Monday, August 20, 2007

The Opinionator

August 20, 2007, 5:45 pm
Regarding Syria
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,

Faiz Shakir at Think Progress tells us that Senator Joe Lieberman wrote in today’s Wall Street Journal “that the U.S. ‘road to victory’ in Iraq goes through Damascus.” Well, not exactly, but Lieberman did say that the United States must begin “focusing on Syria, through which up to 80% of the Iraq-bound extremists transit. Indeed, even terrorists from countries that directly border Iraq travel by land via Syria to Iraq, instead of directly from their home countries, because of the permissive environment for terrorism that the Syrian government has fostered.”

There were varying degrees of supportive bellicosity on the right. John McCain held a conference call with bloggers this morning and, according to Michael Goldfarb at The Worldwide Standard, said that “one of my great and enduring heroes is George Shultz, who said ‘Never point a gun at anybody unless you intend to shoot it.’ We’ve got to stop pointing our guns but be prepared to shoot. I’m not sure I would bomb the [Damascus] airport but I would certainly make it clear to the Syrians…I would probably go back to the Security Council…but we have to make clear that there are consequences.”

“I agree with Lieberman that it’s long past the time that we dealt with pressuring Syria to stop harboring and aiding terrorists,” insists MacRanger at Macsmind. “President Bush long ago said that we would deal with any country who does so and while we are now beginning to address Iran through a reclassification of the the Revolutionary Guard, we should also show Syria that we will not tolerate their complicity any longer.”

Anton Efendi, a graduate student who writes the Across the Bay blog, does his best to calm things down: “I have long discussed on this blog the Assad regime’s collusion with jihadi movements in Iraq and Lebanon and elsewhere, regardless of the useless, and easily disproved, conventional ‘wisdom’ that somehow Assad’s ‘secular’ regime simply ‘cannot’ work with jihadists, just like somehow Iran’s Shiite theocracy absolutely ‘cannot’ work with Sunni jihadis, even when we know that they do and have done so in the past … In the ongoing discussion about non-state actors in the Middle East, it’s crucial not to ignore the role of states. In this case, to quote Barry Rubin again, Syria along with Iran are essentially functioning as, or are basically the closest thing to, state sponsors of al-Qaeda jihadism.”

Well, certainly Lieberman intended the piece to be provocative — and the fact that the most reasoned response I found to it included four instances of scare quotes in the first sentence would seem to indicate that he succeeded.


August 20, 2007, 3:22 pm
Fear Itself
By Tobin Harshaw

A couple of new polls on terrorism that won’t brighten anybody’s day: “Britons are more suspicious of Muslims than Americans and other Europeans,” according to a poll for the Financial Times.

“Only 59 per cent of Britons thought it possible to be both a Muslim and a citizen of their country, a smaller proportion than in France, Germany, Spain, Italy or the US — the other countries polled by Harris Interactive. British citizens were also the most likely to predict a ‘major terrorist attack’ in their country in the next 12 months; consider Muslims ‘a threat to national security,’ and believe Muslims had too much political power in their country.”

Meanwhile, the moderately leftish Center for American Progress has polled “100 terrorism experts” with various questions about Iraq and the fight against Al Qaeda. The consensus: “The world these experts see today is one that continues to grow more threatening. Fully 91 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and the United States, up 10 percentage points since February. Eighty-four percent do not believe the United States is winning the war on terror, an increase of 9 percentage points from six months ago. More than 80 percent expect a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade, a result that is more or less unchanged from one year ago.”


August 20, 2007, 10:15 am
And One from Column B
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , , ,

O.K., let’s forget for the moment that Hillary Clinton hasn’t won anything yet, and join those like Robert Novak and Stanley Fish, who are already gaming the veep race.

Brian Faughnan, the former Republican Congressional staffer who runsthe Influence Peddler blog, disagrees with those sources who toldNovak that the Clinton campaign is souring on Barack Obama. “Therewill definitely be pressure to select Obama, for a few reasons,”writes Faughnan. “First, Hillary does not match her husband ininspiring adulation among African-American voters. Selecting Obamawould help ensure strong turnout among this core Democraticconstituency — which will help Democratic candidates all the waydown the line. But second, if Hillary is the nominee, AfricanAmerican leaders are likely to be excited about the prospect that shewill choose Obama. Since Hillary may be seen as the odds-on favorite, people will be eager to see her select the nation’s first black VicePresident. There’s likely to be great disappointment among theseObama fans — perhaps enough to sour them to her candidacy. If sheclinches the nomination, she may want to either accept or rule outObama quickly, to avoid there being any hurt feelings.”

Sister Toldjah, however, feels that Obama’s stock is slipping: “I think another point to take into consideration is that Hillary has cleaned Obama’s clock the last several months on at least a couple of issues, both of them related to foreign policy (the jab about his tough talk on Pakistan comes to mind) and it would look like a flip flop (not to mention blatantly insincere) if she went from vocally criticizing his approach to foreign policy to all of a sudden turning around and saying he’d make a good fit as second in command to her.”

Justin Gardner at Donklephant isn’t joining many of Novak’s sourceson the Mark Warner bandwagon just yet: “Yes, but let’s say Hillarydoes get the nomination and doesn’t pick Barack…would AfricanAmericans stay home out of disappointment?” While Gardner says “it’snice to hear Mark Warner back in the news,” he suspects the formerVirginia governor probably has his eyes on another prize: the Senateseat that may well soon be vacated by the Republican John Warner.


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