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Posts Tagged ‘Clinton

Talk To the Taliban – Obama’s Divide and Rule Strategy

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time to talk to the taliban. (eye patches are optional)

time to talk to the taliban. (eye patches are optional)

Talking to moderate elements of the Taliban in order to undermine its unity is a great second prong of attack – to be combined with a more money-driven attack on Taliban control of Afghan opium. Obama was wise to caution that the complexities of Afghan tribal culture made the mapping of such talks much harder than even in Iraq. There are a number of interesting points embedded in the concept and Obama’s response.

Firstly, the Taliban rose to prominence precisely because they were able to bridge tribal divisions. Clearly they are suscepible to a divide and rule strategy, but we have to get a far better of idea of how to create it. Asking Americans on the ground to accurately understand and act on the landscape of highly complex tribal rivalries might be asking a little too much. And then there’s the question of the time it will take to build this system, and whether picking off local Taliban leaders piecemeal approach is the best way (after all, from then on they will have to be protected).  The best means may be to short-circuit that with standard procedure bribery. After all, the Sons of Iraq turned on the more extreme (Al Qaeda) elements of the Sunni insurgency because they were paid to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by coolrebel

March 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Obama’s Letter to Medvedev – A New Diplomacy in Action

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the russian bear likes a good bargain.

the russian bear likes a good bargain.

President Obama’s not so secret letter to his counterpart in Russia, President Medvedev, seems like a strong beginning to a new, more robust and directed diplomacy. Applying an unspoken quid pro quo that the serious application of pressure by Russia on Iran to stem Tehran’s nuclear ambitions could mean the removal of the US nuclear shield in Eastern Europe draws a big lesson from history. During the missile crisis, Khruschev seriously overreached when he planted missiles in Cuba. Kennedy didn’t back down, but instead offered to give up some obsolete missiles in Turkey in order to save the world from Armageddon.

Okay, we’re not quite on the edge of the nuclear abyss just yet, but Obama’s clearly done his homework on dealing with the Russians. He shrewdly realizes how important ‘saving face’ is to in the machismo world of Moscow foreign policy, rightly regards the missile shield as an expensive boondoggle, and understands why Moscow is less than enamoured of Bush’s feeble remonstrations that the shield was primarily in place to protect against Iranian missiles headed for the US or Europe (about a thousand times less likely than a briefcase bomb which would bypass the shield altogether). Add to that the very strong likelihood that the shield won’t work even if challenged and the prospect of canning it isn’t exactly a stretch. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

March 3, 2009 at 8:00 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 »

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

The Definition of Normal by George W. Bush

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bush-quotes-ngin

normal is just a word

It’s more than a tad ironic that one of the last and most important acts of the outgoing Bush administration will be to attempt an end-run around Republicans in Congress and allow a bridge loan to the US automakers from the the $700 billion set aside all those months ago for the purchase of “toxic securities”.

The White House supported this turnaround with a fabulous piece of Bush logic. To wit; In normal times, the Bushies would have much preferred that the market decide the fate of the automakers, but these, it suggests, are not normal times, and therefore extraordinary measures are needed.

Not a bad version of the West Wing Shuffle, one might think. Except the logic has one drawback. It is as a result of years of allowing the market to take its ‘normal’ course that we are in the mess we are in now. One doesn’t test the beliefs of true free market ideologues during normal times. The only time they can be truly tested is in extremis. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mumbai Massacre – An Opportunity For Clarity

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800px-taj_mahal_palace_hotel_at_night

peace will once again come to the taj

“Rogue Elements” is a big word du jour right now. The idea that within an organization there’s often a fifth column conjures up all sorts of conspiracy theories about CIA spooks with their own twisted agendas. Usually, this stuff is confined to fiction or the far reachs of the blogosphere. But what happens when the lunatics truly have taken over the asylum?

The strong suspicion that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group of jihadists once nurtured by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, ISI, is behind the horrific massacre in Mumbai a few days ago has turned the simmering distrust between India and Pakistan into a potential supernova. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama and Iraq – Now Comes The Hard Part.

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04/24/95_15.58_SAIGONViet Nam

saigon 1975. will it be different when we leave Iraq?

Ivan Watson, NPR’s Baghdad Correspondent was the target of an assassination attempt today when he and his team were nearly killed by a car bomb. And in recent weeks there has clearly been a spike in violence in Iraq. Let nobody say that the situation that war-torn country is anything close to peaceful.

And yet the next President is going to withdraw our troops. Not in victory, or in defeat, but ‘believing’ and ‘hoping’ that peace will break out when we’re gone. That’s a bet many wouldn’t make.

Obama staked his early rise to prominence on a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, and superficially, facts on the ground seem to bear him out. He’s committed to a “safe and responsible” withdrawal of US troops around sixteen months from taking office. He has the support of the Maliki government, and the vast majority of the Iraqi people want us gone. The Status of Forces agreement which mandates our withdrawal by the end of 2001 also provides us with some political cover too.

So what’s the problem? Simple. When we leave, there is simply no way we won’t be leaving a power vacuum in Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »