A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.
Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr’s Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr’s followers that they’ll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.
The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that’s erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.
As the U.S. military recorded its 4,000th death in Iraq, U.S. officials in Baghdad warned again Monday that drawing down troops too quickly could collapse Iraq’s fragile security situation.
The apparent defection of Sadr’s militias illustrates the fundamental problem: the lack of a legitimate state with sufficient coercive capacity. Iraq still doesn’t have one, becuase the temporary security improvements of the surge haven’t led to substantial political progress. The U.S. military simply can’t create an effective state out of thin air. And this is reflected by the assertions of “U.S. officials” that we’ll need to give it some more Freidmans. Given the strategic objectives, “successes” that require the indefinite presence of high levels of U.S. troops to sustain aren’t “successes” at all. Vince Lombardi, unlike Michael O’Hanlon, would understand this.
I’d been meaning to write about Emily Yoffe’s hectoring of single mothers, but was delayed by a massive pile of Real Work and a bad flu. Fortunately for all of you, Lauren beat me to it. To add a couple quick points:
Comparisons of how children fare in existing two-parent and single-parent households have an obvious selection bias problem. Even if in the average case a stable, two-parent household is preferable, to study relationships among couples that stay together is obviously to bias the study toward people who want long-term relationships and are compatible. It doesn’t follow from this that staying in a crappy relationship or being married although it isn’t what you want would provide an equally good environment for children.
I’m reminded of Laura Kipnis‘s point that in the U.S. “sentimentality about children’s welfare comes and goes apparently: highest when there’s a chance to moralize about adult behavior, lowest when it comes to resource allocation.” There’s nothing inevitable about the dire financial circumstances and tough choices that many single parents face.
Over at Slate, Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick consider why Hillary Clinton won’t get a speech on gender akin to the one Obama gave on race (and imagine what her speech would sound like if she did).
Their answer on why we won’t be hearing a speech like that from Hill C.: “Because as much as Hillary Clinton the wife and the woman and the mom no doubt hates it, Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband’s extracurricular activities. That’s because—and this is the tragic part—America seems to like her best when she’s being victimized—by Bill or Rick Lazio or the media. In that sense, her husband is a useful prop who reminds us of the extent of her suffering. She won’t give that speech because the whole narrative of her candidacy—and more broadly, her life—is as rooted in grievance as Obama’s is in getting past grievance.”
I’d agree that this state of affairs — if it is in fact the case — is indeed tragic. But I’m not sure how it jibes with their later suggestion that: “She won’t give that speech because she has been on the wrong side of gender bias. OK, there is no right side, but she consistently relates to and protects and stands with the oppressors in the gender wars, not the victims. It isn’t only that she stayed with Bill Clinton, but that she invariably sees him as the victim, preyed upon by a series of female aggressors.”
How can (the former) HRC be both the popular victim and the behind-the-scenes Oz, friend of oppressors? I sympathize with Lithwick and Henneberger’s desire to highlight how Obama consistently rises above the victimization, even when victimization might be politically expedient. But syllogistic arguments aren’t going to do Obama any favors…and just help HRC seem even more like a victim if she wants to be seen that way.
The U.S. plans to urge Britain to launch a “surge” in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror newspaper reported.
Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said….
But unnamed senior British civil service sources told the Sunday Mirror that Britain would be highly reluctant to go back into Basra because of pressure at home to pull troops out.
“We do not have enough troops for a surge ourselves. The hope is that we can train enough Iraqi army recruits in the next year to cope with the inter-tribal warfare going on in Basra,” one source quoted by the paper said.
A couple of observations:
I’m glad that the Surge is going so well that we require additional British troops; typically when we are “winning” we require fewer, rather than more, troops over time.
I’m hardly surprised that the British are sounding reluctant on this. While we were surging last year they were downsizing, and I can’t imagine that the Brown government is too terribly excited about stepping more deeply into the mess that Blair made.
The big story lately in Lexington is how a developer want to tear down a block in the center of downtown that contains several favorite nightspots, and replace it with a forty story hotel tower. Local hoodlums have “organized” against this plan, and appear to be having some success:
Political blogger Joe Sonka has set up a Facebook site to critique the tower, share news about the opposition and exchange information. It now has more than 1,400 members.
Preserve Lexington is sending out daily e-mails about the proposal to more than 600 addresses. In the viral world of the Internet, people getting those communiques will forward them to more people, and so the conversation grows.
At the same time, Griffin VanMeter, a founder of a group called Creative Downtown, is collecting oral histories of the block on camera.
Clips of the memories will be shown at “Wake Up Lexington: An Event to Save Our Block,” an event organized by Preserve Lexington that will be held at the Kentucky Theatre on Saturday. You can read all about it on Facebook or at preservelexington.org.
This is not a movement to stop all development on the block. It’s not an in-your-face challenge to the power structure. It’s a thoughtful, if occasionally irreverent, challenge to the proposal before us. They think we can do better.
Via John Cole, some unintentional comedy from Tom Maguire as he wonders why liberals just can’t see the profoundly important political message behind racist fulminations about people’s deeply disturbing choices of music and dress:
As an example of the PC police in action we need look no further than my previous post. “Old Punk” of the InstaPunk crowd posted his thoughts on why specific behaviors of a specific subset of the black community annoys him. Frankly, there is very little in his post I would be inclined to defend, but I would be very curious to learn how widely held his viewpoints might be. As an example, I would guess his aversion to the hip-hop gangsta sub-culture is widely shared.
Well. Rather than trying to look for the message in his message, the Usual Suspects, led by Glenn Greenwald, seized on the offensive sections as an opportunity to brand Glenn Reynolds and the entire conservative movement as racists.
Well, on some level I concede the point; this is a big country which contains its share of morons, busybody conformists, etc. So I’m sure there’s some quantity of people who get intensely angry because not everyone wears the same clothes and listens to the same music as middle-aged suburban white men. What “message” here is worth engaging with, however, I can’t tell you, and when such crankiness manifests itself in crude stereotypes and racial slurs it’s just straightforward ugly racism. There’s no deeper meaning there.
I also enjoyed Maguire’s whining about the “PC police,” which provides yet another illustration of the fact that complaining about “PC” has come to mean (if it ever meant anything else) nothing more than “bigotry that is indefensible on the merits shouldn’t be subject to any critical scrutiny.” Yes, only the “PC police” could possibly object to calling people black people “niggers” because they get more tattoos than you consider appropriate! An intelligent conservative, on the other hand, would get beyond such trivia and focus on the Profound Political Implications of people who wear low-hanging pants.
I just got back after almost 24 hours in transit. I hope to not eat airplane food for as long as I can possibly avoid it.
As I try to get my head screwed on straight and figure my way out of the jet lag fog, a little puzzle for you all. See if you can find what’s incongruous in this image (extra points for figuring out where it’s from). Apparently, I did too much Sudoku on the plane and have now decided that even the blog must become some sort of brain teaser.
The Tournament isn’t over yet, but the early start to the season means that it’s time for Baseball Challenge. It’s a long, hard slog, with meager repayment for mountains of work, but since you’re here anyway…