In the Arena

Things That Matter

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Well, I’m back from a long, cloud-ridden, sleep-clotted weekend holiday and ready to blog. But there’s a problem: the things that seem to be exercising the residents of Blogadelphia this week don’t seem very exciting to me. You want my opinion on Hillary for Secretary of State? Don’t have much of one. She’d be fine–I’ve traveled with her overseas and she’s a terrific ambassador–but I’d also be thrilled to see her stay in the Senate and help build a consensus on health care and other issues.

You want to hear me expatiate on the plethora of Clintonians filling the Obama Administration? Don’t have much of an opinion about that, either. I mean, most administrations are filled with experts who served in previous administrations. The Bush Cabinet dated back to the Ford White House (and to the previous Bush Cabinet). The Clintonites Obama has picked, or is considering, are excellent. I haven’t heard a rumor yet that alarmed me as much as the prospect of Janet Reno (D-Mars) as Attorney General during the Clinton Administration; there hasn’t been a name raised or a position offered that seems implausible so far. And the quiet, disciplined way that Obama has gone about this transition seems nothing but good. I can honestly say that he’s probably a much better person than I am: His tolerance for Joe Lieberman–who questioned his patriotism–is saintly (and also smart politics).

Indeed, the only thing I have a really strong blogometric opinion about today is the letter Ayman Al-Zawahiri has issued, in which the terrorist calls the President-elect a “house slave.” If this isn’t disinformation–and it would be nice if our intelligence community were clever enough to have forged the statement–it is fabulous news for reasons most succinctly described by Richard Clarke:

“Obama’s election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law. It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers.

“Obama’s commitment to withdraw from Iraq also takes away an al Qaeda propaganda tenet: that the U.S. seeks to occupy oil rich Arab lands. His commitment to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan also challenges their plans. Most of all, by returning to American values the world admires, Obama sets al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas, the ideological struggle which determines whether al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world.”

The Zawahiri letter is one of the first real indications we have of the new international state of affairs (the Ahmadinejad letter of congratulations may also have been a good sign, but was leavened by the author’s lack of real power and the fact that he’s running for reelection). The terrorists are now exposed as racists, on top of everything else. We have many miles to go in Afghanistan and the northern and western precincts of Pakistan, and more blood to shed–and innumerable ways to screw up, since no one has ever gotten Afghanistan right–but the wind seems to have shifted slightly and is now at our back.