First, we've got this on the challenges of nation-building. Instead of penetrating insight that might help Americans figure out whether Obama's speech is on the mark or out to lunch, there's this pearl of wisdom:
All more or less true, but so vague as to be somewhere the other side of useless. They talked Dobbins, Brahimi, and Admiral Howe, who offer somewhat differing perspectives, but seem not to have asked any of the three a single hard question, or even tried to parse the tensions in each position, let alone between them. This doesn't necessarily reflect on the writer - who knows if he's got a background on this stuff, how much time he was given, etc. - but even within the albeit sharp limits of his word count, I don't see how this article is going help anyone understand the issues even a little bit better.
Diplomats and officials involved in past nation-building efforts generally agree that the process works best when warring factions are ready to make peace. Elections, while important to lend legitimacy to a new government, should not be rushed -- creating lasting institutions is more important. The international community must have realistic, if modest, goals. Regional experts need to be consulted, and neighboring countries should be brought on board.
And nation-building should be done primarily by the people of the country involved, with the outside world there to assist, diplomats said.
Above all, there must be resources.
And while that article was frustrating, this one just left me incredulous. According to Dana Milbank, Obama is betraying his progressive base not only by deciding to send more troops to Afghanistan, but by gasp giving the speech in front of a military audience.
...Obama's flirtation with military imagery should be of concern to his allies on the left, who are already unhappy with the hawkish direction his Afghanistan policy has taken. Already in his young presidency, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has addressed the troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.Now Milbank points out that the proliferation of speeches before the military is a relatively new phenomena, pioneered in large part by GW Bush. And that's fine, as an observation, but even while citing the criticism that Bush exploited the troops as props, it seems just a tad disingenuous not acknowledge that this trend has emerged during some of the largest, most prolonged and most intense combat deployments of US troops in decades. So, maybe, just maybe a little contextualization is in order?
Oh, but it gets better. How does Milbank know Obama's base is pissed? Because Michael Moore says so. I don't even know where to begin on this one, so I'll just ask this: can we agree that any reasonable policy on almost any subject is going to piss off Michael Moore? In fact, couldn't we use Cheney and Moore as the metrics for reasonable policy? If either of them are pleased, it's a signal you need to go back to the drawing board.