The Soviets and Afghanistan, Cont'd
September 03, 2009

Matt Yglesias and Michael Cohen, both of whom have been asking very tough and smart questions about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, doubt that our copious care  in avoiding civilian casulaties--as opposed to the Soviets' savage tactics--could make the difference between victory and defeat there. Quoth Matt: Maybe. That said, I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison. The Soviets had to fight a Mujahedeen force that was receiving open and full-throated support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, plus substantial financial and material assistance from the United States.

Gates and Mullen vs. George Will
September 03, 2009

Money quotes from a Pentagon presser this afternoon with the Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman: “The notion that you can conduct a purely kind of counterterrorist campaign and do it from a distance simply does not accord with reality,” Mr. Gates said, adding that successful methods required cooperation with local law enforcement, the use of internal security and intelligence. Admiral Mullen added: “There’s no way to defeat al Qaeda with just that approach.”

"This Has a Fighting Chance of Success"
September 03, 2009

A presidential election marred by allegations of fraud, rising casualties of American soldiers, even a few disturbing discoveries about the civilians hired to guard our embassy there--we figured it was about time to talk to terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who was in Afghanistan last month, to get his take on the situation there and what it will take to improve it. TNR: What is your sense of the election’s validity? Bergen: Of course there was fraud--the question is one of scale. I was there for the 2004 election and there were claims of fraud at that time.

Hacking the Regime
September 03, 2009

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like to blame the uprising in Iran on outside influences. They particularly like to point their fingers at the British and the Americans, along with a requisite nod in the direction of the Zionists--a time-honored pretext for avoiding blame for discontent in their country.

Can the Saudi King Spare Pervez Musharraf from the Death Penalty?
September 02, 2009

It wasn't until I reported my print piece on how much Barack Obama's foreign policy--from closing Gitmo to Iran to the global economy-- depends on the Saudis that I appreciated the influence Riyadh has over its Sunni ally Pakistan. One illustration of that: Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military dictator pushed from office last year, flew on a Saudi jet to Riyadh this week to meet with Saudi King Abdullah, in what regional news outlets are suggesting could be part of a Saudi-brokered deal to spare Musharraf, now residing in London, from treason charges back home.

Nuclear Villain Back on Lockdown
September 02, 2009

A bit of unexpected good news from Pakistan, and a step which could prevent new holdups for a stalled-out U.S. foreign aid bill: ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A two-member panel of the Lahore High Court ruled Wednesday to reinstate travel restrictions on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who has confessed to running the world’s largest nuclear proliferation network. The restrictions on Mr. Khan, who is widely revered in Pakistan as the founder of the country’s nuclear program, had been lifted in a ruling on Friday. The federal government appealed.

The Times Admits that its Reviewer is Dumber Than the Book He Reviewed
September 02, 2009

Tony Horwitz, who knows less than nothing about Israel, reviewed Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and its History by Rich Cohen, who knows just nothing, no more, no less. These two are among those who are nostalgic for the European (and Muslim) Diaspora that dealt so civilly with its Jews in exile, as the Times itself felt during the most searing years. In "Paper Cuts," a Times "blog about books" (September 1), Steven Coates collects letters to the editor about the review. Not a one supports Cohen and not a one supports Horwitz either.

Headline of the Day
September 02, 2009

Ha'aretz: Shi'ite 'Bernard Madoff' jailed in Lebanon

Sentence of the Day
September 02, 2009

WaPo: The report said supervisors held near-weekly parties in which they urinated on themselves and others, drank vodka poured off each other's exposed buttocks, fondled and kissed one another and gallivanted around virtually nude. "Virtually" nude, mind you. They had to maintain some dignity, after all!

Gadhafi's Bed and Breakfast
September 01, 2009

He apparently doesn't stay in hotels. When he travels, he brings his Bedouin tent with him. In Paris two years ago, his minions set up his big wigwam outside the Hôtel Marigny. If he ever goes to London, where there are many government ministers and bankers eager to meet him, perhaps they could arrange for his portable lodgings to be put up on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. The immediate challenge is for him to find a place to stay in New York during the annual meeting of the U.N.