Reports that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte

Residents celebrate at Martyrs square in Tripoli October 20, 2011 after hearing the news that former leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. Gaddafi died in an attack by NTC fighters, a senior NTC official said on Thursday. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny (LIBYA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Libyans are celebrating with the reports that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. It’s not completely confirmed but more reports are trickling in.

This is further validation of the policies President Obama pursued in Libya in the face of withering criticism from the left and the right. It’s an example of how air power can work, and how we can avoid problems when we don’t send our troops.

No shame

Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker are all threatening to derail the START treaty, which they have all supported in the past, over votes scheduled by Harry Reid for “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the DREAM Act. Every living former Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense supports the treaty, and these Senators have also supported it as it’s critical to monitoring Russian nukes and keeping loose nukes out of the hands of terrorists. It’s also critical in connection with Russian support for sanctions against Iran.

Frankly, it’s disgusting. They’re all claiming they’re upset with partisan politics when they have all been playing the political game for the past two years.

Now they’re willing to risk national security in the name of petty politics. They have no shame. If they blow this for political reasons, Obama and the Dems need to bludgeon them with this over and over again.

UPDATE:The reaction to these threats has been swift.

“What some Republicans like Corker seem to be saying is, ‘We will let nuclear weapons proliferate if you let gays serve,’ “ said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.

Hopefully these Senators have painted themselves in a corner here. If the treaty goes down, they will be blamed for sacrificing our nuclear security for their petty grievances.

Demonstrations resume in Iran

The crowds are forming again.

Senate votes to kill the F-22

I’ve been following the Obama administration’s attempts to reform the defense procurement process and cut unnecessary military spending, so I was happy to see the Senate side with the President and kill the F-22 fighter program. Fred Kaplan explains why this is so important.

This is a big deal: The Senate today voted to halt production of the F-22 stealth fighter plane, and it did so 58-40, a margin much wider than expected.

Not only is this a major victory for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who lobbied strenuously (something he rarely does) to kill this program, and for President Barack Obama, who pledged to veto the defense bill if it contained a nickel for more F-22s. The vote might also mark the beginning of a new phase in defense politics, a scaling-back of the influence that defense contractors have over budgets and policies.

Then again, I might be dreaming. Surely things couldn’t be changing quite that much. Could they?

Kaplan explains how rare this is for Congress to kill a weapons program at the request of the White House. Hopefully a new level of seriousness will prevail on Capital Hill.

Of course, many Senators are still committed to old battles, and many Senators lined up behind the F-22 because of jobs in their districts. Defense contractors and their supporters at the Pentagon have known for years that the best way to preserve a program would be to sprinkle as many jobs around the country in as many districts as possible. As a result, many Democrats, including liberal Senators like Barbara Boxer, opposed the administration here and tried to keep the program going. On the other side, many Republicans who didn’t have a dog in this fight were willing to back the White House. Of course it helped that John McCain was a fierce advocate for killing the F-22.

One of the worst examples of putting politics over the national interest is Chris Dodd, who’s fighting for his political life as he faces a tough re-election campaign next year.

The floor debate was more transparently self-interested than usual. Dodd argued with intense passion that killing the F-22 would create a “dangerous gap” in America’s technical know-how. The next advanced fighter jet, the F-35, won’t enter production until 2014. The highly skilled workers who make F-22s can’t be expected to hang around four years; they’ll get different jobs, and they’ll be unavailable when the country needs them.

Levin took the floor to point out that production of F-35s actually starts next year and that the FY 2010 budget contains money to build 30 of them. In other words, Levin said, “There is no gap.” He wondered where Dodd got his information. Dodd replied that it came from the defense contractors. That’s where he probably got the whole speech, too.

We’re also seeing how important it was for Obama to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates has slashed or killed a bevy of outmoded, over-designed, or unnecessary weapons systems in this budget. One or both houses of Congress have gone along with almost all of his swipes. Part of the reason for this compliance is Gates himself, who is almost universally respected; he’s known to be a hawk (a centrist hawk, but a hawk all the same), and he’s worked for Republicans as well as Democrats. In fact, he is a Republican.

Maybe it takes a Republican defense secretary to usher in a new era of defense politics. Are we in fact on the verge of such an era? There are many reasons to be skeptical (the annals of history among them), but what happened today might be a harbinger of something genuinely new.

Signs of hope in the West Bank?

Given the recent turmoil in the region, I was a little shocked to read this article about progress in the West Bank.

The International Monetary Fund is about to issue its first upbeat report in years for the West Bank, forecasting a 7 percent growth rate for 2009. Car sales in 2008 were double those of 2007. Construction on the first new Palestinian town in decades, for 40,000, will begin early next year north of Ramallah. In Jenin, a seven-story store called Herbawi Home Furnishings has opened, containing the latest espresso machines. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military shut its obtrusive nine-year-old checkpoint at the entrance to this city, part of a series of reductions in security measures.

Whether all this can last and lead to the consolidation of political power for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah, as the Obama administration hopes, remains unclear. But a recent opinion poll in the West Bank and Gaza by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, a Palestinian news agency, found that Fatah was seen as far more trustworthy than Hamas — 35 percent versus 19 percent — a significant shift from the organization’s poll in January, when Hamas appeared to be at least as trustworthy.

A critical factor has been the strength of the Palestinian security forces.

An important element in making the Palestinian force effective, American and Israeli officials say, was taking young Palestinian men out of the ancestral grips of their villages and tribal clans and training them abroad, turning them into soldiers loyal to units and commanders.

There still remains much to do. Israel has eased some checkpoints and other restrictions, but Palestinians are still angry over the many controls imposed by the Israelis. That said, the improved situation in the West Bank is a very significant development that can increase pressure on Israel to move forward on the peace process.

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