American military

Bin Laden

Monday morning update: Elsewhere at TNR Paul Berman, Jonathan Chait, and David Greenberg have more to say. Also well worth reading are the National Journal's Marc Ambinder and the New Yorker's Lawrence Wright. By now, you have heard the news: Osama bin Laden is dead, President Obama announced in a nationally televised speech on Sunday night.  According to the president and senior administration officials, bin Laden was killed in a "targeted raid" that U.S.

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A first cut. Sorry if it's nothing earth-shattering. In descending order of importance: 1. For the world, the death of bin Laden provides important momentum for the United States and a brake on the prestige of al Qaeda. People around the world knew that bin Laden had defied the might of the American military and intelligence services, and this fact made the United States look impotent. That has been corrected, better late than never. Opposing the United States will seem like a slightly worse idea than it did before tonight. 2.

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When Numbers Lie

For the first few weeks of the Libyan rebellion, the death count varied wildly. The United Nations estimated that 1,000 Libyans had been killed. The World Health Organization put the estimate at 2,000, while the International Criminal Court put the number closer to 10,000. Since early March, however, estimates have become scarce and even less definite. Now, over a week since the international no-fly zone halted Qaddafi’s advance on Benghazi, authoritative estimates of civilian and military deaths are practically nonexistent.

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The Iraq War was a strange moment in American political discourse. The debate surrounding the invasion was heavily skewed toward the pro-war side, and dissenting voices were often marginalized.

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Fittingly enough, the world’s first airstrike came exactly a century ago, on an autumn day in 1911. Eerily enough, it came in Libya, where, one day during the Italian-Turkish war of 1911-1912, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti flew his paper-thin Taube monoplane over a camp of Turks and Arabs, dropped four hand grenades (having pulled the pins out with his teeth), and generated headlines such as this: “AVIATOR LT. GAVOTTI THROWS BOMB ON ENEMY CAMP.

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[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] In the course of a blog post discouraging American military action in Libya, Ross Douthat takes issue with those who say the United States has a responsibility to intervene. The United States is not the government of North Africa, and Barack Obama is not the president of Libya. We have obligations in the region, certainly — treaty obligations, strategic obligations, and yes, moral obligations as well.

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Intervention

As Americans became transfixed by the violence and chaos in Libya, calls for U.S. military action arose across the political spectrum. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, among others, advocated the creation of a no-fly zone and arming anti-government forces. Meanwhile, opponents of military action have warned that the use of force is almost never as easy, quick, or cheap as it first appears; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Central Command’s General James Mattis have noted that even establishing a no-fly zone would be difficult and dangerous.

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It has been fascinating to watch the Republican House hurtling toward a government shutdown. Republican leaders remember well the 1995-1996 shutdown, and understand that it was a devastating setback. And yet they seem unable to avert a recurrence. From a sheer strategic standpoint, it's captivating. It's as if the American military was preparing in 1980 to send troops back to Vietnam. Why are they doing this? The primary driving force is obviously the Republican base.

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Time for a Reset

President Obama is in a tight spot. The 2010 elections have sharply contracted his ability to achieve legislative victories, while his room to maneuver on other issues will be limited by the intrusive investigations which are almost certainly coming his way. Progress will be harder to attain than ever.

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Back to Basics

When an angry mob overthrew Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic president Kurmanbeck Bakiyev last April, one of the complaints heard most often on the streets of Bishkek, the country’s capital, was that the U.S. government had been complicit in propping up his regime. A former Soviet republic once known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia”  because of its relatively strong civil society, Kyrgyzstan had suffered in recent years under Bakiyev from grinding poverty, widespread corruption, and government marred by cronyism and contempt for political opposition and independent media.

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