Sara tells me that children young enough to be appropriate targets for the mouse character and the pastel colors normally aren’t capable of following segments this long or this sort of conceptual vocabulary, for whatever it’s worth.
Today, Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi, a top Sunni leader, threatened to pull out of the government and withdraw his 44-member bloc from the Iraqi parliament if long overdue constitutional changes aren’t made by May 15th.
Al-Hashimi complained about the lack of progress in Iraq’s political transition and specifically asked for guarantees that Iraq would not be split into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish states.
This particular demand by the Sunni leader rejects ideas promoted by the likes of Council of Foreign Relations fellow Les Gelb and Brookings fellow Michael O’Hanlon, demonstrating that the so-called “soft partition” just won’t work in Iraq because it lacks support of a key group – Iraq’s Sunnis.
Instead, what is needed is a comprehensive plan for getting American troops out of Iraq’s civil war and working for a political settlement to Iraq’s conflict with intensified regional diplomacy, as detailed in the Center for American Progress’s Iraq plan, Strategic Redeployment.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more.
New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz says three things will change now that Sarkozy is President of France:
The third will be the initial experiment among the western powers in dethroning the cult of multiculturalism. Majorities have a right–even an obligation–to preserve their own ethics, norms, cultures and histories. They have a right to define the qualifications for membership in and even admission to their societies. This will be the struggle of the 21st century. And not just in France.
Obviously, Marty doesn’t like Arabs and Sarkozy’s given some indication that he feels the same way, but does he really think France of all places is in the grips of the “cult of multiculturalism”? France has probably the least multiculturalist, most assimilation-uber-alles policies of any democracy featuring a large immigrant population. The trouble in France is that their demands for integration . . . aren’t working, not that they aren’t being made. Indeed, Sarkozy has proposed that France adopt something like American-style affirmative action.
In the months after September 11, President Bush declared victory over the man he once pledged to capture “dead or alive” and began turning his focus to Iraq:
I am deeply concerned about Iraq. … I truly am not that concerned about [bin Laden]. … We shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. [President Bush, 3/13/02]
The results have been predictable: As the U.S. has been mired in an Iraqi civil war, bin Laden has slipped away from the crosshairs and is using his freedom to help al Qaeda resurge all over the Middle East. U.S. News reports this week that “bin Laden already has a safe haven in Pakistan — and may be stronger than ever” as al Qaeda “retains the ability to organize complex, mass-casualty attacks and inspire others.” Bin Laden is behind much of this resurgence:
The broader movement inspired by al Qaeda has only grown bigger, largely because of the group’s powerful propaganda machine. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have been able to fill in the gaps between their megaplots with a rising stream of smaller-scale, homegrown attacks.
Now, well over five years after 9/11, some administration officials are conceding they may have been too hasty in declaring victory over bin Laden:
Privately, U.S. officials concede that they had overestimated the damage they had inflicted on al Qaeda’s network. The captures of successive operational commanders, including 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, amounted only to temporary setbacks; they were replaced with disturbing ease. “We understand better how al Qaeda is withstanding the offensive that was launched against it in 2001 and later,” says a senior U.S. government official.
Bush is using the rise of al Qaeda as fodder to promote his misguided escalation plan in Iraq. He now claims that al Qaeda has made Iraq a central front in the war on terror, but al Qaeda leaders view Bush’s Iraq strategy as more opportunity to launch attacks against U.S. troops. “Iraq has, of course, been an undeniable boon for al Qaeda, both as a battleground and a rallying cause,” U.S. News adds.
Ben Smith points out that Joe Biden’s been waging war on the “war on terror” usage for some time now.
On March 12, 2007, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial entitled, “Do we really need a Gen. Pelosi?” Employing harsh rhetoric, the Times condemned efforts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to craft an Iraq redeployment bill:
House Democrats have brought forth their proposal for forcing President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008. The plan is an unruly mess: bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics. If the legislation passes, Bush says he’ll veto it, as well he should.
It’s absurd for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to try to micromanage the conflict, and the evolution of Iraqi society, with arbitrary timetables and benchmarks.
In just 55 days, the LA Times has undergone a full conversion on redeployment. In an op-ed Sunday, the Times wrote that, now, the “the time has come to leave“:
After four years of war, more than $350 billion spent and 3,363 U.S. soldiers killed and 24,310 wounded, it seems increasingly obvious that an Iraqi political settlement cannot be achieved in the shadow of an indefinite foreign occupation. The U.S. military presence — opposed by more than three-quarters of Iraqis — inflames terrorism and delays what should be the primary and most pressing goal: meaningful reconciliation among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
The U.S. should immediately declare its intention to begin a gradual troop drawdown, starting no later than the fall. The pace of the withdrawal must be flexible, to reflect progress or requests by the Iraqis and the military’s commanders.The precise date for completing the withdrawal need not be announced, but the assumption should be that combat troops would depart by the end of 2009.
The LAT is one of a number of papers that have recently gone from supporting the war to backing a pullout. E&P notes a few others. These papers reflect an unmistakable trend: Public opinion is solidifying behind a withdrawal, proponents of the war are breaking ranks, and Bush is becoming more isolated in his position over time.
Over the weekend, tornadoes touched down in six southwest Kansas counties, devastating the small town of Greensburg. At least eight people died and a Greensburg administrator “estimated that 95 percent of the town of 1500 was destroyed by Friday’s tornado.”
This morning on CNN, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) said that the state is missing vital National Guard equipment because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Usually the state has approximately 70-80 percent of its equipment at any given time, but it currently has just 40-50 percent. She added that these shortages “will just make it [recovery] that much slower.” Watch it:
According to a recent report by a congressional commission, nearly “90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated ‘not ready,” largely “as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars’ worth of equipment.” A January Government Accountability Office analysis found that the Pentagon “does not adequately track National Guard equipment needs for domestic missions” and as a consequence, “state National Guards may be hampered in their ability to plan for responding to large-scale domestic events.”
Transcript: Read more
One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers catches Bob Kagan playing a bit fast and loose with Obama’s speech. The best part is this. Obama concludes his thoughts on nuclear proliferation thusly:
Finally, if we want the world to deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must lead by example. President Bush once said, “The United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status – another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.” Six years later, President Bush has not acted on this promise. I will. We cannot and should not accept the threat of accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch. We can maintain a strong nuclear deterrent to protect our security without rushing to produce a new generation of warheads.
From this, Kagan gleans merely that Obama “talks about . . . maintaining ‘a strong nuclear deterrent.’” Which, of course, he does talk about — in the context of cutting the nuclear weapons budget and restoring reciprocity to the global nonproliferation bargain. The proliferation stuff was the best part of the speech — an area where rhetorical rubber hit the road and he came down on the right side. I genuinely wonder why Kagan thinks it’s a good idea to portray Obama as being on his side on nuclear issues when he isn’t — I don’t really buy the notion that it’s all part of some conspiracy to discredit him with Democratic voters.
Over at Brad DeLong’s site you can see a fascinating discussion of America’s Russia policy in the 1990s between DeLong, Martin Wolf, and Lawrence Summers. One remark I would make is that to an extraordinary extent, all three participants are willing to accept the premise that the only goal of US policy toward Russia in the 1990s was a good-faith effort to induce Russian prosperity, with such efforts being hampered by political constraints, the objective difficulty of the task, and pure policy errors.
In the real world, though, this is clearly not the case. Foreign policymakers and presidents — though perhaps not Treasury Department economists like Summers — concern themselves with questions of power politics. A prosperous Russia was seen as good for the United States, but not nearly so good as a Russia that was disinclined to object too strenuously US policy at the UN Security Council and other regional fora and that was willing to concede to the United States an equal (or even greater than equal) share of influence in Russia’s “near abroad.” This is a big part of the story of the relatively uncritical backing the Clinton administration provided to Boris Yeltsin — under his leadership, Russia didn’t attempt to assert itself on the world stage the way that Vladimir Putin, bolstered by oil revenue — has, and we wanted to keep it that way.
Naturally, this dynamic also tends to undercut political support for reforms. In a country like Poland that doesn’t see itself as a potential geopolitical rival to the United States and that sees (distant) American power as a useful check on nearby Russian and German power, people are willing to accept the idea that American advisors are really there to help. Russians, though, had seen their country locked in a decades-long battle for supremacy with the United States. Now Americans show up, pushing economic reforms, and those who feel that the reforms have made them worse off naturally wonder if the Americans aren’t deliberately trying to make Russia weak and poor.
In a 60 Minutes interview last night, CNN’s Lou Dobbs said that, while he has never explicitly called for the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants living in the United States, he believes it can be done.
“When this president and open-borders, illegal-alien-amnesty advocates say, ‘You can’t deport them,’ my answer is, ‘You wanna bet?’ Because this is the United States,” Dobbs said.
Host Lesley Stahl followed up, “If you think it’s possible. How’s it possible?” Said Dobbs: “I think this country can do anything it sets its mind to.” Watch it:
To quell the rising clamor of those like Dobbs who suggest mass deportation, the Center for American Progress produced the first-ever estimate of the costs of a policy designed to deport all undocumented persons currently in the United States. The July 2005 study found it would cost at least $206 billion over a five-year period. The report concluded:
The cost assessment presented in this report hopefully illustrates the false allure of adopting a mass deportation policy as a response to the challenges threatening our immigration system. The costs of a massive deportation policy would not only be substantial, but in many ways, financially reckless. Implementing such a policy would seriously jeopardize our commitment to secure the homeland and pay for our commitments overseas, as well as threaten other vital national priorities.
The non-financial costs associated with mass deportation may be even more painful. The AP notes the “hidden side” of the government’s stepped-up efforts to track down and deport illegal immigrants: “When illegal-immigrant parents are swept up in raids on homes and workplaces, the children are sometimes left behind — a complication that underscores the difficulty in enforcing immigration laws against people who have put down roots and begun raising families in the U.S. More than 3.1 million American-born children have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant.
Dobbs appears too willing to muster the national will to waste financial resources and permanently fracture American society.
A nice Los Angeles Times editorial unendorses the surge in Iraq, and makes most of the points that need to be made about the futility of the continued American military presence in Iraq.
Bush and al-Qaeda sitting in the tree:
“This bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap,” al-Zawahri said, according to a transcript released by the monitoring group SITE. The bill is evidence of American “failure and frustration,” he added.
“We ask Allah that they (U.S. troops) only get out of it after losing 200,000 to 300,000 killed, in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson,” he said.
For the sake of intellectual honesty and consistency, let’s note that one can conclude nothing whatsoever from the mere fact that Zawahiri is saying this. Mass murderers are also known to lie and even to make analytical errors. That Zawahiri says he wants us to stay is not, as such, a reason to leave any more than Zawahiri saying the reverse would be a reason to stay. Nevertheless, the reality is that Zawahiri’s stated analysis makes sense. The US troop presence in Iraq is enormously costly to the United States in a whole bunch of ways, and it’s a “good issue” for al-Qaeda; one that presents a fundamentally favorable context in which for al-Qaeda to attack Americans.
You know how on TV cops arrest someone low-level then prosecutors try to flip him to convict the higher-ups? Jim Henley notices that when it comes to military investigators looking into misconduct in Iraq things go the other way ’round.
Continuing on the Sarkozy theme what, exactly, is supposed to be the significance of the man’s alleged “pro-American” views? The way my colleague Andrew Sullivan put it is that “Sarko is not a visceral anti-American, unlike many of his peers” and “In that sense, we have gained a new and stronger ally in the war against Islamism.” Now my recollection of events is that the whole idea that Europe in general and France in particular was full of “visceral anti-Americans” is that many European governments and the vast majority of European citizens took the view that an invasion and occupation of Iraq was unlikely to produce beneficial results.
In that opinion they were, of course, vindicated.
So what is it that we think Sarkozy will do — follow the United States blindly into a new war? It seems not. Sarkozy addressed France’s American friends by saying “I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need her, but that friendship is also accepting the fact that friends can think differently.” And, of course, under Jacques Chirac’s presidency France did cooperate with the United States in Afghanistan and has cooperated with us broadly on intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism. So what’s the difference supposed to be?