Mike Huckabee comes out in favor of removing Palestinians from Palestine and establishing a Palestinian state somewhere else. Maybe Egypt or Saudi Arabia. A play to pick up some of Giuliani’s supporters? The sentiments are outrageous on their own terms, and also a stark reminder that Israel’s real friends in the United States shouldn’t be blind to the dangers posed by the irrealism and extremism of the Christian Zionists.
In a news conference today, President Bush said that he now sees political progress in Iraq that is “matching” the security gains achieved last year:
It was clear from my discussions [with Prime Minister Maliki] that there’s great hope in Iraq, that the Iraqis are beginning to see political progress that is matching the dramatic security gains for the past year.
But Pentagon officials are wary of sounding such an optimistic note, particularly on “political progress.” In fact, they say more difficult times are ahead.
Today at the Heritage Foundation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs Mark Kimmitt said 2008 will be “far more difficult” than 2007 for the U.S. strategy because “it depends far more on the Iraqis themselves to show progress on key legislation, on their economy, and reconciliation.” Kimmitt predicted only a mild chance that “surge” security gains will last:
2008 and beyond will be a success, the surge will be a success, if the gains in security can be translated into gains in stability…if I had to put a number to it, maybe it’s three in 10, maybe it’s 50-50, if we play our cards right.
Kimmitt added that seeing “such significant progress in security with only the foundations of progress in reconciliation is a bit disheartening, not to mention sobering.”
In an interview with Newsweek, Gen. David Petraeus hesitated to be “optimistic” as of yet, saying, “[We] should be realistic at this point, and the reality of Iraq is that it’s very hard.”
The tenuous nature of Iraq’s lull in violence hasn’t stopped hawks like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) from already declaring success.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum adds that “Kimmitt was reading a prepared statement, so this was presumably a considered and vetted position.”
It’s worth saying that I find Patrick Ruffini’s Hillary Comeback scenario pretty plausible. The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries were really, really, really close together. After tonight, even if she loses, things slow down a bit and give her ample opportunity to mount her comeback.
However, a few caveats.
The widespread assumption seems to be that the path to victory for HRC involves tearing Obama down. That seems a bit doubtful to me. She has a lot of institutional support, endorsements, etc. that were acquired back in the “inevitable” era. Those people will presumably keep standing with her even if it looks like she’ll probably lose. What they won’t want to do is keep standing with her as she smears the front-runner. Lots of Clinton’s supporters were backing her for essentially careerist and opportunistic reasons, and they’re not going to want to be associated with harsh negative campaigning against Obama if it looks probable that Obama will win anyhow.
What she needs to do with her opportunity is do what she didn’t do in the nine months before Iowa: Establish an affirmative rationale for her candidacy. She’s had the advantage for most of the campaign of playing front-runner, parrying attacks, and basically being the default option. That advantage has now become a disadvantage, however, because it means she never really established a core sense of what was supposed to be exciting about a Hillary Clinton administration. She still has time to do that, though, and since most Democrats, unlike most reporters, basically like and respect her, I think people would be very open to her argument. I’ve just never heard what the argument is (and, no, it’s not “experience” ask Bill Richardson and every other “I’m qualified” candidate how that worked out).
Brian Katulis writes on a subject near to my heart: how progressives can win on national security. His thought, meanwhile, largely mirrors my own. It’s important to make a broad-based, principles-driven argument that the failures of the Bush years represent an ideological failure that discredits not specific people but their ideas.
I do, however, have one point of disagreement related to Katulis’ disparagement of calls for bipartisanship. I think one has to be careful here. The party coalitions are arranged primarily around issues of domestic policy and identity, so there often isn’t especially sharp partisan differentiation on these subjects. Most elected officials just don’t care at all about the substance of foreign policy issues. Meanwhile, many moderate Republican politicians have really been no worse than your “liberal hawk” types. I’m not one to go over-the-top in valorizing Chuck Hagel et. al., but he’s been at least as good as, say, Ben Nelson on a number of key issues.
This goes two way. On the one hand, Dick Lugar really is someone it should be possible for a new administration to work with on a number of topics. Conversely, there are plenty of Democrats who are sort of no good. So bipartisanship can work out well or it can work out poorly. I think, for example, that this “bipartisan agenda” statement from the Stanley Foundation on “revitalizing international cooperation” is pretty good. Their book of “bipartisan” essays, on the other hand, is a very mixed bag. The “bipartisan center” composed of Michael O’Hanlon and Frederick Kagan is one we could do without. But Francis Fukuyama is the author of an important critique of neoconservative foreign policy and when he teams up with Michael McFaul the results are good.
Basically, during 2002-2003 we saw pernicious factions take control of both political parties. But other factions exist inside both parties. Building alliances with the more sensible moderate Republicans, paleocons, libertarians, etc. is, I think, essential to beating back the tide of horrors.
Ana Marie Cox tries to get John McCain to expand a bit on his vision for an indefinite occupation of Iraq:
His campaign insists that the reason he becomes so hyperbolic is to hammer home the point that our time in Iraq will stop being a controversy once the killing stops. Sure, he’s right about that — and that’s why he mentions Japan, Germany and Kuwait when rebuffing criticism. (Though it’s also a weirdly obvious conclusion: Other than the killings, America, how did you like the play?) What frustrated me yesterday was his refusal to engage on what it would take to make the transition from an occupying force in a country torn by civil war to something less intrusive… and also to address the mixed feelings that Iraqis greet the prospect of perpetual American presence.
I think this shows a real inability to grasp the basic dynamics of the situation. I can’t speak to the details of the immediate postwar period in Germany and Japan, but it’s clear that following the formal surrender of the Axis militaries the occupation forces were able to very quickly establish orderly and peaceful conditions. Within just a couple of years the dawn of the Cold War shifted the main purpose of US military personnel in Germany and Japan away from occupation work and toward defense of those countries from the Soviet threat. Meanwhile, there was never any serious doubt about the legitimacy of “Germany” or “Japan” as nation-states.
Four and a half years after the occupation of Iraq began, there’s just nothing about Iraq 2008 that resembles Germany or Japan in 1950. To do what McCain does and simply assume that the natural evolution of the situation is into the sort of stability and uncontroversial presence of US troops that we see in those other countries is fatuous.