Recently in Geopolitics, Diplomacy & War Category

A billion dollars a day

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Check this video out.

Puts a slightly different light on energy consumption and supporting the troops. Don't think I realized that there was quite such a direct connection before.

You know what to do.


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Jonathan Van Meter spent some time trailing around after Hillary both in her office at the State Department, at the UN and on a long trip through multiple countries in Africa. The resulting article which includes an interview with Hillary is a good look at a fascinating and accomplished woman.

It's worth some time to read ... particularly for those Obama supporters who still struggle with what happened on the campaign trail. Actually for Clinton supporters too but I suspect they already know about it.

About what happened at Bagram

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You probably didn't hear about this story which happened at Bagram military base in Afghanistan. One of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote a letter that all should read:

I really have to chime in on this topic. I spent the better part of last year deployed to Afghanistan, where I was stationed at Bagram. Part of my job, actually the most important part, was to coordinate the transfer of my unit's fallen back home. This was something that I never, ever looked forward to, but it was a duty I took very seriously. Part of this duty was a departure ceremony as our fallen left Afghanistan for Dover. I don't think you can ever realize how powerful these ceremonies are until you've taken part in one.

At Bagram, all personnel not performing an essential task would line up on the main drive through Bagram. As the open backed HUMMV carrying the flagged draped transfer case slowly proceeded from the mortuary down the main drive to the airfield, everyone would come to attention and render a salute. There would be thousands of people, soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, lined up as for this. The fallen hero would be taken on to the tarmac and driven to an empty C-17 that had its ramp lowered, waiting to receive the transfer case. An honor guard and a cordon, as well as hundreds of servicemen and women, would be silently standing at attention as an honor guard carried the remains to the center of the aircraft. Whenever possible I would arrange for the honor guard and cordon to come from the fallen's team or platoon. Always, always, always, they wanted to be the ones to perform this service.

The last fallen hero ramp ceremony I put together still stings in my memory.

Ramadan had just ended, it was the first few weeks of autumn. A few kilometers from our base one of our police mentoring teams (PMT) was almost attacked by a vehicle bourne improvised explosive device (VBIED). I say almost as the attack was thwarted by one of our HUMMV drivers who took evasive action. Unfortunately, this resulted in the rollover of the HUMMV which caused the death of the driver. I was at the mortuary when the MEDEVAC helicopter brought this young man's broken body in to be prepared for the journey home.

The rest of his team were brought to Bagram as well. They were very adamant that they be the ones to escort the fallen brother to the C17. Although dirty and disheveled from their encounter, I agreed as I am certain their brother would have had it no other way. To a man, they wanted me to know one essential fact about him: he was Muslim. They insisted that he be sent home with a Muslim cleric presiding. We had one at Bagram, a major who was an Islamic chaplain - in fact I had dinner with this man just a few nights prior. We were able to grant the PMT's request.

I do not have the words to adequately describe the emotion in the night air on the tarmac. Under a crescent moon the fallen hero was carried onto the C17 by his team brothers, followed by the honor guard, the Commanding General and Command Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne, and of course the Muslim chaplain.

Not a lot more needs to be said.

You've got a lot to answer to God for, George W. Bush

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Tara McKelvey delves into why the Veterans Administration under George W. Bush had so much trouble getting help to returning soldiers who were suffering from PTSD. Turns the men in charge didn't think it was a real diagnosis but just something made up by psychologists and psychiatrists when what was really needed was deeper faith in God. So instead of making additional mental health resources available to our soldiers, they were referred to chaplains for a spiritual assessment and given a copy of The Purpose-Driven Life.

Oh yeah, that's going to help someone suffering from nightmares of blood and battle and explosions. The level of incompetency that was installed in all branches of our government by the Bush administration is criminal.

For awhile, I collected the news reports and background stories of soldiers who committed suicide after being unable to get mental health care of any sort from the VA. The devastation to them and to their families was and is horrifying. Now to read that Bush appointees thought that it was just a liberal scheme to make them look bad for getting the country into war is to no longer wonder, but know for certain fact, that the conservative wing of the Republican party has lost its capacity for reason and compassion.

Get ready, George Bush. I don't think God's going to be too lenient.

[via Sully]

The Cheney Legacy

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Via Sully, comes this bit of information on the Bush/Cheney administration from the Washington Post:

From 2003 to 2006, the Bush administration quietly tried to relax the draft language of a treaty meant to bar and punish "enforced disappearances" so that those overseeing the CIA's secret prison system would not be criminally prosecuted under its provisions, according to former officials and hundreds of pages of documents recently declassified by the State Department.

How many years will it take to uncover the damage to our government and to treaties with our allies -- damage which was master-minded by Cheney and his cabal?

Iran's Sea of Green

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The response of the Iranian people to the election last week has been nothing short of extraordinary. And the impact of technology on the coverage of the protests of the election results is undeniable. I've watched the tweets at #iranelection and #gr88 spin by and been amazed.

In Tehran:


In Isfahan:


Andrew Sullivan and his team have done an extraordinary job from the outset in assembling many bits and pieces, straining out the repetitive, and posting them. And they did it again last night. Stayed up all night to assemble this set of tweets and images that start with reaction to Ayatollah Khamenei's speech yesterday and go back to the first comments and protests after the election "results" were announced.

Jeff Tietz wrote about twitter's impact, saying:

But in the middle of a revolution, Twitter's pretty amazing. This obviously isn't news, but in crisis the technology functions like telegraphy in the nineteenth century, the tightness of the dispatch pressing out superfluous information and leaving the immediate and vital. Again obviously, there's zero lag time, except when there are connectivity/censorship issues, which allows for a cool meta narrative: intrepid reporter eluding in various technologically clever ways the government's fat fist. ("I am accessing Twitter from Port: 80 in tehran. you can avoid gov filters from here. spread to others.") Plus, there are pictures and video.

If you find a good reporter (perhaps an actual reporter using Twitter) who writes over a sustained period of time, the totality of his or her messages will be--brace for another obvious realization, arrived at probably several years after everyone else--an encompassing, startlingly granular account of a set of events.

He's asembled a chronology of @persiankiwi's tweets (who I hope and pray is still safe). It is powerful. Anther Iranian twitterer to follow is @Change_for_Iran,

The Twitter coverage combined with the images and short videos sent from a multitude of cellphones are an incredible challenge to government efforts to suppress information and dissent. The Persian/Farsi to English translation added to Google translate, the addition of Persian/Farsi to Facebook's language choices, the rescheduling of critical maintenance by Twitter's upline connection to the Internet to a 1:30 am Iranian time to reduce impact also acknowledge the impact of technology in allowing the world to understand what is happening in Iran when foreign reporters are banned or discouraged from covering the events that are happening. Even the State Department recognized the importance of Twitter's contribution.

Blogs have allowed voices to emerge that might not have been heard otherwise. ShadowSD posted an insightful diary the day after his father, who was there during the election, returned from Iran. Nulwee has posted a couple outstanding diaries on Iranian politics. Translations from Farsi news sites have been enlightening.

Via Andrew Sullivan comes this blog post from Brian's Coffeehouse which points out that this manipulation of election results in Iran has happened before.

This chart about the Iranian power structure has emerged.


Study of it reveals just how powerful the position of Supreme Leader is and how significant the emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts is. Add to that Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's statement and Khamenei's position becomes more precarious.

Given Ayatollah Khamenei's hard-line response in his speech earlier today and the photos and reports of beatings, bloodshed, death, abduction, violent intimidation from so many sources within Iran, it appears that Iranian voters have a hard road ahead. Let's hope the sea of green does not become come stained with too much red blood.

Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

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I liked this part the best:

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning.  Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress.  Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur.  There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years.  But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward.  And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them.  It's easier to blame others than to look inward.  It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share.  But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path.  There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  (Applause.)  This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew.  It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world.  It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us:  "O mankind!  We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us:  "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us:  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."  (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace.  We know that is God's vision.  Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you.  And may God's peace be upon you.

Al Rodgers has many more pictures of Obama's visit to Egypt in this post.

Here's the video of the complete speech.

Link to full transcript of speech.

The Man and The Tanks of Tiananmen Square

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It's been 20 years since the image of the man facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square were sent round the world. The Lens Blog of the New York Times points out that there were 4 photographers whose images of Tank Man were printed in different areas.


They invited each of the photographers to write about what was happening around them when they were shooting their iconic images. It's fascinating reading.

What was more interesting is what happened next. Another photographer who was there that day but taking his photos from a completely different angle wrote to the Lens blog about a picture that he had that had never been published. So the Lens provided him the platform to publish this new picture and to talk about why it was never published before today.


This youtube clip reinforces just how brave this man was.

Thank you, Tank Man of Tiananmen Square, wherever you are. Stay safe.

Another Consequence of Torture: More Americans Killed

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Brandon Friedman of VoteVets has a post that rightly must be viewed in its entirety. I cannot disagree with his conclusion.


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In a "must-read" article by Matthew Alexander, former senior military interrogator who led the interrogations team that located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, comes this bit of truth:

As a senior interrogator in Iraq, I conducted more than three hundred interrogations and monitored more than one thousand. I heard numerous foreign fighters state that the reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Our policy of torture and abuse is Al-Qaeda's number one recruiting tool. These same insurgents have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of our troops in Iraq, not to mention Iraqi civilians. Torture and abuse are counterproductive in the long term and, ultimately, cost us more lives than they save.

The Cunning Realist goes on to make this point about Alexander's revelation.

The current debate about torture focuses on two broad considerations: the moral and the practical. On the latter, I haven't seen much discussion about the issue of blowback. I think if I or a member of my family was tortured/abused, I would dedicate the rest of my life to revenge -- against both the individuals and the country or cause they represented. I wonder how many of our victims or their relatives have made such a vow. When you think about how many prisoners went through Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and the other detention sites, then multiply that by the number of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, kids and cousins, you're talking about many thousands of potential avengers.

As the means of mass destruction get ever-smaller and more accessible to individuals via vials and backpacks, blowback becomes an even more important issue. It only takes one person from the countless lives that have been damaged or destroyed during the long occupation of two countries. Factor in a culture that puts a premium on honor and grudges and revenge and generally takes a long view of history, and we might not find out for many years exactly how much danger we've put ourselves in.

Precisely. But recognition of this point requires reality-based thinking which was not a strong point of the Bush administration nor of the far-right now.

Suicide is not painless

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I've written about this before on other blogs. Ilona Meagher's PTSD Combat blog and her subsequent book, 'Moving a Nation to Care', were among the notable earlier bloggers to take on PTSD and the suicide rate in our military.

NPR's two significant investigative report series by Daniel Zwerdling and Tom Bowen (1, 2) aired over the last few years, focused on PTSD, suicide and how it was being addressed or not being addressed in the military. Scroll to the bottom of each of the NPR links for links to all the related stories in each of the series and followup reporting.

All that just illustrates that this report by MSNBC on the latest stats in which the number of suicides exceeded the number of casualties due to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, should not be a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention.

This is a complete version of the MSNBC interview with General Peter Chiarelli, Army Vice Chief of Staff.

Ilona pointed out a blogpost by a vet named Scott Lee who explains what he struggled with in transitioning back to civilian life. It's powerful. Go read.

Then think about the news stories concerning Fort Drum and how the Army pressured the people there to delay or reject returning soldiers' paperwork for disability benefits. And of course, the stories from the Washington Post series on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the complete fiasco there.

I expect a lot from the new administration but it's just as important that the current military command hierarchy steps up to the plate. This is not about proving how tough you are. It's about taking care of our soldiers and vets who fight with their minds and hearts as well as with their bodies in a war zone that has no front, a zone in which they are always on alert.

They still haven't fixed the body armor

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Here is a tour de force post on the current state of the body armor given to our troops. That's a topic that I wrote about in 2006 on the blog. Unbelievably our military is still losing their lives because of the greed that suffuses the military-industrial complex and its long penetrating fingers of control in the Pentagon's acquisition process.

Go read.

What Israel has done

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The US inaugural festivities did what the Israeli administration and military planners hoped they would do.

Take the limelight off Israel.

Fortunately, the BBC is still on the job. Their reporter, Jonathan Miller, has a report that is appalling in the level of destruction.

As ThinkProgress noted on Jan. 8th:

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC correspondent Richard Engel discussed Israel's refusal to let reporters into Gaza. "I've called everyday and said 'when are we going to be allowed in?'" he said, adding that one Israeli official "had an interesting explanation" for the situation. The official told Engel that Israel doesn't want reporters in Gaza documenting the humanitarian situation or revealing military tactics. Israel is trying to "manage the image" of the war, Engel reported, adding this:

ENGEL: This official told me he expects this operation, while negotiations are taking place, will last several more days. And that after that, reporters would eventually be allowed in. But at that stage, Israel is assuming the United States will mostly be focused on all of the coverage around the inauguration, and that viewers simply won't care at that point.

Miller quotes one man he interviewed as saying "the people who did this never want peace". He goes onto point out that over 50% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 14 and that such wanton killing and destruction has sown hatred in another generation.

Combine this destruction with the deaths of Dr. El-Aish's children and all of the other children and civilians' deaths which were not caught on camera or audio and an appalling picture emerges.

Diarist Inky99 pointed out this evaluation from human rights expert Richard Falk:

UN human rights expert and retired Princeton law professor Richard Falk said today that there is compelling evidence that Israel violated the laws of war by "conducting a large-scale military operation against an essentially defenseless population."

"There needs to be an investigation carried out under independent auspices as to whether these grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions should be treated as war crimes," the professor said, adding that he believes "that there is the prima facie case for reaching that conclusion."

"This is the first time I know of where a civilian population has been essentially locked into the war zone, not allowed to leave it despite the dense population and the obvious risks that were entailed," Falk pointed out, "the civilians in Gaza were denied the option of becoming a refugee."

Who is going to hold Israel to account?

U.S. tax dollars paid for so much of the overwhelming equipment and munitions that were used to destroy Gaza. Seems to me our government has some culpability in this result.

Palestinian Doctor's Daughters killed while he is interviewed on Israeli TV

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The title of this Daily Kos diary pretty much says it all. The diarist is a self-identified former member of the IDF living in Israel. He shares the local news and newspaper reports of a Israeli news anchor on the phone with a Palestinian gynecologist whose children are killed by IDF rocket fire while he's on the phone with the anchor.

It's heartbreaking. Assaf's insights are worth consideration as well.

Needless to say, the diary has generated the usual storm of comments but this one in particular struck, if only because it's so familiar.

How can the oppressed so comfortably become the oppressor, and in so short a time?

I have asked this exact same question so many times since the intifadeh started again. Why do we, the United States, tolerate behavior by Israel that we would not tolerate from any other country in the world? Why don't their human rights abuses get criticized? And now this very lop-sided war ... 13 Israelis killed, 7 of them by friendly fire versus the 1200 dead, 5000 injured in 21 days. 300+ of those are children such as Dr. Ezz-El-Din Abu El-Aish's children.

It's so NOT right.

Yes, Hamas's resistance arm is not right either. But two wrongs never make a right and Israel has firmly placed itself in the company of countries that oppress others through war, violence and abuse.

Too many in Hebron

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Josh Marshall has a guest blogger at TPMCafe with an interesting insight on the state of affairs in Israel. Bernard Avishai writes about a visit to Hebron. Seeing up close the proximity of the Israeli Arabs and the radical settlers who are trying to take their land makes it clear that it's not a minor problem.

"A criminal enterprise launched by madmen"

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Paul Krugman picked out this quote from Matt Yglesias' post about confusing support of the troops with criticism of the missions selected by the Commander in Chief and his cronies.

The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it's seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world -- including but by no means limited to the Arab world.

Krugman notes that Yglesias is both shrill and correct in opposing the tendency of many to rush past the faults, misdeeds and crimes of the Bush administration. As Krugman puts it:

Right now, there's a major effort underway to flush the sheer crazy/vileness of the Bush years -- and the cravenness of those who enabled it -- down the memory hole. We shouldn't let that effort succeed. The fact is that an American president deliberately misled the nation into war, probably for political gain -- and most of the country's elite went cheerfully along with the scam.

Yglesias and Krugman are both right. We must hold criminals responsible for law breaking. We are a country formed and based on the rule of law. It is the essential foundation of our country's existence and success. It necessarily includes criminals within government as well as without.

Yglesias made another point about the misdeeds of the last 8 years and their impact on the US role in world affairs.

But it's impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it's clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it's vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they're seen and understood by people who aren't stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.

The world is watching to see how we deal with putting our house in order and restoring the rule of law within the United States. President-Elect Obama's primary focus will likely be on restoring our economy and the people of the United States. But there must be some attention paid to the restoration of the rule of law. And the chattering classes who are so anxious to let bygones be bygones would do our country a huge favor if they would shut up.

Mumbai is India's 11-M, not India's 9/11

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Amitav Ghosh has an op-ed in the NY Times that underscores something that I was thinking about the other day. He notes that violence and attacks such as that carried out in Mumbai have been in occurring with regularity in India for decades though western media watchers may not have been as aware of them as they might be. He goes onto argue that the 9/11 comparison is inaccurate because there was no history of attacks in the United States prior to 9/11 as there was in India. Then he makes the following point:

When commentators repeat the metaphor of 9/11 they are in effect pushing the Indian government to mount a comparable response. If India takes a hard line modeled on the actions of the Bush administration, the consequences are sure to be equally disastrous. The very power of the 9/11 metaphor blinds us to the possibility that there might be other, more productive analogies for the invasion of Mumbai: one is the Madrid train bombings of March 11, 2004, which led to a comparable number of casualties and created a similar sense of shock and grief.

If 9/11 is a metaphor for one kind of reaction to terrorism, then 11-M (as it is known in Spanish) should serve as shorthand for a different kind of response: one that emphasizes vigilance, patience and careful police work in coordination with neighboring countries. This is exactly the kind of response India needs now, and fortunately this seems to be the course that the government, led by the Congress Party, has decided to follow.

This is exactly the kind of response the US needed to 9/11 and failed to take. Let's hope that the Indian government will avoid making the mistakes of the Bush administration.

Obama's National Security Team

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President-Elect Barack Obama introduced his National Security Team this morning; a team which includes Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, Eric Holder as Attorney General, Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, Susan Rice as UN Ambassador and James Jones as National Security Adviser.

If you're curious, as most Americans are, about Barack Obama and his approach to governing and to our national security and leadership, then the following video clips will be useful in satisfying your curiosity.

What is unfortunate is that most Americans will not watch these clips. Even reading the transcript will not replace hearing and seeing the emphasis that he placed on certain phrases. Watching Obama and his team is a reassuring experience. We've chosen someone with a serious approach to American security and leadership in the world and he's put together a team that has a clear understanding of the complexities involved in achieving that vision. Those who don't have time to watch this will miss out the depth of conviction with which the Obama team is approaching their mission.

Transcript of prepared remarks below the fold.

After Obama spoke, members of his National Security team each spoke briefly starting with Hillary Clinton.

The press Q&A section of today's press conference introducing Obama's nation security team runs about 16 min. in this clip and is followed by roughly 14 min. of commentary by various MSNBC people.

I thought this exchange was particularly significant. It occurs from 2:16 to 5:42 in the Q&A clip above.

Question: You've selected a number of high-profile people for your National Security team. How can you ensure that the staff that you are assembling is going to be a smoothly functioning team of rivals and not a clash of rivals?

Answer: I think you hear Joe mention the fact that many of the people standing here beside me are people who have worked together before, who have the utmost respect for each other. These are outstanding public servants and outstanding in their various fields of endeavor. They would not have agreed to join my administration and I would not have asked them to be part of this administration unless we shared a core vision of what's needed to keep the American people safe and to assure prosperity here at home and peace abroad.

I think all of us here share the belief that we have to maintain the strongest military on the planet, that we have to support our troops, make sure that they are properly trained, properly equipped, that they are provided with a mission that allows them to succeed. All of us here also agree that the strength of our military has to be combined with the wisdom and force of our diplomacy and that we are going to be committed to building and strengthening alliances around the world to advance American interests and American security. And so in discussions with this entire team, what I am excited about is a consensus not only among those of us standing here today but across a broad section of the American people that now is the time for us to regain American leadershp in all its dimensions and I am very confident that each of these individuals would not be leaving the outstanding work that they're currently doing if they weren't convinced that they can work as an effective team.

One last point I will make. I assembled this team because I'm a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that's how that's how the best decisions are made. One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink and everybody agrees with everything and there's no discussion, there are no dissenting views. So I'm going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House but understand, I will be setting policy as President. I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made. So as Harry Truman said, the buck will stop with me. And nobody who's standing here would have agreed to join this administration unless they had confidence that, in fact, that vision was one that would help secure the American people and our interests.

There are more significant moments, particularly his comment on maintaining "the strongest military on the planet". Add to his comments, those of his new team and they leave us with the impression of a strong, confident, unified team ready to go on Jan. 20th.

Obama's comfort in the press conference environment, responding with complex, intelligent answers off the cuff is a very pleasant change. There's no cringe-worthy moments. Also worthy of note just as a small reflection on growth of opportunity for all Americans, there were only three white males on the stage out of a group of eight people. Out of the nominees, only two of six. But the real point wasn't their diversity. The real point is that each of those people was there on merit, because of the strength of their experience and accomplishments. It was impressive to see.

The War Against Women

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Nicholas Kristof has highlighted the acid-attack war against Pakistani women . It's a war stretching from Afghanistan through Cambodia that is prosecuted by husbands, rejected suitors and even their own brothers and fathers. The video clip that he narrates vividly illustrates this war which is not generally acknowledged or covered in the western press. Kristof notes that there have been more than 7800 acid-burnings of women in the Islamabad area since 1994.

And just this last month in Afghanistan, "men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: "I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies."" There's more video on that attack from CNN.

Watch the video, read Kristof's article and consider what you might do for the Progressive Women's Association ( or Women for Afghan Women group.

Reviewing America's Defense Meltdown

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This is the chart that caught my attention:


It's from a reading recommendation made by James Fallows via Sully:

Seriously, anybody who presumes to hold an opinion on America's defense needs, defense spending, and long term military strategy really has to read "America's Defense Meltdown," available in free 2MB pdf download here.

From a prior review that Fallows did:

This is a guide on how to think about, pay for, reconfigure, equip, deploy, withdraw, modernize, simplify, support, strengthen, lead, motivate, inspire, and in all other ways improve America's military establishment. [...]

What is most remarkable about the book is the array of authors who have joined to produce this anthologized volume. If I started listing a few, I would have to name them all (PDF of full list here.) They include the closest colleagues and collaborators of the late Air Force colonel John Boyd plus leading defense analysts and practitioners of the next generation. They have amply earned the right to be listened to. What I said in a blurb on the book's jacket* is, if anything, not enthusiastic enough:

The talent, judgment, and insight collected in this book are phenomenal. Over the last generation, the authors have been more right, more often, about more issues of crucial importance to American security than any other group I can think of. It is a tremendous benefit to have their views collected in one place and concentrated on the next big choices facing a new Administration.  This really is a book that every serious-minded citizen should read.

Per Fallows the hardcover will be available for purchase shortly but you can start reading it now via the PDF that the Center for Defense Information has made available.

More food for thought from the preface of the book:

  • America's defense budget is now larger in inflation adjusted dollars than at any point since the end of World War II, and yet our Army has fewer combat brigades than at any point in that period, our Navy has fewer combat ships and the Air Force has fewer combat aircraft. Our major equipment inventories for these major forces are older on average than at any point since 1946; in some cases they are at all-time historical highs in average age.
  • The effectiveness of America's "high-tech" weapons does not compensate for these reduced numbers. The Air Force's newest fighter, the F-35, can be regarded as only a technical failure. The Navy's newest destroyer cannot protect itself effectively against aircraft and missiles, and the Army's newest armored vehicle cannot stand up against a simple anti-armor rocket that was first designed in the 1940s.
  • Despite decades of acquisition reform from Washington's best minds in Congress, the Pentagon and the think tanks, cost overruns in weapon systems are higher today, in inflation adjusted dollars, than any time ever before. Not a single major weapon system has been delivered on time, on cost and as promised for performance. The Pentagon refuses to tell Congress and the public exactly how it spends the hundreds of billions of dollars appropriated to it each year. The reason for this is simple; it doesn't know how the money is spent. Technically, it doesn't even know if the money is spent. Even President George W. Bush's own Office of Management and Budget has labeled the Pentagon as one of the worst managed agencies of the entire federal government.

There's more. Go read it here.