Tag Archives: Foreign policy

Shaking the “battered Taliban syndrome”

Now this can only be a step in the right direction.

CNN is reporting (via Captain Ed) that the Taliban is pursuing negotiations with the new Karzai government in Afghanistan, with a mind toward forging a peace deal.  According to CNN, the Sunni Islamist movement has had quite enough of al Qaeda’s all-encompassing war against non-Muslims (which seems lately to resemble more and more a war against everyone except al Qaeda fighters) and wishes to become a legitimate political movement within Afghanistan, without al Qaeda’s “help” bringing them nothing but grief.

One sign that they may be serious is the fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting the talks between government officials and Taliban leaders.  Captain Ed points out that the Saudis have their own reasons to see the Taliban sever their ties with al Qaeda and join forces with Karzai; al Qaeda has been gunning for the Saudi royal family as well for years, and lately the Taliban have been accepting arms support from Iran, which has got to make anyone worried about Iran’s sphere of influence fidgety.  It is unlikely that the Saudis would be wasting their time if they thought there was a chance that the Taliban were setting them up with sham negotiations meant only to buy time for al Qaeda to regroup.

As for our own interests, NATO troops would have a whole lot less of a rough time fighting the remaining shreds of al Qaeda than they would the wider Taliban movement.  The Taliban would also feel safe in Afghanistan for a change, meaning fewer hostile fighters scurrying across the border into Pakistan, where NATO rockets and aerial drones have improved their accuracy in eliminating them but still annoy the not-yet-stable Pakistani government with their intrusiveness.  Fewer incursions into Pakistan’s territory and airspace can only help make things more stable in that country.

Obstacles remain.  The Taliban have declared their separation from al Qaeda, but a formal renunciation of violence in general is necessary, as is adherence to the democratic principles enshrined in the country’s new constitution, before Hamid Karzai fully welcomes them into the new Afghanistan’s political process.  However, Karzai is negotiating from a position of strength (the Taliban came to him, after all), and he may even be in a position to compel them to give up their leaders in exchange for safe haven.  Wouldn’t it be a measure of poetic justice if the Taliban ultimately brought about the downfall of the leaders of the terrorist group that brought the wrath of the U.S. and NATO on the heads of the Taliban-led Afghan government in 2001 in the first place?

Debate “afterblogging” UPDATE: Whatshisname?

Henry Kissinger has told The Weekly Standard that Obama is kidding himself if he thinks Kissinger’s attitude toward engaging Iran is at variance with McCain’s:

“Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”

OK, so I’ll revise my original assessment slightly:  there was at least one notable stumble.  Hot Air goes into further detail, and Gateway Pundit points out the McCain called “shenanigans” right after Obama said it.

Ben Smith at Politico says that Obama fell back on abstract language when talking about “the visceral issues of war and peace.”  Yeah, I picked up on that too.  He was treading on that danger zone where he affects what many have called a “professorial” tone, making him look like an Adlai Stevenson-style egghead.

Smith does make a point I’m not so sure about:

McCain’s goal in the foreign policy debate, a smart operative points out, is to prove that Obama “doesn’t understand” foreign policy.  Under one theory of this debate, Obama has a low bar, which is to prove a threshold competence on foreign policy.

Anybody who’s read my debate liveblog in the post before this one knows I don’t think Obama had a low bar, despite his campaign’s attempt to lower it by feeding a talking points memo to the New York Times beforehand saying…well, what a crappy debater he usually is.  I do agree with the first sentence, however, and I think McCain got more mileage out of casting Obama as a foreign-policy naïf than Obama did out of any lowered expectations.

UPDATE: I’ve noticed that a bunch of livebloggers have had a much different reaction to Obama’s “I’ve got a bracelet too” riposte.  I said it was an effective comeback to McCain’s “bracelet” schtick.  However, since I sit at my desk with my back to the TV (turning around only intermittently), I didn’t see what Obama’s counter-schtick looked like.  What I missed is that Obama blanked on the name of the solider the bracelet was supposed to commemorate, and had to check it while fumbling for the name (video here).  OK, fair point…I can see how that would detract from the poignancy of the moment, yes.

Presidential Debate Liveblog!

OK, debate’s over, and full liveblog transcript is below the break.  Other liveblogs here, here, here (drunkblogging!), here (Part I and Part II), here, and here.  Instapundit has his own roundup here.

Overall, no “knockout punches,” which favors Obama by default, but he had to overcome the impression that he’s not a foreign-policy lightweight, which he didn’t manage to do.  McCain currently leads by double-digits in poll questions asking who’s the better Commander in Chief, and I doubt that will change after tonight.

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Biden Gaffe Watch

OK, there have been enough of these by now to warrant their own recurring theme.  Given their surprising frequency and the new focus on Joe Biden in the news, I just know this won’t be the last.

At a major foreign policy address Biden let fly this beaut:

“After seven years, in which our senior diplomatic personnel were not allowed to make a single contact with Iranians, the Bush administration realized the absurdity of its own policy and sent our leading diplomat to Iran,” he said. “The Assistant Secretary of State as he went to Tehran, sat down at the instruction of the President of the United States.”

FoxNews.com (via OpinionJournal.com) provides a Biden-to-Real-World translation:

In point of fact, the one “meeting” that has taken place was in Geneva, Switzerland, when Under Secretary of State William Burns sat in on a discussion between Iranian representatives and the other “P5 +1″ political directors involved in nuclear talks. The meeting, while a first, was not a negotiation; Burns was there merely as an observer, and had no formal role or talks with the Iranians.

So, point by point: Burns was not sent to Tehran; he did not go to Tehran; and there was no such instruction from the President.

Retroactively rounding up the Biden Gaffe Watch archives below the break.

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Palin Minefield: No casualties…yet

Governor Palin officially entered the foreign policy gauntlet this morning, holding meetings at the United Nations with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.  (Hot Air has video.)  Further leaders she’ll be meeting today include Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Jalal Talabani of Iraq, Ali Asif Zardari of Pakistan, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

OK, Governor Palin has now trod upon the sector of the campaign minefield occupied by foreign leaders.  Karzai and Uribe reported having been impressed and pleased by Palin in their respective meetings, so no tripped mines yet.  So far, as far as the campaign minefield in general is concerned, there have been nearby explosions, but nobody’s been killed or maimed to date by any of the diciest aspects of the campaign so far.

Details and minefield highlights below the break.

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Should be political death. But likely won’t be. UPDATE: Obama camp tries to explain

During the early 1990’s, a conspiracy theory floated to the surface of the political swamp. The theory, nicknamed the “October Surprise,” alleged that representatives of the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign had struck a secret deal with the newly declared Islamic Republic of Iran to delay the release of 52 American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Tehran until after the 1980 election, in order to deny then-President Jimmy Carter a diplomatic victory (and thus a chance to save his faltering re-election campaign).

Now comes a report, this time from a firsthand and much more reliable source (who’s willing to go on the record), detailing a possible attempt at a similar international backroom deal (this time a proposal to keep troops in harm’s way in Iraq for the sake of political haymaking), involving not only the Obama/Biden campaign, but Sen. Obama himself. Who will probably skate nonetheless.

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