firm. Perhaps the Justice Department and Brazile should have gotten their stories straight.

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The Times Revisits Gaza

Credit should be given where it’s due: this piece by Ethan Bronner — the same reporter who originally gave so much attention to the claims of IDF civilian killings in Gaza — is a sober and responsible followup to his original reporting. And the kind of piece I doubted the Times would run. Perhaps Bronner senses that the ease with which he originally bought into the story looks shabby. Or perhaps he’s simply trying to do his best covering the twists and turns of a complicated story.

Either way, the piece is notable for its willingness to delve into the almost unbelievable difficulties Israeli soldiers faced distinguishing civilian from combatant in Gaza:

“We saw a woman coming toward us,” [a soldier recounted]. “We shouted at her. We warned her a number of times not to get closer. We made hand motions. She did not stop. We shot her. When we examined her body we did not find a bomb belt.”

Israeli commanders defend such actions because they say they confronted armed women in Gaza as well as Hamas gunmen dressed as women and in other guises, like doctors.

“We had a woman run at us with a grenade in one hand and the Koran in the other,” Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, head of the military’s education corps, said in an interview in which he displayed ethics kits distributed to all commanders. “What we know till now is that there was no systematic moral failure. There were not more than a few — a very few — events still being investigated.”

Col. Roi Elkabets, commander of an armored brigade told of occasions where fire was held. His troops saw “a woman, about 60 years old, walking with a white flag and six to eight children behind her and behind them was a Hamas fighter with his gun. We did not shoot him.”

Having reported extensively on Operation Cast Lead while it was happening, Bronner surely knows that the nature of combat in Gaza demands the careful treatment of civilian-killing stories; as a journalist, he surely sensed that the original claims were thinly-sourced; and as a reporter covering Israel, he surely knows that false atrocity stories are a standard Palestinian PR tactic — and that none of them have ever proven true, from Mohammad Al-Dura in 2000 to Jenin in 2002 to the UN school bombing in 2009. It’s good that he wrote a responsible followup. It’s bad that he gave so much attention to the story in the first place.

Credit should be given where it’s due: this piece by Ethan Bronner — the same reporter who originally gave so much attention to the claims of IDF civilian killings in Gaza — is a sober and responsible followup to his original reporting. And the kind of piece I doubted the Times would run. Perhaps Bronner senses that the ease with which he originally bought into the story looks shabby. Or perhaps he’s simply trying to do his best covering the twists and turns of a complicated story.

Either way, the piece is notable for its willingness to delve into the almost unbelievable difficulties Israeli soldiers faced distinguishing civilian from combatant in Gaza:

“We saw a woman coming toward us,” [a soldier recounted]. “We shouted at her. We warned her a number of times not to get closer. We made hand motions. She did not stop. We shot her. When we examined her body we did not find a bomb belt.”

Israeli commanders defend such actions because they say they confronted armed women in Gaza as well as Hamas gunmen dressed as women and in other guises, like doctors.

“We had a woman run at us with a grenade in one hand and the Koran in the other,” Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, head of the military’s education corps, said in an interview in which he displayed ethics kits distributed to all commanders. “What we know till now is that there was no systematic moral failure. There were not more than a few — a very few — events still being investigated.”

Col. Roi Elkabets, commander of an armored brigade told of occasions where fire was held. His troops saw “a woman, about 60 years old, walking with a white flag and six to eight children behind her and behind them was a Hamas fighter with his gun. We did not shoot him.”

Having reported extensively on Operation Cast Lead while it was happening, Bronner surely knows that the nature of combat in Gaza demands the careful treatment of civilian-killing stories; as a journalist, he surely sensed that the original claims were thinly-sourced; and as a reporter covering Israel, he surely knows that false atrocity stories are a standard Palestinian PR tactic — and that none of them have ever proven true, from Mohammad Al-Dura in 2000 to Jenin in 2002 to the UN school bombing in 2009. It’s good that he wrote a responsible followup. It’s bad that he gave so much attention to the story in the first place.

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Re: Tom Ricks, Standing Firm on a Fallacy

Demonstrating that, as C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb recently said, journalists have the thinnest skin of anyone, Tom Ricks posted this response to my critique of his comment that Iraq “was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and that “staying in Iraq is immoral.”

Here is Ricks’s thoughtful, measured response:

Some guy named Pete Wehner who used to flak for President Bush attacks me on Commentary’s site today. I used to read Commentary quite a lot, and actually remember when its authors read the books they criticized! Lazy Wehner clearly hasn’t. I get the impression that he doesn’t know much about Iraq. Here is Joe Klein’s response. The odd thing about Wehner is that he must think he is supporting the military by tearing me down. I just was looking this morning at a note from an Army major who passed along that my new book is mandatory pre-deployment reading in his unit.

A few thoughts in response to Mr. Ricks.

First, I didn’t criticize Ricks’s books without having read them;  I criticized his silly and sloppy blog comments. Ricks accuses me of being “lazy” for not reading his books – but he seems too lazy to have read, or at least understood, my short critique of his comments (my response was only 10 paragraphs long, so it shouldn’t have been too difficult – and two of those paragraphs were quoting Ricks himself, which I’m sure pleased his obviously healthy ego).

Second, Ricks says he “get[s] the impression that [Wehner] doesn’t know much about Iraq.” Perhaps – but I knew enough about Iraq to support the surge, when Ricks (and his tag-team partner Joe Klein) did not. (I have repeatedly responded to Klein in the past – here and here and here – so I feel no need to do so now. I’m quite comfortable with how those exchanges turned out.)

Third, I directed my comments to what I believe are Ricks’s weak arguments; I didn’t say I was supporting the military over him. But perhaps Ricks made that odd reference only so he could cite a note from an Army major who passed along a note to him saying that Ricks’s new book is “mandatory pre-deployment reading in his unit.” Ricks’s self-praise is notable.

Fourth, Ricks makes no effort to rebut my substantive criticisms of his comments, which is telling. Perhaps on reflection, he wishes he hadn’t written what he did, in the manner he did.

Fifth and finally: Ricks’s idea of a serious response is to refer to me as, “Some guy named Pete Wehner.” That is the kind of adolescent taunt that one finds on junior high school playgrounds all across America. It must make Ricks’s more serious-minded colleagues cringe.

Demonstrating that, as C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb recently said, journalists have the thinnest skin of anyone, Tom Ricks posted this response to my critique of his comment that Iraq “was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and that “staying in Iraq is immoral.”

Here is Ricks’s thoughtful, measured response:

Some guy named Pete Wehner who used to flak for President Bush attacks me on Commentary’s site today. I used to read Commentary quite a lot, and actually remember when its authors read the books they criticized! Lazy Wehner clearly hasn’t. I get the impression that he doesn’t know much about Iraq. Here is Joe Klein’s response. The odd thing about Wehner is that he must think he is supporting the military by tearing me down. I just was looking this morning at a note from an Army major who passed along that my new book is mandatory pre-deployment reading in his unit.

A few thoughts in response to Mr. Ricks.

First, I didn’t criticize Ricks’s books without having read them;  I criticized his silly and sloppy blog comments. Ricks accuses me of being “lazy” for not reading his books – but he seems too lazy to have read, or at least understood, my short critique of his comments (my response was only 10 paragraphs long, so it shouldn’t have been too difficult – and two of those paragraphs were quoting Ricks himself, which I’m sure pleased his obviously healthy ego).

Second, Ricks says he “get[s] the impression that [Wehner] doesn’t know much about Iraq.” Perhaps – but I knew enough about Iraq to support the surge, when Ricks (and his tag-team partner Joe Klein) did not. (I have repeatedly responded to Klein in the past – here and here and here – so I feel no need to do so now. I’m quite comfortable with how those exchanges turned out.)

Third, I directed my comments to what I believe are Ricks’s weak arguments; I didn’t say I was supporting the military over him. But perhaps Ricks made that odd reference only so he could cite a note from an Army major who passed along a note to him saying that Ricks’s new book is “mandatory pre-deployment reading in his unit.” Ricks’s self-praise is notable.

Fourth, Ricks makes no effort to rebut my substantive criticisms of his comments, which is telling. Perhaps on reflection, he wishes he hadn’t written what he did, in the manner he did.

Fifth and finally: Ricks’s idea of a serious response is to refer to me as, “Some guy named Pete Wehner.” That is the kind of adolescent taunt that one finds on junior high school playgrounds all across America. It must make Ricks’s more serious-minded colleagues cringe.

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Mubarak Welcomes Bashir

Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of “being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.”  For a court of dubious legitimacy, this was a step in the right direction: during the past six years, the Sudanese-backed Janjaweed militias have murdered hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs in Darfur, displacing millions of civilians in the process.

For Egypt, however, one principle apparently trumps the gravity of Bashir’s crimes: Arab nationalism.  On Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak welcomed Bashir in Cairo, boldly expressing his solidarity with the international outlaw.  In a press conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit stated that Mubarak’s meetings with Bashir touched on the “humanitarian difficulties” in Darfur – with the priority being preventing any and all international intervention in “Arab issues.”  In this vein, Egypt is leading the fight to preserve Sudan’s relations with the broader Arab world, insisting that Bashir be permitted to attend the upcoming Arab League summit in Doha.  As Abul-Gheit reiterated, “This is an Arab issue.”

It is small events such as this one that so perfectly illustrate the disturbing lack of moral clarity that characterizes too much of the Middle East, providing cover for some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.  Most outrageously, this lack of clarity is hardly unique to the region’s unpopular authoritarian regimes.  In this vein, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide hailed Mubarak’s meeting with Bashir, declaring that the ICC’s warrant for Bashir’s arrest is “intended to fragment Sudan” and therefore poses “a threat to Egyptian national security.”  Meanwhile, the Wafd party’s official newspaper repeated the common claim that concerns for Darfur are simply a “a Zionist-American conspiracy.”

Thus far, Ayman Nour seems to be the only Egyptian political figure criticizing Bashir’s visit in Cairo.  Sadly, Nour is too occupied with other things to make a meaningful impact on this issue.

Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of “being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.”  For a court of dubious legitimacy, this was a step in the right direction: during the past six years, the Sudanese-backed Janjaweed militias have murdered hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs in Darfur, displacing millions of civilians in the process.

For Egypt, however, one principle apparently trumps the gravity of Bashir’s crimes: Arab nationalism.  On Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak welcomed Bashir in Cairo, boldly expressing his solidarity with the international outlaw.  In a press conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit stated that Mubarak’s meetings with Bashir touched on the “humanitarian difficulties” in Darfur – with the priority being preventing any and all international intervention in “Arab issues.”  In this vein, Egypt is leading the fight to preserve Sudan’s relations with the broader Arab world, insisting that Bashir be permitted to attend the upcoming Arab League summit in Doha.  As Abul-Gheit reiterated, “This is an Arab issue.”

It is small events such as this one that so perfectly illustrate the disturbing lack of moral clarity that characterizes too much of the Middle East, providing cover for some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.  Most outrageously, this lack of clarity is hardly unique to the region’s unpopular authoritarian regimes.  In this vein, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide hailed Mubarak’s meeting with Bashir, declaring that the ICC’s warrant for Bashir’s arrest is “intended to fragment Sudan” and therefore poses “a threat to Egyptian national security.”  Meanwhile, the Wafd party’s official newspaper repeated the common claim that concerns for Darfur are simply a “a Zionist-American conspiracy.”

Thus far, Ayman Nour seems to be the only Egyptian political figure criticizing Bashir’s visit in Cairo.  Sadly, Nour is too occupied with other things to make a meaningful impact on this issue.

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Re: A War by Another Name…

I suggested in an earlier posting that the Obama administration’s change of nomenclature for the Global War on Terrorism is less important than its willingness to continue most of the actions the Bush administration took to fight the terrorists. But there is no doubt that words do matter and the banishment of “GWOT” isn’t sitting well with many people who have risked their necks to fight on our behalf. The following is an email from an Army officer who has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. It was posted on the Warlord Loop, a discussion forum to which I belong. I received the contributor’s permission to share it more broadly:

GWOT and Long War are now officially dead. Overseas Contingency Operations is the new buzzword. This means you now earn an OCO tour award, right? Are we now OCO vets instead of Afghanistan or Iraq Vets?

Check this out:

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists the following definition:

con*tin*gen*cy
Date: 1561
1: the quality or state of being contingent.

2: a contingent event or condition: as a: an event (as an emergency) that may but is not certain to occur <trying to provide for every contingency> b: something liable to happen as an adjunct to or result of something else synonyms see juncture

So I had go look up contingent and found this:

con*tin*gent
Date: 14th century
1: likely but not certain to happen : possible.

2: not logically necessary ; especially : empirical.

3 a: happening by chance or unforeseen causes b: subject to chance or unseen effects : unpredictable c: intended for use in circumstances not completely foreseen.

4: dependent on or conditioned by something else <payment is contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions>

5: not necessitated : determined by free choice synonyms see accidental -
con*tin*gent*ly adverb

So as I understand it 4,926 service people have died as of 10am today and the new definition for this whole thing now falls in with; not logically necessary, happening by chance, not necessitated, and determined by free choice.  WTF over!?!

I guess if the Kool-Aid tastes bad, you just keep adding sugar.  Somebody sitting at a desk thinking this stuff up ought to be drug into the hall and beaten with a telephone book.  Maybe we could just call it a partial, semi-static, war of distraction.

Sincerely,

The mentally disturbed.

I suggested in an earlier posting that the Obama administration’s change of nomenclature for the Global War on Terrorism is less important than its willingness to continue most of the actions the Bush administration took to fight the terrorists. But there is no doubt that words do matter and the banishment of “GWOT” isn’t sitting well with many people who have risked their necks to fight on our behalf. The following is an email from an Army officer who has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. It was posted on the Warlord Loop, a discussion forum to which I belong. I received the contributor’s permission to share it more broadly:

GWOT and Long War are now officially dead. Overseas Contingency Operations is the new buzzword. This means you now earn an OCO tour award, right? Are we now OCO vets instead of Afghanistan or Iraq Vets?

Check this out:

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists the following definition:

con*tin*gen*cy
Date: 1561
1: the quality or state of being contingent.

2: a contingent event or condition: as a: an event (as an emergency) that may but is not certain to occur <trying to provide for every contingency> b: something liable to happen as an adjunct to or result of something else synonyms see juncture

So I had go look up contingent and found this:

con*tin*gent
Date: 14th century
1: likely but not certain to happen : possible.

2: not logically necessary ; especially : empirical.

3 a: happening by chance or unforeseen causes b: subject to chance or unseen effects : unpredictable c: intended for use in circumstances not completely foreseen.

4: dependent on or conditioned by something else <payment is contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions>

5: not necessitated : determined by free choice synonyms see accidental -
con*tin*gent*ly adverb

So as I understand it 4,926 service people have died as of 10am today and the new definition for this whole thing now falls in with; not logically necessary, happening by chance, not necessitated, and determined by free choice.  WTF over!?!

I guess if the Kool-Aid tastes bad, you just keep adding sugar.  Somebody sitting at a desk thinking this stuff up ought to be drug into the hall and beaten with a telephone book.  Maybe we could just call it a partial, semi-static, war of distraction.

Sincerely,

The mentally disturbed.

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Re: A New Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

I wanted to add a concurring opinion to what Max Boot and Robert Kagan have written about President Obama’s decision to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan, sending 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 combat troops he has already ordered into Afghanistan.

We should give credit where credit is due — Obama did an impressive and important thing today. Like Max, I’m somewhat skeptical about certain elements of his approach. But if a few months back you had told those of us who support the war efforts where Obama would be, and what he would have done, on both Afghanistan and Iraq at this stage in his presidency, we would have taken it in a heartbeat. Unlike his approach to economic matters, on national security Obama is acting in a fairly centrist and responsible manner. He is doing what he can to ensure that we don’t undo the progress we’ve made in Iraq, and that we improve on our efforts in Afghanistan. To have a commander-in-chief who is determined to win wars instead of allowing them to slip away is quite reassuring.

A lot still has to unfold in both countries, and tough decisions lay ahead for Obama here and elsewhere. But for now, he made the right call, and did so in an environment where more and more people are calling for us to dial down our efforts in Afghanistan. The “good war” has suddenly become, for many people, the un-winnable war. But like Iraq, wars that are encountering severe difficulties can be turned around. Progress can be made. Even under the best case scenario, improvements will be slow, given all the problems a country like Afghanistan poses — from its terrain and geography to its poverty and decimated civil society. We will surely encounter difficulties and setbacks along the way. But to quote General David Petraeus in a different context (Iraq in 2007), hard is not hopeless. The fact that the remarkable Petraeus is (among others) overseeing things is a source of comfort and confidence.

As a post-script, it’s worth noting something Abe picks up on. According to the New York Times, “In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.”

President Obama will probably never admit that he is learning from the recent success we have seen in Iraq. But he doesn’t need to admit to it; it’s sufficient for him to have learned. What the President did today on Afghanistan was right, and all credit is due him.

I wanted to add a concurring opinion to what Max Boot and Robert Kagan have written about President Obama’s decision to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan, sending 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 combat troops he has already ordered into Afghanistan.

We should give credit where credit is due — Obama did an impressive and important thing today. Like Max, I’m somewhat skeptical about certain elements of his approach. But if a few months back you had told those of us who support the war efforts where Obama would be, and what he would have done, on both Afghanistan and Iraq at this stage in his presidency, we would have taken it in a heartbeat. Unlike his approach to economic matters, on national security Obama is acting in a fairly centrist and responsible manner. He is doing what he can to ensure that we don’t undo the progress we’ve made in Iraq, and that we improve on our efforts in Afghanistan. To have a commander-in-chief who is determined to win wars instead of allowing them to slip away is quite reassuring.

A lot still has to unfold in both countries, and tough decisions lay ahead for Obama here and elsewhere. But for now, he made the right call, and did so in an environment where more and more people are calling for us to dial down our efforts in Afghanistan. The “good war” has suddenly become, for many people, the un-winnable war. But like Iraq, wars that are encountering severe difficulties can be turned around. Progress can be made. Even under the best case scenario, improvements will be slow, given all the problems a country like Afghanistan poses — from its terrain and geography to its poverty and decimated civil society. We will surely encounter difficulties and setbacks along the way. But to quote General David Petraeus in a different context (Iraq in 2007), hard is not hopeless. The fact that the remarkable Petraeus is (among others) overseeing things is a source of comfort and confidence.

As a post-script, it’s worth noting something Abe picks up on. According to the New York Times, “In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.”

President Obama will probably never admit that he is learning from the recent success we have seen in Iraq. But he doesn’t need to admit to it; it’s sufficient for him to have learned. What the President did today on Afghanistan was right, and all credit is due him.

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Blaming Bibi and Flattering Hamas

According to the New York Times‘s Editorial Board, Benjamin Netanyahu “is serious about being a partner for peace” only if he agrees to and implements their plan of action:

If Mr. Netanyahu is serious about being a partner for peace, he will not get in the way of the militant group Hamas entering a Palestinian unity government with the rival Fatah faction — as long as that government is committed to preventing terrorism and accepts past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. He will recognize that the United States has its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the Palestinians — and allow the Obama administration the freedom to pursue them. He also will not start a preventive war with Iran.

But their suggestions — surely satisfactory to the so-called “pro-Israel, pro-peace movement”— are asinine, and would be destructive to both Israelis and Palestinians if faithfully implemented.

They argue Hamas should be allowed to enter into a “unity government” with Fatah, as long as “that government is committed to preventing terrorism and accepts past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The problem is, of course, Hamas is a terrorist group. To call Hamas a “militant group,” as the Times does, is to ponder an alternative universe. So, in order for the suggestion to be implemented, Hamas would have to change its own mission and goal — the destruction of the Jewish State — to what the Times supposes its mission to be.

There’s another problem: Hamas and Fatah are engaged in a violent—but under-reported—civil war. And yet another: neither Hamas nor Fatah recognizes the state of Israel.

The Times should untangle its own analytic knots before prescribing a plan for Middle East peace.

UPDATE: Commenting on this same editorial, Carl in Jerusalem uncovers something even more disturbing:

But the Times’ most hideous demand is the penultimate one. The Times calls on Netanyahu to “recognize that the United States has its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the Palestinians — and allow the Obama administration the freedom to pursue them.” For anyone who missed it, the implication is that Israel, via the mysterious and powerful ‘Israel Lobby,’ controls the United States and can prevent the Obama administration from pursuing its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the ‘Palestinians.’ Does the Times really believe that? If so, American Jewry had better start packing its bags.

A tip of the hit to commenter FinanceDoc.

According to the New York Times‘s Editorial Board, Benjamin Netanyahu “is serious about being a partner for peace” only if he agrees to and implements their plan of action:

If Mr. Netanyahu is serious about being a partner for peace, he will not get in the way of the militant group Hamas entering a Palestinian unity government with the rival Fatah faction — as long as that government is committed to preventing terrorism and accepts past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. He will recognize that the United States has its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the Palestinians — and allow the Obama administration the freedom to pursue them. He also will not start a preventive war with Iran.

But their suggestions — surely satisfactory to the so-called “pro-Israel, pro-peace movement”— are asinine, and would be destructive to both Israelis and Palestinians if faithfully implemented.

They argue Hamas should be allowed to enter into a “unity government” with Fatah, as long as “that government is committed to preventing terrorism and accepts past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The problem is, of course, Hamas is a terrorist group. To call Hamas a “militant group,” as the Times does, is to ponder an alternative universe. So, in order for the suggestion to be implemented, Hamas would have to change its own mission and goal — the destruction of the Jewish State — to what the Times supposes its mission to be.

There’s another problem: Hamas and Fatah are engaged in a violent—but under-reported—civil war. And yet another: neither Hamas nor Fatah recognizes the state of Israel.

The Times should untangle its own analytic knots before prescribing a plan for Middle East peace.

UPDATE: Commenting on this same editorial, Carl in Jerusalem uncovers something even more disturbing:

But the Times’ most hideous demand is the penultimate one. The Times calls on Netanyahu to “recognize that the United States has its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the Palestinians — and allow the Obama administration the freedom to pursue them.” For anyone who missed it, the implication is that Israel, via the mysterious and powerful ‘Israel Lobby,’ controls the United States and can prevent the Obama administration from pursuing its own interests in diplomacy with Syria, Iran and the ‘Palestinians.’ Does the Times really believe that? If so, American Jewry had better start packing its bags.

A tip of the hit to commenter FinanceDoc.

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Internationalizing Blasphemy

The UN Human Rights Council today passed a resolution labeling “defamation of religion” a human rights violation. The resolution was sponsored by a group of Muslim nations hoping to preempt Western criticism of actual human rights violations inside their countries. This represents a successful attempt to internationalize the Qur’anic prohibition on criticism of Islam.

There’s no surprise here: The UN’s defining role is as enabler of repression and prejudice. Whether protecting Sudanese butchers on behalf of Chinese autocrats, or Iranian theocrats on behalf of Russian autocrats, the UN has inverted the definition of human rights with stunning finality. One can argue about the restorative ideological pendulum that swings inside the United States. But the UN only moves in one direction –anti-Western– by small steps and great leaps. It is the body’s fundamental incompetence and cowardice that prevent today’s development from being a larger catastrophe. For just as the UN fails to intercede in the event of a real human rights violation, it will, in all likelihood, do nothing about manufactured ones.

The UN Human Rights Council today passed a resolution labeling “defamation of religion” a human rights violation. The resolution was sponsored by a group of Muslim nations hoping to preempt Western criticism of actual human rights violations inside their countries. This represents a successful attempt to internationalize the Qur’anic prohibition on criticism of Islam.

There’s no surprise here: The UN’s defining role is as enabler of repression and prejudice. Whether protecting Sudanese butchers on behalf of Chinese autocrats, or Iranian theocrats on behalf of Russian autocrats, the UN has inverted the definition of human rights with stunning finality. One can argue about the restorative ideological pendulum that swings inside the United States. But the UN only moves in one direction –anti-Western– by small steps and great leaps. It is the body’s fundamental incompetence and cowardice that prevent today’s development from being a larger catastrophe. For just as the UN fails to intercede in the event of a real human rights violation, it will, in all likelihood, do nothing about manufactured ones.

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Not Like We Didn’t See this Coming

The Economist, which endorsed Barack Obama for president, is not pleased. Empathizing with Hillary Clinton’s warning that “the Oval Office is no place for on-the-job-training,” they conclude that his “performance has been weaker than those who endorsed his candidacy, including this newspaper, had hoped.” What went wrong?

There are two main reasons for this. The first is Mr Obama’s failure to grapple as fast and as single-mindedly with the economy as he should have done. His stimulus package, though huge, was subcontracted to Congress, which did a mediocre job: too much of the money will arrive too late to be of help in the current crisis. His budget, though in some ways more honest than his predecessor’s, is wildly optimistic. And he has taken too long to produce his plan for dealing with the trillions of dollars of toxic assets which fester on banks’ balance-sheets.

The failure to staff the Treasury is a shocking illustration of administrative drift. . . .

Second, Mr Obama has mishandled his relations with both sides in Congress. Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform.”

That’s a fairly savvy analysis and suggests the Economist had Obama pegged wrong. Yes, there is an element of managerial incompetence, but the real issue is that the Right was correct about Obama: he’s an ultra-liberal at least on domestic policy, not a pragmatic centrist either on policy or in style. His mode of governance — denigrate the opposition, engage in ad hominem attacks, refuse to compromise on substantive policy, disguise radical policy intentions with a haze of meaningless rhetoric — bespeaks someone supremely confident in his ideological views and undaunted by fears (which are slowly creeping up on his Red state colleagues) of having overshot his mandate.

It is therefore unlikely that Obama will change course unless forced by electoral realities or external events. If the next several bond auctions are a bust perhaps then the spend-a-thon will slow. If unemployment rises and his poll numbers fall, perhaps he’ll hold off on burdening employers for just a bit. If he loses 30 or 40 House seats in 2010 he won’t have the legislative latitude to throw up whatever legislation he wants (or to defer to Nancy Pelosi).

But barring these developments it appears we are in for more of the same for the remainder of his term. It’s not what the Economist expected, but it is pretty much what most conservatives did.

The Economist, which endorsed Barack Obama for president, is not pleased. Empathizing with Hillary Clinton’s warning that “the Oval Office is no place for on-the-job-training,” they conclude that his “performance has been weaker than those who endorsed his candidacy, including this newspaper, had hoped.” What went wrong?

There are two main reasons for this. The first is Mr Obama’s failure to grapple as fast and as single-mindedly with the economy as he should have done. His stimulus package, though huge, was subcontracted to Congress, which did a mediocre job: too much of the money will arrive too late to be of help in the current crisis. His budget, though in some ways more honest than his predecessor’s, is wildly optimistic. And he has taken too long to produce his plan for dealing with the trillions of dollars of toxic assets which fester on banks’ balance-sheets.

The failure to staff the Treasury is a shocking illustration of administrative drift. . . .

Second, Mr Obama has mishandled his relations with both sides in Congress. Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform.”

That’s a fairly savvy analysis and suggests the Economist had Obama pegged wrong. Yes, there is an element of managerial incompetence, but the real issue is that the Right was correct about Obama: he’s an ultra-liberal at least on domestic policy, not a pragmatic centrist either on policy or in style. His mode of governance — denigrate the opposition, engage in ad hominem attacks, refuse to compromise on substantive policy, disguise radical policy intentions with a haze of meaningless rhetoric — bespeaks someone supremely confident in his ideological views and undaunted by fears (which are slowly creeping up on his Red state colleagues) of having overshot his mandate.

It is therefore unlikely that Obama will change course unless forced by electoral realities or external events. If the next several bond auctions are a bust perhaps then the spend-a-thon will slow. If unemployment rises and his poll numbers fall, perhaps he’ll hold off on burdening employers for just a bit. If he loses 30 or 40 House seats in 2010 he won’t have the legislative latitude to throw up whatever legislation he wants (or to defer to Nancy Pelosi).

But barring these developments it appears we are in for more of the same for the remainder of his term. It’s not what the Economist expected, but it is pretty much what most conservatives did.

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That LaRouchite Tic

Earlier this week, news emerged of unidentified aircraft killing 39 arms smugglers in Sudan in January. Israel is suspected of having carried out the attack, as the smugglers were reportedly transferring Iranian-supplied weaponry to Hamas fighters in Gaza, via Egypt. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Miniser Ehud Olmert issued the sort of non-denial denial characteristic of Israeli leaders when some terrorist’s car blows up in the Middle East. “We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure — in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence,” he said.

Not everyone is pleased by Israel taking out a bunch of Islamist terrorists in the deserts of Sudan. Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation’s national security correspondent (and former Middle East editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper), has an interesting take:

But the raid, which reportedly killed between 30 and 40 people and destroyed 17 trucks, is a big deal, even though it occurred months ago, and it could severely destabilize Sudan, inflame relations between Arab countries, Iran, and the United States, and set the stage for a response by Iran. (emphasis added)

Yes, because an air-strike in Sudan might precipitate a genocide, or spark a civil war, or lead to the international criminal indictment of the country’s president, or… I don’t expect much from The Nation these days, but this is akin to arguing that intercourse with a pregnant woman puts her at risk of becoming pregnant.

Earlier this week, news emerged of unidentified aircraft killing 39 arms smugglers in Sudan in January. Israel is suspected of having carried out the attack, as the smugglers were reportedly transferring Iranian-supplied weaponry to Hamas fighters in Gaza, via Egypt. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Miniser Ehud Olmert issued the sort of non-denial denial characteristic of Israeli leaders when some terrorist’s car blows up in the Middle East. “We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure — in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence,” he said.

Not everyone is pleased by Israel taking out a bunch of Islamist terrorists in the deserts of Sudan. Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation’s national security correspondent (and former Middle East editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper), has an interesting take:

But the raid, which reportedly killed between 30 and 40 people and destroyed 17 trucks, is a big deal, even though it occurred months ago, and it could severely destabilize Sudan, inflame relations between Arab countries, Iran, and the United States, and set the stage for a response by Iran. (emphasis added)

Yes, because an air-strike in Sudan might precipitate a genocide, or spark a civil war, or lead to the international criminal indictment of the country’s president, or… I don’t expect much from The Nation these days, but this is akin to arguing that intercourse with a pregnant woman puts her at risk of becoming pregnant.

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Gasoline and Orange Juice

From Michael Totten’s latest indispensable first-hand account of Baghdad:

“Some people won’t give out information unless we check every house on the block,” Lieutenant Kane said. “And they often won’t talk to us unless we’re inside their houses.”

His men confiscated AK-47s from two houses in a row. “Sorry about this,” he said to the owners. “You aren’t allowed to have these by order of Prime Minister Maliki.” I didn’t see anyone get into trouble for having weapons. They just weren’t allowed to keep them.

One of the Iraqis who was forced to hand over his AK had a wild mane of hair and a shifty look in his eyes. His wife served us small glasses or orange juice as most of us sat in the living room. Two soldiers searched upstairs.

“Sir!” one of the soldiers called out. “This guy has a 50 gallon barrel of gasoline on the roof. And he does not have a generator.”

I wondered then if my orange juice was poisoned.

Read the whole thing.

From Michael Totten’s latest indispensable first-hand account of Baghdad:

“Some people won’t give out information unless we check every house on the block,” Lieutenant Kane said. “And they often won’t talk to us unless we’re inside their houses.”

His men confiscated AK-47s from two houses in a row. “Sorry about this,” he said to the owners. “You aren’t allowed to have these by order of Prime Minister Maliki.” I didn’t see anyone get into trouble for having weapons. They just weren’t allowed to keep them.

One of the Iraqis who was forced to hand over his AK had a wild mane of hair and a shifty look in his eyes. His wife served us small glasses or orange juice as most of us sat in the living room. Two soldiers searched upstairs.

“Sir!” one of the soldiers called out. “This guy has a 50 gallon barrel of gasoline on the roof. And he does not have a generator.”

I wondered then if my orange juice was poisoned.

Read the whole thing.

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Back to the Future?

Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s passing, and the interesting thing about Ike is that this stodgy symbol of mid-20th century Chamber-of-Commerce-style Republicanism may soon look like a man ahead of his time. Because if the Obama administration really does tilt to a more “evenhanded” Middle East policy, it would be taking not so much a revolutionary approach as a reactionary one, reaching back to the neutral course pursued by the U.S. for the first decade and a half of Israel’s existence, never more faithfully than during Eisenhower’s eight-year tenure.

The Eisenhower administration’s main foreign-policy objective was the containment of Soviet expansionism, which in the Middle East meant keeping the Russians away from the oil resources so critical to the West. For much of Ike’s first term the U.S. attempted, with mixed results, to create coalitions of like-minded nations in regions deemed geographically and politically strategic. The linchpin of any such regional alliance in the Middle East was Egypt, and the Americans went out of their way to solicit the affections of the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Eisenhower vowed that his approach to the Middle East would never be dictated by political pressure, which was a polite way of saying he wasn’t about to be influenced by the Jews — or, as he put it in such wonderfully euphemistic language in his diary, “our citizens of the Eastern seaboard emotionally involved in the Zionist cause.”

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Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s passing, and the interesting thing about Ike is that this stodgy symbol of mid-20th century Chamber-of-Commerce-style Republicanism may soon look like a man ahead of his time. Because if the Obama administration really does tilt to a more “evenhanded” Middle East policy, it would be taking not so much a revolutionary approach as a reactionary one, reaching back to the neutral course pursued by the U.S. for the first decade and a half of Israel’s existence, never more faithfully than during Eisenhower’s eight-year tenure.

The Eisenhower administration’s main foreign-policy objective was the containment of Soviet expansionism, which in the Middle East meant keeping the Russians away from the oil resources so critical to the West. For much of Ike’s first term the U.S. attempted, with mixed results, to create coalitions of like-minded nations in regions deemed geographically and politically strategic. The linchpin of any such regional alliance in the Middle East was Egypt, and the Americans went out of their way to solicit the affections of the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Eisenhower vowed that his approach to the Middle East would never be dictated by political pressure, which was a polite way of saying he wasn’t about to be influenced by the Jews — or, as he put it in such wonderfully euphemistic language in his diary, “our citizens of the Eastern seaboard emotionally involved in the Zionist cause.”

Eisenhower’s disregard for domestic politics was more than evident in October 1956, just a month before the presidential election. Responding to the retraction by the United States of an offer to refinance work on the Aswan Dam, Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal Company, which was under British and French ownership, and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The prime ministers of Britain and France hatched a plan to retake control of the canal by force and convinced Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to join in.

Israel captured the Sinai before the short-lived plot sputtered. Eisenhower, furious at what he saw as Israeli (and French and British) duplicity, demanded that Israel immediately withdraw. When Ben-Gurion balked, the administration let it be known it was ready to support a UN plan for sweeping sanctions that would cripple Israel’s economy in a matter of weeks. There was also talk of ending the tax-deductible status of charitable contributions to Israel by American Jews.

Ben-Gurion finally buckled, and on March 1, 1957, the official announcement was made that Israeli troops would leave the Sinai.

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles boasted that most Americans supported the Eisenhower policy and — presaging by several decades the Walts and Mearsheimers and their ilk — added: “I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to have a foreign policy not approved by the Jews… I am going to try to have one.”

Dulles made that statement, it bears noting, at a time when Israel was receiving a relatively small amount of financial assistance and no military aid at all from Washington; a time when Jewish organizations were keeping a considerably lower profile than what would be the case years later; a time when Israel existed behind the precarious 1949 armistice lines while Jordan and Egypt controlled, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza.

In 1965 Eisenhower told Jewish organizational leader and Republican fundraiser Max Fisher that he had come to “regret what I did. I should never have pressured Israel to vacate the Sinai.” Two years later, Israel retook the Sinai after Nasser, declaring his “basic objective” to be “the destruction of Israel,” had massed more than 100,000 troops there and once again closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping — and after the U.S. government proved itself unable to enforce Eisenhower’s guarantee, made ten years earlier, that the Straits would remain open.

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Math Is Math

The pro-card check forces are humming along as if the fight were still raging. They seem to be under the illusion that their legislative prospects survived the announcement by Arlen Specter that he wouldn’t vote for cloture. Greg Sargent finds “another big setback” in the news that not even Diane Feinstein is supporting it this time around. With perfect cluelessness (or perfectly feigned cluelessness) he declares:

The last thing the pro-EFCA camp needs as it struggles to put together the support of 60 Senators to overcome the GOP filibuster — particularly in the wake of Arlen Specter’s defection — is yet another wavering Dem Senator.

Excuse me, but once Specter said “no” the war was over. Yes, it could become really humiliating as stalwart Democrats tell Big Labor to get lost. But once their numbers dropped below 60, they . . . well . . . they dropped below 60.

I realize the dance here is to save face for Big Labor and make card check seem viable so as to back into a compromise of some type. But they insult the intelligence of voters and of the entire political class when they spin like this. If they are going to achieve some sort of consolation prize for Big Labor — e.g. shorter time limits on elections, forcing employers to turn over their facilities and internal email systems to labor organizers — they are going to have to make the case on the merits of these measures. They must convince public opinion that such changes are needed, “fair,” and smart, at a time when we are facing rising unemployment.

Right now, the available evidence suggests what’s really needed is to step up the policing of labor corruption. A discussion on the merits of alternative labor-law reforms is the last thing Big Labor wants.

The pro-card check forces are humming along as if the fight were still raging. They seem to be under the illusion that their legislative prospects survived the announcement by Arlen Specter that he wouldn’t vote for cloture. Greg Sargent finds “another big setback” in the news that not even Diane Feinstein is supporting it this time around. With perfect cluelessness (or perfectly feigned cluelessness) he declares:

The last thing the pro-EFCA camp needs as it struggles to put together the support of 60 Senators to overcome the GOP filibuster — particularly in the wake of Arlen Specter’s defection — is yet another wavering Dem Senator.

Excuse me, but once Specter said “no” the war was over. Yes, it could become really humiliating as stalwart Democrats tell Big Labor to get lost. But once their numbers dropped below 60, they . . . well . . . they dropped below 60.

I realize the dance here is to save face for Big Labor and make card check seem viable so as to back into a compromise of some type. But they insult the intelligence of voters and of the entire political class when they spin like this. If they are going to achieve some sort of consolation prize for Big Labor — e.g. shorter time limits on elections, forcing employers to turn over their facilities and internal email systems to labor organizers — they are going to have to make the case on the merits of these measures. They must convince public opinion that such changes are needed, “fair,” and smart, at a time when we are facing rising unemployment.

Right now, the available evidence suggests what’s really needed is to step up the policing of labor corruption. A discussion on the merits of alternative labor-law reforms is the last thing Big Labor wants.

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A New Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

The new Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House today was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided on.

The major difference between what McCain probably would have said and what Obama did say is that this president never used the word “surge” and — more importantly — never cited the success of the surge in Iraq as evidence that we can succeed in Afghanistan where the situation is far less perilous. He only mentioned Iraq as an unnecessary drain on resources, saying that “for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq.”

That’s only partially true. The reality is that the U.S. has the theoretical capacity to fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan but President Bush made a huge mistake by not enlarging our armed forces after 9/11, thereby forcing us to shortchange the war in Afghanistan to win the one in Iraq. It would have been better if we did not have to make such compromises, but given the unnecessary resource constraints which Bush and Rumsfeld imposed on the armed forces — and which Obama is not lifting — there was really no other choice.

It would be nice if Obama had speaken a bit more positively about the outcome in Iraq now that that it has become, like Afghanistan, “his” war. But that’s a minor quibble about rhetoric. The substance of policy is more important, and on that ground Obama is solid.

The big news — though it had been apparent for some time — is that Obama is eschewing those who argue for a major downsizing of our efforts to focus on a narrow counter-terrorism strategy of simply picking off individual bad guys. Instead, Obama is embracing a more wide-ranging counterinsurgency strategy focused on enhancing “the military, governance, and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

The new Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House today was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided on.

The major difference between what McCain probably would have said and what Obama did say is that this president never used the word “surge” and — more importantly — never cited the success of the surge in Iraq as evidence that we can succeed in Afghanistan where the situation is far less perilous. He only mentioned Iraq as an unnecessary drain on resources, saying that “for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq.”

That’s only partially true. The reality is that the U.S. has the theoretical capacity to fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan but President Bush made a huge mistake by not enlarging our armed forces after 9/11, thereby forcing us to shortchange the war in Afghanistan to win the one in Iraq. It would have been better if we did not have to make such compromises, but given the unnecessary resource constraints which Bush and Rumsfeld imposed on the armed forces — and which Obama is not lifting — there was really no other choice.

It would be nice if Obama had speaken a bit more positively about the outcome in Iraq now that that it has become, like Afghanistan, “his” war. But that’s a minor quibble about rhetoric. The substance of policy is more important, and on that ground Obama is solid.

The big news — though it had been apparent for some time — is that Obama is eschewing those who argue for a major downsizing of our efforts to focus on a narrow counter-terrorism strategy of simply picking off individual bad guys. Instead, Obama is embracing a more wide-ranging counterinsurgency strategy focused on enhancing “the military, governance, and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Re: Not Buying It

Rasmussen confirms that the public isn’t buying what the president is selling:

Voters are evenly divided over whether President Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget will help or hurt the economy. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 42% believe it will help the economy while 43% say it will hurt.  . . Forty-percent (40%) of voters have a favorable opinion of the president’s budget while 46% have a unfavorable view.

But that isn’t all. It seems the public doesn’t like the Democrats’ tax policy either:

Democrats in the Senate are talking of cutting back President Obama’s pledge of tax cuts for most Americans in the face of record deficits. But 63% of U.S. voters now say tax cuts would help the economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. That’s up from 56% in February and marks the highest level found in years of tracking this question.

The president taunts the GOP as the party of no ideas, but the reality is that Obama’s ideas — a huge spending bonanza and higher taxes — are a lot less popular than those of his opposition. As long as there is a large Democratic majority in Congress, he will win the budget battle, but so far he’s not winning the argument on policy with the public. That suggests some of those Democrats will be vulnerable when they next face the voters.

Rasmussen confirms that the public isn’t buying what the president is selling:

Voters are evenly divided over whether President Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget will help or hurt the economy. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 42% believe it will help the economy while 43% say it will hurt.  . . Forty-percent (40%) of voters have a favorable opinion of the president’s budget while 46% have a unfavorable view.

But that isn’t all. It seems the public doesn’t like the Democrats’ tax policy either:

Democrats in the Senate are talking of cutting back President Obama’s pledge of tax cuts for most Americans in the face of record deficits. But 63% of U.S. voters now say tax cuts would help the economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. That’s up from 56% in February and marks the highest level found in years of tracking this question.

The president taunts the GOP as the party of no ideas, but the reality is that Obama’s ideas — a huge spending bonanza and higher taxes — are a lot less popular than those of his opposition. As long as there is a large Democratic majority in Congress, he will win the budget battle, but so far he’s not winning the argument on policy with the public. That suggests some of those Democrats will be vulnerable when they next face the voters.

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The Lessons of Iraq Applied

President Obama is to be commended for moving ahead to try and turn the fighting around in Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that in addition to a troop escalation, benchmarks will be set in order to gauge progress in the fight. As the Times notes, “In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.”

The fact that Obama is instituting Iraq-honed practices in Afghanistan refutes the assertion that the Iraq War was a fatal distraction from the war in Afghanistan. Vindicated, on the other hand, is Christopher Hitchens, who has repeatedly made the case that the Iraq War would provide invaluable instruction in fighting jihadists going forward.

Let’s hope the president readily applies to Afghanistan the many other lessons of Iraq: the one about defying “experts” and changing strategy when things go wrong; the one about maintaining a close working relationship with the leaders of the other country; the one about hubris; and the one about staying the course in the face of popular hysteria.

President Obama is to be commended for moving ahead to try and turn the fighting around in Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that in addition to a troop escalation, benchmarks will be set in order to gauge progress in the fight. As the Times notes, “In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.”

The fact that Obama is instituting Iraq-honed practices in Afghanistan refutes the assertion that the Iraq War was a fatal distraction from the war in Afghanistan. Vindicated, on the other hand, is Christopher Hitchens, who has repeatedly made the case that the Iraq War would provide invaluable instruction in fighting jihadists going forward.

Let’s hope the president readily applies to Afghanistan the many other lessons of Iraq: the one about defying “experts” and changing strategy when things go wrong; the one about maintaining a close working relationship with the leaders of the other country; the one about hubris; and the one about staying the course in the face of popular hysteria.

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Re: The Flim-Flam

Michael Kinsley joins Jeffrey Sachs and others in expressing misgivings about Tim Geithner’s public-private toxic asset clean-up deal. Kinsley has figured out the “game” — avoid Congress, don’t reveal how much this costs, conceal the amount the taxpayers will subsidize, and hope for the best. He concludes:

The plan is very, very clever. Maybe too clever. It depends on convincing smart financiers that there is a killing to be made investing, with government help, in toxic assets. Inevitably, when the dust settles, it will turn out that some private firms and individuals actually have made a killing, which will cause another eruption of populist resentment like the one over the AIG bonuses. Fear of such an eruption, and any retrospective mischief coming out of Congress as a result, is going to make private money harder to entice, which means the subsidies will have to be larger, which means the killings will even be greater.

The irony is, of course, as Kinsley noted, that excess complexity and a lack of transparency are what got us into this trouble. That’s the sort of observation candidate Obama made before assuming office. The Geithner Rube Goldberg contraption also undermines the notion that simply through “regulation” we could achieve a system without excess and with plenty of taxpayer protection. Not quite so fast.

Bank stocks and profits are up anyway; so why the need for drastic measures? It’s amazing how banks make money when they borrow at zero interest rates; today they are awash in cash. But remember, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste and the Obama administration isn’t about to let this one work itself out on its own.

Michael Kinsley joins Jeffrey Sachs and others in expressing misgivings about Tim Geithner’s public-private toxic asset clean-up deal. Kinsley has figured out the “game” — avoid Congress, don’t reveal how much this costs, conceal the amount the taxpayers will subsidize, and hope for the best. He concludes:

The plan is very, very clever. Maybe too clever. It depends on convincing smart financiers that there is a killing to be made investing, with government help, in toxic assets. Inevitably, when the dust settles, it will turn out that some private firms and individuals actually have made a killing, which will cause another eruption of populist resentment like the one over the AIG bonuses. Fear of such an eruption, and any retrospective mischief coming out of Congress as a result, is going to make private money harder to entice, which means the subsidies will have to be larger, which means the killings will even be greater.

The irony is, of course, as Kinsley noted, that excess complexity and a lack of transparency are what got us into this trouble. That’s the sort of observation candidate Obama made before assuming office. The Geithner Rube Goldberg contraption also undermines the notion that simply through “regulation” we could achieve a system without excess and with plenty of taxpayer protection. Not quite so fast.

Bank stocks and profits are up anyway; so why the need for drastic measures? It’s amazing how banks make money when they borrow at zero interest rates; today they are awash in cash. But remember, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste and the Obama administration isn’t about to let this one work itself out on its own.

Read Less




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