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04 December 2009


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JT Davis

Cieran, I read your comments with great interest and wonder who you think that Democratic challenger might be. I have my possible favorites. I am less inclined to debate people on Obama being Bush 44, and I was never under any illusions about him being anything more than a moderate conservative as far as American politics goes. Perhaps he is that mythical creature, the compassionate conservative, that Bush created to get selected in 2000. I am also reminded of Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley who remarked:

"A man that would expect to train lobsters to fly in a year is called a lunatic; but a man that thinks men can be turned into angels by an election is a reformer & remains at large."

The Colonel knows who Mr. Dooley was.

As to the narcissism, it has long been a feature, not a bug, of many political candidates on the national stage. You have to have a few character defects to even want that job in my opinion.

It now appears that Alan Grayson, the Democratic firebrand that had the Democratic base all excited is actually and AIPAC tool, according to Max Blumenthal. I was never taken in by him either.

It is so easy to say things some people want to hear or say things in such a way that people hear what they want to hear. I can't remember a politician I have voted for that hasn't disappointed me in some way after he was elected. But apathy doesn't work either, so I do my civic duty and vote every election and settle for the lesser of two evils.

As the anarchists say, if voting solved anything, it would be illegal. Or perhaps it is our electoral system. And there is some evidence that is the real problem: Duverger's Law. You can Google it if you are not familiar with it.

I would love to see a viable Democratic challenger in 2012. Or the emergence of a viable third party, making the Democrats the moderate conservatives as they really are.

I honestly can't see the GOP coming out of the political wilderness for a very long time, if at all.

Clifford Kiracofe

"In 1982, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) was proud to honor Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson with the first "Distinguished Service Award." After the Senator's untimely death in 1983, JINSA, in cooperation with Mrs. Helen Jackson, renamed the award in the Senator's memory.

Today this prestigious award enables JINSA to recognize and thank those leaders whose careers have been distinguished by the principle that is the foundation of JINSA's work; the belief that the United States requires a strong military capability for both its own security and for that of trustworthy friends and allies. This was the cornerstone of the late Senator Jackson's visionary policy and it guides JINSA today. Senator Jackson helped define our mandate and our programming is designed to further it.

Past Recipients of the Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award:

2008 - Admiral Michael Mullen, USN, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
2007 - Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
2006 - Senator John McCain
2005 - General Peter Pace, USMC, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
2004 - Senator Evan Bayh
2003 - Congresswoman Jane Harman, Congressman Jim Saxton
2002 - Dr. Paul D. Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense..."

Cold War Zoomie

I really don't understand how fighting in a small country half way around the world is in our national interest.

With much less money and effort, we could beef up our intel and special operations manpower and meet the real objective: ensure that Afghanistan does not become another training ground for terrorists. The problem with this method is that it is covert.

I think our senior leadership, both military and civilian, now want a big, OVERT campaign to show the world that we are still a superpower even though Iraq and Afghanistan have seriously bloodied our noses. In their terms - to show that we can still "project power" wherever and whenever we want.

What's that old saying?

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

We did not remain silent and are now paying the price.

N. M. Salamon

China_ hand has an interesting analysis of the Afgan problem and the SURGE

Clifford Kiracofe


Say what?

Mrs. Obama's father was a precinct captain on the South Side in the Daley machine. Mrs. Obama herself worked in the Mayor Daley's office as a lawyer.

Penny Pritzker was Obama's campaign finance chair.

Kevin Egan

Col. Lang,

Could you clarify something for me? A few days ago, you posted Maj. Gant's strategy paper and, I thought, praised it as a possible game-changer for how to think about working with Afghans at the local level in a radically decentralized way. I don't happen to like being there at all, but if we are going to be there, that approach made more sense (as opposed to supporting Karzai and staying on our bases).

Because I'd read some of Gant's paper, perhaps I was overoptimistic when I heard talk about localization in the newly announced policy; I thought perhaps they were going to try to do the sorts of things he recommended. I can't decode all this civilian and military policyspeak: would you say that what they're talking about means that the Gant strategy is actually *precluded*? Or possibly that they might *think* they're doing it, but the way they're going about it is doomed?

Thanks for further enlightenment! I too am one who makes sure to check this site every day in these troubled times.

Patrick Lang

Kevin Egan

Thanks for asking this question. The president's "plan" is a muddle. It speaks to decentralization in approach but it clearly is still based on the idea of building an Afghanistan that is run from Kabul by a powerful government. In Iraq we sponsored disparate forces in the fight aginst the insurgents and AQ. At the same time we clearly had in mind to empower the Baghdad government. These two things were incompatible in the end unless we had continued to sponsor the SoI sub rosa. We did not, and the effects of that "abandonment" are increasingly evident in Iraqi politics. We are talking about doing the same things in Afghanistan and we run the risk there of creating a situation of unending civil war when we leave behind both a central government with large forces and heavily armed local forces.

My approach is selfishly focused on US interests. I would concentrate on the locals in the expectation that in post US Afghanistan the central government will always preside over a loose confederation of local interests. pl


And it goes on and on. Just watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ous2dxJa30&feature=channel

Then tell yourself: this is all going to end well.


JT Davis:

Cieran, I read your comments with great interest and wonder who you think that Democratic challenger might be. I have my possible favorites.

I don't pretend to know who an ideal challenger would be, and I think that the 2010 mid-term elections will be essential towards learning what's most important to the American electorate. So I don't have any names to suggest... yet.

But there's an anti-incumbent sentiment building, including within the Democratic party. A lot of people voted for Obama because he promised change, and he hasn't delivered it in those venues where it's obviously needed most. The extent of that political liability will not be apparent until the mid-terms, though, so we'll see.

But given the growth of anti-incumbent feelings in the electorate, I'd caution against equating "electoral viability" with "political experience". In California (where a lot of American political realities are first found), the current Governor had no political experience, and some candidates for high office in next year's elections come from HP and eBay, not from the usual political ladders.

So the place to look for viable political challengers may not be in the usual venues, e.g., Congress. And if the economy gets much worse, I could see the appeal of a candidate with strong business skills and a demonstrated commitment to Democratic party values. A successful CEO running on a platform of cleaning up Wall Street would pick up a lot of Democratic votes, and would likely gain support from those remaining GOP voters who think Sarah Palin isn't chief-executive material.

I'm astonished by how quickly Obama's support has collapsed within his more ardent supporters. I've been asking my own circle of Obama-philes (young, old, and in-between) about his AfPak speech, and none of them are pleased, while many of them are dismayed to the point where I doubt they'll re-engage in the political process for a long while.

I don't see any signs that Team Obama has realized how quickly this administration is being abandoned by its core base of support. The rank-and-file members of the Democratic party are increasingly unable to put food on the table, and the Obama administration is throwing them bones instead of providing more red-meat sustenance.

That is not a winning political strategy.

N. M. Salamon

JOn Cole has an interesting section today, translations for Pakistani newspapers.

Norman Rogers

"I don't pretend to know who an ideal challenger would be, and I think that the 2010 mid-term elections will be essential towards learning what's most important to the American electorate."

His name was Eugene McCarthy, in another iteration. It really didn't pan out.

There's only one person who could effectively challenge this President, and his name is Senator James Webb. Can he raise a quarter of a billion dollars in twelve months? That's about what it would take.

I have long guessed that General Petraeus is going to run in 2012 and win a razor thin victory over President Obama, and restore "balance" to our politics. I don't make a value judgement on whether it would be good or bad. It could establish permanent war as the permanent policy of the United States of America for a generation, and I don't think we can forget that the draft is next. An indifferent, self-centered, disconnected populace deserves a chance to stand post half way around the world.

Mark Logan

A question I wish the interviewer had asked of Mullen, when he talked of this large standing Afghanistan army and police force (500,000?), is how he expects Karzai to maintain such a beast.



It's harder to find a Chicago family that doesn't have some ties to Daley than one that does. And of course Obama has ties to the Machine through Pritzker, Axelrod and many others, as any Chicago politician must. But he never was a creature of the Machine; there is simply no way he could have been elected out of Hyde Park if he was.

I realize that from outside Chicago it all looks like one big morass of corruption, but Afghanistan looks that way from here too and as we know that blinds us to the actual power dynamics. I'll stand by the point that if Obama was half the corrupt machine politician people like to think he is it would be a good thing for the country as it would mean he was tougher and smarter.


Norman Rogers:

His name was Eugene McCarthy, in another iteration. It really didn't pan out.

Interesting that you would mention McCarthy. Now there's a primary challenger whose position actually did work out, though that position was eventually overtaken by events, namely the assassination of RFK.

As far as electing a general, that's certainly a possibility, but as the populace tires of war, that may not turn out to be a tenable position for national office. Military leadership has a half-life, and what might have been an asset in 2004 might not be one in 2012 or 2016.

I'm keeping my powder dry on the prediction front until we see what happens in the midterm elections. But if the GOP makes big gains even given their current disarray, how much money Obama can raise may not be as important a factor as the conventional wisdom might indicate.


If the domestic side of things keeps getting worst, I imagine we're going to see our first strongman "president" here shortly.

Clifford Kiracofe


As I said, Obama's wife worked for Mayor Daley and her father was a precinct captain in the machine.

If you do live in Chicago, you will well understand the role of the precinct captain in the machine.

Thus, Obama, who as we know is from Hawaii, married into the Chicago machine. And yes, he is said to be relatively clean for Chicago.

Also, if you live in Chicago, you will well understand the role of the Pritzker family and its alleged ties to organized crime. You will also be aware of the role that family played in bringing Obama along in Chicago politics together with certain circles of the University of Chicago crowd in Hyde Park.

And speaking of organized crime, I would take it that you are aware of the background of the 24th Ward and Jake Arvey, the key point man of the "Jewish" branch of the Chicago mafia back a few decades.

And so you would know the following:

" In 1955 Richard J. Daley, an Arvey protege, was elected Mayor of Chicago. Daley would soon replace Arvey as the "boss" of the Chicago Democratic organization, and Arvey's influence in state and city politics would gradually diminish. ..."

Some of my family has been in Chicago since the 1850s and several from that era, including a great-grandfather and others, are buried at Graceland.


In his speech Obama needed to convince the following people of the following things:

Al Qaeda: We will be in your face whenever,wherever and forever.
Pakistan: We've got your back forever while twisting your arm and assuring you we will not cut and run like we did before.
AfGhanistan: We will be there as long as needed unless you misbehave in which case we will cut and run immediately.
The American Electorate: We're trying to escalate our way out of here as soon as possible.

So how effective was Obama in his speech in making these claims and does he have a prayer of making them stick in the real world?

N. M. Salamon

Interesting analysis of Af/Pak USA by Mr Eric Margolis:


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