About That Waziristan Junket
October 30, 2009

Amidst Hillary's vacillating between tough and not-so-tough talk about Pakistan tolerating Al Qaeda's presence, I thought this article in today's NYT--about Pakistani troops in South Waziristan finding documents belonging to a member of the Hamburg cell--was pretty curious. Not because I doubted that prominent Al Qaeda members are in in South Waziristan, but because of this paragraph: The documents were shown to reporters on a day trip organized by the army on Thursday for the news media to observe operations in the nearly two-week-old battle.

Hey, Wait a Minute
October 16, 2009

It's too bad Slate retired that rubric, because if one of their stories ever deserved it, it's this one from Fred Kaplan about how the Army fudged its numbers to exceed its 2009 recruiting goal of 65,000 new troops: Though the Pentagon's report doesn't mention this fact, in each of the previous two years, the Army's recruitment goal was 80,000—much higher than this year's.

How the Recession is Boosting the Military
October 15, 2009

The Dept. of Defense is crowing about its recruiting success in fiscal year '09, and chalking it up -- at least in part -- to the weak economy. From the Washington Post: The Pentagon, which made the announcement Tuesday, said the economic downturn and rising joblessness, as well as bonuses and other factors, had led more qualified youths to enlist. The military has not seen such across-the-board successes since the all-volunteer force was established in 1973, after Congress ended the draft following the Vietnam War.

Mad Elephant Fight in NY
October 08, 2009

Trying to hold on to the New York House seat being vacated by John McHugh, the Republican leadership has thrown its support behind a candidate deemed insufficiently orthodox by its base, prompting the by-now-par-for-the-course display of in-fighting, name-calling, and savage screeching about out-of-touch RINOs' putting politics over principle. I realize this isn't why Obama tapped McHugh to be his Secretary of the Army, but it's not a bad bonus.

Course Correction
October 08, 2009

Camp Julien is surrounded by reminders of Afghanistan’s past. The coalition military base--which sits in the hills south of Kabul, just high enough to rise above the thick cloud of smog that perpetually blankets the city--is flanked by two European-style palaces built in the 1920s by the modernizing King Amanullah. Home to Soviet troops and mujahedin during the past decades of war, the now-crumbling palaces are littered with bullet holes and decorated with graffiti in multiple languages.

Afghan Army Follies
September 28, 2009

Steve Coll is pessimistic: The history of the Afghan Army since 1970 is one in which the Army has never actually been defeated in the field, but has literally dissolved for lack of political glue on several occasions. Coll watched the Soviets learn this the hard way. He writes that a strong and legitimate government, perhaps in which Karzai and Abdullah work together, may be the only way to avoid another repeat.

August 12, 2009

A professor, a genocide, and NBC's quest for a prime-time hit.

Will Unemployment Clear 10 Percent? Probably.
August 11, 2009

Both Jon Chait and Zubin cite this excellent Nate Silver post bringing some data to bear on whether the unemployment rate will pass 10 percent. Silver's argument is partly a response to my point that, as the economy improves and people not previously considered part of the labor force start looking for jobs, the ranks of the unemployed will swell (and the unemployment rate will rise) even if the pace of job losses slows or we start creating jobs.

The Drone War
June 03, 2009

The Al Qaeda videotape shows a small white dog tied up inside a glass cage. A milky gas slowly filters in. An Arab man with an Egyptian accent says: "Start counting the time." Nervous, the dog starts barking and then moaning.

Surging and Awakening
May 20, 2009

  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.