With Libyan rebels storming the city of Tripoli and the Qaddafi regime almost certain to fall, conversation has turned quickly to the question of what sort of government is likely to spring up in its stead. As our experience watching governments in East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union transition from communism (both to democracy and autocracy) should tell us, the range of possible outcomes for the country is neither uniform nor inevitable. Indeed, the chances that Libya will make a successful democratic transition depend upon a number of discrete variables.
Afghanistan Dispatch: Why Water, Not the Taliban, Might Be Afghans’ Greatest Concern
August 22, 2011
Karaghuzhlah, Afghanistan—The problem, Abdul Majid will tell you as he leans his stooped, wasted frame against the trunk of a dying apricot tree in his brother’s yard, is not the Taliban. It’s true, the Taliban have been advancing for months through the ancient cob villages of Balkh province.
The Secret Alliance
August 19, 2011
I remember the first time an Afghan told me that the United States and the Taliban were working together. It was February 2010, and I was in Zormat, an old trading town in the lap of snow-covered mountains, between Kabul and the Pakistani border.
Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan—It’s all so familiar. The chafing of seven pounds of steel and wood of a Kalashnikov against Khoda Qul’s bony right hip. The blanched desert that unfurls through the gunsight. And the enemy: Taliban forces advancing across a country so parched its desiccated alluvium has sun-baked into pottery. Fourteen years ago, Khoda Qul picked up a gun and joined a band of sandaled irregulars that, eventually, in 2001, helped drive the Taliban out of Shahraq, his village of oblique mud-slapped homes in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province.
The Truman Show
August 16, 2011
It looks like President Obama really has found his inner Harry Truman, at least for the moment. On Thursday, Obama travelled to Holland, Michigan, to speak at a factory that manufactures batteries for electric cars. And, at least by Obama’s standards, the rhetoric was unusually combative, as he attacked Congress repeatedly for blocking his economic agenda: "There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win," Obama said. The substantive focus was different, too.
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.