NDN Blog

The Iraq Anniversary: not much to celebrate

The new issue of Foreign Affairs has an excellent piece on the future of of our policy in Iraq.  Written by James Fearon, a Stanford professor, the article takes a look at the history of Civil Wars since WWII, and asseses the likelihood of the success of our current policy.   He is not optimistic. 

Suppose that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad continues and Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias continue to fight one another, U.S. troops, and civilians. If the Bush administration sticks to its "stay the course toward victory" approach, of which the surge option is the latest incarnation, it will become increasingly apparent that this policy amounts to siding with the Shiites in an extremely vicious Sunni-Shiite war. U.S. troops may play some positive role in preventing human rights abuses by Iraqi army units and slowing down violence and ethnic cleansing. But as long as the United States remains committed to trying to make this Iraqi government "succeed" on the terms President Bush has laid out, there is no escaping the fact that the central function of U.S. troops will be to backstop Maliki's government or its successor. That security gives Maliki and his coalition the ability to tacitly pursue (or acquiesce in) a dirty war against actual and imagined Sunni antagonists while publicly supporting "national reconciliation."

This policy is hard to defend on the grounds of either morality or national interest. Even if Shiite thugs and their facilitators in the government could succeed in ridding Baghdad of Sunnis, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to suppress the insurgency in the Sunni-majority provinces in western Iraq or to prevent attacks in Baghdad and other places where Shiites live. In other words, the current U.S. policy probably will not lead to a decisive military victory anytime soon, if ever. And even if it did, would Washington want it to? The rise of a brutal, ethnically exclusivist, Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad would further the perception of Iran as the ascendant regional power. Moreover, U.S. backing for such a government would give Iraqi Sunnis and the Sunni-dominated countries in the Middle East no reason not to support al Qaeda as an ally in Iraq. By spurring these states to support Sunni forces fighting the Shiite government, such backing would ultimately pit the United States against those states in a proxy war.

To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington's commitment to Maliki's government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States less as a committed ally of the "Persians" and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing. Washington would also have more leverage with Iran and Syria, because the U.S. military would not be completely bogged down in Baghdad and Anbar Province -- and because both of those countries have a direct interest in avoiding increased chaos in Iraq..

As I've been writing for months, I think it is now clear that the Administration did not understand the fundamentally new regional dynamic creating the first Shiite-led Arab government in history would create.  In hindsight there was almost no chance we could have ended up in Iraq in any other place than where we are today.  The frustration of 1300 years of Shiite oppression by the region's Sunnis was never going to lend itself to a quick and stable outcome.  Or for Iran, the region's most powerful Shiite regime, to do anything than work to consolidate their position with their extraordinary new ally, run, with America's help, by political parties closely aligned with the their own government. 

What this means is that we have very little to celebrate on this 4th Anniversary of the Iraq War, and must marvel at the incredible stupidity of the man who got us into this mess without a plan, and had the audicity to declare in front of the world "Mission Accomplished."

NDN and NPI on Political Video and the Web

It's hard to read the news these days - online, in print or otherwise - without hearing from Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden on the increasing influence of web video in politics and the end of the broadcast era.  Here's Simon in today's ABC News lead story on the "Hillary 1984" video and the broader phenomenon of web video in politics:

"This ad represents the emergence of a new era in political advertising," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the Washington-based New Democrat Network, an influential party advocacy group.

"It's a condition of 21st century politics," said Rosenberg. "It's a brave new world…the barrier to entry for politics has been lowered and it's much easier for average Americans to participate and engage..."

"It used to be that unless they bought tens of millions of dollars in advertising, you weren't going to be heard," said Rosenberg. "Now, if an ad catches on, on YouTube or wherever, and becomes trendy and exciting, it could have just as much impact," he said...

"This is unsettling, particularly for the candidate," said Rosenberg. "It means that increasingly, the political campaigns are going to be one voice among many, albeit a very loud one," he said.

"They're not going to be in control and there's nothing they can do about that," said Rosenberg...

"The next big thing to watch is broadcast quality video becoming available on mobile phones," said Rosenberg.

"We have no idea what the campaigns are going to look like in Fall 2008 because the velocity of change is increasing," said Rosenberg, noting that the Apple iPhone is scheduled for launch in June 2007.

"Broadband video will be in 80 million phones by 2009," said Rosenberg, "YouTube is going mobile by the end of the year. TiVo will soon allow you to record things off the Internet. Media, including these viral political ads, are going to be viewed in a rapidly accelerated way," he said.

And Peter joins Simon in talking about web video and politics in this Saturday's San Francisco Chronicle:

The compelling "Hillary 1984" video recently introduced on YouTube represents "a new era, a new wave of politics ... because it's not about Obama," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. "It's about the end of the broadcast era."

The ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control," Rosenberg said. "It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model."

It also dramatizes that today, political activists with the Internet as their ammunition have gone from being "just donors to the cause," he said, "to being partners in the fight. And they don't have to wait for permission."

And just a few weeks ago Simon and a number of NPI fellows were featured in an article in The Hill looking at a host of emerging technologies and their effect on politics

Stay tuned for more analysis on web video from NPI soon and if you haven't already, make sure to read NPI fellow Julie Bergman-Sender's paper on viral video in politics

NDN Hosts bicameral event on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

While our blog was away, NDN hosted a major event focused on passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The event featured remarks from Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senator Kennedy, Senator Menendez, and Senator Salazar. Representing the House were Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Congressman Xavier Becerra. 

For video, click the thumbnails of the speakers below.

You can also learn more about our efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform on our website and in our blog posts on the subject.


        Simon Rosenberg               Senator Kennedy                    Rep. Gutierrez                    Senator Salazar 


          Senator Reid                         Rep. Lofgren                    Senator Menedez                    Rep. Becerra

Romney slips big in FL

The Miami Herald tells us that Mitt Romney, in a speech to Cuban Americans in Miami, associated a statement often used by Fidel Castro with a free Cuba. The statement is Patria o muerte, venceremos! which means ''Fatherland or death, we shall overcome.''

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Another raid, another call for reform

This Washington Post editorial gives us yet another example of how the immigration system needs to be fixed. This time the focus is on a raid in New Bedford, MA, where about 360 illegal immigrants, many of whom worked in sweatshop-like conditions, were arrested. The last paragraph says it all:

Cruel, self-defeating and illogical, the New Bedford raid is an inelegant example of how badly this country needs a clear-eyed immigration policy, one that provides not only for tough enforcement but also humane protections and a path to citizenship for immigrants who have put down roots and contributed to the national economy. The current regimen is a blight -- on immigrants who need the work, on employers who need the labor, and on a nation whose ideals of fair play and image as a welcoming and caring place are seriously at risk.

The Times looks at social networking and politics

The Times takes an indepth look at one of the "new tools."   For more on our take on the new tools for politics and how to best use them visit our New Politics Institute website and come back regularly to this blog.  There is little doubt that we are seeing a vastly different way to campaign, advocate and run our politics this year, and the change, if anything, seems to be increasing in velocity.

Making globalization work for all Americans

A new editorial from the Times echoes an argument NDN has been making for two years: that the Administration needs to take more aggressive steps to help all Americans benefit from the opportunities of globalization:

In a speech just before his recent Asia trip, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. cited a poll showing that only a third of Americans view free trade as an economic plus, while nearly half say it is bad for jobs and wages. Unless Mr. Paulson and the administration do a lot more to counter that public anxiety — and growing opposition on Capitol Hill — President Bush stands to lose his fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals, which will be up for renewal soon, and will find it increasingly hard to block protectionist laws.

So far Mr. Paulson has tried to explain away Americans’ fears by stressing that technology, not trade, is most to blame for lost jobs. But the opposition is not only about lost jobs. It’s also about the downward pressure on wages and the concentration of income at the top that have gone hand in hand with globalization. And it’s about the erosion of the social safety net — from inadequate unemployment compensation to subpar public schools — which makes many Americans view economic transitions like globalization as risks not worth taking.

As the nation’s top economic official, Mr. Paulson should be the person to push for policies to strengthen the political foundation for free trade. That would start with a significant upgrading of the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps workers who lose jobs because of trade. Congress expanded the program in 2002 in exchange for granting Mr. Bush fast-track negotiating authority on trade deals. But the administration has made little effort to publicize the program, and many eligible workers do not even know it exists.

Also long overdue is a plan to guarantee all Americans health care. Education is also important, although Mr. Paulson is overstating the case when he describes it as a silver bullet for making Americans more competitive. Unfortunately, the administration has let the funds decline for proven programs like Head Start and has even failed to secure full financing for its No Child Left Behind initiative.

In the wake of Mr. Paulson’s trip to China, Beijing made another comment about liberalizing its currency exchange rate, a move that would help make American exports more competitive. But the greatest threats to free trade are Americans’ fears about globalization and their doubts that the government will do anything to help them. It’s time for Mr. Paulson to use his powers of persuasion — starting with Mr. Bush — to solve the domestic side of the trade problem.

Glenn Greenwald dissects the FBI's mishandling of the National Security Letters

In Salon, the always insightful Glenn Greenwald goes deep into the newly uncovered abuse by the FBI of their already generous ability to issue National Security Letters, and of course, its connection to the about-to-be former Attorney General.

New issue of Democracy Journal online now

Our friends over at Democracy Journal have their new issue up.  Check it out.

Mr. President time to do more than talk about immigration reform

Throughout his tour of Latin America President Bush said, again and again, it was time to move forward on immigration reform here in the U.S.  It is long past time for the President to do more than say the words.  He has to get to work and bring his unwilling Party along.  As our recent event with Senators Reid, Kennedy, Menendez and Salazar, and House Members Zofgren, Gutierrez and Becerra showed, Democrats are ready to go.   The question is will the Republicans and the President show. 

As the Washington Post opines this morning, we are long past time for action:

THE HYPOCRISY of U.S. immigration law was on lurid display last week in a raid on a defense contractor in New England. Accompanied by dogs and a helicopter swooping overhead, hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents charged into Michael Bianco Inc., a leather-goods factory in New Bedford, Mass., that makes backpacks, ammunition pouches and other gear for GIs.

When the dust settled, the agents had arrested some 360 illegal immigrant employees at the plant, many of them women from Guatemala and other Central American nations. The workers had toiled in sweatshop conditions that allegedly included draconian restrictions on bathroom breaks, toilet paper supply, and snacking and talking at their workstations. They were seized, handcuffed, questioned and, in about 200 cases, whisked away to detention centers in New Mexico and Texas without regard to their roots in the community, their spouses or their children, including American-born children who are U.S. citizens.

Amid the pandemonium, families and communities were split, and children were left with babysitters, relatives, siblings or other families. Immigration and Customs Enforcement insisted it had released about 60 of the immigrants -- including nursing mothers and sole or primary caregivers for young children -- for "humanitarian" reasons. But reports of confusion and mistakes were common, and state officials said scores of children were separated from their parents. In one case, doctors treated an 8-month-old baby, Keylyn Zusana Lopez Ayala, for pneumonia and possible dehydration after her mother was detained and unable to breast-feed her. Keylyn is an American citizen. Three days after the raid, a federal judge was sufficiently concerned that he barred immigration officials from transporting any more detainees out of state. The raid, said Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D), "reflects, for me, not what this country is about."

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