Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Seasons greetings, loyal reader(s)! Well blogging has been light this week-- apologies for that-- but now I must lay this blog down to rest for Christmas. Monday or Tuesday should see a return to ranting and pondering. In the meantime, have a joyous holiday and super good tidings.

As a treat, here is the complete 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' via YouTube-

Quote of the Day II

"By ending Republican hegemony in the midterm elections, the nation's voters were expressing hope that Democrats could change the direction of a government that has forfeited public confidence. Such hope is highly perishable and must be nourished with principled action early in the coming year. It isn't easy for people to believe in politicians.

For the moment, at least, the Democratic Party is still riding on post-election political momentum (while the Republican Party remains stuck in negative terrain). Although many mainstream commentators continue to claim that Americans dislike both parties equally, their shorthand cliché is badly out of date. A substantial plurality of voters now say they expect to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, and that partisan preference remains especially strong among the young.

But in the current political environment, the opportunity to rebuild a governing majority of the center-left could evaporate without being realized. National opinion remains angry, apprehensive and volatile. Having turned sharply against George W. Bush within months after his second inauguration -- initially reacting to Social Security privatization, then to the Katrina disaster, and finally to the failure of the war in Iraq and the stunning pageant of corruption on Capitol Hill -- disappointed voters could just as easily discard the Democrats in 2007. If the newly empowered opposition fails to honor its commitments, that is exactly what will happen.

Many if not most Americans have repeatedly expressed an underlying doubt that either party can still serve the public interest... While voters may understand that major changes in healthcare, education and environmental stewardship will be difficult to enact under this administration, they will not have much patience for any evasion on reform of Congress.

Whether Democrats can overcome the old habits that have often made them inarticulate and inert, however, remains to be seen. To put it kindly, the signs are mixed...

...Pelosi and Reid should receive the benefit of the doubt, despite early stumbles and hesitations. But when the new year begins, they must swiftly distinguish themselves from their soiled predecessors -- or they will confirm voters' cynical assumptions about them, their party and their vocation."
--Joe Conason, asking Democrats not to let us down in 2007.

Last-Minute News Shopping

Getting ready to leave work soon to start the holiday weekend. But first, the news...

2007 is going to be another nasty year in the War That Never Should've Been: "Top US military commanders in Iraq have decided to recommend a 'surge' of fresh American combat forces, eliminating one of the last remaining hurdles to proposals being considered by President George W. Bush." Congratulations, American public and Congress, you've been told to fuck off. Now what're you gonna do about it?

Money quote from the LA Times: "Those skeptical about the efficacy of an increase argue that any new troops must be given clear instructions. However, defense officials say the U.S. commanders in Iraq have not settled on what that mission should be, although they are expected to decide before calling up new units."

Translation: 'As usual, we still don't have any plan or sense of strategic direction, but we know that President Bush wants to look tough and stand up to his critics. Rather than stand up to him on that, we'll throw more soldiers into the meatgrinder to make him happy. We'll figure out the pesky details later.'

What a mess. Kevin Drum asks the following- If/when this fails, will they learn their lesson?

Meanwhile, in other news, the U.N. votes on Iran: "The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and ballistic missiles, a move aimed at getting Tehran to halt uranium enrichment work."

The White House remains silent on Rep. Virgil Goode's (R-VA) attack on Muslims in America.

Finally, the 'War on Christmas' helps conservatives... make a lot of money.

Quote of the Day

"If we're going to talk about military enthusiasms, [Weekly Standard writer Matthew] Continetti owes it to his readers to spend some time grappling with the wisdom of GOP militarism. There are nearly 3,000 American consequences, and more to come, of this predilection. What has it gained America? What did it gain America to invade Lebanon in 1982? etc. Sometimes the exercise of military force is justified (Afghanistan, the Gulf War, we can debate the Balkans) and sometimes it isn't (Iraq Iraq Iraq Iraq Iraq). Relying on military force all the time is a recipe for rapidly increasing the sphere of circumstances in which it becomes necessary. And in a democracy, that isn't even sustainable for the War Party -- if nothing else, ask a GOP congressman as he cleans out his office. Continetti implies that there's a patriotic rot in the sentiment that 'American power is not always a force for good in the world.' But of course it isn't always a force for good in the world; one should question the judgment of those who would issue such blandishments. For it's clear enough where they lead: to war, again and again and again."
--The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman-- making the point that should be obvious, but isn't.

(Via Washington Monthly, which has some good discussion in the comments)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Odds and Ends

Just light blogging in the next few days (when something comes up I want to discuss/rant about). I imagine the holidays will keep many away from the internets anyway. In the meantime, here's a grab bag of news. Enjoy!

Republican congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) made news this week with a letter ranting about the decision of newly elected representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to bring a Koran with him when the new congress is sworn in. The rant includes: illegal immigration (?!), President Clinton, and the scourge of Muslims taking over America. In typical GOP fashion, he has no plans to apologize. Sounds to me like the same type of insane outlook that cause people to support invading Iraq as revenge for 9/11! In related crazy Republican news, Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) said "Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior."

OMGZ Sandy Berger's at it again! Something something socks!

President Bush supports the Democrats' minimum wage proposal (a hugely popular move that will likely pass with a veto-proof majority anyway)... but with the caveat that it be coupled with tax relief for small businesses and some deregulation clauses. The tug-of-war begins. Oddly enough, the Washington Post article cites this as proof that the President will operate in a more 'bipartisan manner' with the new Congress. Whatever they're smoking over there, I want double.

Another slap at harmful abstinence-only sex ed... 9 out of 10 Americans have premarital sex.

On the issue of the Iraq war, the Pentagon wants another $99.7 billion; someone call China and take out a new line of credit. And Kevin Drum explores how conservatives are already bringing up their old post-Vietnam rationale to explain the impending Iraq loss... it's all the liberals' fault! When that inevitably happens, I wonder if they will include those defeatocrats Rich Lowry and Joe Scarborough too. And eight Marines involved in the 2005 Haditha killings are being charged.

Finally, with war raging all over the world this holiday season, President Bush must ask a sacrifice of the American people... "go shopping more". But if I am at the mall, who will tend to my victory garden?!? Arianna Huffington, meanwhile, has a list of presents she'd like to give out.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rock, Meet Hard Place?

With few in Congress except those mavericks John McCain and Joe Lieberman cheering him on (not to mention his 10-25% base who'd drink his Kool-Aid to the final drop), the President is showing the country he's going to do what we liberals assured everyone he'd do... give a big 'fuck you' to the country and drag this war out until the day the Constitution forces him from office (761 days and counting).

All discussion of where the war's heading must begin with that basic reality.

With that out of the way, there's news the President's making his long-term plans clearer-
President Bush, working to recraft his strategy in Iraq, said Tuesday that he plans to increase the size of the U.S. military so it can fight a long-term war against terrorism.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has asked his new defense chief, Robert Gates, to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president did not say how many troops might be added, but said he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is being stretched too thin to deal with demands of fighting terrorism...

Increase the size of the army? We already know that the Republicans would never sacrifice their tax cuts (or *gasp* raise taxes) to pay for the increasingly obscene cost of this debacle. But furthermore, with no draft and few enlisting, the only remaining option is to abuse the already abused volunteer army (stop-loss orders and extended tours, calling up reserves, sending the National Guard overseas, etc). Unless there's something I'm missing here.

He is correct, of course, that the army is broken. What he won't admit is who broke it (hint: he'll see the culprit if he holds the current Time magazine cover in front of his face).

Ignoring for now the larger military needs, let's focus on issue #1- Iraq. Now added to the list of those who attempt to bring him down to reality (Baker-Hamilton group, we hardly knew ye)... the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Remember all Bush's rhetoric about how he listens to the military commanders? That was always bullshit (hey, he's the Decider), but I think that's soon about to be blown to pieces. Kevin Drum sums up the latest at Washington Monthly-
The Washington Post reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously oppose the idea of "surging" 15-30 thousand troops into Iraq in a last ditch effort to stabilize the country. Why? Because they think the White House is just casting around for plausible-sounding ideas and has no real plan for how to use the additional soldiers:
The Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military.

....The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

....Even the announcement of a time frame and mission -- such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad -- could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs have warned the White House.
If the Chiefs stand their ground, it will be very difficult for Bush to buck them. But if he gives up on the surge, what possible alternative can he offer that even remotely seems like a serious change of direction? Rock, meet hard place.

The White, of course, denies this. Which definitely means the original story is accurate.

Whether the Joint Chiefs will stand their ground or acquiesce is another story.

And if you truly haven't gotten yet what a nightmare our political situation will be in the next two years (with the President holding onto this war as if his very life depended on it, and congressional Republicans potentially acting like the obstructionists they always accused Democrats of being on matters of domestic legislation), the Charlie Brown and football analogy from my earlier entry about sums it up.

If anyone knows how to resolve this situation, now would be a great time to speak up.

The Glorious Utopia of Conservatism

When Democrats lost in 2004, I was distraught about the future of liberalism (and, heck, even basic moderation) in America. Little did I know that I should have been jubilant.

So I have deduced from reading the latest from Mark Noonan and the guys at 'Blogs for Bush'... among the most devout of Bush cultists.

In addition to suddenly realizing that he hates congressional earmarks, expect the President to also soon develop a newfound love of the veto. On this note, Noonan cheers Bush on. After blaming the Democrats for all the congressional corruption of the past few years (everyone knows that people like Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Tom Delay, and others were just on George Soros and Michael Moore's payroll to sabotage Republicans, duh!), Noonan also expresses joy at the power that voters have handed to Republicans by kicking them into the minority.

He states that with their new political position "we [Republicans] can pretty much do whatever we want." Hooray for losing elections! He continues to state that their power "can be used to channel the really horrible Democratic initiatives"-- you know the ones that anywhere between 59-80% of the country supports-- "into the sorts of bills which, while they can be passed by Congress, won't be larded up with 'must-sign' stuff designed to allow the pork a free ride." Unlike, of course, the GOP Congress' well-known disdain for the practice of pork.

Noonan, who campaigned strongly for his party to win last month, now decrees that a minority is really what's best for Republicans. He concludes: "Seems like old times, to me: back to the days when a GOP President and the GOP Congressional minority ran rings around the Democrats."

Yep! That's the beauty of conservatism... you're always a winner!

Conservatives kicked ass in the midterm elections! After all, the liberal media kept telling us after the elections that the Democrats don't have a mandate and only won because they were conservative... or something. But, uh oh, here comes one of those dirty liberals to spoil the party with some of his reality-
...It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South...

...Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology...

...Suddenly economic inequality is a problem even conservatives are taking seriously. Corporate America is looked upon, let us say, in less heroic terms. Economic security is no longer a dirty phrase, and staunch capitalists aren't quite so eager to preach the virtues of "creative destruction" to displaced industrial workers. Government -- with some wariness, to be sure -- is being invited back into the economic story to redress grievances and to right imbalances...

But doesn't E. J. Dionne know? Conservatives never lose. Win elections, lose elections. It matters not. No matter what reality may bring, America is always a conservative nation that hates liberal losers and Democrats who, even in a congressional majority, are powerless to stop Conservatism (which, by the way, has now decided they are disappointed with the behavior of the now-defunct GOP Congress, deny any involvement with them, and promise that next time they'll even more conservative, which of course is better).


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What's The Endgame Here?

Needless to say, this news is making those of who've been paying attention nervous-
The Pentagon is considering a buildup of Navy forces in the Persian Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday...

NBC News has more-
The U.S. Central Command is aggressively planning a naval buildup in the Persian Gulf, including the addition of a second aircraft carrier, in response to a series of aggressive actions by Iran, U.S. military officials told NBC News on Tuesday...

...The attempt at "gunboat diplomacy" is in its final planning stages. Although it has not been approved yet, it appears likely the increase in U.S. warships into the Gulf could come as early as January, the officials said...

'Gunboat diplomacy'. Yea, umm, that'll be taken real seriously from a nation in as weak a position as us. Like I ask in the title: What's the endgame here? We all know what the White House wants it to be, but what's really going on?

Tony Blair is also now (coincidentally?) taking Iran to task-
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will call on Wednesday for Middle East states to rein in what he calls the threat from Iran and to help advance peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians...

..."Our response should be to expose what they are doing, build the alliances to prevent it and pin them back across the whole of the region."

He says to do this "we need the open and clear backing of the countries in this region that know better than me what is happening and why."...

In fairness, I don't believe he shares the neocons' bloodlust. He seems sincere in diplomacy.

A Time article further adds that Syria is also in the Bush administration's 'crosshairs'.

Note to Bush: This isn't what the Iraq Study Group meant by negotiating with Iran and Syria.

Matt Drudge is loving this, of course. He always does.

Cheney On The Stand

Vice President Cheney will be the star witness in Scooter Libby's trial next year. I wonder how many times he will plead the fifth. Or use national security grounds to dodge the most dangerous questions. Either way, this news will put focus back on a scandal that has virtually disappeared.

AP: Cheney to be defense witness in CIA case

Save The Internets

A video refresher course on the issue of net neutrality-

Quote of the Day

"First of all, following an election that can only reasonably be viewed as an overwhelming condemnation of the President's stewardship of the Iraq war, an election that clearly indicated America's distaste with continued fighting without a clear goal or strategy for moving forward, the President is seriously contemplating -- perhaps already planning to -- not only ignore the will of the voters, but to flout it openly. In an appropriate media environment, every story about this strategy would begin, 'Demonstrating continued contempt for the vast majority of the nation, as seen by the 2006 elections and consistent opinion polling, President Bush is considering/has decided ...'

Many pundits and politicians continue to believe, against six years of evidence to the contrary, that the President will be swayed by something other than his own whims. 'Experts' predicted he would reduce troop levels for the 2004 elections, then insisted he would certainly draw down for fall 2006, and now the same people are speculating that this will be part of a strategy to get out for 2008. Uhh, no. It will take months to accomplish the kind of increase that's being discussed, and there's no reason to believe it will be reversed anytime soon. First the election results were going to be the wake-up call for a reasonable Iraq policy, then people pinned their hopes on the Iraq Study Group (has any organization gone from respected, bipartisan saviors to completely ignored in a shorter time?), and now some leaders are claiming that a troop increase will help get us out of Iraq.

The people who believe the President will act appropriately have become Charlie Brown to the President's Lucy, and I'm not sure how many times he has to pull away the ball, leaving those who had faith in him flying through the air, before they refuse to play his game."
--'AJ' at Americablog, summing up the cyclical madness that's been our Iraq debate

I'll have more on Iraq later, but first here's some war-related odds and ends...

A Pentagon report confirms the obvious, noting that violence inside Iraq is at all-time high (with nearly 1,000 attacks a week). The Pentagon, by the way, is undercounting the real numbers. To accentuate that point, the International Crisis Group warns that 'Iraq is on the brink of total disintegration and could drag its neighbors into a regional war.'

In what will only exacerbate matters, insurgents are attacking the already poor electrical infrastructure.

On the political ramifications front, long-time holdout Hillary Clinton has now conceded that neither she nor her party would have voted for this war had they known all the facts they know now. John McCain continues to be the biggest supporter of this debacle and his increasingly radical positions have got his base-- the media-- concerned that he's destroying his career in doing so.

Finally, Tim F. at Balloon Juice looks at all the groups of people the President is shunning (the American public, the ISG, etc) to stay the course. No wonder his approval rating keeps hitting new lows.

UPDATE: Sen. Reid clarifies his Sunday statements. He does not support a surge/escalation.

Eight Years Ago Today...

...President Clinton was impeached by the Republican congress.

Then George W. Bush came and restored honor and dignity to the White House and we all lived happily ever after.

Mayor Mike's Big Ideas (Pt. II)

Last week, I wrote about Mayor Bloomberg's NYC 2030 agenda, a visionary plan for how the city must cope with the changes in infrastructure and population over the next 20-25 years... or risk losing the city we love.

They set up an official website: Plan NYC 2030

A must-visit site for all fellow New Yorkers.


The Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006

Interesting reading. You (yes, you, Time's person of the year!!) may find it interesting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Liberal Media Alert!

Time magazine's managing editor wanted "star writers" who would help push the magazine toward "a stronger point of view." In addition, he "thinks a leaner, more opinionated magazine spells the future of Time" (yes, because more opinion and less news reporting is exactly what the media needs!).

One new 'star' is... Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; he'll be a part-time columnist.

For those unfamiliar with Kristol, he is the chairman of the Project For A New American Century, the official neocon thinktank. No one outside of the Bush administration was more influential in the intellectual genesis of the Iraq war than Mr. Kristol. Yep, the same war that most people now agree to be the greatest foreign policy blunder of our generation (and Mr. Kristol believes the solution to said blunder is invading more countries in the region). And yet Kristol, and his ilk, are continuously rewarded for their failures with more cushy gigs.

I wonder how often us crazy liberals will have to be right before we get a job in the liberal media.

Revenge of the Odds and Ends

More miscellaneous items of notes. Please tell me if these feature bores you.

Robert Gates was sworn in as Defense Secretary. I notice there was no big media event for his first day. Odd. Guess the White House didn't want to do anything to remind people about the war before Christmas.

Related... Talking Points Memo looks back at Donald Rumsfeld's history of buck-passing.

Tony Snow continues to make Scott McClellan look honest and transparent in comparison.

The Bush administration's policy on nuclear proliferation continues to be criminally neglect and hypocritical. While lecturing other nations not to pursue nuclear programs under the threat of sanctions and/or war, the administration has also "signed legislation [today] to let America share its nuclear know-how and fuel with India even though New Delhi refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty." And we wonder why no one takes us seriously?

A 29-year-old Navy veteran who went to Iraq as a security contractor, became a whistleblower, and was accidently detained by the U.S. military for over three months, recalls the abuse he suffered while imprisoned. As Tim at Balloon Juice notes, if this is how we treat American citizens, what do you think they do to random Muslims?

Finally, election results in Iran are being seen as a rebuke of policies and allies of President Ahmadinejad. It'll be hard for the neocons to pretend this is a dictatorship now. In related news, Salon's Alex Koppelman explores a different view of that country's leadership.

The Surge and Reid's Gamble

It's pretty common knowledge by now that the President's 'new way forward' will involve escalation and a troop 'surge' into Iraq to try and save face find something resembling 'victory'. Not exactly what the electorate ordered. So why is Senator Reid okay with this?-
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he would support a temporary troop increase in Iraq only if it were part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by early 2008.

"If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we'll go along with that," said Reid, D-Nev., citing a time frame such as two months to three months. But a period longer than that, such as 18 months to 24 months, would be unacceptable, he said.

"The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily. It can only be won politically," Reid said. "We have to change course in Iraq."

Ignoring even the contradictions there between recognizing this war cannot be won military and agreeing to the surge calls, this is incredibly naive. First of all, this plan assumes (probably correctly) that Americans have a short attention span. I can recall, without even doing any Googling, numerous 'surges' like this (of varying degrees) that were billed by the White House as major efforts to win.... securing Fallujah after the 2004 elections, securing it again, a major air assault this past March, turning Baghad into a garrison town, etc. Those failed. This will too.

Furthermore, the history of this war tells us that this increase will not be as temporary as Reid hopes. Previous increases were always billed as temporary (Atrios reminds us of reports in May 2003 that the troops were on their way out of Iraq). The script goes like this: 'Temporary increase' to quell the violence, violence increases anyway, then President says extra troops need to stay to deal with increased violence, stay the course, etc. Unless Reid gets it in writing, he should know better than to give this President even an inch.

Moreover, Reid's sentiments aren't shared by fellow Democrats... or Colin Powell-
Former US secretary of state Colin Powell and top Democratic lawmakers rejected reported White House plans to hike US troop levels in Iraq, with Powell calling the US military "about broken" by the pressure on their numbers.

Speaking on CBS television's "Face the Nation" program, Powell said he had not seen anything that would justify a reported White House plan to increase US forces in Iraq by 20,000 or more, from the current 140,000.

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work. ... If I were still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question to whoever is proposing it (would be), what mission is it these troops are to accomplish?"...

There have also been recent reports that the military is wary of this path as well.

Some liberal bloggers are surmising, however, that this is a carefully calculated political move by Reid... That he will appear to give the President one last shot for success, while forcing him to agree to a timetable for withdrawal in doing so. I don't see that.

But whether its a calculated move or not, the fact of the matter is that Reid is still taking cues from the President. You know the same President at record low approval ratings whom voters gave a big middle finger to last month. That one. To accentuate the point, a new Wall Street Journal poll said that "By 59% to 21%, Americans say Congress rather than Mr. Bush should take the lead in setting policy for the nation."

Did the Senator see that poll? Or the ones showing only 12% support sending more troops?

So this may be political strategy, but it's bad strategy. The public rarely ever gets nuance and all they will see is that the new Democratic Senate Majority Leader is supporting the same path that they won the election denouncing. Yes, of course, as opposed to people like Bush and McCain, Sen. Reid's ultimate goal is to end the war, but he's a fool to count on that part to get put into the media narrative on this.

And it's delusional to think that, no matter what he agrees to, the President will begin a withdrawal of U.S. forces, even after his 'surge'. He's on the record as saying this war will not end as long as he's President; his plan is to drag it out 'til 2009 and leave it for the next guy. It's up to Congress to stop him.

Rather than playing political games, Reid should be denouncing this as vocally as Colin Powell is... and as most of his colleagues are. The message here should be clear: It's a plan that's doomed to fail, we don't have the troops, and even if we did, we shouldn't trust their fate to the guy who screwed this all up in the first place. Period. We need to start climbing out, not digging in deeper.

I'm all for Sen. Reid keeping our options open, but those options should come out of the new Democratic majority's plans and discussions, not what the neocons and Sen. McCain advocate for. How much longer we will keep spinning in circles until our leaders realize that the course voters want is the same those who rightfully opposed invasion have proposed?

I'm tired of writing about this war. I can't wait for a time when I don't have to anymore.

[PS- Political analyst Craig Crawford rips apart the President's 'listening tour' BS.]

Delivering A Message

Al Gore is asking people to sign an online postcard demanding action on global warming. He plans to personally deliver the messages to Congress in 2007. It's quick and easy, so make your voice heard.

(Oh, and the 'Inconvenient Truth' DVD and book would make great Christmas gifts.)

Learning From The Past

Most of the conservative rhetoric about the 'war on terror' and how it's the greatest threat we've ever faced, etc, involves forgetting a lot of history-- particularly the Cold War era. Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly tackles this subject. It's a good read. Money quote-
But is it really true that the post-WWII national security environment was simpler and less dangerous than today's? Color me unconvinced. After all, back in the 40s and 50s, in addition to the Soviet Union, we had to deal with China, the nonaligned movement, the dissolution of the British empire, the rebuilding of Europe, Nasser and pan-Arabism, and the supposedly terminal decline of scientific acumen among our youth (hooray for the New Math!). And that's just to name a few.

It's true that the Soviet Union provided an organizing principle for dealing with most of this stuff — sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly — but militant Islamic jihadism does the same today — again, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. What's more, the Soviet Union had something that today's jihadists don't: lots and lots and lots of nuclear bombs. Not just the vague possibility of acquiring a nuclear weapon or two, but actual nuclear weapons in frightening numbers. And while we might engage in rosy reminiscing today about how Soviet leaders were really conservative, deterrable, and not so very dangerous after all, that sure wasn't how we thought about them at the time. In October 1962 nobody was talking about how reasonable and conservative Nikita Krushchev was.

The present always seems more complex and scary than the past because, as Yogi Berra pointed out, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But if you had told George Kennan in 1947 that liberal democracy would reign triumphant in the 21st century and our biggest threat would come from a small band of religious fanatics hiding in caves and supported only by some of the most backward economies on the planet, I'll bet he would have laughed in our faces. In fact, the Kennan of 1947 might have said, "You guys have it easy."

The subsequent discussion in the comments is also worth reading.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Even More Odds and Ends

It'll likely be a slow week with Christmas coming. So where'd all this news come from?

One year ago, the NY Times revealed the President's warrantless, domestic wiretapping program. Despite even more disturbing revelations since then of the scope of the program, no action has been taken. With Democratic leaders pledging to use their new majority to tackle this issue, will that change? An AP report notes that "a new Congress' efforts to limit the program could trigger a constitutional showdown."

Lord, let's hope so! A constitutional showdown is sorely overdue.

Meanwhile, in Asia: "Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program resumed Monday for the first time in more than a year, a test of whether the secretive communist regime is willing to negotiate after its surprise atomic test rattled the region this fall."

Around the Middle East, anti-U.S. sentiment hits new highs.

At home, President Bush develops a sudden dislike of congressional earmarks.

John Edwards is planning to announce an '08 presidential run at a press conference soon in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Using the battered neighborhood is intended to highlight his top issue of the effects of economic inequality in America.

Newt Gingrich also wants to run for President and is as crazy as ever.

Finally, the White House decides to classify the number of Iraq attacks since August.

About Face!

A group of active-duty U.S. military personnel are organizing to oppose the war in Iraq and demand that Congress push for a withdrawal. The Nation has details on this movement-- known as the Appeal for Redress-- which began several weeks ago. The articles notes that reasons for their opposition range from "ideological, practical, strategic and moral", but that all agree on the goal of beginning a withdrawal of U.S. forces. They interviewed some of these people and have posted excerpts in that article.

One (a 21-year-old in the Army deployed near Mosul) said-
I supported the war in the beginning. I bought everything Bush said about how Saddam had WMDs, how he was working with Al Qaeda, how he was a threat to America. Of course, this all turned out to be false...

...So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.

Another (a 24-year-old deployed near Baghdad) says-
I cannot, from Iraq, attend an antiwar protest. Nor could I attend one in the States and represent myself as a soldier. What I can do is send a protest communication to my Congressional delegate outlining grievances I feel I have suffered. Appeal for Redress gives me that outlet.

I am encouraged by the November elections, but still wary. We rushed into the war on false assumptions, and now we might rush out just as falsely. What troops need now is a light at the end of the tunnel, not just for this deployment but for all deployments. Bringing everyone out this summer is too fast to be supported by our Army's infrastructure. We would hemorrhage lives if we do so. But so would we if we stay the course.

I am encouraged by politicians who call for a withdrawal by the conclusion of President Bush's term in office. That seems a realistic timetable for me.

A third (a 26 year-old just home from Iraq) said-
My experience in Iraq confirmed my views, but it also gave me a more multifaceted view of things. I did see some of the good things being done, but it seemed like a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. Mostly I saw the frivolity of the missions, the lack of direction, the absurdity of the mission. You go out in your Humvee, you drive around, and you wait to be blown up and get killed by an IED.

About 40 percent of my unit were stop-lossed. Their first mission was to take down Saddam and his regime, and they seemed to understand that and agree with the mission to take down a ruthless dictator. Now they can't seem to understand why they are there, caught in the cross hairs of a civil war.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of soldiers are wondering what this grand scheme is that we keep hearing about from those above us but that is never translating down to the ground level.

Some politicians are starting to see that not only a majority of Americans oppose to this war. Now they see this very powerful statement of soldiers who have already been on the front line and who are still in uniform and are also opposed. None of them have been where we have been, none of them have seen what we have seen. It's time they do.

More details available in The Nation.

This is a sentiment that will continue to grow the longer our leaders keep dithering.

Time Magazine's Person of the Year Is...


Okay. It's their call, but I personally would've picked something/someone relating to the Iraq war (you may remember it being a huge deal) and/or its political debate here in the United States. Or something more political or relating to world affairs.

But this is certainly nice too. Group hug, America!

Staying The Course

The following two, separate headlines are both currently on the main page of Yahoo. When put together, they tell you all you need to know about the effects of The Decider's decisions.

AP: 'Bush rejects most dramatic Iraq options'

AP: 'U.S. troops prepare for third tour in Iraq'

Elsewhere, Talking Points Memo looks at the the myths and realities of the Iraq war discussion in the aftermath of the elections. I'm not sure how much the media and public truly comprehend just how little the President cares what people want and advise; he'd run this country right it into the ground if his gut told him that was the right call. I think the latter gets it better than the former, though.

A McClatchy Newspaper report on Thursday said "Bush appears to have been emboldened by criticism of its proposals as defeatist by members of the Republican Party's conservative wing and their allies on the Internet, the radio and cable TV." Translation: Election, schmelection; Iraq Study Group be damned. The Sean Hannity crew (an increasingly smaller base) are the only advisors he needs.

[PS- In related news... Over in the U.K., there's a lot more accountability occurring for the lies that led to this war. Newly uncovered documents appear to reveal Prime Minister Blair knew the WMD intelligence-- as well as the alleged threat from Saddam Hussein-- was at least exaggerated, if not outright fabricated. The document also reveals that British officials warned U.S. diplomats of the dangers that the invasion would lead to regional chaos. I wish I was reading U.S. articles on the same subject as well.]

"[A]mong the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."

That's what the Pentagon said after 9/11 about the people it was sweeping up into our prison facility in Guantanamo Bay. Much of what we've learned since then has proved that to be another in a long series of distortions and lies, but there are many pieces of the Gitmo puzzle left to fill in. For instance: what happens to those lucky enough to have been released from the facility?

The AP investigates and discovers some more inconvenient truths.

[UPDATE: A NY Times report indicates life's gonna get a lot rougher for those still there.]