a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.”
Having spent years supporting the Bush administration’s largest foreign policy disaster (Iraq), and it’s largest hoped-for domestic policy disaster (dismantling Social Security), the Washington Post opinion section has been running a lot of articles lately on the question of exactly how bad a president Bush is in historical terms. Eric Foner says Bush is the worst ever, but also in some ways comparable to James K. Polk who “should be remembered primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on Mexico and seizing one-third of its territory for the United States.” Michael Lind, by contrast, sees four presidents worse than Bush — James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and dark-horse candidate James Madison. Polk isn’t in the conversation.
Douglas Brinkley marks Bush down as the worst ever and observes of Polk that his war “was a success, even if the pretext was immoral. On virtually every presidential rating poll, Polk is deemed a ‘near great’ president.” Similarly, “History chalks up Mr. McKinley’s War as a U.S. win, and he also polls favorably as a ‘near great’ president.” Robert Farley likewise agrees that “at least James K. Polk’s deceptive and unprovoked war was successful.” They Might Be Giants, famously, are Polk fans:
In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
At the end of the day, Polk’s hard to evaluate just because it’s so hard to imagine a world in which the United States doesn’t extend from sea to shining sea.
The London Times reports that “the Saudi Arabian government is emerging as a key player in talks to broker a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement” and that “Olmert is believed to be considering a Saudi initiative, endorsed by the Arab League four years ago, as the basis for a peace settlement.” This via Andrew Stuttaford who remarks “Good for the Saudis, good for Ehud Olmert.”
I agree. My only question: Why isn’t this in the American press? Seems like an important development. If Olmert’s really “considering” this, the US government should encourage him to move forward.
A reference page for AOL has posted a slideshow that is well worth viewing. It features fifteen of the major impacts of global warming that are already visible and increasingly detrimental. Be warned, though, it’s not a pretty sight.
Kudos to AOL for slideshow and for putting together a good general overview of global warming science and solutions.
Jon Chait’s smart take on Paul Tough’s education article from last week observes that the schools that have been most successful with poor inner-city kids “attract a small cadre of extremely bright and dedicated teachers, often willing to work 16-hour days.” This is good for those schools and the kids who attend them, “but you can’t find enough [people like that] to staff every school in the nation, or even just the poorest ones.” In the past, “teaching was able to attract a lot of highly skilled women because they were excluded from most professions on the basis of their gender.” These days, that gender segregation externality no longer operates on the teaching labor market, so “if you want highly skilled teachers who work investment banker hours, we have to pay them like — well, if not quite like investment bankers, then a lot more generously than we pay them now.”
In short, on a small scale you can find eccentric individuals willing to engage in Stakhanovite efforts to make things work. But such endeavors are not a systematic solution to anything. If you want to replicate these results on a wide scale, it would take, among other things, a very large sum of money.
Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert pointed out that Donald Rumsfeld’s recent memo on Iraq suggested a strategy of partial withdrawal. Russert asked National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley why, when others had raised this idea in the past, “they were accused by your White House of cutting and running.”
Hadley told Russert “maybe you misunderstand what the memo was about,” and downplayed Rumsfeld’s suggestion. Hadley claimed the memo was simply an effort by Rumsfeld to “broaden the debate,” and was “not a game plan or an effort to set out the way forward in Iraq.” Watch it:
Hadley is spinning. Rumsfeld’s memo is entitled, “Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action.” In it, Rumsfeld says “it is time for a major adjustment” and suggests a number of options that “could” or “should be done,” and partial withdraw is one of them. Hadley and the White House just don’t want to acknowledge that things have gotten so bad in Iraq that even Donald Rumsfeld is considering withdrawal.
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“plans to cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year,” citing the slow reconstruction of the levee system. A leading economic development official said the decision has sent a “shock wave through the business community,” which “cannot exist” without insurance. First-Draft called it “disastrous to the recovery of New Orleans.” More at FireDogLake.
Today on CBS Face the Nation, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) argued that direct talks with Syria and Iran won’t work and compared it to “your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire. They are the extremists.” Watch it:
As Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) pointed out moments later, Lieberman is missing the point. Iran and Syria will “respond in their own self-interest,” Hagel noted, pointing to Iran’s efforts to aid U.S. goals in Afghanistan in 2002. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and James Baker have all criticized the Bush administration’s unwillingness to talk with Iran and Syria, and the Iraq Study Group’s proposal next week will likely recommend direct talks with Iran and Syria.
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I went to see Fast Food Nation last night and before the film there was a long ad for for the Army National Guard, detailing not only the sort of benefits you can obtain through volunteering, but also the sort of exciting missions the Guard undertakes. Except, of course, they didn’t mention anything about Iraq where tens of thousands of Guard soldiers are deployed. There was, instead, a vague mention of “overseas deployment.” Nothing unusual about this, of course. If you watch a lot of male-oriented television programming you’ll see lots of military recruitment ads of various sorts and they never mention that the modal outcome for a member of the US military these days is to be sent to fight in Iraq.
It’s not merely that these posters didn’t obscure the fact that a war was going on. Rather, the fact of the war was the key selling point of the recruitment drives. Which makes sense. Leaving your home and family to go do an arduous job isn’t an obviously appealing thing to do. You get money, to be sure, but patriotic appeals are a key part of getting people to volunteer. The war, in these terms, is a reason to sign up — your country needs you to fight its enemies.
We have to assume that the Army’s marketing people know what they’re doing these days. And there professional judgment is that the Iraq War isn’t like that. Their view is that “the war in Iraq is a vital and necessary cause that you should do your part for” won’t be compelling to people. The best way to get them to sign up isn’t quite to try and dupe them (everyone knows there’s a war on) but certainly is to try and keep the war hidden and downplayed.
What’s more, everyone takes this for granted. Nobody expects the Army to run ads saying “sign up and fight the Islamofascists in Iraq.” I don’t, however, think we’ve really thought the implications of this through. Lots of people are still opposed to a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. But does anyone think Iraq is a cause worth dying for at this point? Does anyone deny that a straightforward recruiting pitch wouldn’t work? But staying in Iraq, obviously, means having people die for this mission. For a mission nobody really believes in anymore.
This morning on Fox News Sunday, Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot brushed aside notions that the deteriorating situation in Iraq warranted a change in strategy from President Bush. Gigot said, “I don’t think he has to adjust” or “announce some new grand strategy.”
The key to success in Iraq, according to Gigot, is for the President to show “resolve” and wrap “his arms around [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki.” Watch it:
Gigot, one of the primary media cheerleaders for the war in Iraq, finds himself increasingly isolated. Even outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged in a recent memo that “it is time for a major adjustment” of U.S. policy in Iraq.
Transcript: Read more