American military

The Hurry-Up Offense

In an October 20 New York Times story, Elisabeth Bumiller reported that "frustration and anxiety are on the rise within the military" because President Obama has taken an extended period of time to decide whether to increase the American military presence in Afghanistan. Whether this is accurate or not remains unclear--for obvious reasons a number of the sources cited in the story were former military officers rather than serving ones.

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My new print story this week looks in part at the tensions between the Obama administration and the military over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan this fall. Central to that debate, of course, is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who in the past has fretted that the American military footprint could reach a counterproductive size if it alienates the local population with its sheer intrusiveness. Yesterday, Gates hedged that point, saying he might accept a larger force size so long as the U.S.

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Jeffrey Herf is one of the pre-eminent intellectual historians of totalitarianism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Republic. See, for example, his last few contributions here, here, and here. You can also find a TNR review of one of his books, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys, here. In the current issue of The American Interest, Herf makes a highly convincing argument that radical Islam today is in fact a totalitarian movement with totalitarian ideology and totalitarian methods. No, it is not Nazism or Communism.

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This was a matter of American interest. More than that: it was actually an American matter. And the contempt that Great Britain, particularly Scotland, and Libya have shown the United States in it is a fact with which we must conjure, lest this drama in four parts otherwise define, delimit and demean our very position in world affairs. This is a choice that neither Russia nor China ever seem to face. That is, they never stand down (or seem even to contemplate standing down) from what they deem to be core.

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This was a matter of American interest. More than that: it was actually an American matter. And the contempt that Great Britain, particularly Scotland, and Libya have shown the United States in it is a fact with which we must conjure, lest this drama in four parts otherwise define, delimit and demean our very position in world affairs. This is a choice that neither Russia nor China ever seem to face. That is, they never stand down (or seem even to contemplate standing down) from what they deem to be core.

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On Friday The New York Times had a story about the American military's decision to train Georgian troops, ostensibly for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. Matt Yglesias seems to think that the training is actually about Russia. He writes: This strikes me as very, very, very silly. If we want to decide, as a matter of foreign policy, that we want to train Georgian troops in order to bolster Tblisi’s efforts to stand up to Moscow despite the risk of angering Russia, then fine. We should look at the costs and benefits of that strategy and maybe decide to adopt it.

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Left Behind

Only six months into the Obama presidency, the new administration has already experienced an unusually robust assortment of criticism from fellow Democrats, at least at the elite opinion-leading and activist level. The extended progressive "honeymoon" that John Judis warned against in these pages back in February has largely faded.   Only six months into the Obama presidency, the new administration has already experienced an unusually robust assortment of criticism from fellow Democrats, at least at the elite opinion-leading and activist level.

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  The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 By Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press, 394 pp., $27.95) I. FROM CENTRALITY TO banality: perhaps no other event in modern American history has gone from being contentious to being forgotten as quickly as the war in Iraq. Remember the war? It consumed a trillion American dollars, devoured a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, squandered a country’s reputation, and destroyed an American presidency.

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Dead Left

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism By Naomi Klein (Metropolitan Books, 576 pp., $28) It seems like a very long time—though in truth only a few years have passed—since the most sinister force on the planet that the left could imagine was Nike. In 2001, Time proclaimed that the anti-globalization movement had become the “defining cause” of a new generation, and that the spokesperson for the cause was the Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein.

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The Wild Card

Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq By Patrick Cockburn (Scribner, 227 pp., $24) To feel the power of Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite cleric and tormentor of the Americans in Iraq, all you needed to do, in the years after the invasion, was go to the Mohsin Mosque in eastern Baghdad. There, spread in the street for a half a mile, as many as fifteen thousand young men would stand assembled, prayer mats in hand, waiting for the service to begin. The scene was safe: Mahdi Army gunmen searched the cars and the supplicants for bombs.

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