Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Chris Nelson's top line summary from this evening's edition of The Nelson Report ...

The war in Lebanon is already a public relations disaster for Israel, and a very real human disaster, with no end in sight, for thousands of Lebanese. Clearly Israel, under military attack, is not officially concerned with the PR, but you could already see in the very competitive Israeli press, late last week, warnings that the IDF was not being careful, that military plans had already gotten out of hand, and that a diplomatic debacle might be in the making.

Over the weekend, it became clear that Lebanon is also at risk of becoming another serious policy failure for the US.

The announcement by Secretary of State Condi Rice that she was going to the region, but would not seek direct meetings with Syria, the country the US claims to be at the heart of any “solution” to the Lebanon crisis, has sparked much international criticism, and rekindled debate in the US over the basic lack of Bush Administration policy.

Or, put another way, the Lebanon situation has exposed, once again, that US policy, under Bush, is largely whatever the Israeli government says it wants. So the long term effect of this on US-Arab relations generally, and the US ability to be constructively involved in any serious peace process, is once again under debate.

In any particular flare-up in this unhappy region, debating who shot first is a distraction, since the conflict has been going on for generations. The question is, or should be, does the US have a policy with a realistic chance of success, and is the US involved in a process to further that policy...in this case, to resolve the flare-up of the moment? Whether a long term “solution” is possible is always another question....see Bill Clinton/Camp David, etc.

However, as long-time Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross likes to say (our paraphrase) “having a process may not get you a solution, but having a process does give you a chance to contain the damage.”

A week ago, much of the international community seemed willing to agree with the US, that Israel had the right to go after Hezbollah, or, at least, the right to go after Hezbollah sufficiently to push back the missile attack capability and threat. But by mid-week, the Europeans were calling for “cease fire” regardless.

Today, even the Bush Administration is making noises about a cease fire...and citing the centrality of dealing with Syria...but not yet. How much damage is being done, and will be done, to the US ability to be constructively involved in the Middle East is emerging, now, as the big question.

A critic within State privately worries, “Condi could get points for the US just by trying to talk directly with Syria. But apparently her view is if she can’t get a quick deal that makes her look good, she won’t even try.”

Is there something to this? From the ABC affiliate in Denver ...

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.

It would certainly be nice to see some other news outlets check into this.

Beside Rep. Cardin and former Rep. Mfume, who are the two real competitors in the race, there are 16 other names on the ballot in the Maryland Democratic senate primary. One of them is a guy named David Dickerson ...

WJZ.COM has learned police arrested David Dickerson, the Baltimore native running as a Democrat for the US Senate. He is charged with rape and assault.

Dickerson allegedly ordered a mail order bride from Latvia and repeatedly assaulted her.

Baltimore County police are investigating.

Doesn't look like he's going to be breaking out from the fringe candidate bunch.

Update: More details on the case over at TPMmuckraker from the Baltimore Police. Dickerson says his wife is "crazy in the head."

From The Forward ...

The United States is pushing for the deployment of a large international force in Lebanon, which would be authorized to confront Hezbollah and effectively prevent the militant group from rearming, senior Bush administration officials told Jewish communal leaders in recent days.

During a briefing with senior officials at several major Jewish organizations, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams reportedly said that a multinational force in Lebanon would have to be “combat ready,” authorized and appropriately equipped to engage Hezbollah militarily if needed. Such a force, he said, would also have to patrol not only Lebanon’s border with Israel but also Lebanon’s border with Syria, to prevent smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah. In addition, such a force would have to observe Lebanon’s sea and air ports to make sure that Iran is not rearming Hezbollah, Abrams reportedly said.

As I said a few days ago, I think some international force on the ground is likely essential to any sort of resolution to this. But that's a broad brief. Who's going to man that mission? I would imagine that both for political and capacity reasons the United States can't make any significant contribution to ground troops who would take on this role.

Here's an interesting article in Ha'aretz about the role of the military and civilian leaderships in Israel in the decision to launch massive retaliation in response to the July 12th Hezbollah incursion into northern Israel. The role of the Chief of Staff of the IDF is always a very prominent one in Israel. But that of Dan Halutz has seemed especially so over the last two weeks. And one also has to figure in the lack of extensive military experience of the two lead ministers of the government -- Olmert and Peretz. This is at least an interesting part fo the equation.