UK Foreign Secretary Miliband: The War on Terror A "Mistake"

That the "war on terror" has been riddled with errors is self-evident but the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, is saying something far different. The Foreign Secretary is saying that the use of the "war on terror" as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks has been a mistake that may have caused "more harm than good". From the UK Guardian:

In an article in today's Guardian, five days before the Bush administration leaves the White House, Miliband delivers a comprehensive critique of its defining mission, saying the war on terror was misconceived and that the west cannot "kill its way" out of the threats it faces.

British officials quietly stopped using the phrase "war on terror" in 2006, but this is the first time it has been comprehensively discarded in the most outspoken remarks on US counterterrorism strategy to date by a British minister.

In remarks that will also be made in a speech today in Mumbai, in one of the hotels that was a target of terrorist attacks in November, the foreign secretary says the concept of a war on terror is "misleading and mistaken".

"Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good," Miliband says, adding that, in his opinion, the whole strategy has been dangerously counterproductive, helping otherwise disparate groups find common cause against the west.

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Riga 2009, Buenos Aires 2001

Chalk up another in a string of neo-liberal economic failures. Caught in the global financial crisis to a degree perhaps only surpassed by Iceland, the normally tranquil small Baltic republic of Latvia erupted in violence overnight. Thousands of people massed in the Latvian capital, Riga, demanding snap elections and the resignation of the government in the face of a deepening economic crisis. The resentments quickly turned into a riot. Twenty-five people were injured and 106 were arrested.

Latvia's fall is, indeed, a hard one. Credit growth had reached an astounding 78% in 2007. Riga property prices more than doubled since early 2005, driving prices in the old city above levels found in Berlin. Over 85% of all household and corporate debt in Latvia was contracted in foreign currencies, a proportion similar to Argentine dollar debt before the collapse of the peso peg in 2001. The current account deficit was 26% of GDP in the fourth quarter, the world's highest. All thanks to lax regulations on the free flow of capital, one of the cornerstones of neo-liberal economic thought.

"The situation in Latvia bears a striking similarity to that in Iceland last year, only we would argue that Latvia is more exposed," said Tim Ash, an economist at Bear Stearns warned in a report published in February 2008. Consider the moment now one of full exposure. Ah, the joys of the free flow of the capital. Riga 2009 is Buenos Aires 2001.

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"Smart Power" And The End of American Exceptionalism

There were two very telling quotes by Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton during today's Senate confirmation hearings as to the nature of foreign policy under an Obama Administration.  

``We must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians.''

By  "smart power" Senator Clinton means that the United States should be using all the tools of foreign policy that are at our disposal.  In this regard the Obama Administration will pursue engaged, cooperative American global leadership consistent with the nation's democratic values and not rely on military might alone. This will mean reaching out to create stronger more broad-based partnerships with our allies as well as working to forge new bonds with foes such as Iran and Syria. An Obama foreign policy will seek to invest in "our common humanity as a way to achieve greater security." It is a marriage of principle and pragmatism and yet it is not overtly ideological. This is also a recognition that the neo-liberal "Washington Consensus" has failed. Instead of pushing market-based solutions to every problem, it seems that American foreign policy will take a wider approach to dealing with global problems.

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Inquiring Gay Minds Want to Know What Gives?

I have to ask the President-elect what gives? This is rather disconcerting and to be frank it reeks of selling out for political gain. I doubt that there is an answer that will satisfy me, other than you were right back in 1996 and wrong now, but many of us in the LGBT community are now rather curious as to how you could go backwards on this issue other than the obvious - that you sold out your principles for political gain as you climbed the ladder of success.

Don't get me wrong, I've never put my gay rights high on my own political agenda. I never expected to even remotely have the chance to marry in my lifetime but now that that opportunity has arisen, I am sure you will understand that I am reluctant to let it go. So Barack, what gives?

From Politico:

A document has emerged suggesting that Obama had taken more public, liberal stands in the past than had been revealed in the digging of reporters and opposition researchers over two years of campaigning, the latest of several pointing to a rightward shift as he moved into national politics.

In a 1996 questionnaire filled out for a Chicago gay and lesbian newspaper, then called Outlines, Obama came out clearly in favor of same-sex marriage, which he has opposed on the public record throughout his short career in national politics.

"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," Obama wrote in the typed, signed, statement.

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Never Mind Just Closing Guantánamo, It's Time to Return It

The Associated Press is reporting that advisers to the President-elect are saying that "one of his first duties in office will be to order the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay." While it is reassuring that the President-elect is moving forward to quickly close this blight on the American conscience, he would do well to simply return it as soon as possible to its rightful owners, the Republic of Cuba. It's simply time to unwind an empire the United States should have never been acquired in the first place. Moreover, the lease of Guantánamo Bay is likely illegal under international law or at the very least the US has breached the terms of the lease thus invalidating the lease.

In 1903, shortly after Cuba achieved independence from Spain with American intervention, Theodore Roosevelt signed the deal with the new and American approved government of Cuba to lease 45 square miles at the mouth of Guantánamo Bay for 2,000 gold coins a year -- now valued at slightly more than $4,000 annually. In 1934, the United States and Cuba renegotiated the Guantánamo Bay lease, agreeing that the land would revert to Cuban control only if abandoned or by mutual consent. The U.S. government continues to pay the lease every year, but the Cuban government refuses to cash the cheques. As recently as February of last year Cuba demanded the return of the base. The US simply ignores Cuba's demands.

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The YouTube Congress

The leaders of both the Senate and the House announce that Congress is now in session, on YouTube. You can now find your Representatives and Senators' YouTube channels on two new special platforms:

The House Hub

The Senate Hub

Here's a sample of what's available on the Senate channel of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders: an exchange between Senator Sanders and Thomas Daschle at the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Hearing.

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Democratic Congress to Obama "Move in My Direction"

If all it takes is singing a little Bananarama to the President-elect, we should do this more often because it worked. Via Politico tonight comes word that the President-elect and his economic team have agreed to "make changes to its stimulus proposal based off of concerns senators raised last week at a meeting with the president-elect's senior aides."

The Obama team told about 35 Senate Democrats gathered at Sunday's meeting that it would grow the size of an energy-tax incentive package and modify proposed tax credits for individuals and for businesses that hire new employees, according to meeting attendees. Also, with lawmakers raising concerns that the first half of the $700 billion of the financial rescue law was badly mismanaged, Obama's team signaled it would lay out precisely how it would spend the second half of that package, which Congress is expected to consider as soon as this week.

Below the fold some rather happy Democratic legislators.

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The Untenability of Centrist Politics

If you need a good laugh these days, just read the Washington Post. David Ignatius'op-ed entitled Mr. Cool's Centrist Gamble is a case in point. It's true that if Obama attempts to govern as centrist he will find it to be political quicksand in the long run but Mr. Ignatius actually thinks that partisanship is politics as usual and that the dire straits we confront require a tack to the political center. Now that the ship of state is sinking, abandon partisanship is the cry inside the beltway. Funny how that when the conservative GOP controlled the reins of government, partisanship was in vogue. Yet now that the liberal Democrats assume the mantle, compromise is of the essence.

The impatient freshman senator is about to become president, but he hasn't lost his distaste for Washington politics as usual. And as the inauguration approaches, Obama is doing something quite remarkable: Rather than settling into the normal partisan governing stance, he is breaking with it -- moving toward the center in a way that upsets some of his liberal allies but offers the promise of broad national support.

Obama talked during the campaign about creating a new kind of post-partisan politics -- and dissolving the country's cultural and racial and ideological boundaries. Given Obama's limited record as a centrist politician, it was hard to know if he really meant it. John McCain had a more compelling record of working across party lines than did his Democratic rival.

It turns out that Obama was serious. Since Election Day, he has taken a series of steps to co-opt his opponents and fashion a new governing majority. It's an admirable strategy but also a high-risk one, since the "center," however attractive it may be in principle, is often a nebulous political never-never land.

Obama's bet is that at a time of national economic crisis, the country truly wants unity. "I keep telling Republicans, 'This guy has to succeed.' Otherwise, we're doomed," says David Smick, a financial analyst who wrote a prophetic book about the economic crisis called "The World Is Curved." But it remains an open question whether the Republicans will do more than applaud politely when Obama asks for help.

Obama does have to succeed (though Mr. Smick is talking about saving globalization, not the American economy per se) which is why a President Obama will have to in the end subscribe to core Democratic values and enact long-sought liberal policies that enhance fairness and restore prosperity for all, not just a select few. That's my definition of success. Mr. Ignatius' op-ed is but a ploy of the inside-the-beltway crowd to remain relevant doing the dirty work of the GOP. Though in truth, I think Mr. Ignatius misreads what the President-elect means by post-partisan. My take is that Obama is  more attempting to do something that has not been done in modern American politics: unite a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents behind an agenda of sweeping change. Mr, Ignatius' view of tacking to the center is really an euphemism for cutting taxes in this debate over the fiscal stimulus and it hardly qualifies as "sweeping change."

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Bogotá, Colombia began the concept of ciclovías in the 1980s. A ciclovía consists of the temporary or permanent closure of a major street (or streets) to motorized vehicles so that people are free to use the roadway without concern for their safety. They are held every Sunday and on holidays from 7 AM to 3 PM allowing residents to enjoy the public space in a healthy and safe manner with the closing of over 110 kilometers of roads for biking and pedestrian activities. Every weekend over 2 million Santa Fereños (citizens of Bogotá) participate in the ciclovía enjoying outdoor activities. Complimenting the ciclovía is the recreovía, free exercise classes that citizens can participate in.

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Is Obama Correct on Seeking GOP Support for his Fiscal Stimulus?

From the New York Times:

In part because Mr. Obama wants and needs bipartisan support, the package is being shaped by political as well as economic imperatives, complicating the process by putting competing ideological approaches into the mix.

It includes $300 billion in temporary tax cuts for individuals and businesses, in part to attract Republican support. . . Republicans, as always, are advocating for more and broader tax cuts. But the evidence is ambiguous about whether tax cuts will really spur economic activity at a time when consumers and businesses alike are frozen in fear and reluctant to let go of their money

I understand that our post-partisan President-elect "wants" bipartisan support, but does he "need" bipartisan support? I am not convinced that there is much, if anything, to be gained from this approach. My belief is that only economic imperatives should drive the shape of fiscal stimulus. Your thoughts?

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