According to Mike Crowley, the Anti-Defamation League has decided to make common cause with Turkish genocide deniers out of recognition for Turkey’s friendly relationship with Israel. I completely understand that Israel foreign policy needs to be what Israeli foreign policy needs to be, but I completely fail to understand why major American Jewish organizations need to subvert their own commitments to come closer in line with the dictates of Israeli foreign policy.
Nibras Kazimi from the Hudson Institute is hearing coup rumors in Washington:
So the folks in Stephen Hadley’s NSC outfit are allegedly putting out the word that Meghan “Wanna-Be Ms. Bell” O’Sullivan, the White House’s political envoy to Baghdad, has lined up the necessary support to unseat current Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who would ostensibly be replaced by the former PM Ayad Allawi.
He points out, however, that “no one can pull-off a military coup in Iraq.” After all, Iraq notably lacks in security services that can effectively control the country. As Brian Ulrich says “Nibras Kazimi made an important point about this Allawi coup business that I’m just now seeing:
Seriously, how is this coup supposed to work? Is the United States supposed to do it openly? The Mahdi Army? Badr Brigades? The Kurdish peshmerga? What kind of reaction is this likely to get from the other factions? I suspect it won’t lead to national reconciliation.
Kazimi suspects that this is a way of trying to spook Nouri al-Maliki and his allies into compromising with the Sunni Arabs.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently visited Iraq with Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and reported that the escalation is “totally and utterly” failing to produce the political reconciliation needed.
The media is reporting Levin’s comments as validation of Bush’s strategy. Fox News spins Levin’s comments as “praise” for the “surge results.” ABC claims the comments are proof of “success of the surge.”
In fact, in a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Levin conceded that the troop increase has “resulted in some reduced violence in some places in Iraq,” but specifically said the troop increase has not accomplished its stated objective:
[T]he whole purpose of the surge was to reduce violence so that the Iraqi leaders would have the breathing room to reach political settlement. That was the stated purpose of the surge.
Well, that purpose has not been achieved, even though the level of violence has been reduced in a number of areas. The purpose of the surge, by its own terms, was to have the — give the opportunity to the Iraqi leaders to reach some political settlements. They have failed to do that. They have totally and utterly failed.
Listen to a portion of his remarks here:
Arguing that political reconciliation will not occur under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Levin called on the Iraqi parliament to replace him. “I hope that the Iraqi assembly, when it reconvenes in a few weeks, will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and a more unifying prime minister and government.”
Levin and Warner met with Gen. David Petraeus for 2 hours. Levin said that the situation in Iraq necessitates that the U.S. begin troop reductions within four months:
[I]t is clear to me that the capability that the Iraqi military now has and will have by the end of this year will allow us to begin reducing U.S. forces significantly below our pre-surge level. We should begin that reduction within four months. The increased Iraqi capability will also allow us to move most of our forces out of Iraq by the middle of next year and to transition the forces that need to remain to perform missions away from the civil war. [...]
I cannot believe, however, that the president is going to do anything less than reduce the level our troops to the pre-surge level, because the way in which our troops simply have been so stretched out that they have very little choice but to do that.
The much-anticipated Senate testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, regarding the situation on the ground in Iraq has now been scheduled for September 11th. Petraeus’ testimony will accompany a September 15 status report from the White House that is expected to be a key moment in the debate over American involvement in Iraq.
The timing of Petraeus’ testimony was first revealed this morning by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a conference call with conservative bloggers. According to the National Review’s Jim Geraghty, McCain said he had “been told” Petraeus would testify on the 11th:
The calendar I’ve been told is that Petraeus testify 11th. We’re off September 13 and 14 for Rosh Hoshannah. The Senate debate will begin September 18th.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed the testimony date during a press briefing on Air Force One today:
Q And the second one is, there’s been some confusion about the whens, hows, wherefores of the Crocker-Petraeus testimony to Congress. Can you say when they’re going to testify before Congress and under what conditions?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify in open hearings on the Hill. Administration officials are reaching out to Hill leadership today to discuss with them the potential dates for that testimony. Given the tight schedule leading up to September 15th and the congressional recess with Rosh Hashanah coming up, the likely dates for testimony are September 11th and 12th.
Q That’s really just because of the tight schedule and not because it’s September 11th?
MR. JOHNDROE: That’s right. Congress is not — as of right now, based on the last we checked, Congress is not in session because of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, very much the week leading up to that Saturday, September 15th.
Petraeus is mandated by Congress to testify about the Iraq status report before the document is delivered on September 15.
The Bush administration has regularly claimed that U.S. involvement in Iraq “will lead to a much safer world for our children and our grandchildren.” America’s foreign policy experts, however, strongly disagree.
In the third release of the “Terrorism Index,” a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy, a bipartisan group of more than 100 respected foreign policy experts see a more dangerous world and a war in Iraq that is “alarmingly” off course. Participants included senior government and intelligence officials, military commanders, and noted academics. Eighty percent have served in the government, including more than half in the executive branch, 32 percent in the military, and 21 percent in the intelligence community.
Their conclusions are deeply critical of the Bush administration’s national security priorities. The war in Iraq, however, received the harshest criticisms:
92 percent said the war in Iraq negatively affects national security.
53 percent oppose decision to increase troops in Iraq (up 22 points from six months ago).
68 percent favor redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq over the next 18 months.
64 percent of conservative experts say the surge is having either a negative impact or no impact. 25 percent of the conservatives favor immediate withdrawal.
Only five percent of the experts believe al Qaeda will be weaker as a result of the escalation, and only three percent believe Iraq will become a “beacon of democracy.”
On the terrorist threat:
84 percent believe the U.S. is not winning the war on terror.
91 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States.
80 percent favor sanctions or diplomatic measures to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
While the administration has frequently fearmongered that the terrorist threat will “follow us home” after withdrawal, the experts disagree. Eighty-eight percent — including 58 percent of conservatives — believe it is unlikely that “terrorist attacks would occur in the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.”
John Judis on the application of some psychological research to trends in American politics:
There is, however, one group of scholars–members of the relatively new field of political psychology–who are trying to explain voter preferences that can’t be easily quantified. The best general introduction to this field is Drew Westen’s recent book, The Political Brain, but the research that is perhaps most relevant to the 2004 election has been conducted by psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski. In the early 1980s, they developed what they clumsily called “terror management theory.” Their idea was not about how to clear the subways in the event of an attack, but about how people cope with the terrifying and potentially paralyzing realization that, as human beings, we are destined to die. Their experiments showed that the mere thought of one’s mortality can trigger a range of emotions–from disdain for other races, religions, and nations, to a preference for charismatic over pragmatic leaders, to a heightened attraction to traditional mores.
This seems in line with the American Environics data that Garance wrote about a while back which showed a large and rather sudden upsurge in patriarchal sentiments following 9/11. At any rate, I think there’s good reason to be a bit skeptical about the current faddish enthusiasm for Drew Westen (remember George Lakoff?), but it certainly is true that thinking about politics does seem unduly reliant on a particular mode of public opinion polling and could benefit from deeper engagement with contemporary psychological research.
How else to read these passages from their new editorial?
To designate the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, then, is to acknowledge reality. Yet there is something decidedly unrealistic in the idea that the Revolutionary Guard can be separated from the Iranian government as a whole. [...] For a variety of reasons — economic interest, anti-Americanism, and reflexive pacifism chief among them — it would prefer to avoid any bad blood with the Islamic Republic. Most of the U.S. State Department feels likewise. But the simple truth is that, unless Iran’s regime gives up both its terrorist ideology and its weapons, we will never be safe. The president has taken an important — albeit partial and overdue — step toward facing that unpleasant reality.
I doubt Iran’s regime is going to just abandon it’s ideology if George Bush asks them too, so I guess this counts as a call for us to invade Iran, overthrow its regime, and install in its place one that’s both more ideological acceptable and also prone to abandon the nuclear program that the Shah started and the Ayatollahs have continued. Strangely, though, the editorial doesn’t actually say any of those things, continuing the weird pattern of dissembling and doublespeak that’s characterized the Iran debate for years now. But if we can’t be safe without regime change, then surely we should invade and change the regime, right?
“Just because we’re not finding them doesn’t mean they’re not there,” says Major Alayne Conway of the dread Iranian infiltrators. By the same token, of course, maybe the insurgency is being fueled by Martians or Venezuelan space terrorists — after all, just because we’re not finding them doesn’t mean they’re not there. This is all from Chris Collins’ report for McClatchy which makes the evidence sound pretty thin:
Conway said that U.S.-led forces have not caught any of the Iranians, but she said military intelligence and recently discovered caches of weapons with Iranian markings on them indicate that the Iranians are there.
Lynch’s assertion is the latest in a series of accusations leveled by military officials against Iran. They have warned that Iraq’s neighbor is actively supplying Shiite insurgents – specifically, the Mahdi Army – with deadly weapons that have killed dozens of U.S. soldiers.
So there you have it. Given the vagaries of the small arms market and the fact that Iran is conveniently located next to Iraq, it’s hard to say what this is supposed to mean. The core point, however, remains that even if the full bill of particulars against Iran is true and they’re the primary source for EFPs and Mahdi Army weapons more generally (this last is plausible — their guns come from somewhere) it’s not at all clear why you’d think escalating the conflict with Iran would be the preferred solution. The US has already thrown way, way, way more of our assets into Iraq than has Iran — any escalation we undertake can be responded to and not necessarily to our advantage.
Rationally, the Iranian government can no more be indifferent to events in Iraq than we could be to a massive Iranian invasion force in the middle of a civil war in Mexico. We can either escalate to full-scale war with Iran, or we can reach some kind of agreement that takes care of both sides’ core interests.
If I may revise and extend my remarks on Benjamin Wittes slightly, I’d like to clarify that my view isn’t quite that “we have enough experience with this administration that it’s not wholly mysterious how unclear provisions might be interpreted.” This could be construed as a manifestation of the dread Bush Derangement Syndrome, but realistically the point is completely independent of the specific characteristics of this administration.
Laws like the semi-repealed FISA came into place because the Watergate investigation eventually uncovered a whole series of Nixon administration abuses of power that were, in important ways, continuous with abuses under the Johnson administration and in some ways going all the way back to FDR. Nixon was worse than the others, but what he did wasn’t totally out of left field. If we were merely talking about setting up the potential for Bush to do abusive things in some ways that wouldn’t be so bad since, after all, he won’t be president for much longer. But the next administration, of either party, isn’t going to be immune from the laws of human nature — given the opportunity, they’ll take about as much power as they think they can get away with taking.
Benjamin Wittes plays his appointed role as “liberal who agrees with conservatives about all the topics he writes about” (it seems shocking that Jeffrey Rosen wasn’t available) and defends the new wiretapping law:
To know whether the new law represents a strong long-term policy response to the technological changes now challenging FISA, I would have to know a lot more about the NSA’s surveillance technologies both in the 1970s and now than is public. I would want to know also how the NSA interprets phrases like “reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States” and how it means to handle situations in which such people turn out, notwithstanding the agency’s reasonable belief, to be running around Cleveland.
But for whatever it’s worth, had I been a Democrat on Capitol Hill, I would not have opposed this change as a six-month interim step while I studied such questions. And I would not have felt that I had sold out, surrendered, or caved in by giving the intelligence community what it says it needs while giving myself the time to decide if I agreed.
I may not be a Fellow and Research Director in Public Law at The Brookings Institution or a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law, but here’s a wild guess as to how the NSA is going to interpret the phrase “reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States” — they’ll interpret it so as to give themselves as broad a mandate as possible. Other ambiguous phrases, likewise, will be interpreted so as to give themselves as broad a mandate as possible. What’s going to happen when they mess up: as little as possible. This is why, in the real world, we look not at administrative guidelines but rather at enforcement mechanisms.
Rules and interpretations of this sort aren’t self-enforcing (you can look it up in Wittgenstein) which is why the significant part was way up higher in the piece:
“Hang on,” I hear you cry. “Wasn’t the 1978 FISA a restraint on government surveillance power? Didn’t it put a court between the spooks and their targets? And doesn’t this law remove that court in vast numbers of cases?” Yes to all.
And there’s the rub. Absent meaningful checks and balances — or even the prospect of embarrassing public disclosure — the rule can say anything you like. It could be “surveillance is allowed only for really good and worthy purposes, and never for bad and abusive ones” and it wouldn’t make any difference.
What was Iyad Allawi’s Post op-ed yesterday trying to say? It’s like it’s written in a slightly strange foreign language. Andrew Sullivan says he’s asking Bush to help him engineer a coup, but that’s not the sort of message I would try to communicate on an op-ed page. He does, however, clearly call for “change at the top of the Iraqi government and also try to pitch whatever it is he’s pitching to moderate Democrats as well, promising “the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. forces over the next two years, and that, before then, gradually and substantially reduces the U.S. combat role.”
I hope this kind of mucking around is too crazy for anyone to seriously consider. That said, a lot of people’s approach to Iraq is just decide in advance that giving up isn’t an option, so we need to try literally anything — possibly including this — before we admit we need to get out.
I said the other day that I hoped somebody would make the case on the merits for the military aid package to the Gulf Arabs and Israel, and now Tony Cordesman’s gone and done it. Insofar as one reads him as responding to objections to the deal from the holier-than-the-pope pro-Israel side I think he’s fairly convincing: “We also must not discriminate between Israel and Arab allies, which would undercut our national interest and maybe actually weaken Israeli security by increasing Arab hostility to both Israel and the United States.”
His case for giving the aid to Israel seems substantially weaker to me, he primarily focuses on mounting a convincing argument that this is less of a departure from the status quo than it seems at first glance, but even if you buy that, the status quo seems out of whack.