Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 23, 2010

In Praise of Obama — and Petraeus

The news that General David Petraeus will replace Stanley McChrystal as the commanding general in Afghanistan is a brilliant stroke by President Obama. He gets all of the benefit of relieving General McChrystal — a patriot and a hero who had a terrible lapse in judgment — and none of the drawbacks. Obama is replacing an outstanding general with one of the best in our history.

General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.

Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.

What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.

As for the war Petraeus now oversees: it is not going easily, and in some respects, it is not going well. But it is not going as badly as some commentators assert. Military commanders believe that at long last they have the inputs right, after months of enormous work and effort. We are only now beginning to execute the COIN strategy. Predictably, just as it happened in Iraq, the enemy is fighting back. We have always known Kandahar was going to take months, and we are actually slightly ahead of schedule in the deployment of additional troops and their equipment. As Max Boot points out, there are a number of things working in our favor in Afghanistan. Petraeus said in a recent Congressional testimony that despite the tough losses and despite the setbacks, the trajectory has generally been upward. If defining winning as making progress, Petraeus said, “then I think we are winning in Afghanistan. It is a roller coaster ride, however.” It is surely that, and it requires people to fasten their seatbelts and not panic when success isn’t instant. As Petraeus’s former sidekick in Iraq, Ambassador Crocker, used to say, “It’s all hard, and it’s hard all the time.”

What Petraeus also needs, apart from time, is the full support of the president and his team. Petraeus had that in Iraq with President Bush. There were no efforts by then-Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to go on Sunday-morning talk shows to interpret troop-withdrawal timelines one way while Petraeus interpreted them another. The Vice President was not actively attempting to undermine what Petraeus was doing in Iraq. Late in the day, the Bush administration, after costly mistakes, decided on the surge strategy and united behind it. Despite enormous political pressure to pull back, Bush gave Petraeus the time and the tools he needed. It was a remarkable demonstration of presidential courage and wisdom.

Right now President Obama is overseeing a terribly dysfunctional process. Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal were at odds. James Jones often comes across as inept. There still seems to be no consensus on whether the self-imposed deadline for troop withdrawals is conditions-based or not. Indeed, political advisers have been helping to determine the strategy in Afghanistan. In a somewhat stunning story in the Washington Post, we read this:

In exchange for approving McChrystal’s request for more troops and treasure, Obama imposed, and the military accepted, two deadlines sought by his political aides. In December, one year after the strategy was announced, the situation would be reviewed and necessary adjustments made. In July 2011, the troops would begin to come home. Each side thought it had gotten the better part of the deal. Many senior military officials considered the withdrawal deadline a bad idea and argued among themselves whether counterinsurgency, inherently a time-consuming roller coaster of a process, could be conducted on a clock.

This infighting needs to come to an end. General Petraeus needs a lot of things in order to succeed — but what he needs most of all is the full support and commitment of the commander in chief. Petraeus, despite his remarkable record of achievement, cannot succeed without it.

On the day Bush met with Petraeus privately in the Oval Office, after the Senate confirmed his selection for a mission that seemed unachievable, Bush said we were doubling down in Iraq. Petraeus said, “Mr. President, this isn’t double-down. … This is all-in.”

Barack Obama better be all in. If he is, he has the right man at the helm. If given the tools, David Petraeus — one more time — can finish the job.

The news that General David Petraeus will replace Stanley McChrystal as the commanding general in Afghanistan is a brilliant stroke by President Obama. He gets all of the benefit of relieving General McChrystal — a patriot and a hero who had a terrible lapse in judgment — and none of the drawbacks. Obama is replacing an outstanding general with one of the best in our history.

General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.

Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.

What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.

As for the war Petraeus now oversees: it is not going easily, and in some respects, it is not going well. But it is not going as badly as some commentators assert. Military commanders believe that at long last they have the inputs right, after months of enormous work and effort. We are only now beginning to execute the COIN strategy. Predictably, just as it happened in Iraq, the enemy is fighting back. We have always known Kandahar was going to take months, and we are actually slightly ahead of schedule in the deployment of additional troops and their equipment. As Max Boot points out, there are a number of things working in our favor in Afghanistan. Petraeus said in a recent Congressional testimony that despite the tough losses and despite the setbacks, the trajectory has generally been upward. If defining winning as making progress, Petraeus said, “then I think we are winning in Afghanistan. It is a roller coaster ride, however.” It is surely that, and it requires people to fasten their seatbelts and not panic when success isn’t instant. As Petraeus’s former sidekick in Iraq, Ambassador Crocker, used to say, “It’s all hard, and it’s hard all the time.”

What Petraeus also needs, apart from time, is the full support of the president and his team. Petraeus had that in Iraq with President Bush. There were no efforts by then-Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to go on Sunday-morning talk shows to interpret troop-withdrawal timelines one way while Petraeus interpreted them another. The Vice President was not actively attempting to undermine what Petraeus was doing in Iraq. Late in the day, the Bush administration, after costly mistakes, decided on the surge strategy and united behind it. Despite enormous political pressure to pull back, Bush gave Petraeus the time and the tools he needed. It was a remarkable demonstration of presidential courage and wisdom.

Right now President Obama is overseeing a terribly dysfunctional process. Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal were at odds. James Jones often comes across as inept. There still seems to be no consensus on whether the self-imposed deadline for troop withdrawals is conditions-based or not. Indeed, political advisers have been helping to determine the strategy in Afghanistan. In a somewhat stunning story in the Washington Post, we read this:

In exchange for approving McChrystal’s request for more troops and treasure, Obama imposed, and the military accepted, two deadlines sought by his political aides. In December, one year after the strategy was announced, the situation would be reviewed and necessary adjustments made. In July 2011, the troops would begin to come home. Each side thought it had gotten the better part of the deal. Many senior military officials considered the withdrawal deadline a bad idea and argued among themselves whether counterinsurgency, inherently a time-consuming roller coaster of a process, could be conducted on a clock.

This infighting needs to come to an end. General Petraeus needs a lot of things in order to succeed — but what he needs most of all is the full support and commitment of the commander in chief. Petraeus, despite his remarkable record of achievement, cannot succeed without it.

On the day Bush met with Petraeus privately in the Oval Office, after the Senate confirmed his selection for a mission that seemed unachievable, Bush said we were doubling down in Iraq. Petraeus said, “Mr. President, this isn’t double-down. … This is all-in.”

Barack Obama better be all in. If he is, he has the right man at the helm. If given the tools, David Petraeus — one more time — can finish the job.

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Who Is to Replace Petraeus?

The brilliant and unorthodox decision to appoint General Petraeus to direct operations in Afghanistan leaves a hole at the top of Central Command. There are two obvious choices: Ray Odierno or Jim Mattis. Either one would be superb. Odierno is better known for his role in Iraq, where he was co-architect with Petraeus of the “surge.” More recently, he has been the top man in Iraq overseeing the perilous draw down of American forces. He is scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of the summer and take over Joint Forces Command. In that capacity he would succeed Mattis, a combat Marine who has led troops successfully in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who has later co-written the Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual with Petraeus. Mattis, like Odierno, knows counterinsurgency and knows the Middle East — and he will be headed for retirement to an apple orchard in Walla Walla, Washington, unless he gets another military job. Filling Petraeus’s boots at Centcom is a tall order, but either Mattis or Odierno would be a great bet for the job.

The brilliant and unorthodox decision to appoint General Petraeus to direct operations in Afghanistan leaves a hole at the top of Central Command. There are two obvious choices: Ray Odierno or Jim Mattis. Either one would be superb. Odierno is better known for his role in Iraq, where he was co-architect with Petraeus of the “surge.” More recently, he has been the top man in Iraq overseeing the perilous draw down of American forces. He is scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of the summer and take over Joint Forces Command. In that capacity he would succeed Mattis, a combat Marine who has led troops successfully in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who has later co-written the Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual with Petraeus. Mattis, like Odierno, knows counterinsurgency and knows the Middle East — and he will be headed for retirement to an apple orchard in Walla Walla, Washington, unless he gets another military job. Filling Petraeus’s boots at Centcom is a tall order, but either Mattis or Odierno would be a great bet for the job.

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RE: A Good Move. Now…

Jennifer, while agreeing with much of what you have to say about the McChrystal-Petraeus transition, I have to disagree with your reader who says, “Generals should only talk to their troops.” Perhaps that was once true; it is certainly no longer true. A general who neglects his public-outreach function is guilty of dereliction of duty. Indeed, that was part of the reason why General George Casey was unsuccessful in Iraq; he was hunkered down in Baghdad and he was not communicating effectively with people either in Iraq or in the United States to explain and defend his strategy.

For that matter, by neglecting the news media, a senior general cannot effectively communicate with his own troops. Like it or not, one of the most effective ways to reach an organization of hundreds of thousands of individuals is through the mass media.

Luckily, General Petraeus is keenly aware of the need to engage in strategic communication, which involves opening up the battlefield to the news media and academic experts and opening up the commander to interviews. This has made him somewhat controversial within the army, which has a traditional disdain for the news media — an attitude that will only be reinforced by the fallout over the Rolling Stone interview. It is significant, however, that Petraeus has never gotten into that kind of trouble, notwithstanding all the interviews he has given over the years. And he hasn’t managed to stay out of trouble by uttering platitudes or ridiculously rosy predictions. He has a rare gift for conveying sincerity without stepping over the line or making inappropriate and indiscreet comments of the kind McChrystal and his staff made. That is a skill that all successful generals must cultivate in the Information Age. “No comment” is simply no longer an option.

Jennifer, while agreeing with much of what you have to say about the McChrystal-Petraeus transition, I have to disagree with your reader who says, “Generals should only talk to their troops.” Perhaps that was once true; it is certainly no longer true. A general who neglects his public-outreach function is guilty of dereliction of duty. Indeed, that was part of the reason why General George Casey was unsuccessful in Iraq; he was hunkered down in Baghdad and he was not communicating effectively with people either in Iraq or in the United States to explain and defend his strategy.

For that matter, by neglecting the news media, a senior general cannot effectively communicate with his own troops. Like it or not, one of the most effective ways to reach an organization of hundreds of thousands of individuals is through the mass media.

Luckily, General Petraeus is keenly aware of the need to engage in strategic communication, which involves opening up the battlefield to the news media and academic experts and opening up the commander to interviews. This has made him somewhat controversial within the army, which has a traditional disdain for the news media — an attitude that will only be reinforced by the fallout over the Rolling Stone interview. It is significant, however, that Petraeus has never gotten into that kind of trouble, notwithstanding all the interviews he has given over the years. And he hasn’t managed to stay out of trouble by uttering platitudes or ridiculously rosy predictions. He has a rare gift for conveying sincerity without stepping over the line or making inappropriate and indiscreet comments of the kind McChrystal and his staff made. That is a skill that all successful generals must cultivate in the Information Age. “No comment” is simply no longer an option.

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A Good Move. Now…

Obama’s decision to accept Gen. Stanley McChyrstal’s resignation was not unexpected. By bringing back Gen. David Petraeus, he assuages the concerns from supporters of the Afghanistan mission as to whether we are committed to victory. There are two more essential changes required.

First, McChrystal threw the curtain open on the dysfunctional and counterproductive civilian team in Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry should be canned. If Petraeus had those two instead of Ambassador Crocker, it’s not clear we would have achieved as much as we have in Iraq. Congress needs to step up to the plate, assert itself, and begin hearings if the president is intent on leaving the malefactors in place.

Second, a wise reader likes to tell me, “Generals should only talk to their troops.” What a fine idea. No magazine spreads. No waxing philosophical on areas beyond their expertise. Yes, in this day and age they must testify before Congress and conduct some overseas diplomacy. But less is more, and a great deal that is said in public should be kept behind closed doors. Generals didn’t get where they are by being self-effacing or by taking direction from subordinates — so they imagine they can opine on any and all topics and win over the public, ingratiate themselves with their civilian bosses, and make an impression upon allies and foes. The chances of something going wrong are great, and the apology tour rarely undoes the damage.

So Gen. Petraeus should go win the war, Holbrooke and Eikenberry should go home, and Obama should fix the damage his own timeline has done by lifting it and making it clear that we are in this to win it. And please, generals, share your wisdom primarily with the troops or behind closed doors.

Obama’s decision to accept Gen. Stanley McChyrstal’s resignation was not unexpected. By bringing back Gen. David Petraeus, he assuages the concerns from supporters of the Afghanistan mission as to whether we are committed to victory. There are two more essential changes required.

First, McChrystal threw the curtain open on the dysfunctional and counterproductive civilian team in Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry should be canned. If Petraeus had those two instead of Ambassador Crocker, it’s not clear we would have achieved as much as we have in Iraq. Congress needs to step up to the plate, assert itself, and begin hearings if the president is intent on leaving the malefactors in place.

Second, a wise reader likes to tell me, “Generals should only talk to their troops.” What a fine idea. No magazine spreads. No waxing philosophical on areas beyond their expertise. Yes, in this day and age they must testify before Congress and conduct some overseas diplomacy. But less is more, and a great deal that is said in public should be kept behind closed doors. Generals didn’t get where they are by being self-effacing or by taking direction from subordinates — so they imagine they can opine on any and all topics and win over the public, ingratiate themselves with their civilian bosses, and make an impression upon allies and foes. The chances of something going wrong are great, and the apology tour rarely undoes the damage.

So Gen. Petraeus should go win the war, Holbrooke and Eikenberry should go home, and Obama should fix the damage his own timeline has done by lifting it and making it clear that we are in this to win it. And please, generals, share your wisdom primarily with the troops or behind closed doors.

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McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

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The First Casualty in Obama’s Israel Policy

Ambassador Michael Oren gave a curious interview to the Jerusalem Post this week. In some respects, we got the unvarnished and deliciously candid analysis we have come to expect from him:

Asked about J Street’s influence on the White House or its sway in Congress, the ambassador said, “I don’t think that they have proven decisive on any major issue we’ve encountered.”

Oren said J Street was fundamentally different than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“AIPAC’s mandate is to support the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel, be it left, right or center,” he said. “J Street makes its own policy and does not necessarily, to say the least, accept the decisions of the policies of the government of Israel.”

“Listen, I represent the democratically elected government, and that government reflects the will of the people of Israel, and what they perceive as the interests of Israel,” he said, adding that J Street was an organization “taking issue with that, and that in itself is a source of disagreement.”

Ouch.

But he is also a diplomat, one trying to hold the tenuous U.S.-Israel relationship together. So he feels compelled to say things such as “the tone changed within a week” after Obama’s display of rudeness toward Bibi Netanyahu. Listen, at that time James Jones was holding meetings on an imposed peace plan and leaking it to the media. Obama more recently has not exactly been the stalwart partner for Israel during the flotilla incident. And Oren unfortunately goes well beyond the needs of diplomatic niceties when he declares:

“Bi-partisan support for Israel is a national strategic interest for us, and I’m sometimes in the difficult position of having to tell some of Israel’s most outspoken supporters to be aware of this,” Oren said.

“I’m concerned about the drift toward partisanship, and while the American people remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, pro-Israel, when you break it down by party you get a more nuanced picture, and for me a more troubling picture,” he said.

Oren advised Israel supporters against “ad hominem attacks on the president as if he is anti- Israel. Barack Obama is not anti-Israel, he has different policies than some of his predecessors, but he is not anti-Israel. You can debate the relative value of his policies toward us, but let’s not couch it in saying someone is pro-Israel or anti- Israel.”

Wait. Shouldn’t he be concerned not about the vocal supporters of Israel, but about the significant drop-off in Democratic support for Israel? Israel has become a partisan issue because so many on the Democratic side — the president included — have junked the bipartisan tradition of support for the Jewish state. It doesn’t seem productive to chide those who are standing resolutely with the Jewish state (and pressuring those who aren’t) to take a swing at Israel’s friends for “partisanship.”

As for Obama’s anti-Israel sentiments, I sincerely doubt whether Oren and his government think Obama is pro-Israel. Oren and others in the Bibi government are all too well aware that Obama’s policies toward Israel are “different.” For example, we haven’t had a president who condemned Israel or questioned Israel’s ability to investigate its own national-security actions. This is the burden of diplomats — to pack away one’s candor and sincerity for post-governmental revelations. One cannot but despair that Obama forces Israel’s supporters and its representatives to be so disingenuous, to praise the un-praiseworthy, and to stifle their candid assessments so as to not arouse the angry president whom they fear will lash out again.

Truth is the first casualty in war, they say. Well, honesty is the first casualty in surviving Obama’s Israel policy.

Ambassador Michael Oren gave a curious interview to the Jerusalem Post this week. In some respects, we got the unvarnished and deliciously candid analysis we have come to expect from him:

Asked about J Street’s influence on the White House or its sway in Congress, the ambassador said, “I don’t think that they have proven decisive on any major issue we’ve encountered.”

Oren said J Street was fundamentally different than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“AIPAC’s mandate is to support the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel, be it left, right or center,” he said. “J Street makes its own policy and does not necessarily, to say the least, accept the decisions of the policies of the government of Israel.”

“Listen, I represent the democratically elected government, and that government reflects the will of the people of Israel, and what they perceive as the interests of Israel,” he said, adding that J Street was an organization “taking issue with that, and that in itself is a source of disagreement.”

Ouch.

But he is also a diplomat, one trying to hold the tenuous U.S.-Israel relationship together. So he feels compelled to say things such as “the tone changed within a week” after Obama’s display of rudeness toward Bibi Netanyahu. Listen, at that time James Jones was holding meetings on an imposed peace plan and leaking it to the media. Obama more recently has not exactly been the stalwart partner for Israel during the flotilla incident. And Oren unfortunately goes well beyond the needs of diplomatic niceties when he declares:

“Bi-partisan support for Israel is a national strategic interest for us, and I’m sometimes in the difficult position of having to tell some of Israel’s most outspoken supporters to be aware of this,” Oren said.

“I’m concerned about the drift toward partisanship, and while the American people remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, pro-Israel, when you break it down by party you get a more nuanced picture, and for me a more troubling picture,” he said.

Oren advised Israel supporters against “ad hominem attacks on the president as if he is anti- Israel. Barack Obama is not anti-Israel, he has different policies than some of his predecessors, but he is not anti-Israel. You can debate the relative value of his policies toward us, but let’s not couch it in saying someone is pro-Israel or anti- Israel.”

Wait. Shouldn’t he be concerned not about the vocal supporters of Israel, but about the significant drop-off in Democratic support for Israel? Israel has become a partisan issue because so many on the Democratic side — the president included — have junked the bipartisan tradition of support for the Jewish state. It doesn’t seem productive to chide those who are standing resolutely with the Jewish state (and pressuring those who aren’t) to take a swing at Israel’s friends for “partisanship.”

As for Obama’s anti-Israel sentiments, I sincerely doubt whether Oren and his government think Obama is pro-Israel. Oren and others in the Bibi government are all too well aware that Obama’s policies toward Israel are “different.” For example, we haven’t had a president who condemned Israel or questioned Israel’s ability to investigate its own national-security actions. This is the burden of diplomats — to pack away one’s candor and sincerity for post-governmental revelations. One cannot but despair that Obama forces Israel’s supporters and its representatives to be so disingenuous, to praise the un-praiseworthy, and to stifle their candid assessments so as to not arouse the angry president whom they fear will lash out again.

Truth is the first casualty in war, they say. Well, honesty is the first casualty in surviving Obama’s Israel policy.

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It’s Not Your Father’s Charleston Anymore

Charleston, South Carolina, was the cradle of the Confederacy. And come next January, barring unforeseen developments, it and the rest of the 1st District will have a black Congressman for the first time since Reconstruction. Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond for the Republican nomination last night, and the district has been a safe Republican seat since 1981. It wasn’t even close, with Scott trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son by 61 to 39 percent.

That a black man could beat the son of the legendary segregationist so badly in a district where the Civil War began — the district where Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 — is a measure of just how much the South has changed in the last 50 years, and the country’s politics and race relations along with it.

But assuming Scott is elected, he needn’t apply for membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, of course. It’s a measure of how little the left in American politics has changed in the last 50 years that the Black Caucus — devoted to race-based politics and victimology — admits only liberal Democratic members.

Charleston, South Carolina, was the cradle of the Confederacy. And come next January, barring unforeseen developments, it and the rest of the 1st District will have a black Congressman for the first time since Reconstruction. Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond for the Republican nomination last night, and the district has been a safe Republican seat since 1981. It wasn’t even close, with Scott trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son by 61 to 39 percent.

That a black man could beat the son of the legendary segregationist so badly in a district where the Civil War began — the district where Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 — is a measure of just how much the South has changed in the last 50 years, and the country’s politics and race relations along with it.

But assuming Scott is elected, he needn’t apply for membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, of course. It’s a measure of how little the left in American politics has changed in the last 50 years that the Black Caucus — devoted to race-based politics and victimology — admits only liberal Democratic members.

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This Will Be an Interesting Hearing

J. Christian Adams, the Justice Department trial lawyer on the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case who recently resigned in disgust, is going to testify on July 6 before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. I imagine he will be asked about many of the details in the emerging tale of the Obama team’s decision to relinquish a legal victory in a case of documented voter intimidation. Might it have had something to do with the race of the defendants? We’ll find out more on the 6th.

J. Christian Adams, the Justice Department trial lawyer on the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case who recently resigned in disgust, is going to testify on July 6 before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. I imagine he will be asked about many of the details in the emerging tale of the Obama team’s decision to relinquish a legal victory in a case of documented voter intimidation. Might it have had something to do with the race of the defendants? We’ll find out more on the 6th.

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Time to Pipe Up

“Business Leaders Say Obama’s Policies Stifle Growth” is the headline. One is tempted to holler, “And what took them so long!?” Indeed, for some time many members of the business community have been hiding their collective heads in the sand and trying to ingratiate themselves with the business-hostile (indeed, free-market-capitalism hostile) Obama administration. Now, that they see a weakened president and the potential end of one-party rule, business leaders are piping up:

The chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of top corporate executives that has been President Obama’s closest ally in the business community, accused the president and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday of creating an “increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation.” Ivan G. Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, said that Democrats in Washington are pursuing tax increases, policy changes and regulatory actions that together threaten to dampen economic growth and “harm our ability… to grow private-sector jobs in the U.S.”

Now all of this has been true of Obama’s agenda from the get-go. What is different is that the strategy of appeasing Obama, supporting his campaign, and cheering his policies has backfired. And now they are no longer cowed by Obama. Instead, they sense an opportunity to find officials more conducive to their interests. How far they have come:

Seidenberg’s remarks reflect corporate America’s growing discontent with Obama. The president has assiduously courted the nation’s top executives since taking office last year, seeking their counsel on economic policy in the wake of the recession and issuing dozens of invitations to the White House. In return, the Roundtable has generally supported the president’s policies; it was the only major business group to back Obama’s successful push for an overhaul of the health-care system.

In this there is a lesson for American Jewry. What has been gained by their strategy of appeasing Obama, supporting his campaign, and cheering his policies? Maybe it’s time for them and for the organizations that present themselves as friends of Israel to take a page from Seidenberg’s playbook: stop pulling punches, lay out the objections publicly, and make it clear that there are political consequences for ignoring their interests — and, indeed, doing great damage to them. Hey, the results can’t be any worse than what they’ve “achieved” to date. And the benefit is that they will have a real answer to the legacy question: “And what did you do to stop Obama’s anti-Israel assault?”

“Business Leaders Say Obama’s Policies Stifle Growth” is the headline. One is tempted to holler, “And what took them so long!?” Indeed, for some time many members of the business community have been hiding their collective heads in the sand and trying to ingratiate themselves with the business-hostile (indeed, free-market-capitalism hostile) Obama administration. Now, that they see a weakened president and the potential end of one-party rule, business leaders are piping up:

The chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of top corporate executives that has been President Obama’s closest ally in the business community, accused the president and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday of creating an “increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation.” Ivan G. Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, said that Democrats in Washington are pursuing tax increases, policy changes and regulatory actions that together threaten to dampen economic growth and “harm our ability… to grow private-sector jobs in the U.S.”

Now all of this has been true of Obama’s agenda from the get-go. What is different is that the strategy of appeasing Obama, supporting his campaign, and cheering his policies has backfired. And now they are no longer cowed by Obama. Instead, they sense an opportunity to find officials more conducive to their interests. How far they have come:

Seidenberg’s remarks reflect corporate America’s growing discontent with Obama. The president has assiduously courted the nation’s top executives since taking office last year, seeking their counsel on economic policy in the wake of the recession and issuing dozens of invitations to the White House. In return, the Roundtable has generally supported the president’s policies; it was the only major business group to back Obama’s successful push for an overhaul of the health-care system.

In this there is a lesson for American Jewry. What has been gained by their strategy of appeasing Obama, supporting his campaign, and cheering his policies? Maybe it’s time for them and for the organizations that present themselves as friends of Israel to take a page from Seidenberg’s playbook: stop pulling punches, lay out the objections publicly, and make it clear that there are political consequences for ignoring their interests — and, indeed, doing great damage to them. Hey, the results can’t be any worse than what they’ve “achieved” to date. And the benefit is that they will have a real answer to the legacy question: “And what did you do to stop Obama’s anti-Israel assault?”

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Jeb in 2012?

It’s widely discussed among those conservatives who have not yet found the presidential candidate of their dreams for 2012 that Jeb Bush might, if not for the name, earn that distinction. He was a successful governor in a diverse state, combines wonkish devotion to policy with an accessible personality, and is intellectually and instinctively conservative. But it is widely assumed that he is not running and won’t, both because of his desire to make money in the private sector and because of the name. The New York Times provides an altogether favorable profile of him (which the Gray Lady sometimes is wont to do for conservatives who are not running for office and who can hence make those who are look poor by comparison). The report explains:

The party needs a messenger who can keep its Tea Party-type activists energized behind an agenda and a nominee. But Republicans will also be looking for someone who can reposition the party nationally and make its more strident ideology palatable to the wider American electorate.

This explains why some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012. He is a favorite of the anti-establishment crowd (he is said to have mentored Marco Rubio, the Senate challenger in Florida who gave the Tea Partiers a national lift), but he is also a political celebrity with a pronounced independent streak. As governor, for instance, Mr. Bush strongly opposed drilling in the shallow waters off Florida, and he favors increasing legal immigration, rather than restricting it.

There is this intriguing discussion about the family name:

Jeb Bush’s admirers insist, however, that whatever cloud existed over the name is lifting, as memories of the last Bush era recede, replaced by a hardened conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies. And those who know Mr. Bush say he has never concerned himself with it. “He’s the guy who cares about that the least,” said Nicholas Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. …

When I asked him whether Mr. Obama had a legitimate point — whether his brother’s administration did, in fact, bear responsibility for the country’s economic collapse — Mr. Bush paused and, for the only time in our interview, appeared to carefully assemble his words.

“Look, I think there was a whole series of decisions made over a long period of time, the cumulative effect of which created the financial meltdown that has created the hardship that we’re facing,” he said slowly. “Congress, the administration, everyone can accept some responsibility.”

“The issue to me is what we do now,” Jeb Bush said. “Who cares who’s to blame?”

Let’s be honest: most conventional wisdom about who can and cannot run or win has been blown to smithereens. If Obama, with no executive experience and a mere two undistinguished years in the Senate, can win, all bets are off. And more to the point, if Obama continues on his current trajectory and the public becomes desperate to find a fiscal reformer and a stalwart defender of American interests abroad, I suspect they won’t care all that much about that person’s last name. The only issue is whether Jeb Bush wants to be that man.

It’s widely discussed among those conservatives who have not yet found the presidential candidate of their dreams for 2012 that Jeb Bush might, if not for the name, earn that distinction. He was a successful governor in a diverse state, combines wonkish devotion to policy with an accessible personality, and is intellectually and instinctively conservative. But it is widely assumed that he is not running and won’t, both because of his desire to make money in the private sector and because of the name. The New York Times provides an altogether favorable profile of him (which the Gray Lady sometimes is wont to do for conservatives who are not running for office and who can hence make those who are look poor by comparison). The report explains:

The party needs a messenger who can keep its Tea Party-type activists energized behind an agenda and a nominee. But Republicans will also be looking for someone who can reposition the party nationally and make its more strident ideology palatable to the wider American electorate.

This explains why some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012. He is a favorite of the anti-establishment crowd (he is said to have mentored Marco Rubio, the Senate challenger in Florida who gave the Tea Partiers a national lift), but he is also a political celebrity with a pronounced independent streak. As governor, for instance, Mr. Bush strongly opposed drilling in the shallow waters off Florida, and he favors increasing legal immigration, rather than restricting it.

There is this intriguing discussion about the family name:

Jeb Bush’s admirers insist, however, that whatever cloud existed over the name is lifting, as memories of the last Bush era recede, replaced by a hardened conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies. And those who know Mr. Bush say he has never concerned himself with it. “He’s the guy who cares about that the least,” said Nicholas Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. …

When I asked him whether Mr. Obama had a legitimate point — whether his brother’s administration did, in fact, bear responsibility for the country’s economic collapse — Mr. Bush paused and, for the only time in our interview, appeared to carefully assemble his words.

“Look, I think there was a whole series of decisions made over a long period of time, the cumulative effect of which created the financial meltdown that has created the hardship that we’re facing,” he said slowly. “Congress, the administration, everyone can accept some responsibility.”

“The issue to me is what we do now,” Jeb Bush said. “Who cares who’s to blame?”

Let’s be honest: most conventional wisdom about who can and cannot run or win has been blown to smithereens. If Obama, with no executive experience and a mere two undistinguished years in the Senate, can win, all bets are off. And more to the point, if Obama continues on his current trajectory and the public becomes desperate to find a fiscal reformer and a stalwart defender of American interests abroad, I suspect they won’t care all that much about that person’s last name. The only issue is whether Jeb Bush wants to be that man.

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The Worst Column of the Year So Far

Maureen Dowd today:

Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they’ve never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.

That sentence should be amended to: “Newspaper columnists are rarely as smart as they think they are…”

Dowd goes on to say that the Rolling Stone profile

was a product of the warrior-god culture, four-star generals with their own public-relations teams, that came from Gen. David Petraeus. And the towel-snapping was intensified by the fact that McChrystal used to be a tough special-ops, under-cover-of-the-night, rules-don’t-apply-to-us military guy.

Or maybe it was just a boneheaded series of mistakes made by Gen. McChrystal and his aides.

As for the “towel-snapping” nature of the military culture, whatever its sins, it isn’t a hundredth as self-satisfied as the liberal-newsroom culture in which Maureen Dowd has enthroned herself. And in its ethic of sacrifice and dedication to service, that culture ennobles those who commit themselves to it — unlike the culture from which this column emanates, which is rotting away, and justifiably.

Maureen Dowd today:

Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they’ve never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.

That sentence should be amended to: “Newspaper columnists are rarely as smart as they think they are…”

Dowd goes on to say that the Rolling Stone profile

was a product of the warrior-god culture, four-star generals with their own public-relations teams, that came from Gen. David Petraeus. And the towel-snapping was intensified by the fact that McChrystal used to be a tough special-ops, under-cover-of-the-night, rules-don’t-apply-to-us military guy.

Or maybe it was just a boneheaded series of mistakes made by Gen. McChrystal and his aides.

As for the “towel-snapping” nature of the military culture, whatever its sins, it isn’t a hundredth as self-satisfied as the liberal-newsroom culture in which Maureen Dowd has enthroned herself. And in its ethic of sacrifice and dedication to service, that culture ennobles those who commit themselves to it — unlike the culture from which this column emanates, which is rotting away, and justifiably.

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All the News That Is Fit to Ignore

The New York Times editors, opining on the McChrystal interview, pronounce, “The Rolling Stone article doesn’t suggest any serious policy disagreements between the president and General McChrystal.” That’s a wee bit deceptive, perhaps part of an endless string of efforts to deflect blame from the president.

While not technically a “policy disagreement,” the interview — and the reason why McChrystal may be canned — centers on the allegation that the entire civilian operation is impeding the war effort. Technically, this is a personnel problem, not a policy disagreement, but it goes to the heart of Obama’s management of the war.

Moreover, while the interview sidesteps it (“We’re talking the antiwar hippie magazine,” as Maureen Dowd puts it.), there are certainly major policy disagreements between Obama and the military. Bill Kristol and Tom Donnelly explain:

The imposition of a troop-withdrawal deadline, in particular, has poisoned our Afghanistan strategy. McChrystal has, understandably, behaved like a man under pressure to produce quick results to get good marks in the administration’s December Afghanistan strategy review.  Even the timetable for the review is premature and therefore transparently artificial: the last “surge” brigade won’t be deployed until November.

The shortage of time is also compounded by the shortage of forces.  McChrystal’s cardinal achievement to date has been the re-wiring of the dysfunctional ISAF structure, but it’s also required him to deploy forces in places such as Kunduz, north of Kabul but still a Pashtun area where the Taliban have been more active, because the German forces there are insufficient.

The Gray Lady’s editors seem to prefer to shelter Obama rather than to focus on the real import of the Rolling Stone interview, namely that the commander in chief is failing to do what is necessary to win the war. Instead, the editors blame McChrystal for what ails the Afghanistan operation:

Instead of answering questions about his media strategy, General McChrystal should be explaining what went wrong with his first major offensive in Marja and how he plans to do better in Kandahar. Instead of General McChrystal having to apologize to Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Eikenberry, they all should be working a lot harder to come up with a plan for managing relations with Afghanistan’s deeply flawed president, Hamid Karzai.

Frankly, McChrystal is one of the few with an effective relationship with Karzai (even Rolling Stone got that point), and the offensive is failing because our troops have too few people and too little time. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a Times‘s op-ed.

The New York Times editors, opining on the McChrystal interview, pronounce, “The Rolling Stone article doesn’t suggest any serious policy disagreements between the president and General McChrystal.” That’s a wee bit deceptive, perhaps part of an endless string of efforts to deflect blame from the president.

While not technically a “policy disagreement,” the interview — and the reason why McChrystal may be canned — centers on the allegation that the entire civilian operation is impeding the war effort. Technically, this is a personnel problem, not a policy disagreement, but it goes to the heart of Obama’s management of the war.

Moreover, while the interview sidesteps it (“We’re talking the antiwar hippie magazine,” as Maureen Dowd puts it.), there are certainly major policy disagreements between Obama and the military. Bill Kristol and Tom Donnelly explain:

The imposition of a troop-withdrawal deadline, in particular, has poisoned our Afghanistan strategy. McChrystal has, understandably, behaved like a man under pressure to produce quick results to get good marks in the administration’s December Afghanistan strategy review.  Even the timetable for the review is premature and therefore transparently artificial: the last “surge” brigade won’t be deployed until November.

The shortage of time is also compounded by the shortage of forces.  McChrystal’s cardinal achievement to date has been the re-wiring of the dysfunctional ISAF structure, but it’s also required him to deploy forces in places such as Kunduz, north of Kabul but still a Pashtun area where the Taliban have been more active, because the German forces there are insufficient.

The Gray Lady’s editors seem to prefer to shelter Obama rather than to focus on the real import of the Rolling Stone interview, namely that the commander in chief is failing to do what is necessary to win the war. Instead, the editors blame McChrystal for what ails the Afghanistan operation:

Instead of answering questions about his media strategy, General McChrystal should be explaining what went wrong with his first major offensive in Marja and how he plans to do better in Kandahar. Instead of General McChrystal having to apologize to Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Eikenberry, they all should be working a lot harder to come up with a plan for managing relations with Afghanistan’s deeply flawed president, Hamid Karzai.

Frankly, McChrystal is one of the few with an effective relationship with Karzai (even Rolling Stone got that point), and the offensive is failing because our troops have too few people and too little time. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a Times‘s op-ed.

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Obama Helps Obama by Keeping McChrystal

There has been some surprising but welcomed (at least by those who’d like to win in Afghanistan) opposition to firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his Rolling Stone interview. The Washington Post editors reel off three reasons not to accept the general’s resignation:

First, Gen. McChrystal is the architect of a crucial counterinsurgency campaign underway in southern Afghanistan — a strategy Mr. Obama approved after months of deliberation last year. … Second, whatever his reputation in Washington, Gen. McChrystal has built strong ties with the Afghan and Pakistani officials whose cooperation is vital to the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. … Most important, the inflammatory comments in the Rolling Stone article are symptomatic of a deeper dysfunction for which Gen. McChrystal is not chiefly responsible. As we pointed out on this page last week, the administration’s performance in Afghanistan has been hamstrung by continuing differences between civilian officials and military commanders that date to the debate over strategy last year. …

Mr. Obama has tolerated this feuding, with consequences that include poor coordination of military and civilian operations and deteriorating relations with Mr. Karzai. His dismissal of Gen. McChrystal would hand a victory to those in his administration who have resisted the counterinsurgency operations.

There is a fourth reason: Obama needs to shed his peevish and self-absorbed persona, to demonstrate to friends and foes that he can command a war effort, and to dispel the growing perception that he’s in over his head. He doesn’t do this by being the tough guy with the general, whom we have relied on to win the war. (And by the way, if McChrystal does quit, won’t we hear a whole lot more from him about the civilian officials who’ve been making the military’s job harder?) For a president very much concerned about his own image, maybe the most compelling argument for him to keep McChrystal is this: it’ll make Obama look good.

There has been some surprising but welcomed (at least by those who’d like to win in Afghanistan) opposition to firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his Rolling Stone interview. The Washington Post editors reel off three reasons not to accept the general’s resignation:

First, Gen. McChrystal is the architect of a crucial counterinsurgency campaign underway in southern Afghanistan — a strategy Mr. Obama approved after months of deliberation last year. … Second, whatever his reputation in Washington, Gen. McChrystal has built strong ties with the Afghan and Pakistani officials whose cooperation is vital to the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. … Most important, the inflammatory comments in the Rolling Stone article are symptomatic of a deeper dysfunction for which Gen. McChrystal is not chiefly responsible. As we pointed out on this page last week, the administration’s performance in Afghanistan has been hamstrung by continuing differences between civilian officials and military commanders that date to the debate over strategy last year. …

Mr. Obama has tolerated this feuding, with consequences that include poor coordination of military and civilian operations and deteriorating relations with Mr. Karzai. His dismissal of Gen. McChrystal would hand a victory to those in his administration who have resisted the counterinsurgency operations.

There is a fourth reason: Obama needs to shed his peevish and self-absorbed persona, to demonstrate to friends and foes that he can command a war effort, and to dispel the growing perception that he’s in over his head. He doesn’t do this by being the tough guy with the general, whom we have relied on to win the war. (And by the way, if McChrystal does quit, won’t we hear a whole lot more from him about the civilian officials who’ve been making the military’s job harder?) For a president very much concerned about his own image, maybe the most compelling argument for him to keep McChrystal is this: it’ll make Obama look good.

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Beyond Sanctions

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

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Nikki Fever

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Nikki Haley trounced her opponent by 30 points in the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary. She overcame smears about infidelity — which were never proven and seemed to make her all the more sympathetic. She weathered nasty attacks on her religion. She now is poised to become the state’s first woman governor. Chris Cillizza sounds like he’s starting a “Draft Nikki” campaign:

Even before Haley had officially become the nominee, the Republican Governors Association had all-but-endorsed her — recognizing that an Indian-American woman as their nominee was a terrific national storyline. Given Haley’s background and the primacy of South Carolina in the 2012 Republican presidential primary process, she will almost certainly become a national figure in short order.

She was endorsed and greatly aided by Sarah Palin, whose treatment by the media should serve as a warning. Beautiful conservative women are not treated well by the mainstream media. And Haley should keep in mind that liberals and their mainstream-media allies generally treat minorities who are conservative especially roughly. If they happen to be devout Christians, well then, they really need to watch out.

Haley should be wary, but she also has the benefit of others’ examples. The way for Haley to disarm the media and beat back the political attacks is, of course, to be at the top of her game. Although Chris Christie may be the un-Haley in outward appearance, his  approach is the right one: be the happy warrior, apply conservative values, reject the entreaties to “get along” with the political establishment, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It’s harder than it sounds. But in the end, the media can’t bring down a competent, likable politician — nor, as we have learned in the last 17 months, can they keep afloat an incompetent, snippy one.

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Nikki Haley trounced her opponent by 30 points in the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary. She overcame smears about infidelity — which were never proven and seemed to make her all the more sympathetic. She weathered nasty attacks on her religion. She now is poised to become the state’s first woman governor. Chris Cillizza sounds like he’s starting a “Draft Nikki” campaign:

Even before Haley had officially become the nominee, the Republican Governors Association had all-but-endorsed her — recognizing that an Indian-American woman as their nominee was a terrific national storyline. Given Haley’s background and the primacy of South Carolina in the 2012 Republican presidential primary process, she will almost certainly become a national figure in short order.

She was endorsed and greatly aided by Sarah Palin, whose treatment by the media should serve as a warning. Beautiful conservative women are not treated well by the mainstream media. And Haley should keep in mind that liberals and their mainstream-media allies generally treat minorities who are conservative especially roughly. If they happen to be devout Christians, well then, they really need to watch out.

Haley should be wary, but she also has the benefit of others’ examples. The way for Haley to disarm the media and beat back the political attacks is, of course, to be at the top of her game. Although Chris Christie may be the un-Haley in outward appearance, his  approach is the right one: be the happy warrior, apply conservative values, reject the entreaties to “get along” with the political establishment, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It’s harder than it sounds. But in the end, the media can’t bring down a competent, likable politician — nor, as we have learned in the last 17 months, can they keep afloat an incompetent, snippy one.

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Orszag Heading out the Door

With much justification, the Wall Street Journal editors zap the outgoing Office of Management and Budget director:

According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on “a high note.” Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Certainly, this president was determined to spend a lot, to expand government dramatically, and to blame the huge deficit on others. But the Journal editors are right to point out that it was Orszag’s fuzzy math and flim-flammery that facilitated the most irresponsible piece of legislation in several generations:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement. Mr. Orszag’s illusion that government can “bend the cost curve” enabled Democrats to nationalize more health-care spending while claiming to save money.

In a New England Journal of Medicine essay last week, Mr. Orszag wrote that ObamaCare “will significantly reduce costs” because “it institutes myriad elements that experts have long advocated as the foundation for effective cost control.” But not according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf, who wrote recently that “Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond” and that “the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.”

It is a fitting reminder for those who crave the inner circle of power. Too many of them hedge and trim and spin to maintain their position. Whether it is fudging the health-care budget numbers or facilitating a dangerously ineffective policy toward Iran (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross), those in power should plan ahead. One day (sooner than they imagine), they’ll be on the other side of the White House gates. If they frittered away their reputations and intellectual credibility for a year or two of power-player status, they may come to regret it.

With much justification, the Wall Street Journal editors zap the outgoing Office of Management and Budget director:

According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on “a high note.” Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Certainly, this president was determined to spend a lot, to expand government dramatically, and to blame the huge deficit on others. But the Journal editors are right to point out that it was Orszag’s fuzzy math and flim-flammery that facilitated the most irresponsible piece of legislation in several generations:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement. Mr. Orszag’s illusion that government can “bend the cost curve” enabled Democrats to nationalize more health-care spending while claiming to save money.

In a New England Journal of Medicine essay last week, Mr. Orszag wrote that ObamaCare “will significantly reduce costs” because “it institutes myriad elements that experts have long advocated as the foundation for effective cost control.” But not according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf, who wrote recently that “Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond” and that “the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.”

It is a fitting reminder for those who crave the inner circle of power. Too many of them hedge and trim and spin to maintain their position. Whether it is fudging the health-care budget numbers or facilitating a dangerously ineffective policy toward Iran (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross), those in power should plan ahead. One day (sooner than they imagine), they’ll be on the other side of the White House gates. If they frittered away their reputations and intellectual credibility for a year or two of power-player status, they may come to regret it.

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We Need to Reset “Reset”

The Foreign Policy Initiative provides a helpful analysis of Obama’s  attempt to “reset” relations with Russia. It seems we have given up a lot and gotten very little.

On arms control, the START agreement looks like a bad deal:

The cuts are so minute that Russia was technically in compliance with the agreement before the treaty was signed.  New START also falls short in other key respects. The treaty does not address Russia’s overwhelming advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, while arcane counting rules — where a bomber armed with multiple cruise missiles is counted as one launcher — could allow the Russians to increase the size of their deployed nuclear arsenal, should they find the resources to expand their bomber fleet. … In sum, New START places restrictions on the United States, while having only a limited impact on Russia’s nuclear force.

On Iran, we have again given up much for minimal returns:

To get Russian support for new sanctions, the Obama administration paid a steep price – removing U.S. sanctions against five Russian entities, and resubmitting a nuclear cooperation agreement that was previously frozen after Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Despite administration denials, many observers wonder whether President Obama’s cancellation of missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in September 2009 also were part of a package deal with Moscow.

Likewise on Afghanistan, despite the puffery on new air routes afforded by the Russians for our operations, it amounts to a grand total of “only five supply flights… in the first six months of the program, an underwhelming number considering the administration’s bold projections.” Meanwhile:

Russia has also played an extensive role in undermining NATO transportation capabilities in other countries throughout the region, and in some cases has actively worked against U.S. efforts to adequately supply forces in Afghanistan.

With regard to Russia’s neighbors, we haven’t gotten Russia out of Georgia, but we have strained our own relations with the Czech Republic and Poland. On human rights:

One of the most troubling aspects of the “reset” is the fact that it has subjugated concerns about Russia’s internal situation to issues such as arms control and Iran.  The Russian political situation is marked by unfair elections and the abolition of elected governorships, control of civil society organizations through intimidation, harassment and regulation, the dominance of state controlled media and restrictions on independent media, impunity for perpetrators of violence, including murder, against regime critics and brutal abuses in the Caucasus.  Opposition parties struggle to compete in elections and to hold demonstrations.  A monthly effort to protest the lack of freedom of assembly was violently broken up by police on May 31 and more than 100 people were arrested.

We frankly did much better with the Communists during the Cold War:

Even during the Cold War, the United States was able to engage Moscow on key national security issues while simultaneously making clear where U.S. and Russian interests diverged.  The Obama administration has thus far shown itself either unable or unwilling to do the same.

The Obama team, filled with hubris, entered office determined to “get along” better than the Bush team with rivals and allies alike. The childlike approach boiled down to: hey, just give our adversaries everything they want, and they will like us! But rivals and foes soon learn there are more goodies in store despite (and maybe because of) their intransigence. So their demands increase, and their behavior both internally and externally becomes more aggressive. Meanwhile, by abusing allies, we whet our foes’ appetites even more, revealing our desperation. In the end, we’ve given up much to get little and find ourselves worse off than when we started.

As practiced by Obama, “reset” has been a failure. A more humble and introspective administration would jettison a policy as counterproductive as this one. But not this president. As with so much else, an improvement in our policy must await a new administration that can assess whether there is a “smarter” policy than just giving stuff away.

The Foreign Policy Initiative provides a helpful analysis of Obama’s  attempt to “reset” relations with Russia. It seems we have given up a lot and gotten very little.

On arms control, the START agreement looks like a bad deal:

The cuts are so minute that Russia was technically in compliance with the agreement before the treaty was signed.  New START also falls short in other key respects. The treaty does not address Russia’s overwhelming advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, while arcane counting rules — where a bomber armed with multiple cruise missiles is counted as one launcher — could allow the Russians to increase the size of their deployed nuclear arsenal, should they find the resources to expand their bomber fleet. … In sum, New START places restrictions on the United States, while having only a limited impact on Russia’s nuclear force.

On Iran, we have again given up much for minimal returns:

To get Russian support for new sanctions, the Obama administration paid a steep price – removing U.S. sanctions against five Russian entities, and resubmitting a nuclear cooperation agreement that was previously frozen after Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Despite administration denials, many observers wonder whether President Obama’s cancellation of missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in September 2009 also were part of a package deal with Moscow.

Likewise on Afghanistan, despite the puffery on new air routes afforded by the Russians for our operations, it amounts to a grand total of “only five supply flights… in the first six months of the program, an underwhelming number considering the administration’s bold projections.” Meanwhile:

Russia has also played an extensive role in undermining NATO transportation capabilities in other countries throughout the region, and in some cases has actively worked against U.S. efforts to adequately supply forces in Afghanistan.

With regard to Russia’s neighbors, we haven’t gotten Russia out of Georgia, but we have strained our own relations with the Czech Republic and Poland. On human rights:

One of the most troubling aspects of the “reset” is the fact that it has subjugated concerns about Russia’s internal situation to issues such as arms control and Iran.  The Russian political situation is marked by unfair elections and the abolition of elected governorships, control of civil society organizations through intimidation, harassment and regulation, the dominance of state controlled media and restrictions on independent media, impunity for perpetrators of violence, including murder, against regime critics and brutal abuses in the Caucasus.  Opposition parties struggle to compete in elections and to hold demonstrations.  A monthly effort to protest the lack of freedom of assembly was violently broken up by police on May 31 and more than 100 people were arrested.

We frankly did much better with the Communists during the Cold War:

Even during the Cold War, the United States was able to engage Moscow on key national security issues while simultaneously making clear where U.S. and Russian interests diverged.  The Obama administration has thus far shown itself either unable or unwilling to do the same.

The Obama team, filled with hubris, entered office determined to “get along” better than the Bush team with rivals and allies alike. The childlike approach boiled down to: hey, just give our adversaries everything they want, and they will like us! But rivals and foes soon learn there are more goodies in store despite (and maybe because of) their intransigence. So their demands increase, and their behavior both internally and externally becomes more aggressive. Meanwhile, by abusing allies, we whet our foes’ appetites even more, revealing our desperation. In the end, we’ve given up much to get little and find ourselves worse off than when we started.

As practiced by Obama, “reset” has been a failure. A more humble and introspective administration would jettison a policy as counterproductive as this one. But not this president. As with so much else, an improvement in our policy must await a new administration that can assess whether there is a “smarter” policy than just giving stuff away.

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Forcing a Vote on Jobs-Gate

Earlier this month, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Constitution Subcommittee ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced a resolution demanding that the administration turn over information about the Department of Justice’s involvement in the White House’s efforts to drive Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff out of their Senate primary races. That resolution will be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee today. As a GOP staffer explained, House Democrats “will be forced to vote on whether to hold the Administration accountable to its promises of transparency and change—especially with regard to providing documents on the Sestak-Romanoff job offers.”

I imagine there will be some vigorous debate and some feisty speeches from House Republicans. The resolution will almost certainly fail on a party-line vote, but it’s one more sign that Washington will be a very different place if the Republicans take over majority control of one or both houses in November. In the meantime it will be interesting to see how Democrats will defend their refusal to get basic information about the Blago-lite operation being run out of the White House.

Earlier this month, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Constitution Subcommittee ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced a resolution demanding that the administration turn over information about the Department of Justice’s involvement in the White House’s efforts to drive Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff out of their Senate primary races. That resolution will be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee today. As a GOP staffer explained, House Democrats “will be forced to vote on whether to hold the Administration accountable to its promises of transparency and change—especially with regard to providing documents on the Sestak-Romanoff job offers.”

I imagine there will be some vigorous debate and some feisty speeches from House Republicans. The resolution will almost certainly fail on a party-line vote, but it’s one more sign that Washington will be a very different place if the Republicans take over majority control of one or both houses in November. In the meantime it will be interesting to see how Democrats will defend their refusal to get basic information about the Blago-lite operation being run out of the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.'”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.'”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

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