Saturday, July 26, 2008

 

Open Thread

Find your own special way to say, "Ich bin ein Threader!"

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Friday, July 25, 2008

 

"Neoconservatism with a human face"

As I hinted yesterday, juggled responsibilities at the day job have made timely updating a crap-shoot this week.

Obama's Berlin play was the big news yesterday and most people have already weighed in on it. I will say, in passing, that as good as the pictures were of Obama speaking before an adoring crowd of 200K Germans, they do run a risk back home that the candidate seems a bit too eager for international worship -- even before he's been elected president. Given his rather exotic background, that may spark a domestic backlash. But, once Obama is back home (big Meet The Press appearance this weekend), he can, if he's smart, pivot the discussion back to economic and other non-international topics.

That said, I thought Dave Weigel's take yesterday
deserves wider attention
I count at least four extensions of American foreign policy here: increased foreign aid, increased funding for PEPFAR, sanctions, and maybe a little bit of ol' fashioned humanitarian intervention. (That's what he's occasionally suggested for Darfur, at least.) It's proof, if any more was needed, that Obama is not wary of foreign engagements. He's a progressive realist who thinks America hasn't done enough to police the world and to stave off future threats by doing whatever NGOs say we should be doing.

Most of our foreign policy debate has focused on Iraq, in part because that's where John McCain wants it to focus, in part because that's where our forces are at the moment. I definitely
agree with Andrew Bacevich that an Obama victory discredits the Iraq project, while a McCain victory validates it. But McCain and Obama want the same thing, for Americans to be proud of their country again vis-a-vis its engagement in foreign conflicts. Put another way: I don't think an Obama victory discredits neoconservatism. He's offering neoconservatism with a human face.

In other words, those who might believe that an Obama election suggests an end to American military intervention abroad are deluding themselves.

Indeed, under a Democratic president, it is more likely that the US would commit troops for humanitarian reasons, rather than strategoc. geopolitical ones. After all, with chaos overtaking Bosnia, it was then-UN Ambassador Madeline Albright, under Bill Clinton, who
said famously to Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell, "What's the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can't use it?" Clinton, however, decided not to send troops into Rwanda. Would a President Obama resist a similar siren call for Darfur?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

 

Thursday Shorts...

Early A.M. responsibilities at the day job have been intruding on my blog updating of late. Thus, for the second week in a row, we'll do some brief hits on a variety of topics.

1) Despite everything, this remains a close race -- and not just in the national polls. New Quinnipiac survey of battleground states shows McCain doing very well. Usual caveats apply: This is a fluid situation; this doesn't include -- one way or the other -- impact of Obama's trip overseas and subsequent rhetoric on the surge, etc...Still, as of July 24, there is no reason to think that this will be anything other than another close election.

2) No, this is not a knee-jerk defense of my Newscorp corporate "cousin." However, I think Nas' outrage over Fox and its supposedly insulting depiction of black people would have had greater resonance coming from someone who didn't get into a snit-fit with his company because of the negative reaction associated with the original name for his latest album, which was "Nigger." Of course, this might have something to do with his -- who has previously sparred with Ludacris.

3) The battle between the White House and congressional Republicans over who can throw whom under the bus earliest and most-est -- begins in earnest.

4) Let's be clear: This McCain ad on oil drilling is very dumb. Blaming Obama for $4 gas prices just doesn't work. However, the broader issue -- Democrats seeming to want to block all exploration of domestic sources of oil -- may well be the sleeper issue of the year. Whether it's oil drilling (off-shore or ANWR) or nuclear power, if Democrats collectively (or Obama individually) doesn't figure out a way to finesse this issue, they will be giving McCain a great issue with which to run.

5) One major reason why black men of a certain age, class and verbal acuity -- regardless of their political beliefs -- have a warm spot for Barack Obama: After two decades where most black role models are either sports figures or rappers (see above), having Obama become president is like Revenge of the Nerds, Pt. VI for those articulate, eloquent brothers out there.

KnowhatI'msayin', G?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

 

When A Victory Becomes A Defeat After A Defeat Becomes A Victory...

It's funny: Republicans may be good at winning/ending wars, but are really bad at reaping the political fruits from them.

Reagan won the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall's subsequent collapse the biggest symbol of that victory. Yet George H. W. Bush's was rather muted given the significance. He never had the political sensibility (or the savvy political advisors) to have any public events around the country to celebrate America's victory over a four-decade foe and seven-decade ideology. Such a recognition for long-term American sacrifice may have helped change the mood of the country in the '89-'90 time period. In such a context, Bush I's subsequent leadership and victory in Persian Gulf War could have earned him a second term (though, as Winston Churchill proved, victory in war guarantees nothing in peacetime).

Briefly...the current Iraq War has, strategically, been won, lost, and won again. Yet, ironically, the architects of that war are about to "lose" it again!

Barack Obama's overseas trip is now looking like a political tour de force, with Nouri Al-Maliki giving him either an accidental or intentional de facto endorsement with his statements outlining a timetable "time horizon" for the withdrawal of American troops.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration and the McCain campaign are left scrambling to explain why what the Iraqis are about withdrawal doesn't really mean what it seems to be saying.

McCain has put himself in an awkward box: On the one hand, he doesn't want to talk about withdrawal of US troops. Yet, on the other hand, he has increasingly ramped up his own triumphalist rhetoric. During the GOP debates, he snapped at opponents who said even innocuous phrases like, "The surge is apparently working." McCain would declare, "Not apparently: the surge is working." Last week, he declared, not that the US is winning in Iraq, but, "We have succeeded."

If that is the case, why stay? If success doesn't mean anything, it undermines his -- and George W. Bush's -- own statements that America must stay in Iraq "until the job is done."

This is exactly why a certain pundit argued nearly two weeks ago that the smartest course for John McCain be to "declare victory -- and get out."

Instead, Obama is happily basking in the Iraqis latching onto his "timetables" rhetoric -- rather than McCain's language of victory and triumph, which appear not to have room for any "real world" adjustments. And so, McCain, architect of the "surge", is about to fumble the rhetorical spoils of the plan to his political adversary.

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