Friday, February 27, 2009
# Posted 6:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
At a forum in Philadelphia, I interviewed Ramesh [Ponnuru] on the Republican future. He noted that we were part of the tiny conspiracy of non-Hindu South Asian conservatives, and I believe [he] is literally the only other member.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Bill Clinton's awful nomination speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention. The speech was so long and so boring that the entirely Democratic crowd cheered when Clinton finally said "In conclusion..."
Rising star. Southern governor. Rhodes Scholar. Clinton's example shows that talented politicians do get a second chance.
Now back to Jindal's speech for the moment. I agree with the criticism that Jindal delivered a shopworn Republican message about the need for less government and lower taxes. But the entire party is struggling right now to adapt its message, so if Jindal delivered the old message competently, his speech would've been a footnote, not a headline.
The real issue was the delivery. Although hesitant to praise fellow Manhattan nativeMatt Yglesias lest I validate his condescending snark, I think Matt captured the problem quite well:
Bobby Jindal apparently believes it’s appropriate to address the citizens of the United States in a tone that suggests we’re all nine years old.Where Matt goes too far is his suggestion that somehow Jindal really thought it was a good idea to sound like an elementary school teacher. I think it makes a lot more sense so say that Jindal was struggling to find an effective tone that balanced his own intellect with a more accessible common touch.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, February 26, 2009
# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The foundation of McCain's approach is the core principle of counterinsurgency doctrine: secure the population. As he explained it in his speech yesterday at AEI,
Effective counterterrorism operations rely, among other elements, on accurate intelligence provided by the local population, which has no incentive to cooperate in the absence of sustained security or the promise of a better life...the way to provide enduring security is by applying the same basic principles of counterinsurgency tailored for the unique circumstances of Afghanistan, backed with robust intelligence resources and a sufficient number of troops to carry it out.In the WaPo, Kissinger contends that,
Heretofore, America has pursued traditional anti-insurgency tactics: to create a central government, help it extend its authority over the entire country and, in the process, bring about a modern bureaucratic and democratic society.Kissinger sets up a strawman by saying that our existing strategy has been to create "a modern bureaucratic and democratic society." For good reason, the US and NATO have made an effort to give Afghanistan some bureaucratic capacity. We've also supported free and fair elections, because the Afghan government needs a measure of legitimacy. Instead of confronting that reality, Kissinger tries to suggest that "traditional anti-insurgnecy tactics" rest on a foundation of delusional idealism. Yet as McCain stated succintly, the core principle of counterinsurgency doctrine is to secure the population
Kissinger makes several arguments about why the traditional approach can't work in Afghanistan. First the country is too large and its terrain too rugged. According to the CIA Factbook, Afghanistan is about 50% larger than Iraq. Given the extraordinary mobility of our forces, I'm not really sure that's a problem. Nor have we struggled until now because of thie terrain.
As for Afghanistan's diverse ethnic composition, why is it any different than the ethnic and sectarian divides that plagued Iraq? A traditional counterinsurgency strategy turned around the war in Iraq in the midst of a Sunni-Shi'a bloodbath. As McCain pointed out, Afghanistan hasn't descended to those depths:
The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago – to cite one example, civilian fatalities at their peak in Iraq were ten times higher than civilian deaths at their peak in Afghanistan last year. But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing.Finally, Kissinger says the population in Afghanistan is too well-armed. In Iraq, most homes have assault rifles. But the real question isn't how well armed the average citizen is. It's whether the insurgents have access to heavier weapons. In Iraq, the insurgents had access to vast stockpiles kept by Saddam Hussein, and Shi'ites brought in extensive weapons shipments from Iran.
But you don't win guerrilla wars with firepower (of which American forces have plenty). You win guerrilla wars with intelligence and popular support, as McCain emphasized.
Strangely, the one part of Afghanistan where Kissinger favors a McCain-style approach is the crucial region adjacent to the Pakistani border:
Military strategy should concentrate on preventing the emergence of a coherent, contiguous state within the [area] controlled by jihadists. In practice, this would mean control of Kabul and the Pashtun area. A jihadist base area on both sides of the mountainous Afghan-Pakistani border would become a permanent threat to hopes for a moderate evolution and to all of Afghanistan's neighbors. Gen. David Petraeus has argued that, reinforced by the number of American forces he has recommended, he should be able to control the 10 percent of Afghan territory where, in his words, 80 percent of the military threat originates. This is the region where the "clear, hold and build" strategy that had success in Iraq is particularly applicable.This exception to Kissinger's general rule changes his argument entirely. If he favors a classical counterinsurgency in the most strategically important regions with the most violence, then he is effectively on the same page as McCain. In more peaceful areas, you don't need that kind of effort.
Ever the diplomat, Kissinger seems inclined to agree with everyone. Or disagree with them, depending on your perspective.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
# Posted 4:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
# Posted 4:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now, if I just read that story in a random Persian Gulf paper, I would assume its fiction. But Andrew Exum vouches for Prothero, and interviewed him about the story. [Correction:] Prothero is a US Army veteran [journalist] with extensive experience [reporting on the US Army] in Iraq.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
This is an important story and I'm glad it made the front-page of yesterday's WaPo. There are several points in the story worth emphasizing. The Post reports, "The U.S. government was not willing to share evidence that conclusively linked Ajmi or any of the four others to terrorist activities." Thus al-Ajmi acquittal was almost assured. Afterward, the Kuwaitis apparently did nothing to prevent al-Ajmi from falling in with radicals.
The Post's story is also constructed in a manner to suggest that Guantanamo transformed al-Ajmi from a rank-and-file gunman into a suicide terrorists. Here are the story's closing paragraphs:
When [al-Ajmi's attorney] Thomas Wilner learned that his client had become a suicide bomber, he said he felt physically ill. He thought of the victims, and he thought of Ajmi. "Here was this poor, dumb kid -- I really don't think he was a bad kid -- who was thrown into a hellhole of a prison and who went mad," he said. "Should we really be surprised that somebody we treated this way would become radicalized, would become crazy?"Not exactly a balanced ending. But not a purely implausible hypothesis either. On other hand, al-Ajmi's decision to leave his home in Kuwait in order to fight with the Taliban suggests he was on the road to radicalization long before he made it to Gitmo. Perhaps even more important was the opportunity al-Ajmi had to associate with radicals in Kuwait after his release:
Although Ajmi's family tried to get him to move on, to forgive and forget, he did not want to let go. He filled his computer with gruesome images of killings in Iraq. He started listening to religious songs that glorified violence. He developed friendships with young men who espoused war in the name of Islam.Should we trust al-Ajmi's account of what happened? It may not matter. Al-Ajmi and his friends believed it. There was nothing to stop his radicalization. As we get ready to close down Gitmo, the real question may be whether US and foreign governments have good plans to keep the inmates under control once they're released.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, February 23, 2009
# Posted 3:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To be fair, I don't know enough about the specific issues being addressed to say whether Jindal's points are objectively valid. But his style is clearly different from many prominent Republicans and similar to to some of the most prominent Democrats. It will be very interesting to see how Jindal's style plays on a national stage, although I don't expect to have that chance before 2015 or 2016. But I would expect all those conservative columnists who condemned Sarah Palin as lacking substance to fall in love Jindal the same way that liberal columnists fell in love with Obama.
Cross-posted on Conventional Folly (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yesterday:(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
MR. [DAVID] GREGORY: What is the state of the Republican Party?Jindal isn't going easy on the GOP. Nor should he. At the same time, popular governors -- such as Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- have the advantage of being able to attack their comrades in Washington without implicating themselves.
We can't just be the party of no, we have to offer real solutions. We stand ready to work with our president. I think he, he has a chance to, to work and lead our country in a bipartisan way. Unfortunately, with the stimulus he allowed Congressional leaders to write this bill.Tomorrow night, Jindal will provide the GOP response to President Obama's televised address. I think his message is the right one. In spite of what has happened the past few weeks, the party is still ready to work with the President if his programs are bipartisan in substance.
Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
Friday, February 13, 2009
# Posted 2:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
No doubt, Gregg knew what kind of team he was joining. But until he joined, he may not have recognized what obligations come from being part of the team. When you're in the Cabinet, you talk the president's talking points and you better sound like you're being sincere. Maybe Gregg thought that with the (hoped for) return of bipartisanship, he could be in the Obama Cabinet and still speak his mind as a Republican.
I admit, this is all mind-reading. We're going on very little data. Thus, I think it's reasonable for Charles Krauthammer to insist that Gregg's withdrawal really was about White House efforts to politicize the census, even if Gregg downplayed that issue.
One thing I still can't figure is the timing. Gregg seems very sincere in his respect for Obama and his desire to cause as little damage as possible. But if so, why didn't Gregg wait until this afternoon to announce his withdrawal, so it would get buried in the weekend news? The way Gregg did it will persuade a lot of Democrats it was an intentional slap in the face. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
“I’m a fiscal conservative, as everybody knows, a fairly strong one,” Mr. Gregg told reporters at a news conference in the Capitol. “And it just became clear to me that it would be very difficult, day in and day out, to serve in this cabinet or any cabinet.”I guess I'm a little curious about what led Sen. Gregg to believe last week that a strong fiscal conservative belonged in the Obama cabinet. More reactions:
Jake Tapper: "I find this baffling."
Michael Goldfarb: Gregg was kneecapped by Obama's decision last week to shift control of the Census from the Dept. of Commerce to the White House.
Glenn Reynolds: "At least Gregg paid his taxes."
Steve Benen: "It's a good thing no one seems to know what the Commerce Secretary does, or these troubles might start to be consequential." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ed O'Keefe of the WaPo decided to talk to previous Census directors to see what the record really shows about White House involvement with the decennial survey. The director for the 2000 census engaged in some coordination with the White House on what sound like pretty mundane issues, never above the deputy chief of staff level. The 1990 director said she had no contact with the White House, except via her superiors at the Department of Commerce. If Rahm Emanuel is going to call the shots this time around, that would be a real change (not of the kind we're supposed to believe in). (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
# Posted 2:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Chris meant what he said as a comment on a Carnegie Endowment study that apparently takes for granted our inability to invest significant new resources in Afghanistan. This led to Chris' riposte,
We should determine the optimal outcome we are confident we can accomplish, and then pay for it. After all, we still have a GDP of, what, $12 trillion?In other words, from a global perspective, we clearly have additional resources available to invest in Afghanistan, which the President has consistently described as the war we must win.
I agree with Daniel that "we musn’t fall into the trap of thinking that if, say, $150 billion per year isn’t doing the trick, then surely $300 billion will." I think Chris' post shows that he understands this problem. The first of his five conclusions about Afghanistan includes the observation that
Half of our problems are self-inflicted: muddled command structures, poor coordination, an embassy not fully on a war footing, lack of an integrated civil-military campaign plan, etc.These are problems directly related to how we expend our resources, not whether we have enough of them. Although President Obama has yet to deliver a major address on Afghanistan that elaborates his understanding of the problem, I think it's fair to say that Gen. Petraeus, as CENTCOM commander, fully understands that more money and more troops won't work without new ideas.
This brings us to the much tougher question of what counts as victory. Damir asks,
What should our strategy be? A massive state-building project in one of the most primitive and underdeveloped parts of the world? To what end? Is developing Afghanistan an end in itself?As Damir suggests, I will "color him skeptical." There is a consensus that our most fundamental objective in Afghanistan is counter-terrorism. We cannot allow it become a base for further attacks on American soil. So how do we create a sustainable order in Afghanistan resistant to terrorism? In spite of the heated debate about whether democracy is viable in Afghanistan, there seems to be a consensus that Afghanistan will not be immune to terrorist influence unless its government is legitimate. As Chris reports from Germany,
Another question I asked everyone in Munich was, what kind of political order should we seek in Afghanistan? I hear so many tortured efforts, both by the administration and by commentators, to qualify our definition of the Afghan state: legitimate, accountable, non-corrupt, effective, law-abiding, rights-based, etc. -- in short, anything but "democratic."I think Chris is onto something here. Even those with strong Realist inclinations seems to recognize that we need a government in Afghanistan that has certain core attributes of liberal democracy. To my surprise Fareed Zakaria -- he of impeccable Realist credentials -- suggested in a recent column in the WaPo,
Make the Afghan government credible. The central government is widelyIf that is the way to keep terrorists out of Afghanistan, I think it would be a prudent investment of our resources. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
FORT MYERS, Fla., Feb. 10 -- President Obama likes to portray the battle over the economic stimulus package that passed the Senate on Tuesday as a stark choice between his approach and that of those who would "do nothing."...Think about those words: "in truth". You don't see them often in a newspaper that plays by the unofficial rules of concealing its correspondents' opinions.
Anyhow, in order to achieve the balance expected from correspondents for the WaPo, the article includes this graf:
But if Republicans express frustration about Obama's rhetorical device, they need only look back to the man he succeeded for precedent. George W. Bush was proficient at setting up straw men when arguing for his policies, only to tear down the positions of those phantom opponents as irresponsible, unworkable or downright shameful in comparison with his own.Now, I'm not going to defend George W. Bush as a model of upright debating tactics. But since the Majority Leader in the Senate actually said "the war is lost", I've got to take Bush's side on that one. Just saying, y'know. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
And so when I hear people just saying, "Ah, we don't need to do anything," "This is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill," without acknowledging that, by definition, part of any stimulus package would include spending -- that's the point -- then what I get a sense of is, is that there's some ideological blockage there that needs to be cleared up.I'm surprised Obama rolled out that talking point again about how critics don't understand that a stimulus package is a spending package. There is a serious debate going on about what kind of spending is actually stimulative, but the President preferred to write off any position except his own as "ideological blockage". He also dismissed his critics as unserious in his first answer of the night:
There have been criticisms from a bunch of different directions about this bill, so let me just address a few of them.What's especially interesting is how Obama tries to validate his caricature of Republican critics by praising the "sincerity" with which they hold their outlandish positions:
As I said, the one concern I've got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what's been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who -- I don't doubt their sincerity -- who just believe that we should do nothing.An interesting variation on this approach is to caricature the critics' "philosophical" position, then assert that this caricature is undermining "respectful debate":
Now, maybe philosophically you just don't think that the federal government should be involved in energy policy. I happen to disagree with that; I think that's the reason why we find ourselves importing more foreign oil now than we did back in the early '70s when OPEC first formed.Of course, if these advanced tactics don't work, you can just suggest your critics are completely out to lunch:
And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said, "No matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let's just blow up the public school systems."The bombing begins in five minutes.... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, February 09, 2009
# Posted 12:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
George Will: "The best thing [Obama] has done as president, and the most presidential, is to come out against the protectionism in this [stimulus], the Buy America provisions." (Link opens a video. This quote is about 90 seconds in.)
Barack Obama, free-trader? The same President who threatened to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally? To be fair, I like this Obama better than the protectionist who ran for the Democratic nomination last year. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, February 08, 2009
# Posted 11:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I just personally think it's just craziness.Not everyone likes the kind of legislation that Tom Daschle likes to pass, but that's sort of besides the point. Losing supremely qualified Cabinet officers over relatively minor ethical issues problematic. What if Bob Gates never became Secretary of Defense because he forgot to pay some taxes?
On the other hand, it's strange for Brooks to say that "too many corrupt people" isn't the problem in Washington. It is, although a lack of competent Cabinet members is a problems. It's a tough trade off.
As Brooks himself points out later in the discussion, today's political climate made Daschle's withdrawal unavoidable. At least rhetorically, Obama raised the ethics bar so high that there was no way Daschle could survive the scrutiny of the nominating process. To Obama's chagrin, he didn't realize the implications of his own rhetoric until it was too late.
Interestingly, Brooks' liberal debating partner Mark Shields, an unflagging admirer of Obama, now seems to agree that the President was just plain wrong to spend 18 months denouncing lobbyists:
MARK SHIELDS: It was a great applause line to say, "No lobbyists." I think lobbyists are important to the process. I mean, not all lobbyists are stealing from widows and orphans. They are people who understand and care deeply about the process.I feel like not too many liberal pundits made that point during the campaign. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
JIM LEHRER: So it's now an Obama Democratic stimulus plan, right? If this thing passes and only by just a couple of votes or by one vote, say, then that's what it is. It's not a bipartisan plan, correct?(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Post ran a front page story on Saturday about alleged violations of campaign finance laws by RNC Chairman Michael Steele's 2006 Senate campaign.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Steele defended himself on ABC:
[GEORGE] STEPHANOPOULOS: You just got elected of the Republican National Committee last week...
Steele sounded extremely confident and on top of the situation. One small item he didn't seem to know about was why the $37,000 was transferred to his sister's firm after she had filed papers to dissolve it legally.
If no evidence emerges of any misdoing, beyond the allegations of a convicted felon, the WaPo should be deeply embarrassed. Yes, the Post was clear that the accusations against Steele were made by a felon seeking leniency. But when the best paper in the country puts a story about alleged corruption on page one, it gives the story legitimacy. It forces interviewers to ask Steele about the story as opposed to talking about policy issues.
For all I know, there could be more to this story. It's only in the past few months that Democrats have dominated the scandal pages.
# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Why? First of all, Jewish voters are "less concerned with Israel and its fate than they were in the past", according to recent survey data. More importantly, even though Jewish voters want their candidates to be pro-Israel, their standards for what counts as pro-Israel have become very lax. According to Rosner, "all one has to do to qualify as 'pro-Israel' is not actively agitate for the country’s demise
I respectfully disagree with this hypothesis. To my mind, the overwhelming reason that Americans Jews vote Democratic is their cultural liberalism and their suspicions of evangelicals.
To begin with, I disagree with Rosner's premise that "the GOP can honestly claim it is a far better friend to Israel and the Jewish people than its rival." I think it's certainly fair to say that Republicans are more hawkish than Democrats on Israel, but American Jews have considerably sympathy for the Democrats' approach, an approach often shared by Israel's Labor governments.
In my experience, a good half of American Jews hold Bill Clinton's efforts to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty in high regard. Many of them -- my Republican self included -- wish that Yasser Arafat had cooperated seriously, instead of undermining Clinton's efforts and unleashing a new wave of terrorism. Many American Jews also look back very fondly on the Israeli-Egyptian peace of 1979. Jimmy Carter isn't terribly popular in the Jewish community these days, but there is good reason to be thankful for what he achieved.
In spite of robust Jewish support for American peace initiatives, I don't think this factor alone comes close to explaining why 75% of Jews will vote not just for Obama, but for considerably less impressive Democrats like John Kerry. This is where cultural liberalism comes into play.
In political terms, American Jews are profoundly secular. They are hardliners when it comes to the separation of church and state, because they believe that even the slightest encroachment represents a threat to religious minorities. And what really puts the fear of God into my fellow Jews is the Christian right. From a Jewish perspective, the evangelical agenda amounts to a persistent effort to impose Christian values on the rest of us by making them law. Jews fear that the Christian right is not interested in rational argument because it considers Scripture to be sufficient justification for its political projects.
I believe that Jewish concerns about evangelicals are extremely exaggerated. Yet such concerns are extremely hard to overcome because American Jews tend to have so little contact with evangelicals. In addition, the historical experience of being oppressed by Christians continues to resonate deeply. I'm referring just to severe repression in Europe, but to the ugly prejudice that was widespread in this country even forty years ago. To a certain extent, Americans Jews still live in this past because they have so little first-hand knowledge of today's evangelicals.
One reason that Jews don't interact much with evangelicals is that Jews are overwhelmingly blue-state residents. Although numerous Jews live in swing states like Ohio and Florida, they tend to live in the bluest parts of those states, usually in major metropolitan areas. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if geography explains almost the entire Democratic advantage among Jewish voters. I don't think it would be a hard proposition to test. Just look at the exit poll data and see if Jews voted differently from those in their county or precinct, as opposed to comparing the Jewish vote to the national results.
In the final analysis, I don't think there is much potential for change in Jewish voting patterns. The community's geographical distribution doesn't seem to be changing much. Although the Democratic base (especially the netroots) is much less pro-Israel than the Jewish community, Democratic politicians are just as fervent in their professions of support. I don't expect that to change soon, either. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, February 05, 2009
# Posted 1:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The country of Switzerland has universal coverage, costs that are 40% lower than ours and that inflate at lower rates, and an excellent health care system in terms of outcomes and resources. The key to their success is that the Swiss system is consumer-driven: consumers buy their own health insurance from more than 90 private health insurance firms. If they cannot afford it, the cantons subsidize it. If they are sick, they pay no more for their health insurance than the well (the Swiss insurers risk-adjust each other).
(Hat tip: DS) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
David Broder (not exactly a conservative):
Even when the White House belatedly learned of Daschle's tax troubles, it misjudged the political fallout. Despite the glaring contradiction between Obama's proclaimed ethical standards and Daschle's lucrative expense-account life that led to his tax underpayment, Obama said he "absolutely" stood by his choice. One day later, he accepted Daschle's withdrawal. This is a blow to Obama's credibility that will not be easily forgotten.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, the op-ed itself is a set of White House talking points on the stimulus. Not surprisingly, it carefully evades the issue of whether the programs in the stimulus package are actually rapid spending measures that may counteract the recession, or just regular spending measures that are being rushed through at a moment of opportunity. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Really, the job is not really worth a pitcher of warm spit, to quote a famous vice president years ago. It a second- level job in the cabinet. It doesn't have a lot of influence.Hey, some of us remember Carlos Gutierrez. I ran into him a couple of times at McCain headquarters during the campaign. The GOP could really use the support of those who are working to get out the Latino conservative vote. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I would add one-point to Brooks' description. Most Ward 3 residents have lost 30-40% of their retirement savings as a result of the financial crisis. That's just one more reason they resent Wall Street executives who still get six-figure bonuses. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
We believe that Mr. Daschle ought to step aside and let the president choose a less-blemished successor.The WaPo is more forgiving:
Mr. Daschle deserves to be judged also on the basis of his long career in public service and his knowledge of and interest in health-care reform... if Mr. Obama still wants Mr. Daschle in the job, and he said yesterday that he does, based on the record known so far he's entitled to have him.Former WaPo correspondent (and relentless Bush critic) Tom Ricks observes:
That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is caused by the course of Obama's cabinet picks: Richardson blew up on the launch pad, two of the more prominent picks have tax problems, his CIA pick seems inexplicable, his no. 2 guy at the Pentagon needed a waiver from his new anti-lobbying rule, and Hillary Clinton and her hubbie strike me as a ticking bombs.And to top it all off: Obama's Choice For Chief Performance Officer Withdraws Name. Why? She's in trouble with the IRS.
How I long for the good old days of "No Drama" Obama. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Michael Steele on Fox News Sunday:
[CHRIS] WALLACE: But do you need to show Americans that you have new solutions...Sounds like a good idea, but I'm not an education policy guy, so I'm not sure what program Steele was talking about. If you listen to the broadcast, it sounds like Steele was struggling to come up with an answer to Wallace's question. An RNC chair should always be ready with a half-dozen new ideas that can make people say, "Hey, why didn't I think of that?" (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Kristol notes that a lot of Republicans want the party to have a clear message, a clear strategy and a unified leadership that can mount the best possible defense against an overwhelming Democratic majority. With good reason, a lot of Republicans are happy about the GOP House delegation refusing to cast a single vote for the stimulus package. But unity shouldn't come at the price of suppressing internal discussion. The real driver of unity and success is a compelling vision, not discipline for its own sake.
David is also displeased with Kristol because the title of his essay is an example of
"hackish, cliched writing, recasting a political catchphrase that has already been appropriated to death. Second, it betokens a callousness (hardly limited to Kristol) to other peoples’ historical horrors: I can’t imagine him calling for a journalistic 'night of the long knives'."It's not the most original title ever, but I think it gets the point across. As for the history, the Hundred Flowers Campaign represented a brief moment of optimism when Mao gave China hope that freedom of thought and conscience would be part of the revolution. As David points out, this was a false hope, since the Campaign was a trap to lure dissidents into the open. Yet Mao's hypocrisy doesn't undermine the ideal he cynically invoked. China is still waiting for what Mao once promised. Thus, I consider the metaphor of one hundred (or one thousand) flowers as more of a tribute to that ideal than a callous disregard for the consequences of Mao's betrayal. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Pentagon officials have leaked word that the Office of Management and Budget has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending for the coming fiscal year, giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates a substantially smaller budget than he requested.As a candidate, Obama talked about using a "scalpel" to reduce government in a surgical and precise manner. A ten percent across-the-board cut doesn't sound surgical at all. And what about Obama's commitment to win the war in Afghanistan while increasing the overall size of our land forces?
This decision isn't final, so we can hope that Obama remembers his commitments and restores all or most of the Pentagon's budget. At a moment like this, I am quite glad that Bob Gates is still in charge of DoD.
UPDATE: The budget office demanded a cut in the Pentagon's request for the upcoming year. Even with the cut, the new Pentagon budget may be larger than last year. However, this will depend on whether supplemental funding is provided for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or if those funds will have to come out of the regular budget. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
There is also a new addition to White House cuisine: the refrigerators are stocked with the president’s favorite organic brew: Honest Tea, in Mr. Obama’s preferred flavors of Black Forest Berry and Green Dragon.Several months ago, I would've said that Honest Tea is my favorite brand. But my new #1 is the slightly more expensive Inko's.
Also, an open question: What is the earliest known use of the term "cappucino conservatives", i.e. the right-of-center counterparts of the latte liberals? I used the term myself in March 2005. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Add these [rockets] to the rocket launched last week and to the attack on an IDF patrol near the Gaza border, and those claiming that the Gaza operation was a huge success have a problem.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
And what of that happy U.S.-Muslim relationship that Obama imagines existed "as recently as 20 or 30 years ago" that he has now come to restore? Thirty years ago, 1979, saw the greatest U.S.-Muslim rupture in our 233-year history: Iran's radical Islamic revolution, the seizure of the U.S. Embassy, the 14 months of America held hostage.
And don't forget our mini-war with Libya! I still remember when I was a kid how the morning DJs in Manhattan used to play a song called "Qaddafi Sucks!"
Attacking from a different vantage point, Michael Goldfarb blasts Obama for his failure to state clearly and unequivocally that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. As Mike points out, Obama was never shy about making this point during the campaign, at a time when Obama was under to pressure to show that he's tough. Jennifer Rubin thinks this is basically just Obama going soft.
I don't think Obama intended to go soft or to back off from his position that Iran going nuclear is unacceptable. But he wanted to make the point as softly as possible in an interview designed to reach out to the Muslim world. The deeper question here is whether Obama appreciates the conflict between his desire to reach out to the Muslim world and his actual positions on key issues in US-Muslim relations. The Iranian bomb is one example. Israel is another. When President Obama tells American audiences (as he did during the campaign) about his love for Israel, that will also be broadcast on Al-Arabiya and other networks in the Muslim world.
Is there any way to square this circle? I think Obama believes that if he can work out a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, that will change the entire regional dynamic. George Bush took a different approach. He told the Muslim world that America will help them achieve their long-repressed desire for political freedom. That didn't work out so well in the short-term, but it doesn't strike me as less probable than a peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians.
Clearly, Obama disagrees. He said nothing about freedom or human rights. He has carefully avoided that subject in the past as well. Precisely because Obama is seen as the antithesis of George W. Bush, it would send a powerful message if Obama sent the message America believes in human rights for the Muslim world. Obama seems to have calculated, however that any talk of human rights or political freedom will provoke a Muslim backlash.
In the final analysis, Obama deserves applause for using his first broadcast interview to reach out to Muslim audiences. As Obama correctly observed, "ultimately, people [in the Muslim world] are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions." I hope Obama understands just how hard it will be to take actions that both advance our national interests and appeal to Muslim audiences. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Max Boot:(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Assuming that the preliminary results hold up, it will be another blow to Iran, which already suffered repudiation last year when the Iraqi parliament came to terms on an agreement to allow U.S. troops to remain in their country until at least the end of 2011.
# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
highly limited and attenuated victory, to be sure, but one that nevertheless restored Israelis' self-confidence and Arabs' fear of provoking Israel, both of which had been badly damaged by the inconclusive 2006 conflict with Hezbollah.
Although we tend to think of war as a lose-lose proposition, Hamas also won:
There is little doubt that Hamas, like Hezbollah, will rise from the rubble to emerge as strong as ever--and probably stronger...Hamas used the war to reassert its control in Gaza by killing, wounding, or torturing at least 100 Fatah officials who were accused of "collaboration" with Israel. All indications are that the Palestinian Authority's close association with Israel has only further damaged its already eroded standing among residents of both Gaza and the West Bank, while Hamas has claimed even more firmly for itself the mantle of "resistance movement" against the hated "Zionist entity."
Hamas may wear the mantle of resistance, but I wonder how Palestinians will respond to Hamas' incompetent, sometimes cowardly performance on the battlefield. After being routed in the Six-Day War, Arab nationalist governments suffered a major blow to their popularity, even though they were the vanguard of the anti-Zionist resistance.
Regardless, read the whole thing. Boot provides the kind of serious, substantive military analysis you won't find in the NYT or WaPo. Also, be sure to check out his frontline report from the quiet US counterinsurgency effort in the Philippines. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sources within the Russian Ministry of Defense appear to be hinting at a retreat from their plan (which Medvedev announced in his November 5 speech) to deploy Iskander short range missiles closer to Central Europe, in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad...On the campaign trail, President Obama insisted that America must listen more to its friends and allies. He also promised a more vigorous diplomatic approach to our adversaries. In this case, he may have to choose which one matters more. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion