Blog Buzz: The Backstory Part II
Prisoners in Iraq (October 15)
Matt Yglesias notes that Iceland's economy is still vulnerable after the financial system disasters of the past few weeks. As he puts it, in spite of coordinated action, "Iceland is still spiraling downhill as its currency has become worthless . . . which risks destroying the entire economy of a small country that heavily depends on imports."
At Contentions, Max Boot has done some reporting from his recent trip to Iraq. He cites a rarely discussed aspect of America's recent successes: the huge improvements made in detainee operations inside Iraq. Boot explains, "With violence levels falling by 80% from their peaks and with doubts growing about future legal authority to hold Iraqis, the U.S. high command has been undertaking a careful program of detainee releases." It's been working. So far recidivism rates have been exceedingly low (less than one percent). Boot credits both the Anbar Awakening and the work of Major General Douglas Stone, who commands the unit in charge of detainee operations. This task force has focused on not just warehousing prisoners, but also rehabilitating them.
Losing the Kurds (October 14)
Michael Rubin, writing in The Corner, notes that reformers were kicked out of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party. The PUK, led by Jalal Talabani, has been accused of extensive corruption and nepotism. While Iraqi Kurdistan may have once been the most promising region of Iraq, it now looks like, in the words of Rubin, that hope has "apparently been mortgaged for the sake of the ruling families' material comforts."
At Contentions, Abe Greenwald considers Vali Nasr's suggestion that we should reach out to Iran for help with Russia. Nasr thinks that since Iran is important for Russian interests-in particular because a Europe without Iranian natural gas is much more in need of Russia's gas-we can exploit the benefits that Iran can provide in place of Russia in Europe. But Greenwald throws cold water on the suggestion, for two reasons. First, he thinks that reaching out "further emboldens Iran and makes the case for their legitimacy as a world power." And second, he thinks that in the past, asking Iran for help, or working with Iran, has done nothing but give us "headaches." For instance, "for all our engagement with Tehran about Afghanistan, Iran still protected Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders. For all our engagement with Iran about Iraq, it was the punishment inflicted on Iranian backed militias by American and Iraqi forces that produced a change in behavior."
Voting on Terror (October 10)
Matt Yglesias takes note of a new study that asks whether voters are sensitive to terrorism, using evidence from the Israeli electorate. The article finds that "the occurrence of a terror attack in a given locality within three months of the elections causes an increase of 1.35 percentage points on that locality's support for the right bloc of political parties out of the two blocs vote." Yglesias comments that this creates a disturbing-and discouraging-pattern: "Terrorist attacks lead to right-wing political policies that lead to repressive policies that lead to more terrorist attacks."
At Contentions, Shmuel Rosner has been writing about Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's meetings with Russian President Medvedev. While at first it looked like nothing came of the meetings, there are now hints that Russia will not be selling Iran and Syria more advanced weaponry, which of course would be relatively positive news for Israel. But Rosner doesn't think that this revelation "changes the strategic picture" because Russia may be dissembling, and the bigger issue is "whether a Russian scientist helped Iran conduct complex experiments on how to detonate a nuclear weapon."
The Obama Doctrine (October 9)
At Contentions, Peter Wehner comments on Barack Obama's foreign-policy proposals in Tuesday's debate. Detailing the "Obama doctrine," Wehner notes that Obama claimed any foreign policy must consider moral issues as well as ones of national security. Obama used Darfur as an example of such a moral issue that necessitated an American response, but within the framework of the "international community." Perhaps, grants Wehner, but genocide is still taking place in Darfur today-demonstrating the futility of placing hope in international institutions without American leadership. Lastly, he argues the "Obama doctrine" isn't very consistent-wouldn't the same principled foreign policy have reached a different conclusion on a tyrannical Iraq?
League of Democracies? (October 7)