Monthly Archives: July 2010

to the south carolina democratic party…

Okay, I know, when I started this blog I said I wanted to avoid the type of knee-jerk, gut reaction posting that typifies a lot of political blogging — but I really have a problem with this.

If you don’t feel like reading the story that’s linked, here’s the gist — the South Carolina Democratic Party has launched a new website, www.nikkigoesnational.com, for the purpose of painting Mrs Haley as nothing more than a national spotlight-seeking starlet who cares more about cable-television appearances than governance of the state of South Carolina.

South Carolina Democrats — shame on you!

First, your site’s domain name refers to Mrs Haley in the first person.  That’s just tacky.  Not to mention disrespectful.  I’m old-fashioned enough that I hold myself to higher standards when it comes to referring to public figures — you should too.

Second, in case you have forgotten, our current president was dragged through piles of mud during his campaign because of his celebrity, and those of us in the Democratic camp didn’t appreciate it very much.  Perhaps it doesn’t behoove you to level the same manner of attack.  Perhaps it looks a little two-faced.

Third, as a South Carolina native living out-of-state, I would much rather see Mrs Haley representing my home state in the national media than the recent lineup of schmucks like Gov Sanford, Sen DeMint, and State Sen Knotts.  Do I like her politics?  No.  Do I particularly want her to be the next governor of South Carolina?  Absolutely not.  But do I have a problem with her bringing some positive media attention to my can’t-get-much-more-humiliated home state?  Not one damn bit.

Finally, you have so many ways to oppose Mrs Haley without resorting to the sort of shallow, petty politics of which this website is such a childish example — not the least of which is her endorsement by Sarah Palin, or her popularity with the Tea Party, or the absolutely clueless destructiveness of the policies supported by them all.  Maybe you might be better off focusing there instead of trying to be too cute by half?

Think it over.

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gen mcchrystal and the future of afghanistan…

This past week, I finally got around to reading the infamous Rolling Stone article that prematurely ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal, and there are two things that stand out:

First, the article’s author, Michael Hastings, writes that as the general moved up the military ranks, “[he] relied on the skills he had learned as a troublemaking kid at West Point:  knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out.”  Hastings couldn’t possibly have known how prescient his description was, but it does beg the question:  if the general had in fact developed such a keen sense of how far to push the envelope, where was that sense when he allowed himself, and his closest aides, to let down their guard to such a degree in front of a reporter?  Frankly, it leaves the impression that (like Rep. Barton’s apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward) that this was no gaffe or accident.  This was deliberate.  What his motives were – was he simply seeing how far he could push his commander-in-chief? did he expect and in fact look forward to being relieved of command? – can only be guessed at.

Second, while the incident has served as a helpful reminder of the proper respect the military must have for its civilian leadership, what has gone less remarked upon is how the incident also reveals, quite starkly, how dysfunctional the relationship is between the military and its civilian counterpart.

Hastings writes that while McChrystal’s team had been the “indisputable” voice at the helm of all military operations, “there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side.”  In fact, there is such a position – the NATO Chief Civilian Representative, a post held by Englishman Mark Sedwill.  But, as an anonymous official tells Hastings, “that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight.”

Not even so much as weight, but a sense of coherence in the mission.  It quickly becomes clear the degree of overlap and redundancy that troubles the civilian end of the Afghanistan effort – a chief NATO representative responsible for direct communication between the war zone and NATO headquarters, as well as coordinating communications between senior Afghan officials and the international community; an American ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, who is presumably responsible for overseeing the US State Department’s program of promoting a stable and accountable government, as well as representing American interests as regards Afghan politics; and the special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, shuttling around to maintain international support of the mission in the face of growing skepticism, and hoping for a chance to more actively negotiate between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.  In the vacuum left by this diplomatic chaos, it is no surprise that Gen. McChrystal sought to fill it, even at the expense of the overall mission, which must have an equal civilian effort if there is to be any hope of a stable and secure Afghanistan.

Luckily, newly appointed Gen. Petraeus seems to understand this.  It gives a small amount of hope that the military and civilian forces will soon be operating from, if not the same, than at least a more similar playbook.

*****

What has gone even more unmentioned in regards to Afghanistan is the recent announcement of the existence of large amounts of mineral deposits in the country.  This news should be transforming the public debate about Afghanistan – on the other hand, it’s probably premature to discuss the long-term value of the discovered mineral deposits until the country is considered more secure.  But this offers the US its greatest chance yet to affect some long-term benefit for the country, and the region.  First, there is finally a viable alternative to the black-market fueled poppy industry.  Second, the establishment of a transparent, stable, and ecologically sound mining industry is a tangible post to which the development of a non-corrupt Afghan government can be tied.  Finally, the so-far inestimable value of the mineral deposits presents the possibility of an Afghanistan that is no longer an impoverished backwater, but a financially prosperous and self-sufficient state.  This is an opportunity that must not be passed up or, more importantly, screwed up.

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