Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 10:48 AM

The Obama administration's line-drawing yesterday on what it would take to bring U.S. involvement in the Syria conflict has some none too pleased. Critics of the decision say that Syrian President Bashar Assad may interpret U.S. policy as permissive of his employing everything but chemical weapons, report Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post. Steven Lee Myers and Scott Shane write on the Syrian regime's response to the Obama announcement; they say that U.S. intervention could exacerbate the situation. And Julian Pecquet of The Hill shares Russia and China's joint response: that they are committed to "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law...and not to allow their violation."

Most of the stories about Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey's trip to Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday were focused on the attack on his plane by insurgents, not so much about the substance of his visit. Dan De Luce of the AFP, however, interviewed General Dempsey regarding his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari. General Dempsey said that "We still retain significant investment and significant influence. But now it's on the basis of a partnership and not on the basis of ownership."

Carlo Munoz of The Hill writes on the new joint special operations command in Afghanistan, called Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, which is the first command of its kind. According to SOCOM's spokesman, "units [will] share information, resources and enablers and ensure[] a more efficient use of these resources." This group will house all American---including clandestine counterterrorism units---NATO and Afghan special operations groups in one organization.

Julian Sanchez writes on Wired's Threat Level blog on the impending congressional reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act. Sanchez argues that:

the Bush administration’s deregulation of cable broadband service accidentally led to a secret court refusing to approve a sizable chunk of the NSA’s wiretapping activities. That ruling then precipitated a dramatic political battle full of overblown claims of threats to America and eventually resulted in the passage of a measure expanding the NSA’s ability to intercept communications inside the United States.

Barnard College professor Alexander Cooley writes in this New York Times op-ed on the implications of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for the power dynamic in the Central Asian region generally. The op-ed concludes:

After 11 years of pressing the Afghan government to improve its governance and create democratic institutions, Washington has failed to effectively promote these same goals in neighboring countries. Now withdrawal from Afghanistan risks dragging the West even further into a hotbed of domestic power struggles and regional rivalries.

Lots of proponents of the use of drones in warfare tout fewer pilots put at risk in dangerous missions, but what about the financial cost of drones v. manned aircraft? The American Security Project has this new report out on drones, which concludes that military drones are only "generally slightly cheaper to both acquire and operate than conventional fighter jets." John Bennett in the U.S. News and World Report writes on the report, as does Mark McDonald in the International Herald Tribune as well as Eric Beidel at National Defense Magazine.

Over at the New York Times At War blog, former UN weapons inspector Kathi Lynn Austin gives tips to aspiring arms dealers, starting off with heading to the tropical island paradise off the coast of Madagascar: Mauritius.

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