Day: July 19, 2006

Should-reads at the Duck and beyond

I spent today at and around our soon-to-be-not home with my daughter. Revisions to my book manuscript have been moving along nicely, so I thought it would be a good idea to give my wife some relief. My daughter’s not only, as she will proudly inform anyone who will listen, “two,” but also manifesting anxiety about moving in all sorts of strange ways. My wife needs some serious downtime and work time.

My daughter, unfortunately, decided that she wanted to spend time with “mommy-daddy,” my wife got no work done, and by the end of the day I was seriously contemplating taking up drinking.

All of this amounts to a long-winded way of explaining why I’ve been posting quick, news-aggregator-esqe updates.

I also want to make sure to call attention to the really good posts written by other members of the team that have now been pushed further down the splash page. If you haven’t read them yet, be sure to take a look at:

Rodger’s “The Ladder of Escalation”, Peter’s “More thoughts on Israel and Lebanon”, and Bill’s posts on why American military threats ain’t what they used to be.

Also check out Jonathan Edelstein’s important post on his much-higher profile blog, “The Head Heeb,” about the growing danger that we might see regional escalation in the Horn of Africa.

I’m cooking up a longer post that deals with, among other things, the Vietnam analogy and Iraq–but not the one you’re probably expecting.

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You lose some, you win some

Coalition soldiers have recaptured both towns taken by the Taliban over the weekend.This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise When the Taliban can hold towns against combined Afghan and coalition forces, than we’llknow the future of Afghanistan is in serious jeopardy. The fact that they have enough operational capability to seize them in the first place is bad enough news.

The Post also notes that the Afghan government is going to try again to reestablish a “Vice and Virtues” ministry, and that Afghani officials accuse Pakistani Islamicists of (sit down, I know this will be a shock) aiding the Taliban.

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Quotation of the day

From the Washington Post:

Michael Golden, spokesman for Schaefer, said the comptroller was speaking “in this sort of verbal shorthand that those of us who have worked with him can understand.” Schaefer eventually voted for the contract.

What did Maryland’s Comptroller say?

“Oh, we don’t worry about any of those things like money. Or illegals crossing the border. That’s nothing. That’s just a given. Oh, come on. Korea is another one. All of the sudden, they’re our friends, too, shooting missiles at us.”

Schaefer refused to sign an apology and claimed he had been misinterpreted.

One of Schaefer’s primary opponents, Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery), has portrayed the Korea remarks as “the latest in a long line of inexcusable events that has cast serious doubts on William Donald Schaefer’s mental and emotional fitness for the office of comptroller.” Franchot criticized Schaefer again yesterday, saying he failed to “make the simple apology needed” to mend fences.

In February, Schaefer apologized after ogling a young aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) at a public meeting. Two years ago, he drew criticism for complaining about a Latino worker’s English skills at a McDonald’s.

I don’t have much to add here. If he meant to say “North Korea” he still sounds pretty darn clueless.

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Someone please remove Bill Kristol from his personal echo chamber

Via Think Progress: Kristol Suggests People of Iran Would Embrace U.S. Attack, Triggering Regime Change

Let’s see, where did I hear that one before–oh wait, I got it–Bill Kristol!

February 2nd, 2002:

The larger question with respect to Iraq, as with Afghanistan, is what happens after the combat is concluded. The Iraqi opposition lacks the military strength of the Afghan Northern Alliance; however, it claims a political legitimacy that might even be greater. And, as in Kabul but also as in the Kurdish and Shi’ite regions of Iraq in 1991, American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. Indeed, reconstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan.

And March 17th, 2003:

…the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it’s like deju-vu all over again.

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Shooting yourself in the foot

It would appear that many conservatives have finally grown weary enough of the administration’s approach to foreign policy that they are beginning to make themselves heard. I agree with them on the basic point—the Iraq campaign made the US weaker and demonstrates that everyday. From the Washington Post:

“Conservatives complain that the United States is hunkered down in Iraq without enough troops or a strategy to crush the insurgency. They see autocrats in Egypt and Russia cracking down on dissenters with scant comment from Washington, North Korea firing missiles without consequence, and Iran playing for time to develop nuclear weapons while the Bush administration engages in fruitless diplomacy with European allies. They believe that a perception that the administration is weak and without options is emboldening Syria and Iran and the Hezbollah radicals they help sponsor in Lebanon.”

All the neo-con crap about appeasement I disagree with, as my previous posts should make apparent. It isn’t a lack of will that is causing the administration to tread more carefully—it is a lack of capability due to Iraq. Neo-con enthusiasts don’t seem to get this very important point–our inability to be ‘tougher’ at the moment stems from the conflict they championed. Many would call that shooting yourself in the foot. A little foresight and caution would have gone a long way.

First, there were more pressing problems internationally than Iraq in 2003. We were already aware of how much closer North Korea was to developing both nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them (well, the means aren’t there yet—but moving on…). Given the ripple effects that are nuclear capable DPRK could cause in their region combined with their propensity to sell whatever they develop in order to keep the lights on one would think North Korea a more pressing issue than Iraq.

Second, Afghanistan remains an unfinished project. Since we are so worried about failed-states (and rightly so) one would think the prudent thing to do would be to finish the job we started in Afghanistan and to do so more earnestly than we have to-date. Again, that takes dedication, focus, and resources–all of which where diverted to Iraq.

Finally, analysts aren’t psychics. However they can see a bit into the future and imagine scenarios that might require the attention of the United States. Other than in the event of total war leaders should take care to leave themselves some slack, some flexibility to so that if they have to react to an emerging crisis they can. When you stretch yourself thin on one, narrow campaign that is not a matter of life or death you leave yourself weaker strategically (or, at the very least, project the image of weakness to adversaries).

I am glad people are begining to come around to the idea that Iraq was a bad idea for strategic reasons, even if I disagree with some of the more specific complaints by certain crowds. Leading powers typically aren’t defeated by other states. Rather, they have this incredible propensity to defeat themselves through overstretch and a lack of humility. Here’s to hoping we don’t suffer the same fate.

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Of patrons and clients? Turkey, Israel, Iran…

Forgot to pass this along earlier. More good news.

The Turkish army may move into northern Iraq if violence by Turkish-Kurdish guerrillas continues, officials said yesterday.

Such a move could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States, which has repeatedly warned against unilateral action in Iraq.

Actually, it isn’t as grim as it seems.

But the Turkish government is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed in fighting with the guerrillas in the past week.

“The government is really in a bind,” said Seyfi Tashan, the director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Bilkent University in Ankara. “On the one hand they don’t want things to break down with the United States. On the other hand, the public is crying for action.”

Diplomats cautioned that the increasingly aggressive Turkish statements were probably aimed at calming public anger. But they also increase pressure on the US and Iraq to act against the rebels, who are based in northern Iraq’s rugged Qandil mountains.

This kind of dynamic is very typical of asymmetric relationships in international politics: the government of the “client state” becomes, in effect, a broker between its great-power “patron” and domestic interests. The question, of course, is how the various parties navigate that relationship and how each can maximize their leverage. I’ve just started to explore these issues–I’ve still got a book manuscript to finish–but I’ll offer some preliminary thoughts at some point.

Which leads to three pieces of news.

First, Israeli troops have launched a “small” incursion into Lebanon.

Second, Israel now accuses Iran of orchestrating the kidnappings to “divert attention from its nuclear program.”

Third, speaking of asymmetric relationships in world politics, the New York Times reports that:

The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for about another week to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said.

Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon’s borders to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets with which to bombard Israel.

American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces.

I’m still not sure what to make of evidence like this in terms of what it says about the structural relationship between the US and Israel.

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Just war debate!

The subject is strategic bombing, the backdrop the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.

I am reminded that the spirit of Athens lives on.

Melians of the world, beware.

To be fair, not everyone there advocates “the strong do what they will and the weak do what they must.”

Some merely believe that if you fight on the side of providence, any action becomes legitimate. Nevertheless, as articulate a set of comments as I’ve ever seen.

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