Sam Stein had the opportunity to hear Said Jawad, who’s been Afghanistan’s ambassador to the USA since 2003, talk about the national security situation and reports that while Jawad avoided any specific mention of Barack Obama or John McCain, he broadly endorsed what Obama has been saying about Afghanistan. It seems, in short, that both Iraqi and Afghan leaders agree that Obama is right and Bush is wrong about the need to rebalance away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan.
One of the oddest aspects of some of the debates over the Bush administration and various forms of legal due process has been how unkosher it’s viewed to suggest that the sort of powers Bush wants might be used abusively, in the manner of a Richard Nixon. It’s odd because the rules Bush is trying to discard were put in place for the very specific reason that the Watergate investigation led to revelations of a much larger pattern of abuse. It’s a pattern that reached a high point under Nixon, but wherein Nixon was clearly building on the abuses of his predecessors. So it wouldn’t by any means be unprecedented for the Bush administration to use, say, surveillance powers to spy on political adversaries.
Meanwhile, as Paul Krugman says surely the recent revelations coming out of the Justice Department should be relevant here. People were being hired and fired for career positions on explicitly partisan political grounds. That’s serious wrongdoing. And it’s at the Justice Department. That’s not evidence that partisan abuses were happening at the NSA, but combined with the history it should surely raise an eyebrow or two and in a rational world would be fueling demands for a more thorough examination of what the administration was really up to.
Our guest blogger is Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Earlier this spring, the Center for a New American Security issued an Iraq policy paper with an identity crisis, a paper that poses as an exit strategy but ultimately advocates a course of action that looks a lot like what the Bush administration and its conservative supporters have endorsed in Iraq.
Shaping the Iraq Inheritance builds upon the core prescriptions of an initial CNAS Iraq report (pdf) released in June 2007. At its core, the “conditional engagement” strategy, as described in the report, tries to carve out a “moderate middle” dependent on simplistic renderings of competing policy proposals on the left and the right. But it is important not to get distracted by the framing mechanism of the four options CNAS presents on Iraq (unconditional engagement, conditional engagement, conditional disengagement, and unconditional disengagement); the core arguments of the CNAS suffer from internal inconsistencies and disconnections from key realities in Iraq and the Middle East.
Although the conditional engagement strategy has thus far attracted little public attention in the Iraq debate, it is worth taking some time to offer constructive criticisms on the proposal in order to more realistically assess U.S. options in Iraq. In a series of posts over the next few days, we’ll offer commentary on the key shortcomings of the CNAS conditional engagement strategy:
1. Conditional engagement does not differ from the Bush administration’s current approach because it fails to define the conditions that would enable U.S. troops to depart Iraq.
The fundamental problem with the conditional engagement strategy is that it fails to clearly define — in precise terms — when the Iraq mission would be accomplished, and when U.S. troops could depart. In a telling chart on page 42, the report stakes out a position that places the strategy in the same space as the current Bush administration policy – supported by most conservatives – a “conditions based” drawdown of troops where the conditions are never really defined beyond vague terms like “accommodation” and “sustainable security.” Read more
I say right on to this. But what’s more, there’s something revealing about the sense of entitlement among Joe Klein’s antagonists at Commentary. As he says “They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me.” The people on the hawk side of this issue are used to getting their way through bullying, and to terrifying a large number of people who disagree with them out of ever saying so. One thing I think the blogosphere has been helpful in doing is opening up the conversation a little bit by giving some voice and prominence to people who didn’t have much to lose or didn’t necessarily know any better. Some of that spirit has trickled back into the MSM and it’s a very good thing.
It seems that with the Bush administration now agreeing to a “time horizon” for the withdrawal of US forces, the Iraqis are ready once again to talk about a Status of Forces Agreement. This, as I’ve been saying, is both as it should be and reflects the Iraqi-side case for a withdrawal timeline. American troops clearly aren’t going to leave immediately so some kind of SOFA is needed. And the Pentagon will demand that the SOFA include provisions that are reasonable for a combat situation. But those conditions necessarily undermine the notion of a sovereign Iraq, so it’s vitally important — both politically and substantively — for the Iraqi government to make clear that this is a temporary situation with an endpoint. That’s why Maliki wants a timetable, it’s one of the reasons Barack Obama’s proposed a timetable, and it’s why Bush and McCain seem to be getting dragged kicking and screaming in the direction of a timetable.
Meanwhile, it can’t be said often enough that despite the reductions in violence over the course of the past 18 months an awful lot of the underlying conflicts that could lead to violence are still lurking. Brian Katulis and Peter Juul did a nice look at Kirkuk the other day in the wake of bombings in the north. One hopes that different Iraqi factions will have the good sense to avoid destructive conflict over this and other lingering issues, but they might not and I don’t think it’s smart to leave the Army sitting around in the middle of things waiting to find out.
DoD photo by Spc. Richard Del Vecchio
Joe Klein talks to Jeffrey Goldberg about neocons, Israel, Iran, etc. Klein makes a lot of sense.