Archive

  • THE NEW DIPLOMACY.

    THE NEW DIPLOMACY. There's a kind of impenetrable air of absurdity wafting throughout this paper I found on the AEI website advocating the formation of a Washington-Jerusalem-Baku axis aimed at countering the rising Persian Menace. Nevertheless, this passage is an intriguing and refreshingly honest look at contemporary diplomacy: The United States. The U.S. government also remains a player. Baku cooperated with Jerusalem in the hope of improving ties with Washington. Not too long ago, U.S. policymakers considered Azerbaijan to be, at best, irrelevant and at worst, a nuisance. In 1992, the United States Congress passed the Freedom Support Act promising economic and humanitarian aid to all the former Soviet republics except Azerbaijan. Muscled through by the Armenian lobby, Section 907 of the act legislated that Washington would not give aid to Azerbaijan until the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result, Azerbaijan received no economic aid from the United States in the...
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUR...

    WHAT ABOUT YOUR GUY? There�s some very bad news for incumbents in today's Washington Post poll. Not only are the public's views of Congress typically dim, but people finally seem to be souring on their own members of Congress. Normally, everyone hates "Congress" but loves their representative, so nothing changes. Currently, though, "55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties." --Matthew Yglesias
  • The Problems of Public Pensions

    Mary Williams Walsh has a nice piece on the unbooked libailities of public sector pension funds in today's NYT. Supporters of defined benefit pensions and public sector provision of public services are not helping the cause when they ignore bad accounting.
  • COHEN'S CLARITY.

    COHEN'S CLARITY. Richard Cohen has his good days and his bad ones, but bloggers tend to only quote him on the bad days. Today is a good one : I share the concern of what would happen to Iraq if the United States pulled out precipitously. I share the concern over what will happen if the United States stays. I share the concern of those who say that no matter whether it stays or goes the outcome will be the same. I especially share the concern of those who say that the Bush administration does not have a plan to disengage and that rather than confront the immensity of its mistake -- I pity Donald Rumsfeld if he should ever lose the gift of denial -- it thinks that this or that adaptation to new conditions will somehow change the outcome. It will not. The end was set at the beginning. It is better that it come sooner rather than later. It's tragically difficult to get even people who think the right things about this to remember from moment-to-moment that this tragic farce is playing out...
  • NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT.

    NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT. Let's return to the subject of Robert Kagan 's odd column accusing people who changed their mind about Iraq -- or even, in Al Gore 's case, people who didn't change their minds about Iraq -- of dishonesty. Commenting on the article, Eric Alterman , like Jon Chait , was particularly distressed about this because both of them thought of Kagan as a decent, honest exponent of the other side's views. I think this sort of misconstrues the situation. The whole value of reading honest adversaries like Kagan is that you get to see the genuinely ridiculous elements of their worldview. If that business had been in a Hugh Hewitt column, I would just dismiss it as typical partisan propaganda. But that's not Kagan's style -- he must genuinely think that if a person is hawkish about some stuff, or hawkish some of the time, he has a duty to be hawkish about everything, all the time . Think back to Kagan's book, Of Paradise and Power: America Versus Europe in the New World...
  • REVISIONIST HISTORY AND WEEPIN' JOE.

    REVISIONIST HISTORY AND WEEPIN' JOE. Two years ago, at the NCAA Final Four in St. Louis, I spent a delightful evening in the company of Lanny Davis , the former Clinton lawyer. My old pal's performance on Meet The Press Sunday, where he tried to spin Weepin' Joe Lieberman 's hamfisted involvement in the Schiavo case doesn't get his candidate into the Dance, I fear. Yes, neither Joe nor any other Democratic senator opposed the Schiavo resolution . However, when Davis and Tim Russert went on to intimate that Lieberman and the rest of the Democratic senators -- to say nothing of the party in general -- were on the same page generally as regards to the Schiavo case, well, it's pretty plain from contemporary accounts that neither Carl Levin nor Ron Wyden would agree. And, in any case, Lieberman was far more than a passive legislative participant in that whole shoddy spectacle. Here he is, back in the day, again on Meet The Press . (Does he have his own locker in the Green Room? A cot? A...
  • WHO RULES?

    WHO RULES? A whole bunch of people died yesterday in Iraq . More surprising is the second paragraph of the AP rundown of the latest violence: "The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sharply criticized a U.S.-Iraqi attack on Sadr City, the area of Baghdad that's the stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia." What's this all about? Is Maliki in charge of his country or not? Are we at war with Sadr 's forces or is his political party represented in Maliki's cabinet? It's a both/and situation in both cases, it would seem, but it's hard to say what kind of sense that makes. It's also increasingly hard to say what the American strategy for Iraq is even supposed to be. Statements from the administration have become so incredibly nonsensical that you can't really peel beneath the propaganda and discern the core of what they're trying to say or do. Are our forces really going to be running around launching attacks against members of...
  • DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION.

    DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION. Spencer Ackerman calls the Bush "freedom agenda" a "fiasco." Michael Rubin has his doubts , asking "isn�t it terrorism and militias, rather than democracy, which are the problems in Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon?" He plugs this op-ed by Stephen Cook that urges us not to �Blame Democracy Promotion" and works through the typical sleight-of-hand of redefining "democracy" to mean something like "growing strength of pro-Western liberal political groups" (argument stolen from Praktike on an earlier Cook article). Rubin concludes, "It�s one thing to be anti-Bush, but when did it become �progressive� to celebrate White House silence on the crushing of dissent in Egypt , Tunisia , and the failure to even support organized labor in Iran ?" I'd be fascinated to see an example of an anti-Bush person celebrating Bush's silence on the crushing of dissent in Tunisia. My guess would be that the bulk of liberals have said nothing whatsoever about Tunisia because Tunisia is an obscure...
  • LIVE, FROM NEW HAVEN.

    LIVE, FROM NEW HAVEN. Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels took a few minutes to answer some questions about last-minute campaign developments here in Connecticut. My paraphrased questions and her answers follow: 1. Did the latest poll [showing Lieberman down only 6 points, instead of the earlier 13-point deficit] give the Lieberman camp a lift? I feel like there�s been a bit of a shift, but I think it�s coming down to people having to make a decision. I think people are shifting to our guy because they know him. It�s hard not to get a little pumped, but we were pretty confident already. I also think the earlier poll was a big wake up around the state that got a lot of people asking, �Do we really want to wake up Wednesday to learn Joe Lieberman will not be our senator any more?� 2. What�s your response to Lamont�s decision to spend another $500,000 late in the campaign? We don�t have any official response. It doesn�t really affect our very aggressive GOTV plan. I don�t know...
  • A DEEPLY FOOLISH CONSISTENCY.

    A DEEPLY FOOLISH CONSISTENCY. Jon Chait flags the core oddness of Robert Kagan �s view that changing your mind about something in light of events and new information is a form a dishonesty. The super-weird part, however, concerns Al Gore , who never favored the invasion of Iraq but stands condemned as a "one-time Clinton administration hawk" who "turned on all those with whom he once agreed about Iraq and about many other foreign policy questions." This is just crazy. Gore "turned on" many of those "with whom he once agreed about Iraq" when many of the people he used to agree with stopped defending the Clinton-era approach to containing Saddam Hussein and started arguing for a unilateral invasion as a good solution. It certainly is an interesting fact about the world that many of the actual architects of the Clinton-era Iraq policy turned against it in 2002 and 2003, but certainly the fact that Gore didn't change his mind can't be used as evidence of flip-flopping. Kagan's view seems...

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