Kampirak, Afghanistan—Hot wind swishes through the colorful flags that the women of Kampirak raised to mark the spots where anti-Taliban raiders murdered their men ten years ago. Dust eddies in the canals that irrigated the dead men’s orchards and wheat fields before running dry this spring. In the middle of the village, the oldest women of Kampirak chew their lips parched by the long, thirsty hours of Ramadan and evoke the name of god. They also evoke the Taliban. “Under the Taliban life was good.
The big difference between the budget compromise put forward by Senator Harry Reid last Friday and the version that came together on Sunday is that the Reid bill met the main demand of each party: For Republicans, there was no mention of tax increases. For Democrats, there were no cuts to entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). All the cuts would come from the category of spending known as discretionary, where Congress decides each year what to spend.
Up Next: An Argument About Triggers
July 29, 2011
The House had all the drama on Thursday night, but the Senate was plenty busy, as well. Even as House Speaker John Boehner was trying (and ultimately failing) to rally fellow Republicans behind his debt ceiling bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was working on his proposal. Reid has the support of at least 50 senators already.
Debt Ceiling Hypocrisy Madness!
July 25, 2011
The next step in the debt ceiling showdown appears to be the release of the Senate Democratic proposal. Harry Reid is preparing to include large savings from the drawdown of the Afghanistan war, and Republicans are preparing to call this a gimmick.
We Have No Idea What We Are Doing in Libya
July 21, 2011
Four months after American submarines began launching missiles and U.S. pilots began flying sorties, does anyone, perhaps even including President Obama, really know what we are trying to do in Libya? It is true that, compared to Afghanistan, a major war whose outcome is generally agreed to hang in the balance, and to Iraq, from which we have not yet completely withdrawn, and even to Somalia and Yemen, where the tempo of our counterinsurgency operations have been steadily increasing, both directly and by proxy, Libya may seem minor.
Berlin, Germany—When the Merkel government abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote on using military force against Muammar Qaddafi, many international observers were shocked. In the election campaign of 2005, Merkel had lambasted then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for damaging the transatlantic alliance by opting out of Washington’s plan to topple Saddam Hussein.
July 13, 2011
The U.S. ship in the successor flotilla aiming to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza Strip has been named The Audacity of Hope. It is a bad joke that Barack Obama deserves. His proven coldness toward Israel has emboldened these foolish and meretricious people (including the uproariously silly Alice Walker) to open yet another front against the Jewish state. Of course, their campaign is not really about the embargo. It is about the very existence of Israel. It is not genocide, but it is politicide, and this is also a crime against humanity.
The Bizarre, Strategically Bankrupt Evolution of the Parties’ Views on Defense Spending
July 12, 2011
The Obama administration has managed to upend the laws of ornithology. The simple fact of a Democratic commander-in-chief has transformed yesterday’s Republican hawks into today’s doves. No less miraculously, and certainly for no more high-minded reasons, Democratic doves have metamorphosed into something like hawks. In both cases, however, the transformation has been less than complete.
President Obama is on the horns of a dilemma: Afghanistan was, by his reckoning, the good war of necessity, whereas Iraq was the bad war of choice. But he never took to that good war, and his drawdown of the surge troops that he had committed to Afghanistan in December of 2009 is the deed of a reluctant war leader. The surge troops are to be back home by the end of the summer of 2012—just in the nick of time for his re-election campaign. If this be war, this is war by the electoral calendar. No soaring poetry attends this burden in Afghanistan.
Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan: Forget Troop Numbers—The Biggest Shift Is Towards Political Talks
June 23, 2011
Despite the media focus on President Obama’s announcement of troop withdrawals this year and next, Obama’s speech says far less about the administration’s Afghanistan strategy than three other notable (and largely overlooked) recent developments. First, over the weekend, Secretary Gates acknowledged that the U.S. is in preliminary talks with members of the Taliban in an attempt to effect political reconciliation. On the same day, Ambassador Eikenberry leveled perhaps the most forceful U.S.