Democracy Arsenal

« August 5, 2007 - August 11, 2007 | Main | August 19, 2007 - August 25, 2007 »

August 18, 2007

How to tell an expert from an "expert"
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Matt and Gideon Rose are having a pretty interesting exchange regarding expertise and the Democratic foreign policy community.  I completely agree with Matt when he writes

I don't think anyone in the blogosphere is, against expertise and professionalism. The question is whether some of our country's self-proclaimed experts -- and media proclaimed experts -- really deserve to be considered experts. What, for example, is the nature of Michael O'Hanlon's expertise on the broad range of subjects (his official bio lists him as an expert on "Arms treaties; Asian security issues; Homeland security; Iraq policy; Military technology; Missile defense; North Korea policy; Peacekeeping operations; Taiwan policy, military analysis; U.S. defense strategy and budget")

It's not that the entire VSP community is bad.  The question is how do you tell the difference between a hack and someone who is a genuine expert?  This actually isn't too hard to figure out.  First, regional experts generally tend to be more well informed than functional experts because of their narrower focus. There is a long list of foreign policy experts who specialize in the Middle East (And did so before 9/11 came around). Jon Alterman, Brian Katulis, Mark Lynch, Ray Takeyh, Steven Simon, Flynt Levrett, Vali Nasr, Steven Cook, Rob Malley to name just a few.  Most of these people speak Arabic or Farsi.  Most have spent sigificant time in the region or spent a great deal of time studying the history of the region and the intimate details.  They know much more than you, me, Matt Yglesias or Gideon Rose do about the Middle East.  Not surprisingly a large majority of these regional experts were opposed to the Iraq War.  The problem is no one listened.  The issue became so main stream that many functional experts who knew very little about the region stepped in and start calling themselves Middle East experts and make assertions as "experts" on what the U.S. should be doing.  During the Cold War everyone was a Soviet "expert."  Today everyone is a Middle East "expert".  (Ken Pollack is the clear exception to the rule.  He has rigorously studied the Middle East, but was just flat out wrong about Iraq).

Another of indicator of expertise is the think tank bio page.  As Matt hints at, there is an inverse correlation between the number of areas of expertise listed in your bio and your actual expertise.  What also matters is whether the listing of expertise makes any sense and whether the various areas are related.  For example, Tony Cordesman, who quite frankly knows more than you, me, or just about anybody else about the Middle East, only lists four areas of expertise on his bio:  Energy, Middle East & North Africa, Defense Policy, and Terrorism.  This makes absolute sense he is a Middle East miliary analyst and has been for more than 30 years.  You really can't study that region without also learning about oil and terrorism.  O'hanlon on the other hand has a much longer list that makes no sense.  How can someone who is a Tawain policy expert (People dedicate their entire careers to studying the cross straits issue) also be an expert on homeland security, also be an expert on Iraq, also be an expert on North Korea.  Either he is just smarter than all of us, or more likely there is much less rigor.

None of these rules are hard and fast.  There are some really smart, knowledgeable functional experts and some very irresponsible regional experts.  Some people really are genuine experts in a lot of stuff (They usually have gray hair). But generally speaking a careful look through the bio can quickly distinguish an expert from an "expert." 

August 17, 2007

In Defense of Being Wrong . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

There's been a great deal of debate on this site and others over the past week about the responsibility of those in the Foreign Policy Community for the war in Iraq. I'm not about to re-fight those battles, but I think a little perspective is important.

Michael Ignatieff is one of my favorite public intellectuals. The article he did a few years ago in the NYT Magazine about Lesser Evils in fighting terrorism was thought-provoking and brilliant. I only regret that I haven't had time to read his book on the same subject.

A week or so ago he wrote what I can best describe as a soul-wrenching mea culpa regarding his support for the war in Iraq. It's never easy for people to admit a mistake, especially when it's a several thousand word article in the New York Times magazine, and I think Ignatieff deserves enormous credit for coming clean and admitting he was wrong. I wish others (like the President for example) would do the same. His article provides fascinating insight into how such decisions, which look so incorrect in retrospect, could have been made at the time. One graf in particular really jumped out at me:

I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror? I should have known that emotions in politics, as in life, tend to be self-justifying and in matters of ultimate political judgment, nothing, not even your own feelings, should be held immune from the burden of justification through cross-examination and argument.

Ignatieff like many Americans was wrong about Iraq, but while his judgment was wrong, his intentions were pure. He believed that advocacy for the war in Iraq was in the best interests of the Iraqi people and furthered important national interests. Clearly these views clouded him from seeing reality. He was not alone.

Continue reading "In Defense of Being Wrong . . ." »

Political Situation in Egypt Worsens
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The political situation in Egypt continues its downward spiral. Numerous leaders of Egypt's largest opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood (88 seats in parliament) were arrested today. The list includes Essam el-Erian, widely recognized as one of the most moderate Brotherhood figures in Egypt today. (See his interview with Helena Cobban for some background).

Whatever you think about the MB, this represents yet another clear step toward full-on autocracy in a country that, not too long ago, was supposedly democratizing. Of course, that was before the Bush administration betrayed its own "freedom agenda" and gave up on Arab democracy. (See my article in the current issue of Democracy for an overview of the Bush administration's reversal). Will the Bushies have anything to say in response to this wave of arrests? I wouldn't hold my breath. Hosni Mubarak, longtime strongman of Egypt, is a ruthless dictator, but he's our dictator.

What is Our Moral Obligation to the Iraqis?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Having a moral obligation to the Iraqi people does not mean keeping our troops stuck indefinitely in the middle of a religious civil war.  But it does mean taking responsibility to alleviate as much of the suffering as possible.  This is something that many of those advocating a responsible end to the war often overlook (Not because they are against helping the Iraqi people, but because they are more focused on ending the war)

So here is a question for candidates who support ending the war.  Given that American military action can do little to put Iraq back together.  Given that maintaining a large troop presence harms U.S. security interests.  Given that we did create this mess in the first place and that a lot of people are suffering as a result.  What is America’s moral obligation to the Iraqi people and what steps would you take to minimize the humanitarian crisis?

Here are some ideas that I would like to see in these plans: 

1.    Completely rework our disgraceful refugee policy.  More than two million Iraqis have fled the country.  Two million more are internally displaced and the numbers continue to rise. Yet through June of this year the U.S. has taken in just 133 people.  That is just embarrassing and sad.

2.    Implement some kind of plan to help Syria and Jordan absorb the roughly 1.5-2 million refugees that those two countries are dealing with.  (Jordan’s population is only 6 million.  This is seriously destabilizing for them). 

3.    Commit more funding to the UN High Commissioner for refugees to continue and significantly expand its work in the Middle East.  They know these issues much better than the U.S.

4.    Massive ramp up in humanitarian funding.  Incredibly humanitarian funding in Iraq fell from $453 million in 2005 to $95 million in 2006 (Three days worth of U.S. military spending in Iraq).  According to Oxfam one third of Iraqis need emergency medical attention and much of Baghdad is without water or electricity.

We might not be able to salvage the situation in Iraq but we should do everything we can to help the Iraqi people cope with the miserable conditions they are facing.

I Heart Jon Stewart
Posted by Michael Cohen

Last night I caught up on a few of the Daily Shows from the past week and let me just say Jon Stewart is one of the best interviewers on TV -- and a very funny guy. But then I've been a fan of the guy since his priceless cameos on the best comedy show to ever grace our TV airwaves.

This week he had Bill Kristol and Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes on. I'm not a fan of either man and while part of me wonders whether someone like Kristol needs another platform to spout his mistruths about Iraq, I appreciated the opportunity to hear Stewart debate them.

It's certainly not because I agree with these two folks, but because I believe sunshine is generally the best disinfectant. Stewart is seemingly one of the few interviewers who actually makes an effort to directly confront the arguments of those who enable this Administration's policies in Iraq.  For example, when Kristol pulled out the names of O'Hanlon and Pollack to defend his pro-surge views and portrayed them as skeptics of the war, Stewart correctly pointed out that was . . . well BS.

Continue reading "I Heart Jon Stewart" »

Sneak Peek at the Muslim Brotherhood's New Political Party Program
Posted by Shadi Hamid

In January, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it would be forming a political party. The party program was supposed to come out a while back, but was delayed for a variety of reasons, among them that a chunk of the MB leadership was jailed by the regime. In any case, the wait is (almost) over. We learn via Abu Aardvark, that there is, apparently, a final version circulating on the web (part 1 and part 2). I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but you can get some of the highlights from Aardvark, among them:

The platform's most notable feature is an explicit, blanket affirmation of the equality of all citizens before the law and rejection of any discrimination between them regardless of religion, race, or ethnic origin. This, it seems to me, is the farthest they have ever officially gone towards meeting the fears of Coptic Christians. The platform calls for a civil state, which is the MB's formula for saying that it does not envision rule by the ulema or the direct application of sharia.

We're Integrating!
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Take that, Cornerites.170pxhammasa_np6 We're integrating! We've got our own good-old "Muslim Country Singer," and, better yet, he doesn't have a problem appearing on Fox News. Still, I think Britain's beating us out on really well-integrated cool people (see picture on left).

August 16, 2007

So wait, would you or wouldn't you meet with leaders from North Korea and Iran?
Posted by Moira Whelan

Council for Livable World released the results of their Presidential Questionnaire today (warning: PDF), and it seems to me Clinton has changed her position on meeting with international leaders.

The question stated:
Do you support or oppose direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea that would include incentives for Iran not to build nuclear weapons and North Korea to eliminate verifiably its nuclear weapons program?

Candidates had a choice between "support," "oppose" or leaving it blank, and then had an opportunity to explain more fully. 

Clinton said "support" (as did Biden, Dodd, and Richardson).

Obama didn't check either (neither did Edwards).

All of the candidates expanded on the reasons they checked the boxes they checked, and answered a total of 7 key questions.

A gold star to Chris Dodd: He answered all of the questions with a straight up or down, no nuance, and no qualifications.

Box-checking aside, the answers were not a significant departure from what we've heard. It got my attention, however, because the fact that Obama said he'd meet with leaders of foreign nations in the YouTube debate was greeted with days of attacks from the Clinton camp. It's unusual that you'd do that, and then check "support."

Continue reading "So wait, would you or wouldn't you meet with leaders from North Korea and Iran? " »

On Faith
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Thanks to Lorelei for alerting us to this timely article by Robert Kaplan. I skimmed it, but one graf, in particular, caught my eye:

Faith is about struggle, about having confidence precisely when the odds are the worst. Faith is the capacity to believe in what is simultaneously necessary but improbable. That kind of faith is receding in America among a social and economic class increasingly motivated by universal values: caring, for example, about the suffering of famine victims abroad as much as for hurricane victims at home. Universal values are a good in and of themselves, and they are not the opposite of faith. But they should never be confused with it. You may care to the point of tears about suffering humankind without having the will to actually fight (let alone inconvenience yourself) for those concerns. Thus, universal values may pose an existential challenge to national security when accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own political values and projects.

What, then, is our faith? What do we believe in? Do we intend to retain a sense of mission in our dealings with the rest of the world, with our friends, and with our enemies? This is what worries me so much about the move away from a values-centric foreign policy toward an interests-centric one. Realism is, indeed, resurgent and progressives, in profound disillusion over Bush's "freedom agenda," are going along for the ride. This is perhaps the most tragic, long-term consequence of the Iraq war. The neo-cons have given the "missionary" aspects of U.S. foreign policy a bad name, and have tainted what was once - and what should still be - an animating force in the way we understand not only the world, but ourselves: that we, as Americans, have a moral interest and obligation to use our power and influence for good in the world, and that to stand by and accept the evil of autocracy as a "reality," is nothing less than an abdication of responsibility. The issue here is one I've discussed elsewhere:

The central question for progressives is whether we intend to be a country that relegates itself to traditional, interest-bound forms of diplomacy and ad-hoc international maneuvering or an interventionist state, with a set of strongly-held ideals and principles and a commitment to promoting them -- with care, but without apology.

Without a clear commitment to a clearly-defined set of founding ideals, we will fail to articulate a foreign policy vision to the world that is confident, consistent, and credible. And people will say, as they have for some time, that liberals have excellent policy prescriptions, but they lack the ability - or perhaps even the willingness - to tie these policies together as part of a coherent framework, one that is both inspired and inspiring.


The Ultimate Asymmetric Advantage
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

From a recent articleby Robert Kaplan (ah, my love-hate relationship with Kaplan) His prose is beautiful here, and the implications of his thesis are as urgent as they are alarming:

"Jihad as practiced, not as theorized, places more emphasis on the “mystical dimension” of sacrifice than on any tactical or strategic objective. Jihad is most often an act of individual exultation rather than of collective action, observes Olivier Roy in The Failure of Political Islam (1994). It is “an affair between the believer and God and not between the believer and his enemy. There is no obligation to obtain a result. Hence the demonstrative, even exhibitionist, aspects of the attacks......

...The suicide bomber is the distilled essence of jihad, the result of an age when the electronic media provides an unprecedented platform for exhibitionism."

AND so much for airpower:

"But our near obsession with finding ways to kill others at no risk to our own troops is a sign of strength in our eyes alone. To faithful or merely nationalist enemies, it is a sign of weakness, even cowardice."

Would Responding to the Electorate Be So Bad?
Posted by David Shorr

In response to Shadi's post from yesterday, let me say that Giuliani's approach is not going to win him very broad popular support. With the help of the U. of Maryland Program on International Public Attitudes, we can see where the public stands.

For instance, in the section of the PIPA report dealing with the world's perceptions of us (and why they matter), the public sees a real problem with the stand tall / get tough approach. Here's how PIPA summarize the public's attitude:

Large majorities believe that the US is viewed negatively by people in other countries and see this as derived primarily from the current US foreign policy not American values. Most see goodwill towards the United States as important for US national security. Most Americans believe that people around the world are growing more afraid that the US will use force against them and that this diminishes US national security and increases the likelihood that countries will pursue WMDs.

[Disclosure: The Stanley Foundation was the client for some of this polling, with me as the point of contact.]

Do Republicans Need their Own DLC?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Peter Beinart has an interesting idea - maybe Republicans need their own DLC, an organization that will help bring Republicans back to the center, by advocating effective, practical policies that appeal to broad cross-section of Americans, particularly independents. In the 1980s, we couldn't win over swing voters. That's where the DLC came in. Today, it's Republicans who "can't buy a swing voter."

The interesting question, in my view, isn't whether this is a good idea for Republicans, but if it's a good idea for Democrats, and, by extension, the country at-large. Let's consider a couple possible responses to Beinart's suggestion:

1) If a powerful center-right RLC succeeded in bringing the GOP toward the center, there would be less ideological space between Left and Right. This would make it difficult to distinguish between the parties - a la Bush-Gore 2000 - and sap enthusiasm among voters. After all, if the majority of Republicans turn into Schwarzenegger/Bloomberg clones, then Republicans winning elections wouldn't be the end of the world. Compare that to the situation today, where Republicans winning elections does actually mean the end of the world. Also, the whole point of the resurgent Left is to counter the people who we think are destroying the country. If they stop destroying the country, do we perhaps lose a little bit of our raison d'etre?

2) The more interesting response - and the one I tend to agree with - is this: If an RLC brings Republicans toward the center, then that essentially moves the whole political spectrum toward the Left. Then they're playing on our turf. In other words, once Republicans sign on to universal healthcare, as Arnold has done, then that normalizes previously "far-left" ideas and makes them into "centrist" positions, thereby allowing liberals more breathing space to start asking the questin of not whether we should have universal healthcare, but rather how to improve the quality of universal healthcare we already have and make it more just, equitable, and effective.   

Continue reading "Do Republicans Need their Own DLC?" »

The Word Rudy Didn't Use...
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg


Almost 6,000 words on the "Terrorist War on Us" and not once does he mention the place that the intelligence community considers the greatest direct terrorist threat to American security.

Iraq's September 11th
Posted by Michael Cohen

I'm sure those of you who read this blog are familiar with the terrible events that took place in a little town in Northern Iraq two days ago. There more than 250 innocent men, women and children were killed in a horrific quadruple bombing.

I think many Americans have become inured to the terrible violence they read and hear about in Iraq. I suppose it's not altogether surprising. But consider for a moment what 250 lives in a nation of 26 million people means. Well proportionally speaking it would be the equivalent to America losing more than 3,000 of its citizens. Yes, that's more then were killed on September 11th.

One would imagine that such mind-boggling violence, in any other nation in the world, would cause global outrage; it would lead to wall-to-wall 24 hour cable news coverage; it would cause an outpouring of condemnation and support for the victims. But this, like so many other terrible acts of violence in Iraq, barely seems to register with most Americans. Even the White House web site doesn't reference the event or offer a note of condolence. 

Whatever happens in Iraq; whether American troops are there for a year or five years, one gets the sense that the suffering of the Iraqi people isn't about to end any time soon and it isn't about to get the world's attention. The events of this past week are neither a beginning nor an end to the drumbeat of death and destruction in Iraq. It's just another sad and bloody chapter; certain to be repeated again and again and again.

Lovely war, ain't it.

August 15, 2007

If Anti-Terror Fight Isn't Law Enforcement, Should We Listen to NYPD?
Posted by David Shorr

If there's one thing that hard liners have been very clear about, it's that fighting terrorists with law enforcement is Very Unserious. The crucial thing, supposedly, is to understand that THESE PEOPLE MEAN TO DO US HARM. We're at war, you people, got that? So what should we do with Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, the new report today from the New York Police Department? From my initial read of the executive summary, Ray Kelly and his colleagues have made an empirical study of the process by which people become terrorists.

But what does NYPD know about terrorists? In a word, a lot. Arguably, according to this July 2005 New Yorker article by William Finnegan, more than the United States Govenment combined. And how did they come to know all this? By doing law enforcement! Yes, methodical, gumshoe, community policing.

Progressives often argue against the War on Terror approach by highlighting what a blunt instrument military force is. That's the negative argument, and it has the added virtue of being true. But I think the positive argument is much more powerful. You stop terrorists by picking up their trail and following it. Not military cordon-and-search by our infantry (God bless 'em), but law enforcement!!!

I think we've got a pretty strong argument, what do you think?

Shaping the Electorate vs. Responding to the Electorate
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Hepzeeba at Infotainment Rules argues that, contrary to what me, Mike, and Matt Yglesias think, Rudy Giuiliani is not totally off-his-rocker, but is actually quite smartly positioning himself to win over "Middle America," i.e. the kind of people who in Gabor Steingart's words "want a strong leader, a tough decision maker, not an adventurer. The worst charge one could hurl at a presidential candidate these days is that he or she is soft on terrorism." Hepzeeba calls Giuiliani's foreign policy team "brilliant if hawkish."

I'm not going to pretend I know what "Middle America" thinks. Whatever the case is, I think the problem is that too many Democrats asume that a large swath of Americans want a bellicose, war-ready foreign policy. Because of this assumption, liberals/Democrats are in perpetual fear of not appearing "tough" enough on national security. So they overcompensate for their perceived sissiness by being hawkish, xenophobic, and by not talking about the things liberals should be trumpeting with a blowhorn - our opposition to warrant-less wiretapping, the Patriot Act, Republican anti-Muslim mongering, torture...the list goes on (for more on this point, see this op-ed I co-wrote with Marc Grinberg).

A friend of mine (who happens to be Ohioan) was saying last night that the average Ohioan isn't particularly bothered by the fact that we're torturing people in Iraq, Gitmo, and shady Eastern European dungeons. I don't care how bellicose the American public is or might be. Why are we liberals always trying to respond to and accomodate the electorate's worst instincts? Instead, let's take our case against torture and warant-less wiretapping straight to the American people and explain, by way of reference to our Constitution and founding ideals, that eroding our civil liberties is not a sign of "toughness," but rather of stupidity. Why can't we adopt the long-term perspective of shaping - rather than responding to - the electorate, and moving the electorate to the Left on the issues that we hold dear and that define us as Liberals? 

Rudy's Foreign Policy
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum has thrown down the gauntlet about Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy piece in this month's Foreign Affairs:

In a way, this essay is a test for the bipartisan foreign policy community that's taken so much abuse in the blogosphere lately. I mean, Rudy is plainly nuts. No one closer to the center than Charles Krauthammer should take this as anything more than the incoherent burblings of a national security naif. But will they say that? Or will it be considered a serious addition to the foreign policy discussion? Any bets?

Ok, I'm tanned, rested and ready. I am ready to take Kevin's challenge.

Now instead of trying to provide a full summary of the badness herein (we only have so much server space here at Democracy Arsenal) I am just going to look at one graf in this rather lengthy article. That's really all I need to point out the many fallacies undergirding Giuliani's foreign policy approach:

We cannot predict when our efforts (in Iraq) will be successful. (Well then obviously we need to stay forever).

But we can predict the consequences of failure: Afghanistan would revert to being a safe haven for terrorists, and Iraq would become another one -- larger, richer, and more strategically located. (Let's see, maybe Rudy should read his hometown paper, because it's already happening in Afghanistan or maybe the 9/11 report about the lack of Iraq-AQ connection before the war. What I'd like to see is policy recommendation for what we should do today to keep these nations from following further back into turmoil. Do I hear Churchillian rhetoric; yes that should do the trick!)

Parts of Iraq would undoubtedly fall under the sway of our enemies, particularly Iran, which would use its influence to direct even more terror at U.S. interests and U.S. allies than it does today. (Irony alert: Iran's growing influence is a direct result of our invasion or Iraq. But more to the point, would Iran be directing terror at the US if we weren't in Iraq today? This is a self-defeating argument. Rudy is saying we can't leave Iraq because it will embolden Iran, and yet it's our very presence, which has emboldened them in the first place. Ugh, my head hurts, I need a cold beverage.)

The balance of power in the Middle East would tip further toward terror, extremism, and repression. (Further? Apparently Rudy believes that the US presence in Iraq is a benign influence in the region).

America's influence and prestige -- not just in the Middle East but around the world -- would be dealt a shattering blow. (What's that line about Humpty Dumpty? Our influence and prestige has ALREADY been dealt a shattering blow. What's going to happen next, they're going to stomp on the shards? I wonder if Rudy sees a connection between Security Council recalcitrance over sanctions against Iran and America's weakened position in the organization - or is that just France being France? But what about America's image in the world? This from a recent testimony by Andrew Kohut of the Pew Global Attitudes Project:

  • December 2002 - America's image slips, although goodwill towards the U.S. remains
  • June 2003 - U.S. image plunges in the wake of the Iraq war
  • March 2004 - No improvement in U.S. image, some worsening in Europe
  • June 2005 - U.S. image improves slightly, although still negative in most places; and anti-Americanism is becoming increasingly entrenched
  • June 2006 - Show little further progress - in fact some back sliding. Even as the publics of the world concurred with the Americans on many global problems.

I wonder if this is what Rudy is talking about.

Continue reading "Rudy's Foreign Policy" »

Highlights from Giuiliani's Foreign Affairs Piece
Posted by Shadi Hamid

“The Terrorists’ War on Us.” When I read this, I almost started laughing. Is he serious? I had read that Giuliani was starting to use this odd-sounding phrase, but he is apparently intent on trademarking it, and using it all the freaking time. As Matt points out, this enough is reason to hope to God he is defeated.

“Peace through Strength”: Orwellian prose alert. If a Democrat said this, I’d be cool, but it really does sound ominous coming from someone who has Normon Podheretz on his foreign policy team.

“The next U.S president must also press ahead with building a national missile defense system.” Oh God, why are conservatives obsessed with this?

 “We must preserve the gains made by the U.S.A. Patriot Act and not unrealistically limit electronic surveillance or legal interrogation.” Civil liberties goodbye.

Btw, I was surprised to see that this article had a somewhat lumbering prose. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the writing style doesn’t quite seem right. For example, “the lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal.” What the heck is that? UPDATE: Good, it's not just me. Apparently Kevin Drum feels the same way. He seems to think that a 9-year old wrote the essay. It is possible.   

“This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted.” Giuliani is a softie on Iran. He wants to talk to them? Question for Corneristas: who is Michael Ledeen going to vote for now?

“Since leaving the New York City mayor's office, I have traveled to 35 different countries.” So did one of my backpacker friends. But I wouldn’t trust him with our foreign policy, or our domestic policy for that matter. He's, like, one of those crazy lefties who reads Noam Chomsky and stuff.

Continue reading "Highlights from Giuiliani's Foreign Affairs Piece" »

Stop Spending 8 Days in Iraq
Posted by Shadi Hamid

On the Daily Show, we learn that Bill Kristol just got back from an 8-day trip to Iraq (we also get the added bonus of hearing Kristol say "pussy" twice). Wait, didn't O'Hanlon and Pollack spend 8 days in Iraq too?

The Problem of Modernity?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Reuel Marc Gerecht uses Obama to make a larger point about the Middle East (via Sullivan):

What he does not seem to grasp - and the Bush administration is no better - is that America is the cutting edge of a modernity that has convulsed Islam as a faith and a civilization. This collision will likely become more violent, not less, as Muslims more completely enter the ethical free fall that comes as modernity pulverizes the world of our ancestors. Barack Obama's newly devised "Mobile Development Teams," which will bring together "personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID ... to turn the tide against extremism" are unlikely to make America more attractive to devout Muslims who know that America is the leading force in destroying the world that they love.

Gerecht thinks that the divide between East and West is, in the final analysis, a cultural one; that Muslim rage is a reaction to the confusion of modernity, a modernity that threatens to consume and eclipse the world they still wish to be part of. This ties into a larger debate about whether religious-cultural malaise is the cause of the Middle East's myriad political problems (i.e. the lack of democracy), or, rather, if it is the product of the political problems. More simply, this is about how one wishes to draw causal arrows: is it culture > politics, or politics > culture? I'm not going to attempt to answer the question, although readers of DA will know where I stand.

However, I do agree with Gerecht that there are major cultural-religious problems in the Middle East, that cannot be solved by alleviating poverty, improving education, by promoting economic growth, or by changing specific foreign policies. There are serious grievances that reside deep in the psyche of a people who have found themselves, tragically, on the receiving end of history for too long. Few civilizations have sunk so precipitously, after rising so high, and this sense of what was and what now is, is the gap which drives the sense of collective humiliation which afflicts the Muslim world. These grievances will not go away over night, so the question is what should we do - or, rather, what can we do - in the meantime?

Continue reading "The Problem of Modernity?" »

The White House is Writing the Patraeus Report
Posted by Moira Whelan

Buried in this morning's LA Times:

"Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government."

Hat tip:Brian Piantedosi

Here We Go Again
Posted by Michael Cohen

As if the news out of Iraq was not depressing enough I woke up to this story in the New York Times regarding Iran:

The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.

I suppose this shouldn't come as a huge surprise since we've heard the sabers rattling on Iran for a few weeks now. But one part of the story really jumped out at me for its sad/tragic/comedic nature:

A move toward putting the Revolutionary Guard on the foreign terrorist list would serve at least two purposes for Ms. Rice: to pacify, for a while, administration hawks who are pushing for possible military action, and to further press America’s allies to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.

Only in the Bush administration would declaring a foreign country's military a terrorist organization qualify as a moderating step.

Continue reading "Here We Go Again" »

August 14, 2007

Germans are Worried that the Left is moving Right
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I found this article from Der Spiegel International to be genuinely bizarre. It reflects, in my view, a serious misreading of American politics. The basic jist is that liberals are moving to the right on national security (apparently the author doesn't read blogs), a reality reflected by the hawkishness of the three Democratic presidential contenders. He makes a weird reference to "Barack Bush-Obama," a term which couldn't be more unfair to the only candidate who got the Iraq war right. Then this:

The wind has shifted in Washington. America, not just its president, is at war. The Democrats are still critical of the failed Iraq campaign, but they are no longer opposed to the "War on Terror" in general. It has been accepted, and not just as a metaphor.

Really? DA readers, would any of you agree with this assessment? It seems to me that the opposite has occurred. It started when John Edwards repudiated the term "Global War on Terror," and then the other candidates more or less followed suit, moving away from Bush's charged language, and redefining the the nature of the terrorism challenge, both rhetorically and substantively. Personally, I've started to decapitalize the term, to distinguish the real fight against terrorists from Bush's distinct "War on Terror" - the latter having failed miserably, antagonizing 97% of the world, alienating Muslim moderates, and emboldening terrorists the world over. Anyway, the attempt to distinguish our "war on terrorism" from the Bushies' "Global War on Terror" seems to be the trend on the Left.

Rules of Engagement
Posted by Michael Cohen

Having just returned from my weekly meeting of the super secret Very Serious Democratic Foreign Policy Establishment I was thinking about the questions raised in the comments section about when is it appropriate to use American military force.

This is not an esoteric debate. It's one that candidates running for President are going to have to answer. So here goes my stab at laying out a possible roadmap for the use of force. I invite all comments and postings. I'm really curious to hear what people think about this issue.

1) Force as a last resort

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, the Bush Administration made the use of force the first resort as opposed to the last. Clearly that was a mistake and increasingly when I listen to the GOP presidential candidates I hear the same sort of nonsense. Shoot first and ask questions later is not a good way to run a national security policy and frankly is out of mainstream of our nation's history. The next President should not just say he or she will exhaust every diplomatic, political and economic option - they should actually do it. Things get messy when we go to war.

2) Don't go alone: go multilateral

However, we must also recognize that America has enemies and military force will occasionally be necessary. If we must use force, we must make every effort to bring our Allies along. The war in Iraq has laid bare the terrible price to be paid by launching unilateral wars without UN and Allied support. The result is that the burden is on us and we and our troops are paying a terrible price. By going largely alone (whatever happened to that Coalition of the Willing) we've become responsible for every part of the post-war occupation.The United States has a six decade tradition of working in concert with our allies, whether it has been the UN or regional groupings, such as NATO. The ones where we've gone alone (I'm not counting smaller wars like Panama, Grenada etc) i.e. Vietnam and Iraq have been a disaster. There is a lesson there.

Continue reading "Rules of Engagement" »

Important Guest Post by Anita Sharma: Free Haleh
Posted by Moira Whelan

From Anita---

I work for an organization that aims to stop the slaughter and displacement of millions of innocents in Darfur and elsewhere. And while I am dedicated to providing a voice to those silenced by war and strife, I have been rendered speechless by the unjust incarceration of one individual in Iran. On August 15th, my friend and colleague Haleh Esfandiari will spend her 100th day of solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin Prison. She stands accused of using her position as director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC to support activities to over-throw the Iranian government.

Since being arrested in Tehran on May 8 and formally charged soon after with espionage, Haleh is interrogated ceaselessly, kept in harsh conditions and denied access to her lawyers, medication and even visits by her 93 year-old mother. In mid- June, she and another imprisoned Iranian-American Kian Tajbakhsh, "confessed" in a government sponsored TV program entitled "In the Name of Democracy.” In the most recent development, the official Iranian news agency reported that Iran's judiciary concluded its investigation, but had not decided whether to put the two on trial.

Continue reading "Important Guest Post by Anita Sharma: Free Haleh" »

The Irony of All of This...
Posted by Moira Whelan

is that most of the Very Serious People who we'd like to make sure never get a job advising the President or Congress ever again, have no idea this is even a conversation.

The Vision Thing
Posted by David Shorr

Last week, Michael Cohen said he felt reassured by the menu of distinct Iraq War positions on offer from the Democratic presidential candidates. At a recent conference, I heard Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) give a much more downbeat view -- taking the presidential candidates and the public to task for not talking about threats, national security, and strategy. Everyone's entitled to their own frustration about what the candidates are saying (i.e. the content), but it's quite a stretch to argue that no debate on national security and foreign policy is taking place at all.

As one crude measure of the health of the debate, I count eight major foreign policy addresses, or MFPA-equivalents, from presidential candidates on both sides. Most DA readers are wonks by vocation or avocation, so we can comb through these statements for detailed policy prescriptions, four-point plans, six-point plans, etc. But as each of these contenders makes his/her case to the voting public, the candidate's overall approach is also important. The "vision thing" has been an achilles heel for candidates ranging from George H.W. Bush to John Kerry.

In the context of a speech (or a policy journal article), this is a very practical matter: how to lay out the challenge as the speaker sees it. What is the demand of this moment in history? What must the next president do to put US relations with the world on the best possible footing?

With thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations' Campaign 2008 web site and Foreign Affairs for helping me find all this material, I thought I'd try to characterize the candidates' answers to these questions.

Continue reading "The Vision Thing" »

Holding the FP Community Accountable
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Understandably, since that dubious op-ed by Pollack and O’Hanlon, holding the “foreign policy community” accountable has been a hot issue.  (See all the exchanges on our blog over the past day).  However, I will make one point. Not all of the “experts” were wrong on Iraq and it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Rand Beers (my boss), Richard Clarke, Senator Bob Graham, Larry Korb, are just a few of a long list of “very serious people” who didn’t support the war.  Point is you have to find a way to distinguish.

So how do you hold these people accountable and distinguish?

In a perfect world we could just take a friend's suggestion and institute foreign policy malpractice suits.  When someone gives bad policy advice and people die they get sued.  All practitioners would have to get policy malpractice insurance and insurance companies set premiums based on the risk.  Eventually, if you give too much bad policy advice you won’t be able to get covered to advise the President.  Make more mistakes and you won’t be insured to testify in front of Congress.  Eventually you could lose your license to bloviate on national television, and finally the insurance companies will just take the pen and paper away and say enough!!  (According to this model going into Iraq was essentially the equivalent of accidentally slicing the aorta during cosmetic surgery.  The entire neocon Bush team is completely uninsurable)

In the real world that doesn’t work.  So, if you want to hold the foreign policy community accountable I’d suggest the Matt Yglesias approach (O’Hanlon primary).  Take a look at who is advising which Presidential campaign and do a little digging.  All these folks have published a great deal of material.  With a little work you can figure out where these guys stand and by extension who will have the most influence over the candidate’s foreign policy once they become President.  You may be pleasantly surprised.  I don not think they are all the same.  It's not just the fringe candidates who have teams of "very serious people" who didn’t support the war in 2002. 

Am I a "Starbucks Imperialist"? Um, Yes.
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Ok, as some of you may know, I'm a Starbucks enthusiast/imperialist (i.e. I believe that we should impose the Starbucks "way of life" on foreign peoples). I dwelled on this "way of life" at length in previous posts which informed many, amused some, and confounded others. I then went on to declare myself a "Starbucksist." Starbucksism/"Starbucks Peace Theory" are new ideas of mine I've been working on which will help us defeat the scourge that is Islamofacism and will hopefully keep those Goddamn MuslimInvadersOfEurope at bay. Arabs and Muslims hate coffee! Latte-drinkers of the world unite.

We - the civilized peoples of the West (this may or may not include Venezuela) - are bound together by a common love of coffee, and mochachocaskimtripleextrahotlattes. I also recently tried the Blueberries and Creme frappuchino and it was absolutely positively super wondrous. It took me to a different place (metaphorically) and made me even less tolerant of those who go to other coffee shops (you're either with us or against us. If you're sitting on a fence, start standing).

But, wait, there is a new contender in town. I am not, at the current moment, in/at/on the patio of a Starbucks. I am at Saxby's - a new coffee chain that recently opened in DC, and which boasts free wi-fi. And it has just been revealed to me by a friendly but unassuming barrista that Saxby's offers free drip coffee refills. At SBux, refills are 55 cents. This is a significant difference. Yes, it appears Saxby's is trying to win me over to their side in the battle of ideas. Stay tuned, oh fearless ones.

Posted by Michael Cohen

Well it's no fun being a star! Glenn Greenwald, who I generally think is quite good, posted an item about me today saying that I believe there are "good arguments" for going to war against Iran or North Korea. Part of the confusion here is my own fault. I shouldn't have said "good."

Simply put, what I meant is that there are "arguments" to be made for attacking Iran and North Korea. There were arguments to be made for invading Iraq. Hell you could have made a case for attacking the Soviet Union during the Cold War. . . but to do so would have simply been insane. Do I think these arguments are credible? No, I absolutely do not. As I have said repeatedly, I opposed the war in Iraq from day one and I thought it was a terrible idea. The only point I was making is that simply because you CAN make an argument for war does not mean you should do it.
Part of the problem with those who supported the war in Iraq was that they allowed their belief in an affirmative case for war outweigh all the many, many reasons not to go to war. While I NOW realize that subtlety can get lost in a blog posting, let me be as clear as possible: I was in no way shape or form advocating that we should invade Iran or North Korea. I quite reasonably think it is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea - just as I thought invading and occupying Iraq was a terrible, terrible, terrible idea.
I hope this clears up any confusion and we can now get back to sober foreign policy blogging.

Did I Support the Iraq War? Um, No.
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The extended back-and-forth with Atrios yesterday was a bit tiring, although instructive for various reasons. I wasn't going to post anything else on it, but then I saw this post from John at Dymaxion World, where he says "Atrios has been taking Shadi Hamid to task for basically being a pro-war voice." He then asks:

Could we please, please think up some foreign policy that doesn't amount to Republican-lite, "the US should slap around small countries when necessary"?

This deserves a quick response. It is unfortunate that Atrios, his readers, and now John at Dymaxion have assumed that I'm a war supporter or that I ever was. Wrong on both counts. They concluded that since I said something positive about Will Marshall, that meant that I endorse or agree with his views on Iraq. I don't. In these pages, I've also had good (and sometimes very good) things to say about Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Kos, Stephen Krasner, and (God forbid) even Condi Rice. Yet, I don't agree with any of them on Iraq. My actual position on the war is discussed here and here. Not only was I against the war in the first place, but, more recently, I expressed opposition to the surge in three long posts (1, 2, 3), as well as here. I also took Bob Kerrey to task and fisked him for his horrendous WSJ op-ed in support of the war/surge in May.

As for the claim that I advocate a Republican-lite foreign policy, the opposite is true. In fact, I co-wrote an op-ed in January where we said:

The national security plan congressional Democrats released last spring—"Real Security"—and the more recent "New Direction for America" include a lot of posturing about being tough and smart but little in the way of original ideas or overarching strategy. The message seemed to be: "don't worry, we can be just as strong as Republicans," which isn't exactly a rousing call-to-arms.

Continue reading "Did I Support the Iraq War? Um, No. " »

That Other War
Posted by Michael Cohen

First, let me thank everyone for their comments on my posts from yesterday. Personal attacks aside, I actually agreed with a significant percentage of what people wrote. I hope people will stick around the site to see what else we have to say. In more case than not, we're on the same side here. Ok, on to today's blogging.

I'm a bit surprised that this story in Sunday's NYT about the failed U.S. war in Afghanistan didn't get more attention. I won't try to summarize the tale of missteps by the Bush Administration, although suffice to say it's as depressing as you might imagine.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator drone spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

None of this should be terribly surprising. It was obvious 5 years ago that for its talk about democracy and stability in Afghanistan, they didn't really have the stomach to do the tough sort of nation-building necessary to stop the country from falling back into turmoil. The Administration's fixation on Saddam caused them to lose sight of a real potential for foreign policy success in Afghanistan. Imagine how much better off America would be today if that nation was on the path toward democracy. It's rather amazing in one respect. We dropped the ball on winning a smaller war in Afghanistan so that we could lose a much bigger and costlier war in Iraq. One line in particular, however, jumped out at me:

On May 1, hours before Mr. Bush stood beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Mr. Rumsfeld appeared at a news conference with Mr. Karzai in Kabul’s threadbare 19th-century presidential palace. “We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities,” he said. “The bulk of the country today is permissive, it’s secure.”

The Afghanistan announcement was largely lost in the spectacle of Mr. Bush’s speech. But it proved no less detached from events on the ground.

Continue reading "That Other War" »

August 13, 2007

Will, that was fun
Posted by Moira Whelan

I don't know how this thread ended up in the defense/attack of Will Marshall, but I do thank others for their contributions. I will simply say, case closed.

In the meantime, we all missed Melon Day, so let me be the first to wish you a Happy Melon Day! And to all of you in Turkmenistan celebrating Melon Day for the first time without the Turkmenbashi


Getting My Own Back . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

Whew . . . nice to see I knocked over the hornet's nest. I will not try to respond to each of the comments on my last post, particularly the ones that called me an idiot and an a**clown. Moreover, I'm not really interested in re-debating the rationale for the war in Iraq, although I will make a few important points, which have seemingly been forgotten:

  • Saddam kicked out UN inspectors in 1997 and prevented them from doing their job for more than 5 years.
  • It wasn't just the US that believed Saddam had WMD. Read the UNSCOM reports, they make clear that the United Nations believed Iraq was not being honest about its WMD programs.
  • The UN Security Council voted 15-0 in 2002 that Iraq was in "material breach" of UN resolutions regarding their WMD program. Moreover, the Council warned of "serious consequences" for continued Iraqi recalcitrance. (Read the UN resolution here).

So the UN Security Council did in fact determine that their was a "defensible case" for war in Iraq - it wasn't just Will Marshall.

Now many who commented will argue quite reasonably that Saddam did eventually open up the country to inspections and that of course none were found. Surely, a defensible case for war does not mean that we should have necessarily gone to war. It's a view that I share.  There is a good argument to be made for going to war against Iran and North Korea - that doesn't mean we should do it. I vociferously opposed the Iraq war. Like many who commented, I believed the benefit of getting rid of Saddam did not outweigh the cost to America's national interests. I take no happiness in having been proved correct.

To the point at hand, however, I'm not interested in defending Mr. Marshall's views on the war with Iraq. He is more than able to do that himself. My argument is that instead of demonizing those we disagree with, we should debate them on the merits. One of the ironies of this debate is that Atrios argues people like Marshall need to be held accountable for their views. He's right and frankly by blogging about his, that's exactly what Atrios is doing. More power to him and every other blogger. Why he feels the need to wrap his criticism in childish and tasteless attacks is beyond me. If you don't agree with me or any other blogger, explain why. Calling me stupid might make you feel good, but it does nothing to advance the debate.

Some commentators have criticized me for not knowing Mr. Marshall's position on the war. In my defense, since I haven't recently read anything that he wrote in the run-up to war it would be very difficult for me to comment on them authoritatively. However, a cursory review indicates that he was anything but a cheerleader for war in Iraq. To those who have been so vociferous in criticizing my knowledge of Mr. Marshall's Iraq position, I encourage you to go the DLC website and look and see what Marshall and others said in the run-up to war. You will be surprised. For one, Marshall was a strong advocate of internationalizing the war and post-conflict effort. He was right. Yet, the Bush Administration ignored his advice - so much for his enabling of the war effort. There are those who want to argue that supporting the war is the same as supporting its disastrous consequences. That's their right. I happen to think it's a bit more complex than such facile portrayals.

I was struck, however, by one thing Mr. Marshall did say in the Fall of 2002:

The challenge for Democrats, then, is neither to blindly support nor reflexively oppose Bush's plans toward Iraq. It is to articulate their own case against Saddam, one that is grounded in the party's tradition of progressive internationalism and that allays any lingering public doubts about its willingness to confront those who threaten our country, our friends, and the ideals we share.

I think this is absolutely right. There is disturbing tendency on the left to simply say what is wrong with this Administration or various Democrats and then fail to offer any substantive solutions. Frankly, when our foreign policy debates devolve into the type of name-calling that Atrios seems to prefer it makes it that much harder for Democrats to lay out policies for actually confronting those that threaten us.

Let's be clear, we are facing genuine threats - from Iran and its burgeoning nuclear weapons program to continuing threats from Al Qaeda and its ilk. We should be debating these issues reasonably and not simply demonizing those with whom we disagree. Even Mr. Marshall and others who may have supported the use of force in Iraq might have a few good ideas on how to confront Iran and Al Qaeda. Urging people to spit on their image (and sorry Atrois, I seem to have missed your joke) isn't going to help the party or make Americans any safer.

Getting Shadi's Back
Posted by Michael Cohen

This absurd post from Atrios attacking my colleague Shadi is a good example of exactly what is wrong with some elements of the anti-war left - an inability and unwillingness to even consider the arguments of their opponents.

For example, I was a fierce critic of the war in Iraq. Yet, nothing frustrated me more than the complete unwillingness willingness of some liberals to absolutely demonize those who supported the war (sort of reminds me of a certain presidential administration).

Like it or not, there was a defensible case for war in Iraq - Saddam had for 12 years thumbed his nose at the United Nations and international community; he had refused to account for his WMD programs and had consistently tried to hide from international inspectors the extent of these programs; and continued UN sanctions against Iraq were causing a real and unrequited humanitarian emergency among the Iraqi people. Saddam was a very bad guy and many well-meaning Democrats believed that getting rid of him was worth the cost of war even if they didn't buy into the Administration's fear-mongering and hyping of the WMD threat.

Did this justify war? In my view, absolutely not. But that doesn't morally invalidate the people who believed that war was appropriate. I don't know Will Marshall's position on the war; if he supported it, he was wrong to do so, but to then say that he

has nontrivial responsibility for the hundreds of thousands dead, and someone who, along with Bill Kristol, should have his image spat upon by schoolchildren during their "moment of quiet reflection" for generations to come.

Well frankly, that's both offensive and silly. How do you debate with someone the efficacy of war and peace when they basically say that your image should be spat upon by schoolchildren? So much for reasoned debate in the Democratic Party. Apparently, it's either Atrios's way or the highway.

As Shadi points out, is Will Marshall responsible for the incompetent execution of the war? Is he responsible for the atrocious post-conflict occupation? Of course not. Now I'm sure Atrios would say that people like Marshall enabled this Administration to go to war, as if Will Marshall or any Democrat had any real sway over this Administration.

Will Marshall like many centrist Dems thought the ends justified the means in going to war in Iraq. He was wrong. He trusted this Administration to execute the war properly and his trust was misplaced. Such views merit criticism. But how about arguing that point as opposed to attacking him personally? Well I suppose it's so much more fun to just degrade and dismiss someone. The liberal blogosphere would do itself a great deal of good if it actually listened to all viewpoints and debated them reasonably, as opposed to this sort of high-school esque name-calling.

The 'Wrath' of Atrios
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Atrios has just written a fairly nonsensical post, a paragraph which makes, as far as I can tell, no coherent sense. He writes, referring to something I posted earlier today

But when someone writes 'I like Will Marshall,' you know they can be ignored, if not laughed at and mocked, by all sentient beings until the end of time.

Until the end of time? This, I presume, is hyperbole. But Atrios goes on, and seems to imply that Will Marshall is evil and has the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on his hands. Not only that, but Atrios thinks that schoolchildren should spit on Marshall's image "for generations to come." Even if this is what passes in some quarters as rhetorical bluster, it strikes me as rather petulantly childish:

Marshall was one of the prime "Democratic" forces behind the invasion of Iraq, has nontrivial responsibility for the hundreds of thousands dead, and who, along with Bill Kristol, should have his image spat upon by schoolchildren during their "moment of quiet reflection" for generations to come.

Instead of attacking a Democrat like Will Marshall, maybe he should attack the people who actually took us to war, ran the war, and blundered the war; the people refuse to ban torture, insist on undermining the constitution, cheerlead warrant-less wiretapping, and promote a "unitary executive" - they're called Republicans, and it seems Atrios has forgot about them. Atrios, instead, would like to purge the Democratic Party of dissenters and create an internal civil war where none should exist. So much for party loyalty. Which side is Atrios on? Thanks for giving the Republicans more talking points.

And if Atrios actually cared to read my whole post, he would have noted that not only did I say "I like Will Marshall," but in the following sentence, I said

I also like the Kossacks because they want to stand up to Republicans and fight fire with fire. They understand that the Republicans have, it seems, done all they can to destroy our country and shred our constitution, and they’re sick of Democrats backing down and taking it. Well, good for them. I'm sick of it too.

The whole point of my post was to explore common ground between DLCers and the DailyKos community, and to see if their roles could be complimentary, and to highlight and value what each group brings to the table. So much for reconciliation.

PPI vs. Kos, Part II
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Ok, I'm genuinely confused my Moira's response to my initial post about the so-called "divide" between Kos and the DLC. Her main criticism is that I "distinguish [myself] from the progressive blogosphere and then associate [myself] with the DLC, while at the same time drawing yet a different line to sound national security ideas as being the independent unifier of both. In other words, national security issues are outside of partisan politics."

I think Moira and I are actually on the same page, but that she may have misunderstood my post. First of all, nowhere did I take sides and associate myself with the DLC in the context of this debate. All I said is that I think the DLC is doing some important work, followed by a "disclaimer" that I had just written a policy report for the DLC-affiliated PPI. But just as I "like" the DLC for certain reasons, I also said that I "like" the DailyKos community for certain reasons. Both "camps" bring important things to the table.

Nowhere was I buying into the idea of some internal civil war within the Democratic party. Rather, I was trying to argue precisely the opposite: that no civil war is necessary, because the DLC - at least when it comes to foreign policy - is trying to be "tough" on national security, while the Kossacks are trying to be "tough" tactically against the Republican party. These, in my view, can and should be complimentary roles. Both approaches, I think, allow us get some backbone, and stop surrending to the Republicans in the name of bipartisanship, or because we don't actually know what we believe in.

As liberals, there are certain things we believe in that we should never compromise on, regardless of short-term political gain. One of those things is civil liberties and the sanctity of the constitution and bill of rights. When congressional Democrats raised the white flag on the wiretapping bill last week, we betrayed our deepest principles as liberals. There is never any justification for compromising on the very things which define and animate who we are - our raison d'etre, if you will. I don't care if passing the wiretapping disaster was good politics, bad politics, or if it will help us win the 2008 elections. There are red lines, and we crossed them, by further eroding separation of powers and granting the executive branch further authority to do whatever it wants in the name of "security" and the "War on Terror" (uppercase). If the Democratic party is unwilling to take a stand on the basic issues of freedom and liberty; if we our unwilling to defend our constitution from Republican onslaught; if we are unwilling to do everything in our power to ban torture, then we might as well call it a day, and tell the American people that we Democrats believe in nothing, and that we stand for nothing.

Moira also criticizes me for implying that "national security issues are outside of partisan politics." I never said this, nor implied it. I think liberals/Democrats are the only ones who can effectively get us out of Iraq, support human rights and democracy abroad by reclaiming "democracy promotion" form the neo-cons, restore our moral leadership by banning torture and annulling parts of Patriot Act, fight international poverty, and, ultimately, win the war on terrorism (lowercase). I don't think Republicans can be counted on to do these things, and I don't buy into the idea of a bipartisan foreign policy elite that rises above politics, and can be counted on to do the right thing. 

With all that said, I will just close by saying that I do think there is a real divide within the Left, but it's not between the DLC and Kos; rather, it's between liberal interventionists and non-interventionists, or, let's say, between people who want a value-centric foreign policy, and those who want an interest-centric foreign policy. But that's a discussion for a different time, and I don't think its something that will threaten to tear us apart. After all, in the end, and in the meantime, interventionists, non-interventionists, and everyone in between, have a common goal - to defeat the Republicans, safeguard our constitution, and begin to rehabilitate our reputation abroad.

Don't Let the Door Hit You . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

Upon hearing the news this morning that Karl Rove was departing I couldn't help but smile. After all, it's nice to know that my taxpayer dollars will no longer be paying his salary.

But upon his departure it begs the question, what is Rove's legacy? On the one hand, Rove has shown himself to be a brilliant political mind (the guy did elect George W. Bush to the Presidency twice after all), but that brilliance has been built on a rather dubious platform.

First, he helped Bush win in 2000 by running one of the most intellectually dishonest campaigns in modern American history. Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" and a "uniter, not a divider" who would "restore honor and dignity" to the White House. Instead he governed as a hard right and highly partisan conservative who made no effort to bring the country together. Fifty plus one has been their approach since day one.

The hyper-partisanship that defines American politics today is a direct result of this governing strategy, which of course was always much more about winning politically then running the nation effectively.

In few places has the damage from this approach been more severe than foreign policy. Repeatedly the Administration has used Democratic vulnerability on national security matters to score a political advantage, whether its the war on Iraq, terrorism or domestic surveillance.

Case in point, the recent debacle over the renewal of FISA. What is most interesting about the post-mortems on this issue is that everyone is blaming Dems for caving on the bill (as they should). But where's the opprobrium for the behavior of Bush and the GOP? The key rationale for the Dems cave is the substantial evidence that the GOP were not only going to use the failure to renew FISA as a club for attacking Democrats as being weak on national security, but if there was another terrorist attack in August, Republicans were completely prepared to blame Democrats for it.

Senator Trent Lott basically said as much, intimating that if Dems didn't pass FISA revisions, DC residents should literally run for their lives:

Without mentioning a specific threat to the Capitol, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) ominously advised Thursday that Congress needed to pass changes to terrorist surveillance laws before leaving for the August recess and warned that otherwise “the disaster could be on our doorstep.”

When asked if people should leave Washington, D.C., during the month of August, Lott responded, “I think it would be good to leave town in August, and it would probably be good to stay out until September the 12th.”

What's most amazing is that this extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and national security no longer even raises eyebrows. We've come to expect Republican leaders to do or say anything related to terrorism and national security if they think it will score them a political advantage. The result is that it's virtually impossible to have any kind of debate about the best means of fighting Islamic extremists. Once Dems sound any discordant note or warn that the tactics this nation is adopting need to be moderated they get hit over the head with attacks on their patriotism. Of course, it didn't have to be this way. Bush could have tried to work with Dems in fighting terrorism - but I suppose that wouldn't have been as politically expedient.

That in a nutshell is Karl Rove's legacy. Good riddance, indeed.

On Shadi, "them,"us," and the "Foreign Policy Community"
Posted by Moira Whelan

Apologies, up front Shadi, for using your piece as a bounding off point, but it got me fired up. From beginning to end, I have many problems with Shadi's last post. I am however, avoiding the DLC-Kos Sunday Show Strawman for now and stick to my ballywick.

 My problem is that Shadi distinguishes himself from the progressive blogosphere and then associates himself with the DLC, while at the same time drawing yet a different line to sound national security ideas as being the independent unifier of both. In other words, national security issues are outside of partisan politics. Shadi's distinction is hardly  unusual, but it is problematic.

Everyone should be stewards of sound national security policy. Pointing out bad policy is everyone's responsibility. (Imply criticisms of those who don't here.) The O'Hanlon/Pollack issue illuminated and many have done a great job digging into the problem we all need to confront. The "Foreign Policy Community" should not be something different and escape accountability or responsibility for Iraq or anything else. The fact is that unlike what some foreign policy specialists would like to believe, these issues have long been partisan because those in charge of the final execution of policy are always partisan.

Sitting back and expecting that everyone will walk towards the light that is the sound foreign policy as presented by whoever is writing the piece, simply ignores the political realities that exist. Ignoring political realities that exist in other countries is considered irresponsible in foreign policy wonk circles. (Take, for example, the arguments used against the administration ignoring political realities in Iraq.) Ignoring it here is standard fare.

  More after the jump--

Continue reading "On Shadi, "them,"us," and the "Foreign Policy Community"" »

PPI vs. Kos?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I'm not going to rehash the discussion regarding the ongoing "divide" between the DailyKos "wing" of the Democratic party and the DLC "wing" (for a taste, see here and here). However, I must say that I find the divide, whether real or perceived, somewhat baffling. I don't know, but maybe I'm one of the few people left on the planet who likes both Kos and the DLC (yes, simultaneously). I don’t see why the two camps have to be mutually exclusive.

I like Will Marshall, Mark Ribbing, and feel they’re doing some important work. (Full disclosure: I recently wrote a policy report for PPI). But I also like the Kossacks because they want to stand up to Republicans and fight fire with fire. They understand that the Republicans have, it seems, done all they can to destroy our country and shred our constitution, and they’re sick of Democrats backing down and taking it. Well, good for them. I'm sick of it too. (For example, we should be absolutely engraged that congressional Democrats allowed the recent Bush wiretapping bill to pass. It was nothing less than a surrender, and represented the worst political instincts of the Democratic party. We should not play politics with our constitution, but that's precisely what we did.)

In my more angry states, I sometimes wonder, like the Kossacks do, if Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are toeing the line between "bad" and "worse than bad" rather precariously. In my view, the word "evil" should be employed sparingly, if at all. It's poisonous to our political discourse, so I have no intention of going there. But let me also say that when I saw Rove speak in person, I came out genuinely frightened. It was one of the most chilling political experiences I can remember. And then I started watching clips of Cheney on youtube, and thought to myself: it's not just that I disagree with this guy - I honestly feel that he's a genuinely bad person, and that he's actively undermining our constitution, and, by extension, the very founding ideals of this country.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t want to be too partisan, but, for reasons beyond my control, I am a product of partisan battles. I have seen what Republicans have done to this country in recent years, and I believe that we must fight back. But, at the same time, I also believe that there is a real war on terrorism (lowercase), and that there is a generational struggle ahead of us that requires that America remain the preeminent power in the world, and that we use our power (non-military, please) to promote the ideas and ideals that we hold dear. These two strands of thinking, if anything, go together. To put it more simply, there is a way to be both "tough" on the Republican party, and "tough" on national security. 

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.

www Democracy Arsenal
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use