Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Troop Funding TV AD

McCain supporters may appreciate this commercial. The Republicans are already trying to make Obama look like a flip flopper. Should be an interesting 5 months.

Emily Post's Campaign Etiquette*

I met Melissa at the You Tube debates in Florida. If you are an Obama supporter, I thought you would like this video.

Voting Myths

All In Your Head

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The New Reality in Iraq


July 16, 2008

All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow; and the Sadrist militia and other Iranian-backed militant groups have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has accomplished almost all of the legislative benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. More important, it is gaining wider legitimacy among the population. The attention of Iraqis across the country is focused on the upcoming provincial elections, which will be a pivotal moment in Iraq's development.

The result is that we have an extraordinary – but fleeting – opportunity to advance America's security and the stability of a vital region of the world.

As far as the civil war is concerned, there have been virtually no sectarian killings recorded for the past 10 weeks. Violence is still perpetrated by organized groups, but AQI, the remnant Sunni insurgents and Shiite fighters are now focused on attacking their own members who have defected to our side. This is a measure of their weakness. The Iraqi population is increasingly mobilizing against the perpetrators of violence, flooding American and Iraqi forces with tips about the locations of weapons caches and key militant leaders – Sunnis turning in Sunnis and Shia turning in Shia.

The fighters have not simply hidden their weapons and gone to ground to await the next opportunity to kill each other. The Sunni insurgency, as well as AQI, has been severely disrupted. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or detained many key leaders, driven the militants out of every one of Iraq's major cities (including Mosul), and are pursuing the remnants vigorously in rural areas and the desert.

The Shiite militias have also been broken apart, sending thousands of their leaders scurrying for safety in Iran. Iraqi forces continue to hammer Iranian-backed Special Groups and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al Mahdi that have been fighting with them in Sadr City, Maysan Province and elsewhere. At this time, none of these networks can conduct operations that could seriously destabilize the Iraqi government. But both al Qaeda and the Iranians are working hard to refit their networks.

The larger strategic meaning of these military and political advances must be kept clearly in mind. Iraq remains a critical front in al Qaeda's war against the U.S.

Discussions in the American media about whether AQI is "really" al Qaeda are puerile. AQI's leadership, largely foreign, is part of the global al Qaeda network operating in support of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden and his lieutenants in Pakistan and around the world send support (including foreign fighters) to Iraq and closely follow the situation there, as their repeated public pronouncements show no less than their actions. Al Qaeda's central leadership is not prepared to lose in Iraq, and has been seeking ways to regain lost ground.

Within Iraq, AQI operatives are still seeking aggressively to re-establish bases from which they can launch more substantial operations in the future. They are failing because of the continuous pressure American and Iraqi forces are putting on them from Baghdad to Mosul. If that pressure is relaxed, they will begin to succeed again.

The Iranian leaders responsible for Iranian policy in Iraq – principally Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Brigadier General Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force – also remain determined. They are retraining and re-equipping thousands of fighters who fled the most recent Iraqi and Coalition operations in Basra, Baghdad, and Maysan Provinces.

Past patterns suggest those fighters will return to Iraq and attempt to restart attacks against Coalition Forces in time to disrupt Iraqi elections and to affect America's voting. Their attacks are likely to be more spectacular, but less effective at disrupting Iraqi government and society.

If America remains firm in its commitment to success in Iraq, success is very likely. The AQI and Shiite militias at present do not have the capacity to drive Iraq off course – unless both the U.S. and the Iraqi government make a number of serious mistakes.

The most serious error would be to withdraw American forces too rapidly. That would strengthen the resolve of both al Qaeda and Iran to persevere in their efforts to disrupt the young Iraqi state and weaken the resolve of those Iraqis, particularly in the Iraqi Security Forces, who are betting their lives on continued American assistance.

The blunt fact is this. In Iraq, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Shiite militias are badly off-balance. Now is exactly the time to continue the pressure to keep them from regaining their equilibrium. It need not, and probably will not, require large numbers of American casualties to keep this pressure on. But it will require a considerable number of American troops through 2009.

Recent suggestions in Washington that reductions could begin sooner or proceed more rapidly are premature. The current force levels will be needed through the Iraqi provincial elections later this year, and consideration of force reductions makes sense only after those elections are over and the incoming commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, has evaluated the new situation.

The benefits to the U.S. from seeing the fight through to the end far outweigh the likely costs. For one thing, Iraqis have shown their determination to increase their oil output, currently averaging 2.5 million barrels a day, as fast as they can – something that can only happen if their country is secure.

Far more important is the opportunity in our hands today to work with a Muslim country in the heart of the Arab world to inflict the most visible and humiliating defeat possible on al Qaeda. Success in Iraq also makes it possible to establish a strategic partnership with a legitimate, democratic majority-Shia state that is aligned with the U.S. against Iran.

Recent comments by some Iraqi leaders about the current negotiations for a status-of-force agreement – made in the context of an increasingly heated election season in Iraq, and with the desire to improve Iraq's bargaining position in the negotiations – do not call the U.S. partnership into question. As we recently found in Baghdad, even the most outspoken advocates of rapid American force reductions strongly insist on a strategic partnership with America that helps Iraq stand up to Iran. Most of Iraq's military leaders are unequivocal about the need for a continued U.S. force presence.

The Iraqi government and people – whose surging anti-Persian feeling is more obvious every day – have already shown their willingness to push back against Iranian intervention. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attack on Iranian-backed forces in Basra, followed by Iraqi-led operations in Baghdad, central Iraq and Maysan, is proof of Baghdad's willingness. Helping Iraq to succeed is our best hope of finding a way of resolving our differences with Iran over the long term without coming to blows.

It is time for Americans to recognize it's a whole new ballgame in Iraq. The civil war is over, American troops are not an "irritant" fueling the unrest, and far from becoming dependent upon us, the Iraqi government and the army show more determination every day to run their country and to protect it. But they continue to want and need our assistance.

While victory in war is never certain until the war is over, the odds are strongly with us for once – provided we do the right thing. That is to stand by our best ally in the war against al Qaeda, and the struggle to contain Iran.

Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Mr. Keane is a former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. All have just returned from their most recent visit to Iraq.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sen. McCain's Remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan

John McCain

I'm here today to discuss with you several issues that worry you and most Americans, our slumping economy, job loss, rising gas and food prices, and what we need to do to get our economy growing again, create jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. But there is another urgent issue I want to address before I take your questions, which I know concerns you because brave Americans are risking their lives right now to deal with it.

Over the last year, Senator Obama and I were part of a great debate about the war in Iraq. Both of us agreed the Bush administration had pursued a failed strategy there and that we had to change course. Where Senator Obama and I disagreed, fundamentally, was what course we should take. I called for a comprehensive new strategy -- a surge of troops and counterinsurgency to win the war. Senator Obama disagreed. He opposed the surge, predicted it would increase sectarian violence, and called for our troops to retreat as quickly as possible.

Today we know Senator Obama was wrong. The surge has succeeded. And because of its success, the next President will inherit a situation in Iraq in which America's enemies are on the run, and our soldiers are beginning to come home. Senator Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I note that he is speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he has even left, before he has talked to General Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq, and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time. In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy.

Although the situation in Iraq is much improved, another test awaits whoever wins this election: the war in Afghanistan. The status quo is not acceptable. Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated, and our enemies are on the offensive. From the moment the next President walks into the Oval Office, he will face critical decisions about Afghanistan.

Senator Obama will tell you we can't win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan. It is by applying the tried and true principles of counter-insurgency used in the surge -- which Senator Obama opposed -- that we will win in Afghanistan. With the right strategy and the right forces, we can succeed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I know how to win wars. And if I'm elected President, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory.

That strategy will have several components. Our commanders on the ground in Afghanistan say that they need at least three additional brigades. Thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them. But sending more forces, by itself, is not enough to prevail. In the 18 months that Senator Obama has been campaigning for the presidency, the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan has already almost doubled -- from 33,000 in January 2007 to about 53,000 today. Yet security has still deteriorated. What we need in Afghanistan is exactly what Gen. Petraeus brought to Iraq: a nationwide civil-military campaign plan that is focused on providing security for the population. Today no such integrated plan exists. When I am commander-in-chief, it will.

There are, of course, many differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, which any plan must account for. But, as in Iraq, the center of gravity is the security of the population. The good news is that our soldiers have begun to apply the lessons of Iraq to Afghanistan -- especially in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are concentrated. These efforts, however, are too piecemeal; the work of innovative local commanders, rather than a strategy for the entire country. In particular, the U.S. needs to reengage deeper in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban heartland.

One of the reasons there is no comprehensive campaign plan for Afghanistan is because we have violated one of the cardinal rules of any military operation: unity of command. Today there are no less than three different American military combatant commands operating in Afghanistan, as well as NATO, some of whose members have national restrictions on where their troops can go and what they can do. This is no way to run a war. The top commander in Afghanistan needs to be just that: the supreme commander of all coalition forces. As commander-in-chief, I will work with our allies to ensure unity of command.

A successful counterinsurgency requires more than military force. It requires all instruments of our national power, and that military and civilian leaders work together, at all levels, under a joint plan. Too often in Afghanistan this is not happening. And we need to build the same kind of civil-military partnership that Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker have forged in Iraq, supported by the best talent in the U.S. government and the resources necessary to prevail. Unity of command is also a principle I will bring to Washington. Too often, even as American soldiers and diplomats cooperate in the field, their superiors back home have been squabbling. Last year, the Bush administration appointed a war czar, responsible for both Iraq and Afghanistan. This was a step in the right direction. But Afghanistan is sufficiently important that a separate Afghanistan Czar is needed. I will appoint a highly-respected national security lea der, based in the White House and reporting directly to the President, whose sole mission will be to ensure we bring the war in Afghanistan to a successful end.

Everyone knows the United States increased the number of its soldiers in Iraq last year. What's less well known is that the Iraqis surged with us, adding over 100,000 security forces to their ranks. It's time for the Afghans to do the same. The Afghan army is already a great success story: a multiethnic, battle-tested fighting force. The problem is, it's too small, with a projected strength of only 80,000 troops. For years, the Afghans have been telling us they need a bigger army, and they are right. We need to at least double the size of the Afghan army to 160,000 troops. The costs of this increase, however, should not be borne by American taxpayers alone. Insecurity in Afghanistan is the world's problem, and the world should share the costs. We must work with our allies to establish an international trust fund to provide long-term financing for the Afghan army.

We also need to increase our non-military assistance to the Afghan government, with a multi-front plan for strengthening its institutions, the rule of law, and the economy in order to provide a sustainable alternative to the drug trade. Getting control of narcotics trafficking is central to our efforts in Afghanistan. Alternative crops must be able to get to market and traffickers must be arrested and prosecuted by enhanced Special Courts. We should agree on specific governance and development benchmarks with the Afghan government, then work with them closely to ensure they are met.

Just as we have worked over the past 18 months to stabilize Iraq by bringing together its neighbors, this kind of diplomacy is just as important for Afghanistan. The violence there has many causes, but chief among them is the fact that Afghanistan is treated by some regional powers a chessboard on which to pursue their own ambitions. I will appoint a special presidential envoy to address disputes between Afghanistan and its neighbors. Our goal must be to turn Afghanistan from a theater for regional rivalries into a commons for regional cooperation.

A special focus of our regional strategy must be Pakistan, where terrorists today enjoy sanctuary. This must end. We must strengthen local tribes in the border areas who are willing to fight the foreign terrorists there -- the strategy used successfully in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq. We must convince Pakistanis that this is their war as much as it is ours. And we must empower the new civilian government of Pakistan to defeat radicalism with greater support for development, health, and education. Senator Obama has spoken in public about taking unilateral military action in Pakistan. In trying to sound tough, he has made it harder for the people whose support we most need to provide it. I will not bluster, and I will not make idle threats. But understand this: when I am commander -in-chief, there will be nowhere the terrorists can run, and nowhere they can hide.

In wartime, judgment and experience matter. In a time of war, the commander-in-chief doesn't get a learning curve. If I have that privilege, I will bring to the job many years of military and political experience; experience that gave me the judgment necessary to make the right call in Iraq a year and half ago. I supported the surge because I believed it was our only realistic chance to reverse the disaster our previous strategy had caused, and the right thing to do for our country. And although events have proven me right, my position wasn't popular at the time, and I risked my own political ambitions when I took it. When I tell you, I will put our country's interests -- your interests -- before party; before any special interest; before my own interests, every hour of every day I'm in office, you can believe me. Because for my entire adult life, in war and peace, nothing has ever been more important to me than the se curity and well-being of the country I love. Thank you.

John McCain, a U.S. Senator from Arizona, is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

A New Strategy for a New World

Barack Obama

Washington, D.C.

Sixty-one years ago, George Marshall announced the plan that would come to bear his name. Much of Europe lay in ruins. The United States faced a powerful and ideological enemy intent on world domination. This menace was magnified by the recently discovered capability to destroy life on an unimaginable scale. The Soviet Union didn't yet have an atomic bomb, but before long it would.

The challenge facing the greatest generation of Americans - the generation that had vanquished fascism on the battlefield - was how to contain this threat while extending freedom's frontiers. Leaders like Truman and Acheson, Kennan and Marshall, knew that there was no single decisive blow that could be struck for freedom. We needed a new overarching strategy to meet the challenges of a new and dangerous world.

Such a strategy would join overwhelming military strength with sound judgment. It would shape events not just through military force, but through the force of our ideas; through economic power, intelligence and diplomacy. It would support strong allies that freely shared our ideals of liberty and democracy; open markets and the rule of law. It would foster new international institutions like the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank, and focus on every corner of the globe. It was a strategy that saw clearly the world's dangers, while seizing its promise.

As a general, Marshall had spent years helping FDR wage war. But the Marshall Plan - which was just one part of this strategy - helped rebuild not just allies, but also the nation that Marshall had plotted to defeat. In the speech announcing his plan, he concluded not with tough talk or definitive declarations - but rather with questions and a call for perspective. "The whole world of the future," Marshall said, "hangs on a proper judgment." To make that judgment, he asked the American people to examine distant events that directly affected their security and prosperity. He closed by asking: "What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?"

What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?

Today's dangers are different, though no less grave. The power to destroy life on a catastrophic scale now risks falling into the hands of terrorists. The future of our security - and our planet - is held hostage to our dependence on foreign oil and gas. From the cave-spotted mountains of northwest Pakistan, to the centrifuges spinning beneath Iranian soil, we know that the American people cannot be protected by oceans or the sheer might of our military alone.

The attacks of September 11 brought this new reality into a terrible and ominous focus. On that bright and beautiful day, the world of peace and prosperity that was the legacy of our Cold War victory seemed to suddenly vanish under rubble, and twisted steel, and clouds of smoke.

But the depth of this tragedy also drew out the decency and determination of our nation. At blood banks and vigils; in schools and in the United States Congress, Americans were united - more united, even, than we were at the dawn of the Cold War. The world, too, was united against the perpetrators of this evil act, as old allies, new friends, and even long-time adversaries stood by our side. It was time - once again - for America's might and moral suasion to be harnessed; it was time to once again shape a new security strategy for an ever-changing world.

Imagine, for a moment, what we could have done in those days, and months, and years after 9/11.

We could have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan.

We could have secured loose nuclear materials around the world, and updated a 20th century non-proliferation framework to meet the challenges of the 21st.

We could have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy to grow our economy, save our planet, and end the tyranny of oil.

We could have strengthened old alliances, formed new partnerships, and renewed international institutions to advance peace and prosperity.

We could have called on a new generation to step into the strong currents of history, and to serve their country as troops and teachers, Peace Corps volunteers and police officers.

We could have secured our homeland--investing in sophisticated new protection for our ports, our trains and our power plants.

We could have rebuilt our roads and bridges, laid down new rail and broadband and electricity systems, and made college affordable for every American to strengthen our ability to compete.

We could have done that.

Instead, we have lost thousands of American lives, spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats - all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Our men and women in uniform have accomplished every mission we have given them. What's missing in our debate about Iraq - what has been missing since before the war began - is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq and its dominance of our foreign policy. This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.

I am running for President of the United States to lead this country in a new direction - to seize this moment's promise. Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America - once again - to lead.

As President, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy - one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin. I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

My opponent in this campaign has served this country with honor, and we all respect his sacrifice. We both want to do what we think is best to defend the American people. But we've made different judgments, and would lead in very different directions. That starts with Iraq.

I opposed going to war in Iraq; Senator McCain was one of Washington's biggest supporters for war. I warned that the invasion of a country posing no imminent threat would fan the flames of extremism, and distract us from the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; Senator McCain claimed that we would be greeted as liberators, and that democracy would spread across the Middle East. Those were the judgments we made on the most important strategic question since the end of the Cold War.

Now, all of us recognize that we must do more than look back - we must make a judgment about how to move forward. What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done? Senator McCain wants to talk of our tactics in Iraq; I want to focus on a new strategy for Iraq and the wider world.

It has been 18 months since President Bush announced the surge. As I have said many times, our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence. General Petraeus has used new tactics to protect the Iraqi population. We have talked directly to Sunni tribes that used to be hostile to America, and supported their fight against al Qaeda. Shiite militias have generally respected a cease-fire. Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.

For weeks, now, Senator McCain has argued that the gains of the surge mean that I should change my commitment to end the war. But this argument misconstrues what is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and stubbornly ignores the facts of the broader strategic picture that we face.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the strain on our military has increased, our troops and their families have borne an enormous burden, and American taxpayers have spent another $200 billion in Iraq. That's over $10 billion each month. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. June was our highest casualty month of the war. The Taliban has been on the offensive, even launching a brazen attack on one of our bases. Al Qaeda has a growing sanctuary in Pakistan. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, as I warned at the outset - Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the purpose of the surge. They have not invested tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues to rebuild their country. They have not resolved their differences or shaped a new political compact.

That's why I strongly stand by my plan to end this war. Now, Prime Minister Maliki's call for a timetable for the removal of U.S. forces presents a real opportunity. It comes at a time when the American general in charge of training Iraq's Security Forces has testified that Iraq's Army and Police will be ready to assume responsibility for Iraq's security in 2009. Now is the time for a responsible redeployment of our combat troops that pushes Iraq's leaders toward a political solution, rebuilds our military, and refocuses on Afghanistan and our broader security interests.

George Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq - they have a strategy for staying in Iraq. They said we couldn't leave when violence was up, they say we can't leave when violence is down. They refuse to press the Iraqis to make tough choices, and they label any timetable to redeploy our troops "surrender," even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government - not to a terrorist enemy. Theirs is an endless focus on tactics inside Iraq, with no consideration of our strategy to face threats beyond Iraq's borders.

At some point, a judgment must be made. Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don't have unlimited resources to try to make it one. We are not going to kill every al Qaeda sympathizer, eliminate every trace of Iranian influence, or stand up a flawless democracy before we leave - General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker acknowledged this to me when they testified last April. That is why the accusation of surrender is false rhetoric used to justify a failed policy. In fact, true success in Iraq - victory in Iraq - will not take place in a surrender ceremony where an enemy lays down their arms. True success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future - a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not reemerge. That is an achievable goal if we pursue a comprehensive plan to press the Iraqis stand up.

To achieve that success, I will give our military a new mission on my first day in office: ending this war. Let me be clear: we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 - one year after Iraqi Security Forces will be prepared to stand up; two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, we'll keep a residual force to perform specific missions in Iraq: targeting any remnants of al Qaeda; protecting our service members and diplomats; and training and supporting Iraq's Security Forces, so long as the Iraqis make political progress.

We will make tactical adjustments as we implement this strategy - that is what any responsible Commander-in-Chief must do. As I have consistently said, I will consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government. We will redeploy from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We will commit $2 billion to a meaningful international effort to support the more than 4 million displaced Iraqis. We will forge a new coalition to support Iraq's future - one that includes all of Iraq's neighbors, and also the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union - because we all have a stake in stability. And we will make it clear that the United States seeks no permanent bases in Iraq.

This is the future that Iraqis want. This is the future that the American people want. And this is what our common interests demand. Both America and Iraq will be more secure when the terrorist in Anbar is taken out by the Iraqi Army, and the criminal in Baghdad fears Iraqi Police, not just coalition forces. Both America and Iraq will succeed when every Arab government has an embassy open in Baghdad, and the child in Basra benefits from services provided by Iraqi dinars, not American tax dollars.

And this is the future we need for our military. We cannot tolerate this strain on our forces to fight a war that hasn't made us safer. I will restore our strength by ending this war, completing the increase of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines, and investing in the capabilities we need to defeat conventional foes and meet the unconventional challenges of our time.

So let's be clear. Senator McCain would have our troops continue to fight tour after tour of duty, and our taxpayers keep spending $10 billion a month indefinitely; I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future, and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. That's victory. That's success. That's what's best for Iraq, that's what's best for America, and that's why I will end this war as President.

In fact - as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain - the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That's why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is unacceptable that almost seven years after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on our soil, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are recording messages to their followers and plotting more terror. The Taliban controls parts of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia. If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.

Senator McCain said - just months ago - that "Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq." I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.

I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions - with fewer restrictions - from NATO allies. I will focus on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary, with more resources and incentives for American officers who perform these missions. Just as we succeeded in the Cold War by supporting allies who could sustain their own security, we must realize that the 21st century's frontlines are not only on the field of battle - they are found in the training exercise near Kabul, in the police station in Kandahar, and in the rule of law in Herat.

Moreover, lasting security will only come if we heed Marshall's lesson, and help Afghans grow their economy from the bottom up. That's why I've proposed an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year, with meaningful safeguards to prevent corruption and to make sure investments are made - not just in Kabul - but out in Afghanistan's provinces. As a part of this program, we'll invest in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing for Afghan farmers, just as we crack down on heroin trafficking. We cannot lose Afghanistan to a future of narco-terrorism. The Afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared.

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That's why I'm cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.

Only a strong Pakistani democracy can help us move toward my third goal - securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states. One of the terrible ironies of the Iraq War is that President Bush used the threat of nuclear terrorism to invade a country that had no active nuclear program. But the fact that the President misled us into a misguided war doesn't diminish the threat of a terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction - in fact, it has only increased it.

In those years after World War II, we worried about the deadly atom falling into the hands of the Kremlin. Now, we worry about 50 tons of highly enriched uranium - some of it poorly secured - at civilian nuclear facilities in over forty countries. Now, we worry about the breakdown of a non-proliferation framework that was designed for the bipolar world of the Cold War. Now, we worry - most of all - about a rogue state or nuclear scientist transferring the world's deadliest weapons to the world's most dangerous people: terrorists who won't think twice about killing themselves and hundreds of thousands in Tel Aviv or Moscow, in London or New York.

We cannot wait any longer to protect the American people. I've made this a priority in the Senate, where I worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. I'll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world during my first term as President. And I'll develop new defenses to protect against the 21st century threat of biological weapons and cyber-terrorism - threats that I'll discuss in more detail tomorrow.

Beyond taking these immediate, urgent steps, it's time to send a clear message: America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we must retain a strong deterrent. But instead of threatening to kick them out of the G-8, we need to work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert; to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material; to seek a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons; and to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global. By keeping our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we'll be in a better position to press nations like North Korea and Iran to keep theirs. In particular, it will give us more credibility and leverage in dealing with Iran.

We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States. No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy - diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions.

There will be careful preparation. I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort. Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That's why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence - including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.
We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives. If you refuse, then we will ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions in the Security Council, and sustained action outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime. That's the diplomacy we need. And the Iranians should negotiate now; by waiting, they will only face mounting pressure.
The surest way to increase our leverage against Iran in the long-run is to stop bankrolling its ambitions. That will depend on achieving my fourth goal: ending the tyranny of oil in our time.
One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut. It funds petro-diplomacy in Caracas and radical madrasas from Karachi to Khartoum. It takes leverage away from America and shifts it to dictators.

This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the long-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Most disastrously, that could mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

This is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern - this is a national security crisis. For the sake of our security - and for every American family that is paying the price at the pump - we must end this dependence on foreign oil. And as President, that's exactly what I'll do. Small steps and political gimmickry just won't do. I'll invest $150 billion over the next ten years to put America on the path to true energy security. This fund will fast track investments in a new green energy business sector that will end our addiction to oil and create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades, and help secure the future of our country and our planet. We'll invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy - solar, wind, and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal clean and nuclear power safe. And from the moment I take office, I will let it be known that the United States of America is ready to lead again.

Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of global action to tackle this global challenge. I will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. We will also build an alliance of oil-importing nations and work together to reduce our demand, and to break the grip of OPEC on the global economy. We'll set a goal of an 80% reduction in global emissions by 2050. And as we develop new forms of clean energy here at home, we will share our technology and our innovations with all the nations of the world.

That is the tradition of American leadership on behalf of the global good. And that will be my fifth goal - rebuilding our alliances to meet the common challenges of the 21st century.

For all of our power, America is strongest when we act alongside strong partners. We faced down fascism with the greatest war-time alliance the world has ever known. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies against the Soviet threat, and paid a far smaller price for the first Gulf War because we acted together with a broad coalition. We helped create the United Nations - not to constrain America's influence, but to amplify it by advancing our values.

Now is the time for a new era of international cooperation. It's time for America and Europe to renew our common commitment to face down the threats of the 21st century just as we did the challenges of the 20th. It's time to strengthen our partnerships with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the world's largest democracy - India - to create a stable and prosperous Asia. It's time to engage China on common interests like climate change, even as we continue to encourage their shift to a more open and market-based society. It's time to strengthen NATO by asking more of our allies, while always approaching them with the respect owed a partner. It's time to reform the United Nations, so that this imperfect institution can become a more perfect forum to share burdens, strengthen our leverage, and promote our values. It's time to deepen our engagement to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, so that we help our ally Israel achieve true and lasting security, while helping Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations for statehood.

And just as we renew longstanding efforts, so must we shape new ones to meet new challenges. That's why I'll create a Shared Security Partnership Program - a new alliance of nations to strengthen cooperative efforts to take down global terrorist networks, while standing up against torture and brutality. That's why we'll work with the African Union to enhance its ability to keep the peace. That's why we'll build a new partnership to roll back the trafficking of drugs, and guns, and gangs in the Americas. That's what we can do if we are ready to engage the world.

We will have to provide meaningful resources to meet critical priorities. I know development assistance is not the most popular program, but as President, I will make the case to the American people that it can be our best investment in increasing the common security of the entire world. That was true with the Marshall Plan, and that must be true today. That's why I'll double our foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012, and use it to support a stable future in failing states, and sustainable growth in Africa; to halve global poverty and to roll back disease. To send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now."

This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another - and from the world - instead of calling us to a common purpose; that focuses on our tactics in fighting a war without end in Iraq instead of forging a new strategy to face down the true threats that we face. We cannot afford four more years of a strategy that is out of balance and out of step with this defining moment.

None of this will be easy, but we have faced great odds before. When General Marshall first spoke about the plan that would bear his name, the rubble of Berlin had not yet been built into a wall. But Marshall knew that even the fiercest of adversaries could forge bonds of friendship founded in freedom. He had the confidence to know that the purpose and pragmatism of the American people could outlast any foe. Today, the dangers and divisions that came with the dawn of the Cold War have receded. Now, the defeat of the threats of the past has been replaced by the transnational threats of today. We know what is needed. We know what can best be done. We know what must done. Now it falls to us to act with the same sense of purpose and pragmatism as an earlier generation, to join with friends and partners to lead the world anew.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

One Last Thing: U.S. citizens' gas money fueling Mideast's boom

By Jonathan V. Last

If you want to understand the macroeconomic implications of paying more than $4 a gallon (and rising) for gasoline, just look at the skyline of Dubai.
> It is cluttered with construction cranes building all manner of modern marvels.

> There's the 80-story Rotating Tower, whose floors will spin independently around a central axis.

> There's the needle-like Burj Dubai, which, when finished, will stand at more than 2,600 feet, making it the world's tallest building.

> In fact, there's a construction frenzy going on across the entire Middle East - in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE.

> Today, none of the skyscrapers in the Middle East cracks the world's top 10 in terms of height. But when the current building boom is over, the Middle East will be home to five of the 10 tallest buildings in the world and 12 of the tallest 30.

> Where's all this money coming from?

> It's not as if Middle Eastern countries are industrial or tech dynamos innovating and sweating their way to prosperity.

> No, the money paying for the Burj Dubai - residences there sell for $3,500 per square foot - is coming from you and me.

> Oil now hovers at $140 per barrel. In January 2001, when George W. Bush took office, it sold for $29 per barrel. When adjusted for inflation, that's a real-dollar increase of 400 percent.

> Remember all the Republican happy talk about how, in constant dollars, the recent oil spike still wasn't as bad as it had been in 1979 and 1980?

> Well, that's no longer the case. Those oil prices topped out at $35 per barrel - just $92 per barrel in today's dollars.

> Think about that for a moment: The prices we paid during the Carter-era gas crisis would be a bargain today.

> What that creates is a massive transfer of wealth, from Americans, who consume 20.1 million barrels per day, to our oil-producing "friends" in the Middle East.

> Do the math and it gets a little scary. In real dollars, oil producers are pocketing an extra $105 per barrel on top of the price they were getting in 2001. That's an extra $2.1 billion dollars per day that Americans are shipping overseas.

> Keep in mind that it's not as though the cost of producing the oil has increased exponentially. This is pure windfall profit for the sellers.

> You can see the transfer of wealth in places other than skyscrapers. Look at gross domestic product per capita of Middle Eastern countries between 2001 and 2007. The United Arab Emirates went from $21,100 to $37,300 - an inflation-adjusted increase of 50 percent.

> Per-capita GDP really took off in other Middle Eastern nations during that time: up 122 percent in Kuwait; up 87 percent in Saudi Arabia; up 226 percent in Qatar.

> You get the picture.

> Of course, when you transfer wealth to someone, you're transferring it away from someone else. We see signs of that flip side all the time. There are the increased fees and diminished services in the airline industry.

> Starbucks sells daily affordable luxury, making it a good canary in the economic coal mine. Last week they announced that they're closing 600 locations - more than 5 percent of their U.S. stores. This move is unheard of by a company that looked invincible 24 months ago.

> Consider Las Vegas, another purveyor of affordable luxury. Throughout the '90s, Vegas boomed as hotels were regularly booked to 95 percent occupancy and building projects broke ground at a rapid clip.

> Today, occupancy rates hover around 80 percent, and gambling revenue is down. Vegas' most prominent construction project, the $3.5 billion Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, isn't even finished, and it's already in foreclosure. The company, which owns the famed Tropicana (and 10 other casinos), filed for bankruptcy in May.

> All this adds up to a decline in our standard of living and a huge write-down of American wealth.

> And it is yet another failure of President Bush that after 9

11, he encouraged Americans to go shopping instead of leading the charge for a gas tax.
> A purely consumptive tax on gasoline - that is, a tax whose revenue was entirely refunded through income tax breaks - would have curbed our consumption, stimulated innovation in the energy sector, and kept much of our money at home.

> But no one in the political class, Republican or Democrat, had the courage to start that conversation.

> And now it's too late.

> The market will correct itself; markets always do. In the meantime, there will be pain in America while the countries of the Middle East - you'll recall that some of the folks over there are not particularly friendly to our way of life - continue to get fat.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

November's Electoral College Map

By Larry Sabato

Nobody now knows the exact contours of the November 4th Electoral College map. Nobody will know them until after the polls have closed. But except for the guessing game about the vice presidential nominations, there's no greater fun to be had in July. So the Crystal Ball is pleased to unveil our best estimates more than four months before the balloting. As always, we'll be revising the map all the way up to the campaign's end.

As everyone says, the map is due for some changes after a remarkably static Red-and-Blue divide. Only three states changed hands from 2000 to 2004: Iowa, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, and these three states were relative squeakers both times. It is highly likely that a half-dozen or more states will flip sides in 2008. Still, that suggests that around 40 states may keep the same color scheme. If November unexpectedly becomes a landslide for one party, then many states may temporarily defect from their usual allegiances.

An early-summer mapping simply has to assume that the election will be basically competitive, let's say with the winner receiving 52 percent or less of the two-party vote (with all third party votes excluded from the calculation). If one candidate's proportion of the vote climbs above 52 percent, then virtually all the swing states will move in his direction, coloring the toss-up white states either Blue or Red. Not even the most optimistic McCain analyst believes such a sweep can happen for the GOP in 2008. A McCain victory by any margin will have to be considered an upset, given historical precedents about the incumbent presidential party losing in bad economic times and when the sitting president is so roundly disliked. Therefore, a McCain triumph will be accomplished with a narrow Electoral College majority. A toss-up state sweep, if it happens, is very likely to be a Blue tide.

As the Democratic nominee in a year when conditions are truly awful for the incumbent Republican party, Barack Obama is considered the presidential frontrunner by a large majority of political observers (including many Republicans, privately), and the Crystal Ball is no different. If events intervene to reverse this, we'll revise the map, something we plan to do anyway throughout the fall campaign. The vice presidential nominees, if one or both are strong in their resident states or regions, may also trigger a map adjustment.

History also suggests that the Electoral College system is only critical when the popular vote is reasonably close or disputed. That is, the College can potentially or actually upend the popular vote just in elections where the major-party candidates are within a point or two of one another (such as Kennedy/Nixon-1960, Nixon/Humphrey-1968, Carter/Ford-1976, Bush/Gore-2000, and Bush/Kerry-2004). For the purposes of this essay, we are making a similar assumption about a close election in November 2008, though it may prove to be untrue in the end. The forces at work in '08 may produce a comfortable margin that eliminates state-by-state plotting on the map.

For now, we see the following states as

Solid -- No Real Chance for Upset

OBAMA - WA, CA, IL, MD, NY, VT, RI, MA, CT, NJ, DE, ME, DC, HI (183 electoral votes)

Comments: The McCain camp has made public statements suggesting they have hopes of winning CA, CT, ME, NJ and WA. If they are serious, then they will end up wasting a lot of money because they are destined to lose all these states-yes, even their chance at a single electoral vote in Maine, where the capture of one of the two congressional districts would yield McCain a vote.

McCAIN - ID, UT, AZ, WY, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, LA, AR, IN, KY, WV, TN, AL, SC (144 electoral votes)

Comments: The Obama camp has made noises about trying to win in AR, AZ, IN, KS, LA, and ND. While the enormously superior Obama financial resources make their attempts at long-shot states more reasonable, and some early polls in Indiana have been close, we will be surprised if Obama secures any of these states. If Sen. Evan Bayh is added to the Democratic ticket, then an Obama upset in Indiana becomes a live possibility. Arizona, which has been abandoning its GOP ties in some elections, may well fall to the next Democratic candidate not running against an Arizonan. The odds are against Obama's capture of an electoral vote in Nebraska, which has a system similar to Maine's.

Likely -- An Upset is Possible but Improbable

OBAMA - OR, MN (17 electoral votes)

Comments: The only West Coast state that McCain may sensibly target is Oregon. The results there in 2000 and 2004 were close but we believe that Obama is likely to duplicate Gore and Kerry's victories. The only way McCain could steal Minnesota is by picking Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate. However, even a McCain-Pawlenty ticket would have a 50-50 chance, at best, of carrying Minnesota. Pawlenty did not secure a majority of the vote in either of his gubernatorial victories (in 2002 and 2006).

McCAIN - AK, GA, MS, MT, ND (30 electoral votes)

Comments: Some Alaska polls have had Obama behind McCain in single digits, but the Republican label is probably too strong here for an upset. Several Montana and North Dakota polls have had Obama slightly ahead or in a statistical dead heat with McCain, and Obama is undeniably spending time and money in both states; we are monitoring them closely, noting that both states have two Democratic U.S. senators and Montana also has a Democratic Governor, Brian Schweitzer, who will win another term by a wide margin this November. If Libertarian nominee and former Georgia GOP Congressman Bob Barr wins his projected 6 to 8 percent in the Peach State, or if Obama chooses former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Obama could have a shot at a plurality victory--but for now we'll bet on McCain there, despite one poll that has the two tied. A giant African-American turnout might shift Mississippi (38 percent black) to Obama, but that is not our gamble.

Leaning -- Currently Tilting to One Side but Reversible

OBAMA - IA, NM (12 electoral votes)

Comments: Our guess is that both of these states end up in Obama's column. If only one does, it will be Iowa. If Gov. Bill Richardson is Obama's VP choice, then New Mexico is a cinch for the Democrats. McCain has no real strength in either state, and there appears to be a Democratic trend ongoing in both.

McCAIN - FL, MO, NC (53 electoral votes)

Comments: McCain will have to work very hard to hold these three usually Republican states. If he loses even one of them, he will be up against the Electoral College wall. His margins in all are currently weak to nonexistent. In leaning them to McCain we are simply assuming that the voters' history of going GOP in presidential years might enable McCain to pull out a narrow win. Watch these states. If McCain locks them down by mid-September, he has a shot at a November upset. If a wide variety of polls--not just one--shows Obama even or ahead in one or two of the states with only six weeks to go, then McCain is in considerable trouble.

Toss-Ups -- The Real Deal

CO, MI, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI (99 electoral votes)

Comments: Remember, if one candidate is garnering 52 to 53 percent of the two-party popular vote, then all or almost all of them could move in the same direction. Looking at them from the perspective of June, Obama is doing well in Colorado and Pennsylvania. McCain's only chance to carry the Keystone State is probably to put former Gov. Tom Ridge on the GOP ticket--and Ridge is pro-choice on abortion, which would generate a walk-out of fundamentalist delegates to the Republican National Convention. Michigan has a natural Democratic lean. Will the state's voters warm again to the Democrats after the national party refused to count the Wolverine primary in January? Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is also unpopular, and in this state, she may partly balance President Bush's high negatives. Still, McCain has a small mountain to climb in Michigan, and even adding former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose father was Governor of Michigan, may not make the critical difference.

Wisconsin is traditionally close, as it was in both 2000 and 2004. Obama swept the Democratic primary here, though, and he has to be rated at least a slight favorite; some early polls have Obama well ahead. New Hampshire is the one state where McCain may be able to reverse a Bush '04 loss; it was the Granite State that embraced McCain in 2000 and rescued his moribund candidacy in 2008. A couple of polls have shown McCain ahead in New Hampshire, but more recent ones have Obama leading handily. By all indications, Nevada is as tight as a tick--the normal condition in the Silver State. The great unknown is Ohio, the all-important swing state of 2004. Obama did badly in the primary in the Buckeye State, and Bush carried it in both his presidential runs, though not by much. In 2006, the Democrats swept to power and a bad economy gives Obama a clear shot at these critical 20 electoral votes. It will be difficult for McCain to win without them, but Obama's path to victory does not require Ohio.

Amazingly, given the fact that the Old Dominion has voted Democratic exactly once (1964) in the past fourteen presidential elections, Virginia is included in the toss-up list for the first time since 1976, when President Gerald Ford edged Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter by a mere percentage point. Virginia was the only Southern state not to vote for Carter, who became the first Deep-South President elected since Zachary Taylor in 1848. Thanks to dramatic population growth in Northern Virginia and university communities, this is not your father's Virginia. It is a Mid-Atlantic state rather than a Southern state.

Time for some delightful electoral math. The totally safe and likely Obama states have 200 Electoral Votes (EVs). For McCain, the similar total is 174 EVs. Add in Iowa and New Mexico for Obama and he has 212 EVs. Let's give McCain FL, MO, and NC, and he's up to 227 EVs. If Obama carries CO, MI, PA, and WI, he's already at 269 (one vote short), and would need just one of the following states: OH, NH, NV, and VA. Of course, if McCain managed to secure OH, NH, NV, and VA, we'd be at that fabled 269-269 tie. The essay following this one will discuss the calamity that might follow such a deadlock. If McCain can grab MI, PA, or WI, while holding OH, he's back in the hunt, with smaller toss-up states proving decisive.

My goodness, this is fun. And we have time for a lot more map-shuffling as we move toward the November 4th showdown.

Dr. Sabato, the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, founded the Center for Politics in 1998.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Iran test-fires long- and medium-range missiles

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles Wednesday during war games that officials said were intended to show the country can retaliate against any U.S. or Israeli attack, state television reported.

The test-firings were widely condemned in the United States, notably by the White House and the two main presidential candidates.

The exercise was being conducted at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which about 40 percent of the world's oil passes. Iran has threatened to shut down traffic in the strait if attacked.

Oil prices jumped on news of the missile tests, rising $1.80 to $137.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe.

Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, said the exercise would "demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language," the TV report said.

Gates says Tehran is a threat
Footage showed at least six missiles firing simultaneously and said the barrage included a new version of the Shahab-3 missile, which officials have said has a range of 1,250 miles and is armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead.

That would put Israel, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan within striking distance.

"Our hands are always on the trigger and our missiles are ready for launch," the official IRNA news agency quoted Salami as saying Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the missile test bolsters the U.S. argument that Tehran is a threat. He also said it counters Russia's case against the need for a missile defense system in Europe.

The U.S. has argued for some time that there is a real threat Iran could develop long-range missiles to use against Europe, Gates said, and Tehran's launch of several missiles Wednesday helps make that point.

'Funny joke'
The report of the missile test came less than a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed fears that Israel and the United States could be preparing to attack his country, calling the possibility a "funny joke."

"I assure you that there won't be any war in the future," Ahmadinejad told a news conference Tuesday during a visit to Malaysia for a summit of developing Muslim nations.

But even as Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have dismissed the possibility of attack, Tehran has stepped up its warnings of retaliation if the Americans — or Israelis — do launch military action, including threats to hit Israel and U.S. Gulf bases with missiles and stop oil traffic through the vital Gulf region.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Wednesday's tests "evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one."

"Those who say that there is no Iranian missile threat against which we should build a missile defense system perhaps ought to talk to the Iranians about their claims," Rice said while traveling in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Pentagon is studying Iran's latest missile test to figure out exactly what was launched and what it shows about Tehran's missile capabilities.

DOD to study the tests
An early assessment showed that U.S. tracking systems detected seven missile launches, said two defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the event.

Pentagon intelligence indicated the launches were part of what it calls "troop training." Officials noted that the test came during Iran's "Noble Prophet" exercise — training also held twice in 2006, each time including multiple missile launches.

One defense official said it appeared to be the latest volley in recent escalating threats and counterthreats between Israel and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program. The Israeli military last month held a military exercise that some officials suggested was practice for the possibility of bombing Iranian nuclear facilities; the U.S. and allies on Tuesday ended a five-day exercise on protecting oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.

On Capitol Hill, Undersecretary of State William Burns said Iran is trying to foster the perception that its nuclear program is advancing.

But Iran's "real progress has been more modest," Burns said in testimony prepared for a House committee. Iran has not yet perfected enrichment and U.N. sanctions have hurt its ability to obtain technology for missile programs, he said.

Burns told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration is pursuing a longtime goal of persuading Iran to change its course, using economic sanctions to "clarify the price of defiance."

Stopping nuclear threat is challenge
Committee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., said that "stopping Iran's nuclear threat is our most urgent strategic challenge."

"No one knows precisely when Iran will produce a nuclear bomb," Berman said in his opening statement. "But it will be soon."

Berman said the U.S., along with Russia, China and European allies, needs to make "an unconditional effort" to engage Iran diplomatically.

"I reject those who believe that talking is tantamount to surrender," he said.

A White House spokesman called Wednesday's tests "completely inconsistent with Iran's obligations to the world."

"The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council.

"They should also refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world," he added, speaking from Japan, where President Bush is attending the Group of Eight summit.

On Tuesday, Rice and Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg signed a deal allowing the U.S. to base a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that Iran "has an active missile program as is evidenced by these launches today and it underscores the importance of pursuing a number of different tracks to deal with various threats emanating from Iran."

He said a missile defense system is one way and diplomatic efforts at ending Tehran's nuclear program is another.

Candidates weigh in
The U.S. presidential candidates also weighed in. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said that the tests underscored the threat posed by Iran to the region.

"Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy," he said in a statement.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama said Tehran's move highlighted the need for tougher economic sanctions as well as strong incentives to persuade Iran to change its behavior.

Appearing on the TODAY show, Obama said the United States must pursue the kind of aggressive diplomacy that he said has been absent under the Bush administration. "If we don't, then we're going to continue to see rising tensions that could lead into real problems."

John McCain Kicks Librarian Out of Town Hall Event

Interesting video. Especially, the full grown peas in a pod getting his picture taken at the end of the video.

BARACK OBAMA Speaks to Youtube

Very Funny! Must See!

My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil

Click here for more info on T. Boone Pickens

July 9, 2008; Page A15

One of the benefits of being around a long time is that you get to know a lot about certain things. I'm 80 years old and I've been an oilman for almost 60 years. I've drilled more dry holes and also found more oil than just about anyone in the industry. With all my experience, I've never been as worried about our energy security as I am now. Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II.

The problem, of course, is our growing dependence on foreign oil – it's extreme, it's dangerous, and it threatens the future of our nation.

Let me share a few facts: Each year we import more and more oil. In 1973, the year of the infamous oil embargo, the United States imported about 24% of our oil. In 1990, at the start of the first Gulf War, this had climbed to 42%. Today, we import almost 70% of our oil.

This is a staggering number, particularly for a country that consumes oil the way we do. The U.S. uses nearly a quarter of the world's oil, with just 4% of the population and 3% of the world's reserves. This year, we will spend almost $700 billion on imported oil, which is more than four times the annual cost of our current war in Iraq.

In fact, if we don't do anything about this problem, over the next 10 years we will spend around $10 trillion importing foreign oil. That is $10 trillion leaving the U.S. and going to foreign nations, making it what I certainly believe will be the single largest transfer of wealth in human history.

Why do I believe that our dependence on foreign oil is such a danger to our country? Put simply, our economic engine is now 70% dependent on the energy resources of other countries, their good judgment, and most importantly, their good will toward us. Foreign oil is at the intersection of America's three most important issues: the economy, the environment and our national security. We need an energy plan that maps out how we're going to work our way out of this mess. I think I have such a plan.

Consider this: The world produces about 85 million barrels of oil a day, but global demand now tops 86 million barrels a day. And despite three years of record price increases, world oil production has declined every year since 2005. Meanwhile, the demand for oil will only increase as growing economies in countries like India and China gear up for enhanced oil consumption.

Add to this the fact that in many countries, including China, the government has a great deal of influence over its energy industry, allowing these countries to set strategic direction easily and pay whatever price is needed to secure oil. The U.S. has no similar policy, because we thankfully don't have state-controlled energy companies. But that doesn't mean we can't set goals and develop an energy policy that will overcome our addiction to foreign oil. I have a clear goal in mind with my plan. I want to reduce America's foreign oil imports by more than one-third in the next five to 10 years.

How will we do it? We'll start with wind power. Wind is 100% domestic, it is 100% renewable and it is 100% clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the "Saudi Arabia of the Wind"? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world. In 2008, the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate 20% of its electricity supply from wind by 2030. I think we can do this or even more, but we must do it quicker.

My plan calls for taking the energy generated by wind and using it to replace a significant percentage of the natural gas that is now being used to fuel our power plants. Today, natural gas accounts for about 22% of our electricity generation in the U.S. We can use new wind capacity to free up the natural gas for use as a transportation fuel. That would displace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. Natural gas is the only domestic energy of size that can be used to replace oil used for transportation, and it is abundant in the U.S. It is cheap and it is clean. With eight million natural-gas-powered vehicles on the road world-wide, the technology already exists to rapidly build out fleets of trucks, buses and even cars using natural gas as a fuel. Of these eight million vehicles, the U.S. has a paltry 150,000 right now. We can and should do so much more to build our fleet of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

I believe this plan will be the perfect bridge to the future, affording us the time to develop new technologies and a new perspective on our energy use. In addition to the plan I have proposed, I also want to see us explore all avenues and every energy alternative, from more R&D into batteries and fuel cells to development of solar, ethanol and biomass to more conservation. Drilling in the outer continental shelf should be considered as well, as we need to look at all options, recognizing that there is no silver bullet.

I believe my plan can be accomplished within 10 years if this country takes decisive and bold steps immediately. This plan dramatically reduces our dependence on foreign oil and lowers the cost of transportation. It invests in the heartland, creating thousands of new jobs. It substantially reduces America's carbon footprint and uses existing, proven technology. It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation. It will build a bridge to the future, giving us the time to develop new technologies.

The future begins as soon as Congress and the president act. The government must mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies for economic and alternative energy development in areas where the wind and sun are abundant. I am also calling for a monthly progress report on the reduction in foreign oil imports, as well as a monthly progress report on the state of development of natural gas vehicles in this country.

We have a golden opportunity in this election year to form bipartisan support for this plan. We have the grit and fortitude to shoulder the responsibility of change when our country's future is at stake, as Americans have proven repeatedly throughout this nation's history.

We need action. Now.

Mr. Pickens is CEO of BP Capital.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Escorting the Fallen

By George Will

"The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know." -- Maj. Steve Beck, U.S. Marine Corps

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes Beck would linger in his vehicle in front of an American home, like that of the parents of Lance Cpl. Kyle Burns in Laramie, Wyo. Beck knew that, as Jim Sheeler writes, every second he waited "was one more tick of his wristwatch that, for the family inside the house, everything remained the same."

Beck -- now Lt. Col. Beck -- was a CACO, a casualty assistance calls officer whose duty was to inform a spouse or parents that their Marine had been killed. He is the scarlet thread -- like the stripes on Marines' dress-blue trousers, symbolizing shed blood -- that connects the heart-rending stories in Sheeler's "Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives." The book, which proves that the phrase "literary journalism" is not an oxymoron, expands the meticulous and marvelously modulated reporting he did for the Rocky Mountain News, and for which he received a Pulitzer Prize. His subject is how America honors fallen warriors.

More precisely, it is about how the military honors them. The nation, as Marine Sgt. Damon Cecil says, "has changed the channel." Still, Sheeler sees civilians getting glimpses of those who have sacrificed everything. The glimpses come as the fallen are escorted home. When an airline passenger, noting an escort's uniform, asked if the sergeant was going to or coming from the war, he repeated words the military had told him to say: "I'm escorting a fallen Marine home to his family from the situation in Iraq."

The situation. Sheeler:

"When the plane landed in Nevada, the sergeant was allowed to disembark alone. Outside, a procession walked toward the cargo hold. The airline passengers pressed their faces against the windows.

"From their seats in the plane they saw a hearse and a Marine extending a white-gloved hand into a limousine. In the plane's cargo hold, Marines readied the flag-draped casket and placed it on the luggage conveyor belt.

"Inside the plane, the passengers couldn't hear the screams."

The knock on the survivors' door is, Beck says, "not a period at the end of their lives. It's a semicolon." Deployed military personnel often leave behind, or write in the war zone, "just in case" letters. Army Pfc. Jesse Givens of Fountain, Colo.: "My angel, my wife, my love, my friend. If you're reading this, I won't be coming home. ... Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone." To his son Dakota: "I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play together. ... I'll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life." To his unborn son: "You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love."

The manual for CACOs says, "It is helpful if the NOK (next of kin) is seated prior to delivering the news. ... Speak naturally and at a normal pace." Sometimes, however, things do not go by the book.

Doyla Lundstrom, a Lakota Sioux, was away from her house when she learned that men in uniform had been to her door. She called the father of her two sons -- each serving in Iraq; one as a Marine, one as a soldier -- and screamed into her cell phone, "Which one was it?" It was the Marine.

Sheeler says that troops in war zones often have e-mail and satellite telephones, so when someone is killed, communication from the area is stopped lest rumors reach loved ones before notification officers do. "As soon as we receive the call," Beck says, "we are racing the electron."

When the Army CACOs came to the Arlington, Va., door of Sarah Walton, my assistant, she was not there. She rarely forgot the rule that a spouse of a soldier in a combat zone is supposed to inform the Army when he or she will be away from home. This time Sarah forgot, so it took the Army awhile to locate her at her in parents' home in Richmond.

Her husband, Lt. Col Jim Walton, West Point class of 1989, was killed in Afghanistan on June 21. This week he will be back in Arlington, among the remains of the more than 300,000 men and women who rest in the more than 600 acres where it is always Memorial Day. This is written in homage to him, and to Sarah, full sharer of his sacrifices.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Illegal Gun Solution...

This guy is kind of funny. You would never guess this after watching, but he is from New York or at least he is portraying that well. The answer to gun violence in America is just better enforcement and stricter penalties. Agree or disagree?

Barack Obama Reiterates his Stance on Iraq

The Obama Plan - 16 months after taking office the troops in Iraq will be home. Will this one issue win him the Presidency? We shall see...