Archive for the ‘politcs’ Category

What the Petraeus Promotion Means

April 23, 2008

By Mark Thompson
Time Magazine
April 23, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s announcement Wednesday promoting General David Petraeus from his current post running the war in Iraq to head up U.S. Central Command triggered both political and military unease. That response may be inevitable, coming on the downside of an unpopular war and in the waning months of the tenure of the unpopular President who launched it.
.
While Republicans hailed the news that Petraeus – who implemented the “surge” of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq, which is seen has having tamped down violence – was moving up the chain of command, Democrats were cooler. Opponents of the war fear that if the Democrat-led Senate approves Petraeus’s promotion, it could be taken as a signal to “stay the course” in a war that has dragged on for more than five years and has killed more than 4,000 U.S. troops. Party activists will be paying close attention to how Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vote on Petraeus’s new assignment, which the White House hopes will happen by the end of May. (Presumptive G.O.P. nominee John McCain hailed Petraeus’ nomination, calling him “one of the great generals in American history.”)

U.S. military commander in Iraq General David Petraeus salutes ...  

Democrats are unlikely to mount a campaign to block Petraeus’ promotion. Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the next CENTCOM commander must come with new plans for Iraq “if directed to by a new President.” Petraeus hedged last month when asked what he would say if a new President were to order a withdrawal plan within 60 days of taking office. He verbally juggled risks and objectives before conceding, “We take orders and we follow them.”

The impact of promoting Petraeus, however, may be even greater in the national security establishment than on Capitol Hill. It’s a wake-up call to old-school Army officers and their vanishing dreams of massive tank battles and artillery skirmishes, some of whom privately call Petraeus “King David” for his high self-regard and chumminess with reporters. Gates has made clear that wants commanders able to carry out the messy, irregular kind of combat championed by Petraeus that the Defense Secretary envisages the U.S. fighting for years to come. The promotion reinforces the message he delivered to young Air Force and Army officers on Monday, when he criticized their leaders for devoting too much time and effort to future potential wars, and not enough to the real wars now under way.

“The kinds of conflicts that we’re doing, not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan, and some of the challenges that we face elsewhere in the region and in the Central Command area, are very much characterized by asymmetric warfare,” Gates said. “And I don’t know anybody in the United States military better qualified [than Petraeus] to lead that effort.” Gates said he had discussed Petraeus’s promotion with Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, and said he didn’t “anticipate any problems” in winning Senate approval. Petraeus, in a brief statement from Baghdad, said he is “honored to be nominated for this position.”

U.S. Central Command is the core of the U.S. military’s current operations – it includes both Afghanistan and Iraq – stretching from the Horn of Africa to Pakistan. Although its headquarters are at an Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., recent commanders have spent much of their time at their forward headquarters in Qatar. Petraeus will assume command late this summer or early fall, replacing Admiral William Fallon, who requested early retirement last month after he was portrayed in a magazine interview as the lone officer preventing a U.S. war with Iran. Petraeus’s former deputy in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, will return to Baghdad in the Petraeus slot, giving up his new assignment as the Army’s No. 2 officer after only two months back in the U.S. “There is no question that there are a handful of generals, like a lot of captains and enlisted soldiers and the NCOs,” Gates said, “who have had repeated tours in Iraq.”

Petraeus, Crocker to face scrutiny on war

April 7, 2008

By S.A. Miller and Sara A. Carter
The Washington Times
April 7, 2008

Capitol Hill Democrats say they will question Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker this week about how the 5-year-old Iraq war has sapped U.S. military readiness, imperiled positive results from the Afghanistan conflict and alienated the United States from the rest of the world. 

US General David Petraeus, commander of the US-led coalition ...

They also will push for a rapid pullout while posing questions about what they see as the ever-present threat of renewed fighting in Iraq, the lack of political reform by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the oil-rich country’s failure to pay for the war or reconstruction.

“We are right back to where we started before the surge,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which hears testimony tomorrow from Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

They also testify tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee and then Wednesday before House committees, fulfilling a mandate by the Democrat-led Congress for a follow-up to the war report they delivered in September.

Gen. Petraeus is expected to call for halting troop reductions that began in December for about six months to assess the security situation. That would keep about 140,000 troops in Iraq — 10,000 more than before the surge of troops last year that helped stifle insurgent and sectarian attacks.

Both Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker are expected to highlight political and military gains, as well as persistent challenges to the mission, including Iranian influence in the country.

Although Iran helped broker a deal to stem the fighting that has spilled from Basra to other cities in the region, U.S. officials contend that behind the scenes Iran is continuing to supply weapons and training to Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and other criminal elements connected to his militia.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080407/NATION/63822057/1001

The Changing Bookstore Battle

April 5, 2008

 By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 5, 2008; Page D01 

Barbara Meade could not resist a little schadenfreude. After the Borders bookstore chain announced recently that it was exploring “strategic alternatives” — corporate lingo for “there’s trouble” — the co-owner of the independent store Politics and Prose, which has held on against the chain’s cost-cutting competition, took note in her online newsletter.

“We have never been tempted by the allure of corporate imperialism — invading new book markets, slashing prices, demolishing the competition, and then back to business as usual, poor inventory and poor customer service,” Meade wrote, reporting that “Borders announced a shift in direction from selling books to selling the whole business.”

While it is tempting to marvel at, or even gloat about, the potential demise of a tough competitor, analysts and publishing industry executives say Borders’s troubles are emblematic of an ironic shift in book selling. Large corporate booksellers, once an enemy of the little guy, now have enemies of their own: Amazon.com and big-box retailers like Costco and Target are taking on Borders with even deeper discounts than the chains used against the independents.

“It’s only a matter of time before the independents and chains realize they are actually in the battle with them as opposed to each other,” said Michael Norris, a book industry analyst for Simba Information, a media market-research firm.

Costco, Target, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club aren’t just moving in for the kill with big discounts on the latest Stephen King or John Grisham page-turners. They are also engaging the culturally connected, targeting readers who delight in cocktail or book-club conversation about the latest titles. About 34 percent of book buyers made purchases at such locations last year, according to the Simmons National Consumer Survey.

Last week, Costco in Gaithersburg was selling Jhumpa Lahiri‘s new short-story collection, as well as a new novel by Richard Price, a book on economics by Jeffrey Sachs, and a 688-page tome on the bin Laden family by former Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll. Target in Germantown was also carrying Lahiri’s book, as well as a novel by Sue Miller and a short-story collection from Margaret Atwood. Germantown’s Wal-Mart was carrying Cormac McCarthy‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Road.”

In most cases, the list prices at the big-box retailers — without coupons or other discounts — were lower than at Borders and the District’s Politics and Prose. “The small mom-and-pop booksellers have some allies now in that they are all probably going to be squeezed from a pricing perspective,” said Michael Souers, a Standard & Poor’s analyst who tracks Borders.

Making matters worse for stores that depend on book sales, fewer Americans are buying books. About 56 percent of adults bought books last year, down from 61 percent in 2002, according to Simmons.

It’s difficult to know just how many books the big-box retailers are selling because they generally don’t report such specific figures. Borders declined to comment on its troubles, but its executives have acknowledged that big-box retailers were eating into their business. The company has also been hurt because it has not operated its own sales Web site, as Barnes & Noble does. Borders’s net income was $131.9 million in 2004 and $101 million in 2005, but it lost more than $300 million in the past two years. The company recently agreed to borrow $42.5 million from a hedge fund to fund…

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/04/AR2008040403540.html?hpid=topnews

China to “Re-Educate” Tibetans

April 5, 2008

By Karl Malakunas 

BEIJING (AFP) – China warned on Saturday it would step up a controversial “re-education” campaign for Tibetans after a fresh protest showed a huge security crackdown had failed to extinguish nearly one month of unrest.

Chinese paramilitary forces on patrol in Lijiang, Yunnan province, ...
Chinese paramilitary forces on patrol in Lijiang, Yunnan province, in March 2008. China warned on Saturday it would step up a controversial “re-education” campaign for Tibetans after a fresh protest showed a huge security crackdown had failed to extinguish nearly one month of unrest.(AFP/File/Frederic J. Brown)

The statement in the state-run Tibet Daily newspaper called for Buddhist monks to become Chinese patriots, but activist groups said the heavy-handed techniques already employed in the campaign were inflaming tensions.

Efforts by authorities to “re-educate” monks at a monastery in Sichuan province in southwest China led to protests there on Thursday in which at least eight Tibetans were killed, the activist groups said.

China’s communist rulers have been deeply angered and embarrassed over the Tibetan unrest, as it has overshadowed its preparations for the Beijing Olympics and shone a spotlight on a range of other human rights issues.

Tibetans have been protesting to express anger over what they say has been widespread repression suffered under nearly six decades of Chinese rule.

In Xinjiang, a Muslim-populated region of northwest China which neighbours Tibet, there have also been protests in recent days to express similar sentiments, although not on nearly the same scale as the Tibetan unrest.

The jailing of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia on Thursday for subversion added to concerns around the world that the human rights situation in China was getting worse instead of better ahead of the Games.

 Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080405/wl_sthasia_afp/chinaunrest
tibetrights_080405052309

Tibet and the Ghosts of Tiananmen

March 18, 2008

By Bill Powell
Beijing
TIME Magazine

It is still nearly five months before the Olympic torch is to be lit in Beijing, officially starting the 29th summer Olympics. But, diplomats in the Chinese capital believe that a high level game of chicken has already begun, one that has now turned deadly – first, in Lhasa, the capital of what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region, and now elsewhere, according to Tibetan exiles and human rights groups.

A demonstrator rallies against China's deadly crackdown ...
A demonstrator rallies against China’s deadly crackdown on pro-independence protesters in Tibet. The United States said Monday it would increase radio broadcasts to Tibet as China clamped down on media coverage of the bloody protests in the Himalayan territory.(AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Yesterday, in China’s Sichuan province, at least eight bodies were brought to a Buddhist monastery in Aba prefecture, allegedly shot dead by Chinese riot control police, according to an eyewitness account quoted by Radio Free Asia. The escalating confrontation in and around Tibet is a nightmare for China’s top leadership, but one, some diplomats believe, that could not have taken anyone in the central government completely by surprise. It pits the leadership in Beijing against its domestic opponents – who include not only Tibetan dissidents, but also separatist groups in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, as well as human rights and political activists throughout the country.

Each side understood that the months leading up to the Games would be “extremely sensitive,” as one diplomat put it. The government knew “from day one,” another diplomat told TIME, that “a successful bid for the games would bring an unprecedented – and in some cases very harsh – spotlight” on China and how it is governed. On the other side, everyone from human rights activists to independence seeking dissidents in Tibet and Xinjiang – “splittists” in the Chinese vernacular – knew they would have an opportunity to push their agendas while the world was watching. “Thought the specific trigger for this in Tibet is still unclear, that it intensified so quickly is probably not just an accident,” the senior diplomat says.

According to this view, it was never hard to imagine a scenario in which some group – and maybe several – would push things, try “to probe and see whether they could test limits.” The critical issue, now front and center, diplomats say, is just how far angry Tibetan activists will push – and how harshly the Chinese government will push back.

How extensive…

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/tibetandtheghost
softiananmen;_ylt=AvtWVC
y0vqipwpCCEjboCsWs0NUE