Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Where's the US? I think I see the escalation of hostilities in and around Israel a bit differently than some readers. One TPM Reader asked yesterday in heated tones why I hadn't written anything about the "atrocities" Israel was committing in Gaza and southern Lebanon. I take a different view of this. I don't see why Israel should or really can, in the context of withdrawing from occupied territories, sit still while de facto governments to the north and the south kidnap her soldiers. And I say that as someone who thinks Israel should get out of the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank and support the establishment of a true Palestinian state not at some vague point in the future but now.

Israel actually faces what the Bush administration has pretended America faces, hostile neighbors using terrorist and irredentist factions as proxies in their conflict with Israel.

But retaliation has consequences. How far does this creeping war creep? Into Lebanon? We're already at that point. Into Syria? We're close. Iran? Maybe not too far in the future. Is it in Israel's or America's interest to acquire more occupied territories? Other than retaliatory bombing or occupation of buffer zones, what the the strategic objectives?

This is spinning out of control very quickly. And we need to think right now about where this leads in a week and a month. For America's interests and Israel's the US can't afford to hold back and watch where this goes.

TPM Reader Joe Wilson on Bob Novak ...

Robert Novak, some other commentators and the Administration continue to try to completely distort the role that Valerie Wilson played with respect to Ambassador Wilson's trip to Niger. The facts are beyond dispute. The Office of the Vice President requested that the CIA investigate reports of alleged uranium purchases by Iraq from Niger. The CIA setup a meeting to respond to the Vice President's inquiry. Another CIA official, not Valerie Wilson, suggested to Valerie Wilson's supervisor that the Ambassador attend that meeting. That other CIA official made the recommendation because that official was familiar with the Ambassador's vast experience in Niger and knew of a previous trip to Africa concerning uranium matters that had been undertaken by the Ambassador on behalf of the CIA in 1999. Valerie Wilson's supervisor subsequently asked her to relay a request from him to the Ambassador that he would like the Ambassador to attend the meeting at the CIA. Valerie Wilson did not participate in the meeting.

More to come, I'm sure.

I must admit I'd totally missed this, that Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) faces a contested primary next Tuesday. I'm always the last to know. Her challengers are Hank Johnson and another guy named John Coyne.

I don't think any polls have been conducted. But McKinney did lose a primary in 2002 before winning her seat back in 2004.

If you know more about this race, drop me a line.

Is our North Korea policy a fraud? Or a joke? Or is it a fraud and a joke? Or maybe just a joke and a fraud? The possibilities, I suppose, are endless. But let me explain what I mean. And perhaps folks at America Abroad and others outposts in the blogosphere can help me out or set me straight.

If you look at our policy toward the North Koreans since they called the president's bluff almost four years ago now, it is basically that we will urge and rely upon the Chinese to pressure the North Koreans into acceptable behavior.

Yes, it's dressed up as diplomacy and multilateral talks and this and that. But that's the essence of it.

Yet what incentive do the Chinese have to help us in this matter?

There are some who believe in a malevolent, revisionist China, for whom North Korea, with her missiles and nuclear weapons, plays the role of a stalking horse. In this view, China will never rein in the North Koreans because they are in fact working together to pursue a policy of aggression toward the US and its allies in East Asia.

I don't believe that. But I don't think you need to believe that to question the basic premise of our policy.

Simply looking at China in textbook geopolitical terms, as an aspiring regional or even global power, not set on war but eager to advance its interests on the world stage, I just don't think it adds up.

China's big fear with North Korea is either that there will be some sort of crisis or collapse of the government that will send refugees streaming across the border or that the North Koreans will spark some sort of war that will at a minimum be a major headache and quite possibly knock the stability and prosperity of the region off the rails for years.

Clearly, those two possibilities need to be avoided. But the status quo of some missile sales and continued nuclear programs probably is a good shot at avoiding both. Really putting the screws to the North Koreans risks option one and possibly option two.

Now, what does China get out of the current slow-motion crisis? One thing is a nearly constant muffled begging from Washington that confirms China's role as a major power and provides the Chinese with a major lever in any bilateral dispute with the US. Actually solving the Korean crisis ends all that. So again, I think the status quo is better for China, in terms of buffing her role as a major player on the world stage.

Also note that the PRC internally has a troubled and ambivalent relationship with Chinese nationalism. The government stokes it, but is also clearly in some ways threatened by it. Transparently doing the bidding of the United States doesn't help in this regard. Nor does it necessarily help overseas. Nor does it make sense when you consider that China's real policy agenda is opposition to US 'hegemonism' or the perpetuation of a unipolar world in which the US dictates affairs in every region without any other countries acting as counterweights if not peers or competitors. On various levels the North Korea issue is an thorn, if not a running wound, in the side of what the Chinese term US 'hegemonism'.

In the not too distant past, we had trade and economic cards to play with the Chinese. They needed access to our markets, international organizations, and so forth. But a lot of that access has already been granted. And the massive debt we're building up with the Chinese gives them the lever not us. In any serious crisis with the PRC, I think our debt would become a serious issue much more quickly than our naval power.

The contrary argument to what I've said above is that China doesn't just want to be a regional or global power. She aspires to the prestige of being a respected player in international affairs, not a frightening renegade like Late Wilhelmine Germany, but a peer of Europe and the United States in the councils of the globe. But that seems to suggest the policy the Chinese are now pursuing, countering our UN proposal for stiff sanctions against the North Koreans with a resolution (also backed by Russia) which "deplores" North Korea's recent actions but includes no sanctions or non-voluntary policies.

In other words, China has an interest in preventing the situation from spinning out of control, either through North Korean belligerence or US-Japanese reaction. But in other respects, I think her interests are best served by stringing the issue along. Solving it costs her a lot and gains her little.

All of which suggests that our policy of begging the Chinese to solve our problem with the North Koreans makes no sense and is in fact a joke since it assumes Chinese interests in helping us that do not in fact exist.

My first column at Time.com: On the trail of the Terror Alert bamboozlers. Give it a look.

Ralph Reed and pal Jack sued by Texas Indian tribe. Here Ed Kilgore explains how Reed is swirling the bowl in Georgia too.

TPM Reader TF on Boss Grassley: "And while Grassley is at it, why doesn’t he say that anything the Republicans don’t want to be a subject of the election discussion be out of bounds in all election advts and debates. Go ahead Democrats and make sure that every person in this country knows exactly where the candidates stand on SS Privatization."