Today's Papers

Surge Overkill

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with previews of the Bush administration’s forthcoming plan to increase the breadth and depth of America’s commitment to the Iraq war. The plan, provisionally titled “A New Way Forward,” will send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq over the next several months in an attempt to stabilize Baghdad. The Los Angeles Times off-leads the Iraq surge and leads a report on American efforts to stop outside investors from financing the development of new Iranian oil fields. Over time, the United States hopes, these back-door sanctions will drastically curtail Iran’s oil exports and ultimately destabilize the regime.

In addition to adding five brigades’ worth of troops, the new Bush plan, to be presented sometime this week, will involve an increased commitment to reconstruction efforts and the creation of job programs for Iraqis. The troop increase would largely mean extending the tours of soldiers already in Iraq and cutting the stateside time of those who have rotated out. The plan will rely heavily on the cooperation and participation of the Nouri al-Maliki Iraqi government—a prospect that does not inspire confidence in those who have worked with the government before, as both the NYT and the Post note.

As magic bullets go, this one seems rather spent. “There is a lot of concern this won’t work,” was one military official’s understatement. Others, discerning little substantive difference between “A New Way Forward” and the numerous old ways forward, are much more blunt. “I think the American people’s patience is wearing thin with vagueness,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Still, the White House is realistically optimistic. “Americans are willing to [sacrifice] as long as we have a clear strategy that offers a chance of success,” one administration official notes in a LAT piece that reports on the White House’s efforts at selling the plan. Count Joe Lieberman in: At an American Enterprise Institute event on Friday, the indiecrat senator called for a substantial and sustained troop increase in Iraq, the Post reports. “Joe Lieberman said that?” said a bemused Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in what promises to become a familiar refrain during the next six years.

But what of Iraq’s festering eastern neighbor? As the LAT reports, despite its vast crude oil reserves, Iran’s dated oil-field infrastructure and generous domestic subsidies have the nation facing an impending energy crisis. It could be solved with outside investment into the exploration of new fields—but thanks to the United States, Iran can’t get a loan. Without new oil fields, the thinking goes, Iran will have to cut its oil exports and reduce the subsidies that keep the domestic price of gasoline at around 35 cents per gallon. “[I]f you were to cut the subsidies, I think there would be riots in the streets,” said one regional expert.

The NYT reports that America’s first new nuclear warhead in over 20 years will likely end up a sort of Frankenbomb hybrid of two competing designs. Instead of choosing between designs submitted by teams at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (TP loves the name) will fuse elements of both designs, an approach that some believe is as likely to result in a dud as a functional weapon. “It’s one thing to have all the components working and another to have them all working together,” said one Berkeley scientist.

The LAT goes above the fold with the first part of an extensive investigation into the Gates Foundation’s financial activities. The foundation, known for its investment into impoverished regions of Africa and other areas, has partially maintained its endowment by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into oil companies that pollute the areas where they’re located—causing many of the health crises that the Gates charities hope to fix. This cognitive dissonance can be attributed to a rigid division between the foundation’s philanthropic arm and its investment arm. “Foundations donate to groups trying to heal the future, but with their investments, they steal from the future,” said one expert.

The Post reports on the ins and outs of polonium-210, the radioactive isotope that killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Highly fatal—one gram’s worth could kill tens of millions of people—and easily transported, some fear that the isotope could be added to municipal water supplies as part of future terror attacks. Could polonium-210 become to this decade what germ warfare was to the 1990s? America’s radiation-shield manufacturers are hoping the answer is yes.

The NYT reefers a long report on the back-door maneuvering between the American government and the Iraqi government in the days leading to the execution of Saddam Hussein. The United States, looking to conform to international protocols, wanted to delay Hussein’s execution, while the Iraqis, motivated at least in part by revenge, wanted to hasten it—a conflict that led to several heated exchanges between the two parties before the United States decided to bow to Iraqi sovereignty and hand Hussein over.

The Post fronts a profile of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, Bush’s nominee as Iraq’s new top military official. Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert and an intensely competitive fitness nut, has a doctorate from Princeton and, more impressively, survived a midair parachute failure while skydiving in 2000. More than a man, less than a god … sounds about right, all things considered.

Hundreds of rock-wielding Somali citizens marched on Mogadishu yesterday to protest their transitional government’s week-old demand that citizens give up their weapons or face house-to-house searches, everyone reports. Although the program was scrapped at the last minute, many Somalis, scorning a government they feel is the puppet of Ethiopian interlopers, were not mollified. “Unless we do this, the Ethiopians will never leave,” said one woman.

The NYT goes inside with a piece on how Congress’ delay in passing a budget is adversely impacting the pace of scientific research at laboratories that rely on government funding. In some cases, already-established projects are shuttering until funding is secured. “The message to young scientists and industry leaders, alike, will be, ‘Look outside the U.S. if you want to succeed,’ ” said one scientist.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel warm: Is global warming to blame for the unseasonably warm weather that’s sweeping much of the country? According to the uninformed opinions of D.C.-area passersby (recorded by the Post), the answer is a resounding yes. “It makes me think we might not be here too much longer, because of global warming,” said one jogger. Others expressed similar opinions. The National Weather Service, sounding slightly aggravated, explains that El Niño is the real culprit. “It’s very dangerous to blame climate for weather,” said a Penn State weather scientist, who should know. Talk about an inconvenient truth!