commander

An Unexceptional Nation

Neocons have begun to warm to Barack Obama’s foreign policy vision. What they’ve liked about his recent speeches (at West Point, but far more so in Oslo) is his willingness to defend (against the anti-political pacifism that dominates a segment of elite European opinion) the idea that there can be morally justified wars—and that the war in Afghanistan is one of them. I’m delighted that some on the American right have come around to supporting the president, but they should do so knowing that on one crucially important matter Obama will never satisfy them.

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Abdullah vs. Karzai

Kabul, Afghanistan  The spectacle of Afghanistan’s presidential elections seems to be finally entering its final act. Pulling out of the runoff race at the last minute, Abdullah Abdullah has cleared the way for Hamed Karzai to be the winner by default.  Both men appear to have achieved many, if not all, of their original goals. Karzai, of course, has retained his seat for another five years. Abdullah, the underdog, has denied Karzai the much-needed legitimacy that a second round of voting was supposed to confer.

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Obama wants a study of the country at a micro-level. That seems reasonable enough in the abstract--but it's also coming a bit late. This, too, wasn't done during that January-March review? It also signals something less than a vote of total confidence in the judgment of the top U.S. commander on the ground, Stanley McChrystal. Moreover, it further indicates that we won't see a decision on troop levels in the next several days.

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Barack Obama is currently mulling what will certainly be some of the defining choices of his presidency: Should he send a lot more troops to Afghanistan, as his commander there has recommended, and, if so, what should their objectives be? Understanding the issue is critical. So over the past couple weeks, TNR has commissioned a series of pieces examining various angles of our involvement in Afghanistan. Here they are: "Stalemate" by A.J. Rossmiller, October 13, 2009. The conventional wisdom that "we are at a turning point in Afghanistan" is wrong, he says.

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Dick Cheney says the Bush administration left the Obama administration with a plan (and a good one) for Afghanistan: The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.

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When the world last left Wesley Clark in early 2004, he was a streaking meteor of a presidential candidate. Still fresh from leading NATO in the Kosovo war, he arrived as a savior for the left, who saw a bulletproof patriot that the rest of America could believe in; hero of the netroots, beloved by Michael Moore and Madonna; hope of the Clintonites, delighted by such a clean ideological slate. Alas, after five blazing months, Clark for President flamed out. There are the conventional explanations: He got in too late. He didn't play in Iowa.

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The ‘Civilian Surge’ Myth: Stop Pretending That the U.S. Can Actually Nation-Build, by Steven Metz A Geek Grows in Brooklyn: Jonathan Lethem and the Disappearing Line Between High and Low Art, by William Deresiewicz From Supreme Allied Commander to … Ethanol Lobbyist? The Strange Journey of Wesley Clark. by Lydia DePillis Scheiber: Was Wall Street Safer in the Hands of Stodgy WASPs? Cohn: Tearing Apart the Latest Misleading Report on Health Care Hey Conan, Here’s the Real Reason Why You Don’t Want to Live in Newark, by Jonathan Rothwell Why Won’t Baseball Adopt Instant Replay Already?

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Back when my wife was teaching third grade, I used to joke about grading her students’ book reports the way you might treat an academic paper or a book review in TNR. (“This book report on George Washington, a scant three pages, does nothing to advance our understanding of the first president.”) Pointing out a logical contradiction in a Fred Barnes article is kind of like that. But the flesh is weak. In his latest piece, Barnes argues that Obama is weak. Check out these two paragraphs: Afghanistan is his test.

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Kevin Drum thinks people, including myself, are being too hard on the Obama team when it comes to AfPak policymaking: If [Rajiv] Chandrasekar's account is correct, the fault isn't really with the Obama administration at all.  It's with the military: McKiernan was on board with the counterinsurgency strategy but didn't indicate that he needed more troops to implement it.... Later, of course, McKiernan was pushed out and a new commander took a fresh look at what resources were needed.  But that hardly reflects badly on Obama, and it doesn't really sound like anyone screwed up back in March.  Lo

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At this week’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington DC, Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered a startling blunt rebuke of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While the commentariat buzzed about rifts in the Obama administration and a potential  Truman-MacArthur showdown, I couldn’t help but wonder: What the heck is the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition?

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