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Obama’s War

7 Nov

Conservative columnist George Will called for a reversal of the Obama policy in Afghanistan today, quoting Charles De Guall- “Genisus… sometimes consists of knowing when to stop.” Will ‘s article, Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building, is an pragmatic argument best summed up by saying the mission is over. Al-Qaeda no longer has basis’s in the nation, so why stay and try to build a nation where the economy and infrastructure wouldn’t even meet Fred Flinstones level of of sophistication. Course Fred had dinosaurs to help him out so that’s not really a fair comparison.

Of course President Obama doesn’t really argee with George Will’s assessment, believing that Afghanistan is essentially the proving ground for his administrations version of a war on terror. The problem for both men’s position is Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal has argued that the war and goals are within research, but all he needs is more resources.

But this is the crux of Will’s argument; if the goal, as the President has recently stated,  is to elimate the threat of Al-Qeada in the region then that job is done. Resources in this economy are limited, and an increase in to Afghanistan may not be the best target to battle the broader regional issues.

As Will alludes to in th conclusion of his article, Pakistan is the real regional hope. Pakistan is almost a country. Sure it has a few intergovernmental issues and the swat valley is basically the wild west, but hey at least they have a government and some level of infrastructure. Afghanistan’s economy is primarily built on the trafficking of illegal drugs, which mostly funds terrorist organizations and possibly the vice President of the country.

Either way, it’s not exactly an ideal nation in which to foster a stable democracy, or any form of government for that matter.  As Will sites, Afghanistan is second to worst on the Brookings Institute list of places to nation build, beating out Somalia. Resources should be placed where they can have the greatest impact, and taking Afghanistan over Pakistan in the war of central asian terrorism is trying to turn around the Oakland Raiders when the 49ers are right next door. *

* For those of you who don’t follow the NFL as some of us fantasy football obsessed people do, here’s another analogy – It’s like investing in 8 track a year after CD’s came out.

I Agree with Joe Biden

23 Nov

And not just because he’s from Delaware or because we went to the same high school, but because I think he’s right about Afghanistan. This agreement comes after the President’s reconsideration of the Afghanistan strategy, as the NYT wrote about this morning.

But think of it like this George Will, Vice President Biden and ME…all agree, talk about an intellectual triumverant. But I think the Daily Show has the best case for my position.

Obama’s War – The Horizon of Failure

21 Nov

In today’s Washington Post Bob Woodwardwrote a very good piece on General McChrystal’s ultimatum, more troops or the eight year war, in his words, “will likely result in failure”.  Woodward’s article is just a basic breakdown of the growingly dubious situation in Afghanistan, but it lead me to think that Obama’s War might be a lost cause.

The real concern though, to me anyway, is that General McCrystal seems to be equating resources with result, as if more troops will some how overcome the staggering inter governmental corruption and lack of binding nationalism in the country called the graveyard of empires. Even if the Allied forces in Afghanistan waged a successful counter insurgency campaign you’d still lack a nation building foundation, ie something that would unite the country and rally them to rebuild their country.

The only thing that makes this worse for the President is the political realities that the unpopular war may have upon his domestic agenda. Republicans remain supportive of the President’s Afghanistan strategy, while Democrats seem to not know what to do on the subject. With Republicans having staked out an obstructive stance on the health care debate, the President will need 100% Democratic support to push legislation through this year. I would think it’s certainly a possibility that some dovish factions in the Democratic caucus would try to leverage health care support against concerns they have in Afghanistan. Just a speculation, but it could be a real problem for the President.

It would seem to me that the President is at the end of a poker game with not a whole lot of chips left, he can either go all in now with a decent hand or slowly bleed away his cash hoping for pocket aces. Either way, it’s not exactly the easiest spot to be in given the significant domestic problems Obama alread faces.

Dobbs Goes Rogue, Super Monkey’s, Beauty Queen Media Blunder – This Week’s Thunder Awards

13 Nov

imagesAnthony Dolan wrote an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday entitled, Four Little Words, in which he argues that Reagan’s confrontation over the Berlin Wall should be a signal to the Obama administration on how to handle criminal regimes. You have to believe that he has a point, especially after watching North Korea’s nuclear weapons jig. But more so when dealing with Iran, it seems that the real fear in Iranian government is the truth about what’s happening in their country.

It seems like people have forgotten about this summer’s near revolt in Tehran over the Iranian elections. As soon as CNN stopped showing video of green bannered mobs, bloodied from encounters with the Republican Guards, we stopped caring. I’d almost be tempted to call the uprising the forgotten rebellion, it has lost public ferver so quickly. But the reality is that the Iranian Republic is weak, and I would argue that this administration has not done enough to aggressively confront the regimes funding of Islamic terrorism, human rights violations and the general repression of the Persian people.

I think that the administration should look at the Berlin Wall ceremonies this week and remeber the events that lead it to fall. I don’t believe that Sec. Clinton is laying out a weak foreign policy, but at some point soon the President may need to give a “Tear down this wall” speech.

 Thunder Awards

 

CaptainAmerica41Winner of the Week: The Center for Gene Therapy, who this week was able to stimulate extreme muscle growth in monkey’s by ramping up cellular production of a protein called myostatin. The hope is that advances in manipulating this protein will lead to creating therapies for muscular dystrophy and other muscle related diseases and deficiencies.  When the gene therapy was injected into the monkey’s thigh scientists started to see increased circumferences the muscles in that area. Basically, what I see is the first step in creating a super soldier serum.

Loser of the Week: Carrie Prejean, for her absolute failure of an interview on Larry King. She tosses aside a soft ball question about her motivation to settle a lawsuit, calling it inappropriate. Then decides to cut and run on a TV show called Larry King Live…you can’t just leave when you’re the guest of a live show, you just deflect and move to a subject you want to talk about.

Beyond that she got bashed by every entertainment commenter from Donald Trump, who was mystified by Prejean’s responses and characterizations to Keith Lewis, executive director of Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA, who released a biting statement on Thursday saying,

“The public is finally getting a glimpse of the real Carrie Prejean who lives in her own delusional world,” he said. “The childish behavior, her negative attitude, the sarcasm and condescending tone, the disrespect and continual lying she is demonstrating now is only a fraction of what we endured during her reign and after.”

Insert cat noise hear…

Sara Palin Career Memorial Rogue Trophy – Lou Dobbs, for quiting CNN this week. Who saw that coming? I mean I Lou-Dobbsunderstood that CNN kind of pushed him aside for being to politically bias on a station that tries pretty hard to be the unbias middle between Fox and MSNBC, but I’m shocked it was such an irreconcilable difference. I mean the man has been there for 30 years, he basically helped built the network.

In his sign off message he hints heavily at perhaps running for office, saying,

“Over the past six months it’s become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”

He goes beyond that hitting all the good Republican talking points, including: national defense, middle class jobs and immigration policy. I’m not saying he’s obviously going to be running for congress in 2010, but he certainly leaves the door open to speculation. Regardless, he definitely sets the stage for some kind of beyond the media involvement. Either way, rogue move for him…at least from where I sit.

Trailer(s):

                    Grown Ups (2010) –  Starring: Adam Sandler, Salma HayekRob Schneider, Chris Rock,  Kevin James, David Spade, with appearences by Steve BuscemiGary Busey and Maya Rudolph. This is one of those movies that will actually be funny, or horribly horribly fail.

                    Clash of the Titans (2010) – Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Gemma Arterton,  Alexa Davalos and Ralph Fiennes. This remake of the 1981 classic Greek myth, looks a little to reminicent of Troy for my liking, but with a stacked cast like this it’s hard not to get excited about it’s prospects.

Can Obama See Russia From His House?

8 Nov

Pale Politics

  • Jeb Bush the future of the Republican party? In all honesty why not? Nobody else is stepping up to the plate with any success, let the man have a few swings. But with his last name it may be a little while before he’s politically viable for the higest office in the free world. That being said his popularity in Florida is high after a successful gubernatorial stint, why not Congressman or Senator Bush? That is of course assuming he doesn’t become Ambassador to Russia or something. (Stupid President and his intellegent political maneuvering)
  • Russia is almost certainly the key to Afghanistan and a stable central Asia. They can assert broad socio-political influence in a region that the US and the rest of the Western World are still trying to figure out. Russia is the natural geographical bridge between the West and Asia, but it can be much more. That is if Russia could ever get on the same page as the US, hence the President’s current trip. Either way, Vladmir Putin may be the only world leader who can be intimidating holding a tea cup.

 

We didn't get sugar in KGB
We didn’t get sugar in KGB
  • To Sarah Palin, I thought you were leaving? The Andrea Mitchell interview makes me think that she actually believes resigning an important role like Governor isn’t an inditment of her abilities as a political executive, and that her lack of widespread appeal is a media conspiracy against her. Further, an interview like this fuels the story. So why did she announce on a Friday again? I just don’t get it.
  • RIP Robert MacNamara. While certainly a controversial figure, not enough has been made of his honest and seemingly heartfealt ability to say that he was wrong about vietnam. While it was a late to the party kind of conversion, given his position in the administratons he served, I can appreciate his loyalty to the Presidents he served.

Thunder Awards…Poor Jimmy Carter

18 Sep

The Thunder Awards

obama_russia1 Winner of the Week: President Obama, removing the missile shield from Eastern Europe was the right thing to do. The missile shield, from my understanding, doesn’t necessarily well…work. So it’s existence in Eastern Europe was largely symbolic, and so it’s only fitting that it’s movement is largely symbolic. Russia was quick to applaud the President’s move calling it a brave discussion, this is perhaps the first reall positive step in US-Russian relations after the Georgian conflict debacle.

Russia is an unstable world player and is sure to be a key factor in stabilizing the Middle East and opposing North Korean nuclear ambitions. It was essential that the US make a gesture of good will to Russia to establish trust, moving the missile shield to the middle east is a clear demonstration to that effect. Not to mention the immediate threats to the US and NATO are in the Middle East, and given Iran’s missile threats against Israel this seems to make sense all around.

Note to those opposed to the movement – the Cold War ended almost 20 years ago, we need to move on.  

twin398lLoser of the Week:Jimmy Carter, for his re-stiring the racial plot and giving it Presidential weight. I’m not saying President Carter doesn’t have a point, but the timing is awful and it will muddy the Sunday morning talk show conversation at a time when the President is about to put his full weight behind an actual health care bill. Instead of strongly advocating for what he likes and doesn’t like about the House health care legislation he’s going to be dealing with race in America and President Carter.

Not that race relations, on all sides and on all levels, isn’t a significant topic for debate (especially with the President) but he can’t afford to have this kind of issue fester, and distract from his health care message. It’s simply an unnecessary complication when he’s trying to pass the most signficant health care reform since medicare.

That being said I think President Carter’s statement is also unfair to the millions of American’s who oppose the President’s agenda and could care less about his race. To be sure some of the opposition to the President’s policies seems almost viceral and rooted in more than policy or politics. But to broadly label the oppposition as racially motivated is nothing but a distraction from the necessary debate on health care we should be having.

Good job Jimmy, you’ve hurt someone else’s Presidency.

Online Header of the Week: Drudge Report- “THERE WILL BE BLOOD: PELOSI WARNES AGAINST POLITICAL VIOLENCE” , you have got to love Drudge for pure rediculousness. The Speakers quotes were a bit rash, but certainly weren’t as inflamatory as the headline would make it seem, either way it made me chuckle.

Video of the Week:  This isn’t the best quality, nor the best version of the events…but it’s been on ESPN all week, so catch it there if you haven’t already seen it.

The Ultimate Burden

25 Aug

In today’s New York Times BOB HERBERT wrote an op-ed entitled The Ultimate Burden, in which he lays out the basic problem with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the broad apathy of the American public. His op-ed brings up an excellent point about the inability of the American people to really fight for anything anymore.

What has happened to our society since Tom Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation’? At what point did we no longer take our Nationalism seriously? I’m not sure but certainly is an article that will leave you thinking.

Winners, Losers and Butters Graham

7 Aug

 

The Thunder Awards

clinton-NKWinner of the Week: Bill Clinton, this one was pretty easy. The former President vaulted himself back to the international stage in a convincing symbolic display. But of course it was mostly symbolic as the adminstration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former VP Al Gore did the lion’s share of behind the scenes negotiating. What President Clinton possessed was both international respect and gravitas (which the North Koreans wanted), without actually representing anything official (which is what the US needed).  

But President Clinton’s trip has taken on much broader significance and potentially reopened North Korean-US talks on the big issue of Nuclear Arms Control. This idea has partially come from North Korea’s chief nuclear arms negotiator being the first person to greet the President upon arrival, as shown in the picture to the left. Also an interesting point from the picture, note that President Clinton never smiles for photos with North Korean officials intimating through the media the gravity and seriousness of the situation; Bill brought his A game this trip.  

Loser of the Week:  I’ve thought a lot about who really lost this week and it’s one of two people. Hillary, through no fault of her own, seems to once again have content_cartoonbox_slate_combeen relegated to second tier status by her husband. It’s like the political gods want her to be involved, but to get no solid PR time of her own. Sorry Hill, but you kinda needed the photos of you not smiling next to a grinning like a fool Jim Jong Il.

Or, it could be the President. His numbers are settling where most President approvals fall, at around 50%. I think everyone knew the 60% time was crazy soft and this is just coming back to Earth…rather than a real referendum on the President’s term in office. (It’s only been 200 days people, calm the F down). Even successful stimulus initiatives like Cash for Clunkers wasn’t able to give him a boost this week because the spin has become about spending, not economic recovery or stimulation. The President’s caught in a bit of a PR mess at the moment.

That being said, he’s losing ground on the health care reform that is real and substantial, i.e. can’t be brought back via campaigning around the country. I think the President needs to start talking less and listening more. If you want to have true change, you need to start with a solid plan…not rushed legislation to satisfy the liberal wing of the Democratic party. We need health care reform. But it needs to be done right, not quickly.   

Valid Point of the Week:  “Expanding access to health care is a worthwhile goal. But equal or greater focus should be placed on containing costs for the vast majority of Americans who already have insurance. Those costs will not be contained by a massive expansion of federal programs.” – Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Finally, a Republican pointed out the real opposition to the President’s health care plan: universal access versus universal health care. Everybody is for universal health care, as it means everyone being on a health care plan and getting the coverage they deserve. One way to ensure universal health care is the Democratic plan which is concerned with care access, meaning ensuring that everyone has a plan in some form. By looking at health care as an issue of access Democrats rightly look towards a public option as a means of ensuring access. 

But another way to look at health care reform is to promote universal coverage by regulating private industry in such a fashion as to make plans affordable across the board; potentially using a public option as a safety net plan to catch a difficult to cover population. This should be the alternative Republican plan, but they seem to be satisfied with just being the opposition party…thus continuing the cycle of annoyance and inaction that is Congress. 

Comparison of the Week:Senator Linsey Graham of South Carolina and Butters. I really like Sen. Graham, I think he’s the future of the Republican party. But he does go a little butters for John McCain. Hence this week’s comparison, I’ll let you decide.

butters-37190senatorgrahamstanding

Clinton Opens North Korea

5 Aug

Which Clinton has had a greater impact on US foreign policy during the Obama administration, Bill or Hillary? I’m sure it’s Hillary, but Bill is going to be able to take a victory lap this week.  This is one of those moments which was almost certainly the result of many behind the scenes meetings and conversations between the Obama administration and the North Korean government. That being said, Bill is the one getting his picture taken welcoming Laura Ling and Euna Lee onto the chartered flight back to freedom, human rights and cheeseburgers.

Honestly though, former President Clinton may have just done a Nixon on North Korea. I had never seen Kim Jong Il smile in a picture before,and I’d like not to again, but he looks like a kid in a candy store.  For some reason North Korea seems to thrives on attention, that when they get it it’s almost like a pacifier for a baby.  Actually, a better analogy is that North Korea is the annoying little brother to the global community. Every time China and the US play, North Korea gets jealous and wants to play too.

But more to the point,  President Clinton may have been the symbolic key to open a broader channel of discussion between Washington and Pyongyang. There has been some thought, as the CNN video discussed, that President Clinton may be bringining back word that the North Koreans want to start talking on the issue of nuclear proliferation again.

At some point though, we need to come up with a better diplomatic strategy for such adolescent international relations behavior. North Korea holds 1,000 foreign prisoners and countless others in hard labor camps without rights or due process. North Korea is the last true remnant of Cold War communism in the world. There may be no more restrictive and oppresive government left trying to hold up the iron curtain. All I’m saying is that North Korea is trying my patience, and they should be happy that the pacific fleet works for somebody else.

Walk Softly and Twitter

24 Jun

I don’t think Twitter was ever concieved of as a tool for Revolution. But it’s just such personal media outlets that are fostering the growing reform movement in Iran. Such websites provide a public forum from which to broadcast the revolution! I maybe over dramatizing twitter here but roll with it.

In fact the internet should be at the center of the administrations response to the growing tensions in Iran. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have been doing a good job staying out of it so far, and that’s the way it has to be. Active US support for the reform movement in Iran would be like the Coyote endorsing Acme to the roadrunner.

The best thing the President can do is support the Iranian people, 60% of whom are under 30. It’s these young professionals, intellectuals, and students who wear western fashions, listen to western music and use western technology who need to be connected with and supported. Not only by the US, but by the free world.

It is through this new avenue that the US is in a unique position to encourage the more progressive elements of Iranian society by providing and encouraging their primary vehicle for organization and message dissemination, i.e. Twittering, blogging, facebooking etc.

It is important to note though that these are forums for debate, not a means of enforcing democracy. The internet is a vehicle for communication, nothing more. President Obama can gather the CEO’s and President’s of Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al, to ensure that the lines of communication are as open and free as possible, and that they remain that way. But he can’t use Twitter as a new marshall plan to contain facism or totalitarianism.  

The Green Revolution, as I’ve heard it’s being called, maybe the first internet revolution in history.

History of US-Iranian Relations

http://www.cfr.org/publication/17701/

Latest News on the Iranian Situation

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/world/middleeast/25iran.html?hp

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