Archive | September, 2009

Afghanistan and Iran Rule the Calendar

30 Sep

photocredit: The US Army (flickr)

Blink and you will miss it. Two of the most important foreign policy events this year are about to happen. Afghanistan and Iran are at the forefront of all the wonky talk, and for good reason. Last week, the drama at the G-20 summit left Iran looking more like the screw-up, immature brother of the family than ever before. Even though Obama wanted to wait a bit longer to disclose Iran’s secret nuclear facility, he did, and flanked by the support of the usual (UK, France) and unusual  (Russia, and partially China) allies, he gave Iran a stern warning to quit their shenanigans.

Ahmedinejad then proceeded to launch a missile test the next day and declare that these missiles could easily reach Israel and some American bases. Hence, the immature label.

Ahmedinejad may have thought he was flexing muscle after Obama scolded him in public, but in reality he came off weaker than ever before. The “president” of Iran is coming off some of the most destabilizing months of his political career: a near revolution, dismal public support, an inexperienced cabinet, and an increasingly impatient international community. Even Russia, a loyal advocate of Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy, is distancing itself from the Persian trainwreck that is Ahmedinejad’s regime.

By reprimanding Iran and garnering more international support on the matter than ever before, Obama will be  going into his meeting with the Iranian leader this week with enough leverage to twist his wrist a bit. The missile launch was expected. Ahmedinejad, like Kim Jong Il, relies a lot on his self-made image as the reckless rebel. The move was made out of weakness, not strength. Obama can capitalize on that stupid move.

Afghanistan is a similar thorn on Obama’s side. The report General McChrystal was supposed to deliver to Obama this week detailing a recommendation to increase troop levels was leaked last week by Bob Woodward, that old rascal from The Washington Post. Obama and McChrystal are having the first of five meetings on Afghanistan this week, deciding the troop and commitment level that sham democracy deserves.

No matter what Obama and McChrystal decide to do with Afghanistan, they will be criticized. The left wants less troops (or no troops, really) in Afghanistan; the right wants more. Either way, people will bring back a radioactive word: Vietnam.

The left is arguing increasing troop levels in Afghanistan is akin to the buildup in the early 60’s in Vietnam. Military advisors are being recommended for Afghanistan, similar to the military advisors sent by Kennedy to Vietnam before the war began, unsettling liberals even more. The right will undoubtedly call Afghanistan a Vietnam if troops are removed, saying we will lose like we did 40 years ago because of cowardice and poor leadership.

These next few weeks will set the tone for 2010. Troops are expected to withdraw from Iraq by August 2010, and military leadership there are sure it will happen. But will things change if Afghanistan needs more troops now, or no troops at all? Will Iraq be rushed to become a self-sustaining country sooner than previously planned? Or might Iraq be once again deemed necessary to occupy for geopolitical reasons after Obama talks to Iran? Stay tuned.

Palin in Asia talks about "Common-Sense"

23 Sep

She’s not in Alaska anymore. In her first speech outside the US, former Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah “Barracuda” Palin, outlined her new ideology: Common-Sense Conservatism.

Forget compassionate conservatism; step aside, neo-conservatism. Common-sense conservatism is all about, well, common-sense. Although the speech was not open to the media, The Wall Street Journal got their hands on a recording of it, and from their recap, it appears no one’s really sure what common-sense conservatism entails.

In all, she praises free-markets, boos government involvement, is “nervous” about China, and still believes death-panels will kick grandma’s bucket once Obama signs healthcare reform into law. Same old same old.

One thing that was a bit telling, not of her ideology but of her political skills, came at the beginning of her speech: she reminded everyone that Asia and Alaska once shared a land bridge, and that Todd’s Eskimo ancestors once crossed.

According to scientific fact, the Bering Strait, that land bridge she was referring to, was only available to walk on for about 1,000 years. It flooded back to unwalkable levels around 14,000 BC, meaning that anyone that used that land bridge must have done it between around 13,000 BC and 14,000 BC.

The reasons this is peculiar is that this statement comes from a woman that is on the record for saying she believes the Bible is literal truth. If that is so, then she believes that the world is no more than 6,000 years old. See where I am headed? She acknowledges the Bering land bridge, but also the lifetime of this Earth according to the Bible. Quite an inconsistency.

Why would she say such a thing, then? Seeing how she thought this event was closed to the media,  and it was her first address abroad to prove herself worldly enough to be taken seriously for a presidential bid in the near future, it makes sense that she said it. She knew who her audience was and wasn’t. They were educated businessmen, not church-going Republicans. She would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for that pesky WSJ.

And this is why she is more politically savvy than most giver her credit for.

Obama's Style of Political Leadership

22 Sep

photocredit: sburke2478

Go to a newsstand, a TV, a blog, or even your local laundromat, and you will find Obama’s face. He just came off doing five Sunday morning show interviews (what is called “The Full Ginsburg”–google it), dropping by The Late Show with David Letterman, and stopping time a bit by delivering a heckle-worthy speech, with enough time to spare to publicly throw NY Guv Paterson under the bus, talk to the UN about climate change, and be a Stars Wars nerd in public. Did you know he has a cabinet? Not a lot of people would believe you if said so. Obama is everywhere. Some are already speculating (and warning) that Obama is nearing the brink toward overexposure. Hardly.

Obama may be all over our papers and programs, but he hardly ever calls attention to himself. He is actually a pretty boring celebrity. And he is media-savvy enough to know when he needs to back up for a bit and let the American people let Tom DeLay haunt their dreams with his cha-cha buns.

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Why is healthcare reform so hard to sell to Americans?

16 Sep

photocredit: aflcio2008

The Baucus bill finally came out today in its 200-page plus package, a daunting piece of legislation. Some of the highlights are also some of the lowlights–Sen. Max Baucus has essentially watered down a bill that was intended to bring sweeping reform into the industry that accounts for about 1/6 of the country’s economy. The deconstruction of the bill is coming from both sides, but one thing is definitely clear: revolutionary change this is not.

After almost a year of researching, proposing, listening, and drafting this reform bill, and after nearly 100 years of unsuccessful pursuits at reform, even if just a smidge, it is once again coming to a screeching halt. This bill, which is likely to change before long, is currently a dissapointment. I started wondering, however, if it is the fault of Congress, Baucus, Obama, or the GOP, that changing an inefficient system is so difficult…or maybe that is just how we Americans are built. I think it may be the latter.

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Looking at today, 30 years from now

2 Sep

Bill Clinton used to say that you could tell a lot about someone by how they looked at the 60’s. If you look back fondly on them as a time of revolution, creativity, and enlightenment, then you are probably a Democrat or at least left-leaning; if the 60’s are a time of rebellion, disorder, and cowardice for you, then you are more than likely a Republican or conservative, and an avid Michael Savage listener.

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