I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.
I don’t recall that sniper incident, but I was only fifteen or so at the time, and now video has surfaced showing contemporary news coverage of the sniper attack on Clinton, and even capturing a portion of that harrowing dash — including a moment when Clinton uses her body to shield a little girl from danger:
Impressive stuff, I urge everyone to watch the video and see for themselves.
Did James Carville really compare Bill Richardson to Judas? Why, yes, it seems that he did! Maybe the Clinton camp’s inner circle has just totally lost touch with reality and they really think that sort of thing is appropriate. The mindset seems a little bizarre, though. When Richardson accepted the appointment as U.N. Ambassador from Bill Clinton was he supposed to take it for granted that that constituted an implicit promise to endorse Clinton’s wife’s presidential campaign years in the future? That he’d signed-on for lifetime service to the House of Clinton?
Meanwhile, consider the reverse proposition — if Clinton’s key backers believed the things they’re saying about the need for experience then why weren’t they supporting Richardson’s presidential campaign? He played a more substantive role in the Clinton administration than she did. Plus he had more years in congress and six years as governor. He’s just the “former members of the Clinton administration who currently holds statewide office” who happens to have the wrong last name.
UPDATE: Of course from a Christian perspective, there’s also a wee problem with comparing Hillary to Jesus.
Asked on PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show earlier this week about “how fragile” the surge in Iraq is, surge architect and American Enterprise Institute “military analyst” Frederick Kagan declared that “the situation in Iraq today is, I think, not that fragile.” He then added that he believed Iraq would be “fragile” if America made “the mistake of pulling out prematurely.”
“If we don’t make that mistake, then I think what we’re seeing in general terms is that the momentum on almost all of the trend lines is in the right direction,” said Kagan. “There are a lot of good reasons to think that this will continue if we don’t make the errors that would undermine it.”
Kagan’s bold claim about the surge’s lack of fragility is directly contradicted by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who told CBS News this week that “while military progress has been made with a ‘surge’ of U.S. forces, ‘progress in Iraq is fragile, it is tenuous.’”
In fact, the very next day following Kagan’s remarks, the Guardian reported on one key aspect of the surge’s strategy that is quite fragile: the reliabilty of U.S. alliances with Sunni militia. The report noted that “Sunni militia employed by the US to fight al-Qaida are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly”:
Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.
A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.
Iraq is fragile beyond the question of whether American troops withdraw or not. “What happens if the Ayatollah Sistani gets assassinated?” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb has asked rhetorically. His answer: “All hell breaks loose.”
The past week saw a lot of “what did I get wrong”-type articles about Iraq and they frequently put me in the mind of the incompetence dodge. I note that one frequent way in which people argue for the proposition that poor execution, rather than an underlying flawed concept, are at the root of the Iraq disaster is to simply observe that mistakes were made in Iraq. For example, here’s my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg:
What the world is confronting five years after the invasion—the mess that Gen. David Petraeus is attempting to clean up today—was almost entirely preventable. It’s not only my encounters, inside Iraq and outside, with senior figures of the Bush administration that have convinced me of this; the investigations conducted by George Packer, Tom Ricks, Bob Woodward, and Michael Gordon, among others, have unearthed thousands—literally thousands—of mistakes made by this administration, most of which were avoidable.
What I wonder is what kind of evidence could disprove this line of reasoning. Suppose we were looking back on some military venture that was doomed to fail. Now suppose some supporter of that venture were arguing to us that, no, it wasn’t doomed at all — the trouble was the incompetence. The supporter can even find all these examples of incompetence — why here are all these decisions that got made! And the decisions worked out poorly! How inept! How dare you say it was doomed to fail? I mean of course a group of people who set out to do something unreasonable are going to wind up implementing their agenda poorly. What would a flawlessly-executed but doomed-to-failure war look like?
Meanwhile, you need to put Iraq in strategic context. The goal wasn’t merely to topple Saddam, but to intimidate other “rogue” regimes by creating a credible threat to take them out too. That meant that something like a 350,000 troop, 15-year commitment wouldn’t achieve the goals of the policy. It wasn’t “incompetent” for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to have rejected those methods; the rejection followed directly from what they were trying to accomplish.