The American Bear


As Failure Language Creeps into Afghanistan Discussion, McCain, Young Call for Accelerated Withdrawal | Jim White

Hawks gonna hawk. If McCain doesn’t want to keep fighting a war there has to be something seriously wrong:

It would appear that at least two Republicans who have been among the most hawkish in their positions on Afghanistan now have changed their tunes. Congressman Bill Young of Florida was first, calling on Monday for an early withdrawal:

Over and over, every time the subject of pulling American troops out of Afghanistan has come up, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young has voted to stay the course. He opposed resolutions to withdraw, and even a resolution to set a timetable for a full withdrawal.

Not anymore.

“I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can,” Young, R-Indian Shores, said during a meeting with the Times editorial board Monday. “I just think we’re killing kids that don’t need to die.”

Meaning American kids, no doubt, but if it gets us out of that mess …

Young added that he was not alone with this view:

Young said he has talked with his Republican colleagues in Congress about his new position on Afghanistan and he believes they feel the same way he does, “but they tend not to want to go public” about it. He said he has also talked to military leaders about his views “but I don’t get a lot of reaction.”

Yesterday, John McCain joined Young in calling for an accelerated withdrawal:

“I think all options ought to be considered, including whether we have to just withdraw early, rather than have a continued bloodletting that won’t succeed,” McCain said Wednesday.

Unlike Young, though, McCain couldn’t resist trying to lay the blame for failure at Obama’s feet:

The mishandling of the war in Afghanistan by the Obama administration has made it so dangerous that the U.S. should consider withdrawing all troops from the country early, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other lawmakers.

We only need go back to last March, a full month after Daniel Davis’ report on the failures of the strategy in Afghanistan to see McCain, along with his sidekicks Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, engaging in the very rhetoric of success to describe abject failure that Davis found so apalling:

Significant military progress has been made in Afghanistan — progress that we have personally witnessed over repeated visits. Four years ago, southern Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, and our coalition lacked the resources and the strategy necessary to break their momentum. Today, that situation has been reversed, thanks to the president’s surge of forces, the leadership of talented military commanders, and the courage and perseverance of our troops.

Similarly, our effort to build the Afghan National Security Forces — which was under-resourced and disorganized four years ago — has been overhauled. Growing numbers of Afghan units are increasingly capable of leading the fight.

Whether it is approached with Young’s chastened attitude that it is time to end unnecessary deaths or even with McCain’s cheap political finger-pointing, it is a very encouraging sign that even some of the most hawkish Republicans now favor an accelerated withdrawal. It is hard to see how the Obama administration could choose to make such a drastic change in strategy without at least some cover from Republicans, and that cover now seems to be developing. It still seems likely to me that Obama will wait until after the November election to make this move, but it is difficult to see how he has any other option. Resuming the previous strategy and re-starting training seems virtually certain to come with an even higher rate of green on blue attacks now that those who lean that direction have seen that the attacks are producing results. Also, keeping the suspension of training in place for very long means that the normal high desertion rate for Afghan security forces will result in the force level falling far below that at which NATO says it will be appropriate for force withdrawal. Accelerating the withdrawal is the only option that makes any sense at all.

Read the whole piece

Most likely to attack Iran | Glenn Greenwald

This is sad. And true.

When it comes to praising President Obama’s foreign policy skill and Toughness (in the neocon sense of that term: i.e., a willingness to risk other people’s lives with the use of military force against foreigners), The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg has been one of the most reliable and vocal voices. Considered by Obama aides “as the ‘official therapist’ of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Goldberg has been particularly important in vouching for Obama to Israelis and American Jews on the ground that nobody will be Tougher on Iran than Obama (in return for this service, Goldberg — like all helpful journalists are — has been rewarded by the White House with substantial career-boosting access). In his Bloomberg column this morning, Goldberg argues that Israeli officials should pray for Obama’s victory in the November election, and makes this argument in support:

On the matter of Iran, however, Netanyahu would be wrong to root for Romney. Barack Obama is the one who’s more likely to confront Iran militarily, should sanctions and negotiations fail. He has committed himself to stopping Iran by any means necessary, and he has a three-year record as president to back his rhetoric. Romney has only rhetoric, and he would be hamstrung in many ways if he chose military confrontation.

He goes on to argue that despite the GOP challenger’s Tough rhetoric, “Romney would face several critical challenges in a conflict with Iran that Obama would not”; specifically:

Romney, by all accounts, is uninterested in inheriting the mantle of President George W. Bush, who invaded two Muslim countries and lost popularity and credibility as a result. Romney, despite his rhetoric, is more of a pragmatist than Bush, and far more cautious. An attack on Iran is an incautious act, one that even Bush rejected.

The unilateral use of force in the Middle East for a liberal Democrat like Obama is a credential; for a conservative Republican like Romney, it could be an albatross. I argued in a previous column that Romney is more likely than Obama to oversee a revitalized Middle East peace process. That’s because conservatives are better positioned to make peace; liberals are generally better positioned to launch preventive strikes at the nuclear programs of rogue nations. We know that U.S. voters, and world leaders, allow Obama extraordinary leeway when it comes to deadly drone strikes, precisely because of his politics, character and background. (We are talking about a man, after all, who won the Nobel Peace Prize while ordering the automated killing of suspected Muslim terrorists around the world.) Romney will get no comparative slack.

In other words, Obama will be freer to attack Iran than Romney would be because Democrats, progressives, and the “international community” (that’s neocon for: Europeans) passively accept or even cheer for violence, aggression and executive power abuses when ordered by a sophisticated, urbane, Constitutional Law Professor with Good Progressivism in his heart, and only cause a messy ruckus when done by an icky, religious, overtly nationalistic Republican.

To see how true that is, just compare the years-long screeching over President Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detentions without any judicial review or transparency — he’s assaulting the Constitution and Our Values! – compared with the reactionto Obama’s more extremist assassinations without any judicial review or transparency. Or consider how a high-level aide to John Ashcroft marveled with envy over Obama’s ability to prosecute whistleblowers with such abandon, noting to The New York Times that the Ashcroft DOJ was deterred by the prospect of a political storm that Obama simply does not face: “We,” lamented the Ashcroft aide, “would have gotten hammered for it.”

Read the rest

This Drone Assurance Brought to You By Northrup Grumman | emptywheel

Dianne Feinstein gave a speech to the World Affairs Council yesterday. As part of it, she gave the following reassurances regarding the oversight

We have a special effort on the CIA Predator program. The staff has made 28 visits to various facilities, attended intelligence gathering, we have looked at the intelligence. The key to these, to minimize collateral damage, to go for the targeted individuals, but to have intelligence which is just as good as it can be to be totally actionable. And so the collateral damage is really greatly reduced beyond what you may read in the press. I have asked, “please please please can I release these numbers?” And the answer is [laughs] “no, they’re classified.” So that’s about as far as I could go on that.

Ah, well, that’s about as far as you can go! If the CIA tells you it can’t release its claims about civilian casualties publicly so they can be reviewed by people on the ground, so people who aren’t getting all their information from the same people pressing the trigger double check those claims, I guess that’s as far as you can go then!

What I like best is the prominent role drone manufacturer Northrup Grumman (they don’t make the Predators used in CIA’s assassination program, but they do sell drones to the CIA) had in the talk. In his introduction of her, NG’s CEO Wes Bush hailed her “absolute integrity in addressing the facts.” (Though maybe Bush was talking about DiFi’s recent misrepresentations in support of the NSA’s hoovering of telecom communications, given that NG has a big chunk of the data storage contract.)

These convenient, unverifiable “facts” on drones delivered by someone proven to misrepresent such “facts” brought to you by the drone (and wiretap) industry.

"Intelligence which is just as good as it can be!"

"Just trust us!"

The fear of drones is, in part, the fear of the new — it is Luddism masquerading as civil libertarianism.

Rich Lowry, Pompous ass and Neocon ally to the Obama administration.

Learn to love the drone. Embrace the drone. Become one with the drone. For, as Lowry says, “One day we will marvel that there was a time when a police drone wasn’t first on the scene of a shooting.”

Yes, and one day, ED-209 will provide a mistake-proof alternative to the Police and, working cooperatively with his drone friends, will restore peace and order to our land (and you will have peace, too, as long as you don’t step out of line). You fucking Luddites.

Harold Ford, Jr.: Smirking Sociopath | Glenn Greenwald

[Establishment Democrat and Former Tennessee Rep. Harold] Ford’s smirking, self-satisfied, effete ignorance [in reaction to a discussion on Morning Joe about the Obama administration’s extrajudicial murders by drones and airstrikes] - from a warmonger whose delicately manicured hands have never been and will never be near any of the carnage he reflexively defends - … is particularly nauseating. Like most mindless defenders of U.S. violence, Ford just repeatedly utters the word “Terrorist” over and over like a hypnotic mantra.

Even after [journalist and author of “the Lethal Presidency”, Tom] Junod describes the heinous death of the indisputably innocent American teenager [Abdulrahman al-Awlaki], Ford just smirks and pronounces that it’s better to Kill The Terrorists than to capture them. There’s nothing unique about Harold Ford, Jr. — as I said, he’s just the personification of the standard Beltway sicknesses, and the vacant “arguments” he makes to justify drones (“THE TERRORISTS!”) are the typical ones offered up. The commenter ThomasPaine adeptly summarizes the Morning Joe discussion this way:

So here’s the discussion in a nutshell:

[Tom] Junod: Our government killed a 16 year old boy and it won’t even say why.

[Harold Ford]: Yeah, killing terrorists is cheaper than capturing them.

[Dan] Senor: No, we need to tortur– interrogate them first.

Junod: But we’re talking about a 16 year old boy who wasn’t a terrorist.

Ford: Like I said, kill them.

Senor: Hey, war is messy.

That’s depressingly accurate.

Hawks gonna hawk:
US hawks push for arming Syrian rebels | Al Akhbar English

US hawkish senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman said Thursday it was time to arm Syria’s rebels in the wake of last week’s Houla massacre that left 108 civilians dead.
“It’s time to act. It’s time to give the Syrian opposition the weapons in order to defend themselves. It’s not a fair fight,” the Republican McCain told reporters in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
McCain attacked Russia and China for opposing aggressive action on Syria, and the US administration of President Barack Obama – who defeated the Republican in the 2008 election – for not acting more forcefully on the issue.
“It is shameful that the United Nations Security Council should again be hindered by Russia and China, by their vetoes for any significant action against Syria,” he said.

The United States has never hindered action by the UN (ahem Israel ahem) so this must be really frustrating.
To her credit, Hillary is on it:
Clinton defuses military intervention talk on Syria

Hawks gonna hawk:

US hawks push for arming Syrian rebels | Al Akhbar English

US hawkish senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman said Thursday it was time to arm Syria’s rebels in the wake of last week’s Houla massacre that left 108 civilians dead.

“It’s time to act. It’s time to give the Syrian opposition the weapons in order to defend themselves. It’s not a fair fight,” the Republican McCain told reporters in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

McCain attacked Russia and China for opposing aggressive action on Syria, and the US administration of President Barack Obama – who defeated the Republican in the 2008 election – for not acting more forcefully on the issue.

“It is shameful that the United Nations Security Council should again be hindered by Russia and China, by their vetoes for any significant action against Syria,” he said.

The United States has never hindered action by the UN (ahem Israel ahem) so this must be really frustrating.

To her credit, Hillary is on it:

Clinton defuses military intervention talk on Syria

Mitt Romney's Neocon War Cabinet | The Nation

In December Gingrich pledged at a forum sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition that he would appoint Bolton to run Foggy Bottom. But the mustachioed über-hawk, who was a controversial under secretary of state for arms control and UN ambassador in the Bush administration, endorsed Romney instead. Bolton has since campaigned energetically for him, serving as a key surrogate on national security issues. “Many conservatives hope that [will] include accepting a senior national security post in a Romney administration,” wrote Jennifer Rubin, a neoconservative blogger for the Post.

Few advisers personify the pugnacity of Romney’s foreign policy team better than Bolton. He has been a steadfast opponent of international organizations and treaties and seems never to have met a war he didn’t like. Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, he told Israeli officials that Syria, Iran and North Korea would be the next US targets. Over the past few years Bolton has been an outspoken proponent of an Israeli attack on Iran. “Mitt Romney will restore our military, repair relations with our closest allies and ensure that no adversary—including Iran—ever questions American resolve,” Bolton said when endorsing Romney. “John’s wisdom, clarity and courage are qualities that should typify our foreign policy,” Romney responded.

The Incoherence of a Syria Hawk | Robert Wright

More jackassery from the Post’s editorial staff (or hawks gonna hawk):

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post has come up with a reason for America to intervene in Syria: because only America can. Other nations, Diehl says, face obstacles to intervening that, happily, America doesn’t face.

The problem with this argument is that the examples Diehl cites show roughly the opposite—that the downsides to intervention faced by other nations are faced by America as well. Diehl’s main example is Turkey. “Turkey cannot intervene in an Arab state without risking a broad backlash.” Why? Because Turkey was a “former imperial power under the Ottomans.” So that invites more Arab backlash than being viewed as a current imperial power? And a current imperial power that is allied with, as they say in the Arab world, the “Zionist entity”? I seem to recall an American intervention in an Arab state within the past decade that led to a quite sustained backlash. (Hint: The Washington Post editorial page, of which Diehl is deputy editor, strongly supported the intervention in question.)

Diehl says Turkish intervention would also face problems at a finer-grained demographic level. Turkey’s “mildly Islamist Sunni government raises suspicions among Syria’s large Christian and Kurdish minorities—not to mention Assad’s Alawites.”

Wait a second. Diehl is recommending that America “support the arming of the Free Syrian Army.” The Free Syrian Army is on the other side of the conflict from most Alawites and Christians. So this sort of American involvement wouldn’t just raise suspicions among Christians and Alawites—it would confirm them!

If you’re wondering how Diehl got tied up in such knots, I think it has something to do with a deeper tension in his argument. He starts out sounding like a peacemaker. He says America can intervene to “stop the country’s slide into civil war.” Then he goes on to advocate arming the side that currently doesn’t have many arms—which, you’d think, would accelerate the slide into full-scale civil war. He tries to square this circle by suggesting that if America merely announced that it supported arming the opposition, the Syrian regime would “crumble from within.” Sure, and then we could send in Ahmed Chalabi and everything would be fine!

The Washington Post Jumps the Shark (No, We Shouldn't Intervene in Mali) | Mark Adomanis

[According] to the Washington Post [editorial staff] the “big risk” we took in Libya was not overthrowing a government by force of arms. No, that was the “serious” and “responsible” thing to do. No, the really risky and crazy thing we did was to refrain from becoming even more deeply involved in a country about whose internal politics we were, and remain, almost entirely ignorant and in which we have no real interest.

Regardless of your opinion on the merits of overthrowing Gaddafi how is it possible to view our treatment Libya after his downfall as riskier than our decision to back the rag-tag group of rebels fighting against him? Isn’t it obvious that taking sides in a civil war whose outcome is uncertain is an absolutely enormous risk and was obviously a far greater risk than being insufficiently engaged in the post-war consolidation of rebel rule?

More generally, what will it take to convince the Washington Post editorial board that military interventions are, by their very nature, inherently destabilizing? Shockingly, the use of massive violence (which is what characterizes even the most “surgical” air campaigns) always has negative consequences associated with it. How many more times does an American-led war have to horrifically backfire for us to understand that, if not impossible, it is extremely difficult to ensure that the benefits, such as they are, outweigh the inevitable, unavoidable, and often unforeseeable consequence of American military action.

And lastly, if the Washington Post thinks that Mali, a poverty-stricken Saharan backwater of around 15 million people which has a GDP per capita of about $1,000, is an appropriate location for an American military intervention is there a single country in the world that isn’t? If America’s “interests” in Mali, which are quite obviously so paltry as to be non-existent, demand that it use military force, isn’t that essentially a carte blanche for American military involvement at any time and any place?

The answer, of course, is that the Washington Post thinks that the only obstacles to American military intervention are practical: sometimes it’s just too difficult or expensive to get planes, troops, or ships into position. But as their aggrieved demands for intervention in Mali (Mali!) make clear that they think the United States is entitled to use military force even (or perhaps more accurately ”especially”) in cases where it faces no threat and in which it has no vital interests at stake.

McCain, Lieberman and Graham: The Senate’s three war-crazed amigos | Alex Pareene

The Senate’s three most predictable and least credible warmongering “moderates” frequently join forces to publish joint Op-Eds or hold press conferences and the one thing they always, invariably want is for the United States to have just a little bit more war than it currently has, somewhere far away. Sure, we could draw down in Iraq … or we could listen to McCain, Lieberman and Graham and draw back up. We could draw down in Afghanistan … or we could stay the course and keep sending troops there until we win! Americans may be tired of endless war with no coherent goal, but on the other hand, “only decisive force can prevail in [whatever country John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman are talking about now].”

As the Hill recently explained in a story on how John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were pushing for a resolution basically promising to make war with Iran, “Graham, Lieberman and McCain are considered some of the top foreign policy experts in the upper chamber,” because they always, invariably support military intervention everywhere for any reason, and that is invariably considered a sign of “seriousness” in Washington. If you don’t like waging wars everywhere, forever, you are a weird kooky hippie, and everyone laughs at you. If you believe that bombs and troops have the power to magically solve all problems, you are invited on all the Sunday shows every week to offer your sober analysis of the foreign situation.

Why Politicians Can't Give Honest Answers About Military Service | Conor Friedersdorf

And Romney’s sons?

I don’t know why none of them ever served. But if my father were running for president, and I was asked why I didn’t volunteer at age 32 for the army, I’d be tempted to tell the interviewer, “There’s no way in hell I’d enlist after living for two years in Washington, D.C., and meeting in banal dive bars the sorts of chicken-hawk neoconservatives and liberal internationalists who advocate for wars of choice while profiting from the military-industrial complex, and who would gladly risk my life, ostensibly volunteered to defend my country, in campaigns that do nothing to enhance the safety of my countrymen and oftentimes lead to their being less safe and more reviled.”

It’s people like Dick Cheney, who urged us into a disastrous war of choice using deceptive rhetoric, and Barack Obama, who illegally sent our armed forces to depose a dictator who didn’t pose the slightest threat to us, that have made me irredeemably cynical about volunteering my services to carry out whatever mission future unprincipled politicians might devise.

As you can see, I lack political aspirations.

(Source: azspot)


Via Juan Cole:

Netanyahu 1992: Iran will Have the Bomb by 1997

Scott Peterson at the Christian Science Monitor did a useful timeline for dire Israeli and US predictions of an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon, beginning 20 years ago.

1992: Israeli member of parliament Binyamin Netanyahu predicts that Iran was “3 to 5 years” from having a nuclear weapon.

1992: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres predicts an Iranian nuclear warhead by 1999 to French TV.

1995: The New York Times quotes US and Israeli officials saying that Iran would have the bomb by 2000.

1998: Donald Rumsfeld tells Congress that Iran could have an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US by 2003.

(via roxygen)