"The truth of the matter is, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness.- President Obama
The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bear these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more. And so my response then continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem, they don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States."
"When the Illinois state House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage last fall, just three out of 47 Republicans voted for it. On Tuesday, none of them lost. State Rep. Tom Cross (R) cruised to a 14-point victory in the primary for state treasurer while state Rep. Ed Sullivan (R) easily won renomination in his district. The third, state Rep. Ron Sandack (R), narrowly edged out his opponent by fewer than 200 votes, according to an unofficial tally. The close margin could mean the race goes to a recount. Sandack and Sullivan both faced pressure from third-party groups looking to oust them over their gay marriage votes. In Sandack’s case, the issue became a central focus. Had the three Republicans lost, it would have probably given pause to Republicans considering backing gay marriage in other states where the matter comes up in the future. But given two decisive wins and a third tentative victory, gay rights advocates have a lot to be happy about a day after the election."
"[I’m struck by] the odd mix of fear and wish projection with which many conservatives view Putin. We hear how dangerous Putin is but also pretty clearly that they wish our leaders were like him - someone who bends history to his will and all that. I mentioned earlier that for all the carping about how President Obama encouraged Putin’s aggression and hasn’t responded to it with sufficient force - what about what happened in Georgia in 2008? President Bush did basically nothing. The truth is there was very little he could do.- Josh Marshall, on Obama and his detractors
The President’s critics talk about “resolve” and “leadership” and “toughness” because there are not any actual actions they can point to that they think he should do but isn’t. These phrases are plastic, can mean anything and can be puffed up with all manner of wish-projection and foreign policy fantasy untethered to any concrete and specifics actions. It recalls the glory days of #RomneyStrength.
It’s really that clear. Vague and ambiguous phrases are used to conceal this.
What President Obama could do is give Putin an ultimatum to leave Crimea or be forcibly expelled. Then we’d have a real test of strength and Putin would see deep potential costs to his actions. But even the President’s toughest critics recognize this would be insane. It’s really not a good idea to get into a land war with the world’s other major nuclear power on their own terrain."
"I looked [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy."-
George W. Bush, 2001
Christopher Hitchens, 2010:
"No one here I suppose would have forgotten the moment when George Bush met Vladimir Putin, who had chosen for the day to decorate his chest with his grandmother’s ornate Russian Orthodox crucifix. Enough for the President to be convinced and to say that just to look into those beautiful limpid eyes was enough to see that he was a person of deep spirituality and sensitivity. I think by the way in a fairly strong field that’s one of the stupidest things any president has ever said."
"Much as people carp about the insufficiency of President Obama’s response, the entirety of this crisis is governed by the fact that the US has no viable military options and Russia does. (A good example for the United States of why it is important to cultivate sources of strength other than purely military ones.) We know that; Putin knows that. It is difficult to overstate the ease with which Russia can take possession of the Crimean Peninsula since, in effect, it already has possession. It’s the home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. And the peninsula is riddled with Russian military installations, as part of an uneasy post-Soviet accommodation in which Ukraine leases Soviet-era bases to Russia."
Map via BBC: Ukraine Crisis In Maps
"We blew this one. [..] Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn’t know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn’t know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."-
The New Jersey Star-Ledger, effectively revoking its endorsement of Chris Christie. The very same editorial manages to endorse Christie for president, because the GOP field is just that bleak:
"Now ask yourself this: If the Republican primary came to a choice between [Rand] Paul and Christie, which candidate would you endorse?"
"This wasn’t an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided, after a few brewskis, to come in and shoot up a substation. This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components."- Former PG&E Vice Preisdent Mark Johnson, on the sniper attack at a California power subsation that was kept from the public since last April.
The United Kingdom returned the city to the mainland in 1997, with the caveat that the city would continue to operate much as before for 50 years, before being fully absorbed into the much larger, Communist-controlled People’s Republic. But many believe Beijing is going back on its word. Critics point to encroachment of Hong Kong’s freedom of press, the lack of direct elections of Hong Kong’s chief executive — which presumably give Beijing greater opportunity to meddle — and Beijing’s control over Hong Kong’s immigration policy. But ordinary Hong Kongers are more likely to be angry at the quotidian: Photographs of mainland tourists crowding city streets, eating on Hong Kong subway, or cutting in line regularly go viral on Hong Kong’s social media. (The rancor goes both ways: Influential Chinese commentator Kong Qingdong infamously called Hong Kongers “dogs” in January 2012.)
Hong Kongers can at least be forgiven for feeling outnumbered. Approximately 40.7 million mainland tourists visited Hong Kong in 2013 — more than five times Hong Kong’s population of 7.2 million. While the Hong Kong government estimates that mainland tourists created more than 110,000 jobs in the region in 2012 alone, several surveys have shown that ordinary Hong Kongers do not believe that they have benefited from the influx. Instead, they resent mainland tourists for overcrowding subway cars, driving up commercial rents, and emptying store shelves of baby formula. New immigrants to Hong Kong face even more ire for taking jobs and the benefits given to residents, like school spots for children and hospital beds.
Intense and realistic training is dangerous business, and the American maxim that the more you bleed during training the less you bleed during combat doesn’t translate well in a Leninist military system. Just the opposite.China’s military is intentionally organized to bureaucratically enforce risk-averse behavior, because an army that spends too much time training is an army that is not engaging in enough political indoctrination. Beijing’s worst nightmare is that the PLA could one day forget that its number one mission is protecting the Communist Party’s civilian leaders against all its enemies – especially when the CCP’s “enemies” are domestic student or religious groups campaigning for democratic rights, as happened in 1989 and 1999, respectively.
For that reason, the PLA has to engage in constant “political work” at the expense of training for combat. This means that 30 to 40 percent of an officer’s career (or roughly 15 hours per 40-hour work week) is wasted studying CCP propaganda, singing patriotic songs, and conducting small group discussions on Marxist-Leninist theory. And when PLA officers do train, it is almost always a cautious affair that rarely involves risky (i.e., realistic) training scenarios.
Abraham Lincoln once observed that if he had six hours to chop down a tree he would spend the first four hours sharpening his axe. Clearly the PLA is not sharpening its proverbial axe. Nor can it. Rather, it has opted to invest in a bigger axe, albeit one that is still dull. Ironically, this undermines Beijing’s own aspirations for building a truly powerful 21st century military.
Yet none of this should be comforting to China’s potential military adversaries. It is precisely China’s military weakness that makes it so dangerous. Take the PLA’s lack of combat experience, for example. A few minor border scraps aside, the PLA hasn’t seen real combat since the Korean War. This appears to be a major factor leading it to act so brazenly in the East and South China Seas. Indeed, China’s navy now appears to be itching for a fight anywhere it can find one. Experienced combat veterans almost never act this way. Indeed, history shows that military commanders that have gone to war are significantly less hawkish than their inexperienced counterparts. Lacking the somber wisdom that comes from combat experience, today’s PLA is all hawk and no dove.
The Chinese military is dangerous in another way as well. Recognizing that it will never be able to compete with the U.S. and its allies using traditional methods of war fighting, the PLA has turned to unconventional “asymmetric” first-strike weapons and capabilities to make up for its lack of conventional firepower, professionalism and experience. These weapons include more than 1,600 offensive ballistic and cruise missiles, whose very nature is so strategically destabilizing that the U.S. and Russia decided to outlaw them with the INF Treaty some 25 years ago.
In concert with its strategic missile forces, China has also developed a broad array of space weapons designed to destroy satellites used to verify arms control treaties, provide military communications, and warn of enemy attacks. China has also built the world’s largest army of cyber warriors, and the planet’s second largest fleet of drones, to exploit areas where the U.S. and its allies are under-defended. All of these capabilities make it more likely that China could one day be tempted to start a war, and none come with any built in escalation control.
I think we all knew Obama was pretty smart, but this is a level of the communication altogether beyond the reach of the average Ivy League graduate or American politician. The fuddlement of the health care rollout and the drumbeat of Republican propaganda, even if one understands the source, has created an undertow of cynicism about Obama’s leadership abilities: that Obama is not that competent a President. There is a temptation to concede that while he is good at making speeches, he can’t administrate, lacks a vision of how to get things done. One need not buy into the ubiquitous Drudge snark that Obama is lost without a teleprompter to feel that his presidency has not been what his supporters (even his conservative ones) had hoped.But here Obama was, on what I considered the most critical issue of his presidency, hitting it out of the park. Worth noting is the whole passive aggressive interplay between Obama and Haim Saban, the male banter about the wife being the person really in charge, and the pointed questions, from Saban and various Israeli journalists, designed to trip Obama up. He doesn’t make the case that I yearn for an American president to one day make, questioning whether American Mideast policy ought to be tied exclusively to the desires an aggressive and largely despised ethnocracy. But in that sense he is a political realist, a quality highly desirable in a president.Instead with a politician masterfully exploring the realm of the possible, seeking to “test the possibility we can resolve this issue diplomatically,” connecting his Iran diplomacy to the concerns expressed in Prime Minister Netanhayu’s UN presentation, quietly reminding his hawkish audience (and the AIPAC-influenced Congress) that “if we did not show good faith in trying to resolve this issue diplomatically, the sanctions regime would begin to fray, and above all that “this is hard”—Iran having already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. He was, by turns, charming, diplomatic, and frank, and it was—perhaps more than anything I’ve seen since the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a moment to be proud of one’s president. Hanging in the balance is whether Obama will succeed in tempering the hostility of this audience to Iran diplomacy, which will help stay AIPAC’s efforts to blow it up by legislating new sanctions. At this writing that seems to me a 50/50 proposition. But to have achieved even those odds makes me pleased with my vote last November.
Malala is an eloquent and effective spokesperson for her cause. It’s frustrating to watch people use her for simplistic bullshit like this.
Please note that I’m not disputing the message, although the fine print at the bottom is a straw man. I’m just pointing out that this was created as Facebook fodder by smug people who sought to get exposure for their narrow interests using Malala’s image, and have little interest in spreading her words or her story.
They could have just quoted her:
"I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."