2009-12-31T13:23:59.334-05:00EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC... (PART II): The cover of the current issue of the New Republic blares, The Battle for Tora Bora: The Untold Story. It's a good article, but it's actually an old story. Some of the details are new, but I think it's been at least five years since we've known that Bin Laden was cornered in the caves of Tora Bora in December of 2001, but the chain of command rejected a request to send in US ground forces. Instead we sent in some Afghan militia and Bin Laden got away.
Bin Laden was clearly at Tora Bora, and sending so few troops was indeed a major failure. It’s a lesson that bears remembering today as the United States continues to pursue Islamist militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan: In the hunt for members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, there is simply no substitute for boots on the ground. Afghan proxies, Pakistani soldiers, drones--these are not unimportant tools in the war on terrorism. But they are not effective substitutes for U.S. troops. If we want to kill bin Laden and Zawahiri--and other top Al Qaeda leaders--we are probably going to have to do it ourselves.So, next time a lefty protests' Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan, I will say, "Even the liberal New Republic..."
2009-12-31T13:23:07.205-05:00EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC...publishes enough cliche polemics to justify the adjective "liberal". Now, it is certainly true that TNR generates enough heresy to justify its reputation as much more than a liberal meat grinder. That's why I have a subscription. But TNR also provides enough simplistic GOP-bashing to fortify the perpetually indignant, self-satisfied liberal intellectualism to which so many of its readers subscribe.
One observer dismissed DeMint’s [stimulus] plan thusly: “It is not innovative or particularly clever. In fact, it’s only eleven pages.” Oddly enough, this observer was DeMint himself, talking up his proposal in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. On the contemporary right, it is a mark of intellectual integrity that even a massive economic cataclysm would not prompt any revising of one’s economic prescription.Clearly, DeMint was trying to score points by comparing his 11-page plan to the dictionary-length democratic alternative. Yet for Chait, DeMint's self-denigration suddenly becomes evidence of catastrophic intellectual rigidity.
The quintessential moment in the health care debate came when Senator Lamar Alexander objected to Democratic attempts to weed out Medicare waste: “If you’re going to find some savings in waste, fraud, and abuse in Grandma’s Medicare,” he proclaimed, “spend it on Grandma.” Consider this as an ethical proposition: Alexander is saying that every dollar of Medicare is sacrosanct, that even those dollars he concedes provide zero public benefit must stay in the program. We live in a country where the occasional appearance of a roving charitable medical clinic will prompt thousands of desperate people to line up in parking lots for hours on end, to help mitigate their suffering. And yet, Republicans will not countenance the shift of even indisputably wasted resources to help them.Impressively, Chait elevates Sen. Alexander's anodyne talking point into conclusive evidence of the GOP's cold-hearted intellectual rigor mortis. This kind of logic is one of the perils of being so smart. Sometimes, you fall into the trap of believing that being smarter means being right.
2009-12-09T18:18:33.826-05:00POLANSKI'S ART: Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I finally had the chance to watch Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning film, The Pianist. It isn't the story of Polanski's own survival, although it seems natural to conclude that Polanski was able to evoke the Holocaust so effectively because he lived through it himself. He lost his mother to Auschwitz and survived in hiding with a Polish family.
2009-12-09T18:16:32.345-05:00DEATH THREATS FOR OBAMA: Four times as many as death threats for Bush? More? For his most passionate supporters, it is only natural to think of this young, charismatic and inspirational leader as another potential JFK, RFK or MLK Jr. (Although I doubt we'll ever call him BHO.)
2009-12-09T18:15:43.822-05:00WHERE WAS BARACK OBAMA ON SUNDAY MORNING? The White House sent Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton out on Sunday morning to do a set of joint interviews on Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week. (Fox had to settle for Gen. Petraeus. CNN got Jim Jones.)
Because we're not talking about an exit strategy or a drop-dead deadline. What we're talking about is an assessment that in January 2011 we can begin a transitionSo July 2011 is a date certain for an assessment of a potential transition?
2009-12-09T18:13:03.578-05:00WHAT WAS OBAMA DOING FOR THREE MONTHS? If you don't read Shadow Government, you should. It's a blog written by a lot of very smart people who held significant positions in the Bush administration. (No, that isn't a contradiction, wiseguy.) Shadow Gov's recent posts focus (naturally) on Afghanistan. One very interesting question comes from Peter Feaver -- Did Obama's speech give us any sense of why it took him three months to come up with any Afghanistan policy that was barely different from the one he announced back in March ? What Obama really announced was a very simple compromise: Hawks get 30,000 more troops, doves get a (very flexible) deadline for withdrawal. Peter notes:
It did not take [Obama] 3 months of painstaking review to find that compromise. It was available to him all along.The speed of deployment was accelerated a bit, but it's hard to imagine the White House was debating for three months about deployment schedules.
2009-12-09T18:11:35.123-05:00AFGHANISTAN: A GOP TWOFER? David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has introduced a war tax bill.
“As presidential historian Robert Dallek reminds us, ‘war kills off great reform movements’,” Obey said, noting that World War I ended the Progressive Era, Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal and Vietnam ended Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.Now, I know that's supposed to be an argument against sending more troops to Afghanistan, but if you're a Republican, isn't it a pretty good argument for supporting the surge?
2009-12-01T20:48:05.735-05:00OBAMA SPEECH WRAP-UP: The President was crystal clear about why we are sending more troops to Afghanistan. We were attacked on 9/11. If the Taliban take back Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will come back with them. America's security is directly at stake. Right now, we only have enough troops for a stalemate, not for success.
2009-12-01T17:47:46.593-05:00WHY BOTHER LISTENING TO OBAMA'S SPEECH? The front page of the Washington Post has already announced that 34,000 new troops will deploy to Afghanistan. The front page of the NY Times says "about 30,000".
2009-11-30T22:56:36.816-05:00THREE CHEERS FOR MICHAEL MOORE! Moore has penned an open letter to President Obama, begging him not to send more troops to Afghanistan. And just in time -- with all the talk about Lou Dobbs and the rest, the heartland was beginning to forget that the left bows to no one in its willingness to anoint an ignorant loudmouth as its beloved champion. Here's some of my favorite passages from Moore's letter:
Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.Cue the violins. And if you think that Michael should be argued with instead of teased, read Jazz's post.
We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can't take it anymore. We can't take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don't you understand?...
What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that's what they'd do.
2009-11-30T22:15:52.636-05:00HOPE FOR AFGHANISTAN? Kagan & Kristol:
Some conservatives are arguing that President Obama's weakness and indecision forecast American failure--and that, if we're going to fail, we should just get out now...No need for me to repeat how much I admire McCain. But if things get worse in Afghanistan as election day gets closer, will the GOP be tempted to take advantage?
Some Republicans are understandably dismayed at the prospect of supporting a war they worry this president is incapable of prosecuting with sufficient vigor or conviction. They argue that keeping faith with the troops requires rejecting any halfhearted approach. They are right that Americans who wish to support our troops in the field should not accept policies that deprive them of the means to win. But a turn by Republicans to rhetorical opposition to the war would only absolve the Obama administration of its Afghan duty. The better course is to push the administration to take responsibility for the outcome in Afghanistan by continuing to support a fully resourced war effort, while criticizing and opposing any decisions that undermine the troops' chance of success...
A model for Republicans is the behavior of Senator John McCain from 2003 to 2007. McCain consistently questioned, challenged, and criticized President Bush's strategy and tactics in Iraq, but he never wavered in his determination to do everything possible to succeed there.
2009-11-30T22:13:56.685-05:00THE MAYOR OF WASILLA: I told you I was Going Rogue and going to write about it.The story of Sarah Palin's political life begins in Wasilla. Last fall, adversaries mocked her as a one-year governor and two-term mayor of a small town in Alaska. But what did being mayor of Wasilla mean to Palin? How it did shape her politics? Reading a political memoir, you don't expect to get much more than one side of any given story. But I want to know how Gov. Palin understands Wasilla.For Palin, her time as mayor is a demonstration of her leadership abilities and the value of conservative principles. She writes on page 78,As a result of our common sense conservative efforts, Wasilla became a booming, bustling town--the fastest growing area in the state, and an independent financial auditor (Mikunda, Cottrell & Co.) reported that Wasilla was "the envy of Alaskan cities."I'd be curious to know more. The book's focus is on author, so it's hard to get a sense of how Wasilla really changed in those years.Now, which efforts represent Palin's ideas about common sense conservatism? Above all, cutting taxes. She writes on page 78,I cut taxes -- lots of them. I eliminated small business inventory taxes, I got rid of personal property taxes, I gave the boot to burdensome things like business license renewal fees, and I cut the real property tax mil levy every year I was in office.Palin is very clear that what she did for the economy is get the government out of its way. That meant fewer taxes and an effort to cut the budget. But there is one active component to Palin's philosophy of local government: infrastructure. Commenting on her race to unseat incumbent Mayor John Stein, Palin says, I wanted government to appropriately provide the private sector with infrastructure tools to increase opportunities. Stein supported expanding land-use restrictions and building codes. (Page 70)Wasilla is also where Palin began to think of herself as a principled reformer determined to take on special interests. Of her time on the city council before running for mayor, Palin writes "I voted according to my principles and let the chips fall where they may." (Page 66) That remark reflected her vote against using city authority to favor the garbage trucking firm owned by the council's "de facto leader", Nick Carney.Wasilla is also the place where Palin first realized that being a reformer means being the target and victim of nefarious forces. In 2008, Palin was accused of spearheading an effort to ban books at the Wasilla library. She says that's a false accusation -- apparently ginned up by Nick Carney and his wife -- because they resented Palin's victory at the polls. Palin also says that opponents spread rumors that her daughter smoked marijuana. Her oldest daughter at the time was in kindergarten.In short, Palin's Wasilla is the story of how selfish men wanted to grow the government, mostly to serve their private interests, but Palin but a put a stop to that. Am I convinced? I don't know the first thing about Wasilla aside from what's in this book so it's hard for me to say. If you like Sarah Palin, you'll probably trust her account. If you don't like her, you won't.I sort of like Palin precisely because of the extreme condescension and vindictiveness of the attacks she faced first as a candidate, now as an author. But when Palin says something, is my instinct to give her the benefit of the doubt? Not yet. Her account of Wasilla is suspiciously black and white, with its heroic young mayor taking on the town's underhanded cabal of special interests.On a related note, this means Palin never describes herself as facing hard decisions, where there were strong arguments on both sides, the stakes were high, and good people disagreed. Instea[...]
2009-11-30T22:07:57.481-05:00EVEN THE NY TIMES IS BEATING UP ON OBAMA: In case you missed this editorial on the Arab-Israeli peace process, condescending titled "Diplomacy 101":
The president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled...Those who want to defend Obama would probably have to pivot away from the facts on the ground and find a way to blame Bush. Hey, it's still his first year in office, people! Still, it's looking like amateur hour.
The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything.
Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever. Peacemaking takes strategic skill. But we see no sign that President Obama and [special envoy George] Mitchell were thinking more than one move down the board.
2009-11-30T22:06:31.335-05:00ABU MUQAWAMA QUITS DAILY BLOGGING: Andrew Exum, aka Abu Muqawama, has announced that he will be dramatically scaling back his blogging. Exum is a very serious analyst of military issues and his daily presence will be missed. From the comments on his post, you can get a sense of how much he is respected.
Blogging forces me into more or less split-second reactions to complicated policy events before I have had the opportunity to research and weigh opposing views. In addition, the AD/HD nature of this medium -- as well as its format -- has harmed both my research abilities as well as my ability to write in the long form. Blogging, like any medium, is one you get better at with practice. As I have become a better blogger, my long-form writing skills have atrophied.A valid position, although I feel very differently myself. I don't see a trade off. I see a chance to develop my abilities to express myself through different media.
2009-11-26T15:13:18.072-05:00SMEAR MAYONNAISE ON CONSERVATIVES! Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard writes about his effort to have a zero-carbon footprint.
2009-11-26T15:07:50.802-05:00OBAMA ON BREAST CANCER: David Gregory pointed to this Presidential declaration from July:
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We are--we've been under the illusion that the more health care we get, the healthier we become. And it turns out that every study shows that the question is are you getting the right care, are you getting the best care, the high quality care; rather than are you having a whole bunch of tests ordered that are unnecessary, getting a bunch of treatments that are unnecessary, staying in hospitals longer than maybe necessary? All of which drives up your costs, but doesn't make you better.Yet all of the liberals Gregory spoke to last Sunday were at extreme pains to insist that the new research will not involve any reduction in the number of mammograms. Suddenly, science and evidence didn't seem very attractive. What gives? I thought conservatives were the ones who put ideology ahead of science.
2009-11-26T15:05:12.358-05:00I'M GOING ROGUE! (AND MAKE WAR ON FISH): I'd like to think I am one of very, very few customers who bought both Going Rogue and Eating Animals as part of the same order from Amazon.
As I came to see, war is precisely the right word to describe our relationship to fish--it captures the technologies and techniques brought to bear against them, and the spirit of domination.Foer has an extraordinary sense of humor, but I don't sense any of it here. Best I can tell, he's dead serious. I hope that later in the book he asks whether a morally serious person can talk about a war on fish without trivializing actual wars, like the ones in Darfur, Afghanistan and Iraq.
2009-11-26T15:02:44.353-05:00BLOGGER RESIGNS FROM PENTAGON DETAINEE POST: I first got to know Phil Carter as a blogger, rather than an attorney, a Iraq war veteran or the director of the Obama campaign's outreach to veterans. Until this week, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy. Or as the NY Times put it: Official charged with closing Guantanamo quits.
Mr. Carter’s departure comes as the administration has acknowledged that it will not be able to close the prison by Jan. 22, the self-imposed deadline Mr. Obama announced immediately after taking office.Glenn Greenwald argues that Carter may have resigned because Carter is a civil libertarian and Obama has gone back on most of promises regarding detainees. And why would I ever disagree with Glenn Greenwald?
2009-11-26T15:01:48.095-05:00BOB REICH AGREES WITH LIZ CHENEY ON NATIONAL SECURITY? I certainly didn't expect to hear this from the liberal super-pundit and former Secretary of Labor. This is from ABC:
REICH: I agree with Liz. I think that -- that in preparation for this trip [to China], as in many others, even the trip to Europe to try to sell Chicago as the Olympics, there needs to be more thought about the appearance of weakness or strength that may come out of the trip.I'm hope Reich remains an advocate if strength when it comes to other subjects. But I part ways when it comes to his pessimism about free-market capitalism and veneration of the Chinese. It reminds me of all those who praised Japan's unstoppable engine of government-led capitalism. It's hard not to conclude that Reich and those of his ilk simply can't resist the hope that more government control will prove to be the best thing for all of us.
But I want to go back to, George, your point, because I think the big issue over the next 10 years and the big contest is going to be between authoritarian capitalism, a la China, and democratic capitalism,
a la the United States. And it's not clear to me that authoritarian capitalism is not going to win, that is, it -- there is so much efficiency. The Chinese say, "We're going to build 10 new universities. We're going to build this. We're going to build this." And, boom, it happens.
2009-11-18T17:41:41.555-05:00WHEN BUSH DITHERED ON IRAQ: Jackson Diehl:
[After months of deliberation in 2006], no one accused George W. Bush of dithering. So why does Barack Obama keep hearing the taunt as he deliberates about Afghanistan -- and why do even some who sympathize with his dilemma find it hard to shake the feeling that this commander in chief lacks resolve?Read the whole thing.
One part of the answer is easy: Bush was renowned for summoning plenty of resolve, and not enough critical thinking. No one questioned that Bush's heart was in his bid for "victory" in Iraq. Not a few wondered whether he had weighed carefully enough whether dispatching 20,000 more American troops in early 2007 was a reasoned strategy or a reckless gamble...
Obama's prolonged deliberation would be understandable if he were choosing between escalating or ending the war, as Bush was. Yet he narrowed his options many weeks ago -- and still has been unable to come to closure...
In the end, it's not enough for a president to be seen as having thought through a decision to send more troops to war. Enemies, allies and the country also need to be convinced that he believes in it.
2009-11-18T17:32:59.804-05:00SHERLOCK HOLMES IS ON THE CASE: Andrew Sullivan informs his readers that he is taking a brief pause to pore over Sarah Palin's new book:
Since the Dish has tried to be rigorous and careful in analyzing Palin's unhinged grip on reality from the very beginning - specifically her fantastic story of her fifth pregnancy - we feel it's vital that we grapple with this new data as fairly and as rigorously as possible. That takes time to get right. And it is so complicated we simply cannot focus on anything else...Perhaps Sullivan & Co. will finally solve the mystery of who Trig's parents really are. My hunch: Ann Coulter and a polar bear.
There is a possibility here of such a huge scandal that we would be crazy not to take our time either to debunk it or move it forward for further examination.
We have only one commitment: to get this right. Please bear with us as we do the best we can.
2009-11-18T17:30:20.767-05:00THE NETROOTS EAT THEIR OWN: On Monday, Think Progress trashed liberal pundit Mark Shields for allegedly saying, with regard to Obama's patience on Afghanistan,
[It] makes me nostalgic for those days when we had a manly man in the White House who could say, “Let’s kick some tail and ask questions afterwards” you know? That’s what we really need instead of any reflection.Kevin Drum read TP's post and seconded the motion, albeit with more circumspection and less vitriol. But to his credit, Kevin read the comments on his post and apologized.
What we really need is gutless fat *ssed scum like [Shields] getting the beatdown of your life from the families of those who have paid the ultimate price in wars cheered on by your spineless, unaccountable pontificating.Incidentally, Shields is a Marine Corps veteran. And that comment is just par for the course, not just one ugly comment I picked out to pass judgment on the netroots. To their credit, a handful of commenters insist that Shields was being sarcastic. Others know so little about Shields they call him conservative.
Shields is nothing but another worthless piece of sh*t in a long line of tough guy chickenhawks.
2009-11-18T17:26:32.893-05:00KRISTOL ADMONISHES CONSERVATIVES: From the Weekly Standard:
Republicans need to point out that Obama's economic policies aren't working. But they need to resist appearing to relish bad news for the country on Obama's watch. When rising unemployment numbers come out, there is occasionally an unseemly sense of celebration in the emails that come from various GOP offices. More in sorrow than in joy, more in confirmation than in vindication--that should be the Republican mood as the news of Obama's failures, failures which damage the well-being of Americans and of America, rolls in.Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
Animals and InsectsYikes.
1. General Rules
You are not required to deliver mail when an animal threatens you. Use extra care in making deliveries when dogs or other animals are loose on your route...
Neither antagonize nor attempt to pet dogs. If a dog rushes toward you or takes you by surprise, do not run. Retreat very slowly, facing the dog. Keep your mail satchel between you and the dog as a first line of defense. Be careful not to stumble over objects as
Use dog repellent spray only if you are attacked. Spray it directly at the dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Do not use dog repellent indiscriminately or when there is danger of spraying children or adults.
When delivering mail through a door slot, keep your fingers out of the slot; an animal may be on the other side.
2009-11-18T17:18:46.017-05:00CLINTON: "NO LONG-TERM STAKE IN AFGHANISTAN". NY Times, Page 1:
Every time Mr. Obama declares that the United States will not have an “open-ended” military commitment in Afghanistan, he fuels a second concern of the powerful Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, which believes the United States commitment is fleeting.I was listening to the program and I was pretty surprised when Hillary said that. It sounded more like an improvisation than a well-prepped talking point. But it illustrates the confusion at the heart of Obama's policy. The White House wants to demonstrate resolve while being sure it has an "off-ramp" for its commitment. When delivering that kind of confused message, even the best talkers will slip up.
It is a concern that some of them say justifies Pakistan’s continuing ties to the militants who fight American troops in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared to fuel this concern on Sunday in her comments on the ABC program “This Week,” saying: “We’re not interested in staying in Afghanistan. We have no long-term stake there. We want that to be made very clear.”