March 15, 2009

Reading the Sunday Washington Post

Several things in today's Post caught my eye this morning:

1. We should all applaud Phillip Bennett for his excellent observation that in all the books written on America's war in Iraq, the main characters are invariably American and not Iraqi. War may be the way Americans have traditionally learned geography, but six years on in Iraq, the average American still knows little of the people with whom our fates have been intertwined for the past two decades. It's so very bizarre. (Although a similar phenomenon occurred in reporting from Vietnam, Bennett notes.) There has been a wealth of good books written on the Iraq War, but very few of them -- such as Anthony's Shadid's Night Draws Near -- really tell the stories of Iraqis themselves.

2. Walter Pincus surveys some of the Arab media -- though not so much the Arabic-language media (most of his sources were in English) -- and discovers the Arab World thinks the Israel Lobby was behind the downfall of Chas Freeman. Charles Lane of the Post's editorial staff thinks Obama needs to respond to this charge. I'm not going to get knee-deep into that tar pit, but touching it with a ten-foot pole, allow me to note that Aaron David Miller probably had the wisest words on L'Affair Freeman. Whether or not Freeman's downfall was due to the "Israel Lobby" in the end -- rather than, say, his statements on China or ties to Saudi Arabia -- is unclear. What is clear is that at a time when the Obama Administration is contemplating major diplomatic and military moves in the Middle East that directly affect Israel's interests -- engagement with Syria, negotiations with Iran, etc. -- some of Israel's biggest supporters in the United States elected to spend their energy on ... a position that really isn't all that important. Talk about taking one's eyes off the ball.

3. Okay, this was in yesterday's Post, but there was an article on the most recent GAO report into cost overruns on the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS). The lead contractors on FCS are Boeing and SAIC. SAIC's executive vice president for government affairs, Arnold Punaro, is rumored to be the next Army Secretary. It is my understanding that Punaro is a great American, but frankly, I do not see how his potential nomination overcomes this conflict of interests. Which, combined with the fact that I am a southerner and the Obama Administration needs more of those, should be enough to ensure that I am the next Secretary of the Army. (It's mostly a ceremonial title, yes?)