December 6, 2009
In my last post, I wrote:
The more I think about this, the more I think that the whole speech makes a lot more sense if there is some kind of credible commitment from Pakistan on the table that we don’t know about just yet. It’s sheer speculation, but think about it — a smaller-than-recommended number of troops for a pretty large cost when budgets are already busted thanks to a tanking economy and a healthcare bill in the works… it seems almost silly unless Obama has some kind of arrangement in the works with Pakistan. And it bears repeating — it’s Pakistan that will ultimately determine the success or failure of this operation.
That was during Obama’s speech at West Point, on Monday. This morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke with several network morning shows. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reports:
On the Pakistani nuclear issue, says Gates: ” “Well I think I’ll just leave it that based on information available to us we’re comfortable.” Translation: we know whether the nukes are, and we’re going to seize them if anything destabilizing happens, even though we’ll never admit this, and even though Pakistan’s military doesn’t think we know.
I’d say this lines up nicely with my hypothesis above, although I’d disagree with Ambinder’s “translation.” Pretending that the Pakistani military “doesn’t think we know” something that Gates might by slyly alluding to on an American national network broadcast is a little naive, I think. Rather, I think it’s fair to speculate that Gates is uncomfortable going into particulars about any knowledge of or arrangement concerning Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, but his language on the subject suggests that something is going on, and my own personal guess is that the nukes are part of some deal regarding Afghanistan that the U.S. is currently working on with Pakistan.
We’ll see. Or, I guess, I hope we’ll see, because I’d love for a prediction I made publicly to turn out to be 100 percent correct.
December 1, 2009
Okay, I just watched President Obama’s speech on the new Afghan war strategy at West Point, and here is my initial reaction:
– 30,000 additional U.S. troops seems like an insufficient number to bring Afghanistan back from the tipping point it’s currently on.
– $30 billion per year seems like a pretty low estimate for what the war will cost
– Obama’s optimism for meaningful help from NATO allies seems unfounded
Well, not a whole lot, really. It is a concrete plan (mostly), and it involves a timetable. Other than that,
– Adds a “civilian surge” (i.e., humanitarian aid and economic incentives) and a diplomatic angle that involves Pakistan
– Basically grounded in realism
– Consistent with campaign promises
My own feelings on the subject are that if the war in Afghanistan is to be “escalated in order to end it,” then a more appropriate number of troops would have been Gen. McChrystal’s recommendation for something on the order of 70,000-80,000. “Go big or go home,” in other words. But the fact of the matter is that the war will not be won or lost based on the size of the troop surge. The real problem in Afghanistan isn’t necessarily tactical (although, tactical problems certainly exist), it’s geopolitical, and has a lot to do with Pakistan’s willingness (and ability) to cooperate with U.S. goals for their neighbor and the region.
UPDATE: The more I think about this, the more I think that the whole speech makes a lot more sense if there is some kind of credible commitment from Pakistan on the table that we don’t know about just yet. It’s sheer speculation, but think about it — a smaller-than-recommended number of troops for a pretty large cost when budgets are already busted thanks to a tanking economy and a healthcare bill in the works… it seems almost silly unless Obama has some kind of arrangement in the works with Pakistan. And it bears repeating — it’s Pakistan that will ultimately determine the success or failure of this operation.
November 18, 2009
While flipping through satellite radio channels today, I became convinced that I had discovered proof of America’s growing stupidity. Every talk channel I flipped through – Sirus-XM’s “The Virus,” NPR, CNN, and others – were breathlessly covering one of three topics: the soon-to-open “Twilight” sequel, the confusion over when to start getting mammograms, and Sarah Palin’s recently-released memoir, “Going Rogue.”
The situation is the same all over the Internet, at least as far as Sarah From Alaska is concerned. Wonkette has basically just run with the “PalinBlog” (RogueBlog? SarahBlog?) theme already established over at NRO, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has officially been overwhelmed, and the whole spectrum of punditry has basically had nothing else on its collective mind for the past two weeks or so.
It’s not just the blogs, either – Newsweek ran a front-page story on her (complete with leggy cover shot) last week, National Review’s Rich Lowry continues to slavishly adore her in print and online, and she’s made a tour of all the major talk shows, including Barbara Walters and… (even!)… Oprah.
Why not? It’s a fun story with colorful characters and conflict (the story about Palin’s book, I mean; not Palin’s book itself). I’m tempted to pick it up, but have decided not to for at least two reasons: one, I don’t want to encourage this kind of behavior and two, I have no idea where I left my last box of crayons.
June 15, 2009
It seemed clear last week that sitting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a tenuous, at best, hold on popular opinion in the run-up to Iran’s presidential elections. Iran’s huge urban youth population overwhelmingly supported a moderate reformer, Mir Hossein Moussavi, who had promised more personal freedom for Iranians and more outreach to the rest of the world.
Riots have broken out in Iran to protest what is being called a rigged election. (Photo via Agence France Presse)
When the results came in Friday, they showed that Ahmadinejad had won handily — prompting immediate cries of fraud in Tehran and around the rest of the world. Iranians took to the streets in protest, despite a government ban. Rioters faced police squads equipped with tear gas and clubs; photos and YouTube videos linked to by Twitter users have shown people, including women, being savagely beaten by riot police.
They’re still out there now — in Tehran, perhaps more than a million have gathered in the city’s “Freedom Square,” and reports of at least one fatal shooting are emerging from the protest, now more than 72 hours since it began.
This is going on now, so details are difficult to sort out. Christopher Hitchens, who has spent some time writing about Iran and its leaders, cautions not to call what happened in Tehran an election in his Slate.com column.
Twitterers are providing live coverage (which they have harshly criticized American cable networks for failing to do) of the event, which you can follow using any of these:
Twitterers near Tehran
Real-time images posted via PicFog.
Update: Boston.com has a hi-res series of some of the most stirring images from the ongoing protest. Some are graphic.
May 10, 2009
This from our “friends” in the Middle East:
Saudi judge: It’s OK to slap spendthrift wives
Happy Mothers’ Day.
April 15, 2009
I’m scrambling to pull together a coherent paper about federalism in Sri Lanka. It’s actually more interesting than it sounds.
But it also has left me scrounging for ways to procrastinate, and I think starting this blog was a direct result of that. I’ve also done an inordinate amount of cleaning today.