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Backdown or Bloodbath?

[ 0 ] June 19, 2009 |

Karim Sadjadpour has some thoughts:

The weight of the world now rests on the shoulders of Mir Hossein Mousavi. I expect that Khamenei’s people have privately sent signals to him that they’re ready for a bloodbath, they’re prepared to use overwhelming force to crush this, and is he willing to lead the people in the streets to slaughter?

Mousavi is not Khomeini, and Khamenei is not the Shah. Meaning, Khomeini would not hesitate to lead his followers to “martyrdom”, and the Shah did not have the stomach for mass bloodshed. This time the religious zealots are the ones holding power.

The anger and the rage and sense of injustice people feel will not subside anytime soon, but if Mousavi concedes defeat he will demoralize millions of people. At the moment the demonstrations really have no other leadership. It’s become a symbiotic relationship, Mousavi feeds off people’s support, and the popular support allows Mousavi the political capital to remain defiant. So Mousavi truly has some agonizing decisions to make.


The McGovern Bit Should Have been the Tip Off

[ 0 ] June 19, 2009 |

In the past, I’ve advised my students that being busted for growing weed can hinder a State Department career. In the future, I’ll suggest simply that they make a good faith effort to avoid being too stoned during the interview portion of the Foreign Service Exam.

…in response to comments, I apparently need to make clear that I think left-wing Americans are fully capable of serving the United States government loyally, and that many proud left-leaning Americans serve in our armed forces, our diplomatic corps, and our government bureaucracy without ever selling secrets to Cuba. Some of them may even smoke weed. I’ll further add that many spies against the United States have actually been on the political right, and have been motivated by money rather than politics.

And finally, I’d like to suggest that reading posts through the frame “if a stupid wingnut read this, might he draw comfort and satisfaction?” is probably not the most productive way to absorb this blog, or any other blog for that matter.


[ 0 ] June 19, 2009 |

As if to affirm its utter worthlessness, the Post follows up the canning of Dan Froomkin by publishing a stream of effluent from Paul Wolfowitz, who seems to believe that Obama’s ability to shape events in Iran is roughly on par with the Reagan administration’s ability to shape events in the Philippines 23 years ago. Never mind, of course, the fact that one’s ability to usher someone like Ferdinand Marcos from power is correlated in a non-trivial way with the fact that Marcos presided over a client state that the US once literally owned, and over which it continued to assert significant military, political and economic power. Which is so totally like what’s happening in Iran, I’m not sure why the comparison failed to strike me before now.

Wolfowitz also believes there’s an analogy to be drawn between Obama’s “neutral” response and the first Bush administration’s initial caution during the August 1991 Soviet coup. He claims, for example, that Bush

expressed only lukewarm support for Gorbachev and even less for Yeltsin, and neither was among the world leaders that he tried to contact about the crisis. He seemed focused on working with the new Soviet team, hoping that their leader, Gennady Yanayev, was committed to “reform.”

Which is, to summon a term of art, a bubbling load of shit, given what everyone has known for the past 15 year: namely, that the Bush administration (defying a law that Bush pere had signed four days earlier) provided Yeltsin with decryptions from the NSA that let him know which military commanders were wavering in their support for the coup. Wolfowitz either knows this and is lying; or he is unaware and should be quickly measured for a dunce cap.

Either way, the Post just provided editorial space to a famously discredited proponent of a badly-conceived war in Iraq — space that was subsequently used to draw a pair of bad-faith analogies to the current administration’s policy toward Iran. I’m sure Andy Alexander will leap to Wolfowitz’s defense, however, with a reminder of the multi-layer editing and fact-checking procedures his paper applies to the stable of right wing columnists in their employ.

Wow–WaPo Pundit Positions Not an Irrevocable Sinecure!

[ 0 ] June 19, 2009 |

If you’re an intelligent progressive who challenges particularly silly and immoral arguments made by one of your parade of interchangeable reactionary hacks, at least.

[And, whoops, see Paul below. Sorry, end of travel day.]

Your liberal media

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

The WAPO continues its descent with the firing of Dan Froomkin. That a newspaper which has no problem hosting the one-note rantings of the loathsome Charles Krauthammer, while going out of its way to hire the comically inept and (worse yet) totally boring William Kristol would fire such an eloquent and independent voice is . . . well I wish I could say it was a surprise.

Maybe somebody in Georgetown will throw a Martini in Fred Hiatt’s face (from dissent to resistance!).

Down in the hole

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

This is a little story about a top high school football recruit whose life seems to be falling apart for all too common reasons. Of course you can multiply this story by literally a million similar, but completely invisible cases. The only reason anybody will ever hear about him or try to do anything about it is that he appears to have NFL-level talent.

The fourth season of The Wire is probably the best TV show I’ve ever seen, but I’m not going to watch it a second time.


[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

When it became clear last Friday that the outcome of Iran’s election was going to be controversial, I IMed a friend that there was roughly a 1 in 4 chance that the regime would be gone in a week. The timing was certainly optimistic, and I would still say, Drezner’s analysis notwithstanding, that the regime as it stands will probably survive, and that Ahmadinejad will remain President. In particular, I don’t think that the regime has mobilized all of its assets, and believe that it still retains an enthusiastic core of support with the capability to shut the resistance down, at least in the short term. Doug Muir has a far more thorough analysis; check it out.

Demographic Balance

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |


But he [Avigdor Lieberman] also had a formulation that I haven’t seen before:
First of all, we really don’t have any intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria.

Couple things there. First, “Judea and Samaria” are the biblical names for the West Bank, and are typically used by irredentist Jews as a subtle but agressive way of saying “this land is ours and we’re not giving it up,” in the same way that calling Jerusalem “al-Quds” is a way for Arabs to stake their own claim not to give up on controlling the city. Second, emphasizing the “demographic balance” of the West Bank — let’s see if the Israelis stick with that. It would appear at first blush to be a way of shifting the conversation away from the actual Palestinian land controlled by Israel and onto the people who inhabit that land. That would be a handy, if transparent, way of moving away from the terms of the Road Map.

But what could it really mean? In arguing against a settlement freeze, Lieberman made a point of saying ” in every place around the world, baby are born (inaudible), people get married, some pass away.” Uh, sure, and all of that changes the “demographic balance,” particularly as the same holds true for the Palestinians of the West Bank.

Far be it from me to question the honesty and ethics of Avigdor Lieberman, especially on the settlements issue, but can’t “demographic balance” mean a lot of different things? I can easily imagine how an intent to maintain the demographic balance (which is a slightly different wording, but I think is close enough) could justify increased Jewish settlement in the West Bank. I don’t have the statistics at hand, and thus could be quite wrong about this, but I think that even given the relatively high birth rates of Jews in West Bank settlements that the “natural increase” is slower than that of the Palestinian population. If it’s Lieberman’s intention to peg a particular demographic balance (and I think that his phrasing bears this interpretation, while not mandating it), then the settling of Jews within the West Bank would be necessary. The rhetorical framing of “demographic balance” could thus be cover for increased settlement activity.

USA v Brazil

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

Kicks off at 15.00 (BST), 10.00 (EDT), 07.00 (PDT) and a bunch of other times depending on your time zone.

Meaning, it’s underway. Only, I’m in my office, and have been sitting on this post for a couple hours. Anything I’ve said here is already outdated (but then considering the publication pipeline in my industry, anything I say professionally is usually outdated anyway).

It looks like Bocanegra might start, and I’m hoping Kljestan gets the nod over Beasley. I liked what I saw of the former’s brief appearance in the Italy match, and let’s face it, Beasley peaked four years ago. Beasley was electric in Korea / Japan ’02, did well for PSV, but has been mediocre for both club and country since — he was largely absent during the 2006 WC. Note that my antipathy for his form has nothing to do with my strong antipathy for his current club.

Landon Donovan offers up an original thought when he says that “this game is now a must-win for us”. I’ll offer an equally original thought: “that’s a shame.”

UPDATE: No Bocanegra in the starting XI, both Kljestan and Beasley start, and none of this is working out all that well as the US are down 2-0 within the first 20 minutes. I’m not going to have anything to say about this one tomorrow as I won’t be watching it. I have an appointment with a colleague in 15 minutes for some health-enhancing moderate drinking in the pub.


[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

Michael Ledeen has a curious way of approaching the social form “accusation”:

You’re going to be accused of meddling anyway, since out there in the real world you are believed to be the leader of the forces of freedom and democracy.

Now, when I apply this logic to my daily life, it would seem to mean that it is appropriate and productive for me to freely engage in any behavior that I have been accused of, whether or not said accusation is true. Accordingly, I now invite the readers of LGM to accuse me of all manner of interesting and potentially lucrative misdeeds; once the accusation hits the internet, it’s all good, baby! I would also add that Mr. Ledeen must have at some point been accused of being an amoral, poorly informed fraud, because, well… you know.

More to the point, the political value of any such accusation is certainly connected to whether the listener believes it is a)relevant, or b) true. In the case of Iran, I think there are fair reasons to believe that such charges are understood to be politically relevant; the opposition has not, by and large, called for US support, and the regime seems to think that accusing the US could have political payoff. On the second point, I suspect that even Ledeen and his ilk would concede that the accusation is implausible, and that the protesters don’t currently believe that the United States is backing them (this is rather the point of his critique). As such, the Iranian regime’s statement would seem to undercut, rather than reinforce, its legitimacy.

Political Positions that Need Better Organizations

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

Self-parody, thy name is PETA.

Incidentally, LGM will be accepting no more advertisements from PETA after its relatively innocuous anti-meat ad turned into a Pamela Anderson skin-fest.

Well, duh.

[ 0 ] June 18, 2009 |

The Times (and, well, everybody else) reports that Gordon Brown has backed off his original stance of holding the inquiry into British involvement in the Iraq war in private. Now, it seems, he has opened the door for the possibility of maybe holding some of the hearings in public. No, really, in front of people, even the media.

I appreciate the need for certain military aspects of an inquiry to be held in private, for future operational security, to protect intelligence assets, and to create a context in which frank testimony is more likely. The political dimension surrounding the decision to enter the war, however, ought to be public, both for normative reasons as well as smart politics. Brown and Labour need to hold up every shard of transparency that they can lay their hands on at the moment — and they’re running out of time. Of course, Brown is politically tone deaf, hence the move for secrecy on this inquiry was predictable.

Equally predictable was the backbench and opposition outrage. However, it’s ironic that he appears to have backpedaled only once senior military officials have called for a public inquiry, or to quote Major General Tim Cross, in The Independent, “this inquiry should be in public as much as possible . . . ” Major General Cross was deeply involved with the planning of British operations in the run in to the war, and later served as Jay Garner’s deputy. But what would he know?