… so, Matt, what’s your book about? It’s a good question. The answer, in short, is that the theory and practice of progressive national security politics and policy. In particular, it advances the argument that the political problem for contemporary progressives has been a failure to convince the American public that the Democratic Party offers a coherent and viable approach to national security policy. It denies that the issue here is that liberals need to “get tough” or some such thing. Rather, the problem has been a failure to advance a principled and coherent alternative to Bush-style hegemonism.
For the first time, a Defense Department university has elected an openly gay student council president.
The student body of Uniformed Services University (USU), which includes uniformed personnel in the armed forces, this week voted for Patrick High to represent graduate students at the school. High served nine years in the Illinois Army National Guard and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at USU.
His election “is just the latest in a series of signs that those serving in our armed forces are ready to welcome openly gay colleagues,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Some other recent signs of progress:
– “Earlier this summer, a West Point graduate received a prestigious academic award for his thesis opposing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.”
– In May, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.), the first woman to achieve the rank of three-star general in the Army, called for repeal of the law, saying it is “a hollow policy that serves no useful purpose.”
Rumsfeld on Iraq War Critics: ‘Quitters’ Who ‘Blame America First’ And ‘Cannot Stomach A Tough Fight’
Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech in Reno, Nevada to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Rumsfeld could have taken the opportunity to address the critical challenges of the war in Iraq: the security situation in Baghdad, mounting U.S. military and Iraqi civilian casualties and out-of-control costs.
Instead, he took the opportunity to repeatedly attack — implicitly and explicitly — anyone who dares to criticize the administration’s “stay the course” policy. Some excerpts:
– “And while some argue for tossing in the towel, the enemy is waiting and hoping for us to do just that. Early on, I learned from my dad — a veteran of World War II — that if you start quitting things, pretty soon you’ve become a quitter.”
– “Surely by now we have learned the lesson that when our country gives our troops a mission, they should have the resources and support to finish the job. And surely, we have learned the dangers of giving the enemy the false impression that Americans cannot stomach a tough fight.”
– “I do worry about the lack of perspective in our national dialogue today — the perspective of history…Today we are engaged in conflicts that are again testing whether or not we believe that the defense of liberty is worth the cost.”
– “[W]e must keep a “Blame America First” mentality from undermining our efforts today in another long war against a determined enemy.”
Apparently, the problem isn’t that our strategy in Iraq is failing. It’s that the critics aren’t as macho as Donald Rumsfeld.
Most experts agree, in the event of a full-scale civil war in Iraq, there is no useful role for U.S. troops. (This position is even advanced by Bush administration officials.)
It is not the view, however, of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Yesterday on CNN, Lugar said that U.S. troops should remain in Iraq if a full-scale civil war breaks out. (Lugar acknowledged Iraq is “heading toward” that outcome.) According to Lugar, “The idea, somehow, that civil war means that we leave is a non- starter, because Iraq’s physical integrity is important.” Watch it:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that putting “our troops in the middle of a civil war” would create a “slaughter of immense proportions.” Hagel added “The leadership in Congress will not put up with it.” It looks like Congressional leadership might put up with it afterall.
Transcript: Read more
Washington Post: “Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, said the Iraqi army maintained full control of the camp, even during the looting, and had managed to eject the thieves by early evening.”
How do you maintain full control of something during looting? It seems to me that full control implies no looting, and that looting entails loss of control.
As you may know, a while back I cowrote an article with my colleague Sam Rosenfeld called “The Incompetence Dodge.” The subject was folks who supported the Iraq War, then came to recognize it was a disaster, and then came to blame its disastrous nature on the ineptitude of the Bush administration. This, we argue, is a mistake — a dodge — an effort to avoid culpability for the fact that the basic concept and premises of the war were mistaken.
As several readers have pointed out, we seem to be seeing a new variant of this as Israelis sour on Ehud Olmert in the wake of the Lebanon War. In this instance, I think the case against the “incompetence” theory is even clearer. Lots of people around the world suggested that Israel’s campaign was ill-advised. And, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely none of us who said that made any reference to Olmert’s competence or lack thereof in framing our critiques. Then the war turned out more-or-less exactly as the skeptics predicted . . . skeptics who had nothing to draw on but a general analysis of the situation.
Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) is the latest member of Congress to advocate a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. Shays has visited Iraq 14 times. This morning on Fox, he said that the way for the United States to succeed in Iraq is to “incentivize the Iraqis” to take control of their own country. The way to do that, according to Shays, is to let them know “there is a limit to our presence there.”
Shays noted that previous timelines — to hold elections and create a constitution — are what has spurred the greatest progress in Iraq. Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
Iran and India are making nearly identical arguments to justify pushing ahead with their respective nuclear programs.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that nuclear power is Iran’s right and “no one will stop us” developing the country. “¦ “They are trying to deny our right to develop nuclear power. But no one can impose anything on the Iranian people.” “¦ “Our main task is to develop and build the Iranian nation. No one will stop us.” Iran has insisted it is enriching uranium to generate electricity from nuclear power.
India’s prime minister said Wednesday the country would retain its right to carry out future nuclear tests despite a civilian nuclear deal with the United States, a news report said. “There is no scope for capping of our strategic (nuclear) program. It will be decided by the people, government and Parliament of the country and not by any outside power,” Press Trust of India quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying in a statement in Parliament.
While Iran’s refusal to guarantee that it will not proceed with a nuclear weapons program has elicited calls from Bush for tough sanctions against that country, India’s refusal to make a similar guarantee has not elicited a response from the administration.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel, is undoubtedly a greater immediate security threat to the world than the Indian government. But the U.S.’s contradictory message undermines the argument against the Iranian threat. Read more
The President has called up 2,500 inactive Marine reservists for involuntary duty to make up for manpower shortages. Even though many Marines have already served three tours in Iraq, the Marine Corps came up 1,200 volunteers short of its requirements. Defense commentator Fred Kagan from the conservative American Enterprise Institute put it bluntly:
It is one of an avalanche of symptoms that the ground forces are overstretched by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. … This administration needs to understand this is not a short-term problem, and it really needs a systemic fix in the size of the ground forces.
But the Marines are not just short manpower. A report released today by the Center for American Progress shows that the war in Iraq is increasingly taking its toll on the equipment of the Marine Corps. Vehicles like the Humvee and M1A1 tanks built to last for 15 years or more are wearing out in less than five. The cost to replace and repair the equipment damaged and destroyed is enormous – more than $5 billion a year.
To make up for the equipment shortfalls, the Marines have been taking equipment from units outside of Iraq and from their strategic reserves. Unable to train with the equipment that they will be using in combat, the readiness of Marine Corps units outside of Iraq are suffering.
This Richard Cohen column reads almost like a joke. It’s 1938! It’s 1938! Appeasement! Appeasement! Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, at a minimum, pull this schtick off with a certain rhetorical flair. Cohen doesn’t even seem to be paying attention. In-depth diavlogging discussion of the use and abuse of historical analogies here.
In general, I’m against these kinds of analogies. Marx and Hegel aside history does not, in fact, repeat. Analogies to 1938 are especially pernicious. Adolf Hitler is, obviously, a very noteworthy historical figure and WWII a noteworthy period in world history. This is precisely because the things that happened during them time were extreme, weird, and largely unprecedented they idea that they’re constantly recurring or likely to recur is odd.
President Bush, today:
Today, I’m announcing that America will send more aid to support humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon, for a total of more than $230 million. These funds will help the Lebanese people rebuild their homes and return to their towns and communities. … America is making a long-term commitment to help the people of Lebanon because we believe every person deserves to live in a free, open society that respects the rights of all.
While Bush made sure to hype the increase in the U.S. commitment to Lebanon (from the original $50 million), this amount still pales in comparison to U.S. spending in Iraq. $230 million is less than what the administration spends each day in Iraq ($267 million). A recent study by Foreign Policy/CGD also shows that out of the world’s 21 richest countries, the U.S. ranks just 19th in foreign aid. Iran, on the other hand, has reportedly said that it would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.
Bush today said he understands that “failed states in the Middle East are a direct threat to our country’s security,” but in reality, the administration is too bogged down in Iraq to seriously commit aid to other states.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said that Iraq is in a “very defined civil war” and that the Middle East is “the most unstable we’ve seen since 1948.” He also reiterated that the United States needs to begin withdrawing troops within the next six months because staying the course just continues to “kill Americans and put Americans in the middle of a civil war that we have less and less control and influence over every day.”
Full transcript below: Read more
Over the past few months, neoconservatives have pushed for military action against Iran, recycling pre-Iraq war arguments that military force would “trigger changes” in the country and result in regime change. “Why wait?” Bill Kristol asked in the July edition of the Weekly Standard. “Any way you cut it,” Herbert London of the Hudson Institute wrote, “military force seems like the most likely stratagem for success.”
Yesterday, a distinguished group of 22 former military and diplomatic leaders urged the Bush administration to ignore the neocons and instead “engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions.” (View the list of signees HERE.) The full text of their letter:
Words not War, A Statement on Iran, August 2006
As former military leaders and foreign policy officials, we call on the Bush administration to engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions to help resolve the current crisis in the Middle East and settle differences over the Iranian nuclear program.
We strongly caution against any consideration of the use of military force against Iran. The current crises must be resolved through diplomacy, not military action. An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq, and it would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims elsewhere.
A strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran will serve the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and would enhance regional and international security.
These leaders join a long list of people who think there are no good military options in Iran.
Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its budget projections, estimating the deficit will rise to $286 billion in fiscal 2007, up from this year’s $260 billion projected deficit. Moreover, the long-term outlook remains bleak; total deficits over the next decade are estimated at $1.7 trillion.
The CBO offers an analysis of the impact that the Iraq war will have on future deficit numbers based on different policy options we could pursue. The highlighted numbers in the chart below compare the impact on the deficit between a “stay the course” strategy and a phased withdrawal. The numbers make for a strong economic argument for redeployment.
A phased withdrawal would save $416 billion on the deficit over the next four years and $1.28 trillion over the next decade. On the other hand, a strategy of “stay the course” will increase the deficit by $313 billion over the next four years and $1.3 trillion over the next decade.
In the wake of a federal district court ruling that the NSA domestic spying program is unconstitutional, the administration may now shift attention to compromise legislation offered by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). CNN’s White House correspondent Ed Henry reports:
This [ruling], if anything, could really provide a spark for Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Chairman, who has been critical of this program and has been trying to craft some sort of compromise legislation on the Hill — that could give the administration the cover it feels it needs to push this program forward while also trying to appease Democrats a bit in terms of the legality of the program and whether you need warrants.
The Specter bill is not a compromise, “but a full-fledged capitulation on the part of the legislative branch to executive claims of power.” Bush would receive a “blank check” to continue operating the program. Here are a few reasons why the Specter “compromise” is a sham:
1) Nothing in the Specter legislation requires the Attorney General to obtain court approval before engaging in electronic surveillance. The compromise makes optional what Bush is already required to do.
2) Section 801 of the Specter bill includes the following statement: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers.” The provision would reserve the right for the president to do an end-run around any procedures that FISA offers as long as he claims inherent authority under the Constitution.
3) The Specter “compromise” scraps the individualized suspicion standard required under the Fourth Amendment, instead allowing the FISA court to authorize the entire NSA surveillance program. Thus, the Specter legislation would presumably allow U.S. persons to be spied upon simply because the spying program was at one time deemed constitutional.
The administration has the burden of demonstrating why it cannot comply with current law — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). And until it can do so, no sham “compromises” should be struck.
UPDATE: Some commenters have questioned whether the Specter legislation is relevant, given that the judge ruled the program unconstitutional. I argue the constitutional claims are based on the violation of FISA, and thus, Specter’s attempts to change FISA are still relevant.
Fox News reports a federal district court in Detroit has ruled that the Bush administration’s NSA warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.
A separate federal district court in San Francisco had previously rejected the administration’s argument that the courts could not hear the case due to a “state secrets” privilege. The lawsuits have alleged that NSA program violated the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as a number of federal statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The defendants included AT&T and the federal government.
Check back for more updates.
In this case, the President has acted, undisputedly, as FISA forbids. FISA is the expressed statutory policy of our Congress. The presidential power, therefore, was exercised at its lowest ebb and cannot be sustained.
UPDATE II: Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner blasts the decision as a “terrorist-friendly ruling.”
UPDATE III: A copy of the injunction HERE. It enjoins the administration from “directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program.”
UPDATE IV: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: “We couldn’t disagree more with this ruling, and the Justice Department will seek an immediate stay of the opinion and appeal.”
Yesterday on Fox News’ Dayside, panelists Michael Gross, a constitutional law attorney, and conservative radio host Mike Gallagher debated whether profiling is the answer to fighting terror. As Newshounds first noted, Gallagher argued, “It’s time to have a Muslims check point line in American airports and have Muslims be scrutinized. You better believe it.” Gallagher’s suggestion was met with tepid applause from the audience. Watch it.
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush visited an Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. and delivered the following message to the American public:
America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. “¦ And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.
Bush would do well to remind some members of his conservative base of this message.
Full transcript: Read more
This morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, former President Bill Clinton explained Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s position on invading Iraq “is the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position,” and one that nearly all progressives disagree with. Clinton characterized the Lieberman position as: “I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.” Watch it.
According to a recent World Public Opinion Poll, 71 percent of Americans said that the US should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have WMD, while just 27 percent said that the US should still have gone to war with Iraq for other reasons.
Full transcript below: Read more
George Will does the unthinkable and not only attacks George W. Bushs approach to national security, but even offers praise for John Kerry, saying he was right to say “that although the war on terror will be ‘occasionally military,’ it is ‘primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world’” while his critics are engaged in a “farrago of caricature and non sequitur mak[ing] the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional.”
But under Ahmadinejad, ordinary Iranian citizens are increasingly unable to start their own blogs:
Iranian authorities are stepping up arrests and pressure on popular bloggers as part of a wider Internet clampdown launched after hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president last year, ending years of freewheeling Web access that once made Iran among the most vibrant online locales in the Middle East.
The Internet censors are busy. Their targets include sexual content, international politics, local grumbling, chat rooms and anything else that makes the Islamic leadership uneasy. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights lawyer, estimates at least 50 bloggers have been detained since last year.
We’re guessing the government censors will leave Ahmadinejad’s new blog alone.