From Russia, With Optimism

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When I worked in Russia in 2003 for the Moscow Helsinki Group the government has already begun limiting press freedoms and buying up independent media outlets, but civil society was becoming broader, more representative, and more active. That was the simple version of my assessment, which left me with a generally positive outlook on the trajectory of Russian democracy. The developments of the past few years have made me reconsider my optimism. President Putin has tightened his grip over the…

Law of the Sea Digest

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The Senate won’t move on the Law of the Sea until after the August recess. Holding hearings on the Convention this month, ensuring that it won’t compete with appropriations bills for floor time in the fall, would’ve been the right move. But with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden on the campaign trail, scheduling isn’t all that easy. Leaders in both parties and the President want action, so this will become a test of Biden’s leadership in the fall….

Steve Coll to head New America Foundation

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The news is out that Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll will be my next boss succeeding Ted Halstead at the New America Foundation. Coll is one of the world’s leading experts on Pakistan and Afghanistan and can get into the weeds with anyone on those issues — and gets the big picture need to tilt foreign policy and national security work towards the empirical and pragmatic rather than positions fashioned mostly by ideology or…

Cheney to be President

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I just wanted to acknowledge what CNN is now reporting, that Dick Cheney will hold the power of the Presidency while Bush undergoes a colonoscopy. This will likely just end up as a blip on the radar screen. Cheney will probably spend his short time as President eating snacks and watching TV, or otherwise wreaking whatever havoc he ordinarily wreaks over the course of the day. Then again, a lot can happen in 2 and a half hours. On an…

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Genocidaires…

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My colleague Raj Purohit writes on the Citizens for Global Solutions blog: A few years ago I was talking to a former high level official from the Clinton Administration about Pol Pot. Specifically we were discussing why he was never brought to trial for his crimes in the weeks before he committed suicide. The official told me that there was a real desire on the part of the Administration to bring Pol Pot to trial in the U.S. but that…

The Russia-UK Standoff: When the Underlying Crime No Longer Matters. . .

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The bleat of many Scooter Libby supporters in the Valerie Plame CIA-outing scandal is that there was “no underlying crime.” They tried to sidestep the obstruction crime that Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff was found guilty of. Something similar is going on in the UK-Russia standoff over the extradition of former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy to face charges for the Le Carre-esque murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Well, there is an underlying crime here of course — a murder. But…

Senator Reid’s Move Ups His Stock Value

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Senator Reid’s clever theatrics of keeping the Senate open all night to do battle with Republicans over Iraq policy is another winner in my book. It was nearly as good a legislative tactic as his Frist-frazzling Rule 21 move. Many argue that this was a stunt. It wasn’t. It’s hard core politics — the kind Gingrich and Lott and Boehner would frequently deploy on gay rights issues or abortion politics to drag Dems into “symbolic votes” that they hoped would…

Newt’s Pre-Campaign

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When in Europe, I was frequently queried about the current state of play in the Republican and Democratic presidential primary process. My quick response on the Dems was that Hillary’s juggernaut was extremely impressive — but that Barack Obama had passed the skeptic’s test and was filling the “bubble” of expectations he created with an impressive architecture of widely diverse donors and well thought out policy proposals. I believe that Edwards is being crushed in between Hillary and Obama —…

Buzz Cuts: Malaria Activism on Campus

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I’ve been fielding a number of inquiries on the UN Emergency Peace Service since I threw up a post on it last week. I have been extremely pleased with the reception it’s getting on Capitol Hill and now am very pleased too with how readers of this blog have taken to it. I know I owe readers an update on the Law of the Sea and I promise there will be one soon. In the meantime, though, I want to…