Monday, August 17, 2009
The cleric’s letter comes at the same time the Assembly of Experts has scheduled an emergency meeting to consider criticism leveled against Khamenei since June 12. The Assembly of Experts theoretically has the power to remove and replace the Supreme Leader.
Khamenei’s removal remains unlikely. But his influence has waned significantly. Once God’s unquestioned representative to the Iranian people, by condoning (if not coordinating) June 12’s election fraud and subsequently attempting to consolidate power, Khamenei has forfeited his position as senior jurist and in doing so, he has forfeited legitimacy conferred upon him by the people and by many clerics in favor of raw force of arms. The import of Republic in Islamic Republic was too often over looked in the Western press.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Sullivan notes that the text of the bill includes this statement:
The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary's need for pain and symptomShe goes on, “The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 . . . is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.” (hyperbole omitted).
management, including the individual's need for hospice care; counseling the
beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising
the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.
Incidentally, not only did Sen. Grassley join 41 other Republicans in supporting the bill, he was a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill, introduced by former Senator and Majority Leader Bill Frist.
The show trial of dissidents arrested during the unrest following the June 12 election has proven to be a debacle. Accusations of rape have given way to heated rhetoric flying between supporters of the regime and the opposition: Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (not to be confused with former President Mohammed Khatami) declared such allegations to be a “total slander against the Islamic system.” Calls for the arrest and trial of Karroubi have resumed.
On the other hand, Reformist politicians sent a letter to the Assembly of Experts demanding that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, be investigated. The Assembly of Experts is the Iranian body that appoints the Supreme Leader – in theory, it also has the power to remove him, though this has never been tested. Ayatollah Rafsanjani is the head of the Assembly of Experts.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
A joint German-Afghan offensive aimed at securing Kunduz province ahead of the Afghan presidential elections was launched in July. Reportedly, the German-Afghan operation was designed to disperse IMU militants who fight both in Afghanistan and in neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Since that operation’s end, militants have moved back into Kunduz province and Taliban activity has trended upwards in recent days. Though Kunduz is in the north of the country, it is still a majority Pashtun province and shares cultural and linguistic links with the Pashtun tribes that harry NATO forces in Helmand and Pakistani forces in Waziristan.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
What’s everyone so angry about? Call me too Midwestern, but I was watching people shout at each other in town halls and carrying signs so acidic in their opposition that I couldn’t help but wonder why people are so angry. Rumors have been started by that every elusive “them” that a government-run healthcare option will lead to “death panels” where grandma or grandpa will be denied care because the cost of treating them is greater then their societal worth as determined by a panel-to-be-named-later, though clearly for many “death panel” is the leading contender for the name. It sounds so ridiculous to me that at first I dismissed it, but when it didn’t go away I tried to think backwards. How do we get from a government-run healthcare option to death panels?
When I thought it through, here is the domino effect I presume is the “logic” that led us to death panels: Basically, if a government-run healthcare option is passed, then employers will stop providing a private health insurance option to employees. Why should they if the government going to act as the safety net? And how can they compete against the competitiveness and efficiency of a government-run system? The employer abandonment of private health insurance will drive the health insurance into the ground so that eventually even the companies that didn’t drop their private option will have to because there will be no private option. Presto, change-o we have only a government option for health care. So why does grandma have to die? Well with the exploding cost burden on the system tough choices will have to be made. We’ll need a panel full of mustache twisting, number crunching bureaucrats that will size up grandma and decide if she’s fit to contribute to society or she should be allowed to die.
Now let’s set aside some of the problems of logic here and focus on a few key assumptions on the surface. First, there has been no healthcare reform. There is no government-run option available to people to buy into. Second, the Democratic leadership and President Obama have repeatedly said that the public option is not a sole-provider, Canadian-esque system. Third, no one has talked about a panel that would deny care to the infirmed because they were infirmed. Turning to the logic, we are making some mighty leaps here and presuming an extreme level of nefariousness from our government officials. I mean that members of Congress and the President would push for a system that they fully know and anticipate will require the government to make life and death decisions requires a level of government distrust that is beyond anything I felt during the darkest periods of the Bush administration. If the path I presented above is not within reason, what is?
Okay, so here comes the econ lesson. There are two main drivers to have a government-run healthcare option as part of healthcare reform. First, to serve as a safety net, expanding Medicaid so that people who are currently uninsured can receive preventative healthcare. The thought being if a cough can be suppressed with an antibiotic prescribed from a clinic it will be less expensive then letting that cough worsen, requiring a trip (either planned or unplanned) to the emergency room for more dramatic, invasive, and expensive care. Second, it is to make private insurers compete. I have written on this topic in the past and Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes on this all the time, but basically currently private health insurance providers operate without competition. They only compete to be the health insurance vendor for large organizations. As far as the consumer is concerned, especially if you have employer-based health insurance, you might get a lot of options in the amount of coverage you receive, but it’s all coming from the same company. It’s like going to Baskin Robbins. There are 50 flavors, but it’s all Baskin Robbin’s ice cream.
It is for these two reasons that a government-run option is essential. We need to expand the safety net and introduce competition into the marketplace. Expanding the safety net would seem a moral imperative, but the thought of competition in the marketplace is a major reason for many people government-run becomes death panel. Will some business, especially small businesses, drop private insurance for their employees? Absolutely. Is there a possibility that this government-run system will drive all the private insurers out of business? Yes, but it’s not a probability. And part of the reason it’s not a probability is because the government-run system, presumably, will not run as efficiently as a private insurance option. Opponents of healthcare reform can’t have it both ways. They can’t decry a bureaucrat will sit between you and healthcare (even though one already does) and that this government system will run so well it will destroy the private health insurance industry.
I titled this post The Party of Fear, because as the healthcare debate devolves, the Republican, conservative strategy for defeat reform has become clear. See, first they tried to remind you how bad government is, but that didn’t really take hold. So the tactic has changed. Now they want you to be scared to death of government. They put their arm around grandma and ask if you want her to be put in front of a death panel. Reform and change are things to be feared. The government is rife with evil, dark figures (allusion intended) set on running your life, removing your God-given free will, and, for kicks, killing your grandma. Once again the choice has been made to abandon intellectualism and instead embrace fear.
You know what I haven’t heard from the Republican party? A solution. So much energy has been used. So much money has been spent to tell you all the reasons the reform is bad and when mild, classic reasons didn’t work they turned up the volume. It is far easier to sit in a room and breakdown an idea. It’s far harder come up with an idea, incorporating all the different interests involved. Healthcare reform is THE domestic issue for this generation and most certainly the next.
And so I’ll make a final appeal to those Republicans willing to listen. Stop spreading fear. Come to the table with ideas and an open mind. There will be disagreements, but let them be intelligent disagreements. Something needs done and you can either be a part of the solution, or remain the party of fear. The American people are united in their desire for change, but remain unwedded to a mode. There is an opportunity.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Mr. Ahmed could be forgiven an ironic smile as Secretary Clinton spoke. Three years ago, as head of one of the factions of the Islamic Courts Union, Mr. Ahmed was receiving military aid from Eritrea as he fought first the then Transitional Federal Government and then Ethiopia. Now, Mr. Ahmed finds himself at the head of the Transitional Federal Government, backed by Ethiopia and facing former allies armed by Eritrea.
Secretary Clinton’s comments, and the US policy it represents, may be ill conceived. Eritrea should stop arming the Shabab. Unlike the Islamic Courts Union that preceded the Shabab, the Shabab do not appear to be a force able to unify and govern Somalia. The Shabab do not suffer any of the moderating influences that made the Islamic Courts Union palatable if not ideal. Still, the roles that Ethiopia and Eritrea play in the Horn of Africa are disconcerting. Ethiopia seeks regional hegemony; it would like to dominate Somalia and does not necessarily seek a stable, secure Somalia. Eritrea does not have a particular interest in an Islamists Somalia, but it does seek to confound Ethiopia in anyway possible. Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fighting a proxy war in Somalia for years. Eritrea providing arms to the Shabab, and the Islamic Courts Union before it, is an extension of that proxy war – as was, the Ethiopian invasion to unseat the ICU and to install the Transitional Federal Government.
The best outcome for the United States in Somalia is a cohesive, functioning state. The US should be wary of being captured by either of the two nations engaging in a proxy war inside Somalia. Exerting pressure on Eritrea to force them to stop arming the Shabab is one thing, underwriting Ethiopian irredentism is foolish.
The obvious near-term goal for the opposition in the wake of the June 12 election was preventing Ahmadinejad from becoming the President of Iran for a second time. Time has clearly left that goal behind. But that does not mean the opposition is defunct nor does it remove the opposition’s raison d’etre.
The conflict between the regime and the opposition remains one for the mantle of the 1979 Revolution. Was that a revolution for Republic or Theocracy? Despite the swearing in, Ahmadinejad’s government remains illegitimate. The opposition’s lifeblood is the cleavage between the people of Iran’s view of its system of government and the regime’s view of that government. Khameini has adopted a near caeseropapist idea of governance. Ahmadinejad, I think, is tacking towards an autocracy. The people, however, believe in Republic – Islamic or otherwise.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Let’s start with President Clinton. You want to talk about bringing the goods. Five hours in country and he’s met with Kim Jong-Il and secured the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Take that Jimmy Carter (not that I have anything again President Carter). This was reportedly a private trip, though it came with tacit approval of the White House and presumably the State Department. Now the interplay between President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and President Clinton leads to all sorts of arm chair psychology (see Maureen Dowd’s driveling column in today’s New York Times for an example) about how much approval there was, who showed up whom, and if the Clintons aren’t just vying against each other for the limelight. That all seems pretty irrelevant to me and more of the horse race garbage that permeates political news these days.
I think it’s also a real safe bet that Ms. Ling’s and Ms. Lee’s families couldn’t care less about what leader gets the credit for their release. All they know is their loved ones are home and safe. I do have questions about what Clinton said, what, if any, concession he made, and how this visit will impact formal nation-to-nation diplomacy between the US and the DPRK. Maybe there were no deals, maybe Bill Clinton shook Kim Jong-Il’s hand, flashed that natural smile and that’s all it took. I kind of hope so, because North Korea has done nothing deserving of a reward. Answers to my questions will come out sooner or later, but for now it’s great news these two women are free and safe and home. It also goes to show how much a little face time can achieve when you send the right face to the right place.
Turning our attention to Mr. Bolton. He wrote a hastily prepared op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday claiming “the Clinton trip is a significant propaganda victory for North Korea” and that a high-profile, private citizen going to DPRK to try and “secure the release of two American reporters, held unjustifiably by North Korea for nearly five months” is in effect negotiating with terrorists. My first beef with Mr. Bolton is his seemingly dutiful effort to avoid naming the “two American reporters” by name. Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee are real people with real families who have been suffering for a long time. That incredibly human element should not pull us into the weeds, but can not justifiably be denied either. I’ll chalk this up to Mr. Bolton’s repeated inability to appreciate the human impact on his numerous “policy prescriptions.”
My second beef is his characterization of this whole experience as negotiating with terrorists. This was a conference with a nation-state, not some non-state actor or insurgency. The US has largely held to the line of not negotiating with terrorists, but the DPRK is not a terrorist organization. Indeed they can not be classified as a state-sponsor of terrorism (as is often reported) and simultaneously be considered a terrorist organization. This might seem like splitting hairs, but clearly Mr. Bolton is trying to frame this issue as an issue of terrorism thus making it easier to decry any private citizen negotiating with them.
My third and greatest beef with the column is really twofold. One, Mr. Bolton and those of his ilk have absolutely zero credibility in the international affairs realm at this point. Nearly every major policy prescription they advanced has been discredited or abandoned on the grounds it was ineffective or just outright destructive to the goal of securing American and advancing our foreign policy goals. Two, Mr. Bolton has taken more column inches then he deserves to criticize President Obama’s foreign policy, but as an indication of how discredited he is he never offers any alternatives. Are we to do nothing Mr. Bolton while two Americans sit in a North Korean jail facing twelve years of hard labor? Do you honestly believe behind the scenes discussions haven’t been going on between the US and DPRK through a third party trying to secure the release of Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee? What would you have us do Mr. Bolton? Because it is irresponsible to do nothing. Of course when the intellectual framework you have stood by becomes discredited, it can be hard to find a new one to add to the discussion without sounding like the old out of touch pol that you are.
A couple final thoughts: First, why is the Washington Post publishing this guy’s work and with such frequency? I have been disappointed by the lack of intellectual honesty The Post has required of its columnists and contributors, and while no voice should be silenced I would hope The Post would hold to a higher standard.
Finally, despite my disdain for Mr. Bolton and his column, this is a very happy day for two families. The denial of freedom is something many of us will never understand. It will remain something we see on the news through impersonal accounts of detainees in Afghanistan, political prisoners in Iran, journalists in North Korea, and “criminals” in the United States. I have never had my freedom so completely taken away from me as Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee have over these past five months. I am happy they’re safe and that they’re home, and even as we debate what course of action is the best we should never forget the human impact of our policies. I fear for too long the US has with dire unintended consequences. Welcome home Laura Ling and Euna Lee. I hope the United States seems better then when you last saw it.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Parker does touch on oil sands as an alternative source of oil and seems to suggest that if we erect barriers to oil importation, driving up the domestic price of oil, oil sands would make a good substitute and we could get out from the thumb of those wily Saudis.
The biggest problem with oil sands is their production cost. Whereas the lifting cost for a barrel of oil produced in Canada was about $10.00 in 2007, the cost of extracting a barrel of oil from the oil sand muck is about $28.00. So, when crude futures trade at around $35.00/bbl, as they did a few months ago, oil sand production costs eat up 80% of the value of the barrel. Even when oil is trading near $70/bbl, as it is now, production consume 40% of the value of the barrel. In comparison, at the $35/bbl mark, the production cost for a barrel of Canadian crude accounts for just 28% of the barrel’s value. And $10/bbl lift cost is at the high end of the spectrum for per barrel lift costs.
Finally, estimates produced by CAPP when crude was trading between $70 and $145/bbl pointed to a Canadian oil sands production capacity in 2020 of about 3 million barrels per day. After significant cuts in capital outlays following the late 2008 collapse in world oil prices, these targets are in serious doubt, though the EIA believes that Canada may produce 4 million barrels per day by 2030. By comparison, the United States produced over 5 million barrels per day in 2007 and consumed more than 20 million barrels per day.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The MEK found sanctuary in Iraq under Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. Saddam viewed the MEK, a collection of Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic, as a useful ally in the struggle against Iran – not unlike the way the Iranians provided a haven and training for Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (which you may now know as Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).
This is where the story gets interesting. Dawa is of course the party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose party received sanctuary and arms training in Iran. And while the United States lists the MEK as a terrorist organization and viewed it as an ally of Saddam Hussein, the US reached a separate peace with the MEK following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since then, American-led forces have protected the MEK’s headquarters at Camp Ashraf – that is, until this week.
In January, the United States transferred control (protection) of the MEK’s headquarters to the Iraqi government. At that time, both Prime Minister al-Maliki and National Security Advisor al-Rubaie warned the MEK that, after more than 20 years, they could no longer find safe haven in Iraq. Then, in a two day operation this week, Iraqi government forces assaulted and took control of Camp Ashraf. After initially denying any MEK had been killed in the assault, the Iraqi government now acknowledges that 7 Iranians were killed.
That the Iraqi government would move against the MEK so soon after regaining sovereignty is a troubling indicator both of the waning of American influence in Iraq and the amount of influence the Iranians exert over the Iraqi government. The MEK, while a terrorist organization, was not a threat to the Iraqi regime – as part of the 2003 agreement with the United States it had been mostly disarmed . Nor was it a serious threat to the Iranian regime. While the MEK was blamed for the recent bombing of the Imam Khomeini shrine, it is a highly improbable culprit – the bombing was more likely an attempt to distract the Iranian public from the post-election dissonance. The MEK was, however, like the Baluchs and the Kurds, a long-standing annoyance for the Islamic Republic. It is hard to view the Iraqi governments move against Camp Ashraf as anything more than a government filled with beneficiaries of Iranian protection doing the Iranian government’s bidding.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
UPDATE at 10:45 AM EDT: On the other hand, the LA Times is reporting:
Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of mourners, many of them black-clad
young women carrying roses, overwhelmed security forces today at Tehran's
largest cemetery to gather around the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan
As has been the case during most of the previous demonstrations, early reports were inaccurate or even pessimistic and the real picture of the day's demonstrations did not emerge until well after dark in Tehran.UPDATE at 3:45 PM EDT: Tehran Bureau rounds up eye witness reports of today's demonstrations.
Two interesting new slogans I heard today were: – Independence, Freedom, Iranian
Republic! (A spin-off of the 1979 “Independence, Freedom, Islamic
Republic!”)(Esteqlal, Azadi, Jomhuri Irani!) – “Khamenei is a murderer, his
leadership is null and void!”(Khamenei ghatel-e, velayatesh batel-e!)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tomorrow marks the 40th day following the murder of Neda Agha Soltan on June 20. As has been discussed previously, the 40th day following a person’s death is of particular significance in Shiite Islam. During the 1979 Revolution, 40th day demonstrations provided an excuse and an umbrella under which all the disparate components of that opposition could appear in the streets together. As Robin Wright pointed out earlier this week, during the 1979 Revolution, 40th day demonstrations frequently led to the death of demonstrators, begetting further demonstrations. The 40th day demonstrations gave that revolution a rhythm; they also provided a means for building and sustaining the revolution’s momentum. The traditional, religious and cultural significance of 40th day mourning insulates it to a great degree from interference by the regime.
The 40th day following Neda’s murder will provide an excellent marker for measuring the durability of the current uprising in Iran. While articles declaring the end of the uprising or describing its entrance into a new phase have proliferated since the massive street gatherings have ebbed – despite the periodic, large demonstrations – I believe the current Iranian uprising is simply operating on a time-frame that does not comport to the news cycle we’ve become accustomed to.
Mousavi has endeavored to secure permission to hold a mourning demonstration. NIAC reports that both Mousavi and Karroubi will attend a memorial service at Neda’s grave in Tehran, tomorrow. It is likely that tomorrow will beget further 40 day demonstrations.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
“The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence”
Never mind the fact that Obama is just entering the eighth month of a forty eight month term. Never mind the fact that for the past seven years the only message coming from the White House to the “Arab” people is that the U.S. sees every single last one of them as a threat. Never mind the fact, as Benn even points out, Israel has enjoyed more then sixteen years of steadfast, dare I say, blind support from the United States. No, what strikes me most is the tone of the statement. Benn’s remark smacks of a petulant child, bemoaning the inequity that Jimmy got a chocolate, while little Tommy didn’t. If that sounds overly harsh, so be it. This column for me gets at the heart of the great underlying threat to meaningful and lasting peace in the Middle East: pride.
Benn’s single comment suggests some great disrespect has been done because Obama hasn’t gone to Tel Aviv and spoken directly to the Israeli people. This seems wildly over blown for the reasons I mentioned above. It was a speech aimed at the second largest religious group in the world. Perhaps just by their sheer numbers, they deserve a speech sooner then the 7.4 million Israelis.
I have latched on to this particular comment, but by no means are Israel’s Palestinian counterparts free from the same charge. This underlying pride, buttressed by opposing views of what God wants, creates an unworkable situation. This perceived slight could be mentioned in a conference room as a reason to not negotiate. We need serious men and women at the table and quite honestly I don’t see any serious men or women in Israel and Palestine right now.
I see a whole bunch of people so focused on their own pride that they cannot and will not work to find common ground. The best possible solution for peace in the Middle East has become increasingly evident in the past decade, but like healthcare reform it requires the right combination of timing and men and women of selfless, humble character to subvert their ruinous pride to find pragmatic, lasting solutions.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I confess, I generally ignore the conventional wisdom that the Canadian Healthcare system is so bad that people die while waiting in line. It seems to me that, like the babysitter that microwaves the dog, everyone knows someone who knows a Canadian who nearly died. But, because I tend to ignore this meme, it never occurred to me to investigate it. Fortunately, On the Media did just that.
On this weekend’s show, On the Media interviewed Maureen Taylor, the National Health and Medical reporter for CBC Television. Taylor expressed surprise at the negative portrayal of the Canadian Healthcare system in American media, claiming that a majority of Canadians have a favorable disposition to their healthcare. Taylor then debunked Shona Holmes’ ballyhooed claim that, had she not escaped the catastrophe of Canadian care, she would have died. According to Taylor, Holmes’ brain tumor was in fact a cyst on her pituitary gland. It was not cancerous and, according to Taylor, not life threatening. In fact, as Taylor pointed out in her interview, all the relevant information about Ms. Holmes’ condition is available at the Mayo Clinic’s website. The Mayo Clinic describes Holmes’ ailment thus:
Dr. Naresh Patel, neurosurgeon, diagnosed Holmes as having a Rathke's cleft cyst (RCC). The rare, fluid-filled sac grows near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and eventually can cause hormone and vision problems.Rather than life threatening, Dr. Patel “was concerned that the pressure on Shona’s nervers [sic] was causing her to become blind . . . we needed to remove the cyst to save her vision.” While, Ms. Holmes was doubtlessly uncomfortable, contrary to her claim, the five or six month wait would not have killed her. Ms. Holmes illustrates the manifold problems of relying on anecdotal evidence.
Never mind, the conversation in the States is not about grafting a Canadian-like healthcare system onto Columbia.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Mr. Biden, through his National Security Advisor, Antony Blinken, deflected the suggestion of American border monitors, stating that the EU had not invited the US to join the mission. As for the Georgian National Security Advisor’s suggestion that the US provide more armaments, Mr. Blinken replied that the Georgians had yet to request weapons and training.
Mr. Biden was careful to urge the rest of the world to not recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.
While Vice President Biden decried spheres of influence, his presence in Georgia was all realism, all the time. The United States may not be able to extend a serious defense umbrella over Georgia – especially given the recklessness exhibited by both its president and its National Security Advisor – but Biden’s blistering criticism of Russia was a short diatribe on the efficacy of soft-power:
“When all the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia see prosperity and opportunity in the rest of Georgia, and when they look north into Russia — unless it radically changes — and don’t see the same opportunity, they’re going to say to one another, ‘Regardless of ethnic background, I want to be in Georgia,’ ” he said. “That’s ultimately why the Berlin Wall came down. That’s ultimately why the Soviet Union broke up peacefully.”Georgia sits astride a strategically important portion of the globe that, like it or not, fits within Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. Georgia’s recklessness last summer, leading to the August War, thrust US strategic limitations into stark relief and aggravated its already cool relationship with Russia. Even without the August War, it was likely that the US and Russia would spar repeatedly in the coming decades over the role of the US, NATO and the EU in the Caucasus.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"I don't know, but I doubt very much that anything like [running for President] will ever be part of my life," Clinton, who would be 68 in 2016, told the television station, according to the Associated Press.
"I tried to be the president and was not successful," she added.
Into this headline: "Ticker: Clinton to run for president again?"
Monday, July 20, 2009
Georgian leaders hope the United States will join the European Union’s monitoring effort along the boundary with two breakaway Georgian enclaves, a step they believe could deter aggression from Russian or separatist forces, a senior Georgian official said Monday.The Georgian evidently believe that the inclusion of Americans on their border with Russia would deter any further aggression from the Russians. That is probably an accurate description, though the unarmed EU-monitors already there likely provide a similar deterrent, as is. The most likely outcome of the Georgian proposal is the continued frosting of Russian-American relations to say nothing of stoking Russia’s already acute fears of American encroachment in its near-abroad. Georgia’s proposal would represent needless provocation and would be a strategic mistake. Russia has communicated its red-lines clearly.
Clearly, managing an assertive Russia requires assertiveness on the part of the United States – but it must be intelligent assertiveness, and not indefensible line-in-the-sand drawing. Georgia's proposal fails this test. It is also not very likely to come to fruition.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.And then Friedman writes, “But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand.”
What stills Friedman’s hand? Does he recognize the folly of ignoring the Taliban? Does he realize that on-going instability in Afghanistan stokes instability in Pakistan? Does he describe the peril inherent in proliferating failed states? Does he recall America’s experience with the limitations of cruise missiles?
No. What stills Friedman’s hand is the opening of a new girls’ school in a remote Afghan village. Doubtlessly, such schools are valuable – both from a humanitarian perspective and from a strategic perspective, which Friedman identifies. But, that Friedman could begin today’s column as he does, requires either a willful disregard of history or a rather complete failing of critical thought.