The San Francisco Chronicle reports that record numbers of college students “are lining up for financial aid – and asking for more of it – as the nation’s economic woes hit campuses across the country.” Across the country, “8.9 million students filed federal student aid forms during the first half of 2008, a 16.3 percent increase over the same period last year.” In California alone, 999,594 students requested federal financial aid during the first half of 2008, up 20 percent from last year.
It’s heartbreaking, but even more infuriating, to read so many Georgians quoted in the New York Times—officials, soldiers, and citizens—wondering when the United States is coming to their rescue. It’s infuriating because it’s clear that Bush did everything to encourage them to believe that he would. When Bush (properly) pushed for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, Putin warned that he would do the same for pro-Russian secessionists elsewhere, by which he could only have meant Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin had taken drastic steps in earlier disputes over those regions—for instance, embargoing all trade with Georgia—with an implicit threat that he could inflict far greater punishment. Yet Bush continued to entice Saakashvili with weapons, training, and talk of entry into NATO. Of course the Georgians believed that if they got into a firefight with Russia, the Americans would bail them out.
This highlights, I think, some of the limits of the kind of bluff-and-bluster approach to foreign policy that seems popular among conservatives these days. Or, rather, it highlights the fact that popular as bluster-based policymaking is on the American right it can have some extremely high costs and that, tragically, a large proportion of those costs can wind up being borne by the people who were nominally supposed to be the beneficiaries.
Earlier this spring, the Center for a New American Security issued an Iraq policy paper with an identity crisis, a paper that poses as an exit strategy but ultimately advocates a course of action that looks a lot like what the Bush administration and its conservative supporters have endorsed in Iraq.
At its core, the “conditional engagement” strategy, as described in the report Shaping the Iraq Inheritance, tries to carve out a “moderate middle” dependent on simplistic renderings of competing policy proposals on the left and the right. But it is important not to get distracted by the framing mechanism CNAS presents on Iraq; the core arguments of the CNAS suffer from four major internal inconsistencies and disconnections from key realities in Iraq and the Middle East.
1. The strategy of conditional engagement does not differ from the Bush administration’s current approach because it fails to clearly define — in precise terms — when the Iraq mission would be accomplished, and when U.S. troops could depart.
2. The strategy assumes that the carrots of continued military, economic, and political support are more appetizing then they are.
3. The strategy doesn’t describe how it would be implemented to achieve its stated ends, however vague those ends are.
4. The strategy is wedded to a narrow, bilateral, U.S.-Iraq prism at the expense of a broader regional view.
What these flaws ultimately reveal is an unrealistic vision for the future of the United States and Iraq, grounded in a narrow focus on U.S. military power as the main determinant of events on the ground. It ignores the complexities of Iraqi politics in favor of a simple military lever American leaders can pull to get the desired outcome. Ultimately, it is less a plan for achieving political progress in Iraq than it is a plan for staying in Iraq.
Because I am (technically) on vacation, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be linking directly to here are some excellent blog posts on subjects that I would normally blog on if I weren’t staring at the Atlantic Ocean several hours a day:
- “Earth To Jim Webb: The Emissions Are The Crisis“: Webb absurdly tells the Politico “We can’t just start with things like emission standards at a time when we’re at a crisis with the entire national energy policy.” The Wonk Room sets him straight.
- “And Al Gore Helps the Right, Yet Again” by OpenLeft and “Together, we can echo right-wing talking points: We campaign continues to shoot itself, and climate movement, in the foot” by Grist. ‘Nuff said.
Tonight I get to celebrate the end of my first day at the new job by checking out Rancid at the 9:30 Club. They’re one of my favorite bands of all-time but I haven’t seen them live in approximately forever. I even bought a new pair of classic Doc Martens to celebrate my transformation into a pathetic old man whose life is dominated by nostalgia. Meanwhile, like any good Rancid fan who’s also a transit fan, my favorite song is “Roots Radical” and last week while not blogging I got bored and looked up this map of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s 60 Bus. Behold:
As you can, indeed, head out of downtown Campbell. These days it seems the area is now also served by a light rail line though that may not have been the case at the time the song was written and I suppose only posers take light rail anyway.
When she should be traveling abroad to work with allies to deal with the ongoing fallout from Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has instead been “noticeably absent.” AFP reports she is busy with other plans:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also been noticeably absent on the diplomatic scene, having failed to interrupt her holidays to fly to Tbilisi in support of the Georgian government.
Instead senior State Department official, Matthew Bryza, who oversees the Caucasus region was sent, two days later than planned, to join a joint EU-US mediation effort to win a ceasefire.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Rice made more than 90 calls this weekend to discuss the situation in Georgia.
In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman argued that the “final hurdle facing health care reform is the risk that the next president and Congress will lose focus“:
There will be many problems crying out for solutions, from a weak economy to foreign policy crises. It will be easy and tempting to put health care on the back burner for a bit — and then forget about it.
But as Jason Rosenbaum of Health Care Reform For America Now! points out, it’s up to the majority of Americans who support health care reform to demand it. Indeed, “82% of Americans think our health care system needs a “major overhaul” and “over 90% of Americans think the next President and Congress should improve the quality, affordability and of health care”
It’s time for the American people to join together and demand “quality, affordable health care for all”:
Quite simply, with rising health care costs (including $50 billion per year to pay for insurance industry advertising) being born out by working families and American businesses, health care is a top economic concern. To keep American workers at their best, and to keep American business competitive in the world, something has to change.
Nancy Pelosi has recently declared health care expansion to be #2 on her list of legislative priorities, right after ending the Iraq war. In the past month, tens of thousands of Americans have told us they want quality, affordable health care for all. Now it’s time to ask Congress.
Health Care For America Now! is calling on all Americans to contact their Congressional representatives “and ask them if they support our vision for health care reform.” Just click here and enter in your phone number and address. “Choose the elected official you want to talk to and in a few moments, we’ll call your phone and connect you automatically.”
I’ve sort of been worrying for a while that Google’s plethora of excellent web-based services has actually made the world dangerously dependent on a single firm. What if something were to go wrong? This afternoon, for example, Gmail’s not working and the world’s a-Twitter with panic.
Today marks two years since then-senator George Allen made a racial epithet against S.R. Sidarth, a campaign volunteer of Indian descent for Jim Webb. Coincidentally, Fox News brought on Allen today to talk about campaign politics, but made no mention of the ‘macaca’ anniversary.
Raising Kaine put together a two-year retrospective here.
This seems about the time to say that whatever my serious disagreements with the Russia hawks’ take on the overall context in which we should understand the Russia-Georgia conflict, Russia has now escalated beyond the point where there’s justification for what they’re doing. The Georgian have called for a cease-fire and have withdrawn from South Ossetia — under the circumstances there’s no legitimate reason for the Russians to keep advancing and attacking.