All Silent on the Lefty Front
June 11, 2010

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a 151-page report outlining the increasingly grim situation in Afghanistan. The paper highlighted the Afghan government (and its security services) lack of capability; the enduring challenge of endemic corruption and poor governance; and the Taliban insurgency’s ability to maintain influence—often via intimidation—across broad swaths of the country. These challenges have already undermined U.S. military operations in Marjah, and could threaten the upcoming summer offensive planned for Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban insurgency. The entire U.S.

In The Great Flotilla Debate, The Facts Are On Israel's Side
June 01, 2010

Look, I wish the Israeli raid on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” had ended differently. Why, I ask, didn’t Israel’s navy disable the engine of the Mavi Marmara and drag the ship into port? Who knows? The engines of the other boats were apparently disabled—or so reliable sources say. But, frankly, when some 800 men and women, distributed over six boats after weeks and weeks of preparation, are headed towards Gaza on the wings of slogan and hysteria, you don’t take that many chances.

Biden Takes A Poke At Blumenthal
May 26, 2010

The vice president was speaking at a barbecue for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center. According to Jordan Fabian at The Hill, Joe Biden was talking about returning veterans from Vietnam. And then the ever-precise veep admitted that he “didn’t fight in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.” Then, a little later on, Biden admitted, “I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think.” So what does he really think?

What Richard Blumenthal, Stanley Fish, and Abe Foxman Have In Common
May 19, 2010

For Richard Blumenthal to claim that he has been “misspeaking” in implying that he fought in Vietnam rather than obtaining multiple deferments and finally waiting things out in the Marine Reserves right here at home is repulsive. I am not exactly the first one out of the gate on that. However, he is also using language in the same way a great many Americans do when doing what they think of as The Right Thing. And as speakers of English always have – as well as speakers of any human language.

The True Greatness Of Walter Sobchak
April 28, 2010

A.O. Scott has a series of brief video appreciations of old films. I don't know how I missed this, but one of the reviews is of the Big Lebowski. The series is a lot of fun to watch, and I like Scott's selection of films in general, not just this one. That said, the review seems to miss the things that make the movie great.

Carp, Carp, Carp
April 23, 2010

The great lakes are in danger of being overrun by an invasive species of Asian carp, gigantic eating machines which devour all the plankton and thereby kill off the local habitat. Great Lakes states have resorted to all kinds of highly expensive interventions, such as electric barriers, to stop the invasion. I've been wondering, why not just eat them? Well, others have thought of this as well. The problem is that people think of the Asian carp as a fish they wouldn't like to eat: In China and Vietnam, the carp have been farmed and considered delicacies for millennia.

Obama's Fighting Words
March 25, 2010

President Reagan liked to show his toughness by making references to 1980s Sylvester Stallone movies in his speeches. I thought of that while watching President Obama's confrontational remarks today in Iowa, telling Republicans who favor repeal of the Affordable Care Act to "Go for it": Alas, the reference is also to a 1980s Sylvester Stallone movie: Reagan's favorite reference was "Rambo," a right-wing fantasy about returning to Vietnam and winning.

The Accountable Presidency
February 01, 2010

Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95)   I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.

January 04, 2010

On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.

Kissinger and Clinton Get Cozy
December 22, 2009

It is bad enough that Newsweek and Slate decided to run a long joint interview of Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton. It is even worse that Jon Meacham, the interviewer, asks questions like, "What has surprised you most since becoming secretary of state?" or "How important is the relationship between the secretary and the president?" There is also, of course, Clinton's and Kissinger's warm rapport ("Well, Henry's the expert on theory and doctrine," "I fundamentally agree," "Mm-hmm," " I would add to what Henry said.").