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Why Do We Need to Stay?

TPM Reader BF wonders why we frame all our potential military actions around the need to stay ...

A major problem with ISIS strategy is the "exit strategy" issue. Basically, we've become self-deterred about any serious military response to ISIS because we're worried about how to get out if we get in. If we put "boots on the ground" (somehow SOF doesn't count), there is a sense that we'll get stuck.

This is a purely self-inflicted limitation. It is based on the notion that all uses of force must result in outcomes that are both durably stable and improve the condition of the people on the ground. In short, the notion is that we should only use ground forces when they can assure that the threat "never again" recurs and that by using force we are obligated to fix things (the Pottery Barn rule -- you broke it, you bought it).

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What To Do About ISIS

I wanted to share a few thoughts on Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris and where this leaves the United States in terms of Syria, Iraq and the entirety of the Middle East where, with all our withdrawals, we still remain involved and at war in various ways. I do not believe we can properly assess what happened in Paris without noting that it is less the product of an organization or statelet on the march than one under threat. ISIS has managed to hold on in the face of significant Western military intervention over the last year. But the physical footprint of ISIS has been reduced by roughly 25%.

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It's a Wrap

This struck me as a surprisingly substantive debate - not just compared to the Republican debates, a low bar, but the earlier Democratic one too. A hard hitting and spirited exchange on national security and ISIS, with some real digging into the backstory of the invasion of Iraq, the final withdrawal of American troops, etc. Then a similar exchange on banks and the financial sector - though someone explaining what Glass–Steagall was might have helped. The fact that the debate about whether commercial banks should also do investment banking still goes under the rubric of a 30s era piece of legislation tells you a lot about the difference between Democratic and Republican politics.

As I said, there was less focus and intensity as the debate moved on to policing, Black Lives Matter, health care, etc. I think that's because the divisions simply aren't as clear. Secondarily, the candidates seemed to draw back from the intensity of the first hour. On balance, I'd say it's a win for Hillary Clinton - not because she necessarily did better than Sanders but because she's now ahead and I did not see anything happen that looks likely to change that dynamic.

Dem Debate Live Blog #4

10:45 PM: So, some brief thoughts: Intense and compelling in the initial phase on national security and again on banks. After that, the lines weren't as clearly drawn, as the debate moved to policing, Black Lives Matter, health care, etc ... At the same time, Clinton seemed to get her footing over the course of the debate.

Dem Debate Live Blog #2

9:39 PM: "We’re going to have to redo how the pharmaceutical industry does business." That's Hillary. And that just sent chills down a lot of corporate spines. This is an issue that's roiling the Democratic field and it's even getting tractions in the GOP debates.

9:43 PM: I certainly do not expect to ever see the 90% income tax rates that were in effect in the 1950s, though the effective rate was much lower. But it showed a real element of unprofessionalism and deep bias that the moderators themselves (if I saw this right) actually broke into laughter when he said that. That was a real fail and a revealing one. Smug.

9:55 PM: The debate about the minimum wage usually get carried on by moderators who simply aren't aware of studies of the effects of the minimum wage in recent decades - particularly one covering the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The empirical data shows that incremental increases to the minimum wage do not cause job losses. The actual empirical data shows this ... However, I think it's fair to say that many of the same economists who argue convincingly that incremental increases in the minimum wage do not cause job losses also say that a jump to $15 from the current amount (more than doubling it) goes dramatically beyond what we have empirical data for. In other words, going immediately to $15 could cause job losses. We don't know.

10:08 PM: Pretty intense exchange here on the financial services industry and the banks ... I must say, between Bernie and Hillary, you've really got the basic wings of the party going at it. I'm not sure if it's fair or not. But O'Malley feels like an opportunist to me on this issue.

10:11 PM: I must say John Dickerson really does seem to have it in for Hillary. Even on gun control, where Sanders is out of step with most Democratic voters, he turns them into cuts against Hillary.

10:14 PM: Yeah, the more I hear from Martin O'Malley the less I like him.

10:15 PM: Yep, I did kind of think Hillary was tying Wall Street connections and fundraising to rebuilding downtown New York after 9/11. And it was kind of weird.

10:17 PM: Might make sense for one of these candidates to explain what Glass–Steagall is or did - basically preventing firms from being involved in commercial and investment banking.

Dem Debate Live Blog

9:03 PM: I know I'll probably hear from all 37 of Martin O'Malley's supporters. But by what standard is he up on the stage. Actually a serious question.

9:07 PM: This isn't about the debate per se. But assuming that ISIS is behind the Paris terror attacks, I hope this will focus us on a basic point: we may not have the luxury of really trying to destroy ISIS while also insisting on the end of the Assad regime, keeping Iran out of Syria, keeping Russia out of ISIS, etc. etc. etc. ISIS is a unique threat - not simply or even mainly to the United States but to our allies in the immediate region, to our European allies. Really to everyone. It is a preposterous policy to be actively engaged against both main sides in a civil war.

9:14 PM: Interesting that Hillary has been quickly put on the defensive on this question - to the contrary of what I wrote below.

9:16 PM: So much better to have one knowledgable, articulate moderator than a bunch of yahoos either trying to cater to media bias nonsense or go off on obscurantist digressions.

9:19 PM: I'm very curious why Hillary seems so defensive here on what should be her prime turf. It's not altogether clear whether it's that Sanders is doing well, that the questions are cutting against her, whether she's flailing or something else. But she definitively seems - feels - on the defensive. One thing I would say is that Dickerson has come back at her again and again, pointing out possible contradictions, shortcomings from our tenure, etc. She's the overwhelming frontrunner. So that's not a crazy decision. But he does keep bringing it back to her.

9:26 PM: Okay, no question. I cannot think of a single time in this half hour so far when Dickerson has pressed Sanders in any real way on these issues. But he keeps coming back at Clinton again and again. Not saying its fair or not. But I think it's unmistakable that it is happening ... And to be clear, I don't think his questions are unfair. I think they're quite well-chosen and incisive. But they're all coming at her.

9:34 PM: Fascinating opening round of the Democratic debate. Worth saying at the outset that it was quite substantive and focused, as presidential debates go. Dickerson is very good at this. Surprisingly, though, Hillary Clinton was consistently on the defensive, though that shifted a bit just before the commercial break. There's no question that Dickerson kept coming back at Hillary pressing her on contradictions in her views and also in her tenure as Secretary of States.