Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Even if you have

Even if you have read it, Juan Cole's 10-point Plan regarding Iraq deserves to be read over and over again. It's very sensible and the fact that there is so much distance between the reality of America's foot-print in Iraq and what Cole suggests explains why this morass is worsening.

He proposes a lucid plan that really deserves immediate attention by policymakers. I'm particularly taken with the importance of re-branding the non-criminal Baathists.

This is very close to what Americans did with a large roster of conservative, accused set of classified war criminals (organized in different categories of seriousness) after WWII.

At the beginning of the Allied Occupation of Japan, socialists and communists were the big political winners and conservatives -- even the good ones -- were shunted aside. Ichiro Hatoyama, the first ascending Prime Minister, who assembled a coalition in the new government of Occupied Japan was purged from office by the Occupation authorities the night before he would have been vested with his office. This was a lousy lesson for democracy -- but still Hatoyama came back as Prime Minister in 1954, evidence in part of a significant change of political course that Americans took in Japan.

The differences between America's engagement in Iraq and Japan are enormous -- but what is clear is that there is a cost to keeping the competent civil and military administrators who worked for thugs, but who were not thugs themselves, from taking positions in a reformed government. Cole is absolutely right that U.S. authorities should be knocking back the Kurds and Shia who want to block the return of any previous Baathists.

I think that while I agree with Cole that U.S. forces need to withdraw from urban neighborhoods and should be trimming their profile in important ways, the most important thing America should do is work to internationalize the face of aid workers as well as foreign police and military officials as quickly as possible. The American flag needs to be removed from the scene.

What few seem to argue is that the moment President Bush gets serious about withdrawing from Iraq, European states and other Middle East nations are going to be worried about chaos, potential civil war, and outward migration. The American brand has been harmed in Iraq -- but that does not mean that all other nations will have the same problems. By leveraging our intent to withdraw, Bush could begin to angle with the Europeans, Egypt, the Russians (yes, even the Russians),the Saudis, Jordan, and other stakeholders in the region to take over roles that we will not continue. The players there need to be reframed -- and our eventual departure could be used to pass off responsibility to others.

But how to get them to go? The German Ambassador to the U.S. Wolfgang Ischinger once told me that his biggest fear about John Kerry being elected is that he would have to work hard to keep Kerry from asking Germany to send troops to Iraq, which many assumed Kerry would do if elected.

I think it's simple -- and it's a missing point in Juan Cole's excellent ten point plan, but perhaps still essential. The fact is that no matter what direction America goes with regard to the Iraq conflict, we really do need collaboration with other major powers -- even if we end up retreating quickly from the place. But most scenarios involve some ongoing presence. In that case, European and other key national support needs to be secured, and that must be one of our nation's highest national priorities.

But we are helping the Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda fanatics in their quest by shooting ourselves in the foot with how we are respoding to the highest diplomatic priorities of nations we need.

Sid Blumenthal says it well in this piece that just appeared in The Guardian:


. . .it was revealed this week that Mr Bush's new ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was seeking 750 changes to the 36-page draft plan to be presented to a special summit in New York on September 14 to 16. Mr Bolton's amendments, if successful, would leave the plan in tatters.

The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that Britain was standing behind the original plan, putting it at odds with Mr Bush.

The concern in British and other international circles is that the American objections, if adopted, would severely undermine the UN summit, the biggest-ever gathering of world leaders.

At least 175 world leaders have accepted an invitation to attend. The UN said yesterday that Mr Bush had confirmed that he would be there.

A wide range of organisations, from aid groups to the anti-arms lobby, voiced dismay about Mr Bolton's objections yesterday and expressed concern that the summit may end in failure.

The Make Poverty History campaign said there was a danger that the millennium development goals, the original reason for holding the summit, would be reduced to a footnote.

A source close to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan said it was too early to declare the UN plan dead. "Bolton wants to knock down the plan and start from scratch," the source said. "He will find that his opinions are not shared by most of the rest of the world."

As best I can tell, President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove turn every battle -- all of them -- into winner-takes-all, take-no-prisoners skirmishes. This is not strategy. This is just clear-cutting -- when America lets them get away with it.

Strategy would be losing the right battles to your friends so that America wins from them the support it most needs.

I think that a more enlightened posture on global climate change, global poverty, AIDS and other pandemics, and other of the Millennium Development Goals would be ideal battles for America to lose to its closest allies. If we gave them some "wins" to take back to their publics in order to secure their support for the biggest objectives America had, we'd all be better off.

It seems to me that securing their support for the "internationalization" and "de-Americanization" of some ongoing presence in Iraq would be well worth giving in on a few of these other gestures John Bolton has problems with.

Stygius hits a homer

Stygius hits a homer in his assessment of John Bolton's immediate intentions regarding U.N. reform.

He writes:


Not only is Bolton trying to dilute or remove effective action against AIDS, global poverty, climate change, etc. he's trying to turn the meeting into a UN reform vehicle; more specifically, a John Bolton UN reform vehicle.

This next bit I want to make emphatically: My sense is that Bolton is not only hamstringing the development goals of the meeting, this is also an attempt by him to seize control of the US's UN reform project from others within the State Department (namely, the Secretary of State).

Bolton needs very badly to take over and be identified with any UN reform initiative, even if it fails on his account. This requires waging battle against his political adversaries within the administration.

Secretary Rice has ostracized Bolton from the major UN reform decision-making, in part by appointing Shirin Tahir-Kheli as her own UN Reform Special Adviser. Rice's worry is that, given Bolton's track record, Bolton would only screw up UN reform. A reasonable probability. Hence, Shirin Tahir-Kheli.

One interesting positive Bolton story that made its way to me via a trusted source is that our Ambassador has gone out of his way to meet every one of the "facilitators" of the Millennium Summit document.

Some of these facilitators were in absolute shock that he took the time to shake hands and look each in the eye and say that he appreciates the work they do.

Watch out. I think John is studying Clinton meet and greet tapes.

How does one go

How does one go about re-wiring how Americans think about terrorism? This is my most recent project.

Some folks think that the "high-fear dynamics" that 9/11, Bali, Sinai, Madrid, and the London bombings (among other incidents) have unleashed benefit a vested class of players who thrive during war.

Weapons labs, defense firms, and pundits who also have financial stakes in war-related venture funds and investments like James Woolsey clean up in times of low-trust and high-fear. If things go back to normal, these players lose. There is a zero-sum game underway where return to stability and normality is something that many in the Washington establishment will vigorously, though in nuanced and subtle ways, fight.

The globalization we used to be tilting towards was one of high-trust (perhaps naievely high trust) where people, money, semiconductor chips, ideas moved more and more effortlessly across borders. That has changed, and many aspects of globalization have become messier in a world where fear has been ratcheted up -- and trust knocked very far down.

Tomorrow (well today actually, but later in the morning) I'm going to discuss Barry Lynn's new book, End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation, which thinks through some of the consequences of the fragility of global structures today, particularly firms. But that's later today.

Right now, I'm going to post the agenda for a mega-conference I am directing on terrorism. This agenda lists names that will simultaneously tick off and please nearly anyone who looks through it -- no matter that person's political stripes.

It's a diverse bunch. And that's one of the requirements of re-wiring how folks (inside the Beltway at least) think about terrorism. One must not just preach to the choir. We've had four years since 9/11, and it is time that we reconsider our approach to terrorism and think more broadly, more comprehensively, and beyond bullets and ballots.

I want to get into this conference and the question of how to redirect America's "terror" focus in ways that may actually make Americans and citizens around the world more secure.

So, chew first on the list of attendees. Everyone seems to want to email me their two cents on who should or should not be included.

Then, let's talk through the issues, themes and strategies tomorrow.

The conference is free and open to the public. There will be high-quality, real time web-casting at the conference website. And if you are in town, feel free to register through the web.

I nearly forgot. It's now my birthday.

Lyndon Baines Johnson and Mother Teresa were both born on this day, along with me -- and I tell folks that that may explain alot.

The End of DiplomacyThis

The End of Diplomacy?

This from a thoughtful piece by Anne Penketh in The Independent:


But judging from his few weeks in New York, Mr Bolton is not at the UN to negotiate. Since Madeleine Albright, President Clinton's UN representative, the US delegate has arrived with a rocket in his or her pocket. In the council, if the other delegates do not like what the Americans want, the US no longer hesitates to act without UN blessing

Now Mr Bolton is at the UN with a mission. At the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama famously decreed the end of history. We could be witnessing the end of diplomacy.

I hear the air just squealing out of the bubble of American pretensions.

America in the past has generally demonstrated capacity to be a great leader of others -- a planning nation, a strategic nation, a complex systems integrator in war and peace -- but now the obsession with doing things alone is a rejection of leadership and guarantees future weakness.

Summits and Conferences. And

Summits and Conferences. And Initiatives.

The U.N. Millennium Summit was an opportunity for America to make "real" what George Bush stated during his first trip to Europe after his last election: that America was ready for a "fresh start" with our allies, particularly in Europe. But John Bolton is wrecking this Summit and squandering another opportunity for the U.S. to get its diplomacy pointed in a more constructive direction.

Many progressive readers get frustrated when I suggest that Condi Rice, Bob Zoellick, Stephen Krasner, Nick Burns, Paula Dobriansky and others at the helm at State are in a completely different zone than John Bolton. But they are.

Yesterday, it was clear as day that Nick Burns, in a meeting with NGO representatives, would neither confirm nor deny that the U.S. was dropping support for the Millennium Development Goals. In other words, Burns would not support John Bolton's rejection of them in the leaked document showing Bolton's edits to the Millennium Summit draft. Nick Burns' silence is a sign that Bolton bolted ahead of Madame Secretary.

But no word from Condi Rice on all of this. Someone in the press corps -- or one of the young college students she seems to frequently meet with (given her recent appearances on C-Span at liberal arts schools) -- needs to ask her whether the MDGs are out. Has she decided that they ought to be tossed in the trash can? If so, has she consulted with any of our allies about this?

Or, does John Bolton need to be reeled in? Condi needs to respond.

Bill Clinton is piggy-backing on the Millennium Summit with his "Clinton Global Initiative". I am planning to attend -- either as a blogger on site or as a regular attendee (via the support of friends -- as the price tag is a whopping $15,000 to get in the door, and I don't think that even gets one into the VIP circle). We'll keep you posted on that one.

And finally, for those of you interested, on September 6-7, I am helping to organize a major conference on America's "next phase" response to terrorism. It coincides with the 4th anniversary of 9/11 and is designed to bring an ideologically diverse crowd (a genuinely diverse crowd) together to think beyond the police and military responses to terrorism.

It's open to the public -- and there will be live, high-quality webcasting of the entire program. Information on the conference -- Terrorism, Security and America's Purpose: Towards a More Comprehensive Strategy is here.

Speakers and participants include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., General Wesley Clark, author Tom Clancy, Senator Chuck Hagel, Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz, Congressman Jim Saxton, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, George Soros, former Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Steinberg, University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, Harvard University Stephen Walt, Woodrow Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Attorney General John Ascroft, University of Michigan professor and Informed Comment blog proprietor Juan Cole, former State Department Chief of Policy Planning Mitchell Reiss, and many others.

The list of speakers and agenda are being released shortly -- and it's a fascinating roster and may be a genuine opportunity to get American policy makers and leading players in Beltway civil society to begin thinking beyond bullets regarding terrorism

More soon.

The Bolton Civil Wars

The Bolton Civil Wars in the State Department may have just re-started.

For those who followed the Bolton battle from early March through August, one of the real issues with John Bolton is that he was constantly attempting to undermine Colin Powell, Richard Armitage and others but did so with Dick Cheney's blessing.

There is evidence bubbling to the surface -- not altogether clear -- but pointing to the possibility that Bolton has already stepped out of his holding pen and is undermining Condi Rice and Bob Zoellick -- again with Dick Cheney's blessing.

A short while ago, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns met with NGO representatives regarding the upcoming U.N. Millennium Summit and U.S. objectives.

A reader of The Washington Note and TPM pressed some key questions Burns' way -- particularly why any reference to Millennium Development Goals was completely cut out of the recently leaked Bolton-edited Millennium Summit draft document.

Remember, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not firm targets and in the past, the U.S. has for the most part robustly supported these goals. The MDGs were agreed to by 190 nations in 2000 and reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus and referred to in the Gleneagles Declaration this summer.

When pressed -- several times -- on why these are apparently being knocked out by the United States in the Millennium Summit document, Nick Burns and subsequently Philo Dibble ducked the question and stated that they opposed the target of 0.7% of gross national income for official development assistance as an example of an old paradigm. They stated that that those kinds of numeric targets yielded poor results and stale discussion.

The bottom line though is that the 0.7% for development campaign is not an explicit part of the MDGs. When pressed further, they refused to say more.

In other areas of inquiry about the leaked Bolton document and U.S. intentions, Burns and Dibble were quick to defend the "perceived" U.S. position.

But when it came to the MDGs, it seems as if Burns and Dibble were coached to respond to any MDG issue by referring to the U.S. objection to the 0.7% target.

Reading between the lines -- Burns and Dibble refused to stand up for Bolton or say more in support of this stance. They refused to say anything.

One hypothesis is that Bolton went riding off alone again -- and doesn't want to support the Millennium Development Goals but has failed to consult with anyone.

Dropping the MDGs without consultations with the NGO community, other nations, or other stakeholders in the Bush administration (there is shock through parts of the administration about this) is huge news.

Burns and Dibble were apparently not prepared to support Bolton's line on this. Otherwise, they would have been defending him.

The insubordination may have just begun. Maybe they'll give him a pass this first time -- and try and teach him a lesson about coordination and communication. But my guess is that Bolton is drawing his energy and position from Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and only flirts part time with Bob Zoellick and Condi Rice.

We'll see. This picture I've painted could be wrong, but something is amiss between Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom.

Recess-appointed U.S. Ambassador to

Recess-appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton is doing exactly what his critics expected of him. He is sticking it to the world. . .hard and nasty.

I received this morning a leaked copy of U.S. comments on the draft document for the Millennium Summit in September. I have been informed that these are John Bolton's personal draft modification suggestions that appear on the document.

Here is the document, adobe format, but it is a very large file. (Dial-up readers be careful.)

These suggested revisions are leaps and bounds more offensive, regressive, short-sighted, and dismissive of others than America's "bad guy" role in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

In short, the document does the following:

<$NoAd$>~ knocks out entirely the Millennium Development Goals

~ continues to undermine collective efforts against climate change

~ knocks out targets and timetables for all goals and objectives

~ guts any efforts toward further disarmament objectives and focuses exclusively on non-proliferation, while both had always been important objectives in the past

~ strikes the section that states that countries will use force only as last resort

~ and oddly, strikes out the need to establish a legal definition of terrorism, which the Bush administration has previously stated is a requirement before proceeding towards a U.N. Convention on Terorrism.

The John Bolton we came to know (and not love) is back.

Condi -- When does the "supervision" promised to Senators Voinovich, Hagel, and Chafee begin?

Greetings TPM readers. Michael

Greetings TPM readers.

Michael Crowley has burned a brilliant path these last few days at the helm of Josh's operation. I'm going to have to talk with him about the "white smoke" stuff though as I've just returned from a trip to Rome and was caught off guard by the embalmed popes on display at St. Peter's. Did Lenin follow in this tradition? or did the Popes get the idea from Stalin? I'd really like to know.

It seems that Michael and I both used to hang out with Josh in the earliest, uncertain days of Talking Points' beginning at the Connecticut & R Starbucks. Josh's daily diet primarily consisted of S'bucks black & white cookies and a venti ice latte. In New York, a more stressful town, he's now moved to straight-up venti ice coffee.

Josh Marshall changed my life -- or at least seriously reduced the number of hours I sleep. He drove me to launch my own blog, The Washington Note, because he thought I had some things to say that just wouldn't perk well in my day job at the New America Foundation. My latest serious blogging focus had been attempting to keep John Bolton from the United Nations. While my fellow-travelers in the effort and I succeeded in blocking Bolton's confirmation by the Senate, we did not sufficiently alter the environment such that President Bush couldn't get away with a recess appointment.

But with Josh's focused blogging efforts on social security reform, and TWN's campaign on Bolton, some are arguing that certain models of blogging campaigns -- hitting a controversial issue in its soft spot -- with high-road reporting mixed with some advocacy can yield results.

More on that later.

For the moment, just wanted to introduce myself; say a "big-time" (as Dick Cheney would say) thank you to Michael Crowley; and just chuckle with all of you that John Bolton's first big move at the U.N. was to tell the other envoys that there is precious little time left to push reform and then rip up 400 separate passages in the current U.N. reform plan.

Hey, maybe the U.S. should be tearing apart the U.N. draft reform plan, but Bolton's negative credibility rating means that few buy what he is saying, even if he might be right.

More later.

It was just a

It was just a few years ago that I would see Josh, before he moved to New York, hunched over his laptop in the Starbucks of our Dupont Circle neighborhood, and wonder whether he was headed down some nutty Internet rabbit hole never to be heard from again. Now here I am thanking him for trusting me with his huge audience of loyal readers. Color me humbled.

Thanks also to (nearly) everyone who wrote in. I'd never quite appreciated the crucial role of blog readers until I started getting dozens of emails from complete strangers filled with all sorts of great insights and information. For instance, one very thoughtful reader who knows a lot about Mark Fuhrman insists he's not the racist villain he was made out to be. A persistent skeptic in Ohio is certain there's a good reason other Democrats are loath to challenge Mike DeWine and that Paul Hackett would face daunting odds if he does. And to that one Yngwie Malmsteen fan: devil's horns right back at ya!

That white smoke you now see billowing in the sky is the fabled signal for "Habemas blogam," or, "We have a new blogger." That would be the formidable Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of The Washington Note. As you may know, Steve and Josh are sympatico on many key issues, so no doubt Steve will be a terrific read for the duration of Josh's absence.

And if you don't already, please do visit The New Republic Online. You might not agree with everything there, but hopefully you'll find it all provocative, informative, and generally worth your while. Cheers!

Josh briefly flagged it

Josh briefly flagged it back in June, but since then Coleen Rowley's bid for Congress in Minnesota has drawn surprisingly little attention. The former FBI whistleblower and 2002 Time Person of the Year has emerged as a strident critic of the Iraq war, which she's called a Vietnam-like "quagmire" that has made America less safe. If I'm reading this editorial correctly, she seems to believe the U.S. should withdraw pronto. And now she's just returned from a weekend at Cindy Sheehan's Crawford peace camp.

Rowley's opponent, incumbent Republican John Kline, is a real Establishment Man: a former Marine Corps Vietnam vet who carried the nuclear "football" for a time under Carter and Reagan. He's the antithesis, in other words, of an anti-war Sheehan-aligned whistleblower. So this race promises to be an intense culturo-political flashpoint -- particularly when you throw in the recriminations over ignored September 11 warnings that Rowley's sure to invoke. Sooner or later, I expect, Fox News will be obsessing over this one.

A few months ago I might have said that Rowley's aggressively liberal posture would be a problem in a district that George Bush carried with 56 percent of the vote. But in the wake of Paul Hackett's near win in Ohio Red country, and with Bush's approval ratings plunging to new depths, I'm not so sure anymore.

The caliber of Rowley's political skills remains to be seen. But Republicans like Kline must be in a cold sweat over the war, and over Bush's flailing attempts to shore up public opinion. How Rowley fares in the months ahead could tell us a lot about the Democrats' overall chances in 2006.

This is probably my last post before I sign off later tonight. It's been a blast.