The View From a Tahoe Perch & Happy New Year!


Tahoe Kori Schake TWN small.jpg
(photo credit: Kori Schake)
I have had a pretty busy couple of days reading a dozen or so books competing in the Los Angeles Times History Book Prize for which I was drawn in to be a judge by Ron Brownstein. This is one of the best things I have ever done. Not all history books are gems, but one can’t help but learn a ton of new things doing something like this.
The picture above was just sent to me by my friend and national security expert Kori Schake, who was on the foreign policy advisory team to John McCain’s presidential campaign as well as a national security adviser to President Bush. This is a bit of her current paradise in Lake Tahoe.
But speaking of Kori Schake, I want to highlight something she wrote for the Washington Post in January 2009 about Afghanistan — capturing themes and concerns that I think many on the Obama team really need to absorb and think through again.

More American troops isn’t enough to succeed in Afghanistan. What else needs doing depends on why you think the Taliban have gained ground in the past 18 months. Is it because we have too few troops to hold areas that have been cleared of Taliban influence? Is it because Afghans are fundamentally sympathetic to Taliban aims? Or are Afghans so downtrodden from the terror and distrustful of American staying power they won’t stand up and help?
According to the United Nations, this is a country that stands second to last in the entire world in human development rankings. So the potential for rapid turn-around of Afghan society is low. The Taliban are increasingly targeting development workers and nongovernment organizations. They are destroying the schools and hospitals to crush hope for a better Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is also a country that has received a plethora of international assistance in the past eight years and hasn’t made particularly good use of the window of international interest.
The United States is over-invested in the government of President Hamid Karzai, spending too little of its political heft diversifying the potential leadership and setting rules in the political domain that will produce a less corrupt, broader-based government. Democracies grow strong as the result of vibrant civil societies underpinning the political process. Afghanistan has little of that, and Afghans are fast losing confidence in their government.
If the United States is to succeed in Afghanistan, our military might, economic assistance and political attention should be tied to building the Afghan government. If you watch the migration of poppy-growing in Afghanistan, it does not follow areas of increased violence, it tracks to areas of corrupt governance. We need a governance strategy to which our military operations will be subordinate; we won’t succeed otherwise.

I would see that nearly all of her central concerns remain relevant today, despite the greater talk of building up and cleaning out Karzai’s government.
But on to other fronts — HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
For those wondering, I’ll be in Dubai Saturday-Monday. San Francisco next Tuesday through Thursday. Los Angeles, Thursday and Friday. New York, Saturday through Monday.
It’s already an action packed new year.
Best to everyone.
— Steve Clemons


23 comments on “The View From a Tahoe Perch & Happy New Year!

  1. Michael says:

    Wow, what a great prospect. I’m thrilled. This is pure nature. It is a pity that one simply has too little time to watch something several times. Just wonderful.


  2. James says:

    I doubt that situation will change drastically with Afganistan during the 2010 since there are domestic problems, which US experiences. i have downloaded several of interviews with Kori Schake from this file search engine where he gave a comprehensive overview of current issues.
    nevertheless, thanks for such a positive post and wonderful picture.


  3. nadine says:

    David, Israel has always been the only country in the world where mere recognition of its right to exist is dangled as an immense concession. Israel would have paid for that concession with land – they knew the West Bank had too many Arabs for them to absorb easily, and nobody wants Gaza, ever. But they got the three ‘nos’ of the Khartoum conference: no recognition, no negotiation, no peace.


  4. David says:

    “They would have given all of it back…”
    They would have? “This land is ours, God gave this land to us” had enjoyed great popularity when I was at UF in the early 60s. Not sure how this fits with what I remember, but I do admit to not knowing the nuts and bolts at that time. I was just beginning to try to get a grasp on larger realities, driven in particular by the realization that the Viet Nam War was a war of aggression post-French attempts to re-colonialize Indo-China, I guess for Michelin Rubber Company, wrapped up in our holy Cold War crusade against godless communism/battle for geostrategic military and economic dominance.
    Be interested in knowing who in the Israeli government genuinely wanted to give it back in exchange for peace. There are aspects of the history I don’t know, although I have considerable trouble squaring what you say with what I do know, especially about the history starting in the 80s.


  5. nadine says:

    “The fact is that ongoing Israeli expansion in the occupied territories is an aggressive offense, not a benign result of past wars.”(DonS)
    In 1967 Jordan attacked Israel and Israel won 100% of the West Bank in the war. 100%, DonS, comprende? 100%. That means all of it. Today they occupy much less than all of it under the Oslo accords. This is contraction not expansion, you dope. Stop rewriting history.
    They would have given all of it back in 1967 for a peace treaty. But the Arabs refused to talk.


  6. DonS says:

    The fact is that ongoing Israeli expansion in the occupied territories is an aggressive offense, not a benign result of past wars. Israel has sought to flim flam the international community by the distraction of labelling some settlements/outposts as illegal, i.e., seeking to shift the focus away from the illegal occupation of the territories to some lesser discussion, and to seek to frame Israeli occupation as legitimate within some self described framework that recognizes outliers.
    Losing sight of continued Israeli aggression and expansion and focusing overmuch on Palestinian resistance has been Israeli’s propaganda approach. It has been almost totally successful in toning down to the point of nullity any US objectivity. . . to the point now that politicians check with and rely on AIPAC for policy and action guidance.
    All roads to international peace with the Muslim world lead back to the seething pot of Is/Pal and the corrupted role played by the US.


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Here is a small blurb from a Kuwaiti news source…..
    Israeli forces make incursion into Khuza”a town S. Gaza
    Military and Security 1/2/2010 6:30:00 PM
    GAZA, Jan 2 (KUNA) — Israeli forces, backed by tanks and bulldozers, made an incursion into Khuza’a town near Khan Younis city south of Gaza on Saturday.
    Palestinian local radio said that Israeli forces, accompanied by four tanks and five bulldozers, made a 300-meter incursion into east of the town.
    The incursion came amid heavy fire and aerial support by Israeli reconnaissance planes, the radio noted.
    It also added that the bulldozers were operational as soon as they made the incursion and destroyed farm lands in the area.
    Last night, Israeli forces made a similar incursion but it was in the town of Qarrarah north of Khan Younis. (end)
    One wonders what kind of Palestinian “response” Nadine deems appropriate here. How many lives were destroyed by this “incursion” that will never be noted by the American mainstream media.
    How many families lost their livelyhoods and their means to sustenance? Daily, if one searches the net, you can find accounts of similiar Israeli “incursions”, crimes, and acts of oppression aimed at dehumanizing and eliminating the Palestinian people. Whether it be a fisherman trying to provide for his family, or a farmer trying to till his fields, one can find daily accounts of unwarranted and criminal Israeli acts of aggression lodged against Palestinians doing nothing more than trying to eke out a living. How does this racist abomination and shameless hasbarist Nadine think the Palestinians should “respond”.


  8. Paul Norheim says:

    From Haaretz today:
    Hamas: Reconciliation with Fatah imminent
    By Reuters
    Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said on Sunday the Islamist group was in the final stages of
    achieving reconciliation with the rival Palestinian Fatah party after he met Saudi Arabian officials to
    try to narrow the rift.
    “We achieved great strides towards achieving reconciliation,” Meshal told reporters at the foreign
    ministry during a visit to the Saudi capital. “We are in the final stages now.”
    An Egyptian proposal to promote reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah has called for presidential and
    legislative elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next June.
    Meshal said Hamas still had some points to iron out in the Egyptian proposal.
    “We all agree that the signing of the [reconciliation] will take place in Cairo,” he said.”
    More here:


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Tehachapi has the PERFECT amount of snow. It comes, its pretty, you blink, its gone.


  10. Paul Norheim says:

    I believe that your husband is from Oslo? There it snows for months and months. Here
    in the western part of the country, in Bergen, it usually RAINS for months and
    months – so I`m happy when it snows like this for a couple of weeks…
    Glad to see that you`re back!


  11. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says: son is half Norwegian, which is why he loves ski country…He loved visiting Norway with his Dad .I like a little bit of winter…love snow, especially the smell of the air, the muffled sounds, the clean sparkling white coating on everything, but just enough to make it picture postcard-y… not endless snow for months and months.


  12. Ajaz says:

    What a lovely view from your perch.
    And excellent comments too about Afghanistan. Military leaders will always ask for more resources in men and materials, but history shows us that is not the best way to end a war. Vietnam’s example is before us where ever increasing military build up did not help and in the US had to retreat without success.
    The Afghanistan situation is increasingly looking like that. Unless things are settled in a politically savvy manner in Afghanistan, a bigger mess will be left behind after US starts to withdraw its forces in a year or two.


  13. Paul Norheim says:

    Don, an OT reply (keep your eyes closed):
    yes, in this case I hope that other countries will pay attention to the Norwegian
    An on topic message to Outraged (now you can look!):
    Right now, most parts of Norway look more or less exactly like the Lake Tahoe view on the
    picture above – a landscape in white, blue, and green. And I`m not complaining. Sometimes
    winter is wonderful.


  14. DonS says:

    Very OT (so don’t look):
    Hey Paul, here’s another pretty impressive Norwegian accomplishment, in the field of health. Combating overuse of antibiotics, and thereby reducing the rate of infection:


  15. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Looks just like the view from my son’s home in Tahoe Cit….not being a winter buff, I generally go visit in warmer times. Did anyone focus o the full moon last night? It was blue moon…2 full moons in one month…must have been especially beautiful shining over the snow and lake.
    Happy New Year, all!


  16. eberit says:

    Happy New Year Steve and thank you for providing this forum. Will you be holding any coffe discussions when you are in SF? Perhaps/maybe you will be leading some discussions at some interesting public forum?


  17. DonS says:

    From reading Ms Schake’s resume, from 1990 until current gig at Hoover Institute, she worked in the heart of the defense beast. So if she really cared to move the discussion forward more than incrementally I’m sure she could lay bare the corruption by which defense policy has implemented and collaborated with corrupt politics. But, then she would not be so welcome in certain parts of the establishment I guess.
    But if Powell won’t do it maybe I should expect Ms. Schake to wake up and come clean. Or maybe she is exactly who should.
    Reminds me of the news clip I saw last night interviewing a bunch of economists, important and not so important, at their annual conference — on the question of why no one saw the debacle coming or connected the dots etc. They all had their take, but to me the interesting thing was that they enthusiastically talked about with great humor and big smiles on their face. Except maybe Joe Stiglitz who managed only an occasional tense grimace. Works for them.


  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “If the United States is to succeed in Afghanistan….blahblablah”
    Whats the definition of “success”?
    Another fuckin’ puppet on a string, sucking up your and my tax dollars, willing to turn a blind eye while we rob the natives of their country’s resources?


  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting that Bill sees the myth behind the “success of the surge”. I note today’s Los Angeles Times has a lengthy article on the escalating conflict between Sunni members of The Awakening and the Shiites. Not once does the article mention the “surge”, choosing instead to mince words and deflect from what is increasingly becoming a massive failure. This asshole Obama is going to escalate involvement in Yemen and Afghanistan, and Iraq will simultaneously disintegrate internally.
    From what we’ve seen so far from this empty suit, is there anyone reading this that is still so star stricken that they think this narcissistic posturing ass has the will and the sand to maneuver this country through the mess Cheney and Bush left us with? If so, they’re dreaming.


  20. John Kerridge says:

    Re: Kori Schake: Yes, her remarks make sense, but please remind me, whom was she advising in 2008? And what effect did her advice have? Just asking. Regards, John Kerridge.


  21. DonS says:

    Bill. it is important to note that many, particularly, political hands, do not equate “the right thing” with an ethical/moral value.


  22. Bill says:

    Churchill praised his wartime ally, the US, saying it always did the right thing, after trying everything else. Iraq seems to fit Churchill’s model, and if we are very lucky so will Afghanistan.
    It is surprising to hear that McCain had a staff person who was nuanced enough to know the questions to ask.
    McCain just kept saying the surge worked in Iraq and it will work in Afghanistan. The way he talked about the surge, it just meant more troops, and a more muscular presence. I don’t think he ever understood the importance of the Sunni awakening, or that Sadar had decided to pull back, and wait until we left. The message “the people are the prize” was never in McCain’s grasp, though it was in in the McKrystal report, the new field manual, and in the SF training manuals in the 1960s. Why wasn’t she able to educate him past the French tactics in Algeria in the 1950’s.


  23. samuelburke says:

    Happy New Year Mr Clemons.
    The united states was a great experiment born out of the sad
    experiences of a people longing to be free from govt , born at a
    time when kings and revolutions against kings were the norms.
    Recognizing, that unreasoning govt has always been the enemy
    of humanity, in the beginning They aimed at the stars.
    Today america finds itself in an interesting juncture, besought
    by the interest of the many who seek her services with pay, she
    sends her sons/daughters to war in foreign lands in service to
    those interests.
    America stands naked before the world as the place of the
    birth of a certain kind of freedom and accomplishment, a
    beacon, a light upon a hill until recently i am sure.
    What has america done with the legacy of freedom given to her
    by her founders?
    it is looking more and more like a stillbirth lately, squandered at
    the altar of ingratitude to the document that shaped it and held
    it together.
    Respect for humanity is all that the citizenry desires from whats
    left of the american experiment, if those who lead her can find
    it within their grace to grant what the founding document
    inalienably announced as the birthright of her citizens, then
    america can thrive again with the heart given to her at birth
    intact and her citizenry living free.
    who knew.


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