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what obama should say on iraq June 23, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, foreign policy, international, iraq war, politics, terrorism.
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zakaria in newsweek:

“In six months, on Jan. 20, 2009, we will have a new president. But it is not clear that we will chart a new course in the ongoing war in Iraq. Senator McCain has promised a continuation of the Bush strategy—to stay in Iraq with no horizon in sight, with no benchmarks or metrics that would tell us when American troops can come home. In 2006, when levels of violence were horrifyingly high, President Bush and Senator McCain said that things were going so badly that if we left, the consequences would be tragic. Today they say that things are going so well that if we leave, the consequences would be tragic. Whatever the conditions, the answer is the same—keep doing what we’re doing. How does one say ‘Catch-22’ in Arabic?

“I start from a different premise. I believe that the Iraq War was a major strategic blunder. It diverted us from the battle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan—the people who launched the attacks of 9/11 and who remain powerful and active today. We face threats in Iraq, but the two greatest ones, as General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have testified, are Al Qaeda (which is wounded but not dead) and Iran. Both are a direct consequence of the invasion. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before 2003, and Iran’s influence has expanded massively since then.

“And then there are the more tangible costs. The war has resulted in over 4,000 U.S. combat deaths, four times as many grievously wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths. Over 2 million Iraqis have fled the country and 2 million more have been displaced within the country. The price tag in dollars has also been staggering. In the last five years, the United States has spent close to $1 trillion on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. That is enough money to rebuild every school, bridge and road in America, create universal health care and fund several Manhattan Projects in alternative energy. Whatever benefits the invasion of Iraq might produce, it cannot justify these expenditures in lives and treasure.

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the post-american world June 23, 2008

Posted by KG in books, foreign policy, international, iraq war, politics, religion, reviews, terrorism, Uncategorized.
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excerpt from fareed zakaria’s new book, the post-american world (nytimes review), which i highly recommend

(also, be sure to check out gps, his new show on cnn…”CNN U.S. chief Jonathan Klein approached Zakaria about a year ago and was told that “the only show I want to do is one that fills in the huge gaping hole in American television, which is 95 percent of the rest of the world,” Zakaria said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday…”):

The split between Sunnis and Shiites is only one of the divisions within the Islamic world. Within that universe are Shiites and Sunnis, Persians and Arabs, Southeast Asians and Middle Easterners, and, importantly, moderates and radicals. Just as the diversity within the communist world ultimately made it less threatening, so do the many varieties of Islam undermine its ability to coalesce into a single, monolithic foe. Some Western leaders speak of a single worldwide Islamic movement – absurdly lumping together Chechen separatists in Russia, Pakistani-backed militants in India, Shiite warlords in Lebanon, and Sunni jihadists in Egypt. In fact, a shrewd strategist would emphasize that all these groups are distinct, with differing agendas, enemies, and friends. That would rob them of their claim to represent Islam…

A cottage industry of scaremongering has flourished in the West-especially in the United States-since 9/11. Experts extrapolate every trend they don’t like, forgoing any serious study of the data. Many conservative commentators have written about the impending Islamization of Europe (Eurabia, they call it, to make you even more uncomfortable). Except that the best estimates, from U.S. intelligence agencies, indicate that Muslims constitute around 3 percent of Europe’s population now and will rise to between 5 and 8 percent by 2025, after which they will probably plateau. The watchdogs note the musings of every crackpot Imam, search the archives for each reference to the end of days, and record and distribute the late-night TV musings of every nutcase who glorifies martyrdom. They erupt in a fury when a Somali taxi driver somewhere refuses to load a case of liquor into his car, seeing it as the beginning of sharia in the West. But these episodes do not reflect the basic direction of the Muslim world. That world is also modernizing, though more slowly than the rest, and there are those who try to become leaders in rebellion against it. The reactionaries in the world of Islam are more numerious and extreme than those in other cultures-that world does have its dysfunctions. But they remain a tiny minority of the world’s billion-plus Muslims. And neglecting the complicated context in which some of these pseudoreligious statements are made-such as an internal Iranian power struggle among clerics and nonclerics-leads to hair-raising but absurd predictions, like Bernard Lewis’s confident claim that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad planned to mark an auspicious date on the Islamic calendar (August 22, 2006) by ending the world. (Yes, he actually wrote that.)

The ideological watchdogs have spent so much time with the documents of jihad that they have lost sight of actual Muslim societies. Were they to step back, they would see a frustration with the fundamentalists, a desire for modernity (with some dignity and cultural pride for sure), and a search for practical solutions-not a mass quest for immortality through death. When Muslims travel, they flock by the millions to see the razzle-dazzle of Dubai, not the seminaries of Iran. The minority that wants jihad is real, but it operates within societies where such activites are increasingly unpopular and irrelevant.

excerpt from newsweek:

Look around. The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year. America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping. The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

(more…)

link roundup…obama & israel, edwards, clinton, & cuba February 5, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, international, news, politics, religion, terrorism.
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does aipac trust barack obama,” the new republic:

Several other people connected to Middle East lobbying in Washington have told me, though, that they believe there is a rift between the official positions of AIPAC on Obama and the feelings of a good deal of its membership, possibly including some of its major donors. Because AIPAC doesn’t endorse candidates directly, but often encourages its very active membership to get involved in campaigns and fund-raising on their own, how the AIPAC rank-and-file acts is not a matter of diktat; it’s an accurate barometer of how it feels. And according to The Jerusalem Post, “When it comes to the Jewish establishment of campaign donors, fundraisers, and political players, support for Clinton is estimated to be twice that for Obama (except in his home state of Illinois, where he has deep connections with the Jewish community).”

new republic q&a with joe trippi (former dean & edwards campaign strategist):

Going into that last debate, we had a long talk that day about maybe getting out before South Carolina, after the debate. My own personal view is that he went into that debate saying, “Damn it. I may be getting out tomorrow. You’re going to know I was here.” You don’t know what’s going on mentally. That’s why I told him that night that he came back. I’ve never been as proud of anybody as I was for what he did that night.

He went into that debate believing he was going to get out of the race. He didn’t pull punches. He stood there, talked about the things he believed in. He didn’t roll over for Barack, for her. Damn it, Clinton was going to know he was there. Barack was going to know he was there. People were going to know.

It was the tonic he needed to wake up the next morning and say, “Screw you, I’m not getting out of here.” Even folks in the campaign, some of the people said, “We don’t want you to get hurt by getting destroyed here.” There were people saying that. It was pretty unanimous. It wasn’t unanimous that he would get out, but no one was saying you shouldn’t think about getting out. We didn’t want to get four or five points in South Carolina. Go do this debate. The debate prep was during the Giants-Green Bay game. That’s what so blew me away. The campaign had actually spent the day talking about urging him to think hard about getting out. We had no polling. We were watching the game. During the boring part, he would say, “What should I say about this?” It wasn’t the best debate prep we ever had in our lives. He goes in there, it was sheer who John Edwards is. We had that debate. This was a guy who walked into that debate, saying “People are going to know I’m here.” The next day he said, “I hear what you guys are saying, but I’m going to stay here and fight for every vote.”

the wrong experience,” fareed zakaria in newsweek:

Consider Cuba policy. Almost anyone who is being honest will acknowledge that America’s approach toward Cuba is brain dead. No one even remembers why we’ve imposed a total embargo on the country. A policy that was put into place at the height of the cold war, when fears of Soviet missiles and communist penetration were at their peak, has been maintained even though the threat that prompted it has collapsed….

Our policy has the additional burden of having failed, by any measure. We’ve been trying to force regime change in Cuba for 45 years. Instead Fidel Castro is now the longest-lived head of government in the world. Every tightening of the Cuban embargo has resulted in further repression and isolation…

Obama has advocated easing the Bush-imposed ban on Cuban-Americans visiting the island and sending money to their relatives. He makes a broader case for a new Cuba policy, arguing that capitalism, trade and travel will help break the regime’s stranglehold on the country and help open things up.

Clinton immediately disagreed, firmly supporting the current policy. This places her in the strange position of arguing, in effect, that her husband’s Cuba policy was not hard-line enough. But this is really not the best way to understand Clinton’s position. In all probability, she actually agrees with Obama’s stand. She is just calculating that it would anger Cuban-Americans in Florida and New Jersey.