Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Opinionator

August 8, 2007, 10:28 am
The ‘Least Bad’ Option in Iraq
By Tobin Harshaw

The third wheel squeaks: Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution raised a lot of eyebrows last week with their Times Op-Ed article in which they wrote, “we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”

Now Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who accompanied O’Hanlon and Pollack in Iraq, has delivered his thoughts on the journey.

“The U.S. now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence,” writes Cordesman, yet “there is still a tenuous case for strategic patience in Iraq, and for timing reductions in U.S. forces and aid to Iraqi progress rather than arbitrary dates and uncertain benchmarks.”

Cernig at The Newshoggers feels that while “Cordesman’s report is going to be cast by the mainstream media as cautiously optimistic” anyone who reads it carefully will realize that, “Planning a withdrawal that does not become a rout which would destroy any last vestiges of U.S. prestige should now be a priority.”

Jules Crittenden reads things quite differently: “Another harsh war critic who doesn’t particularly like the situation in Iraq, but likes the Congressional rush to abandonment even less. No wonder Congress was in such a hurry, repeatedly, to pull the rug out from under Petraeus. Political animals must smell something in the wind.”

So does James Joyner at Outside the Beltway:

While less optimistic than the NYT op-ed, the difference is in degree and emphasis rather than substance. Both reports agree that significant progress is being made on the security front and very little movement on the political front. Both agree that precipitous withdrawal would be catastrophic.

Both agree that we could do everything right and still lose. The question remains between choosing least bad options.
Point well taken: but one thing all can probably agree on is we can one receive only so much from the idea of “least bad.”


August 7, 2007, 3:56 pm
Kristol’s Kind Words for Clinton
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,
John Gress/Reuters

Hillary Clinton, Neocon? The blogosphere is atwitter today with the quote in the Washington Post from Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, that “Hillary Clinton is becoming the responsible Democrat who could become commander in chief in a post-9/11 world.”

Bruce Bartlett, filling in for Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic Online, weighs in: “Now, I think Bill is completely wrong about the war — I’d pull out of Iraq today if it were possible — but he’s a pretty smart political handicapper,” he writes. “So if he’s saying nice things about Hillary it is because he has come to the same conclusion I have about the inevitability of a Democratic victory.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner suspects something more Machiavellian: “He obviously figures his endorsement will kill Hillary 2008, making way for a weaker candidate for the Dems, giving the election to any Republican who just doesn’t screw it all up.”

Back in the real world, Bartlett’s compatriot Matthew Iglesias, sees this as being less about political gamesmanship than ideology: “One can try to speculate that Kristol is playing some odd angles here, but I think the record indicates that he’s genuinely more committed to war — criticized Republican critics of the Kosovo War, criticized Bill Clinton for not killing enough people during the Kosovo War, backed John McCain in the 2000 primaries — and based on the evidence thinks Clinton will be more sympathetic to his agenda than the alternatives.”

Further to the left, however, the approval of the Weekly Standard isn’t considered a mark of distinction. Arthur Silber at Once Upon a Time feels a Democrat will be considered “responsible” only “if you think the United States should still have troops in Iraq at the end of your second term as president, which is to say, at least through the end of 2016 — which is, of course, the view of the entrenched foreign policy establishment that believes in a foreign policy of aggressive, neverending global interventionism maintained by an empire of military bases around the world, all to guarantee American hegemony.”

Those on the center-right might laugh at the rhetoric, but it remains to be seen whether scary tales of a thirst for global domination will get serious attention in the Democratic primaries. Let’s just say that we shouldn’t expect to see Kristol’s endorsement prominently displayed on Hillary’s Web site any time soon.


August 7, 2007, 11:15 am
Confused About Carbon?
By Tobin Harshaw

Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated,” according to The Times of London. The article, reporting the claims of Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life,” continues:

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

With such paradoxical findings coming out regularly, Charles Signorile at Constitutionally Right feels “it is difficult to have an intellectual conversation with anyone regarding global warming“:

There are so many “facts” out there, all of them in direct conflict with each other, only a fool would buy into one theory and argue it as if it were undeniable. The study cited in this article will have you believe that the only way to save the world is to stay in your home with the lights off, only eat vegetables you grew in your backyard, and avoid buying anything which needed to be transported to you.


August 7, 2007, 9:28 am
Laws of Multiplication
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,

According to NPR’s Weekend Edition, “the newest status symbol for the nation’s most affluent families is fast becoming a big brood of kids.”

While some sneeringly refer to the trend as “competitive birthing,” Ronald Bailey at Reason is thinking of the bigger population picture:

It’s interesting to contemplate what this trend might portend for the future of population growth. Generally, demographers have assumed that fertility rates will continue to decline as more of the planet’s people become wealthier. Falling fertility would mean that world population could follow the trajectory of the U.N.’s low variant population projection which would result in a total population of about 5.5 billion in 2100. That’s 1 billon fewer than the world’s current population. Now consider the case in which the U.S. economy grows by 3 percent per year until 2100. Assuming a population of 400 million, that would mean that average incomes would be over $500,000 per year in real dollars. The demographic inflexion point for more kids is around $250,000 per year. Could we be looking at a new baby boom after 2050?


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