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August 10, 2007

Top Intel Republicans are leaking classified information!
Posted by Moira Whelan

First of all, lets clarify. It is not okay. Ever.

Peter Hoekstra in the New York Post told the world that the US intel budget cut human intelligence. Hat tip: Raw Story. Justin Rood develops the story a bit.

Rood also points out that:

   On July 31, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said: "There's been a ruling, over     the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States."

    Government officials have since confirmed to reporters that Boehner was discussing classified information, although the GOP leader denies it.

In his defense, Boehner only told one person: Neil Cavuto. He is after all, on their team. The problem was the live television camera that was rolling at the time.

So yes, we are all outraged. Lets take a step back, however, and realize that these are two top Republicans in the House capable of learning the super-double top secret information. (Some is so classified, only the leaders and the intel chairs learn about it). They are then choosing to talk about these issues in a political setting and to push political agendas.

So the question of the day...which is more detrimental to our intelligence...the actual leaking of the information so our enemies can use it, or the use of the information by the leaker to manipulate it for a particular political agenda?

As a bonus (and a shout out to Gonzo and the entire White House staff), what about NOT providing classified information when it is requested?

"Wreckless" simply isn't strong enough to describe this.

Another 9/11
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but is Stu Bykofsky really hoping for another terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Unlike most things, this is actually, all at once, shocking, genuinely offensive, and internally incoherent. And I thought the Corner was bad. Well, I won't say much more, since you already probably saw it on Drudge. In any case, fast forward to the end of Stu Byofsky's piece, and you get to the worst part, which most people probably won't have the patience to get to:

America's fabric is pulling apart like a cheap sweater. What would sew us back together? Another 9/11 attack.The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda. Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again? If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail. The unity brought by such an attack sadly won't last forever. The first 9/11 proved that.

Places Not to Go on Your Iraq Tour
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I wonder if Ken Pollack and Mike O'hanlon went here.

"We're fighting in multiple directions," said Col. Michael Garrett... "We are in the middle of it.  I'm not fighting one sect or the other. I'm fighting both. And not only am I fighting both, but at certain points I have to put my forces in between the Sunni and Shi’a groups to protect the populace."

August 09, 2007

Hillary's Hypocrisy
Posted by Michael Cohen

On the heels of my last post - this is truly classic. Here's what Hillary had to say about Obama's recent comment regarding nukes in Pakistan:

I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.

Yet, here's what she said in April 2006 in regard to a question about using nuclear weapons to prevent Iran from developing its own nuke program:

I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table.

Clear and unambiguous hypocrisy you might think, but not so says HRC spokesperson, Phil Singer:

Singer said the circumstances for her remarks last year were different than the situation Obama faced.

She was asked to respond to specific reports that the Bush-Cheney administration was actively considering nuclear strikes on Iran even as it refused to engage diplomatically . . .She wasn't talking about a broad hypothetical nor was she speaking as a presidential candidate. Given the saber-rattling that was coming from the Bush White House at the time, it was totally appropriate and necessary to respond to that report and call it the wrong policy.

Hmm. That sure sounds like a distinction without a difference. But actually, Singer is right there is a difference . . . using nukes to stop Iran from developing a bomb is a but nutty, but at least defensible; using a nuclear bomb to kill Osama Bin Laden . . . not so much.

Taking Exception . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

I generally think Kevin Drum is one of the best bloggers out there, but I have to take major exception with a posting he offered today. Read this passage from Obama advisor, Samantha Power, about her candidate and nukes:

For years, Washington's conventional wisdom has held that candidates for President are judged not by their wisdom, but rather by their adherence to hackneyed rhetoric that make little sense beyond the Beltway. When asked whether he would use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Barack Obama gave the sensible answer that nuclear force was not necessary, and would kill too many civilians. Conventional wisdom held this up as a sign of inexperience. But if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats about nuclear use - inflaming fears at home and abroad, and signaling nuclear powers and nuclear aspirants that using nuclear weapons is acceptable behavior, it is experience that should not be relied upon.

This seems pretty straightforward to me, but here's Kevin's take:

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the diplomatic convention that says it's best for presidents (and wannabes) to stay quietly ambiguous about nuclear doctrine, the point scoring here is breathtaking. None of Obama's opponents — absolutely none of them — made "gratuitous threats" about using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.

Not to be overly nitpicky, but Kevin really misses the strawman on this one - it's not Republicans or even fellow Democrats that Ms. Power is attacking, it's conventional wisdom! It's not that other candidates are making gratuitous statements, it's that there is a generally accepted position by VSPs (Very Serious People) on how politicians should talk about nuclear weapons - and Obama has seemingly violated that principle.

Don't believe me; here's what Hillary had to say:

Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. ... I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.

And Chris Dodd:

Over the past several days, Senator Obama's assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused. He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options

All this reaction from a statement, that basically said when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan "nukes are off the table." I'm at a loss to even understand how this is controversial. The idea of using nukes in Pakistan with the threat of civilian deaths is well . . . insane. Is there any other word for it? Maybe, just maybe, you could make the argument for nukes in Tora Bora when OBL was cornered (and it would be a huge stretch) but in Pakistan? Considering our toxic image in the Muslim world, I would generally say it's a good thing for an American presidential candidate to make a statement like that. Of course, if you do think we should be nuking Muslims, you have a candidate to choose from:

On foreign policy, there is an annoying tendency for presidential candidates to stick to an accepted rhetorical nomenclature (my favorite being the "war on terror" which thankfully Obama and Edwards have stopped using). When Bush (rightly) said in 2004 that we may not win the war on terror the Kerry campaign jumped all over him (wrongly). When Kerry said the war on terror needed to be reduced to a law enforcement issue (rightly) he got crucified (wrongly). But neither of what these candidates said was wrong - they were just being realistic about a serious and complex foreign policy challenge, which is never an easy thing to do on the campaign trail. I think we could use a bit more of this type of honesty about Iraq and terrorism in our political debates.

While I understand the need for ambiguousness on nuclear doctrine during the Cold War is it really necessary today to be "ambiguous" about using nukes to attack a terrorist group living in the hinterlands of Pakistan?

Kevin argues "once you start answering hypotheticals, it's hard to stop. And when you do stop, people are going to draw conclusions about where you've apparently drawn the line." I don't know what everyone else things, thinks but to me - this seems like a pretty good place to draw a line. Of course, if the situation arises where President Obama is forced to use nuclear weapons . . . well I think most Americans will forgive him for breaking his campaign promise.

Summer Reading List
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

As I head off into the Great Lakes woods for a week, I've filled my bookbag far too full, and thought I'd share -- and maybe learn what others are reading as well.

Capital S "Serious:"  The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries  Only expurgated extracts, apparently, of the diaries kept by Tony Blair's long-time press secretary; and yet, according to the Washington Post reviewer, " this is beyond question the most important and revelatory book so far written about the inner workings of Blair's government. "  Do diaries really count as "serious?"  Maybe not, but what serious points the book loses in format it makes up in sheer length.

Why am I reading it?  Leftover Anglophilia, curiosity, and, as the Post reviewer put it:

As with so much of Blair's career, the big question raised by this book is whether Blair's approach to politics was a paradigm for others to follow or an aberration for others to avoid.

I think I've found the perfect book to read in tandem with it, but to discover that, you'll have to click through.

Continue reading "Summer Reading List" »

Musharraf, the Shah and Total Paralysis in Washington
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

With the entire mess going on in Pakistan I can’t help but get a sense that the American reaction to what is going on there today is very similar to what we did with Iran in 1979. 

In the 1970s the U.S. armed Iran to the teeth, and counted on it to keep the peace in the Persian Gulf, guarantee shipping lanes for oil and balance the Soviets in the region.  All of our eggs were in that basket and when the Shah started to teeter Washington went into full policy paralysis.  Some in the Carter Administration, most notably Zbig Brzezinski, argued that the consequences of the Shah’s fall were so detrimental to American interests that we had to buck him up and encourage him to take firm steps to quell the rebellion.  Meanwhile, the State Department argued for engaging the Iranian opposition so that we would be well positioned if the Shah fell.  Carter did neither.  Supporting a crackdown was too morally reprehensible, but talking to the opposition was seen as giving up on the Shah and making him look even weaker.  In the end, the U.S. did nothing:  slowly watching the situation deteriorate; giving the Shah its official support; doing little to actually keep him in power; and doing even less to prepare for the possibility that his government would collapse.  Worst of both worlds.

The situation today in Pakistan is eerily similar.  The Administration is completely dependent on the Musharraf government to contain extremism in Pakistan and act as a central ally in the “war on terror.”  If the government were to fall you could see massive instability in a nuclear armed state and the possible rise of an Islamist government.  Nobody wants to advocate for a violent crackdown, which may not even be possible and would certainly be awful, but nobody has any idea what to do if the Musharraf government were to fall.

As a resul