Climate Change: “Partner … Ally”

Obama had a message for the country’s governors on Tuesday:

Old News

USA Today writer John Diamond is out with a book, “The CIA and the Culture of Failure,” that purportedly documents serial failures of tradecraft in the agency and a long-term politicization of its product. Folks like Jeff Stein at CQ are inclined to see this as new:

Diamond, who written about the CIA for the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today, also has several news breaks in the book, including:
  • How a deliberate undermining of the CIA was critical to the neo-conservative push for the defense build-up in the 1970s and 80s, national missile defense in the 1990s and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • How the chance arrest by Pakistan of a suspect, Mohammed Sadeeq Odeh, in the U.S. embassy bombing in Kenya tipped off bin Laden and caused al-Qaeda to change its plans for a leadership meeting, rendering the Clinton administration’s retaliatory strike an embarrassing miss.
  • How the Iraq/WMD failure, one of the most consequential in CIA history, stemmed from one of the Agency’s most notable successes. The great misjudgment prior to the Iraq invasion was the failure — by the White House, Congress, and the CIA itself — to even consider the possibility that this combined effort to disarm Iraq had, in fact, succeeded. 

None of this, alas, is any great revelation to those of us who followed the “Team B” disputes of the 1970s and have read books like Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark’s “Deception.” The folks in Langley couldn’t find water if they fell out of a boat.

The Union Label

Kevin Drum thinks the GOP will fight any liberalization of union-organizing regs:

You can certainly make the case that a serious obsession with Roe is a minority position even within the conservative movement. … Union busting, conversely, strikes me as being so deeply embedded in conservative DNA that it’s virtually impossible to imagine an American conservative movement that didn’t have anti-unionism as one of its core planks. In the last 30 years conservatives have made virtually no progress on their pro-life agenda, but they’ve made steady progress on the anti-union front ever since the end of World War II — via legislation, executive orders, new agency rules, NLRB appointments, and judicial nominations at both the state and federal level. This is no coincidence. The prospect of unionization rouses panic among Main Street conservatives more than any other single issue — more than taxes, more than deregulation — and whether James Dobson likes it or not, the GOP is a business party first and a social conservative party second.

Obama’s FCC

Good times coming for the ‘net, courtesy of whoever Obama puts on the FCC, says Ars Technica:

The favored will include Internet portals and application providers (“Google, Yahoo! etc—big winners,” Lipman declared). The reason is pretty obvious. Obama is a net neutrality supporter, and observers should expect plenty of proactivity in this area from Obama and Congress, including policies “prohibiting discrimination, prohibiting rationing of capacity,” and “prohibiting prioritization of traffic charges.” Plus Obama “probably would be skeptical of even bandwidth caps,” Lipman speculated.

Detroit Bailout

Some sort of bailout of the Big 3 carmarkers appears inevitable, most likely in the opening days of the Obama administration, for reasons Jonathan Cohn lays out at TNR. With even Obama himself telling 60 Minutes that the package needs to be conditioned on an industry restructuring, talk is turning to what Congress and the new president should demand. There are many skeptics, such as Matt Yglesias, but the bottom line is this is going to happen. Two million unemployed is not a number Congress can ignore. Less obviously, Detroit still has a hand in making a good number of the military’s ground vehicles and I don’t see Congress being happy with the idea of outsourcing that job to Toyota, Honda or Subaru.

Sarkozy, In Our Language

Looks like the Polish press, as translated by Google, had it right. The NYT:

Mr. Sarkozy made clear that he wants the United States to think again about the missile defense systems that it plans to build in Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr. Medvedev last week threatened to respond by stationing missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave bordering Poland and Lithuania, both of which are members of NATO and the European Union.

“Between now and then,” said Mr. Sarkozy, referring to the summer summit meeting, “please no more talk of antimissile protection systems.”

Sarko and Medvedev are both putting their stock in a European security conference. I don’t really expect Obama to play. Too high stakes, too early. He’ll be wanting to spend his political capital here. But he’ll definitely do some things quietly to ratchet down the rhetoric.

G-20, Assessed

The Economist offers its first cut on the weekend G-20 summit:

Whatever the tactical reasons, the success of this weekend’s gathering has permanently changed the machinery of international economic co-operation. The centre of global economic summitry has shifted from the G7 (the rich countries’ club) to a broader group. A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for April 30th 2009. Even in areas that primarily affect them alone, such as the regulation of the most sophisticated financial instruments, rich countries will no longer set the agenda on their own.

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Tom Barnett is not impressed:

Simply put, the agenda right now is too vast and there are two many competing great powers for any one solution to apply. So expect a boom market for new rules over the next few years, but no one great pact. Viewed in this light, you take the meager results of the recent summit in stride.

We Need Us A Convoy

capricornstarlarge

The blogs are a-twitter over the latest Somali-related act of piracy, the taking of an oil supertanker off the coast of Tanzania. Wired, EagleSpeak and Information Dissemination all have posts up. Most start by riffing off the Fifth Fleet news release announcing the seizure, which is mostly a declaration of impotence:

“Our presence in the region is helping deter and disrupt criminal attacks off the Somali coast, but the situation with the Sirius Star clearly indicates the pirates’ ability to adapt their tactics and methods of attack” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

The good admiral essentially repeats his appeal for shipping companies to hire Blackwater or an outfit of that ilk to provide armed security on their vessels. He and the folks who assembled the news release also make clear their view of the uselessness of patrolling, given that they tout the successes the USN and other forces have achieved lately in the Gulf of Aden while acknowledging a new problem hundreds of miles away:

To put the challenge into geographic perspective, the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles. That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.

Question: Has anyone thought of convoys, or has our Navy gone all Ernie-King-in-January-1942 and in consequence dismissed the idea out of hand? Concentrate the targets, and you can also concentrate your resources on protecting them. It’s radical, sure. But I wouldn’t think you’d need a huge escort to make the exercise worthwhile — a couple of frigates per group should suffice. 

What is required, no matter what, is for navy types throughout the West to get their heads around the idea that they have to solve this. Gortney and his subordinates obviously haven’t:

“While a military force cannot solve the problem, the solution lies ashore, we welcome the assistance of additional forces,” said [Royal Navy Commodore Tim] Lowe.

Somewhere Horatio Nelson is rolling over in his grave.

Meanwhile, The Custodian at Info Dissemination sagely notes that this latest seizure “offers a somewhat disturbing opportunity for ecoterrorist extortion if it is carrying cargo [ed: it is] and if the pirates choose to take that route.” Everyone at all the blogs mentioned above agrees that as long as countries keep paying the ransom, the pirates will keep taking ships.