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These Things Almost Make Me Smile

Please hit play as backround music to the brief essay below.

In Praise of Amateur Political Pundits

I didn’t think I had much to say about the recent inter-blog Obama/Clinton wars.  Not much to say about the “anti-Hillary” diaries on DKos and “anti-Barack” posts on blogs next door on the net.  Not a lot to say about the exchanged fire over claims of racism and sexism.  Hardly anything to say about the foul language.  Not much about the current calls for renewed unity and some of the brush-off responses to those calls.

And maybe I still don’t have anything much to say.  But I would like to take a moment to praise all of it, or very, very nearly all of it.  

WaPo on Blade Runner: Iraq

Well, here is an article to pay attention to.  From today’s Washinton Post:

New Contracts Reflect Continued Presence in Iraq

By Walter Pincus

Monday, June 2, 2008; Page A11

The depth of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the difficulty the next president will face in pulling personnel out of the country are illustrated by a handful of new contract proposals made public in May.

The contracts call for new spending, from supplying mentors to officials with Iraq’s Defense and Interior ministries to establishing a U.S.-marshal-type system to protect Iraqi courts. Contractors would provide more than 100 linguists with secret clearances and deliver food to Iraqi detainees at a new, U.S.-run prison.

The proposals reflect multiyear commitments. The mentor contract notes that the U.S. military “desires for both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense to become mostly self-sufficient within two years,” a time outside some proposals for U.S. combat troop withdrawal. The mentors sought would “advise, train [and] assist . . . particular Iraqi officials” who work in the Ministry of Defense, which runs the Iraqi army, or the Ministry of Interior, which runs the police and other security units.

Coming in July: Bush and Maliki’s Tag-Team Swindle

Reading various news stories about an upcoming agreement on long-term military and economic commitments between the White House and the Maliki government in Iraq, details of which have not been made public, I think I am seeing the outlines a very clever trick.  I have not seen any news outlet put these story-lines together, so I will do so here.


(White House Photo of President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki signing the 2007 Declaration)

Conflicting NYT/WaPo Articles on IAEA Report on Iran

The New York Times and The Washington Post are both running stories for tomorrow about a report on Iran issued Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  

The two articles read as if they were written on different planets.

The NYT article is written with a tone of alarm; suggesting or implying that the IAEA report — which has not been made public — claims that the Iranians are working dilligently towards making a nuclear weapon.

The tone of the WaPo article is exactly the opposite.

Religion and Politics: John Rawls on Public Reason

Is a Christian presidential candidate allowed to appeal to religion when on the campaign trail?  Is a pro-lifer allowed to appeal to his or or interpretation of the Bible?  Is an Atheist pro-choicer allowed to appeal to his or her conception of the universe — when making a political argument?

Meta-questions like these, questions about the nature of proper poltical debtate, swirl about in the poltical aptmosphere.  Sometimes they are brought up explicitly, more often implicitly, as when one person argues from firmly-held religious stance and another says, “Don’t make your beliefs my law.”

The underlying issue is about the nature of democracy itself — which is to say about poltical convesation in a pluralistic society itself.  We want to be pluralistic, and we want to be able to talk to each other.  So what is to be done?

This meta-issue can be articulated, and a view about it defended, explicitly.  By looking at one such stance, we can hopefully think more clearly about what our own views are: what we think ought to be allowed, and why, in political debate.

Robert Gates’ New Rhetoric and The Forever War

It’s been said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the “anti-Rumsfeld.”  Soft-spoken, open to input from others, Gates’ reputation as a sane voice and a counter to the bellicosity of earlier Bush years is entrenched in any number of newspaper and TV pundit accounts.

But in fact Gates has recently made himself the point-man of what Tom Englhardt has called “the war in the slum cities of the planet.”  Consistently and forcefully, Gates in recent months has argued and cheer-leaded for a global counterinsurgency war; a war extended into the foreseeable future in which America — having no geo-strategic equal — devotes itself to crushing sparks of militant protest wherever they arise.  Gates’ performance has been remarkable in its lack of ideological cover-stories and for its single-minded devotion to neo-imperial power.

A State Dept. Powerpoint on How to Rule the World

David Kilcullen  is a member of Gen. David Petraeus’ famous team of intellectuals.  He has served in Iraq as part of the general’s cadre and is currently working for the State Department as well as in the private sector.  Dr. Kilcullen has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New South Wales and wrote his dissertation on counterinsurgency in traditional societies.

At the Department of State website devoted to collecting resources about counterinsurgency (“COIN” for short), there is a powerpoint presentation by Dr. Kilcullen titled “Counterinsurgency In Iraq: Theory and Practice, 2007 – by David Kilcullen.”  This is possibly the single most, shall we say “interesting,” powerpoint presentation I have ever seen.  

The Journalism of Empire: an Exhibit in LA Times

Imagine a future in which the United States has been invaded and occupied by China.  Imagine that Chinese forces speeding through downtown Chicago open fire in an intersection and kill your son, as he sits in the passanger seat of your car.  Now imagine that the American Branch of the Chinese Government offers you money to make up for it.

Imagine that you say to the Chinese official holding out the cash, “I don’t want your money.  I want you to think American life is precious.”

According to an article in the LA Times headlined Blackwater shooting highlights a U.S., Iraq culture clash, you are weird and hard to understand; the product of an alien culture.

NYT Lets the Truth About Oil Slip, for a Second

Paragraph 25 of an article in tomorrow’s NYT:

OPEC’s 13 members plan to spend $150 billion to expand their capacity by five million barrels a day by 2012. But OPEC will need to pump 60 million barrels a day by 2030, up from around 36 million barrels a day today, to meet the projected growth in demand. Analysts say that without Iran and Iraq – where nearly 30 years of wars and sanctions have crippled oil production – reaching that level will be impossible.

This is why we are not going to leave Iraq.  The country that controls the future of Iraq and Iran, controls the world for the next 40 or so years.

Thoughts and Googling on the NYT Analyst Article

Take a look at this paragraph from page 4 of today’s blockbuster NYT article:

Two of NBC’s most prominent analysts, Barry R. McCaffrey and the late Wayne A. Downing, were on the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an advocacy group created with White House encouragement in 2002 to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein.

Hmm.  Why don’t we have some fun with google?  This goes some interesting places.

Coda to the Petraeus Coverage: Saudi Arabia?

Last summer, in the run-up to General Petraeus’ September testimony to Congress, there were a number of stories in the U.S. press about fighters from Saudi Arabia entering Iraq to cause violence.  Indeed, back in summer of 2007, it was possible to read in a mainstream newspaper, every now and then, that a plurality of foreign fighters in Iraq were Saudis.

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