Fred Barnes's reporting is always informative, though usually in ways unintended by the author. His latest is no exception. Here, for instance, is a throwaway line about how President Bush vetted General Casey: "[Bush] invited Casey and his family to a meal at the White House last year, partly to size him up by seeing how he interacted with his wife and kids." P.S. I was also somewhat confused by this passage: "His foes regard him as stubborn to a fault and in denial about the poor prospects in Iraq.
by Jeffrey Herf Over the semester break I made time to read Thomas Rick's Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. It's an important book for thinking about whether or not "the new way forward" announced by President Bush the other night has any chance of success. It catalogues the now familiar misjudgments and blunders that the United States has made since 2003, above all invading with too few troops and with no expectation of or plan for a "postwar" insurgency. Yet Ricks' book is interesting for a historian of the twentieth century in another sense.
Apropos of Ryan's "Macho Dems" piece in last Sunday's NYT, here's a story Democratic Congressman Steve Kagen of Wisconsin recently told about himself to some of his constituents. From the Oshkosh Northwestern (via PoliticalWire): Kagen, D-Appleton, was among a group of freshman lawmakers invited to the White House on Nov.
There's been plenty of speculation lately that the White House is gearing up for some sort of military confrontation with Iran. First there was his speech two nights ago, in which Bush talked about "addressing Iran and Syria" with a rather menacing undertone. Then the U.S. military raided an Iranian liaison office in the Kurdish city of Irbil and took a couple of Iranians captive--a move roundly denounced by the Kurdish regional government.
Actually, I didn't know there was a Middle East peace conference taking place in Madrid. But at least three has-beens sent greetings: Mikhail Gorbachev, James Baker and Bill Clinton, who looks back at the Oslo festival on the White House lawn in 1993 as something of a triumph. What it was, of course, was a sham that kept the peace process breathing until it blew up in Clinton's face at Camp David in the fall of 2000. No, Arafat would not accept basically everything he had asked for. Who knows what animates Gorbachev? Maybe he hopes just to be remembered. He won't be.
From today's NYT: [Bush] put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. "I said to Maliki this has to work or you're out," the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: "Because it has to." [Emphasis added.] That seems to be the underlying rationale to Bush's plan.
Michael Crowley criticizes Democrats' poker faces; Peter Beinart watches the White House screw John McCain one last time; Nathan Glazer eulogizes the sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset; Noam Scheiber explains why cities don't declare bankruptcy even when it's in their self-interest; and Will Marshall counsels the Democrats not to cut off funding for the troop surge. --Adam B. Kushner
Wednesday's NYT reports: Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they intended to hold symbolic votes in the House and Senate on President Bush's plan to send more troops to Baghdad, forcing Republicans to take a stand on the proposal and seeking to isolate the president politically over his handling of the war. The White House, of course, takes a dim view: The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, criticized the Democrats' plans.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the White House's "New Way Forward" fact sheet. It seems to me a combination of boilerplate ("Agree that helping Iraqis to provide population security is necessary to enable accelerated transition and political progress") and hopeless tasks we've failed at for years ("Plan and fund eventual demobilization program for militias"). And don't forget such gleaming-new ideas as "Vigorously engage Arab states." This way does not lie victory, I say. But judge for yourself. --Michael Crowley
As Mike noted the other day, Joe Biden has been telling everyone that it would be "constitutionally questionable" for Congress to write a bill preventing the White House from sending more troops to Iraq. The most Democrats could do, he said, is draft "a resolution of disapproval." Except, as Marty Lederman pointed out on Sunday, Biden's quite wrong about this. Democrats could very easily write a bill that prohibited Bush from sending in more than a specified number of troops to Iraq.