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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!

July 27, 2007

Mixed Messages Saudi Style
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Friday morning's NY Times headline was about the Administration's difficulties winning Saudi Arabia's cooperation over Iraq.  Saturday's headline (published Friday night) is about a $20 billion arms deal Washington is trying to push through.   Support for latter is not conditioned on progress on the former.

Given the importance of Saudi cooperation on Iraq, the question immediately arises as to why the weapons sales are not tied to Saudi support for the Iraqi government and the effort to stabilize that country.  What's the use of being the global superpower if that power cannot be used to leverage support for US policy goals?

This is an example of a phenomenon I always found strange while I served in government.  Even in relation to top priority policy goals, the US government is often very reluctant to link unrelated policy areas in an effort to exert leverage over foreign governments.

The reasons are manifold, yet surprising: one is the simple fact that, oftentimes, one arm of the US government simply does not know what other branches are doing, even in the case of relations with a significant ally.  In the current situation vis-a-vis Saudi, while State, Defense, and the NSC may all be clued in, the impetus behind different parts of the policy - the push for Saudi engagement in Iraq and the arms deal, for example, are being driven by separate bureaucratic arms that each have their own agendas.   Those hands-on policymakers who want the weapons package in order to gird the kingdom against Iranian influence are probably not personally responsible for untangling the Iraq quagmire, and vis-versa.  While the result can be hopelessly ill-coordinated, especially as compared to much smaller governments whose left hands know what their right is doing  But there can be a bright side:  given the ill-fated direction of Iraq policy, is it really a bad thing that some in the State and Defense Department are thinking beyond the war and focusing on how to recover other long-term policy interests?

There is also, in some policymaking circles, an belief that by linking issues that are not directly related, US foreign policy will reveal itself to be more mercenary than principled, as if the rest of the world today believed that every single US policy decision was reached on its own independent merits, irrespective of context.  This has never made much sense to me.  Given the President's repeated professions of the seminal importance of the Iraq struggle, how does he justify not exerting greater leverage to secure the cooperation of a key country in the region?

Continue reading "Mixed Messages Saudi Style" »

July 24, 2007

Biden's Problem
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden.  He is one of the most effective and serious foreign policy experts in the Senate.  But his campaign tactic of claiming that he is the only Senator who “supports the troops” because he voted for the Iraq supplemental is just infuriating.

First of all, it’s patently untrue to argue that voting against an appropriations bill means that you don’t support the troops.  According to this logic all the Republican Senators who voted against the appropriations bill that called for a timeline out of Iraq voted against the troops.  The President must be against the troops because he vetoed the bill.  I bet that pretty much every single member of Congress has at some point voted against some piece of military spending.  So guess what.  They are all against the troops.

However, what is even more important and damaging is that this line of argument reinforces the worst of all conservative frames on national security.  This has been a consistent conservative substitute for genuine debate for years now.  Yell at the other side for not supporting the troops and use that as an excuse for why Congress should just rubber stamp all of the President’s lousy national security policies.

I admire Senator Biden for his long record of leadership on these issues.  I respect his position on the war, even if I don’t agree with certain elements of his argument.  I don’t believe that he actually thinks that Congress should just shut up and fund the troops.  But every time he makes this “support the troops” argument, he reinforces that frame.  He has to stop.

What Makes a Starbucksist (or how to fight Islamo-fascists with the power of our ideas)?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

This is wonderful, I thought to myself. Again, I had cosmic confirmation that Starbucks was more than just a store – or even a brand – but rather a way of life, a way of thinking… (I search for the write word)…an ideology (yes!). Well, it started when I got bored at the huge 6-person Starbucks table, and my eyes began shifting around restlessly. I was sick of democracy promotion and didn’t want to look at the screen. And then I saw it, “The Way I See It #267” (Look at your Starbucks cup).

This time a quote from Oliver Sacks, a neurologist, who tells us that “music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.” No, not a great quote to be sure, but good enough to make me write this post. Look, but then look closer, at the brown wrap-around holder that hugs your cup oh so snugly. It says “Starbucks is committed to reducing our environmental impact through increased use of post-consumer recycled materials. Help us help the planet.”

You want words, not just deeds, say you? Well, we are informed just below that this is not just any cup. This is a special cup. Maybe even a northeastern, studied-at-an-ivy-league, self-aware, I’m a liberal-and-proud-of it cup. “First-ever 10% post-consumer fiber cup/ 60% post-consumer fiber sleeve.” What the hell is “post-consumer”? No more posting! Post-Islamist (AKP), post-Secularist (no idea), post-religious (everyone in Europe who isn’t Muslim), post-Christian (the guy across the table from me), post-Republican (Ron Paul), post-Democrat (not gonna happen). But what exactly does “post-consumer” mean? Whatever it means, it sounds fresh, new, and above politics. Best of all, it sounds like something a liberal would say. Good then - I’m on board.

So you have it all. In short, a Starbucksist is someone who:

  • Is open to a multitude of opinions, even controversial ones. Pluralism.
  • Is not afraid to express his views (the brown snug holder says “After you read ‘The Way I See It,’ tell us how you see it”). Freedom of expression.
  • Has watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and is currently doing all he (or she) can to do something about his (or her) carbon footprint. Pro-environment.
  • Believes in artistic expression (music saves and opens). If you don’t think this is a big deal, then start hanging out with conservative Muslims who think that playing a guitar is forbidden (also known as CSS, “Cat Stevens Syndrome”).
  • Has a laptop (signifies economic development).
  • Supports free-range eggs (Look at the food section next time).
  • Supports labor rights, especially in South America (Starbucks is all about that).

There you have it: A vision. A narrative. A way of life. The terrorists are going down, goddamn it.

July 23, 2007

Trent Lott on Detainees - William Kristol on the Troops
Posted by David Shorr

This New York Times story on the shoddiness of the detainee status review panels, focusing on withering criticism from a reservist intelligence office who took part, prompts me to revisit an NPR piece last week on the Senate habeas corpus debate. The other day I parsed a statement by Sen. Lindsey Graham; today Sen. Trent Lott's quote in the same piece seems highly apropos. Let's look at statements by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, the reservist, and Senator Lott side by side.

Here is Col. Abraham's first-hand account of the sloppiness and bias of the status review process:

The classified information was stripped down, watered down, removed of context, incomplete and missing essential information. [later in the article] Anything that resulted in a ‘not enemy combatant’ would just send ripples through the entire process. The interpretation is, ‘You got the wrong result. Do it again.’

The Times story describes one such 'do over.' Col. Abraham and two other review panel members unanimously ruled a Libyan man not to be an enemy combatant, but the Pentagon had another panel look at the case, which rendered a 3-0 outcome more to their liking.

Now to Sen. Lott's comment to NPR (my own transcription):

It’s gonna be a hard sell to say that these people at Guantanamo and others are entitled to all of the legal niceties of the American legal system based on who they are and what they did. At least by me, it won’t be well received

Two points about 'legal niceties.'  First, while Sen. Lott seems to believe that the rights guaranteed by the American legal system are indulgent favors the government grants out of largess, I was taught that they are necessary safeguards to achieve justice despite human fallibility. If nothing else, Lott's approach undercuts the idea that the principles of democracy and rule of law are universal. Second, the presumption of innocence is one of the pillars that distinguishes democracy from authoritarianism. Senator Lott's willingness to paint 'these people at Guantanamo' with a single brushstroke illustrates the problem with military detention perfectly.

Speaking of democratic principles, William Kristol seems to have forgotten another important one...

Continue reading "Trent Lott on Detainees - William Kristol on the Troops" »

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