Today, Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker presented plans to President Bush recommending that troop levels in Iraq “remain nearly the same through 2008 as at any time during five years of war.” The New York Times reports that it “now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president.”
I guess John McCain thinks outsourcing his strategic thinking to Osama bin Laden is such a great idea that he wants to brag about it:
As you know, I was in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, France and England on my last visit. And a couple of days ago, as you probably know, an audiotape — actually it was last week — an audiotape was released where bin Laden said, and I have to quote bin Laden, … ‘the nearest field to support our people in Palestine is the Iraqi field.’ He urged Palestinians and people of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to quote ‘help in support of their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task.’ Now my friends, for the first time I have seen Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus in agreement, and that is, the central battleground in the battle against al Qaeda is in Iraq today. And that’s what bin Laden is saying and that’s what General Petraeus is saying and that’s what I’m saying, my friends, and my Democrat opponents who want to pull out of Iraq refuse to understand what’s being said and what’s happening, and that is, the central battleground is Iraq in this struggle against radical Islamic extremism.
There’s no question that, as McCain points out here at some length, that bin Laden would really like to see an epic struggle in Iraq between the United States military and an array of al-Qaeda recruits who, inspired by the idea of a struggle against American occupation, will flood into that country. As McCain says, this is bin Laden’s view of how events in the world are unfolding. Why McCain thinks the correct response is to do what bin Laden wants, I couldn’t quite say. Possibly, he’s just not very bright.
But the White House is trying to gloss over the troop death marker. President Bush held no public events on the issue today, although he briefly thanked the “courageous people willing to serve” while at the State Department today. Moreover, in an interview with ABC News today, Vice President Cheney expressed gross callousness about the 4,000 dead troops, implying to Martha Raddatz that the troops volunteered for duty.
Who, in Cheney’s eyes, is hurting even more than the troops and their families? George W. Bush:
The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.
The White House has frequently expressed a “misguided sense of bravado,” as Dan Froomkin put it, in comparing its efforts to that of American soldiers. Some lowlights of its detachment:
– “Believe me, no one suffers more than their President and I do when we watch this.” [Laura Bush, 4/25/07]
– “The President is in the war every day…on the frontlines.” [Tony Snow, 6/14/07]
To this day, Bush seems ignorant of the horrors of war. Earlier this month, he told troops in Afghanistan that “confronting danger” was, in his eyes, “romantic.” Bush has even said he would love to serve in Iraq, but unfortunately he’s “too old.”
Where does this detachment come from? Bush himself explained in February 2007:
I can only tell you what people on the ground, whose judgment — it’s hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment. I haven’t been there; you have, I haven’t.
Silent Patriot responds:
I can only speak for myself here, but I reckon that many of the brave young men and women who volunteered after 9/11 did so with the expectation that they would be hunting down those that actually attacked us that day; not that they would be put in an impossible situation (in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack on us) where they are expected to mediate a religious civil war that has raged for thousands of years.
Our guest blogger is Nina Hachigian, a Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Tibetans are all peaceloving Buddhist monks and the Chinese government instantly quashes all organized dissent. Even though the events of the past two weeks do not fit neatly into these mental slots, Beijing will not be able to convince the western world otherwise unless it changes its Tibet policy quickly and dramatically.
According to the LA Times, Tibetans randomly and savagely beat and killed Chinese “solely on the basis of their ethnicity.” Gangs of Tibetans burned and destroyed Han and Muslim owned shops. The Chinese authorities held back at first — making the situation much worse — and then they used lethal force to stop the violence, firing live ammunition into crowds of people and beating suspects, by some accounts. Eventually, China sent in enough police and equipment to take on Russia.
The resentment that triggered the riots is Beijing¹s doing, and Beijing ultimately has to account for it. Tibetans do not enjoy the automomy they were once promised. Their religious practice is highly compromised, they fear for the survival of their culture, and they are excluded from any positions of real power in their own society. (In a sad irony, the high profile of the Tibet cause in Hollywood and Western Europe, argues Patrick French, may well have worsened the plight of Tibetans, offering symbolic gestures that have made China dig-in but haven’t actually done anything to improve life for Tibetans)
Time is not on Beijing’s side. The Dali Lama condemns violence and does not advocate independence for Tibet. Many Tibetans of the next generation are not so restrained on either score, having grown up on a diet of cultural repression‹some exile groups openly advocate terrorism. Moreover, the basic bargain that has worked in most of China to keep the Communist Party in power — we improve your standard of living and you agree to shut up about us — has not worked and will not work in Tibet.
Beijing’s only choice right now — to ensure the Beijing Olympics are not forever tarnished and to convince the world that it should welcome China’s ascent as a great and responsible power is to negotiate sincerely, respectfully and flexibly with the Dali Lama toward true and final autonomy for Tibet. China has a chance to pull an astonishing policy and PR coop — to take a decades old albatross of its neck and have the world leave Beijing not only impressed with the fantastic economic progress of China, but also with the wisdom of the Chinese government. Too bad they probably wont grasp it.
Responding to the recently released Pentagon study on the links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al Qaeda, a Wall Street Journal editorial claims that the report “buttress[es] the case that the decision to oust Saddam was the right one“:
Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq’s links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.
In fact, as has been widely publicized, the new study “found no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e. direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and Al-Qaeda.” Nevertheless, many conservatives have tried to cast the report as a vindication of their wild theories about a Saddam-Al Qaeda alliance. More at the Wonk Room.
Man, I sure am glad all our economic problems are solved now that new home sales are slightly up (though still way below where they used to be) on falling prices. It’s a new day in America! These are some seriously bizarre times.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continues to deny that the Bush administration’s turn to Iraq in late 2001 had any effect on the battle at Tora Bora, according to the LA Times yesterday:
“I know of no one who believes attention to Iraq at that point diverted our attention from Tora Bora,” McCain said. …
“We should have put more boots on the ground there to apprehend [Bin Laden]. Everyone agrees. But I have no reason to believe that because we urged attention to Iraq, it had any tactical effect on the battleground.”
But according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, even before the Tora Bora battle, Bush began meeting with Army Gen. Tommy Franks and his war cabinet to plan the U.S. attack on Iraq:
On Nov. 21, 2001, 72 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush directed Rumsfeld to begin planning for war with Iraq. “Let’s get started on this,” Bush recalled saying. “And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.” …
Bush’s order to Rumsfeld began an intensive process in which Franks worked in secret with a small staff, talked almost daily with the defense secretary and met about once a month with Bush.
Similarly, Michael Gordon, co-author of Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, has reported that Franks, in charge of the battle, was upset about Bush’s turn to Iraq:
I was at Tora Bora at that point, in December ’01. The desire to have a war plan for Iraq has already been telegraphed to [General] Tommy Franks at Centcom. Franks is actually struggling with Tora Bora, with his unhappiness with the results in Afghanistan, just as he is on the eve of returning for a very important meeting at Crawford with the President. I think they made a very quick decision that in principle Iraq was next on the agenda.
Reporter Christina Lamb, using Woodward’s book as her source, has said that “there was another reason for Washington’s reluctance to commit troops on the ground” at Tora Bora. According to Woodward, when Gen Tommy Franks received the top-secret message asking for an Iraq war plan within a week, he was incredulous. “They were in the midst of one war in Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another? Goddamn,” Franks said, “What the f*** are they talking about?”
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In Hell and High Water, Joe lays out his proposals for how to slow down our greenhouse gas emissions in the first half of this century (giving us the breathing space to eliminate them in the second half). His program primarily consists of deploying existing technology, and is quite doable, should we find the political will.
His last proposal, however, is “stop all tropical deforestation, while doubling the rate of new tree planting.” I’ve always considered this to be the toughest item on his list to acheive. So it is encouraging to find a group that is working directly on pieces of the problem. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has launched a campaign to stop U.S. agribusiness expansion in the rainforests. In a recent action they have asked Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to sign a pledge to halt their palm oil madness. In particular, the pledge asks ADM to “once and for all commit to halting all direct or indirect engagement with companies that destroy tropical rainforest ecosystems for industrial biofuels.”
RAN is using a tactic that they have honed over the years: find a small number of U.S. companies connected to a problem and highlight that association to tarnish their public image until they back down from fostering the problem. It is often the case that a targeting a few high-profile firms provides significant leverage that would not be possible targeting individual plants or farmers. For example, at a RAN press event held at the ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Ed Begley Jr. said,
“An ADM subsidiary, the Wilmar Group, is the world’s largest producer of palm-based biodiesel and is clearing tropical rainforests in Indonesia that are among the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered orangutan. U.S. agribusiness giants ADM, Bunge and Cargill account for 60 percent of the funding for Brazil’s booming soy crop. Soy has become a leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon as Brazil has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest exporter of soy, largely due to American farmers planting more corn for ethanol.”
This effort is part of RAN’s Rainforest Agribusiness (defending forests, family, farmers and our climate) campaign, which is one of four main thrusts. As part of their Global Finance (ending destructive investment) campaign, RAN has also been fighting the Wall Street investment banks to end their funding of coal power plants, and they have been quite dogged about pursuing their quarry. Their other campaigns are Freedom From Oil (jumpstarting Detroit), Old Growth (preserving endagnered forests).
– Earl Killian
Abu Muqawama offers some of his thoughts on how Britain could have employed counterinsurgency theory more successfully during the American Revolution. As long as we’re talking strictly hypotheticals, I’m not sure this namby-pamby COIN business is the way to go. What if in early 1776 the British had burned Boston to the ground before retreating to Nova Scotia?
Then you’re in a position to communicate to the colonists the basic shape of the situation. Britain, obviously, is not in a position to occupy the entire territory of the 13 colonies. By the same token, the colonies are in no position to defeat British naval power. The colonies thus have a choice — they can submit, withdrawing their delegates from the Continental Congress, at which point all will be forgiven, or else they can continue to resist in which case their cities will be subjected to sporadic invasion and burning-to-the-ground. Communicate to the Indians in-or-near Massachusetts, that the Crown considers that colony to be a lost cause and he’s prepared to support with weapons and money any attempt by natives to dispossess the white population there.
UPDATE: Now needless to say, this would have been politically untenable in England. And, of course, as a person of conscience I wouldn’t recommend doing it. Even on a strategic level, this kind of policy wouldn’t make sense — Britain’s interests are best-served by training to stay on good terms with the colonies, ideally by reaching a compromise that keeps them in the empire, but failing that by letting them go independent and just making sure they don’t become a pawn of some rival power. In general, the best policy when faced with a country that doesn’t wants your country to just go away is to go away and try to secure your interests from afar.
Photo by Flickr user Cernavodo used under a Creative Commons license
I’m going to be on Wisconsin NPR with Joy Cardin at 7AM Central Time tomorrow morning to talk about “The Case for Partisanship”.