Monday, August 21, 2006

Lebanon Who? Europe's Unwillingness To Provide Troops To Sustain Cease Fire An Embarrassment

Thus far, the European Union has failed to offer sufficient ground troops to support a cease fire in Lebanon. And it should be embarrassed.

A special opportunity is at hand. At this hour, the international community has the chance to solidify a fragile peace between Israel and Hezbollah. Its success is critical because hundreds of people have died in this conflict over the last month, and many more will perish should the cease fire collapse.

But its success is equally important for two broader reasons. First, a sustained cease fire in Lebanon could slow the region's dangerous momentum. Take a look around. Iraq is engulfed by sectarian violence. Iran is threatening to proceed with its nuclear weapons. Israel is waging a two-front war. And terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are assuming increasing power. This cease fire provides a rare chance to inject a measure of stability into the region and avert a free fall.

Second, success here could have long-term consequences for peace between Israel and its neighbors. As many sharp commentators have observed, Israel's attack on Hezbollah had little to do with the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers. Rather, it was undertaken to prove a point: that Israel would not give up land for nothing. After Israel voluntarily withdrew from Lebanon a few years ago, and did the same in Gaza a few months ago, it witnessed a rise in suicide bombings, shootings, and rocket launches. This was hardly a just reward for such difficult concessions. The present cease fire offers a chance for the international community to demonstrate to Israel that it can make future concessions with confidence that its interests will be protected.

It is time for the European Union to put dollars and manpower behind its lofty resolutions. Otherwise, the EU will not be the only part of the world saying: Lebanon who?

Lebanon, Israel, Cease Fire, Middle East

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dear Democrats: Don't Get Wrong Idea From Lieberman Defeat

In the wake of Senator Joseph Lieberman's loss in the Connecticut primary, some commentators have suggested that the Democratic Party should adopt an "anti-war" message. Consider this recent post from noted blogger Glenn Greenwald:

As I argued in this post on C&L last weekend, the so-called "anti-war" position has clearly become the solidly mainstream position, and it is neoconservative warmongering that is the fringe and radical position.

A Lamont victory -- indeed, Lamont himself -- provides a very visceral illustration of just how mainstream anti-war (and anti-neoconservative) sentiments are, which is a significant factor as to why a Lieberman victory has become so important for neoconservatives.

Let's be clear about a few things. First, an anti-war position is not "solidly mainstream." According to a recent poll by CBS, only 19% of the American public believes that the U.S. should withdraw all troops immediately, as opposed to 38% that believe the U.S. should remain as long as necessary. This is not to say that Americans are not anxious about the direction of the war. They are. The same poll shows that 64% of those surveyed think that Bush does not have a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq. But let's not equate anxiety (or even discontent) with a Vietnam-like movement.

Second, Republicans are not concerned with the Connecticut race because they view Lieberman as a critical ally. Rather, they love it because it provokes Democrats (like Mr. Greenwald) to sound the anti-war tune and hail the return of the 60s. It makes Democrats look weak on security and out of touch.

Finally, Lieberman did not lose the primary because he supported the war. He lost because he came off as Bush's boot licker. Even as sectarian violence mounted, even as electricity remained patchy, even as the oil production stagnated, Lieberman refused to question the Bush administration's efforts. His seemingly bottomless optimism was just too much to take. To top it off, he threatened to leave the party and run as an independent at the very moment that Democrats were asking: "Is he one of us?" Not a bright move.

If Democrats are smart, they will avoid a bring-home-the-troops message this campaign season. Instead, they will make targeted attacks on the war's execution, emphasize the need to develop a plan to end the conflict, and above all, let the pictures and videos from Iraq speak for themselves. The GOP will flounder on its own, if the Democrats will just get out of the way.

Lieberman, Bush, GOP, Democrats, Greenwald

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lessons Learned From Foiled Terrorist Plot

Today the British government announced that it had thwarted a terrorist plot to blow up ten commercial airplanes heading to the United States. Early indications suggest that Al Qaeda was behind the planned attacks. In the upcoming weeks, there will be a serious debate over what today's events really mean. Here are a few thoughts:

Lesson #1: Al Qaeda lacks the creativity it once possessed

The exposed plot is hardly a fresh idea. The concept of exploding multiple air planes simultaneously was proposed by Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in 1994, and was well-documented in the 9/11 report. Perhaps military operations in Afghanistan, arrests in Pakistan, and "defections" to Iraq have depleted Al Qaeda's brain trust.

Lesson #2: We were right to focus so much attention on airplane security

I, like everyone else, criticized the U.S. government for concentrating so much on air travel safety improvements in the wake of 9/11. What were the chances that Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization, would try to replicate its earlier successes? Why not try something new, something less predictable? Today's events suggests that airplanes remain the prime target for terrorist attacks.

Lesson #3: Al Qaeda is trying to remain relevant

Al Qaeda is not the preeminent terrorist organization it once was. Hezbollah's battle against Israel has catapulted that organization to the top of the world's headlines. Its new importance is rivaled only by Hamas, which has assumed control of the Palestinian legislature. Al Qaeda likely feels a need to reassert itself more than any time in recent years.

Lesson #4: The U.S. remains hopelessly dependent on intelligence reports

Does anyone think that airport security would have thwarted this attack? Let's hope that the intelligence community's recent success will continue.

Terrorism, Qaeda, Plot, Foiled

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New NFL Referee Uniforms A Laugher

Whew! Anyone else think the NFL refs ought to be hitting the Tour de France next year?

Check out ESPN for more.

NFL, Referees, Uniform

Sunday, July 23, 2006

President's Chief-of-Staff Impressive on Meet the Press

Although I am hardly a fan of the Bush Administration, I cannot help but congratulate White House Chief-of-Staff Josh Bolten for his performance on Meet the Press this morning. He was everything that the President is not: thoughtful, articulate, knowledgeable, and measured. Here are a few of the highlights:

MR. RUSSERT: Is the Lebanese prime minister correct that the Israeli bombardments are creating sympathy for Hezbollah?

MR. BOLTEN: I don't know. They, they may be, and I'm sure the Israelis are aware of that. That's one reason why we have encouraged the Israelis as much as possible to minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. But, but bear in mind, Tim, that's in this kind of circumstance that's difficult to do, because Hezbollah has intentionally interwoven itself into the civilian populations and, and made it's basically used civilians as, as shields for their terrorist activities.

MR. RUSSERT: The Iraqi prime minister, Mr. Maliki, has weighed in as well. Now this is someone who is supposedly an ally of the United States. This was his observation on what's going on. "The Israeli attacks and air strikes are completely destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. We call on the world to take quick--let's see--stands to stop the Israeli aggression."

MR. BOLTEN: Yeah, and that's, that's the kind of language you might expect to hear from sovereign leaders in, in, in Arab countries. Israel is not very popular in the region. The, the good news is that that is a sovereign, democratically elected leader of Iraq able to express his views. He'll have an opportunity to discuss that with President Bush when he--when Prime Minister Maliki comes here early this coming week.

To view the complete transcript for today's Meet the Press, go to:

Bolten, Chief, President, Russert

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Real Compassionate Conservative: Mayor Bloomberg

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush famously cast himself as the "Compassionate Conservative." As it turned out, Bush wasn't so compassionate. He introduced a tax cut that overwhelmingly favored the richest Americans, supported former Attorney General Ashcroft's suit to overturn Oregon's voter-approved Death With Dignity Act, and, most recently, vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have increased funding for stem cell research.

The promise for "compassionate conservatism" remains alive, New York. Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city's newest plans to eradicate homelessness. The NY Times described it as follows:

Beginning an aggressive push to reduce the number of people living on New York City's streets, the city will start pressuring homeless men and women to leave makeshift dwellings under highways and near train trestles and will raise barriers to make those encampments inaccessible, Mayor said on Monday.

The city has found 73 of those sites inhabited by groups of chronically homeless people, the mayor said. "Humanely, respectfully and firmly, we'll work to get these men and women to enter supportive housing, enroll in treatment programs or go into shelters," Mr. Bloomberg said to a gathering of government officials and social service providers from around the country.

"The objective is not in any way to force people from one area to another," Mr. Hess said. "It is to take a social service intervention strategy approach to help people make a decision to move from these very unhealthy encampments."
(Diane Cardwell, "City to Clear Homeless Encampments," July 18, 2006)

This new effort--clearly "conservative" in its aggressive, no-nonsense, results-driven modus operandi--represents an attempt to marry conservative formulas with liberal ideals. It should be taken seriously, as it comes on the heels of a significant investment in "supportive housing," a program that not only provides homeless shelters, but also critical services likes substance abuse treatment and psychological counseling.

While it remains unclear whether the mayor will ultimately succeed, he should be commended for his willingness to take on one of society's greatest ills and his open-mindedness in fashioning prospective solutions. The president could learn a thing or two.

Mayor, Bloomberg, Conservative, Homeless

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comic Relief: Silly Injuries to Pro Athletes

They can't all be serious...

Morisato's Blog describes some of the crazy ways that Major League Baseball players have gotten injured. Here are some of the best:

Pitcher Steve Speaks tore his rotator cuff ripping apart a phone book.

All Star pitcher John Smoltz burned his chest by ironing his shirt...while he was wearing it.

Pitcher Greg Harris injured his elbow flipping sunflower seeds while sitting in the bullpen.

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan had to miss a start after being bitten on the hand by a coyote.

All star pitcher Tom Glavine broke a rib throwing up airplane food.

Relief pitcher Randy Veres injured his hand slamming his fist against a hotel room wall in an attempt to get his neighbors to quiet down.

Comic, Morisato, Sports