BREAKING: Obama's Darfur Policy Supports the ICC, Elevates Counter-Terrorism
October 19, 2009

A few things stand out upon a first reading of Obama's official Sudan policy announcement, TNR's copy of which is pasted below. One is the stark language it uses regarding President Omar Al Bashir's indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Obama Administration Finally Has an Official Darfur Policy. But Where’s Obama?
October 18, 2009

For months, the White House has been saying that President Obama would personally roll out the results of his administration's long-delayed Sudan Policy Review, which will officially set the direction of U.S. policy for Darfur and South Sudan, a region that will soon decide whether to become an independent country. (Update: Click here to read the text of the actual policy and my analysis.) Now, the review is finally here. It will be announced by Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and the U.S. envoy to Sudan, General Scott Gration.

Spend and Deliver
October 17, 2009

Congress has been formally debating health care reform for almost nine months. And the country, as a whole, has been debating it for years. But now that the last congressional committee with jurisdiction has approved legislation, lawmakers are confronting the essential conundrum that's bedeviled this issue all along: Their desire to expand health insurance coverage exceeds their willingness to pay for it. As deliberations move to the House and Senate floors, then on to conference-committee negotiations, something has to give.

The Economics of Conservation
October 16, 2009

Via Tyler Cowen, a new economic study, inspired by new Nobel-winner Elinor Ostrom, shows that local ownership of tropical forests is the best way to preserve them: In the first study of its kind, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor compared forest ownership with data on carbon sequestration, which is estimated from the size and number of trees in a forest. Hectare-for-hectare, they found that tropical forest under local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests.

A "Nightmare" Scenario in Afghanistan
October 16, 2009

NYT: Afghan and American officials said the earliest that a runoff vote could be held was late this month or early next month, with results expected about two weeks later. Some Afghans said, however, that the vote might have to be delayed because of bad winter weather until the spring, a nightmare situation for a White House that does not want to remain in limbo. For context, here's Stanley McChrystal quoted by Dexter Filkins in Sunday's NYT magazine: When the briefing was finished, McChrystal looked around the room.

Not Since Never Have the Palestinians Had a More Sympathetic American President
October 15, 2009

No, not Dwight Eisenhower (and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles), who thought of his Arabs as the Egyptians. Frankly, in 1956, nobody thought of Palestinians, including especially the Palestinians. And, no, not even Jimmy Carter, who, while now especially entranced with the Palestinians, including Hamas, was beginning his macabre infatuation with Hafez Assad. Then there was George Herbert Walker Bush and his sidekick James Baker, who didn't much like the Jews but wanted especially to please the Saudis. The U.S.

How Did AfPak Strategy Get So Confused? Three Theories
October 15, 2009

As we now know, the Obama White House is re-examining some first-principle questions about the war in Afghanistan. How connected are al Qaeda and the Taliban? What would be the effect of ceding territory to the Taliban? How effective are drone strikes without a major troop presence to support them. The answers to the questions remain unclear. But beyond the substantive mystery, there's also a process mystery. How did the administration and the military brass come away from their first review with such different interpretations of what had been decided?

Obamamania in Guinea
October 15, 2009

An interesting article from the NYT's Adam Nossiter on how, with Obama now in the White House, the Guinean junta is wary of getting on the wrong side of the U.S.: When William Fitzgerald, deputy assistant secretary of state, delivered an unusual personal dressing-down to the junta leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, the reaction was not sputtering rage, as it had been after tough words from the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. Instead, the volatile officer listened with apparent calm.

The Supreme Allied Commander of Corn
October 15, 2009

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.