Go, Evil Empire!
Go, Evil Empire!
The US is likely to be in breach of the UN security council's arms embargo on Libya if it sends weapons to the rebels, experts in international law have warned.
After Hillary Clinton said it would be legal to send arms to support the uprising, lawyers analysing the terms of the UN's 26 February arms embargo said it would require a change in the terms for it not to breach international law.
"The embargo appears to cover everybody in the conflict which means you can't supply arms to rebels," said Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London.
His view was backed by other experts in international law who said they could not see how the US could legally justify sending arms into Libya under the current resolutions.
Here are the resolutions creating the arms embargo and the subsequent no-fly zones. I am not a lawyer and would never presume to be as crafty as Hillary; however, I am confident she is resting her case on paragraph 4 from the no-fly zone resolution (my emphasis):
Protection of civilians
4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi...
My dictionary says that "notwithstanding" means "in spite of; without being opposed or prevented by". And since you asked, here is the relevant paragraph 9 of the arms embargo, which we are told can be set aside for purposes of protecting civilians:
“9. Decides that all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories, and decides further that this measure shall not apply to...
A bit later, we see another reference to the arms embargo in the no-fly zone resolution (my emphasis):
Enforcement of the arms embargo
13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : "Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections";
The authors think that paragraph 9 was modified by this resolution, presumably by the paragraph 4 cited above.
For context as to authorial intent, let's note that Hillary Clinton mentioned arming the rebels as one option in describing the no-fly zone resolution and its aftermath:
Mrs. Clinton said Thursday that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya would require bombing targets inside the country to protect planes and pilots. She said other options being considered included the use of drones and arming rebel forces, though not ground troops, an option that appeared to be ruled out Thursday by the State Department's highest-ranking career diplomat, Under Secretary William J. Burns.
As to how smart it would be to arm the rebels, well, fortunately Barack is a genius so we have nothing to worry about. My guess is that many of the Libyans with a useful martial background will be returning jihadists, so arming them seems pretty dumb, but I am not a former community organizer so I don't know how to organize this.
NEVER LACKING FOR IMAGINATION: The creative Marcy Wheeler wonders whether Eric Holder will try Obama in a civilian or military court for his material support of a terrorist organization, namely, the Libyan rebels. Hmm - are the rebels actually organized?
NEVER LACKING FOR ANGST: OK, as Andrew Sullivan swings from adoration to contempt the results are entertaining:
I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars - just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this - in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?
By all means keep the no-fly zone to protect unarmed civilians from brute military force. But that must be the total sum of the commitment.
Andrew, Andrew, Andrew - Obama has made clear that he is not leading this kinetic action, and as long as the French want us to do it, its OK. My goodness - if the French leadership had only seen a domestic or regional political advantage in ousting Saddam, Bush would be a world hero, ot at least, Sully's hero.
The Times has a classic vignette describing the haphazard militia rebelling in Libya:
The retreating force seemed rudderless, a sea of vehicles and fighters armed with rudimentary weapons that have proved no match for Colonel Qaddafi’s better trained and better armed forces.
As rebels clustered at a gas station and small mosque between Brega and Ajdabiyah, a single artillery shell or rocket exploded several hundred yards away, causing the rebels, who were chanting “God is great” and waving assault rifles, to jump into their vehicles and speed eastward.
God is great, but sandbags have their merits, too. These are the guys Obama is going to prop up exclusively with air power. We'd better join in their prayers.
Obama can't bring himself to say "Drill, baby, drill" but he recycles the same stuff we have been hearing for forty years while calling for a new vision for America's energy:
Obama to Set Goal of One-Third Cut in Oil Imports
WASHINGTON — With gasoline prices rising, oil supplies from the Middle East pinched by political upheaval and growing calls in Congress for expanded domestic oil and gas production, President Obama on Wednesday will set a goal of a one-third reduction in oil imports over the next decade, aides said Tuesday.
The president, in a speech to be delivered at Georgetown University, will say that the United States needs, for geopolitical and economic reasons, to reduce its reliance on imported oil, according to White House officials who provided a preview of the speech on the condition that they not be identified. More than half of the oil burned in the United States today comes from overseas and from Mexico and Canada.
Is there anything here that wasn't old twenty years ago?
White House officials indicated that Mr. Obama was turning to energy issues after a period of intense focus on turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East. He will link them by saying the United States cannot be secure as long as it depends on potentially unstable monarchies and dictatorships for a large part of its daily petroleum diet. The reduction in oil imports he has set as a target — roughly three million barrels a day over 10 years — corresponds roughly to current import levels from the Middle East and Africa.
Geez, now they Times is dropping the N-bomb on their guy. Can it get worse than a Nixon comparison?
However, the Times maintains its protective embrace during this howler:
The president will also repeat his assertion that despite the frightening situation at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex in Japan, nuclear power will remain an important source of electricity in the United States for decades to come, aides said.
Republicans want deeds, not words:
Republicans in Congress have grown increasingly vocal about the administration’s energy and environment policies, saying they discourage domestic oil and gas development and impose heavy costs on industry in a period of economic angst. On Tuesday, House Republicans introduced three bills to reverse the administration’s offshore oil drilling policies, calling for vast new tracts of offshore territory to be opened to deep-water drilling and for speedier approval of drilling permits.
On the Senate floor, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, denounced the president for a variety of alleged energy sins, including telling Brazilian officials last week that the United States would be an eager consumer for its offshore oil.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Mr. McConnell said.
“Here we’ve got the administration looking for just about any excuse it can find to lock up our own energy sources here at home,” he said, “even as it’s applauding another country’s efforts to grow its own economy and create jobs by tapping into its own energy sources.”
The administration imposed a moratorium on most deep-water drilling activities in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 rig workers and sent nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department wrote new safety and environmental rules for offshore drilling and officially lifted the moratorium in October.
The department has now issued seven permits for activities that were halted under the suspension, with 12 other deep-water permits pending. An additional 24 permit applications have been returned to applicants for more information.
The WaPo has more on past Presidential policies, including a reminder of Jimmy Carter's "moral equivalent of war", aka "MEOW". I don't suppose Obama will declare the moral equivalent of kinetic military action, but you never know.
The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It’s also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.
That sounds like the muddle that guided 41 when he liberated Kuwait and then allowed Saddam to remain in power.
Now we learn that the great Washington debate is about whether to arm the rebels. My understanding of the emerging Obama doctrine is that if the French are OK with that, we will go along, because no one imagines the US to be leading this operation. Uh huh.
The Captain captures my sense of rising panic:
That opens a serious political risk for Obama, as all of the news agencies now routinely report that the only reason the rebels advanced this far was because of air strikes from the US and its coalition. If the rebels cannot hold ground against the much-more disciplined government forces without allied air cover, that tends to discredit the notion that we are only enforcing a UN mandate and not intervening on their behalf. If Gaddafi triumphs, the West will look weak; if the rebels can stall Gaddafi’s forces — which looks less likely without significantly increased air attacks — then we will have set Libya up for a long, bloody civil war, one which will create all of the failed-state conditions that serve as breeding grounds for radical Islamist terror groups.
If the West wants to avoid those outcomes, they will have to commit far more resources and work more openly on behalf of the rebels to do so, which will end up violating the UN mandate. John McCain wants an all-out effort to topple Gaddafi, which sounds extreme but actually diagnoses precisely the predicament in which the US finds itself now. If we’re not prepared to force regime change in Libya now that we’ve very obviously committed ourselves to it by helping the rebels advance, then we should get out — and shouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.
But Tom Friedman is here with his own special brand of reassurance - all we need to do is hope that Obama gets lucky. Hey, hope is a plan!
I wish I were kidding, or thought Friedman was:
I don’t know Libya, but my gut tells me that any kind of decent outcome there will require boots on the ground — either as military help for the rebels to oust Qaddafi as we want, or as post-Qaddafi peacekeepers and referees between tribes and factions to help with any transition to democracy. Those boots cannot be ours. We absolutely cannot afford it — whether in terms of money, manpower, energy or attention. But I am deeply dubious that our allies can or will handle it without us, either. And if the fight there turns ugly, or stalemates, people will be calling for our humanitarian help again. You bomb it, you own it.
Which is why, most of all, I hope President Obama is lucky. I hope Qaddafi’s regime collapses like a sand castle, that the Libyan opposition turns out to be decent and united and that they require just a bare minimum of international help to get on their feet. Then U.S. prestige will be enhanced and this humanitarian mission will have both saved lives and helped to lock another Arab state into the democratic camp.
Dear Lord, please make President Obama lucky.
BONUS BASHING: Sylistically Friedman outdoes himself today. If he is getting paid by the cliche, he can retire now. A sampler:
Welcome to the Middle East of 2011! You want the truth about it? You can’t handle the truth. The truth is that it’s a dangerous, violent, hope-filled and potentially hugely positive or explosive mess — fraught with moral and political ambiguities. We have to build democracy in the Middle East we’ve got, not the one we want — and this is the one we’ve got.
I would say "Kill me now", but I would hate for those words to be my last memory...
William Kristol welcomes Obama home.
Dr. Dan, with sources everywhere (including many that are non-fantasy), finds the first draft of Obama's speech:
FIRST NOTES/DRAFT OF POTUS LIBYA SPEECH
By Benjamin Rhodes
I'm addressing you, my fellow Americans, because my administration's message on our war limited humanitarian intervention kinetic military action in Libya has truly and totally sucked. Seriously, I'm gobsmacked at how f***ing incoherent we've been in communicating our rationale to the foreign policy community and the American public.
The AP thinks Obama told some stretchers during the speech.
The NY Times is also trying to be something other than an unabashed cheerleader:
Speaking in the early evening from the National Defense University in Washington, Mr. Obama said he had made good on his promise to limit American military involvement against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces — he did not use the word “war” to describe the action — and he laid out a more general philosophy for the use of force.
But while Mr. Obama described a narrower role for the United States in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Colonel Qaddafi.
The Times surprises no one with the news that absent their guardian angels above the Libyan rebels would be unable to press forward against Qadaffi.
And Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker has spent time with the Libyan rebels. Being a big-time writer he manages to avoid the use of "motley", but "ragtag" makes an appearance.
Oh, boy - now US officials are saying that the no-fly, no-drive effort may go on for months, not days or weeks.
Whatever. US casualties will be low to non-existent if we transition to supporting the air effort, so the public will be inclined to move on. More importantly, if (IF!) there is a transition to a more sensible government in Libya all the initial dithering and murkiness about the US mission will be forgiven.
By way of comparison, would Iraq have stayed in the news if a stable goverment had emerged and US troops were substantially home by Christmas of 2003? Doubtful. With that in mind, how likely is it that a stable, non-demented government of Libya will emerge by the end of 2011?
Good question. Folks having troubling developing angst on this point will find a helpful foundation in this summary history of Libya. Did you now that, due to the geography of its deserts, it is essentally three distinct tribal regions? Did you know that in the modern era Libya was only united by the Italians in 1931, and was then re-partitioned by the Allies in 1943? From this, one might infer that Libyans will not simply hold hands and join together in a new democracy.
On the other hand, they are all Sunni, so there is not the Sunni-Shi'ite schism that plagued Iraq. That noted, the Sunni-Shi'ite schism contributes to but does not drive the divisions in Afghanistan, which is no one's model of unity.
It will be interesting to hear Barack explain all this on Monday night. His basic point will be that doing nothing was not an option, and I think he is right (The critics' basic point is that acting like Hamlet while letting the US appear driven by events is not a great option either. Right again.)
If we are patrolling a no-fly, no-drive zone over a Libyan civil war next fall, Obama will be planning a brilliant cut-and-run speech blaming the mess on Bush (and Sarah Palin, I guess). If we are lucky, something good will develop there quickly. I have a suspicion that Colin Powell had some thoughts about about luck, or hope, being a plan.
My thanks to all the readers who have been so kind to me over the years. I can be reached going forward at email@example.com.
My goodness. We all found out during the 2008 Olymics that the number "8" is supposed to represent good luck to the Chinese. But how has Bob Herbert covered American politics all these years without ever stumbling across the connection between "88" and white supremacists?
I presume that Mr.Herbert is neither Chinese nor a white supremacist. Good luck to him.
Away we go.
This movie blurb caught our eye:
Ripped from the headlines or a pool of similarly themed movies, the fiction film “Illegal” traces the ups and increasing downs of an immigrant’s struggles to stay in her adopted land.
Hmm. I am picturing a summary of the classic "Bonnie and Clyde":
Ripped from the headlines or a pool of similarly themed movies, the fiction film "Bonnie and Clyde" traces the ups and increasing downs of a two financial services entrepeneurs and their struggles to stay with their adopted money.
Oh, well. "Illegal" is set in Belgium and revolves around a beleagured Russian emigre but I assume we will be expected to draw deep lessons here in the States.
JUST TO BE CLEAR: When I say "we", I naturally exclude the Germans - they can be French on their own timetable, which reminds me - why is the Champs Elysees lined with trees? Because the Germans like to march in the shade...
Senator Joe Biden was quite forceful in insisting that George Bush could not launch a war against Iran without Congressional approval and talked about impeachment as a remedy.
Obviously, Vice President Biden can't lead an impeachment effort against his boss. Still, it is fun to see how fluid these libs are.
CNN describes the status of the six troubled reactors. My impression is that the line is holding.
Why did the athlete cross the road? To show he (or she!) was better at road-crossing than mere students.
The student athletes completed more successful [simulated] crossings than the nonathletes, by a significant margin, a result that might be expected of those in peak physical condition. But what was surprising — and thought-provoking — was that their success was not a result of their being quicker or more athletic. They walked no faster than the other students. They didn’t dash or weave gracefully between cars. What they did do was glance along the street a few more times than the nonathletes, each time gathering slightly more data and processing it more speedily and accurately than the other students.
“They didn’t move faster,” said Art Kramer, the director of the Beckman Institute and a leader in the study of exercise and cognition, who oversaw the research. “But it looks like they thought faster.”
Obama says Qadhafi could stay
President Obama indicated on Tuesday that Muammar Qadhafi may still have an opportunity to “change his approach” and put in place “significant reforms” in the Libyan government.
Asked by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie what the U.S. commitment is in Libya if Qadhafi remains in power but continues to pose a threat to his people, Obama appeared to leave the door open for political reforms.
“You are absolutely right that as long as Qadhafi remains in power, and unless he changes his approach and there are significant reforms in the Libyan government that allow the Libyan people to express themselves, there are still going be potential threats against Libyan people—unless he is going to step down,” Obama said.
Obama did manage to backpedal during his own comments; its reassuring that at least Obama is still listening to himself.
The White House also emphasized that the military misson is to enforce the UN resolutions with respect to protecting civilians; regime change is a separate task left to the diplomats, or something. Quite a distinction.
Maybe there is a subtle plan is all of this - if Qaddafi becomes as confused as our allies, maybe he will be afflicted with disabling migraines.
WHY WE FIGHT: Obama is focused on a feel-good humanitarian mission; the Euros are fighting to stave off a wave of illegal immigration from Africa.
Here is an encouraging headline from the White House press office NY Times:
U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya
Great, we actualy have goals in Libya? WTF are they - protect civilians, partition Libya, oust Qadaffi, what? Oh, here we go:
WASHINGTON — An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said Monday.
But the firepower of more than 130 Tomahawk cruise missiles and attacks by allied warplanes have not yet succeeded in accomplishing the more ambitious demands by the United States — repeated by President Obama in a letter to Congress on Monday — that Colonel Qaddafi withdraw his forces from embattled cities and cease all attacks against civilians.
Ahh, they have nearly achieved their initial objectives en route to... what? As Yogi Berra may have said, we don't know where we're going, but we're making good time.
Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.
Confusion? In an operation led, or not, by Obama? The President tried to clear up the gap between his stated goals and the actual UN resolution:
In Santiago, Chile, Mr. Obama restated that the United States would soon turn over full responsibility to the allies to maintain the no-fly zone. He also sought to distinguish the stated goals of the United Nations-authorized military operation — protecting Libyan civilians, establishing a no-flight zone and forcing Colonel Qaddafi’s withdrawal from the cities — with his own administration’s demand, not included in the United Nations resolution, that Colonel Qaddafi had to leave office.
“It is U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera. “And we’ve got a wide range of tools in addition to our military effort to support that policy.” Mr. Obama cited economic sanctions, the freezing of assets and other measures to isolate the regime in Tripoli.
So if Qaddafi steps down because of the economic sanctions, that is fine, but if he steps down because of US military action then we have exceeded the scope of the UN resolution. Sure.
David Brooks catalogs the problems with multilateral coalitions marching to war. I deplore this schoolyard taunting:
Third, multilateral efforts are retarded...
Hmm. Maybe that needs more context:
Third, multilateral efforts are retarded and often immobilized by dispersed authority and a complicated decision-making process. They are slow to get off the ground because they have to get their most reluctant members on board. Once under way, they are slow to adapt to changing circumstances.
Sure enough, the world fiddled for weeks while Qaddafi mounted his successful counterinsurgency campaign. The coalition attacks are only days old, but already fissures are appearing. The Arab League is criticizing the early results. The French are not coordinating well with their allies. NATO leaders are even now embroiled in a debate about the operational command structure.
He questions our morale:
Multilateral campaigns rarely, on the other hand, arouse people. They are organized by elites, and propelled by calculation, not patriotism. No one wants to die for the Arab League, the United Nations or some temporary coalition of the willing.
In the Libyan campaign, Qaddafi’s defenders will be fighting for land, home, God and country. The multinational force will be organized by an acronym and motivated by a calibrated calculus to achieve a humanitarian end.
And Mr. Brooks provides a very interesting test in his conclusion:
All of this is not to say the world should do nothing while Qaddafi unleashes his demonic fury. Nor is this a defense of unilateralism. But we should not pretend we have found a superior way to fight a war. Multilateralism works best as a garment clothing American leadership. Besides, the legitimacy of a war is not established by how it is organized but by what it achieves.
Legitimacy is established by results rather than intentions? Since libs routinely evaluate programs on the basis of their (good) intentions, I find this interesting. I also wonder whether it only applies to a superpower such as the US, which (arguably) only fails to win a war because of a lack of effort and commitment, rather than a lack of ability.
Well. If the Iraq effort had been a cakewalk, there certainly would have been less squawking. On the other hand, eight years later a wave of democracy and reform is sweeping the Middle East, just as the neocons hoped. Obviously, among journalists and historians credit for that goes everywhere but to Bush.
The president of Yemen appears poised to topple. Since the president is a long-time US ally, I assume Obama will feel comforatble turning on him. After the Arab League waffling on Libya, I wonder whether repressive Arab governments will continue to support Wetern intervention against repressive Arab governments. I am sure Hillary is smart enough to figure that one out.
THE TRIBE ENDURES: An interesting detail:
All three army officers who defected belong to [President] Saleh’s Hashid tribe and a tribal leader said it was rallying behind Maj. Gen. al-Ahmar as a possible replacement for Saleh, eager to keep the president’s job for one of its own.
Is this democratic reform or an attempt to preserve the kleptocracy?
Cats are natural born killers:
While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.
The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to 500 million birds are killed each year by cats — about half by pets and half by feral felines. “I hope we can now stop minimizing and trivializing the impacts that outdoor cats have on the environment and start addressing the serious problem of cat predation,” said Darin Schroeder, the group’s vice president for conservation advocacy.
By contrast, 440,000 birds are killed by wind turbines each year, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, although that number is expected to exceed one million by 2030 as the number of wind farms grows to meet increased demand.
Hmm. If our nation has endured and (dare we say it?) prospered in spite of 500 million birds annually meeting their unmaker in untimely fashion, maybe it is time we trivialized the bird deaths caused by wind farms. The bird people aren't daft on this topic:
The American Bird Conservancy generally supports the development of wind energy, but it argues that wind farms should be “bird smart” — for example, positioned so that they do not interfere with major migration paths or disturb breeding grounds, with their power lines buried to prevent collisions.
The Japanese seem to be getting their reactors under control:
Before the evacuation this evening, workers had made progress to stabilize the overheated reactors and fuel storage pools at the plant over the weekend. In the afternoon Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued a cautiously encouraging statement regarding their progress.
"We haven’t yet escaped danger, but we’re starting to see a ray of hope that we’ll be able to escape,” he said.
The coalition backing Hillary's War has not even held together through the weekend:
CAIRO—The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya on Sunday and said he would call a new league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.
Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to embrace the intense bombing and missile attacks—including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces—that have filled Arab television screens for the last two days.
“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement on the official Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”
Moussa’s declaration suggested some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down on in the Arab world, Middle Eastern leaders and their peoples traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.
Good grief. Let's reprise the decision making process that led us to this:
The administration’s shift also became possible only after the United States won not just the support of Arab countries but their active participation in military operations against one of their own.
“Hillary and Susan Rice were key parts of this story because Hillary got the Arab buy-in and Susan worked the U.N. to get a 10-to-5 vote, which is no easy thing,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert with the Center for American Progress, a liberal group with close ties to the administration. This “puts the United States in a much stronger position because they’ve got the international support that makes this more like the 1991 gulf war than the 2003 Iraq war.”
The pivotal decision for Mr. Obama came on Tuesday though, after Mrs. Clinton had called from Paris with news that the Arab governments were willing to participate in military action. That would solve one of Mr. Gates’s concerns, that the United States not be viewed on the Arab street as going to war against another Muslim country.
Mrs. Clinton “had the proof,” one senior administration official said, “that not only was the Arab League in favor, but that the Emirates were serious about participating.”
And let's remember what Barack said only yesterday:
In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
Or two days ago:
The Arab League and the European Union joined us in calling for an end to violence.
Well, it looks like the Arab League is still calling for an end to the violence.
Now let's have a To Be Fair interlude. The small-minded and unimaginative will criticize Obama for this unraveling of the diplomatic effort. But as he has made clear, the US is basically a passive bystander to this:
But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama cast the United States in a supporting, almost reluctant role, reflecting the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East. He said that Britain, France and Arab nations would take the lead, and that United States ground forces would not enter Libya.
So blame France, or Hillary, or anyone but Barry.
AND TO BE DOUBLY FAIR: If tha Arab League bails out, Obama's seemingly daft recommendation that US military involvement be limited to "days, not weeks" seems plausible. This whole no-fly plan my be the thing that is not flying.
As the allies go to war, Obama goes to Brazil, where he is not feeling the love:
Tens of thousands of Brazilians were expected to gather in an historic square in Rio on Sunday to hear Mr Obama speak but the US embassy in Brasilia said the speech had been cancelled.
Anti-US banners had been placed around the square by Thursday and some protest groups had declared Mr Obama a "persona non grata" due to a "bellicose policy of occupation" in foreign countries.
We can not confirm the report that, when told that Brazilians were protesting, Obama asked "How many in a brazilian?"
The NY Times really drilled down to find a reason the speech was cancelled:
But the White House’s plans to stage a speech in a plaza where thousands of Brazilians could see him were aborted in favor of one indoors, at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, because of Secret Service security concerns.
Hard-hitting! Here is the AP:
The speech was originally billed as an outdoor event on the plaza open to all, but U.S. officials decided at the last-minute to move the speech inside the theater and make it invitation-only "due to a number of concerns," according to a Friday press release from the U.S. Embassy. Scaffolding for the stage on which Obama was to speak was quickly removed from the square.
I assume security was one factor, but I doubt it was the only one. But let me waffle here - even if the local crowd was sure to be enthusiastic, it is possible that someone on the White House team may have had the sudden insight that in the current circumstances very few folks back in the US would be pleased to see their President being cheered by a million Brazilians. Barry Stardust taking his "They Love Me" tour to South America - is that going to help his image at home? Maybe not.
Japanese news services report that the Japaese SDF had a good day of hosing the reactors:
In the ongoing battle to prevent meltdown, there may be signs of hope after a seven-hour operation by Japan's Self Defense Force to spray the damaged Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima Dai-ichi with over 40,000 gallons of water.
SDF teams spent all day Saturday desperately trying to cool the damaged reactor in Fukushima, and now say there may be signs that the dangerous situation is stabilizing. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that conditions at Unit 3 have become "relatively stable" after the third day of hosing the plant, according to Kyodo News.
That's good news, as long as the locals don't celebrate with spinach washed down with milk.
One senses a certain chill in the feet of the Old Gray Lady as they cover their President's latest foreign adventure and report on Obama's delusional "days, not weeks" timeline for US military involvement:
Obama Warns Libya, but Attacks Go On
Gosh, that headline is a real bunker-buster on my morale. Are they suggesting that Obama is impotent and irrelevant?
It gets worse. Much worse:
Mr. Obama used tough language that was at times reminiscent of President George W. Bush before the war in Iraq.
OMG - the Times broke out the dreaded Bush comparison? If they use the word "Cheneyesque" (and on the topic of Gitmo, they just might), you will know the love affair is finally over.
The Times plays Hamlet to Obama's, well, Hamlet. Can we find criticism of his dithering? Yes we can:
“If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Mr. Obama said, laying out a policy decision made after several weeks in which the administration sent conflicting signals about its willingness to use force to aid the rebels at a time of upheaval throughout the Arab world.
And can we find support for the dithering? Yes we can:
But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama cast the United States in a supporting, almost reluctant role, reflecting the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East.
Ahh, well, we don't want to get involved but what's a superpower to do when both France and the Arab League bat their baby blues?
Say it with me - they told Glenn that if he voted for McCain we would be taken into wars with neither Congressional approval nor public debate.
SENDING A STRONG SIGNAL: The Times gets inside the decision process and reassures us that Obama is commited to vacillation and weakness. After explaining that this is Hillary's war, they deliver this jaw-dropper:
On Thursday, during an hour-and-a -half meeting, Mr. Obama signed off on allowing American pilots to join Europeans and Arabs in military strikes against the Libyan government.
The president had a caveat, though. The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited — no ground troops — and finite. “Days, not weeks,” a senior White House official recalled him saying.
"Days, not weeks"? Seriously? Because several folks (Ross Douthat, Jeffrey Goldberg, Clive Crook) have made the seemingly obvious point that if Qadaffi simply accepts a cease fire in place (which is, after all, what the UN requested), that may not result in the fall of his government. In which case we may be propping up the rebels in Benghazi for years, not days. Is Obama really not aware of this possibility? Does he seriously think the US will abandon its role in the no-fly zone after a few days if the situation is unresolved? Or is he really just too focused on the NCAA upsets to think clearly about this? This "days, not weeks" timeline is absurd, but it seems utterly consistent with the mindset that brought the headscratching "surge and retreat" announcement on Afghanistan.
I envision a slight recasting of Hillary's Eleven, a star-studded caper film with Hillary Clinton asking Barack Obama "Are you in or out?" Because it doesn't sound like Barry realizes we can't be in for just a day or two.
LADIES NIGHT OUT: Is my snark-detector misfiring? I think the Times is showing less than full respect in this next passage, although I may be guilty of projection:
The change [in Administration policy] became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action to avert a potential humanitarian catastrophe, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity. Ms. Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms. Rice was an Africa adviser to President Clinton when the United States failed to intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide, which Mr. Clinton has called his biggest regret.
Now, the three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya.
Well, thank heaven Barry listened to a former journalist and not his defense specialists. Apparently the boring middle-aged guys wanted to stay home:
In joining Ms. Rice and Ms. Power, Mrs. Clinton made an unusual break with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who, along with the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and the counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, had urged caution. Libya was not vital to American national security interests, the men argued, and Mr. Brennan worried that the Libyan rebels remained largely unknown to American officials, and could have ties to Al Qaeda.
No worries - America's role in Libya will be winding down by next weekend and won't distract us from the Final Four, or even the Elite Eight. Sweet Jiminy.
FROM COLD (BUT INQUIRING) MINDS: I never liked "chickenhawks" as a slur, but given their slim military credentials will libs be calling Hillary, Samantha and Susan the "chick-hawks"?
Gen. Petraeus has not finalized his troop withdrawal proposals but he is being pressured to provide more than merely cosmetic reductions:
General Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, did not say how many combat troops might be withdrawn, or from which parts of the country they would come.
“I am still formulating the options that I will provide to the president and the recommendations that I will make,” he told the House Armed Services Committee. “But I do believe there will be some combat forces included in those options and in that recommendation.”
A range of administration, Pentagon and military officials have said that the first American troops to come home in July are expected to be engineers and support troops, rather than combat soldiers, particularly because fighting is expected to be intense this summer and American commanders do not want to lose the territory they have gained.
But General Petraeus is seeking to balance demands from the military with the White House’s insistence on something more than cosmetic withdrawals in July. He met with President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday.
Closer to home, Petraeus' son just returned from a tour in Afghanistan:
On a personal note, General Petraeus told the committee that his son, Lt. Stephen Petraeus, a 2009 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had returned home this fall after serving as an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan.
“You know, I may not be at this table — probably won’t be at 2015 — but I’ll tell you that my son is in uniform, and Lieutenant Petraeus just completed a tour in Afghanistan, which thankfully we were able to keep very quiet,” the general said.
Meanwhile, Obma is sweating the early upsets in the NCAAs. We're all under a lot of pressure.
MORE: Peggy Noonan lauds the effort of our troops and civilians in Afghanistan, but is getting ready to quit. She closes with a good line from the Pashtun:
America has now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union was; we mark the 10th anniversary of our presence in October. The surge is on, and we'll know more in six months. But I'm thinking of a Pashtun taunt sometimes thrown at Americans: "You have the watches, but we have the time."
My inner Jersey Guy thinks that "Yeah? Watch this" or "I've got something for ya to watch right here" would be a suitable rejoinder. Unless one went in a different direction and chose to reminesce about how much time one had for the Pashtun's mother and sister... Well, I doubt that woud be a helpful path to nation building.
STILL MORE: Roger Cohen of the Times, whom I consider to be a non-delusional lefty, says we need to go big or go home.
LONDON — For years I watched a “no-fly zone” in Bosnia. I watched Bosnian Muslims being slaughtered as NATO patrolled the skies. The no-fly zone was created by the United Nations Security Council in October 1992. The Srebrenica massacre took place in July 1995. Enough said.
The Bosnian no-fly zone was an attempt to assuage Western consciences after the Serb killing spree against Muslims in the first six month of the war. It was not about saving lives: Lifting the grotesque arms embargo on Bosnia might have achieved that. It was about allowing politicians in Washington and Paris to feel they’d done something, however feeble, about genocide.
Having witnessed hypocrisy most foul in Bosnia — the West, in Margaret Thatcher’s words, became “accomplice to a massacre” — I refuse to will similar hypocrisy on the brave resistance fighters of Benghazi who face Muammar el-Qaddafi’s superior tanks, now moving relentlessly eastward. No-fly zones are for the birds.
And now, in Libya?
What’s clear to me is that there is no halfway house. Spurn conscience-salving gestures. The case against going in prevails unless the West, backed and joined by the Arab League, decides it will, ruthlessly, stop, defeat, remove and, if necessary, kill Qaddafi in short order. I’m skeptical, even after a vote from the United Nations authorizing "all necessary measures," that this determination can be forged. Only if it can be does intervention make sense.
Since the First Ditherer is letting France and the UN take the lead here, I don't see how "Go Big" is an option.
Back in Wisconsin a judge has temporarily blocked the new law reducing union powers, pending a resolution of the question of whether state open-meeting laws were followed:
A Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked a new state law curbing public worker union bargaining rights, the Associated Press reports.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order Friday as requested by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, the AP reports.
Ozanne filed a lawsuit contending that a legislative committee that broke a stalemate that had kept the law in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin's open meetings law.
More here - apparently one resolution would be for Walker et al to take a second bite of the apple:
[Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi] said that, if the Legislature wanted to come back to re-enact the bill, they would have the right to do that.
Spokesmen for Walker and GOP legislative leaders had no immediate comment on whether their bosses would consider passing the same legislation a second time.
Key takeaway - a judge named "Sue me"?
The meltdown goes on.
That was easy! In response to the UN resolution authorizing a no-fly, no-drive zone, Qadaffi declares a cease fire. Gee whiz, French leadership that's working - what could go wrong? [UPDATE - Or, when is a cease-fire not a cease fire?]
As to Qadaffi's actual strategy and intentions, who knows? Is there some reason to think he can't, or shouldn't, just wait this out? Per CNN he has already retaken the major oil-related facilities; maybe the rebellion in Benghazi has symbolic but not strategic importance. Perhaps we can look to a day with UN sanctions, reports that those sanctions are killing 5,000 Libyan babies each month, and a new oil-for-food program
The irony of this passage may have eluded someone:
Characterizing Colonel Qaddafi as a menacing “creature” lacking a moral compass, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the international community had little choice but to act. “There is no good choice here. If you don’t get him out and if you don’t support the opposition and he stays in power, there’s no telling what he will do,” Mrs. Clinton said from Tunisia on Thursday.
She went on to say Qaddafi would do “terrible things” to Libya and its neighbors. “It’s just in his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.” Her remarks, applauded by the studio audience where she appeared, amounted to the administration’s most stridently personal attacks on the Libyan leader, echoing President Ronald Reagan’s “mad dog of the Middle East.”
Yet somehow Saddam Hussein was not in that category? Please.
On the bright side, Libya is essentially a coastal road alongside a NATO lake, so it is a much more favorable locale for military operations than Afghanistan, Iraq or Kosovo.
From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of... Benghazi?
Following UN approval Obama, or anyway, Hillary will be sending in the Marines, or the Navy, or something to stave off defeat for the Libyan rebels.
The National Review editors support this adventure; Andrew McCarthy has a long post wondering just how many Americans should die to create a new regime that will probably be as anti-Western as the current one. Ross Douthat wonders just how open-ended a commitment we are contemplating here, given Qadaffi's support among some of the Libyan tribes:
This means that National Review’s preferred course would necessarily commit us to either a direct attempt at regime change by American forces (we would be acting “in support” of the rebels, to be sure, but it seems clear that we would have to do all the heavy lifting) or else the creation of semi-permanent U.S. client state on the Gulf of Sidra, which would depend on Washington not only for its legitimacy, but for its very existence. We would be making an open-ended commitment to babysit the losing side in a civil war, in other words, out of a vague hope that eventually our support would enable the rebels to evict Qaddafi and reunite the country. And in geopolitics, eventually can be a very, very long time.
Well, we propped up the Kurds for quite a while (and eventually went to war to end that stalemate. Geez, maybe we can fight in Libya someday, too...). And just from looking at a map one would infer that the natural protector of eastern Libya is Egypt, which may create its own problems.
I assume Hillary is analogizing to Rwanda (bad!) and Kosovo (good!) in making the case for American involvement. Of course, Republicans didn't broadly support the Kosovo effort, but that is ancient history.
Well - is a military effort over Libya really going to simply commence, with no Congressional debate or Presidential address? Amazing - I would not expect that from the First Ditherer. And frankly, starting something that looks like a war with no public support, debate, or preparation is absurd. On the other hand, this is a huge weekend for the NCAA March Madness, so we can't really expect Obama to emerge until early next week.
I know folks are waxing nostalgic for a bit of dietary advice, so here we go from the NY Times:
Warmed-Over Atkins? Don’t Tell the French
PIERRE DUKAN has been called the French Dr. Atkins. Millions of Frenchmen are said to have tried his program, a method that promises — like dozens of diets before and since — no hunger, no calorie counting, instant weight loss and lifelong weight maintenance. The original Dukan diet book sold 3.5 million copies in French and has been translated into 14 languages. Three Dukan books were among the top five best sellers in France last year. Hundreds of online blogs and forums serve as the diet’s virtual support system, not unlike Weight Watchers’ weekly meetings.
Few Americans have even heard of the diet that made the 69-year-old Dr. Dukan famous, but that is about to change.
Next month, the diet will make its American debut when a division of Crown Publishing rolls out the North American edition of “The Dukan Diet,” its cover featuring a plate with two Eiffel Towers and the words, “The Real Reason the French Stay Thin.”
Since this is a variation of the Atkins high-proten, low carb diet,or the contemporary Paleo diets, we can be sure of two things - it will work, and the medical community will bash it. On to the bashing!
For years, critics have dismissed the Dukan diet as a warmed-over version of early Atkins: a simple protein-centric method that divides foods into good and bad categories and relies on the claims of a medical doctor who is long on enthusiasm and short on scientific research.
...Even before its American introduction, the diet is under attack. “This is just another one of those diets invented by a charismatic individual who makes a lot of promises and has loads of testimonials but is not based on any scientific data whatsoever,” said Frank Sacks, professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and chairman of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.
Dr. Sacks, call your Department Chairman! Here is Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health:
"If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."
Since this diet eliminates those foods (I presume), one would expect results from a low-carb diet such as Dukan. And this two year trial documented just that, as did this one year German trial (I could cherry-pick reports all day...).
It's hard to read this and feel confident that the Japanese have the situation in hand.
The radiation plume is meant to hit Southern California Friday afternoon and I will be shocked if there are no bars that pick that up as a happy hour theme.
A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday.
Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels measurable but minuscule.
The Christian Science Monitor had a good meltdown primer covering spent fuel rods in pools.
The St. Patrick's Day Dash to Dumb is already over - here is the normally sensible Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters on Topics To Grim To Joke About:
Joy Behar on Wednesday made a staggeringly stupid comment on "The View" that is so inane it requires no additional setup.
"I’m sure people in concentration camps made jokes about each other, about the Nazis, about their situation. That’s the way people relieve stress" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
"Mad as it may sound, there was a funny side even in Auschwitz, " writes Eva Salier.
In fact, Salier credits her sense of humor with helping her survive the death camps.
The New Jersey mother wrote about laughter in hell 37 years ago in her memoir, so her then-10-year-old son would know what concentration camps had been like.
Bill Cosby once said, "If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it." Can we
really survive anything emotionally if we can keep our sense of humor about it? The
ultimate test of this would seem to have been the Nazi concentration camps of World
War II. Surely, there was no room for humor in the camps. And yet, psychiatrist Victor
Frankl, a prisoner in the camps himself, noted in his book, Man's Search for Meaning,
that humor was one of the things that helped people survive in the camps. Finding things to laugh at helped maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life—even as prisoners saw others dying all around them.
Many survived with the thought that they would one day see a loved one again. Others
used their imaginations to create humor. Frankl states that he and another prisoner tried to invent at least one funny story or joke every day. For example, in one joke they created, a prisoner points toward a Capo (a prisoner who also acted as a guard) and says, "Imagine! I knew him when he was only the president of a bank!"
Ba de bump - we'll be here all week.
NEEDLESS TO SAY: As the discussion contiued on The View, co-host Sherri Shepherd pointed out that it is one thing for concentration camp victims to joke about their own situation and quite another for outsiders to joke about it. The launch point was a question about the appropriateness of jokes about the disasters in Japan by American comedian Gottfried.
I amstunned by the courage and commitment of the Japanese workers struggling at that nuclear plant.
Don't forget to set your clocks forward.
Secretary of Defense Gates decried NATO's talk of withdrawal from Afghanistan and urged them to pander to their restive voters responsibly, like Barack:
BRUSSELS — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply rebuked the United States’ allies on Friday for preparing to effectively abandon Afghanistan, threatening what he described as tenuous progress in the nearly decade-old war.
In a deliberately undiplomatic speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Gates called on European allies to put aside their domestic politics and work with the United States to secure the “semblance of normalcy” that he said was emerging in some parts of Afghanistan.
“Frankly, there is too much talk about leaving and not enough talk about getting the job done right,” Mr. Gates said. “Too much discussion of exit and not enough discussion about continuing the fight. Too much concern about when and how many troops might redeploy and not enough about what needs to be done before they leave.”
Obviously, this is a bit of an awkward message coming from the country whose President announced the Hokey-Pokey surge (We put the new troops in, we take the new troops out...) in December 2009 in order to achieve his own domestic political goals. Gates tackled this head-on:
Mr. Gates made clear that the initial American troop withdrawals ordered for July by President Obama would be limited, perhaps to no more than several thousand troops. Pointedly, he told NATO that “we will not sacrifice the significant gains made to date, or the lives lost, for a political gesture.”
That's the ticket! Obama's pandering on troop withdrawals is old news and will be implemented prudently. Now the Euros need to get on board:
The defense secretary’s speech was aimed at a European continent where the war, a retaliation for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that was supposed to be over in months, has become more and more unpopular. Mr. Gates mentioned no specific countries, but two important nations that have announced or are considering withdrawals are Germany and Britain. Between them, they have 13,900 troops in Afghanistan. The United States has about 100,000 soldiers in the country.
The German Parliament voted in January to begin withdrawing its 4,900 soldiers by the end of this year, the first time that Germany, which has the third-largest number of troops in Afghanistan, set a time frame for bringing its men and women home. Britain, which has the second-largest contingent, with about 9,000 troops, said in December that it was “possible” that its forces would start leaving this year.
Right, then = Germany can "begin" to withdraw their troops by bringing a few hundred home; same ploy with Britain.
Very Barackian. Later he'll close Gitmo.
CJ Chiver of the Times assesses our progress in Afghanistan:
Putting Afghan Plan Into Action Proves Difficult
ALAM KHEL, Afghanistan — If the American-led fight against the Taliban was once a contest for influence in well-known and conventionally defined areas — the capital and large cities, main roads, the border with Pakistan, and a handful of prominent valleys and towns — today it has become something else.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the United States military has settled into a campaign for scattered villages and bits of terrain that few people beyond their immediate environs have heard of.
Reality is not pretty:
Officially, Mr. Obama’s Afghan buildup shows signs of success, demonstrating both American military capabilities and the revival of a campaign that had been neglected for years. But in the rank and file, there has been little triumphalism as the administration’s plan has crested.
With the spring thaw approaching, officers and enlisted troops alike say they anticipate another bloody year. And as so-called surge units complete their tours, to be replaced by fresh battalions, many soldiers, now seasoned with Afghan experience, express doubts about the prospects of the larger campaign.
The United States military has the manpower and, thus far, the money to occupy the ground that its commanders order it to hold. But common questions in the field include these: Now what? How does the Pentagon translate presence into lasting success?
The answers reveal uncertainty. “You can keep trying all different kinds of tactics,” said one American colonel outside of this province. “We know how to do that. But if the strategic level isn’t working, you do end up wondering: How much does it matter? And how does this end?”
The strategic vision, roughly, is that American units are trying to diminish the Taliban’s sway over important areas while expanding and coaching Afghan government forces, to which these areas will be turned over in time.
But the colonel, a commander who asked that his name be withheld to protect him from retaliation, referred to “the great disconnect,” the gulf between the intense efforts of American small units at the tactical level and larger strategic trends.
The Taliban and the groups it collaborates with remain deeply rooted; the Afghan military and police remain lackluster and given to widespread drug use; the country’s borders remain porous; Kabul Bank, which processes government salaries, is wormy with fraud, and President Hamid Karzai’s government, by almost all accounts, remains weak, corrupt and erratically led.
And the Pakistani frontier remains a Taliban safe haven.
Even a successful military campaign, soldiers and Marines consistently say, is unlikely to untangle this knot of dysfunction, much less within the deadlines discussed in Washington. The Obama administration hopes to begin withdrawing forces within months and to complete a drawdown by 2014 (a plan reiterated by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Afghanistan this week).
“This is tough,” one company commander, Capt. Edward T. Peskie, said of the problems. “And it’s more complex than I think most people realize.”
But don't say our troops, are pessimistic:
An awareness of the disconnect should not be confused with pessimism, at least not outwardly expressed. A can-do pragmatism and a quick operational tempo are apparent in many infantry units, even if the work is overlaid with nagging questions.
Another commander, Lt. Col. Alan Streeter, leads a reinforced infantry battalion newly arrived in Ghazni Province for a one-year tour. “I think this place is far from secure,” he said of the Andar and Deh Yak districts, where his unit, Second Battalion, Second Infantry, is assigned. “But I think it is a hell of a lot better than it was.”
Should we ask abut a time frame for success? Don't ask:
“We create little security bubbles,” said Sgt. First Class Paul Meacham, a platoon leader in Third Battalion, 187th Infantry, which swept Alam Khel, after one of his last patrols before rotating back to the States last month. “But they are little bubbles that are easy to attack and infiltrate.”
After a moment of reflection, he said: “I think it could work. But it’s going to be a long time.”
Asked how long, his answer was immediate. “These people,” he said, nodding toward the villages nearby, “think in decades.”
I don't think the American people are planning on decades.
As soon as a few prominent Republicans give him political cover our "leader" Obama will cut and run.
Wisconsin Republicans restructured the union-busting provisions as a non-fiscal measure and passed it.
That mechanism had been rejected by the governor weeks ago, but evidently he changed his mind.
The NY Times tells us about Rep. Peter King, who is about to open House hearings on Muslim radicalization in America:
WASHINGTON — For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.
WASHINGTON — For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.
“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”
As Mr. King, a Republican, rose as a Long Island politician in the 1980s, benefiting from strong Irish-American support, the I.R.A. was carrying out a bloody campaign of bombing and sniping, targeting the British Army, Protestant paramilitaries and sometimes pubs and other civilian gathering spots. His statements, along with his close ties to key figures in the military and political wings of the I.R.A., drew the attention of British and American authorities.
A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said.
In later years, by all accounts, Mr. King became an important go-between in talks that led to peace in Northern Ireland, drawing on his personal contacts with leaders of I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, and winning plaudits from both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, the former president and the British prime minister.
So he grew over the years. Nixon went to China, Obama quit smoking, and Mr. King can speak from personal experience about the possibility that seemingly mainstream people can become radicalized. His IRA past is not a bug, it's a feature.
Eventually the Times addresses that:
“King’s exactly right to say there’s a difference of approach between the I.R.A. and Al Qaeda,” said Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at Amnesty International and a former British military intelligence officer. “But I personally consider both of them terrorist groups.”
Mr. Parker was at a birthday party for a friend in London in 1990 when the I.R.A. tossed a bomb onto the roof of the rented hall, a historic barracks. Many people, including Mr. Parker, were injured, but none died, by lucky chance of location and quick medical response, he said.
What troubles him, Mr. Parker said, is that Mr. King “understands the pull of ancestral ties. He took a great interest in a terrorist struggle overseas. He’s a guy who could bring real insight to this situation.” Instead, he said, “he is damaging cooperation from the greatest allies the U.S. has in counterterrorism.”
Some who have been close to Mr. King agree. Niall O’Dowd, an Irish-born New York publisher and writer who worked with him on the peace process in the 1990s, broke publicly with him Monday on his Web site, IrishCentral.com, describing Mr. King’s “strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.”
In Northern Ireland, Mr. O’Dowd said, they saw a Catholic community “demonized” by its Protestant and British critics and worked to bring it to the peace table. Seeing his old friend similarly “demonize” Muslims has shocked him, he said.
“I honestly feel Peter is wrong, and his own experience in Northern Ireland teaches him that,” Mr. O’Dowd said. “He’s a very honest, working-class Irish guy from Queens who’s had an amazing career. Now I see a man turning back on himself, and I don’t know why.”
What if they gave a "Win A Commencement Speech From Obama" contest and nobody came?
The White House is ramping up an effort to promote a nationwide competition to decide which high school wins a commencement speech by President Obama.
An internal White House memo indicates that the White House is facing a shortage of applications less than a week before the deadline.
The competition was extended from the February 25 deadline until Friday, March 11 after few schools met the original application deadline. CBS News has learned a White House Communications Office internal memo dated February 22 noted "a major issue with the Commencement Challenge."
"As of yesterday we had received 14 applications and the deadline is Friday," the memo said. The memo also urged recipients to, "please keep the application number close hold."
A follow-up memo on February 28 reported receipt of 68 applications. Noting the competition among more than 1,000 schools last year, the memo said, "Something isn't working." It called on staffers to ask "friendly congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral offices" to encourage schools to apply.
"Something isn't working". No kidding.
Obama renews his commitment to closing Guantanamo later:
WASHINGTON – President Obama reversed his two-year-old order halting new military charges against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Monday, permitting a resumption of military trials under rules he said provide adequate rights for defendants but implicitly admitting the failure for now of his pledge to close the prison camp.
Mr. Obama said in a statement he remains committed to closing Guantánamo some day and to charging some terrorist suspects in civilian criminal courts, as occurred throughout the administration of George W. Bush administration and has continued under Mr. Obama. But Congress has blocked the transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo to the United States for trial, undermining at least for the time being the administration’s plan to hold civilian trials for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and other accused terrorists.
Here we go.
David Leonhardt of the Times tells us that median earnings of all males (including the un- and under-employed) have fallen since 1969.
I will join the gathering herd with a related link to the Slate column about sex getting "cheaper" for men.
If you can scrape together the high speed internet connection for Call of Duty, the Direct TV sports package, and a girlfriend willing to tolerate it, who needs an income?
IowaHawk steps out of character to deliver an all-time Krugman beat-down.
I will defend Obama as gutless rather than reverse-racist in this story about his attitude to the Tea Party; the topic is race and the Presidency:
But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent "Tea Party" movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn't helping them nearly enough, he said.
A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to "take back" their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn't dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a "subterranean agenda" in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.
I think (hope?!?) he was being polite to some fat-cat donors rather than describing his own convictions (and I am bitterly clinging to the notion that he has some convictions). Huckabee going on about Obama's Kenyan attitudes would be an example from the right of pandering to the nutters rather than challenging them.
THEN AGAIN: The First Panderer is also the First Condescender, so he might very well believe the worst of these lowly Tea Partiers...
The Times has an article about the benefits of exercise on slowing the aging process. It is great news for mutant mice, and maybe for Times readers, as well.
...Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.
The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lacked the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they developed malfunctioning mitochondria early in their lives, as early as 3 months of age, the human equivalent of age 20. By the time they reached 8 months, or their early 60s in human terms, the animals were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. Listless, they barely moved around their cages. All were dead before reaching a year of age.
Except the mice that exercised.
Half of the mice were allowed to run on a wheel for 45 minutes three times a week, beginning at 3 months. These rodent runners were required to maintain a fairly brisk pace, Dr. Tarnopolsky said: “It was about like a person running a 50- or 55-minute 10K.” (A 10K race is 6.2 miles.) The mice continued this regimen for five months.
At 8 months, when their sedentary lab mates were bald, frail and dying, the running rats remained youthful. They had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings. They also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. Their gonads were normal, as were their hearts. They could balance on narrow rods, the showoffs.
But perhaps most remarkable, although they still harbored the mutation that should have affected mitochondrial repair, they had more mitochondria over all and far fewer with mutations than the sedentary mice had. At 1 year, none of the exercising mice had died of natural causes. (Some were sacrificed to compare their cellular health to that of the unexercised mice, all of whom were, by that age, dead.)
OK, that is amazing. Naturally, one wonders how well that carries over to non-mutant humans. Or, one might wonder why it would not:
Although in this experiment, the activity was aerobic and strenuous, Dr. Tarnopolsky is not convinced that either is absolutely necessary for benefits. Studies of older humans have shown that weightlifting can improve mitochondrial health, he said, as can moderate endurance exercise. Although there is probably a threshold amount of exercise that is necessary to affect physiological aging, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, “anything is better than nothing.” If you haven’t been active in the past, he continued, start walking five minutes a day, then begin to increase your activity level.
The good doctor is a believer.
Randy Barnett takes questions from some Senators.
Senate Democrats, trying to find their inner Rocky Balboa, lose the first round of the budget fight but claim this is only a prelude to great victories yet to come. We'll believe what we see.
For a Dem with character, check out this mob scene from Madison. The new civility still ain't all it ought to be.