Sunday Morning Sullivan

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 28 2006 6:11 AM

Sunday Morning Sullivan

But will he play in Plano?

(Continued from Page 12)

**--Named for Jeane Kirkpatrick,  defender of "authoritarian" second-best governments, who died Thursday. ... 1:01 P.M.

Looks like the low-turnout, play-to-the-base model of off-year elections--which has failed in the past three Congressional midterms-- doesn't work in Iran either!12:26 P.M.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Moral of the story: Just when Democratic populists have yelled themselves hoarse about how the growing economy isn't raising wages at the bottom, the growing economy starts raising wages at the bottom. It takes a while!** The point for worker-friendly Democrats should be to keep the tight labor market going (by keeping the economy going and avoiding a big influx of immigrant labor). ...

**--As the graphs accompanying the NYT's story makes clear, Clinton's economic boom didn't begin to produce significant wage growth for about three years, until Clinton's second term. The Bush-era lag has maybe been a little longer--but then, the Clinton boom was in part a bubble. One hopes the current semi-boom isn't. 9:54 P.M.

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Ssst-pay! Artition-Pay!I opened up the Iraq Study Group report expecting to find a devastating, point-by-point critique of the Biden-Galbraith partition idea, which has been looking increasingly plausible from my remote non-expert (even semi- ignorant) vantage point.  Instead I found a couple of cursory paragraphs that, ultimately, seemed half-resigned to partition. Here they are:

4. Devolution to Three Regions

The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high. Because Iraq's population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn. All eighteen Iraqi provinces have mixed populations, as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions. Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, told us that such a division would confirm wider fears across the Arab world that the United States invaded Iraq to weaken a strong Arab state.

While such devolution is a possible consequence of continued instability in Iraq, we do not believe the United States should support this course as a policy goal or impose this outcome on the Iraqi state. If events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence, and minimize regional instability. The United States should support as much as possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues. [E.A.]

Hmm. Why not proceed directly to the stage where we "ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence. and minimize regional instability"? That's beginning to seem a lot more do-able than continuing to prop up a weak (and sectarian) unitary government ....

Compare Galbraith (pro-partition) with Aslan (anti-partition).  If Aslan's strategies for maintaining a unitary Iraq--giving "security" priority over anti-terrorist offensives, reaching a "political settlement" with the Sunnis, etc.--had a good chance of working, wouldn't we see them working by now? I have little confidence that threatening withdrawal  of U.S. forces will provoke the Shiite-led government to make the self-denying adjustments they are avoiding now. It's worth a shot, but isn't it more likely to prompt the various parties to arm themselves to the teeth further in anticipation of a post-American free-for-all, as Fareed Zakaria suggests? And will further training of the Iraqi military establish security or only "[produce] more lethal combatants in the country's internecine conflict," in Galbraith's words? ...

I understand the Sunnis don't want partition, to which possible answers are: 1) With partition they could have their own army, and as long as it didn't harbor anti-US terrorists or start slaughtering civilians we wouldn't clobber it; 2) The Sunnis don't have oil, but as I understand it they do have water, so they aren't without a bargaining chip; 3) We could intervene if necessary on their behalf; 4) The Syrians could intervene on a diplomatic level (e.g. with Iran) on their behalf; and 5) Screw 'em. ... 

Just thinking. Not my area of expertise. Or personal moral   burden! ... P.S.: The most appealing aspect of partition, perhaps illusory, is that it's non-Sisyphean: it would give our forces a seemingly concrete, plausible goal to shoot for, after which they can expect to leave and the three well-armed statelets can go about defending themselves. ...

It's also possible, of course, that as soon as it became clear that this was our goal, the Sunnis and Shiites would start all-out violent cleansing in the hope of maximizing territory and leverage (e.g. de facto hostage taking). So maybe we can't declare for partition "as a policy goal" right now. At the moment, it may be best to a) discreetely encourage--e.g. , with financial incentives-- threatened populations to move, rather than urge them to stay put, and b) plan for the inevitable (something the Bush administration can never be assumed to be doing). If the ISG report is any indication, the inevitable is where we're heading. ...   5:51 P.M. link

Garance Franke-Ruta discovers  John Kerry's secret wellspring of presidential support! ... [via Blogometer] 3:13 P.M.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Big Woof: Democratic New Mexico Governor (and presidential aspirant) Bill Richardson locks up another important Western state ... the state of Chihuahua!

"The [700-mile border] fence is very unpopular on the border in Texas and New Mexico, in Chihuahua," Richardson, a Democrat, said after meeting Wednesday with leaders from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. "So one of the most significant and constructive acts the U.S. Congress should take is to get rid of it."

[Isn't this the sort of Know-Nothing, xenophobic rhetoric I've warned you about?--ed On most issues American and Mexican interests align. We want Mexico to prosper; it's a non-zero-sum game; Mexico is on balance one of the better neighbors we could have, etc. But that doesn't mean our national interests don't sometimes conflict, and the border fence seems like at least one place they do, at least potentially. It's pretty tin-eared, then, to announce your opposition to the fence from Mexico. Unless, that is, you're trying to appeal to ... What?-ed. Never mind. I just felt some more Know-Nothing, xenophobic rhetoric coming on.] 8:36 P.M.