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   PoliticsView from the Center and Left


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From: JohnM12/13/2006 12:01:17 PM
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Interesting tidbits of gossip about power and its nurturing in Saudi Arabia from this Steve Clemons' post.
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Prince Bandar's Ambitions: Turki-Bandar Feud Over US Politics Cause of Resignation

The New York Times' Helene Cooper has an important piece out today on Ambassador Turki's resignation and some of the surrounding context.

Turki's predecessor in his job, Prince Bandar, who was Saudi Ambassador to the US for 22 years, is reportedly jealous of the rave reviews Turki was getting in Washington -- and has been jockeying with Turki in Washington power circles by continuing to manage his own White House relations and contacts throughout Bush world without consulting and coordinating with Ambassador Turki.

Whereas Ambassador Turki has been forthright with the Bush White House about Saudi views of what America needed to be doing in the Middle East -- particularly with regard to checking Iran's growing power, dealing with Israel's flamboyant response to Hamas and Hezbollah incursions earlier this year, moving Israel-Palestine negotiations from pathetic illusion to reality, and getting the calculus in Iraq on a more constructive course -- Bandar is perceived to be somewhat of a "good old boy" by the Bush crowd and somewhat sycophantic when around Bush and Cheney.

Saudi sources report to TWN that Turki is highly irritated by Bandar's "immaturity, unprofessionalism, and self-indulgent political games." These are strong words in nearly any context -- but these kinds of visible cracks in the Saudi royal family are usually fairly well hidden and massaged.

Some believe that King Abdullah's failure to stop an escalating feud between Bandar and Turki was a serious miscalculation by the King and also illustrates the challenges the King faces in managing and rationalizing leadership succession to the throne among rival family factions.

Bandar, who is eager to succeed Foreign Minister Saud and Prince Turki's brother as the next Saudi Foreign Minister, may have overplayed his hand in lobbying for the job.

The King is now in a position that if he loses both Saud as Foreign Minister because of health and then loses Prince Turki, he's lost two of the key brothers in a cluser of children of the former King Faisal who have been key allies of his during his reign and are clearly part of the modern, reformist, and professional/less corrupt parts of the Saudi ruling family.

The King may be compelled after all of this to return to Turki al-Faisal to succeed his brother as Foreign Minister to assuage that clan and consequently to push back Bandar's ambitions -- and essentially, punish him for the antics Bandar has been engaged in.

-- Steve Clemons

thewashingtonnote.com

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 2:56:59 PM
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The strain on our military is growing....

Army, Marine Corps To Ask for More Troops

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; A01

The Army and Marine Corps are planning to ask incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Congress to approve permanent increases in personnel, as senior officials in both services assert that the nation's global military strategy has outstripped their resources.

In addition, the Army will press hard for "full access" to the 346,000-strong Army National Guard and the 196,000-strong Army Reserves by asking Gates to take the politically sensitive step of easing the Pentagon restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists, according to two senior Army officials.

The push for more ground troops comes as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sharply decreased the readiness of Army and Marine Corps units rotating back to the United States, compromising the ability of U.S. ground forces to respond to other potential conflicts around the world.

"The Army has configured itself to sustain the effort in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, in Afghanistan. Beyond that, you've got some problems," said one of the senior Army officials. "Right now, the strategy exceeds the capability of the Army and Marines." This official and others interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the matter.

The Army, which has 507,000 active-duty soldiers, wants Congress to fund a permanent "end strength," or manpower, of at least 512,000 soldiers, the Army officials said. The Army wants the additional soldiers to be paid for not through wartime supplemental spending bills but in the defense budget, which now covers only 482,000 soldiers.

The Marine Corps, with 180,000 active-duty Marines, seeks to grow by several thousand, including the likely addition of three new infantry battalions. "We need to be bigger. The question is how big do we need to be and how do we get there," a senior Marine Corps official said.

At least two-thirds of Army units in the United States today are rated as not ready to deploy -- lacking in manpower, training and, most critically, equipment -- according to senior U.S. officials and the Iraq Study Group report. The two ground services estimate that they will need $18 billion a year to repair, replace and upgrade destroyed and worn-out equipment.

If another crisis were to erupt requiring a large number of U.S. ground troops, the Army's plan would be to freeze its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and divert to the new conflict the U.S.-based combat brigade that is first in line to deploy.

Beyond that, however, the Army would have to cobble together war-depleted units to form complete ones to dispatch to the new conflict -- at the risk of lost time, unit cohesion and preparedness, senior Army officials said. Moreover, the number of Army and Marine combat units available for an emergency would be limited to about half that of four years ago, experts said, unless the difficult decision to pull forces out of Iraq were made.

"We are concerned about gross readiness . . . and ending equipment and personnel shortfalls," said a senior Marine Corps official. The official added that Marine readiness has dropped and that the Corps is unable to fulfill many planned missions for the fight against terrorism.

Senior Pentagon officials stress that the U.S. military has ample air and naval power that could respond immediately to possible contingencies in North Korea, Iran or the Taiwan Strait.

"If you had to go fight another war someplace that somebody sprung upon us, you would keep the people who are currently employed doing what they're doing, and you would use the vast part of the U.S. armed forces that is at home station, to include the enormous strength of our Air Force and our Navy, against the new threat," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.

But if the conflict were to require a significant number of ground troops -- as in some scenarios such as the disintegration of Pakistan -- Army and Marine Corps officials made clear that they would have to scramble to provide them. "Is it the way we'd want to do it? No. Would it be ugly as hell? Yes," said one of the senior Army officials. "But," he added, "we could get it done."

According to Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, the Army and Marine Corps today cannot sustain even a modest increase of 20,000 troops in Iraq. U.S. commanders for Afghanistan have asked for more troops but have not received them, noted the Iraq Study Group report, which called it "critical" for the United States to provide more military support for Afghanistan.

"We are facing more operational risk than we have for many, many years," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee. He called it "shocking and scandalous" that two-thirds of Army units are rated "non-deployable." He said the country has not faced such a readiness crisis since the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

The U.S. military has more than 140,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan, including 17 of the Army's 36 available active-duty combat brigades. When Army and Marine Corps combat units return from the war zone, they immediately lose large numbers of experienced troops and leaders who either leave the force, go to school or other assignments, or switch to different units.

The depletion of returning units is so severe that the Marines refer to this phase as the "post-deployment death spiral." Army officials describe it as a process of breaking apart units and rebuilding them "just in time" to deploy again.

Training time for active-duty Army and Marine combat units is only half what it should be because they are spending about the same amount of time in war zones as at home -- in contrast to the desired ratio of spending twice as much time at home as on deployment. And the training tends to focus on counterinsurgency skills for Iraq and Afghanistan, causing an erosion in conventional land-warfare capabilities, which could be required for North Korea or Iran, officials say.

If a conflict with North Korea or Iran were to break out and demand a medium to large ground force, the Army would be forced to respond with whatever it had available.

The U.S. military today could cobble together two or three divisions in an emergency -- compared with as many as six in 2001 -- not enough to carry out major operations such as overthrowing the Iranian government. "That's the kind of extreme scenario that could cripple us," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution.

Unable to count on a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq, the Army seeks to ease the manpower strain by accelerating plans to have 70 active-duty and National Guard combat brigades available for rotations by 2011. Next year, for example, the Army intends to bring two brigades on a training mission back into rotation. It is investing $36 billion in Guard equipment in anticipation of heavier use of the Guard.

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 3:33:02 PM
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The GOP's Iraq Two-Step

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; A21

Where do the Republicans' likely 2008 presidential candidates come down on Iraq?

You might think that a decent regard for the opinions of their fellow citizens, as registered in last month's elections, would rouse them from their Bushian dreams of victory in what has become a savage intra-Islamic war where the very notion of an American triumph makes no sense whatever.

You might think that, with the president's approval rating now sunk to near-Nixonian depths, Republican leaders, for their own good as well as their country's, might want to withdraw our men and women from Iraq before the next election.

But that would require the Republicans -- leaders and rank-and-file both -- to become a reality-based party. If their leading candidates are any indication, however, they're not yet willing to make that leap.

Front-runner John McCain, for instance, calls for a major increase in the size of the U.S. force and, with his fellow neoconservatives, rejects the Baker-Hamilton report because it rules out victory as a plausible option. "There's only one thing worse than an overstressed Army and Marine Corps," McCain said, "and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps."

Rudy Giuliani, who was originally a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission but resigned midway through its proceedings (to be replaced by Ed Meese), called some of the commission's ideas "useful," but also told talk show host Dennis Prager that, "the idea of leaving Iraq, I think, is a terrible mistake." Newt Gingrich, attacking the report even before it was released, wondered whether Washington would ever have crossed the Delaware if waffling Jim Baker had been whispering in his ear.

McCain's position, at least, is sincerely held, as befits a candidate whose calling card is his integrity. Still, integrity in the pursuit of fantasy is no virtue. Lee Hamilton's estimate that we'd need to deploy an additional 50,000 to 100,000 troops "on a sustained basis" to reestablish order in Iraq sounds about right -- putting aside the question of what the Sunnis and Shiites would do when the troops finally left. But we don't have the troops. Some Army and Marine units in Iraq are on their third deployment. Who else, exactly, would McCain deploy? Customs agents? The Woodcraft Rangers? The editors of the Weekly Standard?

There's also the little matter of waning public support for the war.

In the new Newsweek poll, 48 percent of Americans say they want U.S. forces home within a year; 67 percent want them back within two years. A scant 23 percent believe they should stay "as long as it takes to achieve U.S. goals."

The political problem for GOP aspirants is that the overwhelming majority of that 23 percent is Republican. In the same Newsweek poll, just 39 percent said that invading Iraq had been the right course of action, but fully 67 percent of Republicans still endorsed the invasion. And life being unfair, they're likely to be the ones who will vote in the '08 presidential primaries.

So what's a Republican presidential hopeful to do? Concede the votes of those Republicans who have given up on the war to Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska maverick who cannot possibly win the nomination but whose realism on the war could make him the only electable Republican if we're still in Iraq in late '08? Or will Mitt Romney (who was in China last week, far from the Baker-Hamilton debates) or some other GOP aspirant place a long-shot bet on the revival of Republican realism (hoping the party will recognize both the futility of the war and the frustration of the American public) and call for the return of our troops?

There is, of course, a category of Republican officials who don't have to worry about their party's presidential primaries but are petrified at the prospect of being tossed out by the general electorate if the Iraqi occupation persists through November 2008: congressmen and senators. To save themselves, not to mention American troops, many of them may yet join with congressional Democrats to try to bring our men and women home before the next election, however mightily the president resists them. By so doing, however, they may just save the skin of the eventual Republican standard-bearer, whoever he be. For if winning the Republican nomination requires the candidate to vow to stay in this war till the end of recorded time -- and it may -- the only way a Republican could actually win the White House would be to have somebody, not him, withdraw American forces before it's time to vote. Bush would surely say this would happen over his dead body, but politically, Republican officials might have to choose between his dead body and their own.

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From: Suma12/13/2006 4:36:33 PM
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BAD BAD NEWS.

Johnson has a stroke..

The balance of the Senate is in question.. Could be 50/50 with Cheney sitting in the drivers seat.

There go all the investigations. There go all the nominations...

Terrible news for Johnson, his family and the Country.

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To: Suma who wrote (32602)12/13/2006 4:49:48 PM
From: Dale Baker
   of 483734
 
Don't panic yet; nothing happens unless Johnson chooses to resign at some point. Then it depends on the state's rules whether they have a special election or the governor appoints a replacement until 2008.

Anyone know the answer to that?

The latest news item only says a possible stroke, so don't pull the plug yet.

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 5:38:04 PM
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Poll: Clinton, Giuliani Early 2008 White House Favorites

By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; 5:24 PM

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), who briefly competed against one another in a Senate race in 2000, hold early leads over potential rivals for their party's 2008 presidential nominations, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Clinton has a clear head start over other prospective Democratic candidates, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who only a month ago expressed interest in a 2008 race, now running second and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, in third.

Giuliani's advantage in the Republican race appears more tenuous as he holds a narrow lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, who nonetheless is far ahead of Giuliani in organizing a presidential campaign. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has not disclosed his plans for 2008, is well back in third.

Giuliani, whose leadership after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, earned widespread praise, enjoys strongly favorable ratings, according to the survey, with two-thirds of Americans giving him positive marks.

Clinton remains the most polarizing politician among those considering a campaign for president in 2008, but her image has improved perceptibly during her six-year tenure in the Senate.

In contrast, McCain's favorability ratings have declined during the past nine months. Among independents, his support has dropped 15 percentage points since March. Independents were his strongest supporters when he sought the Republican nomination in 2000. The decline has come at a time when McCain has been calling for sending more troops to Iraq and as he has aggressively reached out to conservative groups and Christian conservative leaders.

These early poll results largely reflect name identification among the field of candidates that includes several well-known political celebrities and many others who remain generally unknown to people outside their states. As a result, hypothetical match-ups are often poor predictors of what will happen once the primary-caucus season arrives in early 2008 and as voters learn more about where candidates stand on important issues.

But the findings provide some early clues to the shape of the presidential nomination battles while raising questions that will only be answered by months of campaigning, debates, speeches and town hall meetings.

The poll underscores, for example, the degree to which the Republican field is dominated at this stage by two candidates who have never been the darlings of the GOP's conservative base which dominate the party's primaries. McCain warred with conservatives -- particularly evangelical leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell -- when he ran in 2000, although he and Falwell have since patched up. Giuliani enjoys popular support among Republicans despite the fact that he supports abortion and gay rights and gun control.

On the Democratic side, Obama has made a quick and favorable impression on people but is still generally unknown and certainly not the only potentially significant rival to Clinton, should both formally enter the race.

Among Democrats, Clinton leads the field with 39 percent, followed by Obama at 17 percent, Edwards at 12 percent and former vice president Al Gore at 10 percent and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, the party's 2004 nominee, at 7 percent. No other Democrat received more than 2 percent.

When those surveyed were asked their second choice, Clinton's advantage became even more evident. She is the first or second choice of 60 percent of those surveyed, with Obama second at 33 percent.

Clinton receives significantly higher support among women than men (49 percent to 29 percent) and is favored by more moderates than liberals. Obama has almost equal support among men and women, but has twice as much support among liberals as among moderates.

Among Republicans, Giuliani is favored by 34 percent to McCain's 26 percent. Gingrich is at 12 percent and outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney runs fourth at 5 percent.

The Post-ABC poll asked Americans to rate a shorter list of potential candidates. Giuliani topped that list with a 67 percent favorable rating. Clinton was next at 56 percent, followed by McCain at 50 percent, Edwards at 49 percent and Obama at 44 percent. But many people haven't formed solid impressions of many candidates, including Obama and Edwards.

Clinton had the highest unfavorable ratings, at 40 percent, but Romney had the worst ratio: 22 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable, with 54 percent saying they didn't know enough about him to have an opinion.

There was another potentially more significant issue of concern for Romney in the survey. Asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who is Morman, as Romney is, 35 percent said they would be less likely while 3 percent said they would be more likely. Sixty-one percent said it would make no difference.

Underscoring the fragility of early polls on the presidential race is the fact that most Americans know little about where the candidates stand on specific issues. Just 45 percent said they knew a great deal or a lot about Clinton's positions and she was by far the highest on that question.

The poll was conducted Dec. 7-11 by telephone among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. The margin of error for the full poll is three percentage points; it is 5 points for the sub-sample of leaned Democrats and Republicans.

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 6:24:12 PM
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"New Caliphate" Nonsense

New Delhi, India - "Muslims want to revive the Caliphate," I hear pundits say. The idea is just preposterous. The Caliphate is a pre-nation state concept, relevant only to the Age of Empire. The Caliphate was defeated by the British in 1918. It was buried by the Turks in 1924.

Upon first glance, it seems the Caliphate had a fabulous run from 632 to 1918. However, look again: Only for a very short while during these 1300 years was there a single Caliph to which all Muslim political formations gave allegiance. Usually, there were multiple Muslim communities. The Ummayads in Spain never recognized the Abbasids in Baghdad; and the Mughals in India certainly did not pay obeisance to the Sublime Porte of their Turkish kinsmen in Istanbul. Then Mustafa Kemal Ghazi packed off the last Ottoman Caliph with 2000 pounds and a one-way ticket to Europe. He sealed the institution that had long outlived its utility.

The British drew most of the arbitrary lines around which nations were created out of the fallen Ottoman Empire. Those lines survived colonial mischief, local tyranny, despotism, socialism, popular upsurge against unrepresentative governments, war, and upheaval. Through nearly decades of turmoil, the power of the nation has been the one steady reality.

The Arabs are united by a common language, culture and faith, and yet prefer to live in some 22 nations. They do not want to report to an Arab Caliph.

Don't believe me? Just try selling a Pakistani Caliph to a Bangladeshi.

For the record, the last serious attempt to create a Caliph was made by Lloyd-George and Churchill, both during the First World War and just after it. They were keen forming a 'Southern Caliphate' to counter the Ottoman. They wanted an Arab who could rule from Mecca. Their preferred candidates were from the Hashemite family, now ruling Jordan. An emir from the dusty neighborhood thought it was not such a good idea. Thus, the Saudis rule over Mecca and Medina now.

Do Bush and Blair really need a Caliph as an ogre-enemy? Do they need the kind of figure who mother's warned their troublesome children about in eighteenth century Europe? Why can't they just admit to themselves that their shock-and-awe might is being defeated in Iraq by anonymous young men with cottage industry weapons? I suppose that's a tough truth to face.

By M.J. Akbar | December 11, 2006; 7:50 AM ET

Mubashar Jawed Akbar is a leading Indian journalist and author. He's the founder and editor-in-chief of The Asian Age, a daily multi-edition Indian newspaper with a global perspective and editor-in-chief of The Deccan Chronice, a news daily based in Hyderabad. He has written books including Blood Brothers, Nehru: The Making of India, Kashmir: Behind the Vale, Riot After Riot, The Shade of Swords, and India: The Siege Within.

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 7:06:10 PM
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NBC reports their Bush approval poll at 34%, the lowest they ever polled in six years. Only 21% want Bush setting policy while 59% are looking to Congress to change the national direction.

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To: Dale Baker who wrote (32603)12/13/2006 7:42:20 PM
From: freelyhovering
   of 483734
 
Looks not so bleak yet.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 13, 2006
South Dakota Senator Hospitalized
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:20 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A spokesman for Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson said the politician did not suffer a stroke or heart attack, contrary to initial reports after Johnson was taken to a Washington hospital, weeks before his party was to take control of the Senate by a one-vote margin.

Johnson, who will 60 on Dec. 28, became disoriented during a conference call with reporters at midday Wednesday, stuttering in response to a question. He was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where doctors were evaluating his condition.

Democrats won a 51-49 majority in the November election. South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike Rounds, would appoint a replacement to serve until the 2008 election should Johnson die or resign.

Before he ended the call, Johnson appeared to recover and asked if there were any additional questions.

Spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said he then walked back to his Capitol office but appeared to not be feeling well. The Capitol physician came to his office and examined him, and it was decided he should go to the hospital.

He was taken to the hospital by ambulance around noon, Fisher said.

''It was caught very early,'' she said.

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From: Dale Baker12/13/2006 10:15:51 PM
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Opinions still split and contradictory on privacy intrusion issues:

66% Think U.S. Spies on Its Citizens
52% in Poll Back Hearings on Handling of Domestic Surveillance

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; A19

Two-thirds of Americans believe that the FBI and other federal agencies are intruding on privacy rights as part of terrorism investigations, but they remain divided over whether such tactics are justified, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday.

The poll also showed that 52 percent of respondents favor congressional hearings on how the Bush administration has handled surveillance, detainees and other terrorism-related issues, compared with 45 percent who are opposed. That question was posed to half of the poll's 1,005-person random sample.

Overall, the poll -- which includes questions that have been asked since 2002 and 2003 -- showed a continued skepticism about whether the government is adequately protecting privacy rights as it conducts terrorism-related investigations.

Compared with June 2002, for example, almost twice as many respondents say the need to respect privacy outranks the need to investigate terrorist threats. That shift was first evident in polling conducted in January 2006.

That sentiment is still a minority view, however: Nearly two-thirds rank investigating threats as more important than guarding against intrusions on personal privacy, down from 79 percent in 2002.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who is a professor in Georgetown University's Security Studies Program, said the poll results could spell trouble for the FBI and other government agencies as they continue to seek support for expanded anti-terrorism powers granted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I don't think you can view these polling results in isolation from an overall phenomenon, which is that people are more skeptical of the government's conduct of the war on terrorism," Hoffman said.

Sixty-six percent of those questioned said that the FBI and other agencies are "intruding on some Americans' privacy rights" in terrorism investigations, up from 58 percent in September 2003. Thirty percent think the government is not intruding on privacy.

Support for intrusive tactics has dropped even more significantly during that time. A bare majority, 51 percent, feel the tactics are justified, down from 63 percent three years ago.

The poll was conducted by telephone from Dec. 7 through Monday, and the results have a three-percentage-point margin of error.

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