Fun Fact for the Day

clipped from www.nytimes.com

And if her mother, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, manages to become the first female president of the United States, Chelsea Clinton could be in a historic, head-spinning position of her own: the first first child twice over.

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Published in: on July 31, 2007 at 8:45 am  Comments (2)  

More on Thompson in Possible Trouble

From Politico on his money raising troubles:

Fred Thompson plans to announce Tuesday that his committee to test the waters
for a Republican presidential campaign raised slightly more than $3 million in
June, substantially less than some backers had hoped, according to Republican
sources. But many Republicans have turned queasy as Thompson has ousted part of
his original brain trust and repeatedly delayed his official announcement, which
is now planned for shortly after Labor Day, in the first two weeks of September.
Some are already saying a prospective Thompson run is a flop. “I just don’t see
it anymore,” said a key Republican who had been extremely enthusiastic about a
Thompson candidacy. “That number is really underwhelming. There were
indications it could be double that. They’ve been saying that people were
waiting for Fred, and the money was going to pour in. He looks like he’s already
losing momentum.”

Official word from the campaign is that this is a solid achievement for a “testing the waters” only mode—i.e. he’s not fully decided yet, which seems unlikely to me.

Meanwhile, news on the Giuliani front is that his campaign machinery is starting to finally click. With Romney putting so much into Iowa and New Hampshire, I think Fred may be smart to go for a VP Run with Giuliani. I just don’t think Thompson has the follow-through to run the campaign the way it will need to be done. But we’ll see.

Giuliani-Thompson looks like the strongest GOP Ticket in my mind.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Demetri Martin: Classic

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maliki and Petraeus: Not the Best of Friends

(Hat tip: Juan Cole).

In this article from the AP, we learn Maliki and Petraeus have an extremely cool, if not decidedly hostile relationship. Not to mention the Maliki-Crocker combo.

Consider the following:

A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s relations with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington the withdraw the well-regarded U.S. military leader from duty here.

If that happens, the rest of the Republicans bolt on Bush and blame the Iraqis.

On Petraeus’ side the Iraqi army and police are infiltrated with Shia sectarian death squads and Maliki, who owes his position to them, is never (and I mean never) going to take them head on. Because he knows the Americans will be out and the “death squads” are the only force for protecting Shia communities.

On Maliki’s side he still wants and does not have actual control of his country’s own army. Maliki is also furious at the US arming of Sunni insurgents. Because again he knows those weapons are going to be used on his people and perhaps him personally. The American leadership is so clueless as to think they can integrate these Sunni groups into the regular Iraqi Army. Arming people for a coming fight. That is all.

On the Crocker end, Maliki is unable to get anything done on oil law (the oil minister has called oil unions in Iraq “illegitimate”–these groups oppose the drafted oil law as a giveaway to foreign companies), reversing de-Baathification (probably because he doesn’t want them back in, Sadr doesn’t, Sistani and SIIC oppose, and the Council is headed by our old friend Ahmad Chalabi who is as we know pro-Iranian, hence anti-Baathist), and all the other so-called political benchmarks.

The surge is going to work how?

And these intriguing possibility:

A lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc, who refused use of his name fearing the party would expel him over his continued close ties to al-Maliki, said the prime minister has complained to U.S. President George W. Bush about the policy of arming Sunnis. “He told Bush that if Petraeus continues doing that he would arm Shiite Militias. Bush told al-Maliki to calm down,” according to the lawmaker who said he was told of the exchange by al-Maliki.

Of course that could be psych-ops on the part of the Sadrists or even Maliki.

What the Americans do not understand is these guys lived in exile from Hussein who had agents all over and was very adept at assassination in foreign countries. Or dirty deals to get opposition figures outside the country. In other words, men like Maliki are inherently conspiratorial, even paranoid, and honestly rightfully so.

Arming Sunnis to him means the return of Saddam. Period. He will see it no other way. The only response in that situation is to arm your own guys. If the Americans think they can isolate the Mahdi Army/Sadrist movement from Maliki by arming Sunnis, they are only driving them back together.

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thompson Already in Trouble?

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Former Senator Fred D. Thompson has yet to make a formal declaration that he is running for president, but already his noncampaign campaign has gone through its first shake-up.

It also ignited speculation in Republican circles about who is really in charge, and in particular about the extent of the role being played by Mr. Thompson’s wife, Jeri Kehn Thompson, a former political operative.

“They are dancing on the edge, and it’s a pretty sharp edge,” said Robert Haus, a Republican political consultant in Des Moines. “In all fairness, you have to assume that the Thompson campaign is trying to quickly put bricks and mortar under some very high expectations.”

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The main question has always been his drive/follow-through. Still a major question in my mind.

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Best Posssible Near Term Outcome in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Gen. Pervez Musharraf held secret talks with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a government minister said Saturday. Media widely reported that the once-bitter rivals discussed a power-sharing deal.

Such an alliance could strengthen the increasingly embattled Musharraf by bringing the secular, liberal opposition into his government amid growing concern about a rise in Islamic militancy. Analysts said Pakistan’s Western allies would welcome that.

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Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cold War 2.0

This is it….this is where Bush’s stupidity is heading, a new Cold War and the US instigating a “Green Curtain” in the Arab world (i.e. are the Soviets this time?).

A must read (and long ponder) article from Robin Wright in the Washington Post. This the real legacy of Bush, not Iraq.

Wright:

After three decades of festering tensions, the United States and Iran are now facing off in a full-fledged cold war. When the first Cold War began, in 1946, Winston Churchill famously spoke of an Iron Curtain that had divided Europe. As Cold War II begins half a century later, the Bush administration is trying to drape a kind of Green Curtain dividing the Middle East between Iran’s friends and foes. The new showdown may well prove to be the most enduring legacy of the Iraq conflict. The outcome will certainly shape the future of the Middle East — not least because the administration’s strategy seems so unlikely to work.

Gates and Rice, former Cold Warriors (very 20th century in their [non]thinking) are doing the only thing they know how to do–re-run the game plan from the 70s/80s. Except that they don’t realize the obviousness of what the analogy is.

They are going to sell massive arms to Sunni Gulf States. As part of their “moderates versus extremists” ’08 Tour. Stops include: West Bank–Fatah over Hamas; Beirut–Fouad Sinora over Hezbollah; funding anti-Iranian terrorist organizations like MEK; backing the Saudis at any price.

Problems with this Cold War Reunion Tour (any and all of the following):

1)The Saudis, push come to shove, will deal with Iran (pan-Muslim identity) as was evident in the Saudi-Iranian backed deal to form the Palestinian Unity government.
2)The Saudis will still never accept the Iraqi Shia Government. The Iraqi Shia government has already had talks with Syria and Iran. It can’t help but be a strong ally of Iran.
3)Hezbollah can not be “de-fanged”
4)Syria controls strong levers in any Palestinian-Israeli deal. No peace with the Golan Heights. And they will not deal unless they get back into the game.
5)The American support for Sunni extremist groups against Hezbollah has already back fired (surprise, surprise) in the recent attacks on the Lebanese government and the rise of al-Qaeda like cells in Lebanon amongst Palestinian refugees.

Plus:

The roots of Cold War II lie in the Bush administration’s decision to remove regimes it considered enemies after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The first two targets were the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq — coincidentally, both foes of Iran that had served as important checks on Tehran’s power. The United States has now taken on the role traditionally played by Iraq as the regional counterweight to Iran.

i.e. We set this train in motion and there is no going back on it now. This was the point of acute observers prior to the Iraqi invasion: if you want this to work you are going to have to normalize relations with Iran.

Finally:

The basic U.S. premise — isolating regional foes behind the Green Curtain — is in trouble even among Washington’s closest allies. “The United States is trying to define the main line of confrontation as the extremist camp versus the camp of moderation, a division which does not exist,” Pillar said. “It may be reflective of our rhetoric and the way Americans see the world, but it is not reflective of the realities in the Middle East.” The geography of Cold War II is also not as neat as that of Cold War I. Some of Iran’s proxies (such as Hezbollah) operate in pockets within countries (such as Lebanon) whose governments are aligned with the United States. “The problem with the administration’s portrait,” Riedel said, “is that it would take multiple Green Curtains.”

The only good, seems to me, that can come off this is a Truman-like establishment of NATO, defense of Turkey & Greece and then later administrations start the market connections into Iran (i.e. take the ceiling off the embargoes) and then Iran gets the bomb and then falls within a longer time frame.

But I just don’t see it working with Iran’s very shrewd diplomacy and connections across the region.

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

The End as the Beginning?

clipped from www.guardian.co.uk

There is an overwhelming case for the Pentagon and the White House to set out the full and true contingency options. It would be reassuring if Gordon Brown were to take such a message to Bush at Camp David this weekend. And even more surprising if Bush was to listen. Bush started this war on the basis of inadequate planning. It looks as if he will end it in the same way too.

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Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

One more Barnett

Why both parties blow:

I sit back at times like this and realize there is no room for me and mine in either party: I don’t demonize the military or interventions so I can’t be a Dem, and I don’t demonize China or want to invade Iran so I can’t be a Republican. And, frankly, I think that’s good. I don’t see how you can really be a grand strategist in this day and age and belong to either party. I think I’m going to formally make myself an independent and stop rationalizing the attraction either way.

[Also in that post is a nice critique of Matthew Yglesias, not exactly my favorite blogger/political thinker to put it nicely].

For the record, I’ve always been registered as an independent. Normally I think the way to deal with that in a 2 party system is have one party control the legislature and one the executive. The Dems are going to control the Congress (with a wider margin then they currently hold), so normally I would pushing for a centrist Republican for Prez. That would normally be Rudy, except that Rudy has got a Podhoretz (Norman) on his foreign policy and is talking about staying on “offense”–not resiliency. Not to mention that you expect the Republicans to be (excuse this it’s too good not to use) “Law and Order” types, but they look more desperate every day.

Like Barnett I’m feeling not pleased about this current crop. Obama is caught with having to appeal to a mass of “nutroots” green-meme wack jobs on the far left. Just as the Republicans, in primary sense, have to appeal to their own far-right wack jobs.

Perhaps the song should have been: wack jobs to the left of me, wack jobs to the right of me. Here I am stuck in the middle (with the actually intelligent people).

I agree with Don Beck that if either party broke with its orthodoxy and went a Radical Middle-way it would own the electorate for a generation. The competition is an open door to be pushed on.

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barnett bitchslaps Krauthammer

Intellectually that is.

Great post by Barnett criticizing Charles Krauthammer (as a perpetual “grad student”….ouch).

The post counters CK’s attacks on Obama for Obama’s answers about willingness to meet with dictators and the first step in a hypothetical attack on American soil is protecting the victims and making sure you know who actually committed the attack.

I mean who else can write the following (italics in original):

So let me get this straight in this, the great asymmetrical struggle of our age: our strength is not found in our ability to withstand and mitigate attacks but in symmetrical–and often knee-jerk–retaliation against state-less enemies? Talk about a grad student answer right out of the 20th century! Somebody is definitely beyond his analytical expiration date. Our resilience is our deterrence in the 21st century. If you don’t get that, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of power in a moment of danger. If your answer is just to pull triggers to get your rocks off as quickly as possible, you might as well hand over power to the bin Ladens right now, because our future foreign policy will consist merely of those guys plucking our strings. I say, go to the back of the class and write Robb’s book out in chalk a couple of times til something different sinks in. Krauthammer ends this embarrassing display of sophomoric analysis with the specter of America sharing the stage–unwittingly–with a “malevolent clown like Hugo Chavez.” Good God Almighty! That’s what we’ve come to after 8 years of Bush? Living in fear of Chavez? Nixon sits down with Mao, a guy who killed about 80 million, but we’re supposed to fear treading anywhere near the fantastically evil Chavez? What kind of midget superpower does Krauthammer fear we’ve become that he’s so entranced by such imagery? Just chalk it up to another Boomer (and former Mondale speechwriter) infatuated with visuals over reality, armed with his graduate-level understanding of both history and the complexity of the world we now live in.

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment