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April 14, 2007

Does the Road to Jerusalem Go Through Damascus?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

We’ve all figured out that the road to Jerusalem doesn’t go through Baghdad.  But perhaps a peace agreement between Damascus and Jerusalem is a logical next step?  Rob Malley makes a compelling argument that there is an opportunity to negotiate a Syrian-Israeli peace accord. 

Sandwiched between civil strife in Iraq and Lebanon, facing increasing sectarian polarization throughout the region, losing political legitimacy at home and confronted with acute economic problems, the Syrian regime is eager for renewed domestic popularity and international investment. What better than a peace deal with Israel and recovery of the Golan Heights — with all the attendant diplomatic and economic benefits — most notably normalization with the West — to achieve those goals?

Let’s assume for a second that this deal can actually get done (I understand it’s a quite an assumption).  The impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be significant, taking what right now is a stalemated situation and creating a number of potential openings.   

Continue reading "Does the Road to Jerusalem Go Through Damascus?" »

April 12, 2007

I Want Names
Posted by David Shorr

In a "Political Insiders Poll" in the current issue of National Journal, the US role in the world placed a disappointing fifth (with five votes) as an issue Democratic insiders want their presidential candidates to campaign on. It lost out to health care, Iraq (perhaps some overlap here), energy, and the economy. If my math is right, climate change received four votes.

Continue reading "I Want Names" »

April 11, 2007


Why Grow the Army?
Posted by Gordon Adams

What do Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Bill Richardson, and Gen. Pete Schoomaker, among others, have in common?  They all think the U.S. military is on the verge of breaking and the solution is to make it bigger.  Yet, none of them have told us why it should grow.  Every one of them has put the expansion cart ahead of the strategic horse.

There is no compelling reason to expand the land forces of the United States; in fact, there may be reasons to make them smaller.  Our national security is not facing and existential risk today, and making sure it does not tomorrow will require a different mix of capabilities, one that relies as much on our statecraft, policing, assistance, and intelligence as it does on our land forces.

Continue reading "Why Grow the Army?" »

Corporate War and the Fog of Greed
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

People who argue that criticizing the defense budget (including the war budget) is the same as not supporting the troops are endangering the very democracy that our military sacrifices lives to defend. Our democracy, that is.

Looks like the Fog of War and the Fog of Greed have similar characteristics...Except instead of IEDs, tactical miscalculations,and collateral damage, you have mountains of unaccounted for cash, non-existent projects paid for by Americans and, I speculate, lots of new numbered bank accounts in Switzerland. (not to mention the prostitutes at the Watergate) Or you can just avoid helping pay for your nation's public goods altogether and move to Dubai like Halliburton. Excuse this redneck in me, but a whole lot of corporations are flipping off middle America. It's sad

"Running a private war takes accountability out of that war. Companies are, in theory, responsible only to their shareholders and their customers - their two sources of income, one of which they must pay back in profits, the other in goods and services. In the case of contractors in Iraq, the average Iraqi civilian is neither a customer nor a shareholder. Therefore the contractor, who is armed and dangerous, is not responsible for him or her."

If this college sophomore editor gets it, why can't all of our lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike? Forget about the Bush Administration. They are almost out of office. In my opinion, the privatization of war is the single biggest threat to our democracy that exists. Congress, DO SOMETHING!!!

See, those companies that have defrauded the taxpayers now have lots of dinero to spend on flacks and lobbyist/lawyers. The public interest has a tough time competing with K Street. And the people who could offer the best criticism are pledged to not do so by a professional code (that would be the military itself). We've already lost one Army ethics professor over it.

Although I'm sure many of these people used to work in the trenches on behalf of the public interest, don't get those intentions confused with their primary cause now. It's not the front line, neither for our soldiers nor for taxpayers. Its the bottom line. Like I said, it's sad.

Worst Job in Washington
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Shockingly five years into a badly mismanaged war no one wants to be the President’s war czar.  I was wondering if there were any jobs in Washington worse than Director of National Intelligence or Director of the Department of Homeland Security.  Somehow the Whitehouse has managed to concoct one.  General Jack Sheehan, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, turned down the job and was especially harsh.

The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going… So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,'... I've never agreed on the basis of the war, and I'm still skeptical…Not only did we not plan properly for the war, we grossly underestimated the effect of sanctions and Saddam Hussein on the Iraqi people…There's the residue of the Cheney view -- 'We're going to win, al-Qaeda's there' -- that justifies anything we did…  And then there's the pragmatist view -- how the hell do we get out of Dodge and survive? Unfortunately, the people with the former view are still in the positions of most influence.

April 10, 2007

Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Where to begin with the President’s speech today.  First of all the “invitation” to Democrats to come talk with him and give him everything he wants really got under my skin (More than the usual political posturing).

At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk. We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill: a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal, and without handcuffing our generals on the ground.

The tone is just irritating.  He’s talking as if he is the boss and Congress needs to come up and report to him and progress for a homework assignment he gave them.  The President doesn’t seem to understand that Congress is a coequal branch of government.  Congress works with the President, not for the President

Meanwhile, the Whitehouse’s favorite talking point for the past week is just beyond the pale.

Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated.

Seriously?  He is blaming Congress for extended tours in Iraq?  Let’s review.  This is the man who decided to bring an extra 30,000 troops into Iraq when just about every single sane person left said it was time to start drawing down.  This is the man who got us into an ill conceived war in the first place and exacerbated the problems through horrific management. 

Worse Than McCain
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Poor John McCain.  Everything he touches lately seems to blow up in his face.  The romp through the Baghdad market was a fiasco of his own making and he deserves all of the criticism he’s getting.  But let’s give McCain credit for one thing.  While running a Republican campaign based on an Iraq policy is political folly he’s at least willing to talk about the issue.  Compare that to Giuliani and Romney who are completely avoiding the most important issue facing our country (Except when they take the time to make vague statements of support for the President’s policy).

Giuliani is the worst.  As Matt Yglesias points out the press has given him a total pass on his national security credentials.  He was the mayor of NYC on 9/11.  How exactly does that make him more qualified to run our country’s foreign policy than any of the other candidates?  What does he actually know about foreign policy?  What was most distributing were his recent comments equating Iran with Al Qaeda and saying we weren’t sure whether Iran or North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was farther along (Hello.  Only one of them has set off a nuclear weapon!!!).  Giuliani, more than anyone, reminds me of Bush when it comes to foreign policy.  First figure out your worldview.  Second adjust the facts to make sure they fit with your assumptions.

Then there is Mitt Romney. He has said pretty much absolutely nothing thus far about Iraq.  His campaign website doesn’t even have a word on his position.  The closest thing we’ve seen to a plan from him is a suggestion for a secret timetable, which I’ve already suggested is just plain dumb.

McCain’s recent follies are inexcusable.  But let’s not forget that until proven otherwise the other two guys are even worse.

Continue reading "Worse Than McCain" »

April 09, 2007

Posted by Rosa Brooks

Looking back on the fall of Baghdad, the Washington Post tracked down Khadim al-Jubouri, the Iraqi man immortalized four years ago in countless photos showing him jubilantly swinging a sledghammer at Saddam Hussein's statue. Today, he's not so jubilant:

"We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him," said Jubouri, who is a Shiite Muslim. "Now, we regret that Saddam Hussein is gone, no matter how much we hated him." His faith in the United States has also vanished, he said.

April 08, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
Posted by Jeremy Broussard

Days before Iran's release of 15 British prisoners/detainees/hostages/guests, an Iranian "diplomat" held in U.S. custody since he was abducted off the streets of Baghdad in early February was returned to Teheran.  While both the British and American governments claim there was no quid pro quo, the release neatly coincided with the release of the Brits and the U.S. government's agreement to let the Red Cross inspect another group of Iranians "diplomats"--actually suspected members of the Qods Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard--held in U.S. custody since a January raid in the Kurdish city of Erbil.

But the individual released, Jalal Sharafi, claims that he was tortured by U.S. personnel, namely the CIA, during his detention.  The U.S., of course, has denied this.

The trouble is that most of the world will accept Mr. Sharafi's accusations on face value because of the terrible record this administration has earned for the treatment of terrorist suspects, be they members of a state organization or not, since 2001.  The administration seemed slow on the uptake that more people than just the American people saw the images of Abu Ghrarib in 2004, the stories of "extraordinary rendition" of terrorist suspects to cooperating nations that will torture suspects, and reports of inhumane treatment at Guantanamo Bay and other "black sites".

Simple administration denials of what appears to very much be happening will not suffice.  The administration's counterterrorism strategy needs to reconsider its methods in its obtaining (or is it extracting . . . like a tooth or fingernail?) good human intelligence on the activity of Iran, Al Qaeda, and other threats in the region, and how these methods will be received when--and it's no longer if--they come out.   

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