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links for 2009-12-18

  • "How Obama saved Brand America. […] Yet in one sense, Obama achieved more in the first 11 months of his presidency than his predecessor managed to in eight years. My research clearly shows that he has begun to restore America's good name, an intangible asset with highly tangible (read: lucrative) consequences. As head of state, Obama has boosted the value of "Brand America" by just over $2 trillion, up from $9.7 trillion in 2008 to $11.8 trillion this year. That means U.S. goods, services, people, and even the country's landscape are about 20 percent more enticing to the global market than they were in 2008".
  • "The arguments over regime change in Iraq still get themselves bogged down in recrimination over weapons of mass destruction and other disputes. But the essential and overarching choice is, and always was, this: Iraqis can have a future of tribalism in which their children skip school to stand guard over barricades made of burning tires and all is resolved by the militia system and malign cross-border interference. Or Iraqi nationhood can be slowly rebuilt by a federal order that allows for extensive decentralization and the solution of differences by elections and the courts, with a reviving economy that could ultimately make all citizens as rich as their Kuwaiti neighbors and former victims. Win or lose, this is the best offer that Iraqis could have been made, and it is rightly feared by the decrepit but still-dangerous oligarchies next door. Here, surely, is something still worth arguing about—and worth fighting for".