Gordon Brown's Spelling
November 10, 2009
Meanwhile, in other Gordon Brown news, the P.M. is involved in a nasty public dispute with the grieving mother of a British solider killed in Afghanistan who didn't appreciate the misspellings in a handwritten condolence note Brown sent her. This is pretty much the definition of a no-win situation for a politician . . . and it makes me think that the worthwhile practice of handwriting condolence letters (something that Robert Gates does, as I learned in Crowley's terrific profile) is precisely the sort of thing that risk-averse political advisers will eventually put an end to.
Today At TNR (November 9, 2009)
November 09, 2009
The Reinvention of Robert Gates: How His Ideological Journey Will Shape the War in Afghanistan, by Michael Crowley Twenty Years After Berlin: What Separates a Failing Former Soviet Satellite From a Thriving One? by Joshua A. Tucker The House Health Care Bill Should Be Faster, Stronger, and Bigger, by Jonathan Cohn Why Don't Democrats Talk More About the Perils of Too Little Government? by E.J. Dionne Jr. Will the Recession Ease Inequality? Fat Chance. by Alan Berube Has Obama Learned the Lessons of the Berlin Wall?
The Reinvention of Robert Gates
November 09, 2009
One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.
New Afghan Plan: "McChrystal for the City, Biden for the Country"?
October 28, 2009
Per some informed leaking to the NYT, it seems where Obama is headed. The critical question is whether you can be "Biden" in the countryside--i.e., conduct counterterrorism operations in low-population areas--without the substantial troop presence that gives you the human intelligence generally needed to strike furtive terrorists. If I'm Obama, the other thing I worry about is the intangible effect of Taliban gains in the countryside. Robert Gates, among others, has warned that substantial Taliban gains within the country--even short of toppling Kabul--would "empower" al Qaeda.
The defense ministers of our NATO allies met last week in Slovakia--a place where NATO power has much recent neighborly resonance--and among the gathering was also Robert Gates. His position on Afghanistan is not quite clear, poised as he is between his president and his men. Of course, Obama has more power.
How Much Will a November 7 Run-Off Really Change?
October 20, 2009
It's obviously significant that Karzai has not only agreed to a run-off, but has acquiesced to holding that run-off on November 7, rather than pushing it back until after the Afghan winter, as some thought he might try to do. And it does give the Obama administration some more room to operate. But how much?
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.
The Civilian Surge Myth
October 15, 2009
How can we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Afghanistan? There's one solution that has attracted analysts of all stripes: a "civilian surge," where development and political advisers working for (or contracted by) the State department and the U.S. Agency for International Development flood the country and turn the tide against the insurgents. The logic, at least, is sound: It takes more than military success to defeat insurgents. Insurgency grows where a corrupt and weak government does not provide security, justice, and opportunity.
Gates, McChrystal, and Some Really Cool Boomerangs
October 07, 2009
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?
Gates: Taliban Gains Would "Empower" al Qaeda
October 06, 2009
I've been watching Defense Secretary Robert Gates talking at that CNN forum with Hillary Clinton today, and this bit jumped out: GATES: I think the thing to remember about Afghanistan is that that country, and particularly the Afghan-Pakistan border, is the modern epicenter of jihad. It is where the Mujahedeen defeated the other superpower. And their view is, in my opinion, that they now have the opportunity to defeat a second superpower, which, more than anything, would empower their message and the opportunity to recruit, to fundraise and to plan operations. So I think you have to see this