Reason's Weekly Dispatch
By Jeff A. Taylor and the Reason staff
December 27, 2005
Vol. 8 No. 51
In this issue:
Whatever distance Colin Powell was trying to put between himself and the Bush administration on domestic spying can be measured in inches. In other words, Colin Powell might notice it, but few others outside the national security establishment are likely to.
Powell is clearly trying to have it both ways: He claims that the administration could have easily gotten warrants for the surveillance the National Security Agency conducted, while he also maintains it is no big deal that the administration did not get those warrants. But, of course, the cause for all the controversy is precisely the executive branch's unilateral decision that, under the president's authority as commander-in-chief, warrants were not needed, even if they could have been obtained. Powell is smart enough to know those facts.
Therefore, Powell seems to be trying to send a message to a very narrow segment of the professional, permanent national security state that he thinks the Bushies are as crass, even crazy, as they see the Bush team. An interesting sidebar perhaps, but once again Powell has managed to duck the big question of the moment to no obvious purpose other than to make Colin Powell look good.
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It is important to remember that the planned return of two U.S. brigades from Iraq is not part of any grand drawdown glide path. Rather, the U.S. must continue to reward and encourage the development of Iraqi national forces for an eventual U.S. drawdown to take place.
Part of that process is actually giving the Iraqis more to do, along with making a very visible move to decrease the U.S. presence. It only slightly oversimplifies matters to say that the slight reduction in U.S. troop levels is a payoff to the Iraqis for conducting a more-or-less successful round of elections, adjusting the training wheels for Iraq's new state to allow for more of a wobble.
The tricky part is making sure that a sudden reversal in operations won't mandate the quick re-introduction of the forces you just withdrew. The Pentagon seems confident that will not be the case, but forces levels in Iraq could jump around a bit in 2006 regardless.
And how 'bout those Iraq elections? Did the Shiite parties sweep up or what? Well, now that's done. What's next? Hey, Islamic republic! Great idea!
White House officials are trying to put the best face on the election results, talking up the millions who voted, but they are probably not up to cracking jokes at the prospect of a Shia-controlled Islamic republic in the South, which right now is a distinct possibility. All the Shiite winners in the elections need to do is cut an acceptable deal with the Kurds in the North—no doubt by stipulating that the bulk, if not all, of the oil revenue stays local and doesn't flow to the central government in Baghdad—and there will be the makings of a newly partitioned Iraq.
The Bush administration can either fight this prospect (although how, short of nullifying the election results and going to war with the Shiite militias, is unclear) or try to talk the Sunnis in the country's center into accepting the deal as the best possible outcome for them. In any event, January is going to be very interesting.
Quote of the Week
"They went right for the bun. Unfortunately I think it's somebody who wanted to take it to destroy it." — Nashville coffeehouse owner Bob Bernstein on a break-in targeting a cinnamon bun that purportedly looked like Mother Teresa.
'Tis the Season for Tax Avoidance
Another Christmas come and gone and states are still complaining that they do not collect enough sales tax revenue on Internet transactions.
Latest Fashion Trend
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the burqini. Evidently not a joke, it is an "Islamic bikini" featuring long pants, a long-sleeve top, and a head covering.
The NAND War
Samsung and Toshiba are squaring off in a battle to produce the most next-generation memory chips. The upshot? Chips that function as tiny disk drives with huge capacity, 2 gigs and growing.
Are You Being Searched?
How NSA's mass eavesdropping could fly under constitutional radar. Julian Sanchez
The Success Curse
Why statism may never die in the two oldest democracies. Matt Welch
The Bridges are Back
Alaska's Congressional delegation celebrates the Season of Taking. David Boaz
And much more!
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