Afghan forces will soon replace NATO-led troops in charge of security at six sites across Afghanistan — the first step in a transition that Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes will leave his troops in control across the nation by the end of 2014, The Associated Press has learned. The provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in volatile southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west and Mazar-i-Sharif in the north are slated for the first phase of transition from NATO-led forces to Afghan soldiers and police, a Western official told AP on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Karzai plans to formally announce the sites March 21. All of Bamiyan and Panshir provinces, which have seen little to no fighting, are on the transition list, which many Western diplomats and military officials have. Also slated for transition is Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district, the official said. Afghan security forces earlier took charge of security in the capital, Kabul.I didn’t realize there were only 25,000 Taliban in the country. I guess that’s why it’s called asymmetrical warfare.
The ever-brilliant Daniel Larison:
Electability is going to be the centerpiece of Huntsman’s campaign, and one of the reasons his supporters believe he is electable is that he has foreign policy credentials, which he has been building during his time in Beijing. At the same time, they want to suggest that Obama has been speaking out so enthusiastically about Huntsman’s service in order to cripple him politically. That implies that Obama is deliberately exaggerating the quality of Huntsman’s work to make it seem as if he is closely aligned with Obama and therefore less viable in a Republican primary. It seems to me that this is a serious disservice to Huntsman, as Huntsman has been widely praised for actually being a very competent and effective ambassador who deserves praise for his work. In other words, whenever Obama credits Huntsman for doing a good job, he is supposedly “meddling” in the Republican primary rather than commenting on Huntsman’s work, which will lead Republican voters to question his foreign policy credentials as well.
The convoluted logic behind Huntsman’s case reminds me of what a lot of John Edwards supporters were saying to me back in 2008. He’s liberal now, but a lot of people will see him as conservative because that’s what he used to be. He’s repudiated the war, but he can use his war vote as evidence of his “toughness” against the enemy to combat the $300 haircut story. (Yes, an Edwards guy actually used that one on me once.) When you have to spin such a complicated logical web like this it’s usually to hide a very big flaw, and such is the case with Huntsman (and Edwards too, though I only had inklings of something being wrong with him before the story broke).
Actually, though, Larison mentions that Huntsman might try a McCain 2000-style undecided voters strategy. He’s lukewarm on the idea, and farbeit for me to dispute that. But what if Huntsman were to really run a tough, aggresssive, centrist campaign that he never intended to win? I think that could be a good thing overall, in highlighting the extremism of the current Repubs running and perhaps in giving moderate Republicans a focal point around which to unite. Think about it: if a birther question comes up in a debate and Romney and T-Paw come up with some elegant nothings to say about it, Huntsman could slam them to the wall. If Bachmann says something crazy, Huntsman could dismiss her as an idiot. He could advocate for a sane foreign policy and some measure of tolerance, but he’d still be pro-life and limited government and all. Since he’s a man of stature, the media would probably move him up to the position formerly maintained by John McCain. He’d become a magnet for independents. And I wonder if he couldn’t pry away the bulk of the moderate Republicans (~25-30% of the party, by most polls) from Romney. They back Romney because there’s nothing much better for them to do, but perhaps Huntsman could give them pause? Someone actually working for those votes could well get them.
Now, obviously, this would not be a winning campaign strategy to actually get the Republican nomination. And Huntsman would probably become the most hated man in the Republican Party overall. But at some point, if the Republicans are ever going to adjust to be more in sync with this millennium rather than the last one (as the demographics suggest they will have to), there will have to be men of stature who will stand up to the extremists and run the risk of destroying themselves politically. That’s honorable, if he does it. And considering how damn dull those Republican debates were in 2008 (I watched one and learned that every candidate considered themselves more like Ronald Reagan than all the others! What a surprise, I thought they’d all argue about who was most like Benjamin Harrison!), at the very least the fireworks from Huntsman going rogue would be entertaining.
Hat tip: Political Wire.
With all the sturm und drang over the labor battles going on in the Midwest, a very fundamental point is often being overlooked. Yes, our would-be Galtian overlords hate unions with every fiber of their being. Dagny Taggart did speaketh from the mountaintop and demand that all employers be free to, e.g., pay poverty-level wages, kill workers in unsafe mines and employ children to clean out the tiny steel mill pipes (who else is gonna do it!?).
But wash all that from your mind. What’s really going on here is a calculated, state-by-state attack on the long-term electoral viability of Democratic Party candidates.
Why, you ask? Well, for those of you who don’t know, fundraising in (most) state politics is dominated by two primary centers of gravity: (1) the business community (typically in the form of the Chamber of Commerce or its local analogue), which typically backs Republican candidates; and (2) the local unions, which typically back Democratic candidates. This is especially true in Wisconsin (see below). You may have some opinion on the propriety of all this but unless we finally implement exclusive government funding of elections, that’s the state of play today and for the foreseeable future.
You don’t even have to take my word for it. Here’s Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald accidentally committing an act of truth:
Well if they flip the state senate, which is obviously their goal with eight recalls going on right now, they can take control of the labor unions. If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.
With all that in mind, it quickly becomes clear that a simultaneous, full-on GOP assault on labor rights in key electoral college states in the Midwest just before the 2012 election season is just a little bit too convenient to be taken at face value.
If you need some more convincing, check out a phenomenal post by TPM’s Eric Kleefeld on the nuts and bolts of Wisconsin politics vis a vis unions and the business lobby (you really should read the whole thing):
[T]he Democratic Party in Wisconsin is, to an extent that is not true in most other states, a genuine labor party — a party that is intertwined with unions at the institutional level, with many politicians who have also been union officials or done legal work with unions, and which speaks for organized labor in key debates. They in turn compete with the Republican Party, which represents business interests as embodied by the state’s Chamber group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, in what has until now been a sometimes uneasy but nevertheless predictable political system.
In short, unions in Wisconsin are not just economic organizations made up of their respective workers — they are political institutions that are a major part of the state. As such, a change to the state’s union laws that would threaten the existence of organized labor would in turn threaten the existence of the Democratic Party itself in Wisconsin, as people have known it for over half a century — something that state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) may have accidentally alluded to earlier today.
And this is a key reason why a governor taking on public employee unions, which would be popular in many other states, was really lighting a political powder-keg here, and why so many polls showed that the people of Wisconsin, who had just elected Walker and the Republicans, were now on the side of the unions and the Dems. It’s one thing to defeat the unions on financial issues — this is, in part, a major reason that people would elect Republicans in Wisconsin — but to try to hobble and obliterate them really went against people’s sense of fair play and respect for the state’s institutions.
As a parting thought, please remember that some of the harmful effects of the Citizens United ruling were mitigated somewhat by the fact that it unshackled the political purses of not only huge corporate interests (i.e., 8 points for Republicans) but also national labor unions (i.e., 1 point for Democrats). Because modest parcels of union money could cancel out at least some of the transoceanic shipping containers full of business interest money, I saw at least a certain (partial) parity in that, which muted some of my general outrage over the decision. Going forward, however, if Republican schemes to gradually destroy organized labor succeed, the partial parity that gave me at least some comfort goes away. Because, after all, most people of good faith would agree that organized labor is pretty much the only large, well-funded lobby in this country that constantly pushes for the interests of working people to be heard, considered and addressed. If that goes away, I really don’t know what else would fill the void.
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