Friday, November 13, 2009

Obama Goes Asian, Afghanistan Needs Khalilzad

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
David Brooks
Eugene Robinson

Sarah Palin Special
Interview: Dede Scozzafava
Matthew Continetti
Richard Kim, Nancy Reed
David Kuhn

"Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarized as “if you grow it, they will come.” - Paul Krugman
"Faced with the worst domestic economy in decades, the president has responded -- by setting a record for foreign travel."  - Dana Milbank"
"Some days the Republican Party seems to be going crazy. Its public image is often shaped by people who appear to have gone into government because they saw it as a steppingstone to talk radio."  - David Brooks
"Who can blame Palin for trashing the McCain folks? What have they ever done for her?"  - Josh Marshall

Barack Obama is in Tokyo as I write this, and both Paul Krugman and Dana Milbank talk about the lack of jobs being created in the US. Dana's quote reminds me of the adage "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping," coined by Eve Babitz. In this case: "When the going gets tough, the tough go traveling." It's true that he has traveled more than any other President during their first year in office, but he is the best goodwill ambassador we have. Hillary, of course, comes in a distant second.

The Asian economies are crucial for recovery from the global economic crisis, and as their economies grow, so does their sense of self as they become less dependent on US goodwill. It's a good thing that Obama is a good "listener" instead of a "decider." "US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama have agreed on the need to renew their two countries' strained alliance.
Mr Obama told reporters after talks in Tokyo that their bond was based on shared values and interests but should be renewed for the 21st Century. Mr Hatoyama said that, after 50 years, the alliance had to adapt to change.

His eight-day tour will take him to Singapore, China and South Korea and includes an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit... The trip is the president's Asian charm offensive as the glitz starts to fade from the year's fashion for Obama-mania, our correspondent says. The new world order is emerging fast in Asia as the region outgrows decades of American supremacy and the visit is the beginning of a battle to keep the US relevant in the turbulent years of change that lie ahead, he adds."

It will be interesting to see if Obama meets with delegates from North Korea during his trip, it would do a lot to ease tensions that are rising again between the two Koreas, which has been a hotspot ever since the Korean War. The results of that war established North Korea as the Hermit Kingdom, and solidified their illustrious leader's ongoing paranoia/obsession over the US. Japan's new Prime Minister was elected on the promise to re-open the decisions made on US military bases on Okinawa, and it looks like Obama has agreed to do so. Saving face for Mr Hatoyama, egg on face for Robert Gates, who ended previous negotiations three years ago...
“We’ve come to call each other Barack and Yukio, and gotten quite accustomed to calling each other by our names.”

needing a new ambassador...

The US has had problems with its ambassadors in Afghanistan lately, they just can't get along with Hamid Karzai. I don't see why we don't draft Zalmay Khalilzad back into the position.  He did the best job, being an ethnic Pashtun born in Afghanistan. From Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog: "Khalilzad served as President Bush's special envoy for Afghanistan from the country's liberation in 2001 until 2003. In 2003, he became U.S. ambassador. Khalilzad had an extraordinary relationship with Karzai, spending hours alone with him on a daily basis -- mentoring, advising, reassuring, hectoring (the latter only in private). The relationship allowed Khalilzad to succeed, far more often than not, in getting Karzai to do the right thing. Karzai had enormous confidence in Khalilzad -- and, more importantly, in the unflinching U.S. support that was manifested in Khalilzad's role.

 Khalilzad left Afghanistan in the summer of 2005. Since then, no other U.S. official has come close to replicating his relationship with Karzai. On the contrary, we've seen an ever-widening breach of trust and confidence between Karzai and the United States, bottoming out this spring when the Obama administration let it be known that it was "desperately searching" for an alternative to Karzai. Causal lines are always hard to draw, but it's difficult not to discern a significant connection between the end of Khalilzad's tenure in Kabul and the mounting frustrations with Karzai's performance in Washington. At a minimum, this suggests that now that Karzai's second term is a done deal, the Obama administration needs urgently to find a way to rebuild its badly tattered relationship with him. Can that be done with the people currently in charge of Afghan policy? That's a tough question, but it needs to be asked."

Khalilzad  recently went back to Afghanistan to see about being part of the government, and he filled out papers to run for President this last election, but he missed the deadline, maybe on purpose. He would still be the best person for the job and can steady Karzai so he doesn't have a mental collapse from the stress... Besides, anyone who has the guts to name one of his children Maximillian has to be cool, in the old-school style...

water, water everywhere...

this isn't politics, but it's the coolest story today: NASA announced that there is a significant amount of water on the moon: "The LCROSS probe impacted the lunar south pole at a crater called Cabeus on Oct. 9. The $79 million spacecraft, preceded by its Centaur rocket stage, hit the lunar surface in an effort to create a debris plume that could be analyzed by scientists for signs of water ice.

Scientists have long suspected that permanently shadowed craters at the south pole of the moon could be cold enough to sustain water frozen at the surface. Water has already been detected on the moon by a NASA-built instrument on board India's now defunct Chandrayaan-1 probe and other spacecraft, though it was in very small amounts and bound to the dirt and dust of the lunar surface." NASA crashed a $79 million dollar piece of equipment on the moon, and watched the debris plume and analyzed its content by telescope and another satellite. Pretty dramatic, seems they are adopting the Hollywood film version of doing science these days. One of the little mentioned problems we have now, when launching probes into space, is projecting their trajectories so they don't run into the hundreds of satellites we have orbiting the earth, many of them dead and out of commission... Yes, we have become a Star Wars bar scene parody.

The Rasmussen Reports conducted a survey in Minnesota, and the results were 57% favorable for how well Presidential hopeful Gov. Tim Pawlenty was doing as Governor. But it seems they wouldn't vote for him if he were running for President. The schizophrenic state of Minnesota also has Al Franken and Michelle Bachmann representing their interests in Congress.

And now for a moment of Zen for the upcoming 9/11 trials. No, this isn't Osho:

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