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Will Marshall* writing in Politico: Can Hillary Fix Obama's Mess?

Emphasis mine

*Who is Will Marshall?

Will Marshall is one of the founders of the New Democrat movement, which aims to steer the US Democratic Party toward a more centrist orientation. Since its founding in 1989, he has been president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.

He recently served on the board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an organization chaired by Joe Lieberman and John McCain designed to build bipartisan support for the invasion of Iraq. Marshall also signed, at the outset of the war, a letter issued by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) expressing support for the invasion. Marshall signed a similar letter sent to President Bush put out by the Social Democrats USA on Feb. 25, 2003, just before the invasion. The SDUSA letter urged Bush to commit to "maintaining substantial U.S. military forces in Iraq for as long as may be required to ensure a stable, representative regime is in place and functioning."


Can Hillary Fix Obama’s Mess?
By WILL MARSHALL August 14, 2014

On Barack Obama’s watch, Democrats have defined their international outlook largely in reactive and negative terms. The president has focused on fixing his predecessor’s mistakes, leaving unclear what positive role he envisions for America in the 21st century. “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” may be sound advice for college-bound kids, but it’s not a foreign policy doctrine.

Where George W. Bush reached too quickly for the blunt instrument of military force, Obama stresses its limited utility for solving complex political problems. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” had a utopian and triumphalist ring; Obama eschews moralizing and puts human rights and democracy on the diplomatic backburner. Bush’s unilateralism strained ties with key U.S. allies, Obama is only too happy to lead from behind and shift responsibility for solving global problems to multilateral coalitions.

And, given the economic mess he inherited, and the need to repair the domestic foundations of U.S. strength, it’s understandable that Obama has sought to limit America’s exposure to foreign conflicts.

Six years into his tenure, however, the world doesn’t seem to be cooperating with Obama’s policy of risk-averse retrenchment. Russia has reverted to its bad old ways, resurrecting a Soviet-style police state and menacing its neighbors. Europe’s inability to respond effectively has forced Obama to put America back in the business of checking Moscow’s aggression. Washington also is getting sucked back into Iraq, dashing the president’s hopes of extricating the United States from a Middle East convulsed by jihadist and sectarian violence.

much more from this neocon 'progressive...'


Fareed Zakaria: The fantasy of Middle Eastern moderates

Fareed Zakaria: The fantasy of Middle Eastern moderates

Syrians gather at the site of a reported barrel-bomb attack by government forces on August 13, 2014, in the rebel-held Qadi Askar neighbourhood in Aleppo. More than 170,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began there in March 2011. (Zein Al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images)

By Fareed Zakaria
August 14 at 8:52 PM

Hillary Clinton was expressing what has become Washington’s new conventional wisdom when she implied, in her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic, that “moderates” might have prevented the rise of the Islamic State. In fact, the United States has provided massive and sustained aid to the moderates in the region.

Remember, the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, was created in Iraq and grew out of that country’s internal dynamics. Over the past decade, the United States helped organize Iraq’s “moderates” — the Shiite-dominated government — giving them tens of billions of dollars in aid and supplying and training their army. But, it turned out, the moderates weren’t that moderate. As they became authoritarian and sectarian, Sunni opposition movements grew and jihadi opposition groups such as ISIS gained tacit or active support. This has been a familiar pattern throughout the region.

For decades, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support “moderates.” The problem is that there are actually very few of them. The Arab world is going through a bitter, sectarian struggle that is “carrying the Islamic world back to the Dark Ages,” said Turkish President Abdullah Gul. In these circumstances, moderates either become extremists or they lose out in the brutal power struggles of the day. Look at Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian territories.

In an excellent essay for The Post, George Washington University professor Marc Lynch cites careful historical studies that demonstrate that in a chaotic, violent civil war such as Syria’s — with many outside players funding their favorite groups — U.S. intervention would have had little effect other than to extend and exacerbate the conflict. “Had the plan to arm Syria’s rebels been adopted back in 2012,” Lynch writes, “the most likely scenario is that the war would still be raging and look much as it does today, except that the United States would be far more intimately and deeply involved.”

Asserting that the moderates in Syria could win is not tough foreign policy talk, it is a naive fantasy with dangerous consequences.

TPM: Obama Reportedly Smacked Down Criticism Of His Syria Policy As 'Horsesh*t'

Obama Reportedly Smacked Down Criticism Of His Syria Policy As 'Horsesh*t'

AUGUST 12, 2014, 8:18 AM EDT

President Barack Obama reportedly got heated during a private meeting with lawmakers last month, where he shot down criticism of his decision not to arm Syrian rebel fighters as "horsesh*t.'

The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin published a report Monday that cited two lawmakers inside the July 31 meeting who described the President as "visibly agitated" when met with bipartisan criticism of his approach to the civil war in Syria.

One of the unnamed lawmakers told Rogin that a detailed question from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who criticized a range of the Obama administration's foreign policy approaches, prompted the President to defend his policy on Syria. The idea that arming Syrian rebels earlier on in the conflict would have led to a more desirable outcome was "horsesh*t," Obama reportedly said.

White House officials confirmed the heated exchange to Rogin but wouldn't confirm that Obama used that colorful language. The President previously made the same argument in an interview with CBS, calling it a "fantasy" that sending arms to Syrian rebels could put them in a position to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also criticized Obama's Syria policy in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg published this weekend.



Luckovich: Leadership

White House: Premiums will fall for many in Florida

White House: Premiums will fall for many in Fla.
Associated Press

August 6, 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — The majority of Floridians who purchased health plans through the Affordable Care Act will actually see their out-of-pocket costs decrease, especially in big cities such as Miami and Orlando, according to senior White House officials. That's the opposite of what state officials, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, said earlier this week.
Analyzing rates for the 2015 health plans sold through President Barack Obama's law can be tricky and politicians on both sides are eager to use the figures as evidence of the law's success or failure.

An estimated 75 percent of Floridians live in areas where the silver premium will actually decline, Tasha Bradley, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press. Their analysis shows the cost of that silver plan will decrease by 6 percent in Miami, 12 percent in Orlando and 17 percent in West Palm Beach.

Of the nearly 1 million plans purchased in Florida this past year, 73 percent were silver plans. It's also the most common plan nationwide because the subsidy tax credit is based on the silver plan, which is the second-lowest priced.

The state said Monday that consumers could expect an average premium increase of 13 percent in 2015. State officials calculated the average of premiums for all plans, bronze, silver, gold and platinum to arrive at the figure, but the Obama administration says it's misleading to average the premium costs of all plans because most people purchase silver plans.

State insurance officials didn't immediately comment Wednesday.


Peter Beinart in Haaretz: Israel’s best weapon against Hamas: Giving the Palestinians hope

Israel’s best weapon against Hamas: Giving the Palestinians hope
Unfortunately, as effective as Benjamin Netanyahu has been at destroying Palestinian rockets, he’s been even more effective at destroying hope and strengthening despair.

By Peter Beinart
Jul. 23, 2014

It’s easy to criticize the Israeli government’s response to the rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks. It’s harder to offer an alternative. But honest critics have an obligation to try. So here goes.

The short answer is that I’d treat the rockets as military symptoms of a political problem. That doesn’t mean Israel shouldn’t return fire. If Hamas and Islamic Jihad can attack Israel with impunity, they may never stop. But returning fire—or even invading Gaza—will never make Israel safe.

Israel can destroy Hamas’ rockets, but Hamas will eventually rebuild them bigger and better, as it did after the last war, and the one before that. And in the relatives and friends of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge, it will find plenty of new recruits willing to fire them. Israel can overthrow Hamas and then pull back, but it will leave in its wake Somalia-like chaos that gives groups even more radical than Hamas free reign. Israel can overthrow Hamas and try to install Fatah, but doing so will harm the latter as much as the former because any faction that rides into Gaza atop an Israeli tank will lose its public legitimacy forever. Israel can overthrow Hamas and try to govern Gaza itself, but that would require Israeli 18- year-olds to permanently patrol house-to-house in a territory where they’re constantly at risk of becoming the next Gilad Shalit.

So what would I do? First, I’d seek a cease-fire that eases those aspects of Israel’s blockade that have no legitimate security rationale. (That doesn’t mean acceding to Hamas’ cease-fire demands but it means recognizing that a cease-fire that does nothing to address the blockade - as Israel wants - won’t last).



Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?

Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?


A solar panel installation at FPL's Martin County Next Generation hybrid natural gas and solar energy plant.
Credit Julia Duba

As far as solar energy goes, the Sunshine State is third in the country for potential -- and 18th in actual installation.

In Florida, there’s no financial assistance for installing solar panels on your roof. Solar energy users can only take a federal tax credit.

Florida Power and Light powers the state using mostly natural gas. Out of all the energy FPL provides, only 0.06 percent comes from solar energy.


Luckovich: Gaza peace plan

Slate's Fred Kaplan: Israel’s Deadly Gambits

Israel’s Deadly Gambits
The Israeli government has lost the ability to think strategically.

By Fred Kaplan

An Israeli cannon fires artillery shells into Gaza on July 17, 2014 near Sderot, Israel.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Israeli ground troops are moving into Gaza. From a purely tactical and short-term view, it makes sense. From a strategic and medium-to-long-term view, it’s crazy.

The short-term outlook has a certain clarity. Hamas militants are firing rockets into Israel. There’s no dealing with Gaza’s government, since its leaders are Hamas militants. Retaliating with air strikes doesn’t finish the job and leads to horrible errors. So, let the tanks roll.

But let’s say an invasion crushes Hamas, a feasible outcome if the Israeli army were let loose. Then what? Either the Israelis have to re-occupy Gaza, with all the burdens and dangers that entails—the cost of cleaning up and providing services, the constant danger of gunfire and worse from local rebels (whose ranks will now include the fathers, brothers, and cousins of those killed), and the everyday demoralization afflicting the oppressed and the oppressors. Or the Israelis move in, then get out, leaving a hellhole fertile for plowing by militias, including ISIS-style Islamists, far more dangerous than Hamas.

Either way, what’s the point? In an excellent online New Yorker article, Bernard Avishai, a longtime journalist and business professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recalls former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telling him “that he launched his 2008 Gaza operation in part to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, with whom he was advancing two-state negotiations.” The tactic didn’t work then, and it certainly wouldn’t work now, given that there are no such talks or even the prospect of any.



The Nation's Bob Dreyfuss: The Palestinians must put an end to suicidal Hamas

The Palestinians Must Put an End to Suicidal Hamas
Bob Dreyfuss on July 15, 2014

One message from the current crisis over Gaza is clear: the Palestinians have to get rid of Hamas. No one else can do it: the Israelis, vastly superior in military terms, only strengthen Hamas politically by wantonly raining death and destruction on Gaza. But the fanatics of Hamas, who seem to believe that they can resist Israel militarily—along with the even more radical Islamist groups that run around in Gaza—do incalculable damage to the Palestinian cause.

In this case, I agree with Bret Stephens, who wrote today in The Wall Street Journal, concerning Israel and Hamas, "If you must have a nemesis, better it be a stupid one." Stephens, a neoconservative hawk who is a blind supporter of Israel, certainly doesn't qualify as sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. But he's right here: Israel has no stupider enemy than Hamas. And the people of Gaza, entrapped in a hellish, prison-like entity—where conditions of despair give rise to the nihilist, Islamist radicalism of Hamas—have once again to endure the pain of Israel's bombardment. And for what? Already in Gaza Israel has struck nearly 1,500 separate targets and killed more than 200 people, including civilians and children.

As I've written repeatedly over the years, in the 1970s and 1980s Israel's intelligence service—especially after the rise of the Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977—helped Hamas organize and gain power. The Israelis aided Islamists on the West Bank and in Gaza, including the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a branch), in the belief (correct, as it turned out) that Hamas would be a bitter enemy of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Indeed, back then the early supporters of Hamas clashed with moderate and left-wing Palestinian groups throughout the occupied territories. Decades later, Hamas has emerged as the perfect foil for Israeli rightists and advocates of Greater Israel, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the latest round, Hamas's idiotic decision to fight Israel by firing useless missiles against unseen Israeli targets not only gave Netanyahu a pretext for his brutal war but managed to erase the controversy over the premeditated killing of a Palestinian youth by a gang of ultra-nationalist, right-wing Israelis. Just a week or so ago, that killing transfixed Israel and generated horror among Israelis with a conscience. Now, while the story goes on, it's figuratively buried under the rubble of Gaza.


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