You noted to arbogast: "Maliki may have started this on his own trying to strengthen his own hand for the Autumn elections." Methinks there is a lot to this line of thought. Maliki, along with all the other Iraqi "patriots" in the Green Zone, must read the tea leaves as well as we do back home. Irrespective of November's winner, the US cannot sustain its current level of commitment in "Mess"-opatamia. Its army is breaking down and wheels will really begin to fly off by the end of 2008. So, there is no time like the present (and maximum strength) to drag your partner's army into an effort to knock off your chief rival and *his* army. No doubt we were and remain surprised by the obvious -- Maliki acting in his own self-interest -- but, we are yet again surprised by Iraqi actions, and probably not for the last time... Maliki knows he'll be left to the mobs in the near future. While holding off the Sunni and Kurds may be possible with the support of his co-religionists, he cannot do so while simultaneously fighting Sadrists (nationalists) for control of the key prizes (Baghdad, Basra and southern oil). As much as we vastly underestimate White House stupidity and arrogance, I think we also vastly underestimate Sadr's game, his power among the dispossessed Shi'i, and his appeal to Arab Shi'ism (vice Persian). I'm sure the Iranians support both sides of the Shi'i split in Iraq - mainly to keep their most feared foe divided and non-threatening. But, when push comes to shove, I think they will cut off Sadr's support in favor of their buddies in the SCIRI/Badr/Dawa groups. (Then again, in a country like Iraq were hundreds of thousands of small arms, light weapons and explosives are "missing," how decisive will the lack of direct Iranian support be?) Its an intriguing four way game: 1- Sadr wants all foreign occupiers out and Iraq for (Shi'i) Iraqis, 2- Iran wants quiet and influence on its western border, strategic depth from the hated Sunni and Jewish enemies and a bridge to their long lost cousins in Southern Lebanon (tweaking America along the way is like whipped cream on the sundae), 3- US desperate to extricate itself from their Iraqi tar-baby while simultaneously weakening the ascendant Persians (whose rise is fueled by continued its own ground presence and blinkered search for “victory” in the hunt for global jihadists!), and 4-Maliki, whose neck is stretched if/when he's left to his own devices by this American (overlord) protectors. No wonder the British want out so bad. It’s a race for the last lifeboat and those left on deck face some mighty cold waters...
Shamefully for Britain, the White House is now considering sending its own forces to sort the mess that the British have left behind. Last week, one White House official acidly remarked: "American blood is going to have to buy off the British failure in Basra."
Already at the Basra air base, I can reveal, the British subsidiary of U.S. construction giant KBR is building four huge dining facilities - known to the American army as DFACs. These are capable of feeding 4,000 men and suggest that the U.S. Army is contemplating a massive deployment to southern Iraq - including a major presence inside Basra itself. " Daily Mail
In the context of British withdrawal from south Iraq, I wrote a while back that the US would inevitably have to fill the vacuum so created with its own forces. That time is fast approaching. KBR is not building these facilities for the Iraqis. It sounds like a reinforced brigade combat team will go in there plus USAF on the base.
In the interest of not making things worse with our cousins across the sea, I will restrict my comment on the Daily Mail article to making a request, on behalf of the uniformed services people, that we not encounter further condescension from the British on the subject of the superiority of their knowledge, sophistication, methods, etc. with regard to COIN. Enough.
I do not believe that Iran wants to go to war with the United States either in the maritime regions of the gulf and Arabian Sea or in Iraq itself. Whatever initial "benefits" Iran might experience would be far outweighed by the eventual devastation wrought on Iranian infrastructure by American air and sea power. They know that.
It has been argued in these pages that the flow of crude and LPG could be obstructed as a major economic "weapons system." That is merely true. In fact, an obstruction of the flow of oil out of the Gulf would require Iranian action to create the obstruction. The United States and especially this administration would be eager to see that as a casus belli. The Iranians surely know that as well. I have watched the US Navy at work in situations like this before. Any obstruction would not last long. The price per barrel? There would be a sizable "spike" before the obstruction were cleared but it would be limited in duration and the resulting retaliatory action against Iran would be catastrophic for them.
A major non-SOF American ground effort against Iran? This is an absurd idea for all the reasons given here before. I will leave it for you all to thrash that out.
Many of the readers here are greatly underestimating the potential of a guerrilla campaign against the Kuwait-Baghdad supply line. Yes, the roads can be held open, but at what cost in diverted assets? pl
I have been writing about the vulnerability of this supply line for several years. You could deliver the goods through Aqaba in Jordan, but this would require the construction of the terminal and marshaling facilities necessary to a modern LOC/MSR operation. Air delivery? Not enough tonnage would be possible except for support of tactical operations.
200,000 troops in an invasion of Iran from Iraq?
1- We don't have the disposable force, and neither do any of our likely "allies."
2- The Maliki government and its friends are well disposed towards Iran. Sadr is less so, but only "less so."
3- Take a look at the size of the forces that engaged on the Iraq side in their war against Iran. They were huge. I had the opportunity to watch a lot of the combat in that war and it was ferocious.
Stupid comments about how poorly the Iraqis fought in that war will not be posted. I know better.
Other than that, "Pale Rider " sounds like a professional to me. pl
"Some people say that the Supply Lines up from Kuwait are the Americans' Achilles heel in any possible war with Iran. To what extent could this operation in Basra be seen as an American attempt to secure their supply lines in view of a forthcoming attack on Iran? If I could, I'd like to weigh in on that. The supply lines that run from Camp Doha in Kuwait into Iraq are pretty tenuous, as all supply lines are. We would have to detail some significant forces to keep them open if the elements in Basra that are opposing us decided to try to shut them down. You'd need helicopter flights to escort them through, in most cases. We already rely on airlifting supplies--that could be further strained as well. If they shut down the truck transports or limited them, we'd have to boost the airlift. If we boost the airlift, they would react with shoulder fired SAMs where they could. US troops are so dispersed in Iraq that it really makes any linkage to an attack on Iran non-existent, at least to me. They're fighting as brigades that are broken down into battalions and companies that are spread thin, sometimes down to the platoon level or smaller, not divisions. The majority of their gear is fitted for COIN not ground assault. Much of it is worn out. It does OK for limited COIN right now, but three to six weeks of ground combat against even moderate Iranian Army elements? A ground assault into Iran would have to be organized around the division and corps formations that aren't really in place in Iraq. There's a structure in place to occupy Iraq but there isn't one that can just break off and become MNF-Iran. Forget about the troops in Afghanistan--you could yank every one of them out and put them in Iraq and it wouldn't make much of a dent in what you would need. They would have to bring in thousands of staff just to form up that headquarters. For the US Army to form up and send more than a few thousand men into battle, we would need a unit like the 3rd ACR out front and two to five divisions moving in behind it--as in 1st CAV and 4th ID in the III Corps. Even that would be a small force for invading Iran. A more realistically-sized invasion force (as close to 200,000 troops as possible is my guess) would have to be comprised of at least 8 of the 10 active divisions, two air cav brigades, 2-5 National Guard divisions, and at least 25,000 Marin es. You might get to 200K with that, but I wouldn't bet on it. We'd need all the other elements as well--overhead and logistical. ALL of that is severely over-tasked and tied down in Iraq. The process of pulling each Army brigade (or getting the Marine units into an attack mode) would mean pulling everyone and their gear out of the garrison or post they'e in now; supplying them for an attack, and then moving them hundreds of miles with HETs and everything else into jump-off points near Iran. There would be no element of surprise and the formed-up vanguard of an American attack into Iran would sit for days, waiting to get itself in place, and would be vulnerable to the elements as well. The reason we jumped in March five years ago was to avoid the oncoming hot season. Petraeus would literally have to start this week in order to get even 50-60,000 troops in place to attack Iran. Pale Rider"
When Joe Lieberman corrected McCain's "senior moment" in Jordan, he had McCain say that the Iranians were training "extremists," not "alkaydah" (sic). The two of them and Graham had just come from Iraq, so I guess Joe had gotten the word there that the baddies (Jeish al-mahdi) were going to be referred to as "extremists." McCain just couldn't keep it straight. Hmmm. The enemy is who? Say it again...
It is clear that US policy is to back Maliki/Dawa/ISCI/Badr Corps (Iraqi Forces) against Moqtada al-Sadr and his "army" of "shirtless ones." Fine. Why not? I guess the US has no choice but to back someone.
I suppose that the powers that be will shift the Main Supply Route (MSR) to the west (Nasiriyah) if the Basra area becomes too obstructed.
My problem with the present course of events is the ruthlessness of the propaganda campaign being successfully waged by the Bush Administration. The president has succeeded in "framing" the discussion in such a way that Maliki and his assembly of Badr Corps militias are represented as being the equivalent of George Washington suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion. The noble Maliki is portrayed as motivated by a selfless desire for "national" unity. The MSM has re-transmitted that idea without serious question.
In fact he is merely acting on behalf of an emerging alignment of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq that have successfully pulled the wool over American eyes.
You may have noticed that no Kurdish units of the "Iraqi Forces" have been brought down from the north for this "fandango." You may also have noticed that our Concerned Local Citizens/Sons of Iraq (read Sunni tribal Arab auxiliaries) are not involved. Show me some engaged units in this that are not Shia.
They don't seem to fight so well, these "Iraqi Forces " at Basra. We have spent a lot of time and money on these people. They are not making much progress at Basra. I used to know Montagnard Special Commando Unit troops who fought better than this, but, then, they were well led by some wonderful Special Forces sergeants and junior officers.
That brings up the inevitability of heavy US involvement in this suppression of the "Whiskey Rebellion." It's just a matter of time.
McCain must fear that terribly. pl
"The majority also flatly rejected the Bush Administration's claim that it could make the ICJ decision binding by presidential memorandum. "The president," the majority wrote, "has an array of political and diplomatic means available to enforce international obligations, but unilaterally converting a non-self-executing treaty into a self-executing one is not among them." In short, congressional action was an absolute prerequisite to making the ICJ decision binding. And again, there had been no congressional action taken here. " Findlaw
The chief justice wrote with regard to this case that "The president's duty is to execute the law, not to make it."
Now, it may be that the specific outcome of this Supreme Court ruling is of interest only to this fellow, Medellin, but the larger point is important.
The Left in this country has been endless in its anticipation of slavish obedience to the president by the "Roberts Court." It did not happen here. Bush, who's behavior as governor of Texas demonstrated that he is not opposed to capital punishment, wanted Texas to comply with this ICJ decision.
Simple. He wants the US to be the "centerpiece" in a worldwide compassionately conservative imperium. For that to work the US must accept its part in the design. Awkwardly, the American federal system still exists and Texas chose to exercise its sovereignty to reject this decision by the ICJ and the executive branch of the US government.
Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Stephens all sided with Texas's rights as a sovereign in this case.
What happened to the slavish obedience that was expected? pl
""The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said, noting that the United States did not single-handedly win the Cold War or other conflicts in its history. Instead, he said, the country must lead by attracting others to its cause, demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy, defending the rules of an international civilized society and creating new international institutions.
He renewed his call for creating a new global compact of more than 100 democratic countries to advance shared values and defend shared interests, and said the United States must set an example for other democracies.
"If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity ... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," said the four-term senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.
"Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House, for he or she does not take seriously enough the first and most basic duty a president has — to protect the lives of the American people," McCain added, suggesting that neither of his Democratic rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, understand the stakes at hand." Yahoo News
|1.||going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding.|
|2.||superior or supreme.|
|3.||Theology. (of the Deity) transcending the universe, time, etc. Compare immanent (def. 3).|
|5.||a transcendental function.|
|Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)|
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006."
So, this transcendent threat is greater than anything else around? It is greater than the shakiness of the economy, the threat of pestilence, the competition provided by an emerging China, all of that?
I don't think so. The Sunni takfiri networks command the allegiance of a few thousand at most. The worst they could POSSIBLY do to all those they hate and despise would involve some attack that might be bloody in nature but certainly not mortal to any of the societies of the West. Transcendent? If you want transcendence in a threat, you must find something more than a few radicals who through a clever ruse stole a few airplanes and crashed them into buildings. And we accept such rubbish?
Our ancestors who fought at Gettysburg or on any number of other flaming fields would scoff.
What is the matter with him? He should know better than to think this or talk like this.
We should form "a new international group of countries" to "confront" this threat? I guess they did not teach Thucydides at the Naval Academy when he was there. The Delian League was the Athenian Empire in all but name. What sort of "league" would we call this? pl
They also have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective election campaign. The showdown with al-Sadr has been brewing for months but has accelerated since parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.
On Wednesday in Basra, gunfire echoed through the streets as Iraqi soldiers and police fought the Mahdi Army, police said.
Reinforcements were sent to Basra from the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said, adding a large number of gunmen have been detained." Yahoo News
So, there is fighting in Basra among the Shia? What a surprise! A showdown there between forces of the Mahdi Army and the rest has been "in the cards" for some time. The MSM talks as though the "Iraqi Security Forces" are something other than representatives of millitia anti Sadrist forces among the Shia. That is not the case. The security forces really represent the power of some of the Shia parties/militias being used in this case against the Sadrists. There is an ongoing struggle among the major Shia factions in Iraq. One of these is the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. Others include the Dawa allies of Prime Ministers Maliki, the al-Hakim faction (SIIC), the Badr Force (generally allied with Hakim) and Fadila in the Basra area.
Need a score card? Well... the "security forces" are full of Badr Force militia men. These people belong to an organization that was raised originally by Iran to fight against IRAQ. They have been recruited into the "security forces" in large numbers. They intend to break the Mahdi Army if they can and the US seems to approve of that idea.
Reinforcements have been sent from Karbala to Basra. Karbala is virtually ruled by the Badr Force.
The US has been treasuring the idea that the apparatus of the Iraqi state is other than a congeries of militia factions and parties.
Once again the untruth of that is exposed.
Who is firing into the Green Zone. I doubt if anyone really knows. pl
"Jim" sent me this little gem. The MSM misses most important things and this is one of them. Under this Department of Defense directive, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates takes action to assure the extension of the authority of US military law over all civilians serving with or for US military forces.
The direcives provides authority for officers and NCOs to arrest and detain persons seen conducting a crime and for military authorities to pursue investigations that may lead to trial by general court martial.
The directive requires DoD to inform the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that it is proceeding against particular civilians. This provision exists to allow DoJ to take charge of the case involving civilians if it wishes. If DoJ declines then the military is authorized to proceed under its own legal system.
This would appear to settle the issue of how to deal with private armies of the "Blackwater" type in criminal matters. Comment from you lawyers? pl
"...from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life. This is exactly what happens in baptism," the pope said.
"The pope traditionally baptizes newborns on January 1 and adult converts to Catholicism on Easter eve.
One of the seven adults he baptized on Saturday night was Magdi Allam, 55, an Egyptian-born journalist who, as deputy director of the leading newspaper Corriere della Sera, is one of Italy's best-known intellectuals.
Allam, a fierce critic of Islamic extremism and a strong supporter of Israel, is protected by a police escort because of threats he has received.
His conversion to Christianity was a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican in a statement less than an hour before the Easter eve service started.
"For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it," it said.
Allam defended the pope in 2006 when the pontiff made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith.
The Vatican statement announcing Allam was joining Catholicism said all newcomers were "equally important before God's love and welcome in the community of the Church."
Allam, who has been living in Italy for 35 years, has said he was never a very devout Muslim. Still, his conversion to Christianity came as a surprise.
"What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion," Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, told Reuters." Yahoo News
Never hear of him before. It's a normal thing for people to be welcomed into the Church on Holy Saturday. That happens every year.
One would hope that this man's exercise of conscience would be respected, but,
I suppose that he will be declared "murtad" (an apostate) and that "fatwas" will be issued by some fool or collection of fools that call for his death. If that is true, then it is simply another indication that Islamdom needs to think about its relevance to modern life or indeed to any life.
Benedict would like to talk to the Muslims about issues between us. This does not mean that he intends to do so from a position in which he is a supplicant.
If this is taken as evidence that the pope is leading a "crusade" against Islam, then that will be a sad thing. pl
"So," Mr. Vice President?
Policy, Cheney went on to say, should not be tailored to fit fluctuations in the public attitudes. If there is one thing public attitudes have not been doing, however, it is fluctuating: Resistance to the Bush administration's Iraq policy has been widespread, entrenched and consistent. Whether public opinion is right or wrong, it is not to be cavalierly dismissed." Mickey Edwards
"Cheney told Raddatz that American war policy should not be affected by the views of the people. But that is precisely whose views should matter: It is the people who should decide whether the nation shall go to war. That is not a radical, or liberal, or unpatriotic idea. It is the very heart of America's constitutional system.
In Europe, before America's founding, there were rulers and their subjects. The Founders decided that in the United States there would be not subjects but citizens. Rulers tell their subjects what to do, but citizens tell their government what to do. " Mickey Edwards
I ain't afraid to say it 'cause I ain't afraid of you. (paraphrase of Cheney's statement)
"So?" (This is adult dialog from the vice president of the United States?)
I am still perplexed by the existence of Dick Cheney. This is a man who has evidently believed for a long time that the Framers of the US Constitution somehow got it wrong but who has still managed to rise to the second highest executive branch office in the country. How did that happen? As I have written before, Cheney does not like our present form of government.
His self satisfied conviction that authoritarian rule from the White House is appropriate and beneficial seems unshakable. He does not appear to have any doubts at all as to whether or not he and his "friend" have done a good job the last seven years. That seems strange given the massive foreign debt, the ongoing wars against the "juggernaut" of John McCain's "alqayda" (sic), the huge budget deficits, the tottering state of much of the brokerage and banking system, etc. None of that seems to bother him at all.
Maybe he is just not all that smart? Maybe he is really under the Svengali-like control of the mem-sahib? Maybe he is just a tool of "K Street?" Maybe he is just over medicated? What?
Most American vice-presidents have had the good sense needed to do their little job and to wait for the other guy's heart to stop beating. Maybe we should go back to that design concept. pl
"In his speech, Mr Bush dismissed what he called the "exaggerated estimates" of the cost. And he added: "The costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq." The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington said that the speech conspicuously lacked any references to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - the removal of which had been the stated aim of the war. President Bush appeared to be attempting to redefine the invasion as a mission to remove Saddam Hussein, our correspondent said. BBC
The president is still "sure." You can see that in the scowling demeanor. You can hear it in the taut voice, the twangy folksiness of the voice, so reminiscent of one of the "characters" in "No Country for Old Men."
As I write this, I hear Obama in the background. He is speaking at Fayetteville with "Iron Mike's" statue lurking in the background at Ft. Bragg. "Iron Mike" is the archtypical enlisted paratrooper. Obama says that he is going to withdraw from Iraq. Bush says that there will be no more serious withdrawals unless the generals on the ground say there should be. Guess what that means. That means an "endless war," in Obama's phrase. Generals don't vote to take responsibility for national policy decisions. They are by nature, and the nature of the process that made them generals, far too risk averse for that. If a decision to make war or not to make war is left to them they will pretty much always vote for the status quo.
Bush's Pentagon speech today contained no time line for the evolution of the war. War without end, Amen. How long before the American people start to walk away from "Iron Mike" in disgust? The applause for Bush at the Pentagon today will be remembered. I remember a time when my friend Mike could not walk down the street wearing his uniform. I do not want to see that again.
Bush, perhaps deliberately, dances, bobs, weaves and scowls over the identity of the enemy, and the reasons that he and the Jacobin neocons gave us for going to war. Much of that argumentation has been "exploded" by the failure to find it anywhere other than in the pages of rags like "The Weekly Standard" but that does not seem to bother him.
The Vice President seems as insulated from reality as always and absolutely shameless in his public denials of reality in Iraq. What's the deal with him? Is he really impaired somehow or is it about the money as the "oilies" insist?
Then, there is John McCain. He does seem impaired. Lieberman had to remind him that AQ is a Sunni group who hate the government of Iran?
The Democrats need to sober up and get Hillary and Obama onto the same ticket. I don't care who gets the top spot.
"Iron Mike" and his buddies deserve to be led by some one other than fools and knaves. pl
"with the fifth anniversary of the start of the war approaching, some participants have provided in interviews their first detailed, on-the-record accounts of a decision that is widely seen as one of the most momentous and contentious of the war, assailed by critics as all but ensuring that American forces would face a growing insurgency led by embittered Sunnis who led much of the army.
The account that emerges from those interviews, and from access to previously unpublished documents, makes clear that Mr. Bremer’s decree reversed an earlier plan — one that would have relied on the Iraqi military to help secure and rebuild the country, and had been approved at a White House meeting that Mr. Bush convened just 10 weeks earlier." Michael Gordon
Cheney and McCain are in Iraq today, evidently seeking assurance that the recent AQI attempt at a counter-offensive (See the AQI commander's statement of his intentions in an earlier post) will not derail either Cheney/Bush's remaining hope for a "legacy" or McCain's hope for a future. Given their personalities, I imagine that there is a good deal of menace in their interactions with "the people on the ground." Grrrr! Don't sweat it, boys! AQI is not going to take over Iraq. We have discussed this previously in this space.
I have cited below Michael Gordon's article on the decision to disband the Iraqi Army. He has documented the lack of consultation with the military command that led to that action. I was told at the time that this was the case, but to have the story laid out in detail in the NY Times is a useful thing. The argument was made then that "the army had ceased to exist" in that the troops had gone home and that their cantonments had been looted into unusability. Such an argument displayed a perhaps wilful ignorance of the truth that ground armies are social institutions with human infrastructure and unit traditions that can be harnessed for the purpose of recalling soldiers to organized units useful in situations like 2003-4.
The truth was that Bremer/Slocombe and those in Washington, who, like them, had drunk the Koolaid of neoconism were seeking a Cambodia "in the year zero" situation in which a brave new world could be built in the Middle East. Motive? Pick which ever one you may fancy. Bremer knew next to nothing of the Middle East when he was picked for the job. I suppose that and a certain ethical flexibility were his qualifications. Henry Kissinger was probably behind Bremer's appointment. What was Kissinger's role in the disbandment of the Iraqi military?
Today, Senator Clinton made a comprehensive and forthright statement concerning her future policy with regard to Iraq. Given the pattern of press coverage and the evident attention span of the electorate, it probably won't get the coverage it deserves. It hits all the bases, is clear, unequivocal and creates the skeleton for a policy in the Middle East that can lead us out of the morass.
I hope she gets a chance to carry it out. pl
"Dear Col. Lang -- I've now read "The Butcher's Cleaver." It's both a remarkable and a very unusual book, with those qualities being inseparable, I believe. In particular, there is its pervasive, perambulating, almost dreamlike air -- both in narration and description. That is, everything that Claude takes note of (but not only Claude, Bill White as well) is presented to us as though it were preserved in amber -- estimates of men and situations but also the then-existing "look" of things, natural and man-made. Of course, to capture or evoke the "then-existing" as it was then felt is the great yet elusive goal of historical fiction, and that you have accomplished. In addition, a feel for, or a need to evoke, the "then-existing" implies a no less powerful sense that much of what existed then is lost. It is here, without ever becoming too explicit, that "The Butcher's Cleaver" is -- sorry for term -- so poetic. Again, this is present I feel in the most seemingly ordinary descriptive passages (as time seems to slow down a bit to allow Claude to notice the look of a street, a piece of architecture, etc.). After a while one begins to feel that that all this noticing -- this verbal and visual "touching" -- amounts to a continuous farewell on Claude's part, and not only because he almost certainly knows that his cause and way of life are doomed but also because we know (as he anticipates) what acts Claude himself will bring to pass after the span of the novel itself is completed (i.e. Lincoln's assassination). Two more things: The perambulating, near dreamlike quality of the book comes to a climax of course in the scene where Claude and Patrick observe Pickett's charge. I can't praise the writing here -- and I assume the decisions that lay behind it -- enough. Again, one would think that in the face of such a famous scene of "action" that the tempo of the writing would have to accelerate, but instead, if anything, it slows down a bit more, to convey what probably does occur in the minds of trained men who are observing combat but also to convey, in this case, their awed, horrified reluctance to take in what they cannot avoid seeing. Further, the death of Patrick in the midst of this is a beautifully handled grace note. One suspects that it is coming; one doesn't expect that it will take place almost offstage, as I think it needs to. (Patrick is a beautifully modeled character; his role in the double game the Devereux brothers are playing is at times almost heartbreaking -- in part icular when we are told that Patrick now understands just how Hooker's intelligence staff has come to form accurate estimates of CSA troop strength and that he hopes to put this knowledge to use upon his hoped-for return to Richmond.) Finally -- and this is a shot in the dark -- much that I've said above about "The Butcher's Cleaver" reminds me of a superb short novel by the Austrian writer Alexander Lernet-Holenia, "Baron Bagge" (1936). In that book, the title figure is a cavalry officer serving on the Eastern Front in World War I (as was the case for the author). Riding eastward on a vague, dubious mission into Hungarian territory, under the command of an especially impetuous officer, the Baron and his men come to an enemy-held bridge and are ordered to charge across, which they do under heavy fire, despite the Baron's belief that the order to charge was unwise and merely a function of the commanding officer's need to precipitate something bold and glorious in what all suspect are probably the final days of the war. The cavalry charge prevails, and the unit then moves on into the Carpathians, where (without going into too much detail) a subtle sense of strangeness begins to prevail when they arrive in a welcoming town and are entertained by th e townspeople, and Baron himself meets a beautiful but elusive woman with whom he falls in love -- all this as though the Baron and his men have wandered into another, ideal world. Finally (and while this gives things away, I'm sure anyone who reads "Baron Bagge" already will know this) it becomes clear that the Baron and all his men were killed in their charge across the bridge, and they have been existing for some nine days hence in a kind of dreamlike purgatory that is reserved for men who have died in battle in the way that they have. With all that in mind, while I'm sure that it would be erroneous to literally think that all that follows from the opening 1853 scene in "The Butcher's Cleaver" is more or less a dream and that Claude did not survive the duel, I am sure that the striking of that initial elegiac note is no accident. Again, my congratulations on a remarkable achievement. Best," LK
The picture is of the head of Michael, archangel and patron saint of the Confederacy. His face looks down on us from the front of an insignificant Catholic Church, the kind of place in which Devereux and his family might worship.
Larry K has done me the honor of writing this memorable review of TBC. There have been a number of memorable reviews but this one captures something of the psychology of the composition.
Writer's of fiction should avoid "explaining" their works to death. I owe LK a debt.
I have never heard of "Baron Bagge" but am sure I would like the book. pl
Haim Ramon told Israel Radio Saturday that Israel is not meeting its commitments under the internationally sponsored Middle East "road map" to peace.
He said Israel must make a decision on the outposts in one or two weeks. " VOA
I do not know Haim Ramon, but he has this one right. I was driving around in the West Bank a month ago and it was quite clear that even in the parts of the land that are supposedly under Palestinian control there is an Israeli presence just about everywhere. North of Jerusalem one drives to the edge of the Jerusalem municipality, then one drives through territory still policed by Israel, then one crosses over into Palestinian land. On the ridges flanking the road there are; outposts, Nahal camps and settlements. The amount of Palestinian soil that does not feel some sort of Israeli controlling presence is fairly small.
As Ramon says, an unwillingness to withdraw from such places is a profound inhibition to moving forward with the "Road Map" towards a two state solution. Neither American political party is likely to back away from Israel for this reason, but it is in Israel's interest to find a modus vivendi with the Palestinians.
From the point of view of the ordinary Palestinians, the ones who do not like the Israelis but who would like a settlement just so that they could get on with their lives, these Israeli positions are a constant temptation to disbelief in the real posssibility of peace in the Holy Land.
You see the Hamas flag in the West Bank, but in my travel there it did not seem that Hamas is yet dominant there. It will be dominant if the Road Map" does not succeed. pl
Members of Congress have access to classified material by virtue of their constitutional office. He ought to know better than to say something like this. pl
I returned last night. Dr. Baram left me this thought concerning his opnions about the AQ/Saddam relationship. After some discussion he has allowed me to post it on the understanding that it is a summary of his ANALYTIC opinion and his recall of the events. Because of the press of current work he will not be able to document it in detail for those who might want that. The "report" he refers to is the new IDA/JFCOM report on the same subject. pl ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Maybe you will find this of some interest. Two days after 9/11 Saddam appeared on Iraqi TV and praised the attack on America. He gave no credit to anyone for the operation, but explained that the US was responsible for the death of many thousands of Iraqi children. He threatened that if it did not change its policy (embargo, support of Israel) it would suffer further such blows. The next day his foreign policy advisers, including the Foreign minister and Tariq Aziz (Deputy PM), strongly recommended that he should change his tack (a brave move). He refused and the Iraqi media continued for many months to praise whoever did 9/11. It even implied that the attack served Saddam's purpose ("It was not Bin Laden who smashed the four [sic!] airplanes into American buidings, it was Saddam's luck that did this") . Three weeks after 9/11 the foreign ministry establishment managed to convince Saddam and even though his media continued as before, the foreign minister sent a message of condolences to the US Secretary of State through Nizar Hamdun (Iraq's UN Representative) and the US UN Representative. My impression was at the time that there was some political - ideological common denominator between them: Bin Laden actually had publicly supported "Iraq" - not Saddam - in its struggle against the US already in 1998. But I have never had any evidence of OPERATIONAL cooperation. So I am not surprised by the report. Saddam was no longer "secular" in 2002, but his version of Islamic piety and politics was very different from Bin Laden's. Best Amatzia"
I returned last night. Dr. Baram left me this thought concerning his opnions about the AQ/Saddam relationship. After some discussion he has allowed me to post it on the understanding that it is a summary of his ANALYTIC opinion and his recall of the events. Because of the press of current work he will not be able to document it in detail for those who might want that. The "report" he refers to is the new IDA/JFCOM report on the same subject. pl
Maybe you will find this of some interest.
Two days after 9/11 Saddam appeared on Iraqi TV and praised the attack on America. He gave no credit to anyone for the operation, but explained that the US was responsible for the death of many thousands of Iraqi children. He threatened that if it did not change its policy (embargo, support of Israel) it would suffer further such blows.
The next day his foreign policy advisers, including the Foreign minister and Tariq Aziz (Deputy PM), strongly recommended that he should change his tack (a brave move). He refused and the Iraqi media continued for many months to praise whoever did 9/11. It even implied that the attack served Saddam's purpose ("It was not Bin Laden who smashed the four [sic!] airplanes into American buidings, it was Saddam's luck that did this") .
Three weeks after 9/11 the foreign ministry establishment managed to convince Saddam and even though his media continued as before, the foreign minister sent a message of condolences to the US Secretary of State through Nizar Hamdun (Iraq's UN Representative) and the US UN Representative. My impression was at the time that there was some political - ideological common denominator between them: Bin Laden actually had publicly supported "Iraq" - not Saddam - in its struggle against the US already in 1998. But I have never had any evidence of OPERATIONAL cooperation. So I am not surprised by the report. Saddam was no longer "secular" in 2002, but his version of Islamic piety and politics was very different from Bin Laden's.
I know. I know. This is old news, like Powell, BUT the interesting thing is that "US Joint Forces Command," (JFCOM) a unified comand of the armed forces hired the "Institute for Defense Analysis" (IDA) to study this. IDA is a very upscale "Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation." (FFRDC) It is wholly owned by the federal government and is similar to RAND, and the "Institute for Naval Analysis." (CNA) IDA produced a study on Iraq a couple of years ago that was a model of thoroughness and honesty.
It has been the dogma of the Bush Administration that it must have been true that the Saddamist government and Al-Qa'ida were more or less connected. This was never likely, but the Bushies were insistent, ARE insistent.
So, now we have this new "paper" from IDA which disputes the basic narrative of the Republican story concerning Iraq.
One wonders if the ruling powers at JFCOM thought that they were going to prove the Bushy thesis or disprove it. Perhaps they just wanted to know the truth? Nah. That can't be right. pl
A lot of people do not like MEMRI, but as I have previously said, one must differentiate between source and information and make independent judgments about both.
We must not fall into the trap of the current fad of unlimited Information Operations in which all information is seen from a subjective point of view. In that direction lies a mighty confusion as to the truth.
"Sometimes a ciger is ..." pl
We all know that this has little to do with whether or not a political compromise among the factions sects and communities will emerge, but even in that area there have been signs of improvement of late.
None of this helps McCain with his belligerent tone about Iraq.
The improved results in the war are largely the result of improved coalition recognition of the fragmented nature of the insurgent forces and a developed willingness to make use of that fragmentation. (There will be moaning about the "Insincerity" of conversions, etc.)
McCain and the rest of his "crew" continue to insist or imply (this varies) that Al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) is the enemy, the only enemy, and that a US withdrawal will lead to AQI control of Iraq.
I suppose that the cognitive dissonance involved in the contrast between the actual situation and his rhetorical position has not been noticed as yet.
For the record, AQI numbers a couple of thousand people. They are Sunni takfiri fighters who are completely unacceptable to the heavily armed Shia masses as well as to the great majority of Sunnis. The Sunnis discovered that they did not wish to live under takfiri rule and that is what caused the "Awakening," not our bloody money!
In other words there is NO CHANCE that AQI is going to "take over" Iraq.
Does McCain know this or not? pl
"What's sad is that Rice knew precisely what was needed to make the process work. Annapolis called for a tripartite commission in which a U.S. representative would sit with both sides to monitor progress in improving security and living conditions. The Israelis even agreed that the U.S. representative should decide whether the road map conditions had been met. President Bush named Air Force Lt. Gen. William Fraser III to this mediating post in January. But so far, his commission hasn't had a single three-way meeting. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, but there's no plan to make a public report.
Rice also appointed a distinguished personal representative, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, back in November to study a framework for mutual security in a future Palestinian state. Jones has made just one fact-finding trip so far, and State Department officials believe that his mission hasn't made much progress.
Lurking behind this stalemate is the sinister hand of Hamas. It was Rice who insisted that this militant Islamic group be allowed to participate in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, over strong protests from both Israelis and moderate Palestinians. Rice argued that the Islamic militancy represented by Hamas had to be given a political voice. But when Hamas won and predictably continued to reject Israel's right to exist, the United States had no coherent follow-up strategy. A new article in Vanity Fair says that Washington secretly egged on the rival Fatah movement to stage a coup in Gaza, but Hamas moved first with a countercoup that expelled Fatah security forces. The Hamas militants kept firing their rockets, goading the Israelis toward the reinvasion of Gaza they launched Feb. 27 that nearly scuttled the post-Annapolis peace process.
What's needed is some sort of cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. But Washington and Jerusalem stoutly insist that they will never negotiate with a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, they are quietly blessing an Egyptian effort to broker just such a cease-fire package. I'm sorry, but that is a lame strategy -- letting others do secretly what you refuse to do openly.
Rice keeps insisting that she is serious about achieving an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough before President Bush leaves office. But progress requires disciplined follow-through. Without it, you can add Annapolis to the dustbin. " Ignatius
Ignatius is smarter than to have thought that the Rice/Bush braintrust had produced a "magic wand" at Annapolis. This must be all a bit "tongue in cheek."
Clearly, Rice is not competent to run American diplomacy and foreign policy. Did she really think that HAMAS would acknowledge Israel as a state once they were in power? What fool thought that? It must have been someone with a political science background who naturally (following the classic thought of that discipline) believed that the Islamc fervor and fanaticism of HAMAS was really just a "mask" for whatever it is that REALLY bothers them.
I was in the West Bank last month and drove from Jerusalem to Jenin. It was an interesting experience, one in which the callous humiliation of Palestinian men by Israeli troops was as evident as Ignatius describes it. We need to have Petraeus go for a visit and explain what "counterinsurgency" means. The Palestinian townspeople in the West Bank seem beaten down and quiet now. That will not last long.
The Palestinians and Israel need a "truce?" HUDNA anyone? pl
See my posts on SST last year about Annapolis.
"The United States and Iraq are opening negotiations in Baghdad on a blueprint for a long-term relationship, plus a narrower deal to define the legal basis for a U.S. troop presence, a Pentagon official said yesterday.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the talks are scheduled to start today.
Leading the U.S. negotiating team will be Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He will be assisted by senior officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House's National Security Council.
Mr. Morrell said the United States expects a lengthy negotiation, with a goal of completing a deal by December, when the U.N. Security Council resolution that now governs the United States and coalition presence in Iraq will expire.
The process of negotiating a long-term deal with the Iraqi government has triggered criticism from some in Congress, in part because the administration's position is that the deal will not require congressional approval and in part out of concern that it might commit to a specific U.S. troop level." WASHTIMES
This raises several significant points:
1- A Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is undoubtedly needed to establish the legal position of US military personnel in Iraq. The expiration of UN authorization would leave US soldiers in the awkward situation of being vulnerable to prosecution under local law no matter what other agreements might have been made between the two governments. If the Iraq government wants to keep US soldiers in its country for some additional time then the US needs to know what the specific arrangements are for adjudication of complaints against American troops.
2- A treaty of alliance or mutual defense agreement (MDA) that binds the US to Iraq "permanently" will represent the fulfillment of the Jacobin neocon dream. This dream has always involved building a new political system in the Middle East that will negate and disrupt old relationships while constructing a new alliance system with the US at the center of the "picture." This is CENTO and the Baghdad Pact re-dux. Haven't these people read ANY history that they think significant? Why do they think that the ending will be different this time?
3- The administration believes that such a treaty or MDA can be put in place legally WITHOUT senate approval? If there is not a major battle over that point then the days of the republic are limited in all but name. pl
This, above, from DH's comment below rather neatly sums up the true level of Washington efforts to "play" in the Big Game. pl
Still a lot to digest, as Cold War Zoomie says. Re charlottemom's puzzlement at the fact that Murdoch newspapers are reporting on this. A bit of background on British newspapers. Unlike the Telegraph group, which sticks rigorously to the neocon 'party line', even despite Conrad Black's departure from the scene, the Times' papers will from time to time publish strong stories which do not fit with it. The classic example, of course, is the Downing Street memos. Like Cieran, I would give Andy a certain amount of slack on the possibility that an operation to penetrate and disrupt groups trying to acquire U.S. weapons technology was involved. But the fact the Sunday Times is prepared to run with a story so damaging to their proprietor's close political allies is I think a potent reason for taking it seriously. As I pointed out to Andy in our earlier discussion, a key statement in the original Sunday Times story is that the nuclear network Edmonds describes 'has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain's Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.' In addition to this, there is the 'small team' investigating the 'same procurement' network referred to in the third story -- to which Valerie Plame belonged, and for which Brewster Jennings was a front company. One quite possible explanation for the appearance of this story in the Sunday Times is that important elements in this 'joint Anglo-American intelligence effort', either in London, or in Washington, or in both, decided they wanted this network shut down, and saw the disclosures by Edmonds as a means of securing this end. Be that as it may, we can I think be confident that British and American officials involved in getting this story into the MSM are not impressed by the notion that they are contributing to destroying a valuable intelligence operation. This could be partly because, if an operation sufficiently major to account for the material Edmonds collected had been in progress prior to 2002, more substantial results might have been expected by 2008. Moreover, the notion that a penetration operation was involved does not establish that the claims Edmonds makes can be discounted. Such a penetration operation, by its very nature, would of course involve the disclosure of valuable information -- as is commonly the case with deception operations in intelligence. But precisely because of this, deception operations played against superior players can backfire. One can recall the immortal quotation from Richard Perle in the long piece Dexter Filkins did in the NYT on Chalabi in November 2006. According to Filkins, Perle 'discounted the idea that Chalabi might be a double agent. "Of course Chalabi has a relationship with the Iranians - you have to have a relationship with the Iranians in order to operate there," Perle said. "The question is what kind of relationship. Is he fooling the Iranians or are the Iranians using him? I think Chalabi has been very shrewd in getting the things he has needed over the years out of the Iranians without giving anything in return."' It is I think perfectly possible that as with the intelligence on Iraqi WMD, rather naïve Americans who fancied themselves as masters of Machiavellianism have simply been taken to the cleaners by people whose command of the arts of duplicity is real rather than imagined. Another claim about the role of senior Pentagon officials in the original Edmonds story is to the point: 'The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their "hooking points", which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.' This is how one would expect the kind of network which clearly exists to operate. Its members corrupt people by playing on their weaknesses, getting them to cross the line in small matters which leave them compromised, and in a position where they have no way back. Once this point is reached, turning them into outright traitors may be easy -- and they may also help corrupt others, in order to try to rescue their self-respect. As to CWZ's very relevant question as to the relationships and motives. I think we are liable to get into problems by assuming underestimating the extent to which public and private have got confused. 'What's in it for Turkey?' does indeed seem a very relevant question. But how far are we dealing with agencies which act on behalf of the state, how far simply with individuals? Meanwhile for some of the end destinations, such as the Pakistan ISI or indeed the Israelis, nuclear secrets may well be of enormous value -- and as a result, they may be prepared to pay a great deal, be it in money -- or indeed in other kinds of trades.
"As long as he can make that clear separation, then having a president of the United States on the road, helping with fundraising, going around and talking to people is a very different thing," Winston said.
Bush and McCain exhibited solidarity in the Rose Garden on Wednesday when the president embraced the Arizona senator as the party's next standard-bearer. But neither offered anything definitive about what Bush's role would be in McCain's general election campaign.
Bush, whose approval ratings skidded to 30 percent in February, stresses that the election had nothing to do with him.
"If he (McCain) wants me to show up, I will. If he wants me to say `You know, I'm not for him,' I will," Bush said. "Whatever he wants me to do. I want him to win. ... If he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I'll be glad to show up."" Yahoo News
Now, let's see... Bush and Cheney can show up at Shad Bakes and woodland training camps for the "Tar Heel Militia" and such like that. They can do the country club speakers circuit. Cheney can address the Rotary Club over in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore where he bought a big, big house with some of that Halliburton money. Am I jealous? You bet I am.
Seriously, Fortune 500 companies will have their corporate luncheon doors open. There are still pals in the Middle East. Friends among the "riche," nouveau or not will always have a warm spot for these guys.
On balance I would think that Bush/Cheney will be a net plus for "fearless John." pl
"Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.
The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims.
However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”
She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents. " Sunday Times (UK) on line.
I missed this when it was in the press. My thanks to "sixpacksongs" in Texas for bringing it to my attention.
"one well-known senior official in the US State Department." We haven't had that kind of language used about spies at Foggy Bottom since the '50s. There is no doubt that the activity described concerning this "senior official" would constitute espionage under the law and perhaps treason as well, the country being effectively at war these last years. The name? I could guess but I won't, not here.
"evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents." This is not much of a surprise. We have now had the case of Larry Franklin, and the two AIPAC men. None of that is "finished" as yet. My sense of it is that the FBI and the prosecutorial team are still "milking" Franklin and will continue that until they have what there is to have. Then he will know his true fate. In my opinion Franklin is a dim bulb who was successfully used by "senior Pentagon officials " I told the government that when asked. The FBI has, for decades, amassed a vast amount of evidence against such foreign spies in the US government. Political pressure prevented prosecutions during earlier administrations but something has changed now. My surmise is that "the Bureau" has acquired some evidentiary leverage that allows them to proceed.
There are a number of countries sponsoring espionage against the US government. Espionage is a felonious crime in the US whether it is on behalf of a "friendly" state or an enemy. Some people think that unauthorized delivery of US classified information to a US national is not espionage. They are mistaken. One could be charged with a lesser crime, but that is at the option of the government. pl
"I'm not the only woman who's dumbfounded (as it were) by our sex, or rather, as we prefer to put it, by other members of our sex besides us. It's a frequent topic of lunch, phone and water-cooler conversations; even some feminists can't believe that there's this thing called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or that Celine Dion actually sells CDs. A female friend of mine plans to write a horror novel titled "Office of Women," in which nothing ever gets done and everyone spends the day talking about Botox.
We exaggerate, of course. And obviously men do dumb things, too, although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I'm not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I'm not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men. When men do dumb things, though, they tend to be catastrophically dumb, such as blowing the paycheck on booze or much, much worse (think "postal"). Women's foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing." Charlotte Allen in the Washington Post
"an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men" Say What? So, the hubby cowers in the house with the blinds shut in fear of the big boys? I don't know what to make of that.
I have no idea who the author is. I looked up the "Manhattan Institute" and on first inspection it looks Jacobinish.
A lot of the women whom I associate with are unlike the ones described here by Allen. That may just be a case of voluntary association of the "like." I think it is true that men are better (in general) at things like spatial relations and the eye-hand coordination that goes with it. But, so what? Men vary in this as well.
The rest of the observations contained in this article are so un PC that even I who write novels with decidedly un PC tone am surprised.
OK. Consider this to be a ball tossed in the air. pl
"Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said yesterday that his government had not requested a U.S. naval presence off its coast, and summoned Ambassador Michele J. Sison to ask for clarification of U.S. intentions.
The presence of the three warships has also sparked anger from militant groups and suspicions in the Lebanese media about long-term U.S. plans, even though the State Department said the ships are about 60 miles offshore -- well beyond the 12-mile limit of Lebanese territorial waters.
"The American move threatens the stability of Lebanon and the region and is an attempt to spark tension," Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of parliament, told Reuters. "The administration has used the policy of sending warships to support its allies in Lebanon before, and that experiment failed."
The deployment of U.S. warships off the Lebanese coast dates to 1983, when Navy ships opened fire on Muslim militias. Retaliation included the suicide bombing of the Marine compound in Beirut and the death of 241 U.S. military personnel, which eventually led to the Marines' withdrawal.
"U.S. gunboat diplomacy in Lebanon did not, does not and will never work. If there is one way how not to help your allies, this is it," said Bilal Y. Saab of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center.
Some Middle East experts and both European and Arab allies doubt that the U.S.-Saudi effort will have serious impact on Damascus. "The Syrian regime is playing for time, and reasons that a new administration will be forced to jettison the current policy of isolation," said Emile el-Hokayem of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a defense think tank. " Robin Wright
It used to be a kind of sick, Beiruti joke that the Lebanese thought Bill Clinton and Hillary woke up every morning and immediately asked what had happened in Beirut overnight. It was a joke because anyone who knew anything knew that nobody in Washingron who mattered really gave a damn about what happened in Beirut.
Now, unfortunately, Washington DOES care about what the Lebanese are doing to themselves. The Lebanese would be far better off if America just left them alone to revel in their mutual animosities. They are so good at it. It is a kind of art form in the salons and coffee houses of Beirut.
Instead the US revels in hallucination in which the "freedom agenda" fantasy melds with; Israeli and NSC obsession with Hizbullah and Saudi dreams of a restored Sunni triumphalism in the Levant. The effective interaction of US pro-Likud circles' loathing of the idea of Shia power in Lebanon, IDF revanchism, and the long standing Saudi Mashrou' (project) in Lebanon and Syria makes me wonder if they are all actually talking to each other somewhere or if Elliot Abrams is a good and sufficient intermediary.
Three US naval vessels off the Lebanese coast. Wow. What a threat! They can't be seen. We have to tell the target of this strategic information operation that they are there. That will frighten them!! What are we thinking of?
The Syrians? Ah well. This is a hopeless case. No amount of interest on the part of Damascus and Jerusalem in working out a deal seems sufficient to placate the merchants of conflict in Washington. Foolish. pl