Bipartisanship and What Might Have Been
October 09, 2009

David Brooks has been saying sensible things about health care for a while now. He has expressed what seems like a sincere interest in reforming the health care system. He has also demonstrate a substantive grasp of the issues that goes beyond what most observers seem to have, the kind you can get only if you take the issue seriously. To be sure, we don't exactly see things the same way. He seems far less interested in expanding coverage for its own sake than I do.

Whose Fault Is the AfPak Confusion?
October 09, 2009

Kevin Drum thinks people, including myself, are being too hard on the Obama team when it comes to AfPak policymaking: If [Rajiv] Chandrasekar's account is correct, the fault isn't really with the Obama administration at all.  It's with the military: McKiernan was on board with the counterinsurgency strategy but didn't indicate that he needed more troops to implement it.... Later, of course, McKiernan was pushed out and a new commander took a fresh look at what resources were needed.  But that hardly reflects badly on Obama, and it doesn't really sound like anyone screwed up back in March.  Lo

Slideshow: Jihadis Killed By The Drones
October 09, 2009

 According to Obama administration officials, Al Qaeda's capabilities have been severely degraded by a deadly combination of U.S. intelligence operations and unmanned aerial drone strikes. Now, the White House is reportedly considering a strategy that relies on these targeted assassinations over a troop increase in Afghanistan. Click through this slideshow to see some of the militants who have been killed by U.S. drones.

"Hey, I Support COIN"
October 08, 2009

Picking the most damning bit from Rajiv Chandrasekran's Washington Post article on the fundamental disconnect between civilian and military officials during the formulation of the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy is tough. The article is full of details that, frankly, make the Obama administration look more than a little inept.

Seize the Pen
October 08, 2009

For years, I have been reading Michael Greenberg's remarkable column in the Times Literary Supplement and wondering what the English make of it. The New York Jewish quality of Greenberg's take on the writer's life, under the rubric "Freelance," is emphasized by the way he takes turns writing the column with an English poet, Hugo Williams, who is a writer of a wholly different species.

Ironed Curtain
October 08, 2009

After the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, the European Union found itself in a difficult position. Moscow had not only invaded a neighbor for the first time since the Soviet assault on Afghanistan in 1979. In recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, it had also broken the cardinal rule of post-cold war European security: that borders in Europe would never again be changed by force of arms. Yet Georgia, too, had clearly made mistakes, not the least in embroiling itself in a military conflict with Russia that Georgia's own allies had repeatedly warned against.

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?

The Colbert Report
October 07, 2009

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65)   That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

Truther Consequences
October 07, 2009

Alex Jones is a husky man with short sandy hair, weary eyes, baby cheeks, and the kind of deep, gravelly voice made for horror-movie trailers. And it’s horror he has in mind. "Your New World Order will fall!" he screams through a megaphone at the shiny façade of a nondescript office building. "Humanity will defeat you!" A syndicated radio host, filmmaker, and all-around countercultural icon based in Austin, Texas, Jones has long been one of the country’s most significant purveyors of paranoia.

Why Guinea is on the Brink
October 06, 2009

More atrocious details from the Guinean junta's recent crackdown on protesters—of women knifed, whipped, and raped repeatedly by soldiers—surfaced in the Times yesterday. Until recently, the former French colony of approximately 10 million had a reputation for being among the most stable of its West African neighbors. Stable yes, but democratic no: until December 2008, two strongman military figures had dominated the country since independence in 1958.