"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Back To Iraq, But Obama’s Way”: A Foreign Policy Shaped Around Reality

We’ve now begun some very limited military action in Iraq, with airstrikes hitting artillery positions of the Islamic State (IS), combined with airdrops of food and water to the group of Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop where they fled from IS. Naturally, the Obama administration’s opponents are saying it isn’t enough.

In a certain sense, they’re right. Unless we significantly scale up our military involvement there, what we do is unlikely to have a dramatic, lasting effect on IS. The point seems to be to find some way to help without putting American personnel at risk or sucking us back into Iraq in a major way (like Michael Corleone, every time Obama thinks he’s out of that benighted place, they pull him back in). This is Obama’s military doctrine in action. It won’t bring us glorious military victories, but it also won’t bring us military disasters.

When he ran for president, Obama promised a new approach to military involvement overseas, one defined by limited actions with clear objectives and exit strategies. It was to be a clean break with the Bush doctrine that had given us the debacle of the Iraq War: no grand military ambitions, no open-ended conflicts, no naïve dreams of remaking countries half a world away.

Of necessity, that means American military action is reactive. Instead of looking around for someone to invade, this administration has tried to help tamp down conflicts when they occur, and use force only when there seems no other option — and when it looks like it might actually accomplish something, and not create more problems than it solves.

But even though it’s designed to avoid huge disasters, this approach carries its own risks, particularly when we confront situations like the one in Iraq where there are few good options. We can take some action to keep IS out of the Kurdish north, but that might leave them just as strong, with their maniacal fundamentalism still threatening the entire region. IS is a truly ghastly bunch, with ambitions that seem unlimited. Obama said he was acting “to prevent a potential act of genocide.” What if it happens anyway, and we could have done more?

On the other hand, we could get sucked bit by bit into a larger military involvement to help the fragile Iraqi government deal with this very real threat, and find ourselves back with a significant presence in Iraq — precisely the situation few Americans, not least the President, want. And for all we know that could produce new problems, both the kind we can anticipate and the kind we can’t.

So a cautious approach contains no guarantees, and no one is likely to find it particularly satisfying. And this may ultimately be the point: When your doctrine is built in part on the idea that some problems have no good solutions, and you have to pick the least base one, there will inevitably be situations where even the best outcome doesn’t look anything like success.

Whether or not the public will accept this remains to be seen. But we do know that Republicans are not prepared to accept it. Many of them plainly hunger for glorious military crusades, where we sweep in with all those fancy toys we spend hundreds of billions on every year, and save the day to the cheers of the oppressed populace. This was the spirit that animated the Bush years, when the same people now criticizing Obama were convinced that we’d be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq, then quickly set up a thriving and peaceful state that would spread the light of democracy throughout the region.

The fact that they were so spectacularly wrong about that, and the result was so much death and chaos, doesn’t seem to have diminished their desire for that glory, nor their faith in the ability of American military power to solve problems anywhere and everywhere. Whatever course Obama chooses, in this and every conflict, their position is always the same: we need more. More force, more bombing, more toughness is always the answer. Part of this is just reflexive opposition to this president; if Obama announced tomorrow that he was going to nuke the moon, they’d call him weak for not attacking the sun. But it also reflects a desire that was there during the last Republican presidency and will be there in the next one.

It’s related to the “American exceptionalism” conservatives talk about so rapturously, not only that we’re the strongest and the richest but the best, the world’s most noble people whom God himself has granted dominion over the earth (I exaggerate only slightly). Within this belief lies the conviction that there is almost nothing we can’t do, and nothing our military can’t do.

Barack Obama doesn’t believe that. He knows there are actually many things we can’t do, and the Iraq War is all the proof you need. By shaping his foreign policy around that reality, he has removed from it the potential for glory. “We did what we could, and stopped things from getting worse” isn’t the kind of result you hold a parade to celebrate. But if in the end we can say that, it might be enough.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Published at The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 8, 2014




August 10, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Tough Week For Sen Pearl Jam”: Rand Paul Spouting ‘Weaselspeak’ Like A Native

I haven’t commented yet on Robert Draper’s much-discussed New York Times Magazine piece entitled “Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?” That’s partly because my instinctive hostility to libertarianism (possibly due to an early high-school brush with the adolescent virus of Objectivism) means I have to calm down and think clearly before writing of such things. And it’s partly because Draper’s piece–while fascinating like everything the man writes–spends a lot of time retailing dubious libertarian claims that this or that generational trend on a scattered assortment of issues means The Movement is on the brink of some national breakthrough (as Draper notes, we’ve heard that before).

But the most interesting part of the piece is the increasingly familiar idea that Sen. Rand Paul has the skills and flexibility to launch some sort of gussied-up version of the Eternally Correct Ideology with enough mass appeal to conquer the GOP and then the nation. It’s analogous to how some movement conservatives looked at Ronald Reagan, who wasn’t as simon-pure as Barry Goldwater by any stretch of the imagination, but was trusted to have the best interests of The Cause foremost in his mind, and knew where to trim and prevaricate in the pursuit of votes. One of Draper’s aging hipster libertarian interlocutors offered a similar analogy of Rand Paul being Pearl Jam to his old man’s Nirvana.

I’ve earlier talked about Rand seeking to advance some sort of Big Tent Libertarianism that’s soft enough around the edges and weasely enough on tough issues to be tempting to many regular Republicans looking for a change of pace without abandoning core anti-government and Obama-bashing principles. He’s been pretty good at it in the past (viz. his election in not-exactly-hipster Kentucky), but as I’ve been noting, he’s struggling now with a pattern of self-contradiction and transparent flip-flopping. As usual, Charlie Pierce sums it up pungently after noting the snares Paul has become entangled in after his flight from DREAMers at a fundraiser with Steve King earlier this week:

America’s brogressive love-puppet speaks the weaselspeak like a native, doesn’t he? He doesn’t want any contact with the berating scofflaws, but he wants them to have work permits, but not in-state tuition. In four or five days, he will likely reverse all three of these reversals of positions. He will feel very strongly all three ways and, also, free pot! All in all, I am disinclined to agree with my friend Bob Draper that we are living through the libertarian moment, at least as represented by Senator Aqua Buddha. This is because “the libertarian moment” is a scam.

Paul has similar trouble sticking to a coherent position on all kinds of issues, from abortion and same-sex marriage (often relying on the usual “federalism” dodge when he’s not taking the most hard-core positions imaginable and/or suggesting these shouldn’t be “priorities” for the GOP) to national security and fiscal policy. The big question is whether in running for president as a first-term senator he has enough base support beyond his old man’s Revolution to ever get to the point where non-libertarians are confronted with the option of finding him acceptable. If I were him I’d go off on a retreat with the Koch Brothers and whoever else he relies on for serious money and advice (leaving the hipsters at home) and hammer out a platform and strategy he can stick to for an extended period of time. The day-to-day improvisation is beginning to sound less like Pearl Jam than the Experimental Blues/Jazz Jam from This Is Spinal Tap.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 8, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right Policies For America”: Progressives Should Stand With The President To Oppose Genocide

One of the reasons I supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 was his pledge to end the war in Iraq. I have been a vocal opponent of that war since George W. Bush proposed the invasion in 2002.

I strongly believe that the actions President Obama announced in Iraq last night deserve progressive support.

First and foremost, the president announced that America must act to prevent genocide on a mountain in Iraq. ISIS has herded 30,000 to 40,000 people from the Yazidis sect onto a mountain where they are dying of starvation and dehydration. ISIS has said that the Yazidis must either renounce their religion or they will be massacred. That is simply unacceptable in a civilized world. We cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide.

The United States has already completed an air drop of supplies to those besieged people. And the president has made clear that if the siege of that mountain is not relieved, he has authorized airstrikes to break that siege.

The president also authorized airstrikes if ISIS advances on the Kurdish city of Erbil, where America has a consulate and a number of American personnel.

Just as important, he has also pledged that the United States will never again put combat personnel on the ground in Iraq.

Progressives should oppose any new long-term military engagement in the Middle East. The problems in Iraq will not yield to American military intervention today any more than they did over the last 12 years. Political reconciliation is the only effective solution to the current ethnic civil war in Iraq — and that requires a government that is inclusive of the legitimate aspirations of every faction in Iraq — not the sectarian al-Maliki regime.

But we cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide on that mountain. Nor can we fail to act to prevent a vicious organization like ISIS — a group so violent that it has even been disowned by Al Qaeda — from capturing or killing Americans in Erbil and engaging in genocidal action against the Kurds in Erbil.

American airpower can help prevent these outcomes and the threat of airpower is the military option that the president has chosen to use, much as he did successfully in Libya.

Progressives oppose genocide and the murder of innocent civilians — especially the murder of children. President Obama’s actions in this respect clearly deserve progressive support.

But we should remember the roots of the horrible sectarian strife exploding in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

George W. Bush kicked over the sectarian hornets’ nest in Iraq and the Middle East when he invaded and occupied Iraq. He destroyed any basis for Sunni power in Iraq and installed the sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad.

Colin Powell warned that invading countries were subject to the “Pottery Barn” rule: “You break it, you own it.” For the last five and a half years, President Obama has been cleaning up the horrific mess George W. Bush made of American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular.

Now America must navigate a very difficult course. We must resist Neo-Con calls for long-term military engagement, occupation or “nation building.” At the same time, we must step up to our humanitarian responsibility to prevent genocide and help stabilize the violent situation that those Neo-Con policies helped make possible through their reckless invasion.

It isn’t that easy. President Obama is taking the same kind of clear-eyed, confident, measured approach to Iraq that allowed him to find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden and has massively increased the respect for America throughout the world.

His actions will not satisfy the swaggering, bull-in-the-china-shop Neo-Cons that got us into Iraq in the first place and demanded that American troops remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Nor will those actions likely satisfy those who believe America can shrink from its engagement from the world or have no responsibility for our fellow human beings on this small planet. But they are the right policies for America and they deserve our support.


By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Huffington Post Blog, August 8, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Progressives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Man Can Serve Two Masters”: The GOP Made A Deliberate Choice To Position Itself As The Party Of Reactionary Xenophobes

Over at Republican Party headquarters, they’re desperately trying to figure out how they can get both racists and the victims of racism to vote Republican. Good luck with that one.

The current crisis of Central American children flowing across the border has empowered conservatives, whose more restrictionist views on the issue have taken precedence in the party. House Republicans are pushing for more deportations, and several of the party’s prospective 2016 White House contenders are moving to align themselves with the GOP’s pro-enforcement wing.

The tough rhetoric can help Republicans appeal to their core voters. But the strategy runs counter to the party’s announcement — after losing the presidential race two years ago — that its future depends largely on broadening its appeal to minority groups and that its viability as a national force in 2016 and beyond depends on making inroads with Latinos, one of the fastest-growing voting blocs.

“This is a short-term political gain for Republicans,” said Charles Spies, a former Mitt Romney campaign aide who is part of a coalition of Republicans advocating for immigration reform. “The problem, of course, comes on the national scale. Without a friendly posture towards [Hispanics], we still face a massive demographic problem.”

A demographic problem of their own making. A demographic problem worsened every day by the hostile rhetoric spewed about immigration on right-wing talk radio. A demographic problem that Republicans simply cannot solve–and they know it:

Obama won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 reelection, after which the Republican National Committee wrote in a blunt self-assessment: “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

The problem is, the GOP made a deliberate choice to position itself as the party of reactionary xenophobes. When you sell your soul, all sales are final.

In Hiawatha, Iowa, Jeri Thompson, 50, attended an event featuring Paul and other GOP candidates and pronounced herself “very worried about the illegals coming in.”

Asked about the children and families apprehended at the southern border, Thompson said that “it’s not just street urchins from Central America carrying diseases in, but also criminals, thugs, gang members. No other country is dumb enough to have their borders wide open like us.”

Some in the GOP said they hope that if the party wins control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans could pass a comprehensive immigration bill with conservative principles that would be hard for Obama to veto. But those prospects remain uncertain.

In Colorado, Cheryl Bartlett, a registered nurse from Pueblo, said she agreed with Republicans on the need for tougher border controls.

I think we should build a wall, just like they had in Berlin and Russia,” she said. “Build that wall and keep people out.

If you have any Latino friends who happen to be members of the GOP, ask them just what the hell is keeping them in that party. Even the most anti-tax or anti-abortion Latino voter has to question their political preferences in the wake of this wrath. Why vote in a party whose base wants to kick you out?


By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 8, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shameless Fear-Mongering”: It’s Time To Expel Michele Bachmann From Congress

In a recent interview on conservative radio show Faith & Liberty, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) warned that the gay community ultimately wants to “abolish age-of-consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory-rape laws so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”

Of course, Bachmann offered absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support her claim, most likely because there is none. It’s an outright lie. A supposed inherent link between homosexuality and pedophilia has been disproven time and again. Consequently, the canard that gay people — gay men, specifically — wish to sexually exploit children, which was once commonly held in America, has, more recently, been reduced to fodder for far-right homophobes. Granted, Bachmann certainly falls into that demographic, but the scope of her influence far outreaches that of an average private citizen.

In the same interview Bachmann went on to state that the gay community also wishes to legalize polygamy and enact “hate-speech laws across the United States” in order to bring about the “rise of tyranny.”

This latest incident isn’t Bachmann’s first foray into the arena of blatant homophobia. She’s been peddling inflammatory myths about the gay community and representing those myths as indisputable truths throughout her stint as a congresswoman, all the while insisting that her message “is to spread goodness and joy and wholeness and healing.”

In the marketplace of shameless fear-mongering, Michele Bachmann can certainly hold her own amongst the usual cast of right-wing characters. However, a great deal of Bachmann’s rhetoric is typically irresponsible and borders on slander. For instance, in another recent interview Bachmann implied that unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America, who have come in large numbers to the Southern U.S. border, will be allowed into the country by President Obama so they can be put into foster care and used for “medical experimentation.” How much longer will Bachmann be allowed to make such wild, completely unfounded accusations with impunity?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for individuals being able to freely express an opinion. And I understand that it’s important to play to your audience. But these are no mere opinions, and Bachmann is no mere individual. And this latest incident isn’t Bachmann’s first foray into the arena of blatant homophobia. What Bachmann is doing is presenting an erroneous and incendiary scenario as truth. We’ve heard it before, but what makes this instance all the more disturbing is the simple fact that Bachmann isn’t some washed-up 1950s-beauty-pageant contestant, nor is she some huckster televangelist. Bachmann is a member of the Congress of the United States. She has the power to introduce bills and resolutions, and to vote on whether or not they should be enacted into law. When Bachmann was sworn in for her fourth and current term in Congress, she stated on her website, “It is a true honor to represent the citizens of Central Minnesota in the United States Congress.” Given her opinion of the gay community, I don’t believe Bachmann is genuinely capable of fulfilling that duty, nor does she have any inclination to do so. After all, Bachmann must be aware that a segment of the population of Central Minnesota is made up of gays and lesbians. Otherwise, Bachmann & Associates, the counseling center founded by Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, wouldn’t have considered it necessary to offer conversion “therapy” to its clients. And Bachmann has campaigned tirelessly against same-sex marriage in Minnesota throughout her political career.

Bachmann has hinted that she will not seek reelection at the end of her current term in Congress. She has also vaguely hinted at another run for the U.S. presidency. I don’t think there is even the slightest chance that Bachmann could be elected to run the country. History has proven that. Regardless, I believe she should be expelled from Congress. Our system of government was created to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The “people” includes the LGBT community, and government officials such as Michele Bachmann are not only not for us; they are pathologically against us. Personally, I don’t believe my tax dollars should be used to pay the salary of someone who wants to convince the world that my ultimate desire is to be able to legally molest children.


By: Walt Hawkins, The Huffington Post Blog, August 9, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Homophobia, Michele Bachmann | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: