Snow Storms & Roads
In snow-challenged Washington, DC, Nebraska Avenue and the roads around Vice President’s Naval Observatory home are immaculate, completely cleared of snow and ice — but the major artery of Massachusetts Avenue is a horizontal snow slush, barely plowed. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty would probably be in bigger trouble with citizens if there were not another ten or so inches of white stuff on the way giving him ‘another chance’ to get the city’s infrastructure back in operation after a storm.
The Washington Post Reaches Out to A Realist
Well, jiminy cricket, I just learned that Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has started a weekly “online” column for The Washington Post. Appearing in the actual paper still has its benefits — particularly when so much of the in-paper editorial offerings and the opeds assembled by Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl are of a neoconservative or liberal interventionist (neocon of the left) tilt. But something is better than nothing — and Vanden Heuvel, who too many confuse as a hard core lefty, is actually one of the smartest “progressive realist” commentators in the country. Katrina once told me at a swank Hamptons party that “realism had become the new ideology of the left.” And she is and was right. (Here is her first installment.)
Dianne Feinstein’s Famous Chairs
I had occasion to chat with Senator Dianne Feinstein last night — a hero in my book in the aftermath of the Harvey Milk assassination — and learned that her home in the Spring Valley district of Washington should probably become a historic site at some point. I don’t think she would mind my sharing this — but said that when folks come over to her place, she is nearly always asked right away to show where Barack and Hillary sat in her home to work out their post-primary postures. At the dinner we were at last evening, she pointed to two modest but still regal high-back stuffed chairs that looked like the ones in her place. Senator Feinstein said that she was thinking of putting plaques on the chairs that said who sat in what chair and where. Two thoughts: Someone should convince the President and Secretary of State to go resume their positions in those chairs and get a great Annie Leibovitz photo. Second, perhaps Senator Feinstein should donate the chairs to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History?
British Ambassador to US Nigel Sheinwald Tires of Snow Shoveling and Gives Major Speech Tonight in Austin
I was up near the British Embassy both yesterday and today — ghost town there in an embassy sense. The stalwart bronzed Winston Churchill still has about 18 inches of white stuff on his head and arms — sort of a warrior snow man.
But just got word that UK Ambassador to the US Nigel Sheinwald is speaking in Austin tonight at the LBJ Presidential Library outlining support for General Stanley McChrystal’s action plan in Afghanistan.
According to Sheinwald’s office:
Ambassador Sheinwald will lay out the case for a successful political strategy to support the military strategy being carried out by ISAF under General McChrystal. He will say that political success in Afghanistan depends on three factors: reassuring the Afghan people about our commitment, splitting the coalition that makes up the insurgency we face, and promoting security in the wider region around Afghanistan. He will reiterate that a political solution is as important as a military one, and make the case that the Taliban need to be outgoverned as well as outgunned.
Sheinwald will say:
“The war in Afghanistan and the related challenges we face across the border in Pakistan constitute the top foreign policy and security priority for the British Government. The reason is simple: like the US Administration, we believe that we must prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a safe haven for Al Qaeda and international terrorists who plan to do us harm.
“And what are we doing to ensure that this risk is lowered? After several reviews, both the Obama Administration and the British Government have come to the same conclusion: to ensure that this area does not become a safe haven, we must help and support the government of Afghanistan to secure its own territory against militancy and terrorism. We have adopted, with the Afghan government, a comprehensive, politically-led counter-insurgency campaign. Simultaneously, in Pakistan, we need to support the government’s efforts – certainly through security and intelligence help, but also through economic and social development, and long term nurturing of Pakistan’s political and institutional structure.
“When the Taliban were in power, they broke Afghan society so badly that it was easy for Al Qaeda to take root. Our task, therefore, is to help the Afghan people strengthen themselves and their society to the extent that they are robust enough to repel Al Qaeda without the need for several tens of thousand international troops on their soil.
“We are not just focused on making Afghans feel safer in their beds at night. We need the people of Afghanistan to want to take ownership of the future of their country. The polls consistently tell us that only around 6% of the Afghan people want the Taliban back in power. But the evidence is clear that many more than that are unwilling to turn their back on the insurgency in case the Taliban do return.
“So we need to build up their trust in a government which is seen to be acting against corruption and aiming to govern competently. In the words of our Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, “the Taliban need to be outgoverned, not just outgunned”. This part of the political strategy is designed to build up the capacity and effectiveness of Afghanistan’s government, both in Kabul and out in the provinces and districts; training and equipping provincial and district governors; distributing aid money more effectively; and addressing the deficit in justice by providing both financial and practical support.
Here is the rest of the speech.
Ambassador Sheinwald makes much sense here — but one wonders how the US, even with allies, can even pretend to achieve such a holistic, ambitious agenda in Afghanistan when the President of the United States can’t get a health care bill through Congress.
I want President Obama, General McChrystal, our British allies, and others to succeed — but not to doubt somewhat this ambitious agenda given current performance trends would be irresponsible in my view.
— Steve Clemons