Today, some short takes, mostly catching up on some recent events and commentary:
1. Bloomberg nails it.
If you haven't done so already, you really owe it to yourself to read or watch N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's compelling response to those who objected to the construction of a Muslim center in lower Manhattan. The contrast between Bloomberg's eloquent and reasoned defense of religious freedom and the hypocritical bombast of the Gingriches, Giulianis, and Foxmans tells you all you need to know about who gets what America stands for and who doesn't.
2. Judge Walker does, too.
It's not a foreign policy issue (although I think it will help America's image in many parts of the world), but I was delighted when a federal judge issued a strongly-worded ruling declaring that California's Proposition 8 (which barred gay marriage) unconstitutional. Like Bloomberg's speech, it was one of those moments that made me proud to be American.
3. But not proud to be a Celtics fan.
I was raised in northern California, but I've been partial to the Celtics ever since elementary school because I was a huge Bill Russell fan. (My goal at the time was to be a dominant shot-blocking and rebounding center like Russell, but it turns out this is hard to do when you are only 6' 2" and have limited leaping ability.) But my Celtics loyalty is gonna be tested now that they've signed Shaquille O'Neal. Nothing personal, but his three-steps-turn-and-dunk approach to basketball is about as fun and exciting as going through the TSA checkpoints at Logan Airport.
4. Meanwhile, back in Iran...
As some of the same geniuses that got us into Iraq start spinning up the case for bombing Iran, you might want to take a look at this careful assessment from Oxford of what a military campaign might entail and produce. Nobody knows for sure how an attack on Iran might go or what the broader repercussions might be, but I sure hope people in the White House are taking note of this study. If David Ignatius is right, maybe someone is.
5. And for the truly obsessive defense policy wonk on your holiday list...
I recommend Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams's new book Buying National Security: How American Plans and Pays for its Global Role and Safety and Home. This book isn't exactly a Stieg Larsson style page-turner (The Girl with the Budget Authority, anyone?) but if you want to understand how U.S. national security policy gets funded and implemented, it's a great place to start. Adams and Williams have lots of experience inside the belly of the beast, and they've written a clear and non-partisan account of the bureaucratic and budgetary machinery that drives our national security state. Among other things, they unveil the vast array of agencies, bureaus, funds, organizations, programs, initiatives, etc. that make up the national security establishment (and that's not even counting all the activities we barely know about... ). If Eisenhower came back today, I'll bet he'd feel like a prophet.
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.