From September, 2013

Devastating Criticism for the Obama Administration on Syria

From two of the administration’s former defense secretaries, and from its former acting director of Central Intelligence: President Obama’s first two defense secretaries publicly questioned the administration’s handling of the Syrian crisis on Tuesday night and expressed skepticism about whether Russia can broker a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons. In a joint appearance in Dallas, both former Pentagon chiefs, Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta, were critical of Mr. Obama for asking Congress to authorize the use of force against Syria in retaliation over its use of chemical weapons. But they disagreed on whether military action would be…

Larry Summers Will Not Be Chairman of the Federal Reserve

I am late to this, but as those who have been covering the horserace for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve already know, Larry Summers has taken himself out of the running. Sarah Binder makes some good points regarding the rise and fall of Summers’ prospects as a candidate for the chairmanship. You should read her entire post, but the following especially caught my eye: The White House allowed the Summers nomination to twist in the wind publicly for too long, and by not actually nominating Summers, the White House “left his opponents in control of the confirmation contest.” Assuming that…

Thomas Friedman Could Not Be Reached for Comment

Link: The Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on the internet, describing online criticism of the ruling Communist party as illegal and airing a televised confession from one of the country’s most popular online commentators. An article in Monday’s edition of the influential party journal “Seeking Truth” described online criticism of the party and government as “defamation”, while Chinese-American investor and internet personality Charles Xue appeared on state television in handcuffs on Sunday to praise new legislation that in effect criminalises online dissent. The moves are part of a wider campaign launched in recent weeks by newly installed President Xi Jinping to stifle calls…

Our Remarkably Unfabulous Middle East Policy

One of the best–and most depressing–analyses that I have seen regarding the recent Russian-American deal on Syria: The United States and Russia have now averted U.S. military action against the Syrian regime for Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Is the agreement reached by Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov on September 9 a diplomatic triumph for the Obama administration, or was it, as retired British ambassador Charles Crawford called it, “the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began?” While perhaps not as bad as Ambassador Crawford suggests, we agree that the outcome is one…

Russia: Revealing Its True Self

There was a terrible shooting at the Washington Navy Yard today, which elicited concern, shock and sympathy from people of decent and elevated sensibilities, and gloating from Alexey Pushkov, the Russian parliamentary foreign affairs chief. I don’t know why Pushkov believed that it was necessary to taunt and make fun of Americans in the aftermath of the shooting, and I don’t know whether the government of Vladimir Putin has the wit to be upset about Pushkov’s behavior, but it ought to go without saying that none of this behavior serves Russian interests in the slightest. I suppose it is worth…

Shadi Hamid on the Obama Administration’s Diplomatic Non-Victory

Scathing, and entirely accurate: A deal with Russia on chemical weapons may be a “win” for President Obama but only in the narrowest sense. He managed to avoid a war he desperately did not want. But with the near-obsessive focus on chemical-weapons use, the core issues have been pushed to the side. These were always more or less the same — a regime bent on killing and terrorizing its own people and a brutal civil war spilling over into the rest of the region, fanning sectarian strife and destabilizing Syria’s neighbors. For his part, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is effectively being rewarded…

Guess Who Thinks Obamacare Might Need to Be Repealed

If you guessed “Tea Party Republicans,” you only get partial credit. Incidentally, while I am pleased that the New York Times is covering this story, my guess is that if a key portion of a Republican president’s political base rebelled against one of said president’s key policy initiatives, we would be hearing about it nonstop from just about every news media outlet there is.

Quote of the Day

It is now clear that Snowden was not focused on unearthing for public debate only selected matters that raise issues of privacy and that ought to be debated. He instead was, like his contemporary Bradley Manning, engaged in wholesale compromising of any secrets he could get his hands (or his keyboard) on, consequences be damned. He was conducting an unrestricted attack on U.S. government information security. Perhaps he and Manning exhibit a naïve belief that secrecy is not necessary for conducting programs of foreign policy and national security. But traitors are not all sophisticated; some are naïve. —Paul Pillar on Edward Snowden.…