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    16 August 2007

    America: We like you Petraeus, but we aren't going to buy it

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    The stay the course crowd who favor the presidents escalation policy in Iraq were given a tasty--but pointless--nugget today. This, of course, was used to continue their desperate attempts to inflate the successes of the "surge" and equate anyone analyzing the lack of progress in Iraq as anti-American terrorist supporters. The E & P story that brought this on says:
    The [Gallop] poll of 1,012 adults, taken earlier this month, found that 47% give [Petraeus] a favorable rating, and only 21% unfavorable. The rest had not heard of him or had no opinion.

    This is no surprise. Petraeus is a likable guy, a scholar, a patriot and has brought some welcome relief in Iraq; albeit years too late. From what I've read from his counter insurgency manual, he appears to be the man for this job. As I said in February, if we were able to give him what he needed and the Iraqi politicians deliver on reconciliation, we might actually be able to pull this thing off. I'd much rather Petraeus write the President's mid-September report on the escalation in Iraq than whoever the White House taps (Kagan, O'Hanlon?). However, there are two sides to every COIN (bad joke, sorry). The "[l]eft-leaning Editor and Publisher" errantly suggest that "his 'surge' report may gain support.

    This is wrong for two reasons. First, The report is not his, it will be written by the White House. Much to the Administrations chagrin I'd imagine, Petraeus and Amb. Crocker will be able to testify in public, although before Bush's mid-September report is released. Next, a recent poll agrees with Gallops findings but uncovers that the American public aren't going to let a Petraeus' character interfere with their assessments:
    Though 47% of Americans may like Petraeus, a majority does not trust he will be forthright in his assessment to Congress next month. Fifty-three percent expect him to try to make things sound better than they actually are...

    The CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll also reports that 72% of Americans say the September assessment will not have any impact on their opinion on the war, no matter what Petraeus says.

    Only seventeen percent of those who currently oppose the war say new developments could change their minds about it, along with 12% of those who support it. The vast majority report their opinions are set, however, with 47% staunchly opposed and 21% in support.

    For those Americans who are still undecided and want a real report to assess and not a political document written by the White House, look for the GAO report September 1st.

    Posted by Geoff

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    15 August 2007

    The Debate is Over Regarding the Surge

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    As we start the debate again, it's going to revert to a 'stay the course' camp and a bunch of different plans to move forward and/or to move out of Iraq. Much mud will be thrown.

    Some things to keep in mind:
    1) Petraeus hinted that rotating troops out of pacified areas and into the hot spots. Isn't this plan a microcosm of setting a timeline? Recall that we've recently cut troop levels in the North and yesterday hundreds of Iraqis were murdered there. Why sacrifice human life in a desperate attempt to score political points? And if your argument is that it won't be announced or communicated, my reply is that it doesn't have to be. It will be very visible and an asymmetrical force doesn't need much time to maneuver and redeploy.

    2) The stay the course crowd will want to keep gambling American lives as they dig for ponies. In Iraq, our troops face an enemy that will not cower like congressional Democrats. Our stay the course crowd also faces and enemy, reality. In January of '06 a Pentagon report warned that our Military couldn't keep current troop levels (then 136,000) without adversely affecting the Military. The reports author warned that "the Army has become a 'thin green line' that could snap unless relief comes soon". That relief came in April when Secretary of Defense extended military tours of duty to 15 months, with an opening remaining to make it 18.

    The truth is painfully clear. Our military might has been outmatched by mistaken ideology and arrogance. The opponents of the timeline that argued in favor of staying the course will see their micro-timelines go into effect as they struggle to maintain proper levels. Thus opening the opportunity for terrorist to carryout spectacular attacks like Tuesday's quadruple car bombing that killed hundreds--the worst attack since yet in Iraq. Additionally, the stay the course crowd who begged for an escalation in order to allow for political progress are going to have to witness their ebb flow away with no political progress to be seen.

    Soon there will be no more reinforcements and one would assume that the stay the course crowd would have to succumb to reality, or--perhaps--join their depleted military. All the while, Americans continue to die. The debate is over, the surge cannot be maintained with time or troop levels sufficient "to break the back of the insurgency." It's high time to reassess the mission and put our troops efforts towards a more realistic end.

    Posted by Geoff

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    Forget Bush's mid-September Report, Look for the GAO's

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    The LA Times reveled some insight on what we can expect mid-September in the report on the presidents "surge" in Iraq. It also reminded anyone remotely paying attention that the mid-September report--misleadingly referred to as the Petraeus-Crocker report--will be a political document written for, and only for, misleading the US audience into a continuation of failed policy.
    Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

    And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

    One would hope that the frame "Petraeus-Crocker" would disappear, but it won't. One would hope people will see through this report, but they won't. For a quick reminder, here is what the President said, and has been saying of the much anticipated mid-September report. This is from his July assessment of "progress" in Iraq:
    I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my -- with insisting that we get resources to them, but with -- by respecting the command structure, I'm going to wait for David to come back -- David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees. And then we'll use that data, that -- his report to work with the rest of the military chain of command, and members of Congress, to make another decision, if need be.

    That frame should end as well. This is not David's--David Petraeus' report, it is this administrations spin of Petraeus' mid-September briefing.

    If you think back, the July "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" that claimed that "satisfactory performance" on nearly half of the proposed benchmarks was so fundamentally flawed that I doubt the White House can flaw it any more this time around. They set a fake bar, way too high, and now they won't be able to reach past it while still seeming realistic. They may have burned themselves (why they did this is a mystery, as they stated repeatedly that the July report came "a little less than a month after the full complement of troops arrived" in Iraq). Still, the bottom-line remains as plain as day. The premise was to "surge" in order to clear, hold and build. In that time political reconciliation and momentum was to be generated. We've done some of the former, but none of the latter. Prospects of this changing are slim to nil.

    This Presidents mid-September report will be a farce. The LA Times cites internal debate as such:
    "There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,'" the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to ... just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.'"

    Another tactic they are considering is to make Petraeus and Crocker visit Congress in a private congressional briefing and having Secretary Rice and Gates talk to the full Congress in the public domain. It's going to be all spin. An alternative to the Presidents mid-September report on his "surge" is the early September report carried out by the Government Accountability Office that will be apolitical and pragmatic not political and misleading.

    Posted by Geoff

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    More on Rudy Giuliani's Foreign Policy

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    Continuing on my post from last night on Giulian's foreign policy essay, the wonks at Democracy Arsenal have some fun at Rudy's expense. Apparently it's not so serious yet seeing that he's so far away from even being considered a candidate and even further away from scaring the hell out of everyone and then playing Mayor of US during the '08 election. Here are some clippings...

    Parts of Iraq would undoubtedly fall under the sway of our enemies, particularly Iran, which would use its influence to direct even more terror at U.S. interests and U.S. allies than it does today. (Irony alert: Iran's growing influence is a direct result of our invasion or Iraq. But more to the point, would Iran be directing terror at the US if we weren't in Iraq today? This is a self-defeating argument. Rudy is saying we can't leave Iraq because it will embolden Iran, and yet it's our very presence, which has emboldened them in the first place. Ugh, my head hurts, I need a cold beverage.)

    Our allies would conclude that we cannot back up our commitments with sustained action. (Boy, it sure seems that Iraq and Afghanistan has proved that point rather nicely. Tora Bora ring any bells.)

    Our enemies -- both terrorists and rogue states -- would be emboldened. (Where do I even start? How about the July NIE report on AQ, "TThe National Intelligence Estimate assessment indicates that the Islamic terrorist organization's rise has been bolstered by the Iraq war and the failure to counter extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas." What was that part about backing up our commitments with sustained action?

    That's just one graf! On and on it goes. Here's another graf that is astounding:
    Another step in rebuilding a strong diplomacy will be to make changes in the State Department and the Foreign Service. The time has come to refine the diplomats' mission down to their core purpose: presenting U.S. policy to the rest of the world.

    Our ambassadors must clearly understand and clearly advocate for U.S. policies and be judged on the results. Too many people denounce our country or our policies simply because they are confident that they will not hear any serious refutation from our representatives. The American ideals of freedom and democracy deserve stronger advocacy. And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end.

    That's right, people are angry at America, not because of our policies, but because they know they can criticize us with impunity. And this nugget is featured in a section titled "Determined Diplomacy."

    "The Terrorists’ War on Us.” When I read this, I almost started laughing. Is he serious? I had read that Giuliani was starting to use this odd-sounding phrase, but he is apparently intent on trademarking it, and using it all the freaking time. As Matt points out, this enough is reason to hope to God he is defeated.

    “Peace through Strength”: Orwellian prose alert. If a Democrat said this, I’d be cool, but it really does sound ominous coming from someone who has Normon Podheretz on his foreign policy team.

    “The next U.S president must also press ahead with building a national missile defense system.” Oh God, why are conservatives obsessed with this?

    Btw, I was surprised to see that this article had a somewhat lumbering prose. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the writing style doesn’t quite seem right. For example, “the lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal.” What the heck is that? UPDATE: Good, it's not just me. Apparently Kevin Drum feels the same way. He seems to think that a 9-year old wrote the essay. It is possible.

    “It is better to give people a hand up than a handout.” Good job advisor #4.

    Posted by Geoff

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    Rudy Giuliani: On US Foreign Policy After the Bush Years

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    So I just read Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani's new foreign policy thesis in Foreign Affairs and I just have to share a few comments before I retire for the night.

    [UPDATE] Fixed link to go to main story not the print page.

    First his new lexicon is "terrorists' war on global order" and "on us" so get used to that. This phrase arises in Rudy's reference to the "three key foreign policy challenges" facing the next president, which are:

    • Victory in the "terrorists' war on global order."

    • Strengthen that global order (a.k.a. the "international system").

    • As security spreads, ensure that the international system is there to welcome liberated peoples and/or nations.

    This will be done by, among other things, finding a balance between "realism and idealism in our foreign policy." To Rudy, idealism is our ultimate goal and realism is our means to getting there. the goal? "Preserving and extending American ideals..." pursued "...through realistic means."

    So my reading is that we should impose our interpretation of the world populations desired ends, by any "realistic" means necessary, to those populations. Like we are doing in Iraq guess...

    Now here's where he loses me. After stating that we need to use our ideology as a guide, governed by realism. He writes:
    We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists' War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.

    So it wasn't our policies (support for corrupt regimes, support for Israel, military presence in the Muslim Holy Land, and US foreign policy in general) that caused terrorism against western nations. No, it was our reaction to terrorist's attacks prior to 9/11. I suppose that's a vague shot at Clinton (but also H.W. Bush and Reagan, et cetera). Still, how can anyone who is trying to put forward a new approach to foreign policy in the post-9/11 world say that previous responses to terrorism are the nexus of our problems? This ignores, outright, the preeminent causes of terrorism currently. To ignore the effects of the occupation of Iraq or our actions on the world stage (Gitmo, abu Ghraib) in a new foreign policy doctrine is approaching, if not the definition of, intellectual nadir. Rudy's prescription is basically the status quo. It's not a long-term battle he's planning for it's more of the same. Short-term reactions to current events. This is just treating the symptoms not the cause. It's ridiculous.

    To make this even worse, Rudy's first step is to understand the enemy's "violent ideology." But rather than incorporate a plan for addressing this ideology--which is in many ways fueled by our ideology that says everyone ought to be like us--Rudy blames the American people for not 'staying the course' in Vietnam, creating an analogy to Iraq. It's all nation building here, no public relations. It's like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

    When Rudy transitions into diplomacy he starts to some signs that he is aware of the current reality.
    It is clear that we need to do a better job of explaining America's message and mission to the rest of the world, not by imposing our ideas on others but by appealing to their enlightened self-interest. To this end, the Voice of America program must be significantly strengthened and broadened. Its surrogate stations, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which were so effective at inspiring grass-roots dissidents during the Cold War, must be expanded as well. Our entire approach to public diplomacy and strategic communications must be upgraded and extended, with a greater focus on new media such as the Internet. We confront multifaceted challenges in the Middle East, the Pacific region, Africa, and Latin America. In all these places, effective communication can be a powerful way of advancing our interests. We will not shy away from any debate. And armed with honest advocacy, America will win the war of ideas.

    And there's the key, the war of ideas. But he offers nothing (though he didn't backtrack and do as Newt Gingrich [Foreign Policy, July/August 2003] would and make these tools of public diplomacy nothing more than tools for propaganda.) This further exemplifies the inability of Rudy and many Republicans to understand that fighting a long war is only possible with robust efforts at strategic but genuine public diplomacy in compliment to "reasonable" use of force. Military force has a role but the belligerent use of this force can have a long-term detrimental effect. Earlier in this essay, Rudy calls for increasing the size of our military, expanding intelligence and survalience and finding a missile defense system that will work. This is pretty obvious. But other than strengthening, broadening, upgrading and extending our public diplomacy there are no legitimate policy prescriptions, despite stating correctly that "America has been most successful as a world leader when it has used strength and diplomacy hand in hand." Rudy's doctrine here is hardly "hand in hand." Perhaps a revision with some dollar signs or incorporating some scholarly research Mayor? I guess those don't emit fear quite as well as other subjects (this essay is full of his trade mark fear-mongering coupled with his fatherly leadership in the face of terror).

    All in all the documents pretty much advocating for the status quo. It offered nothing groundbreaking and a lot of poor advise for a country on the verge of transitioning from under one of the wost foreign policy performances ever. In the last section Rudy writes "America's next president must also craft polices to fit the needs of the decade ahead...". Well with foreign policy, a president elected in '08 will only be leading till January 2013.

    Posted by Geoff

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    13 August 2007

    Skeptics Beware

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    Given all the bamboozlement surrounding climate science I thought I'd share a recent LTTE I wrote in response to a local (SC) climate skeptic who managed to get his misinformation past the brilliant censors at the Post & Courier. Some quick background, popular skeptic Stephen McIntyre invented a controversy which was unprofessionally recited--incorrectly at times--by skeptics throughout the blogosphere and the media. A minor error that moved the record high temperature in the continental US from 1998 to 1934 and causing the high point to move from "being in a virtual tie, to being in a virtual tie" was the culprit here. (The site I am quoting here has been attacked and will make your browser freeze up. Click this link at your own risk!) We should thank McIntyre for finding this error but ignore his claims that it is a big issue. It only affects the continental US data not the global data. And it is global warming.

    Anyway, a recent letter to the editor (titled "Warming skeptic") attempted to downplay the validity of climate science in an attempt to berate believers of climate change and their associated political movement's "public fright campaign." The thrust of this effort was to advise against solar and wind energy and for more coal power. These issues are worthy of debate but corrections to the conclusions arrived at within this letter relating to the facts surrounding climate change are needed. These corrections will likely cause readers to reevaluate the possible benefit of renewable energy sources and the frightening contribution additional coal plants may have on climate change, especially if they aren't fitted with the latest technology to sequester the high levels of carbon emissions associated with the use of coal (and other hydrocarbons).

    The letter begins by noticing that science is always changing. This is correct; every day scientists learn a little bit more about climate change and how it will affect Charleston and the planet. That is why it is important to stay up to date on the latest findings. Pointed out in the author's effort is the effect of the sun on climate variations. What is missing from this analysis is a plethora recent science that has found that the sun does fluctuate in intensity but that it has little effect on our climate. The author likely used studies of solar trends from the early 90s that have been thoroughly discredited as proof that global warming is not related to human influences. Anyone who has so much as cracked a scientific textbook is aware that while fluctuations in solar intensity occur in short periods, fluctuations in CO2 levels are orders of magnitude longer. Therefore, any correlation between solar and CO2 signals are only spurious conclusions that have been thoroughly debunked.

    Later in the letter the author cites poll data from the same period (the early 90s) concluding that scientists were skeptical of the hype surrounding global warming. Of course they are skeptical, we should be grateful for this. Scholars are often skeptical of mainstream conventional wisdom and the media's sensationalism. That doesn't mean that the science is false, only that it is eternally incomplete. But the idea that there is an absence of consensus that climate change is a human induced phenomenon is a falsity. In fact, a thorough analysis published in Science Magazine found that in 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003, not a single one challenged the scientific consensus that the earth's temperature is rising due to human activity. In 2002 the Bush administration's EPA admitted (reluctantly I'd imagine) that the warming trend "is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years ... due mostly to human activities." Most recently the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—constructed of scientists from 113 countries—found that global warning was "very likely" man-made (that's a 90% probability).

    Skeptics are finding it harder and harder to piece together misinformation to deny scientific conclusions in order to pressure policy makers to adopt ideology as a replacement for sound science. This is easily done when you actively search for conflicting data, especially from the past. Climate skeptics are entitled to their opinions but are increasingly standing on stumps from the past. Stumps are dead ends, if skeptics aren't careful they will soon be submerged by their own faulty logic.

    Posted by Geoff

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    12 August 2007


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    Cheney explains why we shouldn't have gone into Baghdad.... In 1994.

    Heh, I probably would have agreed with him then. I wonder what he thinks now...

    (h/t Crooked Timber)

    Posted by Geoff

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