August 8, 2014
"Today, America is coming to help."

President Obama, as he announced tonight that he’s authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq, along with a humanitarian effort to aid stranded Iraqi civilians who fled advancing Sunni militant fighters. He said the U.S. would not be drawn into war. (via latimes)

LTMC: "He said the U.S. would not be drawn into war."

(via latimes)

July 28, 2014
Anarchy in Libya: Tripoli Fuel Depot Ablaze After Rocket Attack - NBC News

From the article:

TRIPOLI, Libya - A rocket hit a fuel storage tank containing 1.5 million gallons of gasoline, triggering a major blaze as rival brigades of former rebels fought for control of Tripoli’s main airport. A huge cloud of black smoke billowed across the capital’s skyline on Monday and Libya’s government asked for international help to try to contain the disaster. A spokesman for the National Oil Company said the blaze was burning “out of control,” adding that firefighters had withdrawn from the area.

Foreign governments have looked on powerless as anarchy sweeps across the North African oil producer, three years after NATO bombardment helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The U.S., United Nations and Turkish embassies have already shut operations after the worst violence since the 2011 uprising. Two weeks of clashes among rival factions killed nearly 160 people in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. Since Gadhafi’s demise, Libya has struggled to keep its transition to democracy on track, with its parliament deadlocked by infighting among factions and militias often using threats of force against political rivals. Many heavily armed former anti-Gadhafi fighters refuse to hand over weapons and continue to rule the streets.

Libya is the foreign policy gift that just keeps on giving.

July 23, 2014
thepeoplesrecord:

fuckyeahmarxismleninism:

Remember that time the U.S. shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over Iranian airspace, killing all 290 on board, including 66 children, and then refused to apologize for doing it?
"I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are. I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." — Vice President (and then-presidential candidate) George H.W. Bush, commenting on the downed airliner, 8/2/1988

That quote makes me sick.

LTMC: I actually did not know about this.  My only defense is that I was 4 years old at the time, and the government apparently did a great job of glossing over the history books on this one.  Also, that GHWB quote is solid gold, thought not as solid as the solid gold dancers.

thepeoplesrecord:

fuckyeahmarxismleninism:

Remember that time the U.S. shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over Iranian airspace, killing all 290 on board, including 66 children, and then refused to apologize for doing it?

"I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are. I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." — Vice President (and then-presidential candidate) George H.W. Bush, commenting on the downed airliner, 8/2/1988

That quote makes me sick.

LTMC: I actually did not know about this.  My only defense is that I was 4 years old at the time, and the government apparently did a great job of glossing over the history books on this one.  Also, that GHWB quote is solid gold, thought not as solid as the solid gold dancers.

July 22, 2014

Is The US Abandoning Afghan Interpreters To Certain Death? - Via Reason TV

July 10, 2014
"I think drones are the most cowardly instruments in the history of warfare. A guy sits in an air-conditioned cage on a padded chair, looking at a TV monitor at an image 4,000 or 5,000 miles away, and we are killing wedding parties and children … We killed an American citizen. I mean, and this is with the total support of the people who bragged about America the most; America, America, the Constitution. And they totally turned their back on the bedrock of the Constitution. We have people in cages for 15 years, no Red Cross, no visitation, no letters, no nothing. For 14, 15 years. No habeas corpus. And these blatant violations are met with silence. We are a nation of law unless we’re scared."

Phil Donahue

"We are a nation of law unless we’re scared."

July 9, 2014
Did The 2007 Iraq Troop Surge Really Work?

With the recent upswing in violence in Iraq, neocon voices who supported the war are crawling back out of the woodwork and into the media spotlight.  In the process, many people have (rightly) questioned their credibility, since the Iraq War is now more commonly viewed as a boondoggle than a success.

One of the ways that neocons attempt to rehabilitate their credibility on Iraq is to point to the 2007 troop surge, which was followed by a reduction in fatality rates across the board.  However, Stephen Walt, a International Affairs professor at Harvard, was recently interviewed over at Salon.  He says that the popular meme about the Iraq “troop surge” being a success is false:

So, three questions to begin with. First, why did you say the “surge” failed in 2008?

The “surge” had two explicit objectives: 1) reduce the level of violence, and 2) enable political reconciliation among competing Iraqi groups. The first goal was merely tactical; the second goal was the real prize. It has been clear for some time that this second, more important goal was never achieved. Ergo, the “surge” failed.

Second, what problems have resulted from failing to realize this?

I see two problems. First, it made some Americans more confident that we could repeat the surge’s alleged successes in Afghanistan, which paved the way for Obama’s decision to escalate that war in 2009. Second, it fooled some people into thinking that the U.S. could have “finished the job” in Iraq if it had just been willing to stay there longer.

Third, what does this tell us about the broader failings of the neoconservatives?

It reminds us that their track record as policy analysts and forecasters is abysmal; they’ve been wrong about almost every important strategic choice since 9/11 (if not before). It also reveals that their basic worldview is flawed, and that they’ve never been willing to rethink it, despite all the evidence against them.

I would go even one step further: I don’t think the troop surge is the primary reason for the security gains that followed in 2008.  It is a little-known fact that the U.S. government literally cut checks to insurgents to get them to stop fighting in 2007.  Security increased not because there were more boots on the ground, but because the government paid off insurgents to stop fighting.  This arrangement worked out for a few years while Sunnis sympathetic to anti-government forces waited to see if Maliki’s government would treat them fairly.  Unfortunately, the Maliki government has largely alienated Sunnis in Iraq by cutting them out of electoral institutions.  This has caused a lot of resentment in the Sunni community.  That resentment has prevented the kind of political and cultural reconciliation that the Surge was supposed to lay the groundwork for.  And now, of course, we have the latest wave of violence.

July 8, 2014
U.S.-German Double Agent Scandal 'Worst in Decades'

As the U.S. government continues to alienate its allies:

Citing two unnamed “U.S. officials familiar with the matter,” Reuters reports that the CIA “was involved in a spying operation against Germany that led to the alleged recruitment of [the] German intelligence official.” It goes on:

CIA Director John Brennan has asked to brief key members of the U.S. Congress on the matter, which threatens a new rupture between Washington and a close European ally, one of the officials said.

It was unclear if and when Brennan’s briefing to U.S. lawmakers would take place. The CIA declined any comment on the matter.

Also:

A BBC analyst explains that frustration with America is multipartisan in German politics:

"Outrage" runs across the political spectrum - it’s not just a "chattering class" issue. Wolfgang Bosbach, for example, who is the Christian Democrat [centre-right] head of the Bundestag committee which oversees interior affairs, questioned whether the US and Germany could be considered as "partners" any more.

It’s hilarious to me that the U.S. Government has prosecuted people for doing precisely what the CIA may very well have encouraged the above German intelligence official to do: sell intelligence secrets to a foreign government.  American exceptionalism indeed.

July 6, 2014

eltigrechico:

"Bullshit, sir."

Former head of CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, Michael Scheuer vs. Peter King and fellow congressman on US Foreign Policy, Israel and what inspires the terrorists to fight.

LTMC: A spirited exchange.

(via priceofliberty)

July 3, 2014
Report: Iraqi army retakes Tikrit from ISIS

Iraqis can take care of their own problems.  No U.S. intervention needed.

June 27, 2014
Liberal Interventionism & Iraq Redux

Peter Beinart has taken a big swing at Obama’s Iraq policy, labeling it a “disaster.”  

Among Beinart’s criticisms are Obama’s failure to “push” Maliki’s government to be more inclusive of Sunnis:

Yes, the Iraq War was a disaster of historic proportions. Yes, seeing its architects return to prime time to smugly slam President Obama while taking no responsibility for their own, far greater, failures is infuriating.

But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.

Beinart also criticizes Obama for his failure to “push” the Maliki government to allow American troops to stay in Iraq past 2011:

Under an agreement signed by George W. Bush, the U.S. was to withdraw forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. American military officials, fearful that Iraq might unravel without U.S. supervision, wanted to keep 20,000 to 25,000 troops in the country after that. Obama now claims that maintaining any residual force was impossible because Iraq’s parliament would not give U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution. Given how unpopular America’s military presence was among ordinary Iraqis, that may well be true. But we can’t fully know because Obama—eager to tout a full withdrawal from Iraq in his reelection campaign—didn’t push hard to keep troops in the country. As a former senior White House official told Peter Baker of The New York Times, “We really didn’t want to be there and [Maliki] really didn’t want us there.… [Y]ou had a president who was going to be running for re-election, and getting out of Iraq was going to be a big statement.”

In recent days, Republicans have slammed Obama for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. But the real problem with America’s military withdrawal was that it exacerbated a diplomatic withdrawal that had been underway since Obama took office. 

I encourage you to click through and read the whole article.  For now, I’d like to address the problems with Beinart’s argument.

First, there is a reason why Beinart uses a vague, ill-defined term like “push” to describe efforts which the Obama administration could have used to prevent the current violence in Iraq: Beinart is afraid to come out and say what he actually wants the Obama Administration to do. 

Beinart’s preferred course of action would require the Obama administration to break a legally binding treaty signed by Obama’s predecessor, on the grounds that leaving troops in Iraq after 2011 would have been better policy.  Why?  Because the diplomatic pressure that Beinart thinks the Obama administration should have applied to Iraq only matters if the Maliki government thinks there will be consequences should they decide not to cooperate.  What consequences does Beinart propose?  In the realm of international affairs, “consequences” generally require a threat of force.  Nations generally only have two forms of force at their disposal: (1) military intervention, or (2) economic sanctions.  

This means that getting Maliki’s government to cooperate would likely require either the threat of a second military intervention in Iraq (potentially to oust Maliki), or the threat of economic sanctions against Maliki’s government.  The latter course would essentially guarantee that Iraq plunges into chaos by causing economic disruption and humanitarian disasters—an environment that violent fundamentalism thrives in.  So in any sane world, we’re pretty much just looking at the threat of another military intervention.  Something I doubt would win the U.S. many friends in the Middle East.

Second, even if we assume that leaving troops in Iraq after 2011 would have been good policy, in order to do so legally, Obama would need to renegotiate the treaty signed by George W. Bush.  That would require the cooperation of the Maliki government—something Beinart admits has been non-existent from day one.  The only other alternative is to break the treaty signed by George W. Bush.  

Breaking that treaty would be unconstitutional under Art. VI, cl. 2 of the Constitution, which states that treaties lawfully entered into by the U.S. Government are the “supreme law of the land.”  Treaties signed and ratified by the U.S. government have the same legal status as federal law.  So if Obama can’t convince Maliki to renegotiate the terms of the treaty, Beinart’s plan would require Obama to violate Art. VI of the U.S. Constitution.  As stated above, Beinart admits that the cooperation from the Maliki government has not been forthcoming.  So all we’re left with, practically speaking, is breaking treaties and violating Art. VI of the Constitution.

If Obama did what Beinart is asking him to do, many of the same people who claim Obama didn’t do enough to intervene in Iraq’s affairs would in turn claim that Obama was engaging in (yet more) executive overreach and disregarding the limitations of his office.  And in this case, they would be correct.  Unilaterally breaking a legally binding treaty would be a clearly impeachable offense.

With all this in mind, I don’t view Beinart’s take on the situation in Iraq as all that pragmatic.  More to the point, his insistence that the renewed violence in Iraq requires American intervention to solve is another example of the same brand of American Exceptionalism that Beinart himself has written about the decline of.  This idea that the violence in Iraq can only be cured by a “better U.S. policy” is a conceit of star-spangled origin.  Iraqis are capable of solving this problem themselves.  We should let them do so before the U.S. becomes embroiled in yet another sustained military intervention that requires years to extract ourselves from.

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