State of the Union

NYT: The Neoconservatives’ Best Friend

I recently attended a Washington event where a New York Times columnist proposed that the Old Gray Lady gives the Right a fairer shake than the right-leaning WSJ gives Lefties.  He is certainly correct, at least when it comes to the Neoconservatives.  Witness today’s op-ed page top headlines:

NYT op-ed page, August 31, 2010

First we have a mishmash of quantitative evidence from David Brooks arguing for why we ought to see Iraq as a success (America fought in part to bring cellular telephones to millions of Iraqis).  He argues that $57 billion and over 4,000 American soldiers was worth the result in Iraq, a precarious state where even Brooks admits there is low social trust and little professional human capital.  Then Paul Wolfowitz recommends that America follow the Korea model, and keep tens of thousands of troops on the ground for many decades to come.

A few weeks ago, The Weekly Standard ran a piece by Joseph Epstein announcing that he was canceling his subscription to the NYT.  While  wittier than the average attack on the NYT from the Right, today’s op-ed page indicates that perhaps he and the other Standard folks should reconsider.

(It’s possible that the NYT‘s op-ed illustrator had the last laugh here, though.  His image, ostensibly designed to convey the idea of “boots on the ground” looks more Orwellian to me: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”)

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Mission Accomplished

Something about this web banner is oddly familiar. The President won’t be landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier tonight, but the White House is certainly doing all it can to make it appear that Iraq is really done and dusted.

Meanwhile, John Bolton offers to take over the throne and lead the charge to Iran.

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What Ever Happened to Muqtada al-Sadr?

Ahead of Obama’s Iraq speech, Kelley Vlahos looks at what one of the country’s leading clerics has been up to while out of the media glare:

Muqtada al Sadr, once dismissed by Washington neoconservatives as a desperate, washed-up five-cent firebrand, is now an Iranian-supported kingmaker who will not only help determine the next government and prime minister, but has threatened to activate the armed wing of his low-lying Mahdi Army, the Promised Day Brigade, if the American “occupier” doesn’t pack up and leave entirely.

The “Promised Day Brigade” will “prepare quietly to launch qualitative attacks against the occupiers (U.S. forces) if they stay beyond 2011,” said Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi, to the Associated Press, in May. “It will have a big role to play to drive them out of Iraq.”

Read on to find out just how al-Sadr might complicate the nice, neat narrative Barack Obama tries to weave tonight.

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Will Obama Out-BS Bush on Iraq?

Popcorn sales are soaring across the nation because Obama will give a live Oval Office speech tonight on the U.S. victory in Iraq.

I’m disappointed that Obama will not be giving the speech after climbing out of a jet wearing a flight suit, like George W. did with his “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003.

I expect that Obama will have at least half a dozen Montana-sized howlers in his speech tonight.

But will he out-BS Bush on Iraq?

Has anyone seen betting odds on this proposition? It will not be easy, considering that Bush spent 6 years shoveling hokum on Iraq.

On the other hand, Obama has embraced most of Bush’s follies. Perhaps he can rise to this challenge as well.

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Can the Tea Party Deliver?

“There are only two men in America who can fill Yankee Stadium on three weeks’ notice,” a friend instructed me years ago.

“Billy Graham and Louis Farrakhan.”

Indeed, a decade ago, Black Muslim Minister Farrakhan’s “Million Man March” brought a throng of hundreds of thousands to the Capitol.

But, last Saturday, Glenn Beck packed the Mall with a crowd that could have filled Yankee Stadium to overflowing five times over. As it stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington

Monument, the estimates of its size ran to half a million.

This was twice the size of the crowd that heard Martin Luther King Jr. 47 years ago and matched the antiwar demonstrations of 1969.

Wisely, Beck dropped partisanship to convert his gathering into a God, country and Constitution rally, with speakers honoring the courage and sacrifice of America’s military. Said Sarah Palin, a rally star, “Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me.”

Al Sharpton, who organized a counter-rally that turned out a few hundred folks at Dunbar High, was his usual gracious self. Speaking of the half a million Americans on the Mall, the Rev. Al volunteered, “They want to disgrace this day.”

President Obama, seeing that crowd on the Mall as large as the one that came to celebrate his inaugural, must understand what it portends. His moment may have passed.

For that enthusiastic and energetic assembly is the spear point of an army of millions headed for the polls to throw out the party he leads.

Nevertheless, as Obama raised hopes only to be perceived as having fallen short, so, too, Beck’s believers and the tea party folks are raising hopes and expectations.

But can they succeed? Read More…

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CIA Naughtiness

Complaints that the CIA has on its payroll numerous Afghan officials are misplaced.  Questioning the war itself and the multi billion dollar sinkhole that it has become is one thing, but once you have a president who has committed the nation to wallowing in that quagmire forever, you have to do what you can to mitigate the situation.  If CIA is doing its job properly, it should be wired into the corrupt and duplicitous Karzai government at every level.  That way there will be no real surprises when the Afghan government starts direct talks with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and with the Iranians.  Those who argue with scarcely concealed horror that the Agency is corrupting former officials should note that those same officials will be corrupt whether or not CIA has a hand in it.  The purpose of any intelligence agency is to prey on the venality of others whenever necessary to obtain information that is considered important; indeed, corruption is the currency that fuels any intelligence operation.

Back in my time with CIA we used to regularly pay government officials and politicians throughout western Europe to provide us with insider information.  It was not because we thought those governments would act against our interests, but we did need to get access to groups and factions that were outside the sphere of normal diplomatic interaction.  For example, the US Embassies in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal would not meet with communist leaders during the 1970s so it was up to the Agency to establish informal relationships.   Of course, they would be lying to us and we would be lying to them but that was understood on both sides.  I’m sure Karzai’s boys are lying to us while collecting their pay envelopes.

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The Myth of Equality

In 21st century America, institutional racism and sexism remain great twin evils to be eradicated on our long journey to the wonderful world where, at last, all are equal.

What are we to make, then, of a profession that rewards workers with fame and fortune, yet discriminates ruthlessly against women; an institution where Hispanics and Asians, 20 percent of the U.S. population, are neither sought after nor widely seen.

In this profession, white males, a third of the population, retain a third of the jobs. But black males, 6.5 percent of the U.S. population, have 67 percent of the coveted positions — 10 times their fair share.

We are talking of the NFL.

In figures reported by columnist Walter Williams, not only are black males 77 percent of the National Basketball Association, they are 67 percent of the players in the NFL.

Yet no one objects that women are not permitted to compete in the NFL. Nor do many object to the paucity of Asian and Mexicans, or the over-representation of blacks, even as white males dominate the National Hockey League and the PGA.

When it comes to sports — high school, collegiate or professional — Americans are intolerant of lectures about diversity and inclusiveness. They want the best — the best in the NFL, the best in the NBA, the best at Augusta, the best at Wimbledon, the best in the Olympics, the best in the All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl.

When it comes to artistic ability, musical ability, acting ability, athletic ability, Americans accept the reality of inequality. We are not all born equal, other than in our God-given and constitutional rights. Read More…

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Everyone (Still) Loves Mitch

Mitch is still all the rage. Nope, not the Senate Minority Leader. Bush’s budget director and now the Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels carries has the same sheen as he did last summer, when he made the rounds at DC think tanks and was featured as a “Mitch the Blade” action figure on the cover of National Review.  The Weekly Standard continued the attention earlier this summer with a more subtle image of the Governor astride his Harley.

Last Friday, The Economist correspondents apparently got some of the Mitch glitter in their eyes, making Governor Daniels one of the features of their U.S. section, and again picturing him riding his motorcycle.  Gosh, this apparently self-effacing Hoosier must really be one cool guy.  All this attention is enough to make Sarah Palin reconsider her transportation choices.

But is Daniels slick enough to pull together a fractured GOP?  As the Economist notes,

It is unclear that a clever, measured candidate stands a chance within the Republican Party. Neo-cons are allergic to talk of defence cuts. Social conservatives were rabid after Mr Daniels, anti-abortion himself, told the Weekly Standard that he favoured a temporary truce on social issues. “It just happens to be what I think,” he says, arguing that politicians need to unite on urgent matters of national security and debt. He is also unlikely to fire up tea-partiers. “Didn’t somebody say in a different context, ‘Anger is not a strategy’?” he asked your correspondent over a rare plate of steak and chips.

Would a President Daniels really make defense cuts?  Could he stand up to culture warriors who scream ‘federalism’ and ‘states’ rights’ when it comes to guns but are fine with federal intervention on social issues?  Who would staff a Daniels administration?  More of the staff-in-waiting at the Project for the New American Century?  Or is there a new version of Brent Scowcroft in the wings who we don’t yet know about?  We’ve had the Daniels dog and pony show.  If he’s still considering a presidential run, let’s start asking the hard questions.

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The Trouble With Beinart

Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart does some good work, but I remember feeling pangs of cognitive dissonance earlier this year when I started hearing about The Icarus Syndrome, his book on foreign-policy hubris. I thought I must have Beinart confused with the guy who wrote The Good Fight, a manifesto for liberal hawks, four or five years ago. In the latest National Interest, David Rieff has an excellent essay on the two Beinarts, who are really one — a smart but superficial pundit who tracks conventional center-left wisdom:

Beinart has done nothing if not follow the times. In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Cold War liberalism as the key to victory over totalitarianism abroad and a fairer and more humane society at home, has gone the way of Bukharin in a Stalin-era Soviet encyclopedia. It has been replaced by a new explanatory key, radically different from but no less simplistic than the one Beinart put forward in The Good Fight, which, reading his latest offering, one would barely know he had ever written.

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Larison on the “Ground Zero Mosque”

TAC‘s Eunomia blogger Daniel Larison returns today in fine form, with a response to Ross Douthat’s take on the Cordoba Initiative. This line sums up what Newt Gingrich and the more brazen mosque-baiters really want: “It isn’t enough if Muslims peacefully practice their religion, reject violence and embrace their new countries, but they must also become pro-government loyalists. Perhaps if Rauf really wanted to show how moderate he was, he would provide token support for the next U.S. attack on a Muslim country. “

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