P.S.: Via Drum, here is Petraeus adviser David Kilcullen's explanation of the current strategy. ...
Update: Robert Farley of Lawyers Guns & Money does his part to fill the void here. The trouble with his argument, something he more or less admits, is that the current central government wasn't making much progress obtaining a "monopoly" on the use of force before the Bush strategy shift and it's unlikely to obtain such a monopoly if we withdraw. Even if you measure progress by the "stated goal" of "a unified, stable, democratic Iraq"--instead of, more realistically, by the goal of leaving the most favorable situation behind that we can--it's not clear that the best chance of ultimately constituting that unified government (with a monopoly on violence) isn't first to rebalance sectarian military strength on the ground, enabling Iraq's warring groups to then cut a stable deal down the road. ... 6:49 P.M. link
The other obvious hack speculation: Hillary tanks in Iowa and N.H.. Obama, Edwards too liberal and inexperienced. Electability. Late entry. Exciting convention. Gore. Take it away. ... 6:20 P.M.
Ayes of Newt: The normally sound Tom Edsall contrasts Speakers Gingrich and Pelosi and finds that Pelosi, "strangely enough, has won enactment of more legislation than her flamboyant predecessor." He notes that Pelosi's achievements include:
an increase in the minimum wage, lobbying and ethics reform, Gulf Coast reconstruction assistance, and substantial expansion of college financial aid.
I concede that the minimum wage increase is an achievement. The others are yawners. Meanwhile, by the end of Gingrich's first two years as Speaker, 1) the budget was heading toward a surplus after years of deficits; and 2) a once-in-a generation welfare reform had been signed into law--a big attempt to tackle the "underclass" problem, the first time a federal entitlement had been repealed, in a bill that also included substantial changes in child support enforcement, immigrant benefits, and social security disability for children. ... Oh, and the minimum wage got increased under Gingrich too, also before his first two years were up. ...
The situations aren't comparable, of course. President Clinton was inclined to find common ground with Gingrich. Gingrich had a united party. Pelosi is trying to block a president's foreign policy, and events on the ground haven't been going her way lately. Gingrich was (is?) an infantile megalomaniac who was easily manipulated and overplayed his hand. Still. The achievements aren't comparable either. At least not yet. ... 5:42 P.M. link
Sometimes an NPR show can upend your expectations and convince you that ordinary Americans can be brilliant observers and even entertainers. StoryCorpsis not that show, I think. Every story I've heard on it has been lame. When do the grants run out? ... 2:51 A.M.