Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catch-Up Thoughts

Those of you following me on Twitter will know I was out in California for a few days and not posting, so here are my brief thoughts on some of the recent events. I know you all missed my commentary.
  • The CIA developed an assassination squad to go after al-Qaeda leadership... and it failed to have any successes that we know about and proved far more difficult than in James Bond movies. Neither of those facts is surprising. In fact I would be shocked if the CIA didn't still have a similar squad with similar goals. As other commenters have pointed out, the difference between firing missiles from drones and potentially firing bullets from sniper teams is mostly semantic, except that the drones seem to have a lot more collateral damage--that and the drones have actually been used. Nor is it shocking that Darth Cheney kept the program a secret from Congress. That fact bothers me more. Congress, or the Intelligence committees or the Gang of Eight at a bare minimum, should be kept appraised of all programs, especially the controversial ones. That's why we have checks and balances in our government.
  • Secretary of State Clinton has ordered the first Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review (QDDR). Great! We need to know what we are doing, and giving, have a better idea of what is going where and why, and hopefully some oversight. I'll give you a preview of the report: 1) we need a director for USAID, 2) we don't have enough civilian experts on hand to plan much less execute a "civilian surge" in a place like Afghanistan. In the Pentagon the QDR sets the tone and direction for the Department of Defense; we'll see if the QDDR has the same weight and budget power for State and the other agencies involved with foreign aid and development.
  • President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a Joint Understanding to a new START arms control treaty. The Joint Understanding is good progress, but it is really laying a foundation for more hard work to be done between now and December. By then hopefully the Nuclear Posture Review will be complete, satisfying certain Republican Senators, and real arms reductions can be made, hopefully down to the 1000-1200 range, although I would like to see us get even lower.

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