You are right the messaging of the Obama team has been an unmitigated disaster. I mean where to begin, he has no attack dog, the BP is so gaffe-tastic that hardly anyone takes him seriously. Then you have the political team that pushed bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship, diluting every bill, making every backroom deal possible, selling out on every progressive principle to alienate the base just so that Obama can appear above the fray. What happened? The Republicans pounded him, in foreign policy the Israelis pounded him, he lost his base, he lost all the goodwill in the middle east, leaving him in the midst of a chaotic situation where he has to explain how great his reform is.
If Obama thought that he could come to Washington and wave a magic wand and heal the partisanship he was proven wrong and very brutally so. Instead he pursued that same deluded bipartisanship for nearly 2 years now to no avail. Now his "mayberry machiavellis" (h/t HuffPo) have embraced the far-right economic agenda because they frankly lost the messaging battle. So we have an incompetent core group of advisers in Jarrett, Axelrod, Gibbs,Summers and Emmanuel, doubling down with some equally incompetent cabinet members like Geithner and Salazar. Now we can sit back and watch all our campaigning in 2008 be flushed down the commode. The only impetus that they are using to "motivate" the base now is fear. Cue Tom Tomorrow.
But something so grandiosely labeled Wall Street Reform is bound to fail. There is way too much money involved. When Glass-Steagall act was passed, derivative was a pejorative used to describe something that was unimaginative and CDS was unheard of. Right now both are multi-trillion dollar unregulated gambling pits. This "reform" is just a fig-leaf, an extension of fin-reg theater. The tax-payer bails out Wall Street and in return Wall Street tells our representatives "beat us, but not too hard". Nearly everyone in Washington is deep in the pockets of Wall Street, so if Feingold decides to stick to his principles (the jury is still out on that), more power to him.
"I just don't see much evidence in the real world that Americans see Afghanistan as anywhere near the wrenching issue that Vietnam was": The reason for that can be explained by one word, DRAFT. During Vietnam, there was a draft, and as such the number of soldiers there was even more than the contingent in Afghanistan. However, the soldiers in Afghanistan are on their 3rd, 4th, 5th.....deployment. Eventually there will be a saturation point, a point of attrition if you may, if this administration is to follow the course of COIN. We might never see the draft, but the attrition is taking its toll on the armed forces, and for a country that is in recession, a continuing war is constant drain to the treasury. I guess unless we go flat broke, or someone decides to reinstate the draft, Americans will always view Afghanistan war as rumblings in a distant nation.
The reality is even if we do everything right there is still the elephant in the room: Pakistan, and elements of its state that are supporting the Taleban. Right now the Pakistani government has floated the idea of a power-sharing agreement between the Karzai government and the Haqqani group of the Taleban who are closely aligned to Al Qaeda!! And what's this administration's approach towards Pakistan, give them more money and more arms!!
This is a simplistic trap, because in that region titles of groups are words used to recognize the chiefs, at the ground level all groups are amorphous. Some people can be with the Afghan Taliban one day, Pakistani taliban the next, or al qaeda, or jaish-e-mohammad, or lashkar etc. It's like the hydra with many heads. US and western intelligence like to compartmentalize groups because we are used to that. While Pakistani ISI uses these rubrics to mislead us. In the end there are no good extremists or bad extremists, there are extremists. However some independent observers like Fareed Zakaria believe that there is a core group within the Afghan Taliban who are willing to negotiate peace. Unfortunately the ISI has been cracking down on that group as evidenced by the recent arrest in Karachi of a Taliban official who was in peace negotiations with the Karzai government.
The problem is this stopped being an "insurgency" long ago. This was an insurgency in the first couple of years in the immediate aftermath of the Afghanistan war. Now it is a proxy war waged by the Pakistani intelligence through Afghan and other international fighters. Ironically they are being funded to fight the US with US aid. Address the Pakistani problem and you will address Afghanistan, otherwise all this COIN strategy will come to nothing.
Because his actions never live up to his words. He gave a speech on healthcare and embraced a Heritage Foundation plan. He gave a speech in Cairo but the Israelis are still increasing settlements and he is increasing aid to Israel. He gave a speech about his new financial regulation and now we find out that his point men in his administration want to water down derivatives regulation and as far as his much championed "volcker rule" goes, ain't gonna happen and he is just fine with that. So that's the disconnect between his words and his deeds.
But as far as this speech goes, like I said I did not hear it but did read the contents. What struck me is he purposely downplayed expectations without holding anyone accountable (except BP). Much as people would like to see some theater coming out of the White House, let's be clear the administration can do little to actually stop the flow of oil. What it can do is address the failures of the government, push for more expansive oversight and hold people within the government as well as in BP accountable. This begins with the Secretary of the Interior. Ken Salazar dropped the ball on off-shore drilling regulation, the Deepwater horizon plan was not reviewed by his department and despite its ludicrous nature was given a free pass, and in fact was given a special exemption from a worst case environmental study.
Instead what we heard was a new study commission and a reminder that his Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has a nobel prize. That might be very impressive but unless Stephen Chu is thinking of freezing the atoms in the Gulf with his lasers, there is seriously very little he can do. Right now the cleanup process is in Hollywood territory with such notable scientists like Kevin Costner and James Cameron advising the government.
The other thing he did not address was why did the government play along with the willful deception of BP and low-balled the magnitude of the spill, which included denying the very existence of underwater plumes of oil discovered by independent scientists. When you have nearly a 2 million gallons spilling per day, removal of a couple of million gallons of oily water every now and then is not enough; and the laying down 5 million feet of booms to contain a spill that exceeds 60 million gallons is laughable. These failings needed to be addressed, but was not.
But going ahead here's what we have to look for:
1. Does BP pay for all the clean up?
2. Will the tax payers be made to pick up any of the clean up tab in the name of "protecting capitalism"?
3. What new regulatory framework will be announced and will it have the full backing of the executive branch?
4. Are we going to have bold leadership towards faster transition to new energy?
Many here, among the fans of the administration make this hollow excuse anytime major legislations are watered down: change is hard, no bill is perfect, this is first step towards incremental change. Here's my take: when you have more than 10 million uninsured people in the country dying due to their inability to afford insurance you do not go for incremental change, you change the system. When you come very close to total financial meltdown and have the taxpayers bailout compulsive Wall Street gamblers with more than a trillion dollars, you don't do an imperfect bill, you overhaul the goddamn system. When you have the mother of all environmental disasters due to lax regulation, you do not propose window dressings, you propose tough regulations and overhaul the country's energy policy. These are tough proposals and require a tough executive, unfortunately I don't see substantial change happening anytime in the near future, just more window dressing.
There problem is it's becoming more and more clear that the US and NATO forces are fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan against a Pakistan ISI backed Taliban. But like I wrote in the diary, the US policy in Afghanistan is to escalate the conflict while throwing money in Pakistan which is ironically being used to fight us. Is there a solution to this problem? Ironically the best solution was extending the initial Bush policy, which was ensuring complete Pakistani compliance with explicit threats for bad behavior and rewarding good behavior, of course that was before they fucked it all up by diverting resources to fight a disastrous and unnecessary war in Iraq. Right now US has to start focusing on Pakistan more. The solution to Afghanistan lies in tackling the Pakistani problem and no, giving more money and arms to Pakistan is not the answer.
this has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. The reason we send military equiptment to Pakistan is so the government can defend themselves from outside and internal forces seeking to overthrow them and install an Islamic State. the Pakistani government has been one bullet with a sense of direction, or one well position bomb away from becoming the Al-Qaeda State...with nukes. So, no, increasing the liklihood Osama Bin Laden will be the next President of Pakistan is not a good idea.
We are not fighting the Pakistani government, we're fighting forces who are also fighting the Pakistani government.
Needless to say, following the official Beltway wisdom is counterproductive, especially when we are dealing with a country that is fighting a proxy war against us with our own money and equipment.