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  • Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

    Somebody suggested to me recently that if not for Republicans in Congress, President Obama would have a coherent and consistent foreign policy, one that would perhaps have included a long-term plan for post-Gaddafi Libya. Never mind, apparently, that the President has two quite large institutions and several smaller but still substantial ones, all headed by persons of his own choosing, to help him out on that front.

    The occasion was a post by the always vivid Charlie Pierce at Esquire, reacting to a somewhat disjointed critique of the President by New Hampshire senator and Lindsey Graham mini-me, Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is concerned that the President may have taken up the cudgel against ISIS for electoral purposes, and that once those are achieved (or not), he’ll back off from the fight and leave the other players to their own devices. By way of precedent, she mentioned the chaos in Libya, where the President participated in the destruction of the previous order without giving a lot of apparent thought to the following one. Pierce thought Ayotte was presumptuous to criticize the President. I thought Ayotte was beside the point, the point being that she may well be right. In any event this would seem a good opportunity to review the hot-spot foreign policy of this President.
    Continue reading Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

    Good news: Barack Obama will not be the answer to “Who Lost Afghanistan?”

    Lots of Obama supporters on Facebook during the 2012 campaign period were touting the end of the war in Afghanistan as one of the President’s larger achievements. President Obama, they said, “ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    This was absurd not just because the war in Afghanistan was not what one could actually call over in 2012 (neither of them were, but that’s another story), but because the President’s promise to end the war in Afghanistan was not a promise to end the war, while his exit from Iraq was the product of a failed negotiation to extend our presence. (11-dimensional chess, I’m sure: Obama pretended to want to stay in order to placate war lovers, but actually wanted the negotiation to fail so he could realize his true desire to be shed of the affair.)

    Let’s review.
    Continue reading Good news: Barack Obama will not be the answer to “Who Lost Afghanistan?”

    Routine carnage in Boston

    I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. . . . → Read More: Routine carnage in Boston

    From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

    Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. doesn’t say what sounds “close-air support overhead” resembles, probably on the assumption that his audience, readers of the American Forces Press Service, do not need a description. He does say that the sounds “are often referred to as “the sounds of freedom,”” although he doesn’t say . . . → Read More: From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

    The good wars: Libya metastasizes and Afghanistan has a cobra snake for a necktie

    The invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi are supposed by liberal interventionists to have been good wars. Most of them have by now had their fill of Afghanistan and want out, but getting out is likely to be a nightmare. The Libyan adventure is still quite popular, when it is remembered, but is well on the way to becoming a classic case study in blowback. A recent story in Foreign Affairs magazine, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, named some of the harsh consequences of the war for nearby countries and Libya herself.

    First, there are the weapons: The neighborhood, especially Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger, was always uneasy about Libya’s civil war. Many feared that it would pry the lid off Tripoli’s sizeable weapons cache and lead to the dispersal of arms across the region. It turns out that they were right to be worried. Then, there is the money: Locating Libya’s financial assets after the war has been another complicated matter. Members of Qaddafi’s inner circle who know where the money is stashed are missing or unidentifiable. Basically, billions of dollars might wind up in the hands of individuals who could use the cash to sponsor terrorism or otherwise destabilize Libya. And finally, there are the refugees: Tens of thousands of Africans, no longer welcome in Libya, returned home this year. Besides the fact that many of them are ripe for jihadi infiltration, they will further strain the region’s weak economies. Already, food security is becoming a major issue and famine looms.

    Continue reading The good wars: Libya metastasizes and Afghanistan has a cobra snake for a necktie

    US Secretary of War Leon Panetta ponders the human cost of the Greek financial crisis

    He’s concerned that the Greeks won’t have as much money to spend on killing humans in other countries as the US would like.

    “Today Secretary Panetta met with Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopolous at the Pentagon to discuss a variety of mutual defense interests including the upcoming NATO Summit, the missions in Afghanistan and . . . → Read More: US Secretary of War Leon Panetta ponders the human cost of the Greek financial crisis

    Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)

    Like as not we’re now fighting three generations of Taliban in Afghanistan. Can we hold on long enough to make it four? Yes We Can!

    The Department of Homeland Security just extended an ammunition contract for up to 450 million .40 caliber hollow-point rounds. That works out to something like 150 15-round clips for every DHS employee, including the IT guys. So don’t ask them to reboot the internet when your browser locks up.

    Other countries actually attempt to hold people accountable for torture and stuff, even when it was on our dime. Novel!

    Continue reading Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)

    An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

    Not long after the big Republican win in the 2010 elections, the Obama administration’s best and brightest gave up on explaining that putting people to work is really good for both the economy and for people who need work. The concept was too complicated for voters, they thought, so instead the president went off to negotiate with a crew of irresolute drunks and psychotic killer termites over how best to tighten the belt of government around the necks of the poor, the sick, the old and the unemployed.

    This is according to David Corn’s new book, Showdown, which is apparently meant as a generous portrait of the administration.

    Continue reading An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

    Why is it bad for the right to say “Stay in Afghanistan,” but not for the president?

    Charlie Pierce, whose writing I always admire and whose understandings of things I share more often than not, wrote a little bit yesterday about Marc Thiessen, one of the columnists who serve as bellwethers of the intellectual and literary rot inside the Washington Post’s editorial pages. The one-time speechwriter’s facility with the written word is a really good fit with the way his former boss, George W. Bush, handled the spoken one.

    Thiessen wrote a column about the need to stay in Afghanistan. Pierce takes issue with it, highlighting a section where Thiessen says that we have to stay because if we don’t, what’s left of al Qaeda will 1) crow about it and 2) try to directly attack the US again. He’s almost certainly right on the first count, but it’s a piss-poor peg to hang a war on. He’s probably right on the second count too, although not, as he says, because our departure will have “emboldened” them, but because there’s no indication that they ever stopped wanting to attack us; it’s only that we messed them up thoroughly enough to make it really really difficult.

    Continue reading Why is it bad for the right to say “Stay in Afghanistan,” but not for the president?

    “The Kipling is strong with this one …”

    It’s like an epidemic. First there was David Atkins, representing from the mean streets of Santa Barbara for the liberal fans of violent empire, and now Max Boot, Dean of the Kipling School for Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, has popped his head up to chitter angrily at opponents of US military intervention in Syria.

    Max Boot … I love Max Boot. He’s got the perfect imperialist name and, unlike Atkins, has both self-awareness and balls enough to proudly quote from “The White Man’s Burden” in one of his essays—America’s Destiny Is to Police the World, published in the Financial Times a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq. But more than that, he penned the single best line ever written in support of American imperialism in a piece, The Case for American Empire, that appeared in the Weekly Standard a few weeks post-911. Stand back and let it shine, o my brothers …

    Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.

    You could make a career out of deconstructing that. It’s glorious.

    Continue reading “The Kipling is strong with this one …”