16 December 2009

Silent in Solidarity

In support of Milbloggers everywhere, and especially MSG CJ Grisham, The ModCon is going silent until December 18th.

Here's a cross-posting from Blackfive.

I urge you to contact your members of Congress to request that they act now to stop the suppression of open discussion about PTSD. Honorable warriors need to know they will be supported when they are injured - in any way.

12 December 2009

Army - Navy Game 2009

Despite being, in all other respects Army-true, this one day each year I'm all Navy, in honor of my father, a 1962 Annapolis grad. A few minutes ago, Navy won: 17 -3. The best and friendliest of rivalries of college sports is done for another year, and many of the 2010 graduates, especially from Westpoint, will be headed to Afghanistan next summer.

10 December 2009

Obama Utters the E(vil) and T(errorist) Words

During his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Award, President Obama uttered the words "evil" and "terrorism" echoing President Bush, who was so often accused of using those words in service of 'fear-mongering.'
"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. ... America's commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come."
The President also managed to simultaneously be humble ("Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.") and give a defense of just war theory. All of this was good. Of course, it would have been nice if he could have managed to do this without snubbing the Norwegians, irritating yet another traditional ally, and without subtle disparagement of his predecessors ("Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don't, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified."), but perhaps that's too much to ask from this president. He seems incapable of making a clear, definitive statement of American power without undercutting himself. Subtle and careful thought are always desirable in a leader, and their lack was President Bush's greatest weakness, but it's also necessary for the president to promote the strength and history of his own country. In seeking to be the anti-Bush, Obama is in danger of making equally important mistakes in the opposite direction.

09 December 2009

The Gap Continues to Narrow

The frame won't accommodate the entire image, but clicking on the title link will reveal that the gap between average "approve" vs. average "disapprove" ratings (averaging five polls from the previous 1.5 weeks) has narrowed to +2.5. A linear trend line shows that the "disapprove" ratings have risen faster than the "approve ratings have dropped. Again, these polls meaningless for President Obama at this point, except for the distinction of having the fastest recorded drop of any president since Eisenhower, but they spell trouble for the House and Senate elections next year.

08 December 2009

Post-Afghan Speech Job-Approval Polling

President Obama's polling numbers, following the speech on revisions to the Afghanistan policy, have continued on a downward trend. RCP noted that the Gallup poll had an unusual drop of four points overnight.
'Obama suffered a net four point loss of support overnight - a noticeably sharp decline for a tracking poll that usually doesn't move more than a point or two in either direction on any given day.'

Polling Data

PollDateSampleApprove Disapprove Spread
RCP Average11/12 - 12/6--49.045.1 +3.9
Gallup12/4 - 12/61547 A4746 +1
Rasmussen Reports12/4 - 12/61500 LV4950 -1
CNN/Opinion Research12/2 - 12/31041 A4850 -2
USA Today/Gallup11/20 - 11/221017 A5044 +6
FOX News11/17 - 11/18900 RV4646Tie
CBS News11/13 - 11/161167 A5336 +17
Democracy Corps (D)11/12 - 11/161000 RV5044 +6

See All President Obama Job Approval Polling Data

These polling changes are largely meaningless to the Presidency at this point in time, and similar results only forced President Clinton to re-tool his agenda, pushing him closer to the center than he might otherwise have been. To many in Congress, however, these numbers have got to be troubling. Harry Reid continues to sound increasingly desperate, while his own poll numbers have taken a long, slow dive. Generic Congressional polls place Republicans within 0.4 points of Democrats, while 58.2% (as an average of multiple polls) state that the country is headed in the wrong direction. In general, these are not the numbers to make the Democratic Party happy, and may signal a trend back toward the center.

07 December 2009

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and Azar 16th

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and the 68th year since Japan attack the United States, opening the Pacific front of WWII.

Today is also Azar 16th, which commemorates the university students in Iran. In honor to the day, students at many universities protested their total lack of freedom today, and are paying the price for demanding that freedom. From Revolutionary Road (the blog appears to have been taken down, but they are still posting on Facebook):
'Suppose you arrest all of us, what will you do with the truth that is laid bare? We stand as ever to report on Azar 16th

A Few hours ago Amin Moshashaei, Saman Valadbeygi, Diakoo Pir Khazari, Arsalan and Soheila Amani, student activists of Iranian universities were arrested.

This was the first news I heard this morning, after hearing the phone ring.

With the comprehensive attack on another student movement and detaining free men of a country of sun and wind, the despotic rule once again showed it trembles from our unity and common combat. Now being marked (star), imprisonment and being expelled from University is a golden leaf for each brave and noble child of Iran. On December 7th (Azar 16th) of this year, 56 years after the epic rise of students against tyranny and inequality in Iran, when millions stepped in the field to reclaim their legitimate rights, hope and awareness with a deep political analysis and social change, students have become an invincible force. All efforts to eliminate the freedom-loving and human identity of millions opposing oppression and inequality are passive acts destined for failure.'
Students have been posting mobile video of the protests for the last two days leading up to today's protests. Note the chants of "death to the dictator" and "death to Khomeni."

03 December 2009

UPDATE 1: You Took Your Time - We're Taking Ours

Update 1: Good news from Secretary Clinton: NATO appears to be pledging up to 7,000 troops from twenty-five member nations. NPR is reporting that WH staffers state that these commitments were made prior to the president's speech. Germany and France are standing pat on waiting for the January conference before committing to any troop increase. It will be interesting to see 3,000 more troops can be whistled up between now and the end of January. If so, Gen. McChrystal's plan would be almost fully staffed. President Obama now seems to accept that the surge plan from Iraq is transportable to Afghanistan.

Previously Posted:
While the Pentagon and President Obama have requested 10,000 additional Afghan-bound troops from NATO members, primarily for training purposes, NATO is likely to provide, at most, 5,000 troops. If the war has lost support here in the United States (to 50% or just under), support in the European public is far lower, and NATO governments have lost patience with President Obama's long decision-making process. Germany and France seem unwilling to answer the president's call until at least January:
'German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm welcomed Obama's timeline for withdrawal saying it was "correct and sensible." But on the question of whether Germany would send more troops, he preferred to point to the Afghanistan conference set to take place at the end of January in London. After the conference, Germany will decide "whether and if so what kind of additional efforts we might undertake." ... German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also pointed to the January conference. "Obama also took his time to work out the speech and his strategy and we will take our own time to assess what he said and discuss this with our allies," he said. Indeed, the only countries which immediately offered to up their troop contingent were Britain, Poland and Italy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the UK would send an additional 500 troops with Poland likely to up its contribution to 2,600 from 2,000. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his country would send more as well, but avoided a concrete pledge, saying only that Rome would "do a lot."'
Reaction to the President's speech at West Point was mixed, and the latest major polls were taken prior to the speech, making it difficult to gauge it's effect on the American public. Spiegel Online has openly reflected Europe's disenchantment with Obama Administration leadership. One can only hope that they'll pony-up in the long run, or the new Afghan strategy will prove just as flawed as the old.

02 December 2009

Success v. Victory

When even the Daily Beast pleads for some victory talk from the President (along with others), you know there's a problem.
'It would have helped him immensely if he'd actually used the word "winning"—or any kindred words—somewhere, anywhere, in his speech. But he did not: "Successful conclusion" and "responsible transition" just do not hack it.'
Contrast 'victory' to this:
'In a prime-time speech at the U.S. Military Academy, the president said his new policy was designed to "bring this war to a successful conclusion." The troop buildup will begin almost immediately - the first Marines will be in place by Christmas - and will cost $30 billion for the first year alone.'

01 December 2009

Updates: Obama's War

Update 1: The most recent Gallup poll shows support for Obama's handling of Afghanistan at 35%, and it's really not surprising. Tonight is the third strategy address the President has made (the first was when he was a candidate). Each time, he has: 1. blamed Bush (fair enough the first time or so, but old once you've been in charge for awhile) and 2. tried for something new, claiming it was a restatement of the same strategy. Tonight, he spent the first eleven minutes giving a short synopsis of the history of our involvement since September 11, 2001, the obligatory swipe at the Bush Administration, and a defense of the time the review took (stating that the troop request was not slated until 2010). Obama stated twice that he believes our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that new attacks are being plotted from the border region with Pakistan. He then went on to state that we must strengthen Afghanistan and Pakistan, and prevent Pakistan's fall.

He gave three ways to pursue the new strategy in just 18 months: 1. break the hold of the Taliban in certain regions; secure civilian population centers; increase training of Afghan forces. He believes that we'll be able to then begin withdrawal in July 2011 (this is a purely bogus date - if he truly intends to withdraw 'responsibly,' and only if the on-ground conditions are 'right,' he can not promise this date). 2. Improved civilian and political centers by combating corruption and helping with agricultural development. 3. We will act in Afghanistan with the knowledge that we must prevent the spread of the Taliban further into Pakistan. (One wonders how we do this without moving into Pakistan - something we would need far more than 100K troops for). "We can not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intention is clear." (Sounds a great deal like the Bush doctrine of preemption, laid out at West Point in 2002, to me).

He did give a decent explanation of why he doesn't want to commit to a long-term, nation-building program, leaning on the 'it's not in our national interests' argument, but it's hard to see how that fits in with his statements a few minutes earlier that we owe it to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan to secure them from the Taliban. He then sequed into a statement that an open-ended troop commitment would be too difficult economically (true enough), and that he wants to 'build' our nation (how?). He is clearly committed to extending the idea of a war strategy into all kinds of areas (getting rid of nuclear weapons, setting an example by stopping torture, etc.). Much of these areas have little to do with his Afghanistan policy, and did not add to the speech; rather they detracted from the details of the strategy (of which there was none given barring the troop number and the July 2011 date).

Published earlier:
As all now know, the President will be addressing the nation shortly on his new - new strategy on Afghanistan. The President plans to announce that he will be sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan on an accelerated deployment schedule beginning this month, bringing the total US commitment to just over 100,000 troops. Somehow, he also intends to squeeze blood from a stone, and get the Europeans, who have steadfastly refused his requests to date (barring the additional 500 approved by the UK this week), to make up some of the difference between the 30,000 and the 44,000 requested by Gen. McChrystal. The NPR live blog from West Point can be followed here, and live streaming is here. HuffPo states that while the President won't pick a particular exit date, he plans to state the commitment will not be 'open-ended.' In the press conference with Gibbs today, vague statements about a draw-down within three years ("well before the end" of the President's "first term") were made.

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