February 9, 2008

Assad Suckers Obama

Senator Barack Obama went on the record about the never-ending political meltdown in Lebanon, and for a moment there I thought he might have it just right.

“The ongoing political crisis is resulting in the destabilization of Lebanon,” he said, “which is an important country in the Middle East. The US cannot watch while Lebanon’s fresh democracy is about to collapse.” So far so good. “We must keep supporting the democratically-elected government of PM Fouad Siniora, strengthening the Lebanese army and insisting on the disarmament of Hezbollah before it leads Lebanon into another unnecessary war.”

This is all excellent, so let’s get something out of the way. Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. (They are “victims” of Zionism, they aren’t pro-American like those icky “right-wing” bourgeois Maronite Christians, etc.) Some of these Hezbollah supporters, tragically, are journalists. They put me in the right-wing “imperialist” and “orientalist” camp for no more than saying what Barack Obama just said.

Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of naïve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 9, 2008 11:23 AM
Comments

From the article:

Obama is no more able to flip Syria into the Western camp than Syria can convince the U.S. to join Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Say what?

  1. Barack Obama actually proposes to "flip Syria into the Western camp" though diplomacy.
  2. Michael Totten is now a right-wing flak.
  3. Michael Totten has egregiously misinterpreted Barack Obama.

At least one of the above is true.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 2:26 PM

Creamy Goodness,

Obama is philosophically committed to the belief that dialog can accomplish lasting goals. Common ground can be reached, mutual understanding can avert violence. This is a doctrine that asserts that unsupported diplomacy makes lasting good changes on the world and force never does.

When they say "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow" they mean: ignore historical evidence to the contrary. There is no win for Obama in historical trends. There is not campaign money for him go negative on Syria.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 3:16 PM

Creamy,

By "Western camp" I mean not hostile to Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq. I do not mean "pro-American" and "pro-French" or whatever. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 3:19 PM

Two comments were deleted. One was from a well-known banned troll otherwise known as "Hezbollah Lover," the other was a response to that troll.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 8:33 PM

Actually, Patrick, while Obama no doubt hopes dialogue can accomplish good things, he's not stupid, nor is he a total fool. He has said for example, on record, he would not talk with Hamas -- it is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate government, and doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist.

Asked about Iran, he said perhaps the biggest reason for an Administration to keep some visible line of communication open, despite sanctions and so on, is to let the people of Iran and the more moderate elements see the US as a bit less arrogant and more rational. He has no illusion he's going to woo the Imams or Stinky from their extremism.

He has used the example of trying to de-nuclearize NK as an example of what he means by talking with enemies -- better to try to keep some line of communication going and look for leverage points, than slam the door and pretend they aren't there -- unless of course they're expedient, like the CIA hanging out in Syria and using it for renditions, like Rummy and friends selling goods to Saddam, like paying Assad not to back Saddam in 2003 (money that paid for Russian and Chinese missiles), like Baker quietly going to Syria and to Iran last year... like Bush-appointed evangelical delegates working closely with Iranian Imams to block women's empowerment and children's rights programs at the UN.

You damn Barack Obama for saying he would have an administration that keeps the possibility of discussion and negotiation open everywhere, but you're fine with Bush sending his reps off sub rosa to cut deals under the table so he can look ideologically pure?

Tsk.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 8:57 PM

I can't remember a single instance (recently at least) where this policy of "open ended discussion" has produced lasting results.

Speaking of North Korea, the west has been "negotiating" with Kim's hermit regime for decades. Which is to say, the United States or South Koreans coax them into halting NK nuclear production, or allow UN cameras with economic incentives. The crappy "sunshine policy" that was in effect since Kim Young Sam admin has been hated by all.

I think it's safe to assume that none of the superpowers will actually do anything to end genocide or other human tragedy that occurs daily over the world. It's not their fault, and it's not their responsibility. Candidates have to tout themselves as diplomats capable of establishing dialogues or say "I'll listen to all concerns" to win votes. It's a nice thought that really doesn't fix anyting in the long run.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 9:23 PM

Lee,

Consider these, all of which involved a diplomatic component:

  • The lead-up to the first Gulf War.
  • The end of apartheid in South Africa.
  • The dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Requsting that someone "Please move," is diplomacy. Should the polite appeal fail, then threatening "Move, or I'll make you move" is also diplomacy. Then, if escalating diplomacy fails, you continue with "diplomacy by other means", to paraphrase Clausewitz.

Part of building the case for war involves talking to your enemies. If you're lucky, then things resolve themselves without hot conflict, as in the cases of South Africa and the Soviet Union. If events don't work out that way, then you get to say "well, we tried diplomacy and it didn't work, so now we have no choice but to use force."

You folks railing against a pacifist caricature of Obama might want to go read what his actual positions are. During the debates he invoked Reagan and JFK:

Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire.

Tonight in Virginia, he quoted from JFK's inaugural address:

Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Obama's point was to criticize what he characterizes as the Bush administration's "disdain for diplomacy". It was not to eschew force -- as he said in his 2002 speech, he's not against all wars, just dumb wars.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 11:41 PM

Where are the specifics?

I am unable to take Obama seriously so long as he continues to mouth platitudes and simply repeat the democrats' premise that Bush Can't Do Anything Right.

Face it, guys, Bush does occasionally get it right. Admit it, and commit to continuing to do the things Bush is doing right, and I'll take Obama seriously. Continuing to repeat something I know is BS just hurts your guy's credibility.

ps: does anyone seriously think there aren't discreet communications going on between the US and Syria? What does Obama think the people at the US embassy in Damascus are there to do?

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 1:56 AM

ps: RE Turkey could smash Syria to pieces almost as quickly and easily as the Israelis were they so included.

s included inclined

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 2:31 AM

included/inclined

Oops, what a strange error. Fixed, thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 2:39 AM

Is there a code ring for all the buzz phrases/terms such as "liberal, Liberal, leftist, Leftist, Democrat, democrat, Neocon, Conservative, libertarian......"? It is almost to the point where if each term is not defined by the person who uses the term, it is either useless or more likely misleading.

If, say, Hamas never physically or financially supported terrorism, never committed any violent acts (o.k., I'm in Fantasy Land here), yet kept up their verbal vitriolic against the West/Israel, that group would be very low on my radar. On the other hand, if an entity, oh, say Saudi Arabia, made kissy face in public with the West and was "against terrorism", yet in reality was a strong supporter of terrorism, that entity is high on my radar. I know, I know, differenty elements with SA, yada, yada, yada.

On the Presidential candidates: quit focusing on what they say, after all they are professional liars, and focus on what they DO. Also, Truman was almost universially agreed to be a failure when he took over from FDR -I think he did rather well. Carter was going to be a great President -he was one of our worst, and definitely our worst ex-President.

Reagan was going to be a disaster; after all, he was "just a movie actor". I think that Mr. Reagan turned out to be a fairly good President.

As a conservative (NOT a Republican), I am more concerned with the long term restoration of a conservative Government than I am with the short term ills that will probably come with an Obamo presidency.

Those who know what Obama will do as President, at least in the foreign arena, have a better crystal ball than I do.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 4:49 AM

It warms my heart to hear liberals sing the praises of Ronald Reagan.

Yes, I am old enough to recall when these same people said RR was nothing more than a warmonger that was simply miscasting the paradise that was the pacifistic USSR. Reagan was the anti-Chamberlain. Much to dismay of the American left at the time.

Posted by: Sir Glubb Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 4:58 AM

Patrick,

a doctrine that asserts that unsupported diplomacy makes lasting good changes on the world and force never does.

You know the saying that "generals always fight the last war"? Well, you're stuck in a rut fighting pacifists from decades past. These ghosts bear no resemblance to Barack Obama.

Here's how Obama's 2002 Iraq speech starts:

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

He then cites the US Civil War, Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz and Treblinka, and September 11th.

It's a short speech. Read the whole thing.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 7:25 AM

Michael,

I've followed Obama since I voted for him over Keyes in '04.

He is a communist. At least if you believed his election stuff in '04.

As I said at the time: the communist over the theocon.

Why do you think he is running a "you have to believe" campaign rather than a "this is what I believe" campaign?

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:23 AM

Creamy,

I get it. Obama supports wars we won that we currently don't have to fight.

Litmus test: did we abandon the South Vietnamese?

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:30 AM

Litmus test: did we abandon the South Vietnamese?

That's a good litmus test, all right.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:39 AM

Where are the specifics?

There's the page I linked to twice before in this thread -- here it is again. There's also the foreign policy page within the "issues" section of Obama's website.

Face it, guys, Bush does occasionally get it right.

As I've written many times in this forum, I supported the invasion in 2003. I also commented recently in another thread that I believe the "freedom deficit" diagnosis to be correct.

Admit it, and commit to continuing to do the things Bush is doing right, and I'll take Obama seriously.

I'm skeptical.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:44 AM

Please note that I commented on the philosophical background, not any execution of foreign policy he might enact as PotUS. Nevertheless, both AZZenny and Creamy Goodness largely make the point that actions most of us consider rational and necessary are inherently flawed according to Obama's philosophy and supporters.

I do not love that George W. Bush came into office without any meaningful philosophy on foreign policy or finance. On the other hand, his ability to get out of the way of his own preconceptions meant that within weeks of 9/11, we had troops on the ground. The following execution is always going to be flawed, but the speed of execution was incredible. You should look at Bill Whittle's essay on the importance of speed here: www.ejectejecteject.com /archives/ 000172.html link altered to get around Michael's new protection schema

To a very real extent, pacifist philosophy and it's derivatives adds delays in Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting. By padding each element of the OODA loop with the best of possible intentions, pacifism hands our enemies advantages at every turn. In the world the opportunists will take advantage of every delay because they know that after a certain tipping point there is nothing we can do short of extraordinary measures and there are only so many of those we can do at once.

I am not in love with John McCain, I do not anoint him "The Christ", and I would have written in Fred Thompson in the primary if the old hound hadn't given up his endorsement. But I surely love that our current president and at least one candidate flew military jets and knows the importance of deciding immediately and correcting later. I've watched video of John McCain climb out of his burning, combat loaded jet and I know he can make a correct stress decision. I saw the video for the first time in Boot Camp over twenty years ago and the instructor took time to point McCain's courage then. I know that he can make a correct decision in a bad situation and not just lock up. I am much less certain of Obama.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 10:11 AM

He is a communist.

Give me a break.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 10:24 AM

1. "But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, _____ said. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."

"...violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently.
"With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don't want to be blown up, we don't want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain," _____ said. "I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don't make those same calculations.

"... and I think there are elements within Pakistan right now--if Musharraf is overthrown and they took over, I think we would have to consider going in and taking those bombs out, because I don't think we can make the same assumptions about how they calculate risks."

....

2. "It's not easy. There is not a common view on when or how sanctions ought to be taken," ____ said, "but the Iranian regime is giving the world a very good set of reasons to take serious measures."

"We want to look at the effect on the international community as a whole of any actions that we take, economies and the like," ____ said. "I think you will see us trying to walk a fine line in what actions we take."
....

3 "We have got to engage these countries. Obviously we have serious differences with a country like Syria, but we’re sure not making progress towards our goals in the region by isolating and ignoring them. So I wish the President were engaged in the region, in the way that I would think a President should be. You know we were always engaged, whether it was a Republican or Democratic President. With the former Soviet Union, we had a Communist Empire with thousands of missiles pointed at us, with Presidents who said that they wanted to bury us, running proxy wars against us. We never stopped engaging and talking and we never gave up on our values. In fact I think we learned a lot about our adversaries which helped us eventually bring about their decline and defeat in the Cold War. Well I think that’s the much smarter way. I don’t agree with the President’s view that we don’t talk to bad people because clearly that’s not a smart way to figure out how you can bring leverage on them and that’s what I’m interested in."

"True statesmanship requires that we engage with our adversaries, not for the sake of talking but because robust diplomacy is a prerequisite to achieving our aims."

4. "There's got to be a lot more diplomacy. We're going to have to engage in conversations — not necessarily negotiations, but conversations — with even the people we don't like," ____ said during a meeting with Des Moines Register editors and reporters. "That would include the Syrians and Iranians."


OK -- you tell me who is who.

Not sure why you single out Obama (#1) when Hillary (#3), Condee (#2) and Huckabee (#4) are all pretty much saying the same things. Arlen Specter has made over a dozen trips to Syria and meets with Assad each time -- must be good buddies. Pelosi went last year, yes, and so did three GOP Congressmen and James Baker. We do maintain a small intel and diplomatic presence there.

Wouldn't you rather have someone in charge of a real clear policy on how to approach talking with Syria or Iran, since we do it all the time anyhow?

Maybe a better discussion is -- since we're apparently going to keep talking with Syria, what is the best process and content when dealing with Assad and his complex political-ethnic-religious domestic context?

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 10:51 AM

I'll add my two cents -

I did my military tour in the Middle East towards the end of the Carter Administration and thru the first part of the Reagan Administration.

In the Middle East..diplomacy starts by answering the question "How many divisions do you command"...if the answer in none...I am just a diplomat you end up being politely served tea...told a bunch of lies and sent on your way.

Jimmah was completely and utterly rolled. By the time Reagan was sworn in their was an Iran-Iraq war and an Afghan-Soviet conflict. Then came the Lebanese Civil war.

The Iranians did release the US Hostages to the "Peace President" on the last day of his presidency. Carter paid a huge ransom via the Algiers Accord. Of course no one really ever talks about the editorial cartoons that appeared in the Middle Eastern press a few days before Reagan was sworn in...a mushroom cloud over Thehran.

We are still paying the price for all three conflicts. We are still paying the price for paying Irans ransom demands.

The word "Occupation" is a perjoritive term. It is generally used to describe the presence of the "Other Guys" troops in some country.

National leaders universally refer to the presence of their troops in a foreign country as "presence". It is a non-perjoritve. Obama uses the term "Occupation" all the time. No American Diplomat would ever use that phrase.

How does one conduct Diplomacy when the language one uses is perjoritive against the United States?

Posted by: Soldier's Dad Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 10:59 AM

I'm skeptical.
-Creamy Goodness

I'm afraid you were right to be.

Having just read that position page on his website- not what his opponents are saying about him- I have come to the conclusion that Obama is incredibly naive.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 11:16 AM

I have come to the conclusion that Obama is incredibly naive.

Specifics?

(My vote actually is in play.)

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 11:39 AM

Soldier's Dad: How does one conduct Diplomacy when the language one uses is perjoritive against the United States?

I often use the word "occupation," and I do not mean it pejoratively. But I'm not a diplomat, and I do see what you mean. "Presence" has more positive connotations, but it's also a bit of a euphemism.

I've heard the word "occupation" used by soldiers in Iraq, specifically in reference to the Army (rather than the Marines), for what it's worth. It's not a commonly used word, but it isn't taboo among them either, and it certainly isn't meant pejoratively.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 11:47 AM

and Huckabee -- He actually sounds pretty savvy. Too bad he's an evangelical nut.
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080101faessay87112/michael-d-huckabee/america-s-priorities-in-the-war-on-terror.html

good line: 'Before we put boots on the ground elsewhere, we had better have wingtips there first.'

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 12:34 PM

Oh - Huckabee uses 'occupation.' I thought I'd posted the links to Obama, McCain, and Clinton's earlier essays, from 2007. Anyhow, they're all available at the same site and worth reading.
(Clinton and Obama are not markedly divergent. If he's naive, so is she.)

Point being, dogpile on Obama seems unwarranted when one or another of the candidates says pretty much what he does, someplace along the line.

Talk with Syria -- Obama, Clinton and Huckabee
Potentially pre-emptively Invade Pakistan -- Obama, Huckabee
Talk with Iran but use force if needed -- Obama, Clinton and Huckabee (McCain says 'exhaust diplomacy')
Foreign policy to influence ME education -- Obama, Huckabee
Energy independence to pull back from Saudis/Gulf states -- Obama, Huckabee, McCain, Clinton

etc.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 12:43 PM

The specifics...

Under the heading 'Judgment you can trust'.

4. In January 2007, he introduced legislation in the Senate to remove all of our combat troops from Iraq by March 2008.

That's next month. You're a regular here, MJT's reporting should have given you some idea of what is likely to happen if US troops left now. In short, nothing even remotely good.

5. In September 2007, he laid out a detailed plan for how he will end the war as president.

...but there's no link to this plan, and what I recall of his campaign pronouncements (I may have missed something) is that his plan amounts to 'talk nicely to Syria and Iran and put the troops on the next plane home'.

This is his idea of 'Judgment I Can Trust'?

His plan to "Press Iraq's leaders to reconcile" sounds a lot like "pass the buck to the UN". Does giving Vladimir Putin a veto on Iraqi reconciliation seem like a good idea?

His positions on Iran and Syria are all carrot, no stick. He admits that "Iran has sought nuclear weapons, supports militias inside Iraq and terror across the region, and its leaders threaten Israel and deny the Holocaust..., but all of his proposals to get them to stop amount to sending someone to talk to them. In the middle east, offering concessions just results in more demands for concessions. There has to be a stick for anything to come of it.

His plan for 'Renewing American Diplomacy' is bunk. He seems to think Bush is refusing to talk to certain countries because he doesn't like them, when the reality is that Bush is willing to talk to them... once they honor their promises. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an excellent example of this- the Israelis have honored their first-stage commitment, but Hamas and the PA have yet to deliver on their end of the deal. Instead, Hamas and the PA want the Israelis to make their second-stage concession. That isn't diplomacy, it's extortion, and if Obama doesn't understand this, he's a fool.

His proposals to 'Expand our Diplomatic Presence' and 'Fight Global Poverty' sound a lot like 'use the State Department to do social work'. That is not what the State Department is for. Does he not know about the United States Agency for International Development?

His proposals to 'Strengthen NATO' are pointless. In the event of a serious war in Europe (Art V invoked, etc), their national militaries basically become NATO forces under the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. With the exception of France, the Europeans are already fully committed to collective security operations. What they aren't committed to are operations outside of Europe, and Obama is not going to change that. The Europeans don't have the logistics to supply a significant number of troops outside of Europe. The only country that does is the US, and the reason the US has that capaibility is because the US has spent a great deal of time and money building permanent bases in friendly countries- which is the kind of base Obama promises not to build in Iraq.

As far as the Pacific is concerned, Obama is going to discover that China does what China wants to do.

On nukes:

Obama will secure all loose nuclear materials in the world within four years.

There is no way he can deliver on this promise.

While we work to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, Obama will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material.

Including ours?

Toward a Nuclear Free World: Obama will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it....

Apparently.

...Obama will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But he will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons.

It looks like Obama is unaware that nuclear weapons require periodic reprocessing to remain functional.

He will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate- range missiles so that the agreement is global.

Who's worried about the Russians? For all of Putin's thuggishness, the man is rational and can be deterred. It's countries like Iran, Syria, and Pakistan that has people worried.

I actually like what Obama says about the military, with the exception of putting the Chief of the National Guard on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Anyways, he wants to undo some of the Clinton-era manpower cuts, and I think that would be a good thing. We drew down too far, it is long past time to correct the error.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 1:44 PM

Point being, dogpile on Obama seems unwarranted when one or another of the candidates says pretty much what he does, someplace along the line.

From where I'm standing, the main difference between Obama and Clinton is that I have more reasons to not vote for Clinton. If MJT writes and article about her, some of them may come up, but this thread is about Obama.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 1:50 PM

What Rosignol said.

My vote isn't in play.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 2:47 PM

Ummm... this thread is about the naivete of talking to Syria, and presented as if it's a policy failure unique to Obama. In fact only McCain isn't saying that. I think a strong case can be made this is the default position in DC, and have to wonder why.

As I've said elsewhere, if it comes down to Hillary vs. McCain (looking less and less probable at the moment) I'd have to give McCain the edge.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 3:30 PM

You're a regular here, MJT's reporting should have given you some idea of what is likely to happen if US troops left now. In short, nothing even remotely good.

I'm not convinced that staying longer will make things better. For now, I lean towards staying, but it's a long-term, extremely expensive option with anything but a guaranteed outcome, and it gives me the willies that so few people who advocate staying acknowledge the costs or the risks.

At least McCain has the stones to make the "expensive, but worth it" argument explicitly.

This is his idea of 'Judgment I Can Trust'?

For "judgment you can trust", check out that 2002 speech.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

Dead on. Now, his judgment is that we'd be better off leaving than staying. I'm not convinced that he's right, but I am convinced that he's credible. And when he proposed that withdrawal plan in January 2007, things looked a lot worse.

This is why I look forward to a McCain/Obama debate. McCain will force Obama to confront the gains made since June.

His plan to “Press Iraq's leaders to reconcile” sounds a lot like “pass the buck to the UN”.

My take is that he's written it off. Since he's obviously serious about leaving, that puts him in a good negotiating position if the Shias beg for us to stay, but I don't think that's his angle -- I think he just wants us out.

His positions on Iran and Syria are all carrot, no stick.

We haven't got sticks to spare, at least not any military sticks beyond counter-productive superficial bombing. There are no good options.

Instead, Hamas and the PA want the Israelis to make their second-stage concession. That isn't diplomacy, it's extortion, and if Obama doesn't understand this, he's a fool.

Of course he understands it. Via Marty Peretz's vote of confidence:

"I'm confident," Obama said, "that Israel is ready and willing to make some of these concessions if they have the confidence that the Palestinians can enforce an agreement."

His proposals to 'Expand our Diplomatic Presence' and 'Fight Global Poverty' sound a lot like 'use the State Department to do social work'.

I looked, and there's nothing that justifies that characterization in his proposal. The key strategic points are to double the foreign aid budget and open more embassies in Africa.

It looks like Obama is unaware that nuclear weapons require periodic reprocessing to remain functional.

Where do you get that? You're makin' shit up.

he wants to undo some of the Clinton-era manpower cuts, and I think that would be a good thing.

I always enjoy watching how it plays before anti-war crowds when Obama points out that he'll expand the military.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 4:14 PM

AZZenny: I think a strong case can be made this is the default position in DC

You are probably right.

And if McCain takes Obama's position on this, I'll criticize him for it, too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 5:01 PM

Creamy: I always enjoy watching how it plays before anti-war crowds when Obama points out that he'll expand the military.

If he yanks everyone out of Iraq just as they're winning and forces us to lose a war right at the last second, when it is completely unnecessary, I very seriously doubt expanding the military would be option. Who would want to sign up to go to war after that kind of debacle with him as commander in chief?

He really isn't thinking this through at all. Maybe Iraq will be in strong enough shape by then to survive him. He'd better hope so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 5:10 PM

Obama's Iraq military policy is a straddle. From his website:

"Bring Our Troops Home: Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq."

This is obviously a withdrawal plan. The very next sentence, though, says, "He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."

Can you say whack a mole? From Kuwait? Is Rumsfeld going to be his SecDef?

AQ does not "build bases"; by the time we realized that AQ was active in an area, the only way to remove them would not be "targeted strikes" but full on urban warfare-can you imagine trying to take Fallujah a third time?

Obama's proposal will undo all of the hard work of 2007 and 2008.

The first logical choice for Iraq is to continue the active involvement. This has high but known (and hopefully declining at some point) annual costs-about 500 US troops killed, 7000 Iraqis killed, $300 billion to the US Treasury, and $100/barrel oil.

The other logical choice is to withdraw completely. Short term costs are lower for the US (and certainly much higher for the Iraqis.) The costs associatied with this strategy-a Somalia like Iraq, the risk of a regional war and skyrocketing oil prices, loss of American influence in the region-are unknown.

But a straddle like Obama's will either lead to a full disengagement or another surge that should have been unnecessary.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 5:32 PM

Maybe Iraq will be in strong enough shape by then to survive him. He'd better hope so.

Was just thinking that -- a year from now, we'll either be in better shape, at which time some withdrawals/redeployments might be appropriate, or we'll be in worse shape, in which case the argument that we're winning and need to stay may be replaced by 'either we get out or we reinstate a draft.' Or it may be exactly the same, which means we aren't winning or losing and some kind of review of the nature and scope of our involvement is a sane thing to do.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 5:35 PM

"He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq
or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."

In other words, Obama is Olmert.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 6:00 PM

AZZenny: Or it may be exactly the same, which means we aren't winning or losing and some kind of review of the nature and scope of our involvement is a sane thing to do.

We're on the same wave length to a surprising degree considering we support very different candidates.

I, too, would want to review the nature and scope of our involvement if that's what happens. I'll listen to what Obama has to say at that time, but he'd better not decide to be Olmert.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 6:06 PM

Obama's job right now is to win more delegates than Clinton - he is going to say whatever he thinks will get him more votes, and I don't see that he has any choice than to tack left of Clinton. If he wins the nomination he will start to tack right to be closer to McCain. None of the three, Obama, Clinton, or McCain seem to have much conviction on any subject - they are all wishy-washy, flip-floppy on everything bending whichever way the wind blows in my opinion. I don't care much for Obama or Clinton but I have a hard time voting for McCain who was a member of the Keating Five. Neither party seems to have much of a plan except for the vague "change" mantra (and to continue to increase the size of government so that the Feds can pretend to work on fixing every problem in the world). The special interest groups are going to have a field day with these candidates.

Posted by: markytom Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 7:18 PM

I trust General Petreaus' judgement. If he recommends a troop drawdown or total withdrawal, then I will support those positions wholeheartedly. If he believes that we should continue our COIN operations, then I will support that. He has succeeded at an assignment that many thought was impossible.

Another factor to consider is Congress-Obama (if elected) will have long coattails, and thus the Democratic majority in Congress is likely to increase. Would Obama veto an immediate withdrawal plan if it crossed his desk? Hopefully he, Pelosi,and Reid would follow Obama's plan, but somehow I doubt it.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 7:36 PM

MJT, what is the best resource or book about contemporary Syria (not necessarily just from a Lebanese perspective) -- I keep an eye on the net, but Syria is under-reported in English and I have only pidgin Hebrew. Same question regarding Syria 15-20 years ago to present. Thx

You folks ought to look at Huckabee's Foreign Affairs piece -- now I only skimmed it, so there's likely some hair-curlers tucked in it, but overall, (although I would slash my wrists before voting for him) it didn't look bad.

Actually, per at least one right-leaning columnist, Obama is not a flip flopper. David Brooks:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/opinion/18brooks.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin and http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/26/opinion/26brooks.html

When he spoke here in AZ, he seemed pretty pragmatic, saying reality on the ground at the time he takes office (assuming...) will of course affect the final shape of his decisions and the strategy and tactics chosen, but that he has clear goals and objectives, and they are unlikely to change. Also that if someone can show him a better method or plan to reach a goal, he'll be happy to pursue it -- he has no ego investment in doing it all only his way.

Yeah, I know your vote isn't in play, so don't get yer hackles up. You can attack, I can defend. Right?

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:05 PM

OLMERT! Olmert is a pedestrian, plodding intellect, devoid of charisma, and an utter opportunist whose only objectives are protecting his hold on power and beating corruption charges. His only claims to fame are keeping Sharon in a vegetative state so the populace doesn't really look at how Olmert got into power, and winning the annual Knesset costume party several years running (until they banned Stan Laurel lookalikes from competing).

Jeez, now I'll have nightmares. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 8:16 PM

AZZenny,

Read The Truth About Syria by Barry Rubin.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 9:06 PM

Here is an excerpt of my interview with Barry Rubin (at the link above).

MJT: Your new book is called The Truth About Syria. For those who haven't yet read your book, tell us, what's the truth about Syria? Give us the short version.

Rubin: To begin with, to understand Syria—like other regional forces—one must first examine the nature of the regime and its real interests. The way to do this is not to cite the latest interview or op-eds by Syrian leaders or propagandists in the Western media or what one of them told some naïve Western “useful idiot” who traveled to Damascus but rather to look at what the Syrian rulers say among themselves, what they do, how they structure the regime and perceive of their interests.

Syria is not a radical regime because it has been mistreated by the West or Israel but because the regime needs radicalism to survive. It is a minority dictatorship of a small non-Muslim minority and it offers neither freedoms nor material benefit. It needs demagoguery, the scapegoats of America and Israel, massive loot taken from Lebanon, an Iraq which is either destabilized or a satellite, and so on.

Take the simple issue of the Golan Heights. It is commonplace to say that Syria wants back the Golan Heights. But one need merely ask the simple question: what happens if Syria gets it back? If Syria’s regime made peace with Israel it has no excuse for having a big military, a dictatorship, and a terrible economy. The day after the deal the Syrian people will start demanding change. The regime knows that.

Or economic reform. Again, many in the West take it for granted that the regime wants to take steps to improve the economy. But it would prefer to keep a tight hold on the economy rather than open it up and face enriched Sunni Muslim Arabs who hate the regime both due to their class status and their religious community.

The list goes on. Yet few of these points figure into the debate over Syria where statements like “engagement,” “a common interest in Iraq,” “getting Syria away from Iran,” “the benefits of peace with Israel,” and the reasonableness of Bashar al-Asad get repeated like mantras.

While the Syrian regime poses as being desirous of peace and engagement with the West, in fact its institutions, ideology, propaganda, and activities go in the exact opposite direction. To survive, the minority-dominated, dictatorial, and economically incompetent government needs radicalism, control over Lebanon, regional instability, anti-Americanism, and using Israel as a scapegoat.

Syria is sponsoring a terror war against Iraqi civilians and American forces in Iraq; it is subverting Lebanon, not even stopping at killing the most popular political leaders there; playing the leading role in being the patron of radical Palestinian forces against Israel; promoting anti-Americanism; formulating the new “resistance” strategy which combines radical Arab nationalism and Islamism; being Iran’s main Arab ally; and even being the main Arab state sponsor of revolutionary Islamism.

MJT: The Assad regime, first under Hafez Assad and now under his son Bashar, has been using these tactics for literally decades. The Lebanese are the only people who seem to understand this in full. Why do you suppose the American and Israeli governments are having such a hard time? Is Assad smarter and craftier? Or do you suppose the US and Israel are a bit soft on Syria for public relations’ reasons, having no doubt about its hostility?

Rubin: I think it depends on who you are looking at specifically. Those with little experience of Syria—naïve journalists and politicians rather new to the issue, especially in the United States—simply don’t understand what is happening. What is most disturbing are the statements of former secretaries of state James Baker and Colin Powell, who have been stung by Syria but now seem to forget all the bad interactions and talk as if they had great success in managing Damascus. To hear both of them talk, they persuaded the Syrian regime to close terrorist offices during their tenure but those offices have always remained open. The next U.S. president might try to engage Syria and spend a year or so finding out that it doesn’t work.

Others are acting more from a sense of what I call public relations’ considerations. The Bush administration has made a lot of real mistakes, has also been unfairly criticized, and is under tremendous pressure. So now it wants to show how reasonable it is in giving diplomacy a chance. Perhaps they can succeed in getting Syria to ease up the pressure on Iraq stemming from its sponsorship of the insurgency. Of course, if the Syrians do so they will be acting to get unilateral concessions and to push the United States out faster in order to suit their own interests.

At the same time, though, it should be pointed out that the U.S. policy remains mostly tough, especially in terms of advancing the tribunal to investigate the Hariri killing. Generally speaking, the sanctions and the effort to isolate Syria remain in force.

But many academic experts, journalists, government officials, and intellectuals are being fooled by Syria’s propaganda. One can read several such articles or statements every day. And, of course, this has a feedback in Damascus, persuading the regime that the pressure against it will collapse, that it is in effect winning and does not need to change its policy. When I asked a very serious, non-American and non-partisan, student of Syria what he thought that country’s strategy is, he replied, “Waiting for the Democrats.”

Read the rest here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 9:11 PM

Obama isn't going to win the votes of those still supportive of the Iraq mission. He's running for those who have lost patience with Iraq.

Hopefully it will be McCain vs Obama in the end. A clear choice on Iraq policy that the voters will ultimately decide.

I for one am completely tired of Iraq. Some societies will be messed up for the next few hundred years.

If Al Queda, after all their suicide bombings, can still draw support from the population to establish a strong presence in Iraq, and Iraq's army is unable to independently defeat them, than Iraqi society is more screwed up than I thought.

Posted by: Joe Rushty Author Profile Page at February 10, 2008 11:21 PM

Joe Rushty,

If the best doctor in the world looks you straight in the eye and tells you that you are going to die, what is your decision matrix? If the US tells the world that Iraq is too much trouble to fight for, how likely is it to survive? When the most powerful nation in the world throws up its hands and goes off to sulk in a corner like a brooding adolescent, the effect on the world is not a good thing.

It really bugs the hell out of me that people ignore the importance of our decisions on the situation. It bothers me that the anti-war community takes no meaningful responsibility for their actions. When I raise my hand up again later this month to re-enlist, I consider that a fairly significant acceptance of responsibility for my policy of supporting the war. I really don't see anything like the courage, honor, or commitment from the pacifists. I do not see how they can honestly expect to succeed in accomplishing peace when they do not work anything like as hard as the military does. I also am not seeing them work anything like as smart.

I could be wrong. Can anyone show me hundreds of thousands of pacifists working as hard as the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the rest of the world are? Can anybody show comparable results in accomplishing peace as the Anbar Awakening people did with US military support?

The withdrawal proposals would make a lot more sense to me if somebody could show me actual advantage in this course of action. I really think that if we run away from this, inside of two years we'll have an atrocity in the US that will in ten minutes kill more Americans than died in Iraq in five years. Can anybody offer some kind of reason why this wouldn't happen? Can anybody tell me why they won't follow us home again if we run away again?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 1:48 AM

" If the best doctor in the world looks you straight in the eye and tells you that you are going to die, what is your decision matrix? If the US tells the world that Iraq is too much trouble to fight for, how likely is it to survive? When the most powerful nation in the world throws up its hands and goes off to sulk in a corner like a brooding adolescent, the effect on the world is not a good thing. "

-Saddam has been killed
-The WMD's are now conclusively not there, or if you like, are no longer even a theoretical threat to the US

Those two positives are something the US can take away from this war.

Iraq becoming a sectarian state with sectarian leaders is not going to affect the world that much. Asia will carry on as usual. North America will carry on as usual. South America / Europe / Africa will continue in their same trajectory more or less.

And Iraq will eventually carry on as usual. Some group will come out on top and they'll get to the business of selling oil to the global market. Fortunately, the country is unlikely to ever unify to the point of having an army that can threaten its neighbours. This is another positive outcome that will happen regardless of leaving or staying.

"It really bugs the hell out of me that people ignore the importance of our decisions on the situation. It bothers me that the anti-war community takes no meaningful responsibility for their actions. When I raise my hand up again later this month to re-enlist, I consider that a fairly significant acceptance of responsibility for my policy of supporting the war. I really don't see anything like the courage, honor, or commitment from the pacifists. I do not see how they can honestly expect to succeed in accomplishing peace when they do not work anything like as hard as the military does. I also am not seeing them work anything like as smart. "

The military is a tool of the civilian branch of government. God bless those trying to make this policy work, but if you take the position that the policy is doomed to failure, why make a futile attempt to make it work?

If Bush wanted to invade Africa and turn the region into a liberal democracy I'm not going to attempt to make his plan work. I'm going to call the plan a failure and work to minimize the damage.

The responsibility the anti-war position has is currently a hypothetical because obviously the troops haven't left. On the other hand, those supporting the cause must say that the deaths of 4k soldiers and injury of 10k+ is a sacrifice worth making to make Iraq work. When I look at Iraq, especially its leadership, I say this hasn't been worth it. Maybe it will change, but I'm not confident it will.

"I could be wrong. Can anyone show me hundreds of thousands of pacifists working as hard as the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the rest of the world are? Can anybody show comparable results in accomplishing peace as the Anbar Awakening people did with US military support?"

Am I wrong in saying that many volunteers for relief groups in those regions can be listed as the type that did not want to go into iraq?

Just throwing it out there.

"The withdrawal proposals would make a lot more sense to me if somebody could show me actual advantage in this course of action. I really think that if we run away from this, inside of two years we'll have an atrocity in the US that will in ten minutes kill more Americans than died in Iraq in five years. Can anybody offer some kind of reason why this wouldn't happen? Can anybody tell me why they won't follow us home again if we run away again?"

Well the one clear undeniable advantage will be cost. It costs a lot of money to stay there. It will cost a lot to leave, but after that there will be a lot of money saved. I hope you would at least concede this point.

Now, I'm not exactly sure how an atrocity would take place in the states. Are you talking about a nuke?

I mean, how about we simply deny visas to arabs/pakistanis attempting to enter the states?

Posted by: Joe Rushty Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 2:33 AM

I'm not convinced that staying longer will make things better.

One question: has the Surge made things better?

For now, I lean towards staying, but it's a long-term, extremely expensive option with anything but a guaranteed outcome, and it gives me the willies that so few people who advocate staying acknowledge the costs or the risks.

You want guarantees? Death and taxes are pretty much it. Everything else involves a certain amount of risk and unpredictability.

At least McCain has the stones to make the “expensive, but worth it” argument explicitly.

That's one of the reasons I'm going to be voting for him. I disagree with the guy in many subjects, but he's got guts, and is willing to support unpopular actions that he believes are necessary.

This is his idea of 'Judgment I Can Trust'?

For “judgment you can trust”, check out that 2002 speech.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

Dead on.

Back in 2002-2003, when people were debating going in, one of the most common questions was "how long will we have to stay there?"

The most common response was some variation on "How long did we stay in Germany and Japan after WW2? What? We still have troops there? But those wars ended decades ago!"

Just as with Germany, Japan, South Korea, and several other countries, we will stay as long as staying is in America's best interest. Not one day more, not one day less.

If you want to believe Obama is insightful, go ahead. I consider that statement to be right up there with "The sun will rise in the east tomorrow".

Now, his judgment is that we'd be better off leaving than staying. I'm not convinced that he's right, but I am convinced that he's credible. And when he proposed that withdrawal plan in January 2007, things looked a lot worse.

He's still pitching the "Get out ASAP" plan. This tells me he's either sincere, and is willing to throw away all of the things that have been accomplished in the last 4 years- which I consider unacceptable, or he's deeply cynical and is telling the anti-war left what they want to hear in order to get the nomination, and has no intention of following through- which I think would make him unfit to be President.

This is why I look forward to a McCain/Obama debate. McCain will force Obama to confront the gains made since June.

Hopefully. It would be nice to hear some specifics.

His plan to “Press Iraq's leaders to reconcile” sounds a lot like “pass the buck to the UN”.

My take is that he's written it off. Since he's obviously serious about leaving, that puts him in a good negotiating position if the Shias beg for us to stay, but I don't think that's his angle — I think he just wants us out.

Is it a good thing to pander to voters who do not have a clear understanding of an issue?

His positions on Iran and Syria are all carrot, no stick.

We haven't got sticks to spare, at least not any military sticks beyond counter-productive superficial bombing. There are no good options.

That depends on what you're bombing. IMO, Syria could be brough to heel with one B-2 and a dozen JDAMs. All we need is solid intel on where Assad is sleeping and a certain level of ruthlessness. Remove Assad, tell his successor he can expect the same fate if he keeps causing trouble, repeat as necessary.

Instead, Hamas and the PA want the Israelis to make their second-stage concession. That isn't diplomacy, it's extortion, and if Obama doesn't understand this, he's a fool.

Of course he understands it. Via Marty Peretz's vote of confidence:

“I'm confident,” Obama said, “that Israel is ready and willing to make some of these concessions if they have the confidence that the Palestinians can enforce an agreement.”

The Palestinians track record over the last decade demonstrates that they are either unwilling or unable to enforce the agreements they make. Either way, there is no point in talking to them.

...and Obama has the audacity to criticize Bush for understanding this.

His proposals to 'Expand our Diplomatic Presence' and 'Fight Global Poverty' sound a lot like 'use the State Department to do social work'.

I looked, and there's nothing that justifies that characterization in his proposal. The key strategic points are to double the foreign aid budget and open more embassies in Africa.

I consider poverty reduction to be social work. I do not see any way in which opening more consulates in Africa will result in any significant benefit to the US.

If Obama really wants to do nice things for impoverished africans, he can cut our domestic agricultural subsidies so those guys can compete with our agribusinesses. It would do a lot more good, and would save the government money. Of course, it would make outfits like Archer Daniels Midland unhappy, but hey, the Republicans are the ones who are in the pocket of big business, not Democrats, right?

It looks like Obama is unaware that nuclear weapons require periodic reprocessing to remain functional.

Where do you get that? You're makin' shit up.

Nope.

http://www.ransac.org/Issues/U.S.-Russian%20Nonproliferation%20Programs/Establishing%20Transparency/transparency.html

"
Russia has to maintain a relatively high production capacity, in part,because of manufacturing and technology problems that limit the life-timeof the current-generation warheads to 10-15 years. (20)By comparison, U.S. warheads have a service life of 30 years. Russiatherefore has to re-manufacture two-to-three times as many warheads tomaintain a nuclear arsenal of the same size. (Russia, however, hasreportedly launched a program to improve its warhead manufacturingtechniques to extend warhead lifetimes to 25 years.)
"

It's an interesting article. Kind of dry, but interesting. Unfortunately, it's an OCR of a printout, and the OCR software did a crappy job of realizing where the spaces were, so you occasionally run into words mushed together likethis.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 3:05 AM

"That depends on what you're bombing. IMO, Syria could be brough to heel with one B-2 and a dozen JDAMs. All we need is solid intel on where Assad is sleeping and a certain level of ruthlessness. Remove Assad, tell his successor he can expect the same fate if he keeps causing trouble, repeat as necessary."

I'm a bit perplexed by this view. I mean, do you not see the problem in trying to make Iraq work while at the same time destabilizing a country currently housing 1million+ Iraqi refugees?

Posted by: Joe Rushty Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 3:52 AM

Having spent a lot of time in Lebanon I am not a fan of any political party or movement. The right wing Phalangists in the Christian community as just as bad as Hizb'Allah, just on the "other side". It is interesting to note that they got their start when their founder became a bit obsessed with Adolph Hitler.

I love the country of Lebanon and it's cities and villages. I cannot stand the mindset of many Lebanese and hate the way the government is set up. As a side note the Lebanese dialect of Arabic is one of the most annoying in the Arabic world, second only to eGyptians. The only exception to this is Fayrouz and as I am listening to her now my words carry the weight of fact. Lol }:>)

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 6:39 AM

One question: has the Surge made things better?

What has made things better is the Sunni revolt in response to AQI overreach. Giving the surge of US troops credit for this is like assigning the US government credit or blame for short-term domestic economic fluctuations -- there's an effect, but external factors are dominant.

Meanwhile, among many deep structural problems, we still have a humiliated, resentful, disenfranchised, politically immature Sunni population. We have to hope that they learn the habits of democracy and compromise quickly enough to avert a Sunni-Shiite cataclysm on a scale our troops will be powerless to prevent. If the surge has merely delayed that cataclysm, and the severity of the cataclysm is unaffected, then it hasn't helped. If arming and training the Sunnis worsens the cataclysm, then it really hasn't helped.

You want guarantees? Death and taxes are pretty much it.

Not under Bush. We can have Iraq and eat our tax cuts, too!

IMO, Syria could be brough to heel with one B-2 and a dozen JDAMs. All we need is solid intel on where Assad is sleeping and a certain level of ruthlessness. Remove Assad, tell his successor he can expect the same fate if he keeps causing trouble, repeat as necessary.

That's appallingly facile. Where do you get off calling Obama naive when that's your idea of a foreign policy?

“I'm confident,” Obama said, “that Israel is ready and willing to make some of these concessions if they have the confidence that the Palestinians can enforce an agreement.”

The Palestinians track record over the last decade demonstrates that they are either unwilling or unable to enforce the agreements they make.

Exactly. That's exactly what Obama implied, but he couched it subtle diplomatic language, worthy of a statesman. It may have gotten past you, but it didn't get past Marty Peretz.

I consider poverty reduction to be social work. I do not see any way in which opening more consulates in Africa will result in any significant benefit to the US.

China has been aggressively building alliances in Africa. You don't want to compete, Obama does.

Unfortunately, it's an OCR of a printout, and the OCR software did a crappy job of realizing where the spaces were, so you occasionally run into words mushed together likethis.

So, where inthe mountain ofcrap you want me to sortthrough isthe partthatproves yourpoint? Because I don't see anything in the mundane snippet you pieced out that conflicts with Obama's proposals and justifies your charge of ignorance: "It looks like Obama is unaware that nuclear weapons require periodic reprocessing to remain functional."

I still say you're makin' shit up.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 8:44 AM

Taking out Assad wont likely change the long term dynamics with Syria. To tell you the truth nothing will change things in the Middle East until the people decide that they want a change and are willing to put forth the blood, sweat and tears such a move will entail.

Besides, we have to get into the morality of killing the leaders of countries. Such an act would be illegal under American law, not to mention it would probably be counter productive on a wider scale in the Middle East and the rest of the world anyway.

Until the peoples and societies have changed killing a leader or two will make no difference. So instead of an Alawite Assad you might get the Muslim Brotherhood instead, wipe him out and there are dozens willing to take his place.

Besides, if our leader had been killed on 9/11 and bin Laden told us that his successsor could expect the same if he didnt respect the wishes of the Muslim people, would you be talking about using the same tactics?

I think Obama isnt far off the mark. The best way to go is to talk nice and quietly, but carry a large stick.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:36 AM

Joe Rushty,

Thank you for responding to my emotional outburst, I'm sorry that it was a bit of an incoherent mess.

1. I still don't see any way that the US saying that Iraq is too hard and giving up allows any success after we leave. Withdrawal is chaos magic where the spoken word of disaster becomes disaster because it was said in the ritual of the demon Vietnam. Withdrawal condemns Iraq to hell, and critics of the Surge are in denial because we see now that Iraq can be something other than hell.

Saddam's death and the confirmation of WMD program suspension do not change the chaos withdrawal brings to Iraq.

2. The anti-war movement doesn't get court martialed for incompetence, sedition, or cowardice in the face of the enemy. There are a lot of other standards where they do not match the example set by the military. The anti-war movement hit its high water mark in 1968; forty years later the comparison between them and the military is a reverse. I remember the efforts and the people in the anti-war movement then, and as confused as they were, there were a lot better folks than there are now. The first decade of my life was spent watching the decline of the anti-war movement.

I've got some problems with the corruption of leaders in Iraq, but every one I've met risks his life to try to make the country work. If you can possibly afford the trip, you should go to Iraq and meet the people there. I can help you arrange that. It is a lot harder to give up on them once you've met them.

3. Fixing potholes in July in Iraq wearing body armor. Knowing you could get shot or blown up, and that heat exhaustion is going to happen and doing it anyway because the job needs to be done. That is the standard, and I'm not seeing it met from the people at Code Pink or anywhere else. There are a few pacifist heroes, but they aren't organized and they aren't getting the results.

After decades of consideration, I have concluded that pacifism is a failure because it requires billions of people to be extraordinary heroes and inspires hundreds of them to do so.

4. In the week after 9/11, the US lost $1.2 trillion or so in value, primarily in the transportation sector. In the five years of Iraq, it has cost about $1.2 trillion dollars to fight there. In that same time, the US economy has grown more than $1.2 trillion, and not from military spending. This war is costing us nothing we cannot afford. Spending the money on entitlement programs or driving up the cost of health care or passing a "No Tenured Professor Left Without a BMW Act" is not what I consider a viable alternative.

During the war we have not been called upon to seriously sacrifice economically. The genius of this Rovian detachment plan is that the call to save money is essentially hollow. If the people of the US really wanted to save money, they would stop electing senators and representatives who earmarked.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:50 AM

This is all excellent, so let’s get something out of the way. Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal.

Actually, by most international standards, he's a conservative. For example, according to his policy statements, he's be a Conservative Party member here in Canada.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:57 AM

Michael, in your comments at Commentary you mention how Peter Hitchens is right wing, seemingly in order to dismiss any of his criticisms of Obama without addressing any.

In other comments here you dismiss Mike Huckabee for being a outspoken Christian. Your own dislike for Huck, like most prejudiced secular anti-Christians, is very similar to prior era racism. (I just voted for him in the CA primary -- because I think we need more moderate but proud Christian voices in politics.)

Above you claim that Obama is not a leftist, he is a liberal -- that leftists excuse or even support terrorists. Perhaps others might claim leftism is more an ever expanding role for gov't control of the economy and against religious influence in laws, which seems to fit Obama more.

In any case, Huckabee is far less a theocrat than Obama a leftist. In the subtext of abortion, Huck made a comment about wanting more God in the Constitution. That's not enough to make him a theocrat.

Please look at the US Declaration of Independence, and re-read it while taking out references to Creator or God. Without God, the basis of (classical) liberal human rights "from God" degenerates into human rights in accordance to current human leader opinion and fashion (and UN levels of protection).

While Iraq is the most important issue, where I agree with most of your opinions, Abortion (and the 6 US SC justices over 68) will be the second most important issue in America, with Big Gov't fixes for the economy being more talked about and the third big issue.

I have to laugh, sadly, at so-called "liberals" who are too predjudiced against a Bible believing Christian to look at the policies they are advocating.

Science says the fetus has different DNA than its mother, therefore it is not part of the mother's body (like other parts are). It's obviously innocent. It's up to humans to decide when to grant what level of human rights to a human fetus.

Obama voted for keeping partial-birth abortions legal. There is unlikely to be any real Unity in America until Roe is overturned, but Obama’s not advocating that.

(However, unity/ passing legislation is exactly why Rep presidents will expand gov’t spending faster than Dems. While I supported Bush in 2004, I expected more spending than would have been accepted by Reps under a Pres. Kerry, and expect more under McCain than Obama. I’m pretty sure Hillary will soon be toast, but I also hope so, and thus am biased.)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:59 AM

Joe Rushty: If Bush wanted to invade Africa and turn the region into a liberal democracy I'm not going to attempt to make his plan work. I'm going to call the plan a failure and work to minimize the damage.

I would, too.

I hear you on Iraq. Really, I do. A year ago I told Patrick (in person) that I was getting close to throwing in the towel on Iraq myself because it looked hopeless. But Iraq is in much better shape now. This is hardly the time to quit.

Petraeus said the surge had a 1-in-4 chance of succeeding. I put the odds at around 1-in-8 myself. Militarily, the surge did work. Will the Iraqis get their act together? I'd put the odds at 1-in-2 right now. Six months from now, I might say the odds are 1-in-1.5. We shall see.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:03 AM

Marc: The right wing Phalangists in the Christian community as just as bad as Hizb'Allah, just on the “other side”.

Not anymore they aren't. I thought that for quite some time, and was forced by reality to change my opinion of them. If Hezbollah were to grow up and evolve as they have, this crap would be over.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:10 AM

Creamy: Where do you get off calling Obama naive when that's your idea of a foreign policy?

See Reagan, Libya, for an example of something similar having the desired effect.

I don't know if Rosignol's proposed strategy would work, but it's possible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:13 AM

Patrick: If you can possibly afford the trip, you should go to Iraq and meet the people there. I can help you arrange that. It is a lot harder to give up on them once you've met them.

No kidding.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:17 AM

DPU: Actually, by most international standards, he's a conservative.

Yes, you guys call your liberals conservatives. You're whole political spectrum is shifted to the left of ours.

I think this partly explains the anti-Americanism. Our conservatives look far-right from abroad.

(Europe, though, has some really nasty far-right parties that we just do not have.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:20 AM

Tom: Michael, in your comments at Commentary you mention how Peter Hitchens is right wing, seemingly in order to dismiss any of his criticisms of Obama without addressing any.

No, that's not why I did that. I was just correcting a misunderstanding on the part of a reader who thought Peter agreed with his brother. He doesn't. I'm not in Obama's camp, obviously, and dismissing the right-wing is hardly an effective argument at Commentary Magazine.

In other comments here you dismiss Mike Huckabee for being a outspoken Christian.

No, I didn't.

Your own dislike for Huck, like most prejudiced secular anti-Christians, is very similar to prior era racism.

No, it isn't. I don't like the Huckster, but that's because I disagree with him about almost everything. The fact that he's Christian is immaterial. Everyone running for office is a Christian, or at least pretends to be.

You're assuming I'm a Christian-hater with zero evidence, and you're wrong. If you heard me argue with real Christian-haters, you would know that. But you don't hear those arguments, and I do not write about them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 10:25 AM

Yes, you guys call your liberals conservatives. You're whole political spectrum is shifted to the left of ours.

Actually, I think the US political spectrum is shifted right-wing and authoritarian compared to almost every industrialized nation.

Europe, though, has some really nasty far-right parties that we just do not have.

Us too. I think the US political system encourages conformity of political ideology, while most other democracies have a wider range of popular political opinion, both on the left and the right.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 11:01 AM

Michael,

I fail to see how you think the Phanlagists, Middle Easten heirs to the Nazi Party, have changed or evolved!

A lot the recent violence in the last year has been coming from their quarter. They have retained much of their weapons and have been pretty violent in their rhetoric and on the streets recently.

I was in Lebanon about 8 months ago and the stuff I heard coming from the Phalangist direction reminded me completely of the old civil war days with Phalangist fighters manning check points and cutting the penises off of any Muslim unlucky enough to get caught up in one.

They are still extremely right wing and their support on the ground is all too ready to spring to violence and we have seen some of that in the last year. Who do you think it was fighting the 'Aounists in the last spate of violence?

You cannot reform a party who hold as it's founding inspiration the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler.

As for the surge it is really premature to say it is a success. The real test is what happens when our troops leave, not what happens when they are there. If the changes continue after they've left it was a success, if they fall apart it was a failure. I think even the US military realises this and that is why they are talking about slowing down or even stopping troops withdrawls this summer.

Way too early to claim victory at this point.

As to the whole religion/Christian issue, I do not like anyone who purposely wears their religion on their sleeve, be it Huckabee, Clinton, Bush or anyone else. Religion should have no role in government in the USA. I say that as a person who considers themselves religious but have little truck for the involvement of organised religion in public life.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 11:23 AM

Marc: You cannot reform a party who hold as it's founding inspiration the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler.

You know how it is in Lebanon. Lots of these parties have terrible pedigrees. I'm certainly not going to defend the roots of the Phalange. I'm not a fan of these guys by any means. I am just aware they have mellowed somewhat, although also aware that Hezbollah is re-radicalizing them to an extent, along with everyone else.

If Hezbollah ever mellows into a mainstream religious-right political party, I will note it and give them credit for doing so. I won't like them if and when that happens, but I will dislike them less. The Phalange is in that category right now. They aren't the ones trying to overthrow the elected government, starting wars with other countries, and killing their countrymen because they are "foreign agents" and "traitors."

Hezbollah is a real fascist party in Lebanon.

And the real fascist Christians -- who are vastly more Nazi-like than the Phalange -- is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. They actually have a swastika on their flag. And they are allied with Hezbollah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 11:43 AM

Tom Grey,

Michael doesn't hate Christians. He doesn't kowtow to them at all or give up his convictions on the basis of somebody else's interpretation of the Bible, but he does not hate Christians. Like a lot of really well educated people who went to US public universities, he is not well educated on Christianity. On the other hand, I have a number of friends and relations who went to Christian colleges who are not much better educated on the breadth of the Christian experience.

My father was educated at University of Chicago Theological Seminary and I went to one of the more theologically radical Catholic universities. I view most people who invest themselves in the abortion debate as excessively doctrinaire on each side. Regrettably, the people lying on the religious side bear the burden of bombers and shooters which the people lying on the women's rights side do not. I have talked to both sides and been lied to by both sides and hold each in contempt at this late date. Even so, I will volunteer to escort doctors to abortion clinics the next time some psychopath decides to draw blood instead of working for change. (In 1995 the building with my credit union in Norfolk was shot up because it also housed an abortion clinic. I like my credit union and despise the irresponsible twerp who shot it up.)

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 11:44 AM

Marc: You cannot reform a party who hold as it's founding inspiration the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler.

More Franco and the Spanish Falangists than Hitler, I think.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:04 PM

The Phalangists are directly inspired by the Nazi Party and Hitler. The party itself was formed directly after a trip to Nazi Germany by Pierre Gemayel.

Michael,

I understand your feelings about Hizb'Allah and I share them to an extent. I do understand the FACT that Shi'ites in Lebanon are really under represented and that this is in part because of the sectarian nature of the government.

You state that the government is elected, but it is a type of government that no one in the rest of the Democratic world would recognise.

Do you admit that there is a serious problem with allocating positions of power based on nothing more than one's religion? If so then we do not even need to argue about the fact that these positions of power are based on demographics that are decades old.

If we can admit that the system of governance in Lebanon is fatally flawed and that Shi'a are under represented we can work from there.

The real question is how do the Lebanese remove a sectarian based system of government and how do they go about implementing a system where all people have representation based on the amount of votes they get, not based on which church or mosque they attend.

As to killing people, I think far more average Syrians, in Lebanon just trying to make a living picking orchards and the like, have been killed than those accused of being "traitors".

The Phalangists/Lebanese Forces share a large amount of blame for these murders. They are not nearly as mellowed out as you might think.

I am not a fan of any political party which has religion for it's raison d'etre, but that doesn’t keep me from seeing that Hizb'Allah has a legitimate issue with the whole system of governance in Lebanon. The problem is how do they work to disband and change the sectarian government into a fair one which represents it's people fairly.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:38 PM

The Phalangists are directly inspired by the Nazi Party and Hitler. The party itself was formed directly after a trip to Nazi Germany by Pierre Gemayel.

Sure. But the name and organization of the Phalange were based on Franco's Falange, was it not?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:42 PM

Actually, I think the US political spectrum is shifted right-wing and authoritarian compared to almost every industrialized nation.

'...shifted right-wing' implies change from a starting point to the left, and more authoritarian, than the US's the current position. This is not the case.

American politics have shifted to the left over the last 50 years, we just haven't shifted as much as western Europe and Canada have. A lot of Europeans and Canadians don't see this because they perceive their country as the baseline, and do not recognize how much things have changed since 1950 or so. Canadians, in particular, seem oblivious to how much their country moved leftward during the Trudeau era.

Find an old fart and talk to them about how things used to be, you'll get an earful. And maybe a clue.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 2:55 PM

American politics have shifted to the left over the last 50 years, we just haven't shifted as much as western Europe and Canada have.
My use of the term "shift" was unintentionally misleading and inaccurate. "Positioned" is probably a better term.

Canadians, in particular, seem oblivious to how much their country moved leftward during the Trudeau era.

What makes you think that?

Find an old fart and talk to them about how things used to be, you'll get an earful. And maybe a clue.

I am an old fart, for a start, and I already have a clue, thank you very much.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 3:31 PM

I think the US political system encourages conformity of political ideology, while most other democracies have a wider range of popular political opinion, both on the left and the right.

Americans spend so much time and effort arguing about minor details because we agree on most of the big issues. There is no constituency for radical change (communism, fascism, whatever) because the status quo is pretty good. Politicians conform to the big-issue positions Americans agree on because the alternative is finding a new job. This is a good thing, it is how representative democracy is supposed to work.

Maybe other countries are more receptive to people advocating radical changes because their system doesn't work as well, I dunno. There is something about American culture that makes this country very infertile ground for authoritarian or collectivist ideologies.

As far as both the extreme left and extreme right are concerned... both ideologies eventually get to the point where they conclude it is best for everyone if a group of really, really smart people make the decisions for everyone else. The only significant difference between them is who they think should be in the group.

-----

Re change in Canada-

What makes you think that?

Discussions about the subject with Canadian relatives who moved to the US. They're all from western Canada, tho, so maybe that's skewing things a bit. I haven't talked about it with anyone from Ontario or Quebec- none of the relatives are from there.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 3:49 PM

Whoops.

This bit-

I think the US political system encourages conformity of political ideology, while most other democracies have a wider range of popular political opinion, both on the left and the right.

-should have been italicized, as it's a quote.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 3:51 PM

Discussions about the subject with Canadian relatives who moved to the US. They're all from western Canada, tho, so maybe that's skewing things a bit.

I think that's a fairly small sample to be basing broad generalizations on.

This is a good thing, it is how representative democracy is supposed to work.

That's debatable. I personally think that proportional representation of political ideologies works better, and that a broad plurality of ideologies serves society better, but that's subjective.

Maybe other countries are more receptive to people advocating radical changes because their system doesn't work as well...

Or works better, according to some.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 4:02 PM

Re Canada-

I think that's a fairly small sample to be basing broad generalizations on.

[shrug]

People seem willing to generalize about the US after having only met a few Americans, why would it be unfair to do the same with Canada? ;-)

Re Representative democracy-

That's debatable. I personally think that proportional representation of political ideologies works better, and that a broad plurality of ideologies serves society better, but that's subjective.

That is not supported by historical evidence. What happens is that you get minor fringe parties playing kingmaker and demanding disproportionate influence over the agenda in return for letting the larger party achieve a majority. How is it democratic to allow a smaller group to have more say on a matter of public policy than the larger group?

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 4:55 PM

Obama deserves a nickname. Personally, I like "The Hustler Express". The man gives a great speech and at the same time saying NOTHING. In fact he could probably read an insurance contract aloud and all his supporters would still be enchanted. If you took a poll amongst the terrorists on which candidate they favored it would probably look like this:

Obama 90%
Clinton 5%
Paul 5%
McCain 0%

Too bad they don't poll the terrorists, I think it would be hilarious. What's not funny is that the terrorists are watching a waiting and it wouldn't be a stretch to say they have a favorite. Just ask Aaron Klein author "Schmoozing with Terrorists", the last couple of terrorists he interviewed were all "Gung Ho" for Ron Paul until he told them he was running as a Republican. He explained that all the terrorists he's interviewed have a universal hatred for all Republicans.

All the goodwill, all the trust that our servicemen have built during the surge will evaporate once Obama The Hustler takes office. The Iraqis that stuck their necks out in helping our soldiers will now go into survival mode. Good luck, to any US Colonel in trying to get a mid-level Iraqi bureaucrat to do what's best for Iraq. Al-Sadr will call off his truce and the civil war that the Democrats have said we've been fighting will really materialize.

Obama is a lighweight he's going to get rolled and manipulated by the Syrians and Iranians.

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 5:41 PM

This is no proof Obama is a Communist:

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=28915&only&rss

Only proof that one of his staffers is.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 7:09 PM

I think the US political system encourages conformity of political ideology,

Yes. It forces politics to the center where it is most stable.

It is a feature - not a bug.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 7:12 PM

PeteDawg,

I don't think that Obama has done enough to earn a nickname. Because of that, we should call him "the Dauphin" after the heir to the French throne. :)

Seriously, after a very short time it becomes more important to deal with the abstraction than the person it references. For the best part of eight years a lot of people were fully engaged in explaining how a supersonic jet fighter pilot was a sub-human moron. Returning idiocy for idiocy is a losing game.

Furthermore, if you cannot deal with Obama on his own terms, it looks a lot like you are afraid of him. Allowing your political discourse to be dominated by fear is what we are trying to avoid.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 7:21 PM

How is it democratic to allow a smaller group to have more say on a matter of public policy than the larger group?

I'm not sure how you got that from what I said. The key word was "proportional".

People seem willing to generalize about the US after having only met a few Americans, why would it be unfair to do the same with Canada? ;-)

That, too, would be another broad generalization :)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:36 PM

Yes. It forces politics to the center where it is most stable.

And the most static.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:37 PM

Actually, I think the US political spectrum is shifted right-wing and authoritarian compared to almost every industrialized nation....I think the US political system encourages conformity of political ideology, while most other democracies have a wider range of popular political opinion, both on the left and the right.

No, not really. The US two-party system does encourage some conformity, and, based on my observations of my country, we lean more to the right than they do in Europe (especially when it comes to the economy) - but we are much less authoritarian.

Self-reliance and individualism are seen as a virtues in America. These qualities are not as admired in Europe. Most Europeans are baffled and appalled by concepts like Libertarianism. The ideas of extensive personal liberties, of limiting or eliminating the power of the state with the goal of maximizing individual liberty is totally alien to most Europeans, save for a few anti-collective anarchists in Eastern Europe.

The majority of leftists, right-wingers and moderates in Europe look to the state, and to collective action, for solutions to problems. Since the state is an authority, they are more likely to lean towards authoritarianism.

Europe created Communism and Fascism, after all. Americans fought and died in order to defeat both of those European authoritarian systems.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:52 PM

mary at exit zero,

Yeah, the blinders on that are pretty strong. It is hard for people who abandon personal responsibility to accept that the US avoids authoritarianism on a very basic level. The police in most of the US have no idea who has what force at their disposal. My Navy Reserve unit could show up at base with four times the firepower we are issued from our (lawfully owned) personal collections. (Although I think we would probably be light on crew served automatic weapons...probably...)

Consent of the governed means more when the citizens have lawful firearms in their possession.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:16 AM

I would have to argue the idea that someone put out there that the terrorists would favour Obama. Obviously this person doesnt know the mindset of the jihadi terrorist.

These are people that thrive on conflict. They would love the President most likely to give them MORE conflict, hence McCain would probably be their top choice.

More talking and less fighting is exactly what they DO NOT want. Hence Clinton and Obama would be at the bottom of their list.

This will only change when the US decides for something close to a "total war" mentality like we saw in WW2.

Until then the jihadis top choice will be those politicians who opt for a small limited conflict which they can easily survive, yet use the conflict to expand their coffers and pools of support.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 6:29 AM

I would have to argue the idea that someone put out there that the terrorists would favor Obama. Obviously this person doesn't know the mindset of the jihadi terrorist. - Marc

You think so, huh? Aaron Klein lives in Israel he's the only JEWISH reporter that I know of that has this rapport with the terrorist. He's had many interviews with them and they are very frank on honest with him. So unless you have some credentials that I don't know about Marc, I'd have to go with Aaron Klein's assessment.

In my opinion as I've stated before the Iraq War served another purpose other than clearing Iraq of WMD's. It was the relief valve for the pressure cooker called the Middle East. A dead or detained foreign terrorist in Iraq was just another Jihad's that wouldn't take on a suicide mission in the US. The CIA missed out on a great opportunity in the beginning of the war to help expedite this. They should've opened up recruiting offices around the middle east and had these dumb asses stand on a big fat X in the Iraqi desert.

Another person that might disagree with you, Marc is Osama bin Laden himself. Why did Osama want the Spanish and Italians to abandon us in Iraq? Wouldn't he want the Spanish/Italians to stick around for recruiting purposes? Hell, with your logic Osama should publicly state that it's a good thing the US is bogged down in Iraq and hope they stay for a 100 years. Sorry, Marc nice try.

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 10:16 AM

Pete,

You can go with whom ever you want to. I have met my share of terrorists. It isn't a mind set that is too hard to understand. You just seem to be unable to remove your own national political issues from what should otherwise be common sense.

It is common sense Pete. Would people who want conflict want a person in office who is going to stop the conflict? Or would they rather have someone in office who is more likely to escalate the conflict? I have heard this from people I would consider to be Islamic radicals from Yemen to Morocco. They don’t want peace, they don’t want dialogue, they are actively SEEKING conflict. Why would they want someone in power that goes against their aims? Doesn’t make sense.

Again, you misread bin Laden. He wants to isolate America from our historical allies. In that he is doing rather well. If he could see a President in office that is MORE aggressive, more confrontational, he'll succeed even further in that goal. Why would he want a President like Hillary or Obama who will be conciliatory towards Europe when you might get someone like McCain who might well extend the conflict and thus put more space between the US and it's traditional allies? Again, it makes no sense.

He doesn’t need the Spanish or Italians to stick around for recruiting purposes. Unless you missed it, we are the "great Satan" so our presence is more than enough to recruit.

It is funny, but I am sure Osama is happy there are 160,000 thousand troops in Iraq at the moment. You are completely missing the boat Pete. The American troops in Iraq are a great training exercise for the jihadis. Their real impact will be felt when they eventually go back to where they came from and set up shop there. Besides, 160,000 troops in Iraq mean they are not in Afghanistan looking for him.

How long did it take after the Soviets left Afghanistan before 9/11? You are playing a different game Pete. You are looking short term, the jihadis are looking long term. The real affects of the war in Iraq will be felt around the world in the next 10 to 20 years. We are just in the beginning stages.

I just hope our intelligence folks are thinking long term and not stuck with your short term goggles.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 10:38 AM

Consent of the governed means more when the citizens have lawful firearms in their possession.

Then Iraq is a paradise.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:40 PM

Until then the jihadis top choice will be those politicians who opt for a small limited conflict which they can easily survive, yet use the conflict to expand their coffers and pools of support.

...except that Iraq is a 'small limited conflict', and the jihadis are discovering that it is not easily survivable. The US military is re-learning counterinsurgency tactics very, very quickly, and a whole lot of people back home are developing equipment to make life hard on the jihadis. Night vision gear and airborne surveillance drones are just the beginning.

-----

It is funny, but I am sure Osama is happy there are 160,000 thousand troops in Iraq at the moment. You are completely missing the boat Pete. The American troops in Iraq are a great training exercise for the jihadis. Their real impact will be felt when they eventually go back to where they came from and set up shop there.

You have to survive training to get any benefit from it.

Besides, 160,000 troops in Iraq mean they are not in Afghanistan looking for him.

Pffft. Sending troops to Afghanistan would be a good thing, but it wouldn't bag Bin Laden. I'm pretty sure he's either hiding in the autonomous tribal areas in Pakistan, or Iran (along with Mullah Omar and Zawahari).

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 1:05 PM

Marc,

I just hope our intelligence folks are thinking long term and not stuck with your short term goggles.

I am certain that our intelligence people have their own goggles and that they routinely assert that theirs are superior. As to the actual quality of their goggles, I refer you to the recent NIE. I don't like to think about our national intelligence apparatus too much, I'm trying to stave off the onset of acid reflux as a chronic condition until I'm much older or at least better insured.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 1:39 PM

How long did it take after the Soviets left Afghanistan before 9/11? You are playing a different game Pete. You are looking short term, the jihadis are looking long term. The real affects of the war in Iraq will be felt around the world in the next 10 to 20 years. We are just in the beginning stages.

I just hope our intelligence folks are thinking long term and not stuck with your short term goggles. - Marc

We have two candidates from a major political party pandering to their base to see who could get us out of Iraq faster, and you're saying I'm look thru some short term goggles. You've got some nerve... I at least had respect for Biden and to a lesser extent Clinton (in the beginning of the debates) When they said "We can't just up and leave Iraq. We'll have to re-evaluate the situation and it'll take time to draw down." (A very adult and commen sense answer) But, noooo... Obama and Kucinich had to start beating them up on their answers. It reminded me a bidding war at a flea market auction.

And Marc, I am thinking long term when it comes to Iraq. If recent history teaches us anything the second a Democrat president that is committed to leaving Iraq, WE'LL LOSE. We'll lose our influence over the Iraqis force and civilian population. They'll say "What do you mean I have to be proffesional? What do you mean I have to keep my finger off the trigger? Why should I give you a tip? What do you mean I have to get along my fellow Sunni/Shi'ites/Kurds?
KISS MY BUTT, MR AMERICAN. YOUR ABANDONING US ANYWAY." Now whose thinking short term and long term again?

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 3:48 PM

Pete & Rosignol,

Thousands of jihadis have fought, survived, and have already headed back to their homes and other places. Many of the fighters in the recent conflict in the Palestinian camp in Beirut were fighters who had experience in Iraq.

As to loosing in Iraq, we have already lost that battle, and a long time ago. The war in Iraq was not about freeing the Iraqi people. I don't think anyone drinks that kool-aid anymore.

Iraq will fall apart as soon as our troops leave. In 10 years the only area that will be remotely decent will be the Kurdish north, and only them if they can contain their terrorist groups. If not Turkey will make the north look a lot like the south.

Thousands of jihadis have trained and have moved onto their own areas. The real effect of this will be felt in 10-20 years from now.

As for the Shi'ites, they are used to being abandoned by the US. Remember Bush the first telling them to rise up and then refusing to help them? Tens of thousands were slaughtered by Saddam then and don't think they have forgotten.

Short term we might put a lid on the worst of the violence in Iraq but long term Iraq will again erupt. By this time there will be thousands of former Iraqi jihadis in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait and other places setting up large and well trained sleeper cells.

Iraq historically will end up being seen as the match that lit a fire that no one saw coming. Just as Afghanistan spawned 9/11, so Iraq is going to spawn something that dwarfs 9/11.

That is what I hope our intelligence communities grasp.

I think the big boogeyman here is Iran and the Shi'ites, they are the popular enemy of the day, and I think this widely misses the mark.

The real enemy is Sunni extremists from Yemen to Morocco and we ignore then at our own peril.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 6:36 AM

Marc- Did my fingers type something different and say ignore some particular part of the middle east? I didn't type it so don't make that assumption about me. That idiot Collin Powell recommended cutting the first Gulf War short and leaving the Shiites to 12 years of hell. Pretty stupid short term thinking. The Shiites would've made great allies. The Iran/Iraq War was still fresh in their minds and Iran didn't have the sway back then as they do now. A missed opportunity. It was wrong to abandon them then and it's wrong now. Liberals love to say we need allies on the "War on Terror" (oops sorry the Democrats have been told not to use that term anymore) and our servicemen are succeeding in making that happen in Iraq. We have Colonels, Majors and Captain that have established very strong friendships with their counterparts in Iraq. Our intelligence agencies are also setting up networks. They will be a major asset in infiltrating and destroying Islamic extremists in Iraq and THROUGHOUT the middle east. Yet Obama, Clinton and your ilk are more than willing to throw a future ally overboard. It isn't logical discard Iraq; especially when our servicemen are kicking AQI ass. As confirmed by the latest intercept telling Osama that they are getting their asses kicked. Abandon Iraq, great LONG TERM thinking there. You must have Bush Derangement Syndrome in the brain.

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 8:58 AM

The Shi'ites, some of them, would have made great short term allies for the US. At the end of the day they will give their allegiance to their own community, to their religion and to benefactors in Iran.

Pete, I just want you to remember your opinions now when things turn south in the years to come. If you think Iraq will turn out to be anything but a long term disaster in the Middle East and for American interests you are wrong.

Already the US is forging closer relationships with governments like Saudi Arabia, the home of Islamic terror, in a quest to fight the new Shi'a boogeyman. The truth is the real enemy resides in the heartland of Saudi Arabia, yet we have taken our eye off the ball because some think Iran is the new boogeyman. This is not the case.

Iraq, as a fractured state, will be no ally. They cannot even control their own boarders, police their own cities, nor pass laws to push their own country forward.

Iraq in 20 years will consist of three different entities. Who knows what form they will take? A Kurdish state in the north with two warring statelets in the south? Who knows, but not much of an ally for sure.

Sure AQI are on the defensive, but that doesn't mean much to the thousands of jihadis that have already gone back home.

You want to peg me as a liberal or something else, but you are dead wrong. It is all too common to label someone. I voted for Bush the first time but didn't make the mistake the second time. I come from a military and defense background and am Jewish with Israeli family on my father's side.

Your labeling of me is about as skewed as your assessment of the Middle East.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:12 AM

Already the US is forging closer relationships with governments like Saudi Arabia, the home of Islamic terror, in a quest to fight the new Shi'a boogeyman.

Eh?

The US and SA have been friendly for half a century, if not longer. While the population of SA may not care for the US, the government of SA has a clear grasp of where their interests lie, and the Saudi government clearly understands that the jihadis consider the Saudi royals to be corrupt, decadent, and in power because of US support.

Think about that last bit for a moment.

The reason Bin Laden wanted American forces out of SA wasn't because he thought infidels were desecrating holy dirt, it's because he thought the Saudi government would be easier to overthrow if the Americans left.

The truth is the real enemy resides in the heartland of Saudi Arabia, yet we have taken our eye off the ball because some think Iran is the new boogeyman. This is not the case.

Why do so many people have trouble understanding that there is more than one 'real enemy'? There are militant reactionaries in Saudi Arabia, yes, and they are a problem. There are also radical theocrats in Iran, and they are a bigger problem.

The guys in Saudi Arabia fly airplanes into buildings and want to take over a country. The guys in Iran have control a country and are enriching uranium.

You can do a lot more damage with a couple of kilos of enriched uranium than you can do with a dozen airplanes.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:32 AM

Rosignol,

You have a problem in that you seem to think that the Saudi govermment is one entity. It is not. The Saudi government/royal family is made up a many different cliques often with competing ideas, visions and goals. That is why there was the major issue here in DC when Prince Bandar moved back to Saudi and Prince Turki took his place. Although Bandar was back in Saudi he had been here so long that his people were going behind Turki's back and working with the US government in a way only the Ambassador should have been. They were working on policies and strategies that Prince Turki would not have embraced. The biggest of which is probably Bandar's willingness to work with the Israelis to counteract the "Shi'ite menace".

This resulted in some major in fighting within the government and ultimately ended up with Turki leaving the role of Ambassador itself. The situation was SO strained that no royal would have either wanted, nor would have accepted, that position. What do the Saudis do with the most important government position they have abroad? Normally such a position would never be given to anyone but a member of the royal family, but the situation was so strained that a non royal Saudi was appointed to the position. A guy by the name of 'Adil al Jubair.

'Adil of course was an insider who worked with the royal family for years in a number of positions, but never would have been appointed to such a position under different circumstances. Basically he was put in that position to keep the peace between two warring factions in the Saudi royal family. He has basically no power, but is acting in the position as a buffer. I know a few people who have worked in the Saudi Embassy here in DC for years and they have some interesting stories to tell, including stories about the totally hot girlfriend of the balding and chubby al Jubair, but that is fodder for a different conversation. He has appointed his brother Nail al Jubair to a top position at the Embassy. It is all about "wasta", keeping it in the family. Nail recently married the daughter of the former long standing Saudi cultural minister.

So when you say that the government of Saudi has a clear idea of where their interests lie I would have to disagree and note that some of them do. Others actively fund the jihadists and I reject the idea that the Saudi government is not aware of this. I guess you are not that familiar with Saudi history. Are you aware that King Faisal was murdered by his own nephew, a Islamic radical who was upset about the advent of TV in the Kingdom, amoungst other things?

When you say that the Saudis are our friends I have to smile a bit, ever heard of the Opec oil embargo? With friends like these……….

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:43 PM

Marc- Maybe you have insight or gift at trying to gain insight on what Rosignol was really saying, but not once did I read the Saudis were our great allies. Your dislike/hatred/animosity towards President Bush has you wanting our troops to fail in Iraq. As I've said before I can't speak for Rosignol, but not once have I said that since were in Iraq we need to ignore the other parts of the Middle East. Our forces are forward deployed and they have a base of operations to operate from in the middle east. You make a lot of assumptions on how Iraq will look in 10/20 years; truth you don't have a clue. I do know that we'll lose by giving up. And Osama's ranks will swell with money and fighters after he BRAGGS that he kicked the great Satan out of Iraq.

You say that Iraq can't even pass laws. Well read the news they've set a date for an election, passed a budget, granted amnesty to former Baath members and they are allowing them back to their former jobs. The Iraqi Government is going forward. There is a reason Al-Sadr has kept is forces in check. There is a reason that the Shiites in Parliament have been gumming up the works and slowing things down. They are filled with the hope that Clinton or Obama will be elected. They are running out the clock on this Administration. They figure the next one will be easy to kick out.

You asked me if I'll remember that I wanted the US to stay in Iraq 10/20 years from now; my answer is hell, YES. I know that if we stay in Iraq we'll win. The thing is Marc will you remember that you had no problem abandoning these people when the blood bath begins after we leave?? Or are you going to like those people that had amnesia when they said there wouldn't be a blood bath in Southeast Asia after we pull out.

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 3:12 PM

You have a problem in that you seem to think that the Saudi govermment is one entity. It is not. The Saudi government/royal family is made up a many different cliques often with competing ideas, visions and goals.

The same can be said of any government, including my own.

So when you say that the government of Saudi has a clear idea of where their interests lie I would have to disagree and note that some of them do. Others actively fund the jihadists and I reject the idea that the Saudi government is not aware of this.

Of course they're aware of it. They prefer to deal with such things discreetly, and their willingness to take firm action decreases as the stature of the person involved increases. This should not surprise anyone.

The faction that 'has a clear idea of where their interest lies' knows they are between a rock and a hard place, and they mean to hold on to power. How successful they will be remains to be seen, but the jihadi-funding faction is are a long-term problem, while Iran's enrichment program is a short-term problem. Logic requires dealing with short-term problems first.

I guess you are not that familiar with Saudi history. Are you aware that King Faisal was murdered by his own nephew, a Islamic radical who was upset about the advent of TV in the Kingdom, amoungst other things?

Yes.

One of the more amusing conspiracy theories about that relates to the nephew having recently returned from the US. You see, the MK-ULTRA program was revealed shortly after the assassination, and some people in Saudi Arabia thought that perhaps the nephew had been 'programmed' by the CIA. Considering the number of Saudi Royals who had studied in the US, there was some concern that there might be more like him, just waiting to be 'activiated'.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 3:39 PM

Nuclear weapons DO require reprocessing. A critical component of the hydrogen bomb is tritium, a radioactive isotope with a 12-year half-life. In other words, about 6% of the current disappears every year. Unless you regularly replenish the tritium in a missile warhead, it will cease to be reliable. A deterrent must be maintained to remain a valid threat to your enemies.

As for Hezbollah, I have a hard time giving them my sympathy. They are just as bad as HAMAS and they have ample American blood on their hands. If we could eliminate them as a power in the region, I would be all for it.

As for Shia and Sunni terror groups: Nazis preached the superiority of the Nordic race, focused on eliminating "impure" groups, and a focus on technological advancement. The Japanese militarists preached the sacredness of the Japanese people, focused much terror on those "dishonorable cowards" who surrendered to them, and focused on fighting spirit over technology. We fought both of them at the same time, as they were both major enemies despite being fundamentally different movements.

Posted by: OmegaPaladin Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 3:55 PM

"Jewish with Israeli family on my father's side"

For someone who claims a "Jewish background" and to be "opposed to antisemitism" you sure like to bring up the "bloodthirsty Torah" a lot.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at February 15, 2008 12:14 AM

Gary,

Do you deny that the Torah has it's fair share of bloodiness and calls for violence or do you simply not like the fact to be spoken about?

It is all about fair play. One cannot comment about portions of the Koran and it's call to violence without noting that the religious text of Jews and Christians has portions that are even more violent and problematic.

Of course, as my Jewish heritage comes from my father's side, I would not be considered Jewish by most conservative/orthodox Jews anyway. That is fine with me, I have little time for organised religion.

I find it unfair how violence in Muslim societies is almost always blamed in Islam whereas violence in Judeo-Christian societies often seems to be seen as an aberration.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 19, 2008 10:30 AM
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