September 16, 2009

With the Iraq war spinning out of control in mid-2005, retired Marine General James L. Jones spoke with his old friend Peter Pace, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jones, who is now Barack Obama's national security advisor, had been sounded out for the Joint Chiefs job but demurred. One reason: He felt that civilian leaders in Washington were warping the military planning process. "Military advice is being influenced on a political level," Jones warned Pace, according to Bob Woodward's book State of Denial. Jones's warning squared with other reports at the time that U.S.

Quote of the Day
September 08, 2009

Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal: "Whether you like it or not, the destinies of the United States and Saudi Arabia are linked and will remain (linked) for decades." A good excuse to re-plug my recent print story on Obama and the Saudis.

New China Ambassador Says Climate And Energy A Top Priority
September 03, 2009

Interesting. The Wall Street Journal was the first media outlet to sit down with the new China ambassador, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. And the interview offered a glimpse of the White House's top priorities: "Before setting out for China, Mr. Huntsman said, Mr. Obama told him to focus on a few big-picture issues: global economy, energy and climate change."

Afghan Envoy Denies Holbrooke-Karzai Fight
August 28, 2009

Yesterday the BBC reported that Obama's Af-Pak point man Richard Holbrooke had an "explosive" and "dramatic" confrontation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over reports of widespread voter fraud in Afghanistan's August 20 election.

'Ambassador Feelgood'
August 26, 2009

If you need to talk to a rogue nation and traditional diplomats just won't do, then Bill Richardson is your man. Yesterday, he met with the President of Cuba's parliament to discuss trade issues. Shortly before that, he met with North Korean diplomats after the release of Laura Line and Euna Lee, acting as a representative of the Obama administration. His history schmoozing with global pariahs, in fact, goes on and on, as this 1997 TNR piece by Jacob Heilbrunn proves. It's worth reading the whole thing (along with Ryan Lizza's classic Richardson profile).

Our Afghan Ambassador: The Man in the Middle
August 21, 2009

When Zalmay Khalilzad was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 2002 war, it was a given that President Hamid Karzai would never make a decision without first consulting him. And Khalilzad also ruled over the American agencies in the country, including the military. More than ambassador, Afghan-born Khalilzad was America’s pro-consul in Kabul. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Karl W.Eikenberry, the ambassador nominated by Barack Obama earlier this year, enjoys no such pre-eminence.

The King and O
August 19, 2009

  At a world economic summit in London this April, Barack Obama had his first encounter with the king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. With TV cameras rolling, Obama strode up to the elderly Saudi monarch, extended his hand, and smiled broadly as he bent at the waist in a swift but unmistakable bow. As the image rocketed around the Internet, the White House was quick to insist that the move had not been one of supplication. "It wasn't a bow," one aide told Politico at the time.

Maybe Russia's Not So Thrilled With Global Warming
August 03, 2009

Last week, I noted a story in the Abu Dhabi National about how many Russians appear to be remarkably nonchalant, or even sanguine, about the potential impacts of global warming on their country. There were even quotes to this effect from high-ranking officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin, who, back in 2003, was daydreaming of a time when Russians could shed their fur coats. It didn't exactly bode well for global climate talks.

Tnrtv: Is China Finally Sticking It To North Korea?
August 02, 2009

Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Vice Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and the former North Korea policy coordinator under President Clinton, defends the strategy Beijing has recently adopted towards Pyongyang. --Ben Eisler Check out the latest on TNRtv: Eisler: When Lawmaking Gets Bloody Scheiber: Why The Press Corp Is Wrong On Health Reform Johnson: Why Another Six Billion's Going To The Automobile Industry

Uncommon Ground
July 15, 2009

In May, The Boston Globe conducted a poll to find out what Bostonians think of their city's mayor, Tom Menino. Most of the questions were common to public-opinion surveys about elected officials: Do you approve or disapprove of the way he is doing his job? Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him?