As I mentioned earlier, I spent a few days this week in Afghanistan with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Michael Mullen. A breakneck schedule didn't allow for as much time with ground troops as I would have liked. But I did get a chance to ask some how about the Obama administration's Afghanistan strategy review process. With the the review process dragging through meeting after meeting this fall, you'll remember, conservatives hammered Obama for "dithering" that was supposedly demoralizing the troops.
Greetings from Iraq. This week I've been traveling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, on a whirlwind tour that took us through Afghanistan and Pakistan before we arrived in Baghdad this evening. This installment of The Plank comes to you from one of Saddam Hussein's lesser palaces, situated on a stagnant pond where the dictator and his sons reportedly used to go fishing. (Most of the buildings around the compound are now named after places in Oregon.) I'll be writing plenty about this trip in the days to come, and in the print edition of TNR.
Few liberals speak about health care with the credibility of Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. His organization represents more than two million unionized workers, from janitors to nurses, who care about better health care because it’s an issue that affects them personally. Under Stern’s leadership, they’ve done as much to advance the cause as any single group in America--in part because Stern was obsessed with the issue long before the rest of the country was.
- Washington Diarist: Ahmadinejad’s Giggle and Obama’s Cool, by Leon Wieseltier
- A Blueprint for 2010: How Democrats Can Make Next Year Better Than the Last, by William Galston
- Does Obama Need 67 Votes For A Climate Treaty? Not Necessarily. by Michael A.
Other than that, my favorite explanation comes from Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who theorized that Lieberman was able to go from Guy Who Wants to Expand Medicare to Guy Who Would Rather Kill Health Care Than Expand Medicare because he “isn’t actually all that smart.”
Divorce may or may not be ruining America, but it's wreaking havoc on the work of essayist Sandra Tsing Loh. Typically an exceedingly stylish, entertaining writer, Tsing Loh seems unable to construct a sentence these days that doesn't sound simultaneously whiny, narcissistic, self-justifying, and contemptuous of everyone else.
It's certainly not the new OPEC but, at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, a plucky bloc of low-lying oceanic nations has been exerting outsize influence over the developed world. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are among the most vulnerable to climate change, is threatening to torpedo talks in lieu of dramatic emissions cuts. Just who are these countries? How are they making the world listen? Click through this TNR slideshow to find out.
As someone who believes that preventing teens, drug addicts, reality-TV wannabes, and other unfit idiots from having babies is the key to civilization, this may be the most depressing and horrifying thing I've ever read (and that includes the Starr Report):