There Is No Plan

Nobody Reads This Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Obama

Turns Out We’re Not Leaving Iraq After All

leave a comment »

gates, are you trying to tell us something?

gates, are you trying to tell us something?

It was a reminder of the bad old days.  But it was today in Baghdad. Big suicide bomb, coordinated attacks on rescuers, dozens dead and wounded, and the customary “bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation designed to ferment sectarian strife”.  It’s doubtful whether it had any effect on the tone of Robert Gates‘ interview on NPR this evening, but I’m sure the bombing was on the Secretary’s mind.

We’re not sure whether his boss is on board with this, although it seems likely, but Gates might have given us a little glimpse of reality during the interview. In response to a question about differences between him and the President on a final departure date for our troops from Iraq, Gates was less than convincing about the finality of that. From the NPR report. (My italics)

With regard to Iraq, Gates noted that under the Status of Forces agreement, all U.S. troops will be out by the end of 2011. Gates says he’s on the same page as Obama with the withdrawal and, barring a new agreement with the Iraqis, there will be zero troops in Iraq by that time. But he also speculates that the Iraqis could ask for logistical and intelligence support.

“The president’s statement is absolutely clear and it conforms to our current commitments, that is, according to the agreements we have signed, we will have everyone out of Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said. “And unless something changes, that is exactly what will happen. …[A change] would have to be at the Iraqis’ initiative. And the president will have to determine whether or not he wants to do that.”

“Logistical and Intelligence” support might well be a good cover-phrase for something a little more, shall we say, effective. In other words a new agreement ‘at the Iraqis initiative’ to guarantee some “we need your firepower because we’re getting our asses kicked” type support. Obama suspects that Al Qaeda is just waiting for us to shut the door after us before going all out again, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the President could make a judgment that keeping a few brigades on base for selective “logistical and intelligence support” might just be the insurance policy we need.

There’s been an awful lot of talk about the President’s philosophy. Nobody seems to know what it is. The reason is simple. His philosophy is the absence of a philosophy. Pragmatism.

Bookmark and Share

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by coolrebel

March 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm

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

with 2 comments

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 »

Written by coolrebel

March 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Enough With the Accountability Mr O.

leave a comment »

accountability, shmaccountability. just make the damn plan work already

accountability, shmaccountability. just make the damn plan work already

I’m a huge fan of accountability, I think it’s great. But government is a big place. The idea of opening up all government business to accessible public scrutiny adds little value. It will only create confusion. Sifting through and understanding the data remains the key, and guess who’s going to be able to do that. The same people who knew how to access the information before it was put on recovery.gov. In short, it’s 10% useful, 10% public relations, and 80% window dressing.

Accountability to the public has its place. And that place is called democracy. Every two years we get to hold our legislators accountable and every four years the President and his party gets the same treatment. It’s not a great system but it kind of works.  The dirty little secret is this. Too much ‘demos’ in democracy is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, in these perilous times when leadership has never been more important, it might actually spell disaster at precisely the wrong moment in our history.

Bookmark and Share

Written by coolrebel

March 4, 2009 at 8:41 am

The AIG Gravy Train – It Just Keeps Getting Worse

leave a comment »

when the insurers need insuring to insure the economy doesn't go totally belly up, that's what i call insurance

when the insurers need insuring to insure the economy doesn't go totally belly up, that's what i call insurance

Joe Nocera of the New York Times wrote a great post today which adds more grist to the mill on the price discovery issue relating to AIG’s credit default swaps (CDSs). Not only does the government end up propping up the most destructive derivative behavior around, but it does so while allowing AIG to maintain the confidentiality of their shady transactions.

And guess who that protects? You’re spot on. It shields AIG’s counterparties, banks, investors, and lenders who were looking for a way to ‘insure’ themselves on the quiet while they pigged out at the trough just before the fall. Nocera makes the point that this doesn’t sit well with the President’s call for transparency and he’s right. But it’s yet another example of the contradictions that Obama seems to be displaying. High principle on the one hand and almost Bush-like duplicity with the status-quo on the other. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Tim Geithner is lurching from crisis to crisis just like his predecessor. But the situation is far worse now. Paulson was a stooge and everyone knew it, a placeholder and agent for the Street. Geithner is supposed to know better. But he doesn’t seem to be able to escape the shackles of hide-bound “group-think”. Wasn’t the President supposed to put a stop to this kind of thinking?

Bookmark and Share

Written by coolrebel

March 2, 2009 at 4:14 pm

AIG. Another $30B? Enough.

leave a comment »

Frank Rich’s piece in today’s NYT suggests that a populist backlash against corporate malfeasance and greed could do serious damage to Obama’s agenda, and give the GOP a bridgehead from which to fight back. On the very same day, AIG is apparently to receive another $30bn of taxpayer largesse. This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and for a myriad of reasons both economic and moral.

Firstly, either the government should have let AIG die and backed their Credit Default Swaps, or else let the CDW’s lapse and allow legitimate price discovery for the CDOs on that basis. The CDWs prop up fictitious value at our expense which is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing. Secondly, last week Congress removed billions for education spending. This week it gives that money to AIG? We’re about to try and overhaul the healthcare system. The $150 billion that we’ve committed without accountability to a dead company could have been a useful downpayment on the single biggest drain on the US economy. Is Tim Geithner trying to be Hank Paulson, because his leadership at Treasury shares the same “making it up as he goes along” characteristics.

Obama is getting all squirly on us. First he signs up a centrist cabinet and give progressives like Robert Reich and Howard Dean the cold shoulder. Then he dumps bipartisanship in favor of a progressive budget. And now he gives yet another handout to the street by protecting their crazy CDOs. Who is he? The answer is we still don’t know.

Bookmark and Share

Written by coolrebel

March 1, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Potus Heralds a New Era on US-Iranian Relations? Bad Start

leave a comment »

Mullen says Iran has enough fissile material for a bomb on the same day that Gates says they’re not close to getting a bomb. Now it’s true that these two statements are not mutually exclusive on a factual basis, but they are contradictory in terms of their diplomatic intent. Potus, Pentagon and State need to control communications channels a little better. It doesn’t look good.

Bookmark and Share

Written by coolrebel

March 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm

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

with 5 comments

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 »

Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm