Friday, April 11, 2008
Talk about mixed signals. Is this just spin to quell the 80% of the country that thinks they're nuts, or does Gates disagree with Petraeus?
The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox, and the Los Angeles Times fronts, Defense Secretary Robert Gates telling a Senate panel that he wants to resume troop withdrawals quickly. The statement came hours after President Bush officially backed Gen. David Petraeus' plan to indefinitely halt any further troop withdrawals after this summer, a story that leads the New York Times and Washington Post.Beatsthecrapoutofme. I think it's safe to say that no one is on the same page in the Bush administration.
Gates made sure to note that although he no longer thinks the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will fall to 100,000 by the end of the year, "the hope, depending on conditions on the ground, is to reduce our presence further this fall." A similar sentiment was expressed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Although these divisions within the Pentagon are well-known, "rarely have they been aired publicly," says the LAT.
Posted by Greyhair at 10:03 AM
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Atrios can be a huge smart ass. I'm sure I'm not the first one to say that and I'm sure he's been told many, many times by many, many people. But one thing the man has been is completely prophetic when it comes to many issues, like the Iraq war. Here's a post from today shamelessly reprinted in full:
Oh WellNow I ask you. How many times have you seen Duncan Black, AKA Atrios, on CNN, Faux, MSNBC or quoted in any newspaper? Oh, you see the likes of Bill
- WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has abandoned hope that troop levels in Iraq will drop to 100,000 by the end of the year.
My astute pundit commentary on this at the time:
- It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
- NA GA HA PEN
The dismay and shame that the media must feel on the entire issue of Iraq is surely profound. And denial is not just a river in Egypt. And without the internets and bloggers, the media would continue to get away with their lazy-ass habits of not doing their jobs. But as the internets grow, that's gonna change now isn't it?
Posted by Greyhair at 1:17 PM
I just have to add one final observation about the recent testimony by Petraeus and Crocker.
The entire testimony was rife with fatigue. The Pentagon and Bush have given up on having any future policy, instead giving in to kicking the whole issue down the road. Bush doesn't want to deal with it. The Pentagon doesn't know what to do with it. Thus the entire situation is purely rudderless (which may be better than a rudder turned in the wrong direction? .... I'm not sure about that).
I've said before and will say this again. To be a loved one of a soldier who is serving, injured, or killed in Iraq has always had to be somewhat of an empty experience. But to now be injured or die during this "fatigue" period would be awful in it's waste. Like this:
BAGHDAD (AP) — Five U.S. soldiers died in Iraq, including three killed in roadside bombings in Baghdad and north of the capital, the military said Wednesday.
That raised to 17 the number of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq since Sunday.
Posted by Greyhair at 9:42 AM
I just love conventional wisdom.
The inflationary CW is that as the U.S. economy slows, inflation will back off due to lessening demand. And in the past (like most CW), this has been true. But what about now?:
Third, the US is no longer the world's only leading consumer of raw materials. As such, a slowdown in US demand won't be the world-wide cure all for spiking inflation. We have to rely on India and China to deal with their respective inflationary levels.That's right. The U.S. isn't the only player on the block. Our overwhelming economy is becoming less and less the guiding force internationally.
Back in the 1970's, inflation got out of control. The main reason for that was that non-market, exogenous forces, were working on the economy. The price of oil was not being guided by market forces but by political forces. When oil prices skyrocketed and rippled throughout the economy, they did so regardless of the market forces which actually were indicating lower oil prices. Thus you had inflationary pressure occurring at the same time the economy was slowing .... stagflation. Between the Iraq war and international competition for commodities (the "decoupling"), the U.S. is facing international pricing pressure while suffering from domestic slowdown. In a word .... stagflation. And frankly, I'm not sure the Fed will do much about it until inflation is much worse than today.
Added: Right on cue, a classic example:
During the first half of 2007, motor gasoline consumption was up by 0.9 percent compared with the same period the previous year. But, during the second half of 2007, gasoline consumption declined by 0.1 percent from the year before. In fact, fourth-quarter consumption fell by 0.4 percent. The drop in gasoline consumption, the first since the recession of 2000, should come as no surprise with the slowing economy and soaring gasoline prices.That's right. Gasoline consumption is down considerably. Yet prices look pretty firm to me!
Posted by Greyhair at 9:17 AM
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
William Arkin had this to say at the end of his discussion of the Petraeus testimony:
The good news -- and it is good news -- is that the surge has been successful enough that the armed forces have enough capability on the ground to at least maintain the stalemate until the next commander-in-chief comes into office.Arkin is no dummy and no fool. He's a past officer and well connected to the military establishment. Yet he falls for the same myth, namely that there is a direct relationship between less violence in Iraq, and the "surge".
Go give this article a read. The surge has had impact. But the main reason the violence is less is due to two key factors. One, the U.S. military has been bribing the Sunni's to not resist. And I can only guess what the Sunni's are doing with the cash. Two, al Sadr agreed to a cease-fire in order to better position himself in the political realm. Since Maliki decided to put a stick in the hornets nest, twelve American soldiers have died (over the past several days) and violence is again on the upswing, back to pre-surge levels.
The fact is that the Iranians, al Sadr, and Sunni insurgents are far more important factors in Iraq than the U.S. To claim that American troops strength is the cause of anything other than further flaming unrest in Iraq is nuts. And achieving a "stalemate" with 140,000 American soldiers put in serious harms way is also nuts.
Posted by Greyhair at 10:35 AM
Gen. Petraeus in yesterday's Congressional hearings:
"We have the forces that we need right now," the general said in response to worriers and critics. "We've got to continue. We have our teeth into the jugular, and we need to keep it there."The question is, who's jugular is being bled out?
Posted by Greyhair at 10:31 AM
From Juan Cole's summary of the Iraq situation:
Al-Maliki started out with a national unity government. He had Sunnis in his cabinet. He had Sadrists in his cabinet. Islamic Virtue Party. Iraqi National List. All gone. His government is more fractured and less representative than before the surge began!Juan goes on to make a very salient point. Many have been throwing out the idea that Iran's meddling in Iraq is akin to it's backing of Hezbollah in Syria. Aside from likely being, at best hyperbole, the comparison really doesn't hold up. Cole points out that if anyone fills the role of Iran in Lebannon, it's the U.S. filling that role in Iraq.
What if the US military presence is juvenilizing the Iraqis and prolonging the civil war? Over 900 Iraqis were killed in political violence in March, the highest number since September.
Some of the March death toll was from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's abrupt attack on the Sadr neighborhoods of Basra, which was repulsed. But surely al-Maliki rejected negotiations and attacked frontally because he knew that if he got into trouble he could call down US close air support. If the US were not in Iraq, might al-Maliki not have dickered instead?
Might it not be the same between al-Maliki and the Sunnis? Al-Maliki objected vehemently to the US arming the Sunni Awakening Councils. He declines to incorporate them into the Iraqi security forces in any numbers. But his standoffishness comes from knowledge that if the Sunnis give him too much trouble, he can have his American friends bomb them.
Posted by Greyhair at 10:25 AM
The bigger problem is that the now-finished boom was, for most Americans, nothing of the sort. In 2000, at the end of the previous economic expansion, the median American family made about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau’s inflation-adjusted numbers. In 2007, in what looks to have been the final year of the most recent expansion, the median family, amazingly, seems to have made less — about $60,500.While I'm glad this is being reported, it's hardly new news. And now that the "home ATM" is closed, we have a recession. As long as American's were able to continue to buy their Escalade's using home equity, no one cared. Wonder if voters will care now?
Posted by Greyhair at 9:44 AM
Petraeus testified yesterday and pretty much followed the anticipated script. I think it's important to look at the real bottom line.
Ask yourself two questions:
1. How many American troops are in Iraq?
2. How far has the Iraqi government progressed in improving it's ability to run the country after an American withdrawal?
It would appear the answer to the second question is clear. Little has changed in the Iraqi governments ability to govern with a cohesive consensus, and in their ability to provide security stinks (see: Basra, battle to take).
The first question is the really intriguing one to me. Frankly, this quote is the bottom line:
USAT reminds its readers up high that the plan Petraeus put forward yesterday would leave more American troops in Iraq than before the "surge." After July, there would be approximately 140,000 service members in Iraq, and everyone notes there's little chance that number will change much before the presidential election. "Withdrawing too many forces too quickly could jeopardize the progress of the past year," Petraeus said.The net result of the Bush strategy has been to simply dig America deeper into the Iraq mud pit. I've been consistently calling the "surge" an escalation and that's exactly what it's been.
Posted by Greyhair at 9:24 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Juan Cole has a great roundup today on Iraq (it's always good, today is particularly on point).
The short version is that conservative pundits are clueless about the politics of Iraq, al Sadr has zero intention of "disbanding", for the Iraq government to continue to try and fight al Sadr is suicide, Baghdad (and the rest of Iraq) is a mess with perpetual fighting, and Petraus is trotting out the same ole' dog n' pony show in Congress.
Like the title says.
OH! And just so you know officially. The right reverend Sistani has told Sadr to keep his militia intact. Do you think al Sadr knew that before making the offer?
Posted by Greyhair at 10:01 AM
Monday, April 7, 2008
A survey of historians was done to rank Dub's performance as Preznit. He didn't do too well with 98% (you can't get 98% of anyone to agree on anything can you?) of those in the survey ranked Bush's Preznitency as a "failure". One quote from the survey:
“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”Pretty darned good summary I'd say. Who says academics can't write? As Digby notes, she remembers the good ole' days when only the dirty hippie bloggers used to write such stuff!
Posted by Greyhair at 9:54 AM
From a new book coming to a bookstore near you by Cliff Schecter:
Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain’s intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.” McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.Maverick indeed!
Posted by Greyhair at 9:45 AM
Get ready, cause here it comes. Despite reality, we're going to enter into the Alice in Wonderland mode this week:
The LAT points out the recent increase in violence will make it difficult for Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to "depict Iraq as moving toward stability" when they testify before Congress this week.Added: Funny. Guess I'm not the only one who see the Alice comparison. Steven Coll in the New Yorker:
A war born in spin has now reached its Lewis Carroll period. (“Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”) Last week, it proved necessary for the Bush Administration to claim that an obvious failure—Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s ill-prepared raid on rival Shiite gangs in Basra, which was aborted after mass desertions within Maliki’s own ranks—was actually a success in disguise, because it demonstrated the Iraqi government’s independence of mind.In the meantime,
Added: A great update post from Needlenose. Apparently the Kurds and Iraqi government are demanding al Sadr disband his militia or be kept out of the political process/elections. That's worked really well with the Sunni's hasn't it. Pretty soon, they'll have alienated a full majority of the population. As Needlenose writes, likely this is coming about after the wake-up call in Basra where Sadr demonstrated the ability to "clean everyone's clock". Sadr has responded that he will disband when the Ayatollah Sistani, who's been rather quiet of late, says to.
Posted by Greyhair at 8:54 AM