I spent a decent portion of the afternoon wandering the halls, slightly dazed at the notion that out there in the MSM a controversy was raging over Barack Obama saying he could rule out the idea of using nuclear weapons to fight al-Qaeda. Hillary Clinton, it seems, disagrees. But why on earth would you use nuclear weapons to fight al-Qaeda? You use nukes to destroy large portions of cities. Remember counterinsurgency?
From a Democratic staffer on the Hill:
Just about every Republican in the Iraq debate on the House floor today has cited and read from the O’Hanlon/Pollack op-ed to argue that we are making significant progress in iraq. Many Republicans have called them “left-wing scholars”, as in “even lefties O’Hanlon and Pollack say we are winning.”
Just sayin’……that is the political effect of that op-ed……which makes it even more infuriating given that both O’Hanlon and Pollack have walked it back since it was published.
Speaking of walking it back, here’s O’Hanlon talking to Mark Mazzetti:
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. OHanlon said the article was intended to point out that the security situation was currently far better than it was in 2006. What the American military cannot solve, he said, are problems caused by the inability of Iraqis to forge political solutions. Ultimately, politics trumps all else, Mr. OHanlon said. If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued, I dont see how I could write another Op-Ed saying the same thing.
To reiterate something that may have gotten lost, O’Hanlon’s not just a guy who writes op-eds, he’s a job seeker regarded as having a good chance of securing a major post in the next Democratic administration.
As I hope I’ve made clear, I wasn’t a huge fan of Barack Obama’s Pakistan gambit. Nor, though, do I think much of Jerome Armstrong’s somewhat unhinged reaction to the same: “Adding Pakistan to the list of countries that the US does unilateral military action in isn’t going to solve a damn thing. The only real solution for our role in their region is to get off their oil, get out of their countries, and work with other nations to promote global accord.”
I’m quite sympathetic to Armstrong’s overall diagnosis of the strategic situation, in that I regard de-imperializing our role in the Middle East as vital. Nevertheless, though killing or capturing high-value al-Qaeda targets isn’t sufficient as the be-all and end-all of American foreign policy, it’s surely worth doing all the same. Helpful, even! Letting Osama bin Laden get away really was a giant Bush administration screw up, and nailing him and his colleagues really should be an important priority.
Jason Zengerle, in a related post, refers to Armstrong as a “netroots grand poobah,” which reminds me that one big question I want to write on during YearlyKos is the issue of to what extent the erstwhile netroots leadership really commands any troops. Obviously, I think, the views of online political junkies and activists have some weight, but when Armstrong takes an against-the-grain view like that only Chris Dodd has an acceptably pacifistic view of al-Qaeda, does that move anything? I’m pretty skeptical.
I would be remiss if I didn’t link to my op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times:
The United States is now well into the fifth year of a war in Iraq that has, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, managed to get more Americans killed than 9/11 while alienating global opinion, undermining our strategic posture around the world, arguably speeding nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran and detracting from American efforts against Al Qaeda. The nation’s elites, ever vigilant, have located the source of the problem: Public outrage over the sorry situation.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
Isaac Chotiner steps in with a timely intervention in my debate on Somalia with James Kirchick, correctly pointing out that a lot of military might be “justified” in the sense that if you could pull them off in a reasonably non-fiascoish manner they seem like reasonable things to do, “but this is leaps and bounds away from saying that armed reprisal is the right or proper course of action.” Indeed. What’s more, it’s traditionally been recognized that this sort of pragmatic calculus isn’t merely a pragmatic issue, but is actually constitutive of engaging in a just use of force — you can’t inflict the suffering and death and destruction that war always causes on a whim, or even out of justified pique, you need to have some decent prospects of success.
Mike Crowley reports on a mystery lunch he attended yesterday with Republican Senator X:
On Iraq, this senator said he expects that, come September and the Petraeus-Crocker report, the White House will announce “a transition to a new approach.” He thinks that will involve a non-trivial drawdown of troops, and a returned emphasis to training Iraqi forces, though he wasn’t too clear beyond that. He also said such a shift would head off any possible collapse in congressional GOP support for the war.
I say: Eh. I feel like I’ve heard about this imminent drawdown before. My sense is that it was going to be executed around mid-2004 in order to shore up the GOP position before the fall elections. And, sure, their position is worse now than it was then. But Bush was actually on the ballot. Kevin Drum seems to be a believer on the somewhat odd grounds that “Petraeus and Crocker plainly won’t be able to report any political progress in Iraq. After all, there hasn’t been any yet, and the Iraqi parliament is on vacation for the next month. What’s more, even on the military front Petraeus will be unable to claim anything but the slimmest progress.”
That seems clearly wrong to me. The genius thing about the facts is that they can support almost anything. You can say. “We’ve seen exciting signs of progress in Iraq. Describe one tactical military success, describe another, do so in great detail, here’s a third, etc. Follow Pollack and O’Hanlon in discussing morale and subject factors. Describe another tactical military success in some detail. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. This part goes on and on for pages. On the political front, progress has been more limited, but there are some signs of progress and I’m going to list two of them right now.” Bam! Optimistic report, why do you hate America? Or, you could look at the same facts and dwell on the ways in which tactical military successes are irrelevant and the political situation is worse than ever. So far, every time the Bush administration has reported on Iraq it’s been with relentlessly upbeat spin and I see no reason to think that’ll change.