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Archive for February 2009

Can you Spell Power Vacuum? The US Can’t leave Iraq.

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iraq. should we stay or should we go?

iraq. should we stay or should we go?

Obama’s speech at Camp LeJeune today made official what we’ve known for a while, that the combat mission in Iraq is over. Perhaps that explains why the response to what should have been a historical announcement seemed strangely muted. There are many other possible explanations too, ranging from the little matter of a massive economic crisis, to the existing de facto end of hostilities in Iraq, to the fact that just maybe, there’s a sense out there that it’s a mistake to go.

Obama’s decision to bring our major combat brigades home by the end of August 2010, and the remainder of the training and counter-insurgency force by 2011 is not a cause for celebration, even among those vehement in their opposition to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The reason is simple. If, as the President has pledged, all US forces are withdrawn from Iraq in 2011 we’ll be leaving an unpredictable power vacuum that we will have no ability to deal with – if as is possible, a new sectarian crisis breaks out. I’m certain that Obama’s National Security Team did their due diligence and got as much intelligence to support the case for continued stability in Iraq as possible, but forecasts are just another word for hopes. And in the Middle East, banking on hope is a very bad idea. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Can you Spell Power Vacuum? The US Can’t leave Iraq.

with 5 comments

Obama’s speech at Camp LeJeune today made official what we’ve known for a while, that the combat mission in Iraq is over. Perhaps that explains why the response to what should have been a historical announcement seemed strangely muted. There are many other possible explanations too, ranging from the little matter of a massive economic crisis, to the existing de facto end of hostilities in Iraq, to the fact that just maybe, there’s a sense out there that it’s a mistake to go.

Obama’s decision to bring our major combat brigades home by the end of August 2010, and the remainder of the training and counter-insurgency force by 2011 is not a cause for celebration, even among those vehement in their opposition to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The reason is simple. If, as the President has pledged, all US forces are withdrawn from Iraq in 2011 we’ll be leaving an unpredictable power vacuum that we will have no ability to deal with – if as is possible, a new sectarian crisis breaks out. I’m certain that Obama’s National Security Team did their due diligence and got as much intelligence to support the case for continued stability in Iraq as possible, but forecasts are just another word for hopes. And in the Middle East, banking on hope is a very bad idea.

The Sadrists have taken a beating recently, and extremism appears to be on the defensive, but without the firepower and financial largesse of the United States, it’s not much of a stretch to see the radicals making a comeback in both Baghdad and Basra, and the Kurds finally pulling clear of a weak central Iraqi state to form the rump of a new Kurdistan, with all the international repercussions that would entail with Turkey, and other neighboring states. The Iraqi Government is incompetent, corrupt and weak. New elections won’t change that. Their army is poorly trained and lacks organization, motivation and firepower. The Iraqi economy remains a shambles, and the worldwide recession will do Baghdad no favors. Most important of all, the Sunni Awakening will be relying on bankroll from a Shiite government to keep the lid on Al Qaeda. That relationship is hardly made in heaven.

Overall, the bad guys are a patient bunch. There’s no reason why they won’t just wait us out. Reigniting the sectarian crisis shouldn’t be too difficult after we’ve gone. After all, the Shiites have essentially driven the Sunnis out, and won the Civil war, so the thirst for revenge is clearly there. Sharing oil revenues has gone ver quiet, as has de-baathification, and as for the religious extremists, it’s not in their nature to simply give up. They’ll be back for more.

But we won’t. Once they leave Iraq, our forces are not going back. The US strike force will be retraining and regrouping back home for a renewed campaign in Afghanistan. And Iraq will be left to it’s own devices.

America can not afford to take that chance. Our entry into Iraq in 2003 was a grevious error, but it’s a reality. We’re there, and we can’t take the chance of leaving any time soon. Simply put, the United States needs to set up permanent strike bases outside Baghdad, to the South and to the West. US bases can be made almost invisible, and pretty soon, they’d become part of the furniture. But we need a strong military presence there so we can keep the various rival elements (including Iranian influence) in Iraq as honest as we can. While our day-to-day combat operations (or as they were for the majority of the war police operations) must cease, our counter-insurgency, training and combat support operations for the Iraqi Army must continue. They need our air support, our special forces, and at least one or two strike brigades to give their major operations teeth, cohesion, confidence and leadership.

US forces remaining in Iraq after 2011 would be a deeply unpopular move. But Obama needs to reconsider, and stall their final departure. We can’t afford to risk being unable to control the power vacuum once our guys are stateside. It would be bad for our new image in the world and disastrous for our strategic position in the region.

Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Now It’s Up to the Democratic Congress to Step Up

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clinton in 1993. he came from hope, he ended up nowhere.

a fresh faced bill clinton in 1993. he came from hope, he ended up nowhere.

In 1993 Clinton arrived on a heady wave of enthusiasm, dedicated to undoing some of the excesses of Reaganism. He made a few stumbles, he announced a sweeping healthcare initiative and he got nowhere. There are many reasons for his failure. The sheer newness of the administration, presentation issues, and this – he got very limited support from a Democratically controlled Congress. That opened the door for Gingrich’s charges of stasis and corruption that led to the Contract for America, and sweeping mid-term victories. That broadly was the end of the Clinton Administration as an effective liberally-driven government. It’s the main reason that the Reagan Revolution was not shattered. Clinton became merely a painful interregnum.

Cut to 15 years later.  Obama is getting it right. The budget is a great document, the bipartisan experiment is over, the decision to leave troops behind in Iraq is correct, and the healthcare, energy, and education agendas are on course. Now it’s up to the Democratically elected Congress to respond. Obama’s charm offensive is wasted on the GOP. Obama appears to have realized that. The true targets of his charm offensive should be members of his own Senate caucus with a more conservative viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

The Budget – Obama Answers The Call

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potus has his brain in gear.

potus has his brain in gear.

There are an awful lot of liberals breathing easier after the release of President Obama’s first budget. Krugman, who had been as close to castigating the President as any columnist on the left was almost unequivocally supportive. The budget’s focus on healthcare and education as key to our long term economic revival as well as boosting the middle class in a meaningful and intelligent way is a great starting point for recalibrating American economic and social policy. It sets up a battle royal with the Republicans, and will put Obama’s political savvy on the line. Rahm Emmanuel will also get battle-tested for the first time. Convincing Blue Dog Democrats of the need for a fundamental shift away from Reaganomics and its terrible legacy will be tough, but Obama is starting to display the calm under fire that suggests it can be done.

It’s been mentioned before on this blog, but you’ll be hearing an awful lot about The Two Ladies of Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. At least one of them is required to beat the inevitable GOP filibuster.  Maine’s two senators are about to become the most important people in the history of the state. They are sure to drive a hard bargain as they together become the last vestige of Obama’s short dalliance with bipartisanship.

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Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 12:54 am

Now It’s Up to the Democratic Congress to Step Up

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clinton in 1993. he came from hope, he ended up nowhere.

a fresh faced bill clinton in 1993. he came from hope, he ended up nowhere.

In 1993 Clinton arrived on a heady wave of enthusiasm, dedicated to undoing some of the excesses of Reaganism. He made a few stumbles, he announced a sweeping healthcare initiative and he got nowhere. There are many reasons for his failure. The sheer newness of the administration, presentation issues, and this – he got very limited support from a Democratically controlled Congress. That opened the door for Gingrich’s charges of stasis and corruption that led to the Contract for America, and sweeping mid-term victories. That broadly was the end of the Clinton Administration as an effective liberally-driven government. It’s the main reason that the Reagan Revolution was not shattered. Clinton became merely a painful interregnum.

Cut to 15 years later.  Obama is getting it right. The budget is a great document, the bipartisan experiment is over, the decision to leave troops behind in Iraq is correct, and the healthcare, energy, and education agendas are on course. Now it’s up to the Democratically elected Congress to respond. Obama’s charm offensive is wasted on the GOP. Obama appears to have realized that. The true targets of his charm offensive should be members of his own Senate caucus with a more conservative viewpoint.

By making an end run around the Democrats in the Senate by courting Snowe and Collins of Maine, Obama will be able to skewer Blue Dog Democrats with the charge of obstructionism, and privately at least, be able to warn them of what could happen if they let him down. Obama is a student of history, and he knows better than anyone what happened to Clinton.

The GOP is winging it’s way to virtual irrelevance, thankfully, with the exception of the tiny rump of Republican moderates in the Senate. The success of the Obama administration rests on many factors, but the willingness of Democrats in the Senate to hold fast will be a key element. Let’s put the majority whip to work, and hope that Obama makes his displeasure clear, public and effective in dealing with recalcitrants in his own party. They must tow the line – or face the historical legacy that they opened the door to yet another conservative backlash, with all the destruction and injustice that would usher in.

Continuing The Neo-Liberalism Discussion

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Badd Bob of Planned Obsolescence has built on my discussion about Neo-Liberalism with a thought-provoking post that asks some fascinating long term questions about where US hegemony could lead. Badd Bob puts China at the top of his list of adversarial states, but he questions how forceful the US can be in establishing and directing its power without generating blow-back.  There’s still plenty of work to be done in shaping the concept. Discussion open.

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Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 12:32 am

Whither Gitmo – What Are the Risks of Closing Guantanamo?

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060509_juris_gitmoprisonere

gitmo - where america creates the terrorist role models of the future

Among the many black marks on the Bush Administration will be the following; they sure were talented at getting us into jams we couldn’t get out of. Iraq, and Afghanistan are top of the list, but just below them is Gitmo. Opened at a time when Bush and the neo-cons really did think that the War on Terror was going to be a real live war with stacks of POWs, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was to put it mildly a total and utter disaster. Bush is clearing Cedar brush back in Crawford, but like a bad dream, Gitmo is still there, yet another piece of heavy luggage that the new President’s got to haul around with him.

Obama is rightly dedicated to totally overhauling America’s image abroad, especially in the Muslim world. And a big blot on relations with Arab countries is Guantanamo. So it would seem to be a no brainer to shut the damn place as quickly as possible. The President wants the doors closed on that particular PR nightmare within a year. Nice idea. Very nice idea.

There’s only one slight problem. It’s not going to work. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

February 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm