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    13 July 2007

    DeMint the next Vitter?

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    Here's what our Senator said in reference to Sen. David Vitter's (R-La) revelation that he has used adult "services" (h/t Think Progress):
    “I think all of us have to look at it and say, ‘We can be next. … This can be a very lonely and isolating place.’ I’m fairly surprised at how little it does happen.”

    Senator, are you apologizing or positioning yourself for your own revelation? I doubt it's the latter, I don't think DeMint has been in DC long enough and I'd be shocked if he would do such a thing (though I'm not ruling it out). He's just a typical IOKIYAR-type (It's OK if you're a republican) clearing the way for his allies.

    And how is DC an "lonely and isolating" place?

    [UPDATE] GH adds in the comments that DeMint has been in DC as long as Vitter. Sorry and thanks!

    Posted by Geoff

    Winslow Wheeler and others on the Interim Surge Report

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    Some good points made here. Excerpts:
    Reading the [Initial Benchmark Assessment Report (.pdf) released yesterday] makes two things painfully obvious: 1) President Bush is grading Iraq on a curve; and 2) he and Congress are administering the wrong test.

    While the Iraqis are assessed in the White House's report to have achieved "satisfactory progress" on only eight of 18 "benchmarks" (six are rated "unsatisfactory"; two are given mixed ratings, and two are rated unable to be rated), it is painfully clear from reading the report that the "satisfactory" assessments are graded on a sharp curve. On political issues, any change - even a decision to delay a decision - is deemed "satisfactory." On military questions, characteristics that would mean a military unit is unfit to fight in the American Army (such as the three brigades the Iraqis barely managed to cobble together to deploy to Baghdad) are deemed "satisfactory" in this report.

    However, we are missing a far more fundamental and important point if all we take from this White House report is its transparent effort to make the situation in Iraq appear slightly less of a mess than others might perceive.

    What comes through even more clearly is the imposition of alien benchmarks on the Iraqi society and its faltering government. These benchmarks are not an effort to assist Iraq recover from the disaster of the American invasion and occupation, they are an effort to impose Western, if not American, values and methods on a society that has been resisting them, mostly violently, for the last four years. Perhaps even more to the point, the benchmarks have every appearance of an effort to make American politicians, not Iraqi citizens, feel better about themselves. An oil law to assist non-Iraqi oil companies extract resources, Western notions of constitutional law and minority rights, federalism - if not regionalism leading to virtual partition - and ending forthwith centuries old divisions in the society are just some of the end states the benchmarks seek to effect.

    Wheeler concludes...
    Are the benchmarks an honest and soundly based effort to assist Iraqi society and government? Or, are they an excuse-in-waiting for American politicians to exploit when they try to explain away the failure of a half decade of misbegotten policy, more than half a trillion dollars, and 3,600-plus American military lives.

    Bush's new "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" is an interesting document, but it should be read to understand American political maneuvering with respect to the war, rather than a measure of "progress" in Iraq.

    Elsewhere, Anthony Cordesman agrees that "the reality on the ground in Iraq reveals quite a different picture" than that of the interim report. His commentary is here.

    I haven't made it through the entire 25 page report, but what I have read sounds pretty desperate.

    Posted by Geoff

    11 July 2007

    Al Qaeda Enjoys US Foreign Policy

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    When will we learn that we can't win the "War on terror" with tactics that inflate the ranks of international terrorists? Particularity bombing urban targets from thousands of feet; launching large scale assaults based on lies and paranoia rather than credible threats; and supporting unpopular, corrupt, brutal regimes in the name of said war?

    The conclusion [of U.S. intelligence analysts] suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to rebuild despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.
    Al-Qaida is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

    Of course this is mute if the estimate is conflating any force acting in opposition to American interests as al Qaeda. This has been the MO recently in DC, likely in preparation for the upcoming debates over the war in Iraq. My impression gained from reading the AP piece (linked to above) is that this estimate resembles pragmatic analysis rather than political rhetoric.

    So what can we do? We as a population could end our unending demand for cheep oil and succumb to reality thus starving radical Islam of one of its main propaganda tools. We can focus on special operations and human intelligence rather than shock and awe. We could get our President to summon the Saudis over to Crawford for a hand holding session and make the request demand that they limit or cease the funding of Madrasas across the MENA. Furthering this last point, we should focus more on institution's (particularly educational) rather than military aid to countries like Pakistan. For example, we gave Pakistan $256 million over five years (2002-2007) to reform and revitalize Pakistan's education system. Meanwhile, we gave Musharraf $821 million in Foreign Military Financing between 2002 and 2005. I know that schools are a bargain when compared to munitions and logistical support for an army, but compare that commitment to the (estimated, because why should a monarchy be transparent?) more than $70 billion Saudi Arabia has spent since 1975 "to spread Wahhabism outside the Kingdom through mosques, schools, and Islamic centers." Additionally, the Saudis are also able to export people with the skills necessary to maintain these institutions to the greater MENA. In short we are loosing the battle of ideas badly. We are fighting the radicalized product that our allies permit and our policies sustain.

    Posted by Geoff

    09 July 2007

    Michael Savage: "He's a buffoon"

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    FP Passport blogger Blake Hounshell hits a home run with this point.

    Referring to a recent Savage quote that compared Muslim women wearing a burqa (or niqab) to a Nazi, Hounshell concludes:
    Readers of Passport will be able to place Savage in his proper context. He's a buffoon, a performance artist who says shocking things to get attention. But read about him for the first time in al-Masry al-Youm [link], and you might think he is a mainstream, influential figure. And that is a very dangerous impression for the United States to be sending.

    Couldn't agree more. I wonder how many on the edge of militarization will crossover and try to kill Westerners after reading this piece? Thanks Mr. Savage.

    Posted by Geoff


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