“President Bush’s address to the nation last week outlining a ‘new way forward’ in Iraq failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war.”
New entry for The Weekly Standard‘s ever-expanding list of regimes that need changing: Eritrea, which “is looking ever more like a state sponsor of terrorism.” Eritrea’s sin is backing the ICU is Somalia.
All Eritrea’s doing in the real world, of course, is trying to prevent its larger, hostile neighbor from growing even more powerful. But this is what happens once you decide that you need to be in the proxy war business. We’ve decided that backing Ethiopia’s bid for regional hegemony in East Africa is identical with fighting terrorism, so any group or state that seeks to check Ethiopian power is now de facto a pro-terrorist enemy of the United States. Since it’s the Horn of Africa probably none of this really matters at the end of the day (except, of course, to Africans) but that doesn’t make this kind of mucking around advisable.
I find reports that it’s unseasonably chilly in California at least somewhat reassuring. It’s really warm here in DC — “like California,” I would say, except that it’s cold in California. I was getting concerned that the entire planet was just going to burn up come August, but I guess it’s all evening out in some sense. But what’s happening? El Nino? I feel like weird weather always gets attributed to El Nino.
K-Drum wonders (well, not really, he knows the answer) what Bill Kristol will do now that Bush has started taking his advice: “So if it doesn’t work, Bill, what are you going to do? Will you admit that the strategy you endorsed was wrong? Or will you just regroup and blithely insist that it was never implemented the way you wanted?” The latter, obviously. The striking thing is that Kristol is already laying the groundwork for this:
The key is the urgency, the speed and the full bore commitment that the U.S. government, across the board, puts on implementing this. Don’t slow-walk the troops in. Front-load the surge. Get Petraeus over there. He’s the commander who has to execute it. It’s crazy to have Casey execute the first month of the plan and then have a transition then.
Kristol also reveals during the same exchange that he doesn’t know the difference between blackjack (where you can double-down) and poker (where you can’t) and offers fresh material for the right’s inevitable stab in the back narrative. The economy with which all this is achieved is truly impressive; you need to read it for yourself. Victor Davis Hanson would expend 37,000 words making these points.
UPDATE: Even dumber excuses from New York Post columnist and fabricator Amir Taheri. This last, incidentally, is why it doesn’t make sense to wonder why hawks don’t suffer from being wrong. Rightwing pundits don’t suffer under any circumstances — you can make things up, get busted on drug charges, whatever, and it all works out fine.
I just realized that one of my advertisers is apparently one of those outfits that tries to convince people that television is bad. Well, most shows are pretty bad, but fortunately with hundreds of channels there are lots of options. Sports are always a solid one. But the current TV season has also given us the fun-if-a-bit-rambling Heroes along with Friday Night Lights. The latter has, I think, clearly displaced Veronica Mars as the best show on network television since season three of VM has been pretty terrible. The worst thing, to me, about watching season three is recognizing that the show was made bad intentionally. You read a lot before it aired about how the creators were hoping to boost its popularity by making the plots more accessible, more atomic, blah, blah and basically dumbing the show down. And — guess what? — they succeeded!
That said, I watched the premiere of Rome last night. I hadn’t been looking forward to season two of Rome the way I looked forward to season four of The Wire or season three of Deadwood but it’s actually a really good show. The fact that you already know the broad direction of the story if you’re familiar with the history and Shakespeare’s play makes it less gripping than it might be, but it’s still pretty excellent. Some people tell me they find the British accents annoying, but I think it’s actually done to good effect since it establishes a class hierarchy among the characters in a way that would be hard to pull off with American idioms.
Martin Peretz’s 1,027th reason why Arabs are teh suck:
Berber comes from the same root as barbarian. But there is nothing barbarian about the Berbers. Their rugs and and especially their vases are so much more subtle than the glimmery ornate of their Arab neighbors.
In all seriousness, yesterday I eschewed my usual supermarket purchase of Tribe of Two Sheiks Hummus in favor of Sabra Hummus and got better results with the fake-Arab product than with the fake-Israeli one. But never an Arab vase!
Martin Luther King Jr.’s notion that we shouldn’t have massive state-sponsored racial discrimination is sufficiently uncontroversial at this point that I doubt I need to say anything particularly profound about it. A less-discussed point is his influence as a leader of social movements and a tactician. His letter from the Birmingham jail is famous, but in many ways addresses itself to the wrong tactical question. These days, people will find it easy to understand why King and his followers weren’t going to far. The pressing question is why didn’t they go further. The apartheid system in the old south, after all, was backed up by a massive coercive apparatus that was not shy about using force — either at the hands of the official security services or else by any number of white supremacist militias and paramilitaries — to maintain its hold on power.
The only previous episode in American history when the legal condition of African-Americans had improved substantially involved, of course, the liberal application of force. Indeed, the Civil War was — by far — the single most violent episode in American history, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and vast portions of Confederate infrastructure in ruins. Those gains had been partially reversed by a post-war white supremacist countermobilization that, again, was unafraid to deploy violence. Under the circumstances, it would have been natural to conclude that the only thing the white south understands is force, that the use of force was eminently justified, and the time had come to launch a massive campaign of violent resistance.
King and other leaders of the civil rights movement apparently took their Christianity more seriously than a lot of people do, however, and, following in part in the political example of Gandhi, set out on a different path. A path that, seemingly, actually generates much more success than do strategies of violent insurgency. Nevertheless, you tend to see all around the world on both sides of various issues, a tendency to massively overstate the utility of force.
“In six years in office, President Bush has found a lot of things to be unacceptable — most recently, the situation in Iraq.” The Swamp has the full rundown.
Which of the following approaches for providing health care in the United States would you prefer: replacing the current health care system with a new government run health care system, or maintaining the current system based mostly on private health insurance?
You see a lot of ill-designed polling questions, but this one actually manages to exclude the major alternative to the status quo, namely a system similar to Medicare, or the health systems of many foreign countries, where the government doesn’t run the health care system but the government does run a health insurance plan in which everyone is enrolled. The distinction is semantically subtle but absolutely crucial. In the United States, state and local governments actually run school systems much as the federal government runs the Post Office. In England, similarly, the government runs a National Health Service employing doctors, nurses, etc. running hospitals and other clinics throughout the nation as a government agency.
A very different alternative, however, is to simply have the government run an insurance program that will pay (in full or in part) for (some) medical procedures and services, while still leaving health care providers as private for-profit or non-profit institutions. This is, overwhelmingly, what counts as the “left” position on health care in the United States — government run insurance not government run health care.
Ed Kilgore’s note so concerned “that the administration is about to deliberately widen the Iraq war by provoking Tehran and Damascus into armed conflict.” After all, “where the hell is the Pentagon going to get the resources for a regional war?” Well, I’d say they’d get them from the Air Force and the Navy, hence the significance of appointing a naval officer to run CENTCOM. Certainly the argument that provoking a military confrontation with Iran isn’t going to happen because such a provocation would be a very bad idea in light of the objective constraints on the American military strikes me as unconvincing. Sometimes leaders initiate extremely poor policies. George W. Bush happens to have a history of initiating such policies.
David Sanger at The New York Times, meanwhile, is not in the conspiracy theory business. He notes that while “administration officials say the goal is limited to preventing Iranians from aiding in attacks on American and Iraqi forces inside Iraq.” Nevertheless, “in recent interviews and public statements, senior members of the Bush administration have made it clear that their agenda goes significantly further, toward foiling Iran’s dream of emerging as the greatest power in the Middle East.” Clearly, I think, for now the hope is that foiling Iran’s dreams of regional power can somehow be accomplished by raiding consulates and hoping there are ponies inside. Nevertheless, if the goal is to check Iranian regional power, that means wider war sooner or later.