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Total number of comments: 2636 (since 2013-11-28 14:21:48)

joe from Lowell

Showing comments 200 - 101

  • 50 US & NATO Troops Killed in Afghanistan in Past Week
    • There are more syllables in "the United States of America" than there are are in "the Netherlands," you arrogant pseudo-intellectual.

      Juan, would it be ok if I provided this elitist little poseur with a demonstration of American facility with polysyllabic words?

    • Question: why is the withdrawal by Poland, France, and Britain over three years "running for the exits," while the American policy, which includes an announced withdrawal over that same three-year period, is described as "increasingly clear that the Afghanistan effort is likely endless?"

  • Toothless UNSC Condemnation of Syria shows Russian, Chinese Clout
    • Sure it can. Syria is a Russian client state and has a close relationship with China. There was never any chance that either of those countries would allow a resolution with any teeth to target Syria.

      The Libya resolution was a fluke. This is business as usual.

    • This is nonsense. China and Russia would have abandoned their ally and client, the Assad regime, if not for Libya?


    • Obviously, the most important observation to make after Syrian forces kill 2000 people in a week is "America is bad!"

  • Zakaria: Tea Party Tactics Immoral, Dictatorial
    • "Without the Tea Party, I think politicians on both sides would have put off fiscal issues until the 2012 election so everyone could be secure in office."

      In the midst of a slow economy, fiscal issues should be put off, or you get the nosedive of 1937.

      I can't help but notice that actual economic issues that effect real people, like jobs and the need for a safety net, seem to have been completely dropped for our politics for the past year or more. I trust you're just as upset that these issues - issues that polls show Americans are much more concerned about than the deficit - have been off the table.

    • Oddly enough, I've yet to encounter even a single person who is actually familiar with Obama and his record from before the 2008 election campaign who finds such a description of Obama the least bit plausible.

      This is the sort of mistake one gets when one's political knowledge and interest, like Glenn Greenwald's, only begins in 2006. You end with an immature, ill-informed outlook that isn't capable of assimilating complex information, or of making judgments anywhere in between "exactly what I want" and "eviil."

  • Sound and Fury: Americans Actually Lightly Taxed
    • I aspire to have the highest taxes. I aspire to be in the middle of the pack, and not feel embarrassed whenever I drive under on overpass and think about what someone from any other developed country would think.

  • Controversies over Younis assassination in Libya
  • Top Self-Defeating Moves in the Middle East
    • This discussion of "self-defeating" assumes that the "self" the dictators want to benefit is their nation.

      This is like saying that the self-interest of corporate chieftains would prevent them from doing anything harmful to the companies they manage.

  • Free Libya Offensive in Brega Begins
    • It would seem that for once, the tactic of going after the money is the most effective.

      Good point, although I was thinking of the bombing missions interdicting their supply lines, and the naval blockade.

    • "Fighting in places like Brega has seen a lot of seesawing back and forth"

      Zombie Erwin Rommel says, "Gee, you don't say!"

      Don't get too high about territorial gains; it's the same mistake as looking at the front lines on a map and thinking that there is a stalemate.

      It's certainly good news that the people of Brega are no longer under the Gaddhafi boot, but militarily, territorial gains don't mean very much in Libya.

      Now, if the government - oops, can't call them that anymore, the TNC is the legitimate government now! - troops can't launch a significant counter-offensive, that will be meaningful. It will demonstrate that their capacity to wage war has been seriously degraded.

  • Syrian Opposition Congress in Istanbul Demands al-Asad Step Down
  • 32 Nations Recognize Free Libya
    • They myth of a stalemate comes from two places:

      1. People hoping to see the UN mission fail, because the United States is involved. It can't be a good cause if the US has joined it, and the use of American military force overseas can never be in a good cause, and can never actually contribute to a positive outcome - by definition - in some people's minds;

      2. A misreading of how wars in Libya work. Territorial gains aren't what wins wars in Libya; ask the Germans. What matters is that one force is weakened and weakened until it collapses. While the front line near Brega may not have moved very much, the capacity of the Gaddhafi forces to keep up the fight has been eroded day by day. Their vehicles are being destroyed, and they can't be replaced. They're running out of fuel and ammunition. Meanwhile, the Free Libya forces have grown steadily stronger.

      For people looking at the location of the front lines, it's going to look like a stalemate right up until the regime collapses, probably from an uprising in the capital itself.

    • "They" who?

      The TNC?

      Do "they" all look alike?

  • Clinton: al-Asad has lost Legitimacy after Mobs Storm US, French Embassies
    • Because they're doing the right thing?

      And because, call me crazy, one's opinion about the American response to events in Syria should be based on 1) the events in Syria and 2) the American response to those events?

      As opposed to a grudge nursed for nine years. Hillary Clinton voted the wrong way on the Iraq AUMF. And? That makes her wrong about Syria how?

    • I wish - because I actually care about civilians being slaughtered by dictators - but with Russia having a veto in the UNSC, that's not going to happen.

    • A lot has changed since Obama came into power.

      The popular uprisings in the region have altered everyone's calculations.

    • A lot of parties have seen their pre-existing positions overtaken by events.

      The Arab Spring protesters from Tunisia to Benghazi to Cairo to Damascus to Sanaa are driving events now. Everyone else is scrambling to keep up.

    • Professor, I think your analysis here is quite solid.

      I do quibble with this, though: Any background analysis must begin with the plain fact that the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein failed to produce an Iraq more favorable to Israel (indeed, the Shiite minions of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are substantially more anti-Israel than had been Saddam).

      Given that the previous Iraqi regime actually fired rockets at Israel in 1991 and sent payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, I'd say that the Malaki regime is, at a minimum, less hostile towards Israel.

      And while your statement about the Sadrists is true, they're not running the government. Malaki is from Dawa, which is a larger party than Sadr's bloc.

      Still, I think you correctly identified the Assads' thinking-about-American-thinking.

  • Today's Top 5 Crises in the 2011 Arab Revolutions
  • On Panetta and Defeating al-Qaeda
    • I wonder, what is it about Mullah Omar that makes his public statement about turning over bin Laden so credible to certain people?

      The great horror with which he viewed the killing of foreigners?

      Was there some heretofore undetected commitment he felt to see that those who committed atrocities against civilians were brought to justice?

      I know - after the massacre of the Iranian embassy staff, he went through a great conversion and realized that violations of international law were beyond the pale. Funny that nobody ever noticed, though.

      Perhaps he had a history of extraditing jihadists from his country that were wanted by the governments of foreign countries?

      Oh, but he said so, did he? I'm sorry, but that's good enough for you?

    • but the details of the operation, and nature of those who carried it out, were mundane and replicable

      Replicable, if you assume a plentiful supply of Mohammed Attas.

      I see no reason to do so, any more than the large supply of anti-war, radicalized activists in America in the late 60s and early 70s meant that it was easy to replace the dead Weathermen and SLA figures, or that the existence of radicalized leftists in West Germany made it easy to replicate the crimes of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang once a few of their operators were taken out of circulation.

      The physical capabilities necessary to carry out terrorism are, indeed, trivial. The personalities, on the other hand, are another matter altogether.

    • Oh, Brian? Another problem with your theory:

      You note that "the level of Arab/ Muslim antipathy toward the US went up very little when we invaded Afghanistan, because the reasons were clear, if not completely correct.
      But this antipathy shot way up when the US invaded the most advanced Arab country, Iraq."

      Of course, if you read either American or foreign web sites, you'd be aware that the Gitmo prison was founded contemporaneously with the invasion of Afghanistan, and not the invasion of Iraq. And yet, as you point out, the increase in antipathy came about over a year later, after Iraq was invaded.

      But that's really neither here nor there, since antipathy among the world's billion Muslims and the phenomenon of anti-American terrorism by the few thousand al Qaedists in the world are such different things.

    • "The most strategically significant aspect of the attacks on 9/11 was the indirect threat of shutting down US commercial air travel, as a result of litigation against the airlines."

      It was pure luck that the plane that was taken down before it could hit its target happened to be the one aimed at the Capitol. It was pure luck that the plane that hit the Pentagon didn't come down in such a way as to decapitate the DoD.

      "The primary attribute that distinguishes a sovereign state is the ability to protect itself from outside forces."

      No, a sovereign state with a relatively-weak military is still sovereign.

      "IIRC, Mullah Omar offered to turn OBL over to Afghan authorities for trial if the US would present a sound case against him."

      Isn't it pretty to think so? That Mullah Omar would have turned his partner in ruling Afghanistan, his largest funder, and his daughter's husband over to the United States if presented with evidence that he was guilty of attacking America? A very pretty thought. And after all, if you can't take the word of the leader of the Taliban at face value, I don't know what this world is coming to! The man has clearly done enough to establish his bona fides, no?

      "But I do appreciate your hallucination about Panetta setting up conditions so that Obama can declare the “War on Bogeymen” over."

      You didn't read the article, did you? Nor anything else written the past three years about the difference between a war against al Qaeda and the War on Terror, clearly.

    • Atta and the other leaders of the plot trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. There is much more to conducting a terrorist campaign than organizing an action once you already have the people available; you must first have an organization that makes such people available.

    • Brian,

      You make two mistakes:

      First, you assume without evidence that the motives of terrorists correlate closely with the "antipathy" of the Muslim world as a whole. I strongly disagree that the phenomenon of al Qaeda and terrorism against America is a reflection of the broader Muslim world, but rather, the actions of a small, esoteric band of freaks.

      Second, you take the words of this small, esoteric band of freaks at face value. George Bush is willing to lie about his motives in order to make his actions more palatable to the broader public; why do you assume that Ayman al-Zawahiri would not do the same? Oh, btw, Zawahiri joined al Qaeda almost a decade before Gitmo was created. He originally turned to terrorism after being tortured by the Egyptian security services. But you quote me his latest press release? I don't find this "evidence" particularly compelling.

      Anyway, you ask me for my "evidence." Evidence for what, exactly? I already provided the evidence for my thesis that support for dictators provokes terrorism much more than military action: the near-absence of terrorism from the residents of countries we've invaded, and the predominance of terrorism from residents of countries that are our allies.

    • "@Joe please check the Jstreet page here: link to"

      JStreet is an American organization.

      But more importantly, the question is not whether Israel would be willing to see the United States recognize a Palestinian state that comes into existence after negotiating a peace deal and borders with Israel. The question is whether Israel would be happy to see the United States recognize a Palestinian state that hasn't negotiated peace and borders with Israel.

    • Yes, Professor, I get that, but nonetheless, actions like that in a war zone aren't really the best proxy for international terrorism, or for how action against international terrorists planning to hijack airplanes, bomb discos, shoot up hotels, and park car bombs in Times Square can interdict their efforts and weaken their organization's capacity.

      While some of the anti-occupation, anti-American, jihadi resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has a Salafist cast, it's really a very different kettle of fish than the terrorist attacks of al Qaeda before the Iraq War.

    • I think the American tendency to back corrupt, oppressive Arab dictatorships like the House of Saud and Murbarak (and so many others) is the #1 reason why Muslim terrorists have turned their sights on us.

      A general anti-western, anti-democratic, anti-liberal ideology is #2. (Remember, these people are capable of agency in their own right. Not everything they do is a consequence of our actions).

      Backing Israel and the wars are way down the list. Haven't you noticed that there have been virtually no terrorist attacks against the United States by Iraqis, Afghans, or Palestinians? It's Saudis, Egyptians, and Yemenis - that is, residents of countries that have dictators who are our allies - who have conducted the most. Heck, the Underpants Bomber was a Nigerian, who got his training and equipment from Yemenis whose organization is led by an American!

    • But the question isn't whether you and I and Juan Cole understand that. It isn't even whether the Israeli public agrees with the notion of someday somehow having a Palestinian state that will be a wicked awesome neighbor.

      The question is whether the Israeli political establishment agrees with us that recognizing a Palestinian state now, before a peace deal is accomplished, is the right idea.

    • "Number 2 is the treatment of Muslim men while detained by the US. Abu Ghrayb, Guantanamo, Bagram, Black Sites, rendition to allies who torture for us."

      So what you're saying is that on 9/11, several years after the founding al Qaeda, almost a decade after the first WTC attack, years after the USS Cole and the embassy bombings, the second most important motivator for Islamic terrorism didn't even exist?

    • Not military. The Bush administration.

      And I think there's been plenty coming out to suggest that they did. Dick Cheney sez it's been "pretty well established" that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, doncha know.

    • Recognizing a Palestinian state does not require bad relations with Israel.


      Run that one by any Israelis you know, Professor. I'm pretty sure they'd disagree.

    • I say that Panetta's statement is welcome for much more important reasons: 1) because it recognizes that the war - the non-metaphorical, military-led operation - the US is fighting is a war against al Qaeda, and not a "war on terror," and 2) because it's defined in a way that has a plausible end - not the complete elimination of any terror threat whatsoever, but, as Patreaus says, the elimination of their ability to conduct strategically-significant attacks on the US.

      In other words, he is saying that we are putting into actual practice the rejection of the concept of a "war on terror" and its replacement with a "war against al Qaeda," and pointing out that we are close to ending that war.

      When Zarqawi was killed in spring, 2006, in Iraq it had no effect whatsoever on the rate of the bombings and other killings claimed by radical Muslim organizations in that country.

      That's not really a fair example, though. Iraq in 2006 was a war zone, in which there were numerous "radical muslim organization" that had nothing to do with al Qaeda, the largest of which (Badr Brigades, Mahdi Army) were actively fighting against al Qaeda and its allies. Are you, Professor Juan Cole, of all people, scourge of the Bush administration, falling into the trap of conflating the Iraq debacle with fight against al Qaeda?

      1. Stop over-estimating it. The organization, despite having one big success at mass murder, is tiny and full of marginal personalities. It should be a concern of the FBI and Interpol, not of the US Secretary of Defense.

      Once upon a time - 9/11 comes to mind - al Qaeda had the resources of a sovereign state at its disposal, and had capabilities far beyond those of ordinary terrorist groups that are rightfully the concern of the FBI, Interpol, and the CIA. It actually was necessary and appropriate to respond militarily - indeed, it was this response that took away their control of a state, and knocked them back down to the category of an ordinary terrorist group that doesn't warrant a military response.

      In all wars, once the enemy is dealt a crushing blow, the victor needs to consolidate his gains so that they stay crushed. Panetta is saying that we're at that point now, and will shortly be at the point where the military conflict against al Qaeda can be ended, and we'll go back to dealing with them as an ordinary terrorist group. Because that's what they'll be, and will remain, once this last little bit of consolidation takes place.

      Anyway, your points 2-4 are in no way inconsistent with what Panetta said.

  • Egyptian Revolution 2.0?
    • Mubarak was the big bad guy at the end of the level in a video game.

      Yay, they beat the bad guy! They cleared that level!

      On to the next level. Beep bop boop bop!

  • Anthony Case Index
  • Free Libya Forces Advance in Western Mountains
    • The UN mandate is to protect civilians, not provide military aid to the rebels. It also includes an arms embargo.

      That, more than any policy of stalemate, explains why NATO hasn't gone all-in to be the Free Libya Forces' air force, or given them heavy weaponry.

      The BBC article repeatedly and explicitly states that the battle lines are in stalemate.

      Actually, it only says that about Misurata. As Juan reports, there has been a great deal of progress in the western mountains.

      Anyway, wars in Libya aren't won by seizing territory. Ask the Germans. They're won by one side wearing down the other's capacity to stay in the fight until it collapses. Government forces are being materially weakened day by day. This won't end with the Free Libya Forces slogging inch by inch into Tripoli, but with the regime collapsing and Tripoli itself rising up.

      Strikes that weaken command-and-control and interrupt lines of communication are the strikes that bring the end closer.

    • Odd, then, that Free Libya forces keep making advances, with air support.

      And that BBC article "spells out" nothing of the kind. It states that the air strikes around Misrata aren't as much as the rebels want. It says nothing about a policy of stalemate.

  • Rebels offer Qaddafi Libyan Retirement
    • A history that ended in 2004, until yesterday.

    • Whoa whoa whoa, Perfesser.

      I'm a big supporter of this humanitarian action, an open cheerleader of the rebels, and a big detractor of Gadhaffi, of Republicans, and of the mission's so-called-anti-war opponents, but that slam on the House of Representatives is just plain unfair.

      Gadhaffi's terroristic threats to Europe came about after the vote, and as a result of the military mission that they refused to support.

  • US Reaching out to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
  • US Public Backs Obama, Wants out of Afghanistan
    • And we're supposed to ignore everything that happens after the end of 2012, why, exactly?

    • You know, I've heard tell that the word "genocide" isn't actually a punctuation mark used to demonstrate that something is bad.

      Many non Iraqi racists supported this attempted genocide.

      The standard slur from the hawks. Dick Cheney called; he wants his talking point back.

      The Iraqi Security Forces with international help quickly won a major military victory, causing violence inside Iraq to fall 95% or more.

      Isn't it amazing that the numerous major military victories prior to that one didn't cause a long-term, sustainable reduction in violence, while the one that was accompanied by the announcement and beginning of the withdrawal of foreign troops did?

      The Iraqi government was perceived as legitimate by the large majority of Iraqis.

      A point as questionable as it is irrelevant. It doesn't take a large majority of a population to throw a nation into chaos, but only one large enough to conduct and support a significant insurgency. If you want to argue about how many Sunnis supported the Sunnis insurgents, or how many Shiites supported the Mahdi Army, go right ahead, but the number was clearly the majority in the Sunni triangle and in Sadr City, and it was large enough to convulse the country in a civil war and render it ungovernable.

      It is widely known by Iraqis that the December 15th, 2005, election saw about 77% to 78% of all Iraqi voters participate. Iraqi Sunni Arabs overwhelmingly participated including most of the Sunni Arab militias that were fighting the Government of Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces and MNF-I.

      ...thereby demonstrating that voting in the election is not a good indicator of finding the government legitimate, since one doesn't wage war to overthrow a government one considers legitimate.

      Many of the Taliban now speak Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu or other non Afghan languages. Many of the Taliban have international ambitions. Many of the Taliban don’t care about what happens outside of a few villages.

      And this is supposed to be different from the pre-Awakening Sunni insurgency, how, exactly?

    • "The Iraqi Security Forces with international help..."

      LOL. Which government security agency do you work for?

    • The slow pace and early announcement of our withdrawal from Iraq helped to bring about positive political developments that produced a reasonably acceptable situation. The local insurgents ceased working with foreign jihadis, the government ceased to be seen as an agent of foreign occupation, the insurgents viewed participation in the political process as legitimate, and the government got serious about accomplishing a deal to bring the country peace.

      Hopefully, the same thing will happen in Afghanistan.

  • Senate Committee Backs Obama on Libya as Rebels capture major Arms Depot
    • Wars in Libya don't turn on the capture of territory, but on the attrition of one side until it eventually collapses entirely. Ask the Germans, Italians, and British.

      The four fronts aren't important for the territory they capture, but for the attrition and spreading-out of the government's forces in preparation for the impending uprising in the capital.

      General, there are four columns heading towards Madrid. Which one do you think will take it? Why, the fifth column in the city, of course.

    • In 2003, Saddam's army was routed.

      In 2001, the Taliban were crushed.

      Their defeats were among the most convincing, one-sided whuppings in military history.

      It was the insurgencies that followed, in response to the post-war occupations, that proved so difficult to defeat, but the main-force actions against Saddam's army and the Taliban government's military were among the most lopsided wars ever fought.

      Seriously, someone who doesn't understand the difference between the state-on-state conflicts and the insurgencies that developed over the following years doesn't need to condescend to anyone about their knowledge of military affairs.

    • The myth of a stalemate is a combination of wishful thinking by so-called-anti-war advocates who were hoping the mission would fail, and confusion on the part of people who thought that the location of the Benghazi/Brega front was the entirety of the rebellion.

    • ...all of whom were Serbs.

    • A more significant difference is that the vast majority of Serbians sided with Milosevic, while Khadaffy is so unpopular that he had to bring in foreign mercenaries just to have enough troops to put down a rebellion by the North African equivalent of a bunch of DFHs.

    • The two preceding comments both assume that the Free Libya Forces themselves cannot be trusted to liberate their own country, or to secure it when they win, that only NATO can do it for them.

      I vehemently disagree.

  • Qaddafi, son, indicted by International Criminal Court
    • Actually, Sherm, that piece doesn't discuss the details of the military operation at all. It's about the politics of the operation.

    • If you think it’s different in Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Libya, you need to get out and read more.

      If you think NATO's bombing campaign in Libya bears even the slightest resemblance to the shock and awe campaign in Iraq, you've clearly never read a thing about the Libyan operation.

      This is exactly what I'm talking about. Not only do people no know anything about the facts of the matter when it comes to military operations, but they don't think they need to in order to start spouting off. They can just breezily assert that there is no difference between any two campaigns, because by golly there's just gotta be no difference.

      As if a Predator drone hitting a multiple rocket launcher is shock and awe. As if plinking tanks in the desert is the same as area-bombing in a city.

      It's just pathetic; you'd never see this sloppy unconcern with facts on any other subject of interest to the left.

    • Sherm,

      I saw someone describe UAVs as "indiscriminate weapons of terror" yesterday. Again, it's just freaking embarrassing sometimes.

      If you're limiting your exposure to liberal analysis of Libya to Informed Comment and TomDispatch - good for you. You could do a lot worse.

      The stuff in the more popular liberal blogs is just freaking awful most of the time.

    • The Republicans been quite clever to make their attacks about process - the War Powers Act that they don't believe in, Congressional consultation - and not actually attack the mission itself.

    • They just don't make "entrenched stalemates" like they used to. Quagmire! Quagmire!

      If you read progressive commentary on issues like health care, tax structure, transportation spending, or international aid, you find a genuinely impressive level of detailed knowledge - not just from the professionals, but from interested laymen who read widely and work to make themselves experts in the subject.

      But when you read them on military affairs, all of that goes out the window. It was just freaking embarrassing to be an Iraq War opponent when the drive on Baghdad was paused because the armored spearheads had driven so far that they needed to let their supply columns catch up. Quagmire! Just like Vietnam! How many times have I seen ignorant people assert with absolutely certainty that NATO strikes are indiscriminately slaughtering civilians in Libya, with the destruction of rocket launchers in the act of shelling residential neighborhoods described as "bombing Libya?" And how many times have I read people confidently assert that there is absolutely no significance to the end of combat operations in Iraq and the withdrawal of the combat brigades, because there are still, like, men with guns there, duuuuude, how naive can you be?

      Military affairs are a subset of politics and government, just like any other, and need to be studied and understood just like any other. Just having the proper ideological orientation and assuming that the facts just gotta back you up because you checked your gut and remembered some old talking points from a different situation a few decades ago doesn't cut it.

  • Notar: Syria and the Palestine Card
    • Would they, though? Would the Assads really want to make peace with Israel?

      As this latest episode demonstrates, they have a strong motive to keep their cold war going, for reasons of domestic politics.

    • It sounds like you're making excuses why it's wrong to denounce dictators.

      The American-assisted fall of their longtime allies in Egypt and Tunisia would seem to throw a kink into your theory that this is all an orchestrated campaign on behalf of American power.

  • House Libya Vote: Anti-War or Just Anti-Obama?
    • Those highlighted words in her post are links. You should read them.

      I'm certainly not a big FDLer, either, but that's not the point.

    • Only the Viagra claims have been questioned. The use of rape as a weapon of war has been confirmed from numerous sources.

      Way to miss the point. It's OK if they weren't given Viagra?

    • Actually, Obama did consult Congress before and at the time of the beginning of the mission. He just didn't get authorization.

      And numerous presidents have already made war, to a much greater degree (think Panama and Grenada) than Obama has, without Congressional authorization.

      It's simply not true to claim that Obama is setting new precedents here. Whether you like the presidential war powers that have developed over our country's history or not (I don't), Obama hasn't even gone as far as several of his predecessors along that path.

    • Oh, please. George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan actually invaded countries (Grenada and Panama) with ground forces, took over their territory, overthrew their governments, and installed new ones, without any Congressional authorization.

      Obama's actions here, whatever you think of them or about war powers in general, are a great deal less significant than what numerous presidents have done before him. He isn't taking a step towards anything. He's walking over well-trod ground, and not even going as far as his predecessors.

    • And what do you conclude from the fact that a resolution forbidding US involvement entirely never came up for a vote?

      Congress isn't going to do a thing, like it or not. They want to pose for the cameras, but they don't actually want to take responsibility for ending the war. Or supporting it. Or influencing it.

      It makes it a bit tough to argue for Congressional responsibility when Congress itself is making it so clear that they don't want it.

  • Afghanistan: How will Taliban React to Obama Drawdown?
    • Attacks by Shiite and Sunni insurgents didn't stop entirely in Iraq within two days of the SOFA being signed, either. The positive effect of withdrawal takes time to develop.

  • Kukis: Leave Iraq, Too
    • Leaving it up to Iraq and Afghanistan (and a long list of other countries) to sort out their own destinies leaves the U.S. in an uncomfortable if not unacceptable position of losing influence in shaping the region in our favor.

      And yet, that's exactly what Obama is doing.

    • Look at how steeply violence dropped off in Iraq after the SOFA was signed. Look at how al-Sadr's militia reformed into a political party.

      A well-carried-out withdrawal helps to stabilize the political situation.

    • His opinion counts because he has a large following, sufficient to provide his movement with a significant number of votes in the Iraqi parliament.

      Democracy, remember?

  • Cole/Goodman Interview on the Obama Drawdown and the Afghanistan War
    • Obama announced in September 2009 that this drawdown was happening. Casting about for reasons why he's carrying about a drawdown like you're doing here seems to ignore the elephant in the room.

    • The "Afghan surge" wasn't intended to "pacify" Afghanistan. It was meant to deal a military blow to the insurgency - in Gates' words, to put pressure on them.

      The withdrawal, and the political changes it brings about, is meant to "pacify" Afghanistan, in the same way that the Iraq withdrawal has gotten the Mahdi Army to put down its arms and the Sunni insurgents to disavow their alliance with the foreign jihadists and join the political process. The military surge was just setting the table for the withdrawal and political solution.

  • Obama: The Tides of War are Receding
    • I'm happy to hear that the withdrawal is beginning in earnest, but just as with the Surge in Iraq, I feel like this discussion of short-term troop levels misses the important questions.

      This was a speech about the next 12 months, and it's probably wise not to make solid plans for the longer-term that go into greater detail than "continue at a steady clip." We'll see what happens over the next year, and then plan the details of how the withdrawal proceed: fine, makes sense.

      But I still don't feel like Obama has laid out the shape of a long-term strategy.

  • Gates: Winding down the Wars
    • I, very hesitantly, disagree with Prof. Cole about the United States not being a world power in the later 19th century. Yes, we had only the one formal colony, but on the other hand, our role as the undisputed hegemon in the Americas was already well-established. I'd argue that we were a 20th-century major power while the other major powers were still pursuing an older game.

      There was a very deliberate effort to use the passions of 9/11 to sell the American public on the need to maintain super-power status, on the grounds that al Qaeda represented an "existential threat," which was comparable to the military challenge posed by the Soviet Union. This was, of course, horse puckey.

  • Top Ten Mistakes in the Libya War
    • “days not weeks’ has turned into months

      I keep seeing this same misinformation being repeated.

      The statement Obama made was that leadership of the operation would be handed over from American control to NATO control in "days not weeks," and that's exactly what happened.

    • Were it your home town being shelled as your family huddled in the basement, I doubt you would have the slightest difficulty understanding how the bombing of the tanks shelling you would save human lives.

      To some people, no one in Africa ever dies unless they're killed by an American or European.

    • What the west is doing in Libya is far more similar to the cases of Egypt and Tunisia than to Iraq and Afghanistan.

      In Iraq, the United States took over the country, without any involvement of local forces, governed it for a time, and then attempted to set up a client state. We tried to be the driver of events. We decided to oust the dictator, our military forces did the fighting, we occupied and government the country, and we (tried to) control the political aftermath.

      In Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, the People in each of those countries rose up against the dictators and did the hard work of ousting them by themselves. We played only a supporting role, using the tools available to urge the dictator to leave power, and to limit his ability to crush the uprisings by force.

      To lump in Libya with Iraq and Afghanistan is to say that the only important question is whether western militaries were involved, and that's the least important question. The US has used non-military means to conduct imperialist actions, and has used military means for actions that have no connection whatsoever to empire-building. Until Khadaffy unleashed his military against the protesters, we were pursuing the same policies towards Libya that we pursued towards Egypt and Tunisia. That the situation became militarized was a consequence of Khadaffy's actions and the response of the rebels to being slaughtered.

    • Clinton tried that with Sierra Leone - forcing the government to sit down and negotiate with that monster Foday Sankoh. It was a miserable failure, and only served to give the most evil forces in that region more time to slaughter and consolidate their power.

      You can't solve every problem by talking it out.

    • This is a dodge.

      The concept of humanitarian intervention poses a lot of problems for people who approach international politics from the left. It forces them to answer a lot of difficult questions, to engage in difficult efforts to weigh competing imperatives on both the theoretical and operational level.

      So difficult, in fact, that many give up altogether and project an ill-fitting narrative onto events just because it's a familiar one that's easier for them to get their heads around.

      Colonial? Really? Are the Free Libya Forces colonialists, too? How about the diplomatic and political influence the US used to help grease Mubarak's exit - was that colonialist, too?

      In the aftermath of the American response to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, projecting a great power, realist narrative onto the actions of this administration is just an exercise in avoiding tough questions.

  • Ret'd. CIA Official Alleges Bush White House Used Agency to "Get" Cole
  • Gates & NATO: Misery Loves Company
    • we can safely retrench from a Superpower to a Great Power

      Well put.

      We could be the greatest Great Power in the world, by a mile, for half the money we're spending.

    • I think you're a little too sanguine about the capacity of the rest of NATO. While it's true that Britain, France, and other European countries are flying the vast majority of combat air sorties in Libya, the US is providing most of the naval assets, and support missions like mid-air refueling. Rather than being fine without the American assets, the French and British would have ceased to be effective weeks ago without American support.

  • Ridge Alleges Bush Political Pressure for Terrorism Alert
    • IIRC, Ridge's assertion on the Daily Show was that he and his staff at the DHS didn't use the "National Mood Ring" for political purposes. What he's alleging now, and has said before, is that other people in the administration were doing these things.

  • Thousands Protest in Bahrain
    • That Ahmed Chalabi is trying to involve himself certainly doesn't make the charges of covert Iranian involvement in these protests any less credible in my eyes. He's already been shown to be an asset of Iranian intelligence.

  • Arab Spring Turns Deadly Again
    • I'm glad NATO is being risk-averse when it comes to civilian and rebel casualties.

      Every civilian death from NATO strikes would do more damage to the rebel movement than 10 successful strikes against Gadaffi's forces.

      Let's not forget how we got here: political protests sprung up against the government and swept through the country, and the dictator tried to beat them back. If the anti-Gadaffi actions lose legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people, then the war will drag on longer, and the Free Libya Government will have a much harder time of governing and unifying the country when the dust clears.

      Erring on the side of caution is the right idea for NATO.

  • Which Headline Doesn't Fit?
  • Our News and their News
    • Military intervention is a very specific tool, useful only in very specific circumstances.

      In Libya, there were front lines, and two sides engaging in military conflict. Military forces were operating in open terrain, working to capture territory held by the rebel military forces. Air support could be uses to arrest the ability of the government forces to conduct military operations.

      Up until quite recently, the situation in Syria involved security forces in and among the protesters, in the heart of cities full of civilians. There are no areas controlled by the rebels - heck, there isn't even a rebel military force to back at this point. To start carrying out air strikes in such a situation would a cure worse than the disease.

      In addition, there's the realistic constraint on getting a resolution through the UNSC. For better or worse - I tend to think 'better' - the United Nations is the sole legitimate authority that can sanction the use of international force (except in situations of self-defense). Khadaffy managed to offend so many governments over the years that a resolution against him could pass the UNSC. Assad, on the other hand, could probably count on Russia and China to back him up.

    • In 1955, we were in a position of rough equivalence with the Soviet Bloc. Yep, we were more powerful than they were, but we were in the same ballpark.

      In 2011, we have lapped the rest of the world, perhaps twice, in terms of relative power. While this might not be as impressive as, say, 1998, when we'd lapped them three times, it's still a great deal higher, relatively, than in 1955.

    • So...our news is about things that happen in the United States, while "their" news is about things that happen in "their" countries.

      Oh, and much more terrible things happen in their countries.


  • Israeli Troops kill 20, wound Hundreds at Golan
    • Might I suggest:

      d) because aiming at unarmed people's legs is still shooting unarmed people?

    • The Assad regime orchestrated a PR stunt – and yes, that is what this was – to divert attention to what’s going on in Syria. Sadly, they apparently succeeded.

      And the NAACP orchestrated Rosa Parks' arrest as a PR stunt. And the SCLC organized the march across the bridge at Selma as a PR stunt.

      And...? So...? Does that mean that the behavior of the police doesn't matter.

      Tell you what, look at it this way: those terrible, awful Palestinians and Syrians hoped to goad the Israelis into using extreme, lethal force, in order to score a PR victory. Are you pleased that the IDF did exactly what they were expected to do, as part of the PR campaign? Do you hope they keep playing their assigned role in this PR campaign in the future?

      Or do you think they should have behaved in some other manner?

  • One to Go
    • the non-stalemate at Brega (it’s like Truk for the WW2 Imperial Japanese Army, a trap)

      "Nobody could have predicted" that the scope of territorial gains in the first few weeks of an east-west war along the coast of Libya wouldn't actually be a reliable indicator of the conflict's outcome.

  • Yemen's Saleh Narrowly Avoids Death, Civil war Looms
  • Libya Rebels take Key Western Mountains, Train Women Fighters
    • Throughout this episode, I've been extremely disappointed at the number of people on the left who have been repeating Kadhaffi's claims about the rebels being linked to al Qaeda.

      People who spent years denouncing this shoddy gambit when Bush used it before the Iraq War, people who denounced it during the controversy over the Park 51 community center, people who denounced this fear-mongering when it was used to disparage the protesters in Egypt and Tunisia, people who really should be expected to know better, and suddenly they're impersonating Bill Kristol as they cast aspersions on the skeery al Qaeda Mooslems in Libya, just because they've decided it could be politically useful for their anti-war line.

  • US Should Move Navy Base from Bahrain
    • "President Obama only cares about support for American policy in the Middle East and will cater to any despot for that reason."

      Ah, so THAT'S why he backed the pro-American dictators in Egypt and Tunisia against the protesters. Oh, wait.

      Old narratives need to be checked against new facts every six months or so.

    • Since we're talking about the Persian Gulf region, I think finding a truly progressive regime is setting the bar a bit high.

      I'll settle for one that isn't unleashing state security to use lethal force against peaceful citizens.

  • Yemen in Flames
  • Time to Begin Leaving Afghanistan
    • Nice elision between "the Taliban" and "the Afgans." In point of fact, the Taliban are hugely unpopular among most of the country.

      It's interesting how some people reflexively view the most violent, most anti-American element in any society as the sole, true representatives of that nation's identity and aspirations.

    • The attacks by the Taliban would stop. There would be a short straight-up confrontation between the Karzai government and the Taliban

      So which is it? Would the Taliban stop launching attacks, or would they wage a war against the government?

      The only problem with that scenario is that there is no guarantee that the US will be able to control the resulting government.

      Really? The ONLY problem you can imagine if the Taliban once again takes over the country is that they wouldn't be under American control?

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