Friday assorted links

by on March 11, 2016 at 12:06 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Jon Rodney March 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

7. Guess I’m a cat.

2 Jeff R. March 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm

The world “is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place and full of hardship and tragedy,” he told Goldberg. You can’t fix everything.

Wise words. If only he’d applied this thinking to the US healthcare industry.

3 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 2:19 pm

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

4 Jan March 11, 2016 at 2:25 pm

In ten years anyone who is still droning on about the ACA will be considered a fool.

If anything, the conversation will be about what additional steps government can take to ensure even more people have access to quality care. That may even be things like Medicare for all or large increases in Medicaid eligibility.

But drone on, by all means.

5 Cliff March 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

I have a crystal ball, losers!! In ten years everything will be just the way I want it and you will be at your mom’s house crying in the basement!! Losers!

6 Floccina March 11, 2016 at 2:29 pm

So why bomb Libya and support rebels in Syria? That even after the havoc caused by Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

7 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 2:48 pm

There are no good answers in the Middle East. Presidents since Truman have been trying to ‘fix’ things there and all have done little. Recently we tried toppling a dictator and nation-building (Iraq), that didn’t work. We then tried toppling the dictator and staying away after (Libya), that didn’t work. We tried doing mostly nothing (Syria) and that didn’t work.

Bush screwed up the region, Obama did too, and the next president will also. Or more properly stated, no matter what the US does or doesn’t do that region is a clusterfuck.

8 So Much For Subtlety March 11, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Sure, the Middle East is a dystopian nightmare come to life. But there are degrees of dystopian nightmares. America has kept the lid on the kettle since 1945 and so the Middle East has made some progress. Once America withdraws, as we see now, it becomes the Godzilla of dystopian nightmares.

People are dying in reasonable numbers. Perhaps Obama could have stopped it. Perhaps not. But he is not trying. It was hard and Obama doesn’t do hard. He does sound bites.

9 Gafiated March 11, 2016 at 11:06 pm

“But there are degrees of dystopian nightmares. America has kept the lid on the kettle since 1945 and so the Middle East has made some progress.”

For one thing, chattel slavery had belatedly been outlawed. Daesh is proudly bringing it back.

10 Nathan W March 12, 2016 at 7:40 am

A “too strong” American response could have brought many of the Armaggedonists out of the crowd, wondering whether it was end times and all must prepare for the final battle, perhaps first more among jihadists and second more among certain groups of Christians. Alternatively stated, it could have served to promote terrorist recruitment for decades and perhaps in so doing driven support for even more extremism than presently observed from certain factions in the USA.

Also, any side which benefits from explicit American support becomes immediately suspect and loses legitimacy in the eyes of many factions.

Better to accept the shorter-term humanitarian tragedy, and pursue less risky strategies, in my opinion.

11 Thiago Ribeiro March 12, 2016 at 9:34 am

Yep, supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan was a shining example of the foreign policy of “doing hard” (and stupid). It worked so well… Supporting and exporting Wahhabism was another brilliant decision.

12 anon March 11, 2016 at 2:53 pm

The Libya coup was pushed by Clinton. Obama admitted it was a mistake and probably learned from it.

Obama has had a remarkably libertarian foreign policy compared to presidents past. I don’t think we can expect the same wisdom and reserve from Hillary Clinton, who seems to have supported the Iraq War, Libya, and other interventions. Kudos to Pres Obama for holding strong.

13 Shane M March 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

My thoughts also. Unfortunately the next president, whoever it is, will likely have us more involved in the Middle East.

Underlying many of the comments, also, is an unspoken realization that the US military is overextended and needs to keep it’s capacity available for the important stuff. Russia, Iran, and SE Asia seem to be the “important” stuff in Obama’s mind. (I think the article mentioned that Gates recommended finishing up the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before getting involved in another, in that case discussions around Syria.)

14 anon March 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Brooks’s characterization of Trump as a “dog” is really unfair. Trump has repeatedly stated that he would prefer to not screw around in other countries, even going so far as supporting Russia in cleaning up the Syrian mess. He wants to defeat ISIS, but he does not want to overthrow governments for bullshit humanitarian reasons (i.e. Clinton).

Prediction: Clinton would have a far more interventionist foreign policy than Trump.

15 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Many people don’t seem to understand that the reason establishment Republicans hate Trump is because he is not an establishment Republican. He’s secular, socially liberal, and union-friendly. But he’s got a big mouth and an R next to his name, so in some circles he must be a radical right-winger! Like Hitler!

I hate to break it to people, but he’s a brash Michael Bloomberg. Karl Rove doesn’t oppose Trump because Trump is too conservative.

Clinton is the most aggressive candidate left in the race with respect to foreign policy.

16 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:19 pm

“Karl Rove doesn’t oppose Trump because Trump is too conservative. ”

No, Karl Rove says pretty much what you said in your first paragraph.

17 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Isn’t that what I said? Maybe I wasn’t clear.

18 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Rove is not scared of a too-conservative-to-be-safe Trump. That’s not what he thinks.

19 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Lord Action, sorry I phrased that poorly. I was mentally agreeing with you, but managed to phrase it in a way that sounded like I disagreed.

20 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Thanks, I wondered that. I could have been clearer, too.

21 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Get a room you two! 🙂

22 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Dude, I try really hard not to be a jackass on here, and I still come across the way you perceive me. Which I imagine is “arrogant and harsh,” because that’s what strangers seem like on the internet. 🙂

23 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Uh, no, Rubio is but I guess we could quibble about whether he’s still in the race.

24 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm

I don’t think so, but I see how one could quibble about the point. Rubio is in a Republican primary. He’s going to say some bellicose things. Clinton actually has a track record.

25 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm

I’m having a bad day here. This was also unclear.

I think Rubio is tenuously still in the race. I think he is likely to prove a less aggressive president than Clinton, from a foreign policy perspective. Should he get the chance to try, which I think is rather unlikely.

26 Shane M March 12, 2016 at 12:18 am

Granted, I haven’t followed Trump very closely, but based on these comments it’s not clear he wouldn’t have us involved in the Middle East.
DONALD TRUMP: ‘I would bomb the s— out of’ ISIS

quotes from article:
He continued: “They have some in Syria, some in Iraq. I would bomb the s— out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left. And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there and in two months, you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll rebuild that sucker, brand new — it’ll be beautiful.”

Cooper also asked whether the US would need troops on the ground to protect the oil fields that Trump would rebuild after bombing ISIS out of them. Trump said he would put a “ring” of troops around the fields.

“You put a ring around them,” Trump said of the oil fields. “You put a ring.”

But if Trump had his way, the US wouldn’t be involved in these conflicts at all.

“I would love not to be over there,” Trump said. “That’s not our fight — that’s other people’s fights.”

27 So Much For Subtlety March 11, 2016 at 7:27 pm

I am impressed not only by how full of crap Obama is, but also by how much the press is willing to support his Full Metal Spin.

Obama gets to re-write history and the media sells it for him. Obama thought that George W. was stupid and the Middle East would rally to him. So Obama went to Cairo and blamed America. They didn’t rally to him. They understood empty rhetoric and people who think they are the Messiah better than we give them credit for. So now he says that his speech was about asking the Muslim world to look at themselves? It would have been nice if he had mentioned it. At the time. He welcomed the Arab Spring. That only made things worse. What is his policy response? Nothing whatsoever. He has not thought this through. He just doesn’t have any idea of what he might do.

The media is willing to spin his views as “nuanced” and “complicated” but actually they are simple. Obama is not as smart and he thinks he is, he is narcissistic and he is lazy. So when things don’t work out the way he wants – and they never do – he won’t admit failure. Nor will he change course. He will just blame the Republicans and insist that his policy is so smart, so intellectual, that us lesser mortals can’t hope to understand. Occam’s Razor suggests otherwise.

Possibly the worst president of all time.

28 Sam the Sham March 12, 2016 at 7:08 am

I’m impressed by how much of a free pass Obama gets in the media. His policies have been remarkably similar to Bush II’s, except with more mouth-writing-checks-his-ass-can’t-cash. He lost me at the bailouts, and entered the realm of criminally inept with his Syrian red line… and then claiming that the presidency didn’t need Congressional approval for war. His opposition to Guantanamo changed from “Maybe we shouldn’t detain people for decades without charging them with a crime” to “Guantanamo is expensive, let’s house them in Kansas”. Everything I wanted Candidate Obama to be, his presidency has been the opposite. I only hope that the media isn’t so deferential to Pres. Hillary.

29 Dude March 12, 2016 at 10:25 am

As someone who didn’t vote for Obama even though I had two opportunities, saying he is “Possibly the worst president of all time” is absurd. And it isn’t even close.

30 Boonton March 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm

” So Obama went to Cairo and blamed America”

never happened.

31 Chip March 12, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Four decisions that are worse than the red line (because no one really believed him anyway).

1) His complete abandonment of Iraq that allowed the hard-won stability to be lost.

2) Overthrowing a much tamer Ghadaffi with no idea what to do next.

3) Juicing Iranian power so they can sow yet more terror and instability.

4) Dismissing Israel at the same time he strengthens its enemies.

The refugee crisis today is a direct result of Obama’s fumbling. I think there’s a good argument to be made as well that China wouldn’t have reached for the South China Sea with another president in power. They see an opportunity and they’re taking it.

The worst president ever? Probably not. But the most callously indifferent to American and allied interests? Probably.

32 Boonton March 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm

1. There was no stability in Iraq to begin with. It’s strange to bemoan Obama losing stability in Iraq by leaving it. If we had won stability then we should have been able to leave Iraq.

2. There is a good argument here, although it requires a 180 turn from the Bush administration. The whole idea behind the Iraqi invasion, per the neocons, was that by deposing one of the regions most brutal dictators and installing a democracy (or something like it), we would usher in a wave of freedom over the Middle East. Well that ‘wave’ did appear to cause at least some improvements in Tunisia and Egypt but what sense does the whole neocon enterprise make if Ghadaffi remained in charge of Libya? If it’s ok to leave brutal strong arm dictators in charge of M.E. countries, then why again did we invade Iraq?

3. All things considered Iran is a bit of an improvement. Most of the international terrorism these days comes from Al Qaeda and ISIS (or ISIS inspired fans). These groups hate Iran and Iran hates them. Iran’s closest ally, Syria, is in turmoil mostly because of ISIS. This is a huge mess but it’s a mess of people we will never get along well with fighting each other. 90% of America’s enemies spend 95% of their resources fighting each other rather than the US. Tell us again about Obama fumbling?

And Iran, while dangerous, appears to at least be moving away from totally dangerous. It’s nuclear program is stalled because of the deal and that is a good thing. Syria too is actually pretty amazing when it comes to WMD. We literally got a Baathist dictator to turn over nearly all of his WMD’s to the US navy to be safely destroyed at sea.

4. Israel isn’t dismissed. The US’s stance has always opposed ‘settlements’ of the occupied territory. Ironically, Israel isn’t really the center of trouble in the Middle East and while all the other countries there are no fans of Israel the fact is most of the concerns and action is elsewhere.

In essence the biggest fumbles here appear when Obama gives credence to the ideas of the ‘serious’ Republican foreign policy establishment…meaning neocon thinking from the Bush days. Beyond that the only alternatives being put forth seems to be Trump who proposes a program of ‘making big deals that are great for the US’ and ‘carpet bombing’…and his competitors are not more serious! The only other serious alternative in the Republican Party would be the libertarian route which isn’t going back to Iraq or going into Iran.

33 Chip March 12, 2016 at 8:40 pm

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

– Barak Obama, 2011

Are there any countries in the Middle East, Europe or Asia that are at less risk of instability today than they were in 2009?

It’s emerging threats and turmoil everywhere you look. Some of this is playing out now as in the implosion of Syria, Iraq and Libya; the migrant crisis in Europe, and Chinese and Russian grabs for territory.

Others will unfold over time, as with a newly enriched and emboldened Iran.

The inexorable expansion of statism, debt and tribalism in the USA is another development encouraged by the current administration. More chaos abroad, accelerating disintegration at home. It’s been a remarkable decade.

34 Boonton March 12, 2016 at 9:20 pm

You’re right, the George Bush playbook doesn’t work. Exactly what do you propose in its place?

35 Boonton March 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Are there any countries in the Middle East, Europe or Asia that are at less risk of instability today than they were in 2009?

Terrorist attacks in Europe have been falling since 2009. Yes France was horrible with over 300 victims, but it is easy to forget in the glory days of the Bush administration over 2000 victims in Spain, 700 in the UK, and even Finland had 166 (granted that wasn’t Islamic terrorism so the Trump/GOP mind is incapable of comprehending such a thing). But then you didn’t say terrorism, you didn’t even say ‘instability’…you said ‘risk of instability’ which if you think about it is a pretty strange metric. It actually means things are going well. Consider, when skyscrapers are falling from the sky in flames, that’s not a ‘risk of instability’ that’s instability. So when things aren’t blowing up, well I guess that means you go from actual instability to ‘risk of instability’ since when you have less stuff blowing up you have more stuff that is ‘at risk’ of starting to blow up. Kind of like you can only be at risk of losing your job when you actually have a job.

So unpacking this I’m struggling to see your objective, non-partisan argument for ‘Obama fumbling’ again. Europe is doing well, terrorism there is actually down despite what happened in France. Does Europe have troubles? Yes their economy is near recession and they have refugees to address. The EU, though, is an economy as large as the US. What challenge does Europe have that only the US President can and should be responsible for solving?

36 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Re: #7–The Administration’s inability to engage with those who don’t speak in the vocabulary of vacuity never ceases to amaze. How anyone could think that criticism of the “don’t do stupid shit” slogan is a statement in support of stupid shit, rather than in support of a policy that actually provides some measure of direction, takes a truly remarkable amount of narcissistic myopia.

37 anon March 11, 2016 at 12:49 pm

7. Looking back, a constituency “for stupid” has been a real factor. Calls for boots on ground in Syria would be a prime example. Perhaps it was populist simplicity pushing it, but perhaps too it was a wish that Obama would do something stupid, even if we all would suffer for that “win.”

38 anon March 11, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Note: 50 special forces are not a land war. And “Pentagon denies claims it is building air bases in Syria”

39 prior_test2 March 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

The Pentago also denied bombing Cambodia. Why anyone believes whatever the Pentagon says is an enduring mystery – it isn’t as if the Pentagon’s opponents aren’t aware of what is going on – or not going on (the Russians, to give one concrete example, decide for themselves what airbases are being built in Syria, and by whom, using Russian assets).

40 anon March 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I think you are missing the forest for they guys dressed like trees.

41 Agra Brum March 11, 2016 at 5:16 pm

There is also a highly oppositional group in Congress – if Obama had called for a ground forces in Syria, they would have attacked him; he did not, so they attacked him. Whatever answer was coming out would be attacked. The same with Libya; when he was not bombing, the was attacked for not bombing, once he started, he was attacked for getting involved. Often by the same people.
You see it in the lockstep opposition to naming a Supreme Court justice even before a nominee is presented. They don’t care what the decision is, just who made it.

42 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 5:21 pm

This is also true.

43 Nathan W March 11, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Some are dead set in favour of slamming him no matter what he does. Some people deny it, but it boggles my mind that this is not obvious to any and all.

44 Shane M March 12, 2016 at 12:23 am

I found that episode of going to congress for approval for Syria revealing. Suddenly congress was frozen in fear that they’d have to go on the record as for or against. But additionally, the seriousness of conversation improved, and I appreciated that important deliberations were actually occurring. I personally would like to see more of this going forward.

45 Nathan W March 12, 2016 at 3:42 am

Obama makes a decision without Congress: “He’s a dictator”.

Obama refers to Congress to make a decision: “He’s weak weak weak.”

There are those who bring legitimate criticisms and alternative perspective to the table. There are others who are hell bent on painting any move whatsoever in the worst possible light. E.g., Republicans previously supported increased background checks for guns, but when Obama tries to do it, this is evidence that he’s coming to take away the guns soon and impose a communist dictatorship. How do you reason with such people?

46 Careless March 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Republicans previously supported increased background checks for guns

If this is true, and I have no idea if it is, how in the world did such measures not get passed?

47 Nathan W March 13, 2016 at 3:04 am

Sorry, I think that was a fact fail. it used to be the NRA that supported increased background checks, but now they don`t and instead say we need better mental health care but oppose removing loopholes to background checks. Sorry, this is one of the most completely spun issues out there from both perspectives and I can’t find a good source that NRA used to support universal background checks. I … read it somewhere. Take it with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty sure.


This seems to be one of the higher polled estimates for support: “In October, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans — including 87 percent of Republicans — favor background checks for all gun buyers.”

Stunning that such a high proportion of the population agrees on something, yet somehow Obama is still forced to use executive action for any progress. I surmise that Republicans do not want to appear as traitors to the gun nuts, and revel in the idea of a situation which allows partisans and others to peddle in conspiracy theories that removing loopholes to background checks is proof that Democrats are coming for your guns so … vote Republican, we’ll never take your guns. Assuming that they’re not bought by gun industry lobbies, I guess they’re calculating that federal gun regulations don’t influence a lot of voters, but will guarantee hardcore support from certain constituencies.

48 Brian Moore March 11, 2016 at 12:51 pm

re: #7

Inherent in every “serious” foreign policy article I see is the unspoken assumption that America has to be involved politically and/or militarily in the Middle East. To quote Obama, maybe it’s ALL “stupid shit” and this massive tome of an article is just a pointless dissertation on whether we have blue or red stupid shit. Take the beginning of any president’s administration over the past 50 years. If he said, on day one, “I’m just going to pretend the Middle East doesn’t exist. You guys can work it out yourselves.” what terrible scenario do we envision would have happened?

49 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm

If any President before, say, 1988 had done that, the Middle East would have probably become a sphere of Soviet dominance and cut the U.S. off from its chief oil supplies.

Disengagement from the region has become more plausible in the past 2 decades, but with the pesky problem of all the weapons now there that many residents of the region would like to bring here. If you think that announcing a blanket policy of disengagement will suddenly eliminate all of the ill-will that already exists, I have a bridge to sell you.

50 Daniel Weber March 11, 2016 at 1:17 pm

While disengagement should be on the table, I agree it’s the height of optimism to assume that people will stop hating us if we do that. All too likely they will find a different reason, or insist that the US is still involved behind the curtains.

51 Daniel Weber March 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Disengagement also ignores the fact that the US is the world cop, the hegemon. Compared to the world before WWII, the current state of affairs is rather preferable. It sucks a bit for the US because the US pays the bills and gets the hate.

52 carlolspln March 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

The world will be a much better place when the USA realises that everything it touches turns to schite, & that it is infinitely preferable to conduct itself in a manner that sets a good example for other countries’ behaviour.

So, pretty much the opposite of everything that it HAS done since 1994.

Oh, and get the fuck out of Australia.

53 Brian Moore March 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Sure, it of course won’t make it go away, but if people are angry at you for “being behind the curtains” maybe a start would be “stop being behind the curtains.” We were at war with a couple of countries in Southeast Asia 30 years ago, and then we decided not to wage war there any more. As the article notes, they are pretty friendly with us now. “Forget about the Middle East” isn’t a plan to make everyone there love us in 2017, it’s a plan to make most people there not hate us enough to do terrible things to us in 2047, which seems reasonable.

54 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Of course, the SE Asian countries the U.S. was at war with in the 70’s weren’t generally plotting to attack the American homeland either directly or indirectly, so the comparison isn’t entirely apt. The comparison further breaks down when one recognizes that those same countries are driven into the U.S.’s arms in no small part because it still maintains an engaged posture in the region that submits it as the alternative to the other regional bully.

55 Nathan W March 11, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Well, because the US would OBVIOUSLY still be involved behind closed curtains.

Personally, no amount of protestations to the contrary would convince me otherwise, unless we had public line by line disclosures of all US agencies, etc., involved in foreign stuff. Which isn’t going to happen any time soon.

56 Brian Moore March 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Not sure Soviet dominance would have worked any better than our dominance, or their attempt (even without our interventions) in Afghanistan.

And I don’t think suddenly disengaging would fix all the ill-will, it would just start the process of allowing it to reduce. Would it take 30, 40 years? Maybe if we’d have done it 40 years ago, we could reap the benefits today. If you want to reduce the ill-will, it seems to me like “stopping increasing it” might be a decent place to start.

57 Lord Action March 11, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Soviet dominance doesn’t need to have worked well to have hurt us really badly.

58 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm

+ $200 per barrel price of oil

59 Thor March 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm

The Soviets had hegemony, via conquest and oppression in Eastern Europe for ~40 years. So we have an idea of what that might have looked like. Not pretty for those under the jackboot.

60 chuck martel March 11, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Canada is the source of the chief oil supplies for the US.

61 ttt March 11, 2016 at 7:17 pm

“and cut the U.S. off from its chief oil supplies. ”

good. can we stop shipping money over there now ?

62 Anton March 11, 2016 at 2:11 pm

I think the key point now is that people don’t really need their oil as much. Sidenote: That’s due in large part to fracking, which Obama has (wisely) only lightly regulated.

For the last 40 years, the middle east was like a kid who’s popular just because his daddy’s rich, and suddenly all of daddy’s money is gone. Not so popular anymore.

63 Alain March 11, 2016 at 11:35 pm


Obama hates fracking. It was the energy act of 2005 that allowed fracking to go forward. To be fair he was one of 25 democratic senators to vote for the bill, although he states he did it due to the funding for renewables in the bill.

He is a green through and through.

64 Keith March 11, 2016 at 4:57 pm

George W Bush famously ignored the middle east at the start of his administration. Then they flew planes into our buildings.

65 anon March 11, 2016 at 8:51 pm

Maybe if he hadn’t “ignored” the middle east (whatever that means), they would have flown more planes into our buildings.

66 Keith March 11, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Ignored means what you think it means. He famously tried to do the opposite of what his one term father did. He didn’t meet with Israel or the Palestinians, didn’t contact the Saudis and tried his hardest to ignore the region. You can ignore the Middle East but it won’t ignore you.

67 So Much For Subtlety March 11, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Take the beginning of any president’s administration over the past 50 years. If he said, on day one, “I’m just going to pretend the Middle East doesn’t exist. You guys can work it out yourselves.” what terrible scenario do we envision would have happened?

Actually we have done this. A President came to power implicitly on a platform of avoiding any more international entanglements. To focus on improving welfare at home, especially for the poor. To deal with issues through a multilateral set of institutions if need be – especially on things like arms control. To work with the UN wherever possible. The Europeans where it wasn’t. And the Russians if need be. Indeed that President loudly proclaimed the need to work with the Russian leadership and his trust in the Russian leaders.

And above all, to stay the hell out of the Middle East.

That President, of course, was George W Bush. His platform was no different to what Obama now claims his platform is. So what terrible scenario happened to change all that?

68 Andre March 12, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Saudi’s flew planes into two buildings so we’ve invaded Afganistan, Iraq, Libya and bombed Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Obama is getting ripped for letting the Iranians back in from the void at the expense of those same Saudi’s while the candidates even the GOP won’t take seriously are begging for more war.

Main difference between Obama and Bush is he managed to do it without sending 4000 American’s home in body bags and filling Walter Reed up until it was about to burst. The halcyon days of the Sunni Uprising with only a few dozen dead Americans a month are remembered fondly for some strange reason.

69 Nathan W March 11, 2016 at 10:40 pm

A unified pan-Arab/Islam entity stretching from Central Asia to West Africa?

That is a semi-legitimate fear at first glance. But it is also retarded, because there are too many internal divisions for it to come to pass.

70 Dude March 12, 2016 at 10:27 am

Well, until recently it was important due to oil. So there was that. Not so much moving forward.

71 Silas Barta March 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm

#5 Well did you hear the accents? Hard to deny a British influence :-p

72 anon March 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Perhaps it is my mood, or perhaps it is a particularly bad day for MR. Another day, another data dump, another chance to reiterate priors. If 30 years of Internet have taught us anything, it has to be that data is not wisdom. That priors can stand like sea walls, against waves of new information.

73 Ray Lopez March 11, 2016 at 2:01 pm

@#6 – Thai movie, by “As was ever the case with Weerasethakul — known to one and all as Joe,” LOL, “Joe”. That’s what the Filipinos call all foreigners. Nearly everyday, no, everyday, I get a “Hey Joe!” shout-out.

74 Ray Lopez March 11, 2016 at 2:06 pm

…and speaking of Thai cemeteries, the title of this movie, when I visited “the foreigners cemetery” in the same part of NE Thailand that this movie was set in, I noticed all the foreigners died young (60s, 70s). That’s what the tropics do to you: it speeds up your life. I read the other day for every 10 C of temperature increase, plant respiration doubles, by analogy.

75 Dave Smith March 11, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Re #1. Does anyone take the Lucas Critique seriously?

76 mkt42 March 13, 2016 at 7:41 am

Indeed. If we could predict human behavior in a useful way, we’d be applying those predictions to criminals. But we do not have models that have nearly that much predictive power.

The researchers admit that the most useful predictor of future bad behavior is … past bad behavior. Which tells me that their model is not adding useful information. Past bad behavior is the information that we start with; if they’d found some magic crystal ball (which doesn’t exist to begin with, the Lucas Critique being just one example of why this sort of prediction is so difficult) they’d be able to give us more than what we already know.

77 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm

“7. Jeffrey Goldberg (and Obama) on Obama’s foreign policy,…”

It’s pretty clear from the article that President Obama bungled the Syrian decision badly. Regardless, of which way you want to go, reversing your decision at the last minute is a recipe for confusion. And of course, it paved the way for Putin moving into the power vacuum. Furthermore, we still have American assets in Syria.

78 anon March 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Question: how much would you have to put into Syria to close a “power vacuum?” Seems to me it would take invasion and conquest. Smart?

79 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

“Seems to me it would take invasion and conquest. Smart? ”

No, that’s absolutely not the only alternative.

President Obama could have worked with the Russians before hand to avoid the confrontational aspects. Indeed, Syria’s a prime example of where Russia and the US’s interests aren’t necessarily incompatible. The US didn’t need the dictator removed, we just desired for him to stop gassing his opponents. Furthermore, it would have been in our best interests to let Assad go after ISIS. Russian would probably have been quite willing to tell Assad to knock off the gas attacks if the US had handled the situation diplomatically. Instead, Obama threw down the gauntlet with talk of a Red Line and then waffled and reversed course. He pissed off the Russian’s for zero gain and ensured we’d get no traction with Assad.

80 anon March 11, 2016 at 3:19 pm

You know, many of us shook our heads whenever a criticism of Obama depended on a belief in Magic Obama.

Work with Putin, get whatever you want.

Does that magical thinking have a new thrill?

Vote Trump, who says he brings just that magic.

81 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:33 pm

It wouldn’t have taken a Magic Obama to have worked with the Russian’s. Do you believe that the Russians wanted Assad to be gassing his own people and having nearly every other country condemn it? Having to resort to WMD’s in your own country is a sign of desperate weakness.That makes the Russians look bad. We didn’t have to turn it into a confrontational situation. Instead, President Obama’s direct comments and policies took us down that road.

The whole situation was mishandled. The Atlantic article nearly fawns over Obama, but still makes it clear that he screwed things up.

82 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I think it’s fair to say Obama has not been great in the ME, but as I said that region makes all US presidents look stupid. And I’m glad he errs on the side of doing too little rather than too much like some of his predecessors. Any libertarians here should recognize that. His natural inclination is to stay out of it if he can plausibly do so, just like Rand Paul.

83 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 3:41 pm

“His natural inclination is to stay out of it if he can plausibly do so, just like Rand Paul. ”

The intervention in Libya puts a lie to that statement.

84 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Libya? It was a UN deal, we fired some Tomahawks, the Brits and French did most of it:

That was very much an Obama-style ‘stay out of it as much as possible’ event.

85 JWatts March 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

“Libya? It was a UN deal, we fired some Tomahawks,”

LOL, did you actually look at your link?

“United States: The United States deployed a naval force of 11 ships, including the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce, the guided-missile destroyers USS Barry and USS Stout, the nuclear attack submarines USS Providence and USS Scranton, the cruise missile submarine USS Florida and the amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney.[143][44][145] Additionally, A-10 ground-attack aircraft, B-2 stealth bombers, AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, P-3 Orions, and both F-15E[146] and F-16 fighters were involved in action over Libya.[147] U-2 reconnaissance aircraft were stationed on Cyprus.[148] On 18 March, two AC-130Us arrived at RAF Mildenhall as well as additional tanker aircraft.[citation needed] On 24 March 2 E-8Cs operated from Naval Station Rota Spain, which indicated an increase of ground attacks.[citation needed] An undisclosed number of CIA operatives were said to be in Libya to gather intelligence for airstrikes and make contacts with rebels.[149] The US also used MQ-1 Predator UAVs to strike targets in Libya on 23 April.”

“The U.S. initially had strategic command of the military intervention, coordinated missions between coalition members and set up Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn on the USS Mount Whitney for the tactical command and control in the area of operations. but passed complete military command of the operation to NATO and took up a support role on 31 March 2011.”

“USA: from 1 April to 22 August, the US flew 5,316 sorties over Libya, including 1,210 strike sorties, with munitions deployed 262 times.[63] By 31 July, the US had spent US$896 million in the conflict.”

That’s a tad more than a few Tomahawks.

86 msgkings March 11, 2016 at 4:34 pm

OK sure, but I still don’t think you can say Libya means Obama is not a stay-out-of-it type. The US was one of many countries (UN/NATO) involved, and not really even the lead dog. I stick by the point I was making, libertarians should at least be a little understanding of how Obama does things. He’s pretty non-interventionist compared to most others to compare him to.

87 So Much For Subtlety March 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm

msgkings March 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm

His natural inclination is to stay out of it if he can plausibly do so, just like Rand Paul.

Those of us old enough to remember Obama’s first victory, all the way back to 2008, will remember him threatening to invade Pakistan. He made a clear distinction between The Good War in Afghanistan and The Bad War in Iraq. He was for the former, but against the latter.

His natural inclination wasn’t to stay out. He appointed, and relied on Samantha Power after all. It was to fight the fights that sold well to liberals. He has changed his position. He is not like Rand Paul.

88 Nathan W March 11, 2016 at 10:48 pm

JWatts – I don’t believe that Russia has ever illustrated much concern for civilian casualties, or the means by which those casualties occur. Contrary information/perspectives? I am not aware of any. The sign of weakness, however, seems astute and relevant.

89 Agra Brum March 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Syria did agree to knock off the gas attacks and then surrendered all its chemical weapon supplies. It was a pretty effective result, and handled diplomatically.

90 draypresct March 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm

The previous attempt was abandoned because it was misused. The administrative response to an officer being flagged was to have HR conduct an ‘adversarial’ interview with the officer. Attorneys requested the lists, presumably to cast doubt on officer testimony and conduct. Since some of the factors used to flag officers are completely beyond their control (e.g. having stressful suicide or domestic violence calls), this still has a potential for misuse.

I am also extremely suspicious of the level of accuracy of the model. When incomplete data on model accuracy are reported, they’re usually hiding serious problems. 6% of the officers flagged did not go on to have an adverse interaction – what percentage of the officers not flagged did not go on to have adverse interactions? If the answer is “6%”, then this model is completely useless.

91 Thomas March 12, 2016 at 7:53 pm

“Attorneys requested the lists, presumably to cast doubt on officer testimony and conduct. Since some of the factors used to flag officers are completely beyond their control (e.g. having stressful suicide or domestic violence calls), this still has a potential for misuse.”

And? Surely as often as possible the state uses the personal, uncontrollable circumstances of a defendent to influence the jury to convict.

92 Art Deco March 11, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Recalling Mortimer Adler’s advisory that not every book deserves to be read line by line (along with a set of procedures to follow in lieu of reading line by line, I looked at the last paragraph. The Near East is in flames, and there’s that last paragraph. Jeffrey Goldberg has either composed a tour de force or something utterly fatuous. I seem to recall the moderator recommending some weeks ago a David Brooks column with was … utterly fatuous.

93 chuck martel March 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

1. Cops that have done bad things are likely to do bad things again. Who’d a thunk it? Especially when it’s almost impossible to fire one of them for misconduct, much less prosecute them for actual criminal activity.

94 Andy March 11, 2016 at 7:07 pm

7. maybe Brooks should have framed it as Spock vs Kirk instead of Cats v Dogs. Either way, my thoughts are (a) Obama in retrospect is likely to rank among the best presidents any of us will see in our lifetimes yet (b) may also have ushered in a potentially fatal existential threat to the US in the form of Trump/Trumps to come because (c) Interfluidity might have been right when he wrote, “Your Theory of Politics Is Wrong”

In other words, maybe we needed a less rational Prez?

95 Art Deco March 11, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Either way, my thoughts are (a) Obama in retrospect is likely to rank among the best presidents any of us will see in our lifetimes

Put the bong down.

96 Alain March 11, 2016 at 11:31 pm


That must be some awesome shit Andy. Can I have some?

97 Nathan W March 12, 2016 at 4:51 am

Somewhat of a stretch, but a) definitely not the abject failure that some would suggest, and b) given the current candidates, it might not actually be very hard to qualify for that title.

98 TMC March 12, 2016 at 11:18 am

Only if Bernie gets elected and you are less than 8 years old.

99 Careless March 12, 2016 at 7:05 pm

“among the best” can be thought of pretty broadly

100 Andy March 12, 2016 at 10:27 pm

“In retrospect”: let’s give it 20-30 yrs and compare notes then. 🙂

101 Jack March 11, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Thanks for posting the Obama interview. What a fascinating article about a very nuanced politician.

102 Derek March 11, 2016 at 9:10 pm

So he knew it was a waste of time to go into afghanistan? After campaigning on it, and ordering men to their deaths?

Hey Obama. It wasn’t your deciding not to intervene. It was you blathering on like a vacuous fool promising to.

And yes, we get it. It is always someone elses fault.

103 Nathan W March 11, 2016 at 11:03 pm

1) It concerns me that city counsellors referred to police as “the troops”. They are supposed to be cultivating the necessary relations with the public to build trust, etc., not a police state-esque troop presence.

2) Yeah, drives me nuts if ANYONE posts pictures of me online without asking, unless it’s a clearly conventional picture that I posed for. Fortunately, people seem to take the hint when you remove tags and links from each and every photo they post that includes you. In the digital age, knowing how disrespectful and inconsiderate people tend to be about this kind of stuff, I serially avoid basically all photo taking now unless someone is explicit about what they want to do with it. Old fashioned? Don’t care. But the article suggests that my concerns are more new fashioned than old fashioned …

104 H@rd8ng March 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm

Not retarded, evil. I think Obama’s as smart as I am, which is why I think he’s the secret leader of ISIS. And what quarters? Complaining of racism in the Republican party is like complaining about Communism in the Democratic: what you gonna do about it?

105 BC March 12, 2016 at 3:49 am

#4) Regulation is not necessary to legitimize fantasy sports because that which is not made illegal is legal. Consumer demand is what legitimizes a business. Virginia may, on the other hand, be the first state to be captured by fantasy sports. A $50k registration fee sounds like a great way for large incumbents to keep out small upstart competitors.

106 BC March 12, 2016 at 4:18 am

#5) Kevin Erdmann made a great point in a recent blog post [] about certain so-called corporate tax “dodges”. They are only “dodges” because our corporate tax rate is so high and we tax income that other countries do not. If our tax rates were lower, then these firms wouldn’t be “dodging” anything because they wouldn’t owe those taxes to begin with.

We may have a similar misnomer here with these so-called tax “subsidies”, which are not really subsidies paid to the film makers. Rather, the so-called “subsidies” are the difference between taxes collected from the film makers and some fictitious benchmark tax level that wouldn’t have necessarily been paid anyways. If these so-called subsidies weren’t offered, the studios might not have filmed in the UK, and the UK wouldn’t have received any taxes. Taxes are part of the cost of filming, which studios consider in choosing locations. The “market clearing” tax is the true tax level, regardless of some statutory “list price” tax level that might be different. Calling this a subsidy is like saying car dealers subsidize customers’ cars when they agree on a price that is less than the list price. The market-clearing price, not some fictitious list price, is the true price.

I have provided may generous subsidies to this website by not charging my customary Blog Commenting Fee. You’re welcome.

107 Drefuss March 12, 2016 at 11:46 am

#7 The interview itself exemplifies Obama’s immense foreign policy incompetence.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: