February 07, 2010

On the Palin flag thing

I was initially impressed with ex-Gov. Palin's ability to ride a populist movement to her own profit. By the figures in this story, the Tea Party convention made $500K at the gate, of which she nabbed a cheque worth 20%. Nice work if you can get it.

I am baffled, though, why she would then think it was proper, let alone a good idea, to wear a flag of Israel on her lapel for the event. Not that I object to Israel in any way myself, but for the hyperpatriotic puppet figure at an ultrapatriotic convention, the move only makes sense as a "dog-whistle" to the "Left Behind" end-times crowd. Which it probably was.

I mean, as far as political stupidity goes, she really is the story that keeps on giving, but come on.

(This will be undoubtedly be written off by Palinites as analogous to politicians born abroad honoring the country of their heritage with a lapel pin of their own. Leaving aside that Palin has no Israeli ancestry I'm aware of, I'll only say that such behaviour, if it occurred, would be not only deeply antithetical to the American self-image of leaving your ethnicity behind before leaving Ellis Island, but that it is impossible to consider, say, a Kennedy, wearing an Irish flag while making a key political speech aimed at all Americans. It just. Wasn't. Done. And so the weird slow-motion train wreck the rest of the world watches with horror from afar called "American politics" continues.)

UPDATE: TNR reports the dinner also began with the following invocation: "If we do not defend the United States, who will defend Israel?" [Laurie Cardoza-Moore] asked, as if about to cry. "I would like to think that the Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, is watching here tonight. And I want Bibi Netanyahu to know that Tea Party Nation is going to stand strong for Israel."

"Despite what our leader says, we are a Judeo-Christian nation," she continued, before closing with an injunction to God. "Be with Sarah Palin. Protect her, Lord."

Speaking as a person of Judeo-Christian descent (a PoJuC?) myself, even I'd have to say that's a little over the top.

UPDATE #2: Palin also wore the same Israel-U.S. flag pin on her contemporaneous Fox News interview, where she argued that Obama needed to go to war with Iran to protect Israel to have a chance at a second term.

Posted by BruceR at 03:12 PM

A class act, you gotta admit

Credit where credit's due: no matter how you feel about the guy on the issues, if you were ever a public figure who had to reveal on TV your struggle with a potentially fatal disease, you could take lessons from Jack Layton. My best wishes to him.

Posted by BruceR at 12:57 PM

Well, so much for that idea

Taliban says no to negotiations.

My prediction, made several times here before, is that so long as the Afghan army is still seen by the insurgents as a joke, this will be their position. That's not just a matter of PR, either. There really needs to be some indication of permanent local governmental strength after the West's future drawdown for the situation to change.

UPDATE: Milnews.ca reads the tea leaves slightly more hopefully.

Posted by BruceR at 12:54 PM

Dorronsoro mislink?

There's an article by Afghan commentator Gilles Dorronsoro on the current situation in Afghanistan on the website of Foreign Policy that is not up to his usual standards. He doesn't have a lot new to say, really, and the argument's marred by an odd mislink, where he defends his position that Afghan army building is going to go nowhere by linking to a 10-month old Christian Science Monitor piece about the failure of tribal militias.

"The security of a growing number of provinces will also come under the responsibility of the Afghan army after 2011. It all sounds nice on paper, but these policies are not remotely realistic, and as Anand Gopal reported in the Christian Science Monitor in April 2009, they have all been tried and found wanting already."

Gopal's piece doesn't actually talk about the Afghan army or police, but why other approaches to security ("arming the tribes") don't work in Afghanistan. So it's actually on the opposite tack to Dorronsoro's argument. Oops.

Look, if you want pieces that are skeptical about the Afghan army's future, there's plenty out there. I think I've linked to most of them. I've even written a couple myself. And people who've taken time to think about the issue deeply generally seem to come to the conclusion that only giving Afghans an actual area of operation of their own, and lead security responsibility, as opposed to remaining ISAF ridealongs and door-kickers, is going to rescue their military from its current culture of dependence and offer a way out of the current morass. The London conference's reassertion that this has to happen sooner rather than later was a positive step.

That entirely sensible position has nothing to do with arming the tribes or arbakais. Either Dorronsoro doesn't understand the current ANSF development situation, which I would have previously thought unlikely, or he was just being too lazy on this article to articulate his thoughts clearly (or his editor on the piece did a bad job, that's option 3; you pick).

Much better is Col. Chris Kolenda's piece in the current Joint Force Quarterly:

"Building ANSF is not a matter of simply cranking out more recruits. Building combat effectiveness and self-reliance will require a partnership in which our forces live together on the same outposts, train, plan, and execute operations together, and share information and capabilities. There is no better trainer for an Afghan battalion commander and his staff than an ISAF battalion commander and his staff."

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. But if you don't grasp that up until the current COMISAF's arrival in mid-2009 ISAF was not doing this anywhere in Afghanistan, that we were denying Afghans access to all our information and ourselves to theirs, leading in many cases to unnecessary collateral damage and missed opportunities, that ISAF battalion commanders and their staffs would go through their tours never having more than a couple cups of tea with their Afghan counterparts responsible for the same districts, that for mentors trying to explain to Afghans how things should work every day was another elephant-and-blind-man scenario, then you don't get the scope of the problem, and the futility of all our efforts, in the pre-McChrystal era. It's still been less than a year that we've had even a chance of success in Afghanistan, because voices like Col. Kolenda's, who has been banging this particular drum for awhile, were not getting heard.

Posted by BruceR at 12:18 PM