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July 31, 2007

The Despicable Dick Cheney
Posted by Michael Cohen

Probably out of some self-masochistic tendency on my part, I decided to check out Larry King Live tonight and watch our esteemed Vice President.

I suppose I could run down the list of half-truths, mistruths, exaggerations, duplicitous statements, mischaracterizations and lies that peppered his comments, but really what's the point.  With or without my contribution, the blogosphere, along with the overwhelming majority of the American people, seem to understand the true nature of our Vice President - namely that he is a despicable man.

However, that admonition, notwithstanding, I did want to pass along this little nugget from an interview Cheney did with CBS News several days ago:

"I've had my differences with Pat Leahy," Cheney said. "I think the key is whether or not he (Gonzales) has the confidence of the president — and he clearly does."

This really should be the epitaph of the Bush Administration. In one sentence, Cheney has pretty much summed up the fundamental arrogance and disrespect for America's governing institutions that has come to define this Administration. We don't care what Pat Leahy thinks; hell we don't care what Congress thinks. Allies? Take a hike. American people? LOL. All that matters is one thing and one thing only - what does George W. Bush think.

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I will now return to sober blogging on major foreign policy issues  . . .

Drop What You're Doing and Read This
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Ok. Go read this. Now. It's that good. No, actually, it's better. So rarely do I read a piece on democracy promotion that I agree with 85-100%. This is one of them (at about 90%). Either that says a lot about me, or a lot about Ms. Slaughter. Take your pick. Anyway, here's the part I particularly liked a lot:

A sensible strategy of supporting democracy around the world, then, would recognize the long-term and complex nature of the task. It would support liberal democracy and governments with institutions that are accountable to their citizens. It would support parties of any religion and any ideology as long as they are committed to the democratic process, recognize the rights of the opposition and bind themselves internationally to recognizing minority rights and the individual rights of all citizens, and upholding independent courts and honest government. Such a strategy also would recognize that American security is best assured by a world of liberal democracies not because the governments of those countries like or agree with the United States - plenty of European, Latin American and Asian liberal democratic governments oppose American policies - but because the processes that elected those governments and the institutions that keep them honest are the best antidote to extremism, violence and sustained injustice.

Is there really any alternative? Would the newfound adherents of a foreign policy based only on securing U.S. interests really like to return to an era characterized by the apocryphal quote: "He may be a son-of-a-bitch but he's our son-of-a-bitch"? (The quote has been attributed variously to Cordell Hull, speaking about the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, and to Franklin Roosevelt, referring to the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García.) Isn't that the policy that has landed America exactly where it is today in so much of the Islamic world, with vast majorities of young people hating the United States, in part because America is seen as a key supporter of the governments that oppress them?

Declaring Victory in Iraq
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I almost jumped out of my subway seat yesterday morning while reading Mike O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack's NY Times op-ed entitled:  A War We Just Might Win.  The pair just returned from a trip to Iraq and declare:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

The two report that troop morale is high, that American servicemember have confidence in General David Petraeus and in the surge strategy.  They say that efforts at reconstruction and stabilization are appropriately tailored to the needs of local communities, that local politicos are cultivating the support of American commanders, that commercial districts of Baghdad are coming to life, that Iraqi troops are showing their mettle, that militia-ridden areas are being not just cleared but also held, that the US-led provincial reconstruction teams are working and that Iraqis are rebelling against the likes of al Qaeda and Sadr.  The only major caveats noted are in relation to the police and the stalled process of political reconciliation.  The piece ends by calling for the extra troops to stay in place at least through 2008.

This is the best news to be reported out of Iraq in months if not years, and has special credibility coming from two longstanding critics of the war.  When John McCain made some similar observations several months back, he was ridiculed in the media.  But is it really cause to rethink the grim outlook on Iraq shared throughout so much of official Washington and Middle America?

Continue reading "Declaring Victory in Iraq" »

The Trouble with O'Hanlon and Pollack
Posted by Michael Cohen

Let me first take this brief opportunity to thank Ilan and the folks at Democracy Arsenal for the opportunity to guestblog. There is so much to talk about in the news today, it's hard to know where to start, but like many in the blogosphere I wanted to offer a few comments on the recent NYT editorial by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack on Iraq.

Much of the criticism, atleast on sites like TPM, Thinkprogress and others has been directed at the mainstream media for giving Pollack and O'Hanlon an enormous amount of media coverage, particularly since they've been pretty much consistently wrong on everything about the war from the beginning; as well as the fact that O'Hanlon published a Brookings report at complete odds with his op-ed. All fair points, but really the issue here is the substance of their comments - and that deserves as mush criticism as anything else.

O'Hanlon and Pollack claim that from a military perspective the surge is working. Having not been to Iraq I will not try to quibble with their assertions (no matter my own reservations or those raised in the Brookings report) yet one passage in their op-ed jumped out at me:

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed.

You think? In case we've all forgotten, the surge was predicated on the notion that by improving the security situation in Baghdad, it would give the Iraqis breathing room to move forward on political reform. In fact, here's what the President said when he announced the surge policy in January.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas.

Yet, as O'Hanlon and Pollack acknowledge nearly seven months after the annoucement of the surge, there has been virtually no progress on any of the major political reforms that Iraq needs. And it's not as if Iraqi leaders are really putting themselves out to achieve these goals.

The surge was never meant to represent a military solution to the challenges facing Iraq. At its core, the surge represented a coordinated military and political initiative. Indeed, the two are inextricably linked. So even if you buy the notion that the military effort is acheiving success, by ignoring the Iraqi government's political failures O'Hanlon and Pollack are conveniently minimizing what is the key issue to the long-term success of the surge.

While they acknowledge that "the surge cannot go on forever," they argue "that there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."

Why? If after seven months of dawdling what evidence is there that Iraq's leaders will at some point actually accomplish something? Without the threat of American withdrawal or, heaven forbid, a timetable for withdrawal is there any lever that would push the Iraqis to compromise? I have yet to see one and Pollack and O'Hanlon certainly don't offer it. 

In the end, both men seem to ignore the fact that winning the battle is not the same thing as winning the war.

Introducing Michael Cohen
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

We have a new guest blogger today.

Michael A. Cohen works as a corporate communication professional in New York where he provides communications, public affairs and crisis management support to a variety of clients. He is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation where he helms the Privatization of Foreign Policy Initiative and an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Michael is currently writing a book on the history of campaign speechwriting, titled Live from the Campaign Trail: The Political Speeches that Changed America, which will be published by Bloomsbury in May 2008. Previously, Michael was the chief speechwriter for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Senator Chris Dodd.

Can Anne-Marie Slaughter and Daily Kos Both Be Right?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Slaughter had a WaPo piece on Saturday calling for foreign policy bipartisanship and claiming that the real divide in American politics is now between partisans and nonpartisans.  After bemoaning the tendencies of the left-wing blogosphere to attack Democrats, she gives her solution:

It's time, then, for a bipartisan backlash. Politicians who think we need bargaining to fix the crises we face should appear side by side with a friend from the other party -- the consistent policy of the admirably bipartisan co-chairmen of the 9/11 commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. Candidates who accept that the winner of the 2008 election is going to need a lot of friends across the aisle -- not least to get out of Iraq -- should make a point of finding something to praise in the other party's platform. And as for the rest of us, the consumers of a steady diet of political vitriol, every time we read a partisan attack, we should shoot -- or at least spam -- the messenger.

Over at DailyKos, Booman23  gives this response:

In these circumstances, moderation is not a virtue.  A moderate response is indistinguishable from apathy.   

And for Slaughter to shoot the messenger in the name of apathy is a case study in why the blogosphere reacts to bipartisanship with fury.

We are patriots that are trying to save our country.  Ms. Slaughter appears to be just one more deluded member of the establishment that thinks all can be put right if we just tinker around the edges and get Bush to accept the wisdom of James Baker and Lee Hamilton.   

First, Bush is not going to accept the wisdom of Baker and Hamilton.  Second, their wisdom is grossly overrated and wholly inadequate to the challenges we face.

Can both be right?

Continue reading "Can Anne-Marie Slaughter and Daily Kos Both Be Right?" »

On a Stack of Coffee Cups
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Over at BloggingHeads, Rosa and I discourse on the global economy, politics, impeachment, Iraqi refugees and motherhood.  And we do it all while staring implacably into tiny video cameras mounted precariously on stacks of folders, old bestsellers, and coffeecups on our desks.  No, you can't see that part.

July 29, 2007

Some Good News
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The Max Blumenthal video that Lorelei posted is depressing.  So it's nice to see a letter like this a couple of days later from Evangelical Leaders

We also write to correct a serious misperception among some people including some U.S. policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who sign this letter, represent large numbers of evangelicals throughout the U.S. who support justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope this support will embolden you and your administration to proceed confidently and forthrightly in negotiations with both sides in the region.

Joe Biden - The Only One to Offer a Detailed Plan?
Posted by David Shorr

Sen. Joe Biden has offered a plan for Iraq, I want to acknowledge at the outset. He has looked deeply into the situation, made an analysis, and offered a proposal for a partition of the country into a loose federation. He and Les Gelb have made an important contribution to the debate, no question. But the extravagant claims as to the plan's uniqueness, and some of the associated swooning, have skewed the issue of what constitutes a plan, and what constitutes a viable solution.

I write about this tonight because the New York Times' Helene Cooper has a flattering Week in Review piece today about the Biden(-Gelb) plan. Cooper gives Biden credit for his prescience because Iraqis are migrating (not always voluntarily) into areas controlled by militias of their own sectarian or kinship groups. But it's a significant leap to claim that these migration patterns show that partition is the clear answer. The way I see it, Sen. Biden steps into the same trap that snared us in the first place: misjudging our ability to leverage the outcome in Iraq from the outside.

In fact, the plan itself as well as the political claim staked on it both display the same sort of hubris...

Continue reading "Joe Biden - The Only One to Offer a Detailed Plan?" »

July 28, 2007


Ready for Rapture Israel?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Seems the Armageddon Lobby was in DC again in mid July. The intrepid Max Blumenthal covered the event and the video is posted here. Despite being very explicit about the need for right-wing religious types and American Jews to band together on a pre-emptive strike on Iran, they obfuscate and wobble when asked about how end time scenarios fit into their lobbying scheme. Looks like their press people- at least-- have gone through the Leadership Institute i.e. spin camp for the Righteous. Why, oh Why Joe Lieberman do you show up at these events? Do you realize you're sharing the dais with felons? Advice for Jews and Christians RUN!

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