Department of State

Eight Pieces, Really One: Iran, Israel's Military Doctrine, The President And One Dumb Jewish Woman, The Wages of Copenhagen, The Christmas Terrorist, We Should All Stop Talking About The Middle East
December 26, 2009

Jews usually go out to the movies on Christmas ... and then they go out to eat "Chinese." I've spent it writing. Below is my harvest. I wish you all good cheer. Here are the motifs of my writing day. Alas, none of them cheery. 1. THE REAL GRIM REAPER: HOLY DAY VICTIMS IN IRAQ AND PAKISTAN 2. COLD COMMON SENSE ABOUT IRAN FROM, MIRABILI DICTU, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" 3. A WISE EUROPEAN FOREIGN MINISTER: "WE SHOULD SHUT UP ABOUT THE MIDDLE EAST" 4. A SOBER "TIMES" PIECE ON ISRAELI MILITARY DOCTRINE 5.

General Malaise
December 09, 2009

From the hills outside Mandalay, Burma’s second city, the vista resembles a postcard of Asian serenity. Monks climb stone steps to a hillside shrine, where local men and women leave offerings of flowers and fruit. But the placid scene conceals one of the most repressive states in the world--a state that the Obama administration has decided may be more worthy of American friendship than American threats. For more than four decades, Burma’s junta has persecuted its population.

A 'Civilian Surge'? Not so Fast
December 08, 2009

Laura Rozen reports on a troubling report from retired general Barry McCaffrey and commissioned by Centcom commander David Petraeus: "The international civilian agency surge will essentially not happen ---although State Department officers, US AID, CIA, DEA, and the FBI will make vital contributions. Afghanistan over the next 2-3 years will be simply too dangerous for most civil agencies." For more on the challenge of mounting an effective civilian effort in a war zone, see this recent TNR piece by Steve Metz.

The Great Satan Myth
December 08, 2009

The Iranian regime has never found itself more vulnerable. And, with this vulnerability, it has never leaned more heavily on its own narrative of history.

How Many Foreign Ministers Did *You* Speak to on Thanksgiving?
November 30, 2009

From today's State Department press briefing: QUESTION: Regarding what you just said, the French newspaper Le Monde reports that the Secretary has called her counterpart Kouchner and asked for France to send 1,500 additional troops to Afghanistan. Do you have any comment on that? MR. KELLY: She did speak to the French foreign minister. This was on Thanksgiving. In fact, she spoke to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten foreign ministers on Thanksgiving. Hope she got some rest over the weekend....

The Downside of 'Smart Power'
November 30, 2009

After ten months of waiting, USAID finally has a new chief: Rajiv Shah, currently the agriculture department’s top scientist. Directing the country’s principal agency for administering foreign aid is a heady position for someone who is all of 36. And it’s going to be a difficult one. Shah is stepping into the middle of a struggle that has been quietly simmering for years in Washington. On the surface, it’s a classic bureaucratic turf battle over who gets to control foreign aid--USAID staffers or the State Department, which assumed control of the once-autonomous organization in 2006.

Shake up the Foreign Policy Team?
November 23, 2009

Les Gelb thinks Obama's trip to Asia was a flop, and that the time would have been better spent on a Hawaii vacation. He also wonders whether, after a couple of foreign trips with little to show for them, Obama's foreign policy team is serving him well: First, the trip’s limited value per day of presidential effort suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power. On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr.

How Do You Say 'Reset' in Pashto?
November 20, 2009

The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that the Obama administration has decided to try a little tenderness with Hamid Karzai: The new approach, which one official described as a "reset" of the relationship, will entail more engagement with members of Karzai's cabinet and provincial governors, officials said, because they have concluded that the Afghan president lacks the political clout in his highly decentralized nation to purge corrupt local warlords and power brokers. The CIA has sent a longtime field officer close to Karzai to be the new station chief in Kabul.

What is NIAC?
November 16, 2009

On Friday, TNR Contributing Editor and Washington Times national security reporter Eli Lake published a blockbuster scoop about the National Iranian American Council, (NIAC), and it's founder, Trita Parsi. I recently wrote about Parsi's appearance at the J Street conference, where he waived away concerns about the Iranian regime's warnings about destroying Israel and compared such invocations to statements issued by the United States about Iran's nuclear program.

Quibbling with Krugman on the Chinese
November 16, 2009

I agree with pretty much everything Paul Krugman writes in his column today about the Chinese and their currency shenanigans--especially the point that the Chinese have rigged it so that our bilateral trade deficit will spike once the recovery gets going. (And the point that the forces driving our trade deficit were only temporarily suppressed by the recession.) The only thing I'd quibble with is the implication of these two paragraphs: So picture this: month after month of headlines juxtaposing soaring U.S.

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