Chris Hayes sheds a tear for today’s beleaguered would-be home purchaser with only $2 million to spend.
“There is a broad consensus, from McCain/Lieberman, to Friedman/Pollack, even to Zinni/Batiste, that the consequences of an Iraq withdrawal, precipitate or otherwise, are profoundly dismal,” writes Gregory Djerejian, “But would quitting Iraq, over 20 months, say (logistics likely require such a protracted time-frame), be so terrible, unleashing regional conflict, genocide and other horribles?” His answer is “perhaps not” and I’d recommend his entire post.
Another way of making the point is, as Atrios suggested yesterday, with reference to the concept of “sunk costs.” Most of the bad consequences that will or might follow from withdrawal are, in fact, costs that have already been incurred. It’s true, for example, that our credibility will take a hit, but there’s genuinely nothing we can do to avoid that. Clearly, deploying our Pony Locator would avoid it, but had we a working model it would have been deployed long ago at this point. Moving to withdraw our forces as soon as that’s practical, by contrast, lets us move as swiftly as possible to damage control and trying to rebuild our assets (military, diplomatic, etc.) around the world.
On Monday, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman sent a letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), rebuffing her requests for Pentagon briefings to Congress on the administration’s plans for redeployment. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda,” wrote Edelman. Yesterday, Clinton sent a new letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In a new statement, Gates responds, but does not promise congressional briefings:
I have long been a staunch advocate of Congressional oversight, first at the CIA and now at the Defense Department. I have said on several occasions in recent months that I believe that Congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate. I had not seen Senator Clinton’s reply to Ambassador Edelman’s letter until today. I am looking into the issues she raised and will respond to them early next week.
As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) plan to introduce legislation requiring the Pentagon to brief Congress on redeployment plans.
I read this paper by Shadi Hamid when it came out last month, but forgot to blog it. I think Hamid somewhat overstates the case that lack of democracy is the key political grievance in the Muslim world, but it’s certainly an important grievance and this is a much more realistic take on what “democracy promotion” would entail than what one normally sees:
This report calls for a new U.S. policy for the Middle East that unequivocally gives democratic reform priority over so-called “stability.” To be credible, however, such a policy must recognize and engage mainstream Islamist parties, which often offer the most effective and organized opposition to the region’s autocratic regimes. Whether we like it or not, such parties are often seen as more legitimate champions of popular aspirations than more secular and liberal groups. The United States, of course, should not engage Islamist groups that refuse to foreswear terrorism or whose commitment to democracy expires the moment they actually win power. But our government must become much more sophisticated in its ability to distinguish mainstream and extremist varieties of political Islam, and in dealing with groups that have a genuine interest in democratic reform. To isolate extremists and cultivate democracy in the region, America must enter into dialogue with political Islam.
Unfortunately, the hostile reaction Turkey’s AKP Party — probably the Islamist political party the US establishment should find easiest to swallow — has me pretty skeptical. In some ways I wish conservative types would just concede Andrew’s point that there’s a large “Christianist” strain in US conservatism, argue that there’s nothing wrong with that, and then recognize that in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, any populist political movements are bound to take on an Islamist form whether or not Americans find that to be an appealing vision.
Photo by Flickr user Khoogheem used under a Creative Commons license
The New York Times writes this morning that conservatives are trying to walk a fine line between supporting and distancing themselves from President Bush:
There is little question that the winds of discontent are stirring among Republicans on Capitol Hill over the direction of the Iraq war. A majority, of course, continued to support President Bush with their votes this week during the latest Iraq debate. But several Republicans no longer whisper, or walk away, when asked about their skepticism.
One of those conservative trying to strike this delicate balance is Sen. John Sununu (R-NH). “Sununu has faced criticism for his stance on Iraq, with critics charging he is too close to President Bush on war policy.” This week, he voted to filibuster the Levin-Reed amendment.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Sununu said that, despite standing with Bush on the war, he would not want the President to campaign with him. Asked if Bush would be an effective campaigner, Sununu said, “No, I think the President’s popularity unfortunately is at a fairly low level.” Sununu added that he’d be better off campaigning alone than with President Bush. Watch it:
“Bush campaigned for Sununu twice in 2002, including one visit three days before the election. First Lady Laura Bush visited the state two days before the Nov. 5, 2002, contest.”
The U.S. Joint Forces Command has paid $400,000 for a report to improve the “brand” of U.S. military operations worldwide. According to the study, “since the U.S. military invaded Iraq in 2003, its ‘show of force’ brand has proved to have limited appeal to Iraqi consumers” and “a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been ‘We will help you.’”
The AP reports, “Bush reclaimed his presidential powers and duties at 9:21 a.m. EDT. The transfer of power took place with letters Bush sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., president pro tempore of the Senate. Bush reclaimed the powers with follow-up letters once the colonoscopy had ended.”
While I wait for the mailman to bring me my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows I’ve had some time to consider the views of my roommate and highbrow arts critic on the great Potter controversy:
On the millions of copies that will be purchased at midnight by readers seeking the final say, Charles observes: “There’s something thrilling about that sort of unity, except that it has almost nothing to do with the unique pleasures of reading a novel: that increasingly rare opportunity to step out of sync with the world, to experience something intimate and private.” Too true. Slicing an apple affords none of the benefits of peeling an orange.
But his argument has a tinge of disingenuousness to it. After all, he asks, “How could the ever-expanding popularity of Harry Potter take place during such an unprecedented decline in the number of Americans reading fiction?” Why should he care? Charles privileges a private, reader/author relationship—but then laments that it isn’t shared by all. He strenuously objects to the thing that’s popular, but not to popularity on principle.
It does sound a lot like a high-school narrative—the sort you shouldn’t want to read.
I think I may be too lowbrow to understand that.
This is several days old, but Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop has the lowdown on NBA-related political contributions. Inept Celtics GM Danny Ainge is backing Mitt Romney, but so is Daryl Morel who seems to be doing a good job in Houston. Outside the box coaching superstar Mike D’Antoni is backing John Edwards, as is Charles Barkley. Barack Obama has the most player support, including from Starbury, Baron Davis, and Shane Battier. Tons of owner-love for Hillary Clinton, including evil ones like Paul Allen and James Dolan.
Isaac Chotiner is leafing through Steve Hayes’ opus on Dick Cheney so you don’t have to and uncovers an interesting anecdote, in which Cheney’s staff is briefing him for an appearance on Chris Wallace’s Fox News show and ask him if he agreed with the president’s decision to sack Don Rumsfeld. “‘Absolutely not,’ Cheney replied without elaborating. His answer surprised the small group with him, but it was the answer he was determined to give if Wallace asked, even at the risk of angering his boss.”
Wallace didn’t ask the question, so nothing ever came of it.