As Scott Lemieux says there is a real obstacle to “getting things done” legislatively in the United States, and it’s not partisanship, it’s the institutions of American government which are specifically designed to operate in a small-c conservative manner. Many people think this is a good thing. My view is that it’s a bad thing. But either way, it’s a fundamental aspect of our politics — we operate in a system with many more veto points than exist in many other countries. If you worry that not enough “gets done” that’s where you need to point the blame.
Earlier this month, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee embarrassed himself when he was completely unaware of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.
Days later, Huckabee defended his gaffe by misrepresenting the timeline of his mistake, quipping that the “report was released at 10:00 in the morning, the president hadn’t seen it in four years and I’m supposed to see it four hours later.
In a recent interview with Time’s Michael Scherer, Huckabee misrepresented the NIE timeline again:
That particular day [when the NIE came out], which I thought it was a little bit ridiculous to talk about, the report came out at 10 in the morning and it was like five in afternoon.
As Scherer points out in an editorial aside, the report “came out Monday Dec. 3. Huckabee was first asked about it in the evening of Dec. 4.” In fact, the NIE was released in the early afternoon on Dec. 3, which means Huckabee had nearly a day and a half to learn of the blockbuster new report before being queried on it.
Huckabee’s continued bamboozlement of the NIE timeline is yet another example of his glaring incompetence on key foreign policy issues.
Just this week, after former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Huckabee bumbled twice in his knowledge of Pakistan, falsely claiming that the country was still under “continued” martial law and that Pakistan has “eastern borders” with Afghanistan.
Jackson Diehl starts his latest column on a promising note: “For five years Washington-based officials and pundits have repeatedly made the mistake of predicting that the next six or 12 months in Iraq would be decisive.” He then, however, just goes on to engage in the same fallacy: “Yet, for once, saying that the next six to 12 months will win or lose the war just might be right.” And it becomes even less promising from there:
The number of American soldiers in Iraq started coming down last month. By July it will have dropped from the peak of 180,000 it reached briefly in November to 130,000, or 15 brigades, the force level before the surge. The Pentagon has until March to judge how Iraqis react to the initial withdrawals — whether violence in volatile places such as Anbar province remains low or escalates again as U.S. troops depart. Then another decision will be made, on whether to reduce the force by five more brigades, to a total of about 100,000 troops, by the end of 2008.
This decision ought to be based entirely on whether Iraq’s progress can continue with an American force 40 percent smaller than it was at the surge’s peak. But external politics is already intruding: Gen. George Casey, the architect of the failed U.S. military strategy in Iraq pre-Petraeus, is already pushing for the full reduction, on the grounds that the Army needs to reduce its exposure in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose strategic preoccupation has been arriving at a force level in Iraq that could win bipartisan acceptance in Washington, has said publicly that he’d like to hit the 100,000 target.
The idea that America’s policy toward Iraq “ought to be based entirely” on conditions in Iraq, and that anything else constitutes the intrusion of “external politics” is really foolish. When considering US policy toward Iraq — or toward Mexico or Afghanistan or Kenya or Pakistan or Russia or wherever else — we have to try to do the right thing all things considered. To observe that were we willing to commit an unlimited quantity of resources to the country for an unlimited period of time we might be able to improve conditions in Iraq is silly. Suppose we dedicated infinite resources to security and economic development in nearby Haiti? Or Jamaica — slightly further away, but conveniently inhabited by English-speakers? Our willingness to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in Jamaica forever and ever ought to be based entirely on the crime and unemployment rate of Kingston, but unfortunately external politics is already starting to intrude.
But, of course, nobody would write something like that. But if General Casey thinks we need to expeditiously reduce our force levels in Iraq to 100,000 in order to rescue the Army from dangerous “overexposure” to Iraq, isn’t that worth taking seriously on the merits? Diehl doesn’t seem to want to grapple with it, but Casey and the joint chiefs seem to me to believe that because it’s true. Now Diehl also says that if we reduce to that level, the security gains of the “surge” are likely to go away. I tend to agree with that as well. Which is what makes the surge so foolish — why embark on an unsustainable course of action? Certainly it’s what makes talk of the surge’s success so foolish. The goal, after all, was to put Iraq on a sustainable path. But the surge force levels aren’t sustainable. And the security gains are unlikely to be sustainable if we move our force levels to a sustainable level.
That’s not “external politics” meddling with a solid plan, it’s reality crashing down.
DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Mulligan, U.S. Navy
A recent Nature Geoscience study, “High rates of sea-level rise during the last interglacial period,” (subs. req’d) finds that sea levels could rise twice what the IPCC had project for 2100,. This confirms what many scientists have recently warned (and here), and it matches the conclusion of a study earlier this year in Science.
[As an aside, in one debate with a Denier -- can't remember who, they all kind of merge together -- I was challenged: "Name one peer-reviewed study projecting sea level rise this century beyond the IPCC." Well, now there are two from this year alone!]
For the record, five feet of sea level rise would submerge some 22,000 square miles of U.S. land just on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (farewell, southern Louisiana and Florida) — and displace more than 100 million people worldwide. And, of course, sea levels would just keep rising some 6 inches a decade, or, more likely, even faster next century than this century.
The researchers base their finding on their analysis of the rate of sea level rise during the last warm or interglacial period (the Eemian, about 120,000 years ago), when seas rose 1.6 meters (5 feet) per century. Why look at the rate of Eemian sea level rise? Becaause that’s the last time the planet was as warm as it soon will be again: “such rates of sea-level rise occurred when the global mean temperature was 2 °C higher than today, as expected again by AD 2100.”
Indeed, if we don’t reverse emissions’ trends very soon (and stay below 450 ppm of carbon dioxide), the planet might well warm 3°C or more by 2100. The Eemian warming was driven by “changes in orbital parameters from today (greater obliquity and eccentricity, and perihelion), known as the Milankovitch cycle.” Current warming is driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
Here is the entire abstract from the article — note that the Eemian is also called “Marine Isotope Stage 5“:
The new Atlantic has a really great article on The Wire by Mark Bowden that we’re releasing early — and for free — online in light of the pending debut of season five. Regular readers of this blog will probably be familiar with the stuff covered in the beginning of Bowden’s article — best show ever, etc. — but he goes quite a bit deeper than other profiles, getting into the ways in which the show, despite its “realism” departs quite a bit from reality but doesn’t suffer as drama as well as offering a real under-the-hood look at some of the Baltimore media issues that will be the subject of season five.
Bowden’s got a background in the Charm City newspaper world just like Simon and it gives him a perspective you don’t get elsewhere. Check it out.
I, for one, believe Daniel Pipes when he says he’s not a child molester. It does seem to me that widespread belief that he’s a child molester might hamper his career, but he says he’s no child molester so I’ll believe him when he says he doesn’t molest children.
Gil Jamieson, who for the past two years has overseen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, announced recently in an internal agency memo that he will retire on Thursday. Recovery efforts under Jamieson have been “widely criticized by local residents and officials who complain that FEMA has created a maze of red tape with its interpretation of laws governing disaster aid.” Soon after Katrina, Jamieson and other top FEMA officials countermanded “a directive” by the FEMA official then-in charge of streamlining the flow of disaster aid “that would have cut through the red tape and expedited a staggering 1,029 rebuilding projects and $5.3 billion.”
Last year, after two failed attempts earlier in life, I decided to quit smoking as my New Year’s resolution. I was a pretty heavy smoker, picked it up when I was sixteen, did about a pack a day through college, and then stepped it up to more like a pack and a half a day plus some more on top of that on heavy partying nights after I graduated. Thus far, I’ve been totally on the wagon, smoke free since around 4AM on 1 January 2007.
I’ve heard some complaints about it, but I actually think The New York Times‘s coverage of The New York Times‘s crazy decision to add Bill Kristol to their stable of op-ed columnists is pretty good:
Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.
In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”
I wonder what I need to say in order to get a column: Maybe the Times‘s editors should be detained without trial in Gitmo and tortured until they confess to deliberately running a second-rate newspaper in order to undermine American resolve. Does that work?
I’d never found Tariq Ali’s thoughts on international relations particularly enlightening, though he’s always had a great prose style. On the ins-and-outs of Pakistani politics, however, he’s been consistent must-reading throughout the crisis. The latest:
Some of us had hoped that, with her death, the People’s Party might start a new chapter. After all, one of its main leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Bar Association, played a heroic role in the popular movement against the dismissal of the chief justice. Mr Ahsan was arrested during the emergency and kept in solitary confinement. He is still under house arrest in Lahore. Had Benazir been capable of thinking beyond family and faction she should have appointed him chairperson pending elections within the party. No such luck.
The result almost certainly will be a split in the party sooner rather than later. Mr Zardari was loathed by many activists and held responsible for his wife’s downfall. Once emotions have subsided, the horror of the succession will hit the many traditional PPP followers except for its most reactionary segment: bandwagon careerists desperate to make a fortune.
It’s hard to tell if that prediction of a split should be read as a genuine prediction or else just an expression of what he hopes will happen, since it’s clear that Ali doesn’t care for Nawaz Sharif and views himself as a PPP supporter of sorts.