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"We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad--the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development--is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so.

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What Is Brownback Up To?

Probably the most interesting surge-related development on the right comes courtesy of Sam Brownback. Brownback, you'll recall, is the evangelical-cum-Catholic angling to become the conservative alternative to John McCain. Up until the last few months, he was a pretty reliable supporter of the war in Iraq. But he's since concluded that the war has taken a disastrous turn, and he's become more and more willing to call the administration on it. This all culminated with this week's statement that, "I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer. ...

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Saddam, In His Own Words

John Burns has a remarkable, chillingly good piece in today's Times. Tapes made years ago reveal Saddam Hussein discussing the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish Iraqis. Some excerpts: Mr. Hussein sounds matter of fact as he describes what chemical weapons will do. "They will prevent people eating and drinking the local water, and they won't be able to sleep in their beds," he says. "They will force people to leave their homes and make them uninhabitable until they have been decontaminated."[Snip]But it was Mr.

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What Made Saddam Tick?

Well, here is a true and honorable reason to have been against the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Not just the "undignified" hanging but the hanging itself. The argument comes from Richard Dawkins (about whom Thomas Nagel, James Wood and Simon Blackburn have written more or less recently for TNR).

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In Memoriam

by Jacob T. Levy The New Year and new semester bustle seems to mean that two pieces of sad news haven't yet been widely circulated; no press releases from the home institutions yet, for example. Two of the most distinctive, iconoclastic, and influential voices in the American academy have been lost in the past few days: George Mason sociologist/political scientist

One of the most outrageous developments surrounding tonight's Sugar Bowl in New Orleans--that is, other than the massively over-hyped Notre Dame's appearance in the game--is the event's corporate sponsor: Allstate. A report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune says Allstate will be airing a series of gauzy commercials welcoming people back to the city and claiming credit for its role in that effort. Which is interesting. Because if you talk to people in New Orleans, you don't get the impression that Allstate has been a huge help.

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The Ford Funeral

Over at The Atlantic's website, Robert D. Kaplan has a short piece arguing that, in his words, "Ford has been our greatest contemporary ex-president." More Kaplan:   The fact that Ford embargoed, until after his death, an interview he gave Washington Post writer Bob Woodward in 2004 is further proof of his estimable reticence. While his displeasure at President George W. Bush's Iraqi policy was real, he seems to have had mixed feelings about publicly airing them.

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The U.n. And Saddam

Has the U.N. Human Rights Council gone mad? It can't be. It's already mad. It seems not to be able to find a human rights violator other than Israel. Not China, not Cuba, not North Korea, not Sudan, not Zimbabwe. (Even Kofi Annan has criticized the HRC for focusing only on Israel.) So I was skeptical when people told me that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, was sane and balanced and fair. After all, she does have a job and her bosses are slanted--how do I say this?--to the third world's view of realities, that is, that they are not human rights abusers.

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In the midst of his front-page story on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in today's Washington Post, Dan Balz takes time to note the following:   Even though neither has announced for president, Clinton and Obama have demonstrated the benefits of celebrity in a world of constant cable news and expanding Internet communities. That culture serves to reinforce the advantages of celebrity, repeatedly focusing attention on the celebrities (as this story is doing) rather than paying close attention to the doggedness of dark horses--at least until serious campaigning begins and the voters weigh in.

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Race And Crime

Chris Suellentrop, aka "The Opinionator", has an interesting piece in tomorrow's Times magazine about the GOP's evolution on prisoner issues--from law-and-order hardasses to compassionate Christians. The piece is interesting in and of itself. But it's even more interesting, I think, as another data-point in the GOP's broader evolution on race: that is, from a party that wields race as a political wedge to a party that's more progressive on race, but which wields religion and social issues as a political wedge.

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