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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 25 November 2009 - 1:32pm
Recent press reports suggest that President Obama is likely to try to sugarcoat his announcement next week of a major military escalation in Afghanistan with talk of "exit ramps": opportunities in the future to evaluate and possibly reduce the U.S. military commitment. That's supposed to make opponents of military escalation feel better, the media suggests. The New York Times reports:
The troops will be dispatched in phases, and Mr. Obama is likely to declare that he will review the deployment next year, to evaluate its progress.
"That gives him the flexibility to tell the Democrats that his commitment is limited," the Times says.
But it's hard to see why this should be at all reassuring. After all, we just had such an evaluation, which, despite the widespread view that the present policy has failed, resulted in the policy choice of sending 50% more troops that the President is about to announce. Why should we expect the next evaluation by the same actors to be substantially different from the one that just took place, if the data is the same?
Indeed, just as the President plans to assure us that we don't have an open-ended commitment, so he plans to reassure the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and our European allies that we do, in fact, have an open-ended commitment. Which President Obama should be believed?
Supposedly, we have to tell Pakistan that we are not leaving because if they think that we are leaving, they will hedge their bets and back and protect their ally Mullah Omar, in order to protect their influence and what they perceive to be their national interests in Afghansitan.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 September 2009 - 5:12pm
To any naysayers who say President Obama has broken all his promises, I say, with all due respect: "na na na na na":
The United States and five partner countries have accepted Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.
I realize that this may be cold comfort if you took Obama seriously when he said that he was going to renegotiate NAFTA. Okay, that promise was not for real, sorry.
But when he said he was going to talk to Iran, apparently he meant it. Who knew?
It could have gone the other way. The US could have said - we offered Iran talks on how Iran was going to stop enriching uranium, and Iran has clearly said that it has no intention of stopping the enrichment of uranium, therefore, Iran has not agreed to our offer of talks.
And therefore, we have no choice but to proceed with efforts to cut off Iran's access to gas imports.
As everyone knows, there are plenty of folks in Washington - and at least one other capital city - who would have applauded such a course.
But Obama decided to take the high road. We said we wanted talks, and Iran is saying that it wants talks, so let's talk. Why not?
Iran says it wants comprehensive talks. So? Who's against comprehensive talks? More US-Iran cooperation could help make the world a better place on a lot of fronts: Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon.
Making progress in negotiations on Iran's "nuclear file" will not be trivial. But there is a feasible solution, and everyone knows it. As Robert Dreyfuss wrote recently in The Nation: