Archive for the ‘International News & Politics’ Category

On the surge

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Ross Douthat has a good post about Iraq and the surge.

Big Brother bans hats in Yorkshire pubs

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

You can take our lives, but you can never take our silly British hats!!!

Hope for Iraq

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Optimism about Iraq: it’s not just for neocons anymore! From this week’s issue of The Economist:

After all the blood and blunders, people are right to be sceptical when good news is announced from Iraq. Yet it is now plain that over the past several months, while Americans have been distracted by their presidential primaries, many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right.

This improvement goes beyond the fall in killing that followed General David Petraeus’s “surge”. Iraq’s government has gained in stature and confidence. Thanks to soaring oil prices it is flush with money. It is standing up to Iraq’s assorted militias and asserting its independence from both America and Iran. The overlapping wars—Sunni against American, Sunni against Shia and Shia against Shia—that harrowed Iraq after the invasion of 2003 have abated. The country no longer looks in imminent danger of flying apart or falling into everlasting anarchy. In September 2007 this newspaper supported the surge not because we had faith in Iraq but only in the desperate hope that the surge might stop what was already a bloodbath from becoming even worse (see article). The situation now is different: Iraq is still a mess, but something approaching a normal future for its people is beginning to look achievable.

The article proceeds to explain the improvements in greater detail, and then concludes:

In highlighting the improved conditions in Iraq we do not mean to justify The Economist‘s support of the invasion of 2003 (see article). Too many lives have been shattered for that. History will still record that the invasion and occupation have been a debacle. Iraqis even now live under daily threat of violent death: hundreds are killed each month. They remain woefully short of the necessities of life, such as jobs, clean water and electricity. Iraq’s government is gaining confidence faster than competence. It is still fractious, and in many places corrupt.

Nor does it follow that a turn for the better necessarily validates John McCain’s insistence on America staying indefinitely. A safer Iraq might make Barack Obama’s plan to pull out most American troops within 16 months more feasible, though at the moment a precipitate withdrawal looks foolish. But to guard the fragile improvements, the key for America must be flexibility. Both candidates have to keep their options open. If America’s next president gets Iraq wrong because he has boxed himself in during the campaign, all the recent gains may be squandered and Iraq will slide swiftly back into misery and despair. That would be to fail twice over.

More from The Economist here and here. (Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

Eire to EU: No, nay, never

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Again with the Uprising, begob:

At the major ballot-counting center in Dublin, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan struggled to speak to reporters as anti-treaty activists jubilantly drowned him out with songs and chants of “No!” He eventually gave up and walked out, as one activist waved a sign reading “No to foreign rule” over his head.

Just rebel to the core, is all :}. OK here’s the deal ~ or rather, the No-deal (emphases added; and, Hat tip: sister-in-law Paddy Patty Ash :) ~~

Ireland’s voters have rejected the European Union reform treaty, a blueprint for modernizing the 27-nation bloc that cannot become law without Irish approval, electoral officials said Friday.

In a major blow to the EU, 53.4 percent of Irish voters said no to the treaty. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen now will join other EU leaders at a summit next week to try to negotiate a new way forward.

Anti-treaty groups from the far left and right mobilized “no” voters by claiming that the treaty would empower EU chiefs in Brussels, Belgium, to force Ireland to change core policies — including its low business tax rates, its military neutrality and its ban on abortion.

Among such “far left” groups was (naturally :) Sinn Féin (whose name is translatable to English as, appropriately enough, “Ourselves Alone” :). The treaty rejection is not only a blow to the EU’s grand plan :> but also a shillelagh upside the heads of the Republic’s mainstream political parties, all of which advocated a Yes vote ~ and perhaps especially a whack across the kneecaps of Fianna Fáil’s Brian Cowen, who has replaced the formerly unsinkable (and Always incomparable :) Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach.

More after the break.

(more…)

Victory in sight?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, and Frederick Kagan, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, claim in the WSJ:

America is very close to succeeding in Iraq. The "near-strategic
defeat" of al Qaeda in Iraq described by CIA Director Michael Hayden
last month in the Washington Post has been followed by the victory of
the Iraqi government’s security forces over illegal Shiite militias,
including Iranian-backed Special Groups. The enemies of Iraq and
America now cling desperately to their last bastions, while the
political process builds momentum.

These tremendous gains remain fragile and could be lost to skillful
enemy action, or errors in Baghdad or Washington. But where the U.S.
was unequivocally losing in Iraq at the end of 2006, we are just as
unequivocally winning today
.

(Hat tip: Youngblai.) I have no idea whether the Kagans are correct, but in general, the problem with claims like theirs is one of credibility: back in 2006, most folks on the Right did not contemporaneously admit that we were "unequivocally losing in Iraq," so it’s hard to know how much credence to lend to their claims now. (Honest query: I’d be curious if somebody can find an example of the Kagans bucking this trend back in ’06, and forthrightly admitting then that we were losing. Maybe they did; I have no idea. But many conservatives — and administration officials — didn’t.)

Listening to a hawkish conservative who always claimed we were winning say, "we were losing then, but we’re winning now," is sort of like listening to a far-left liberal who opposed the war in Afghanistan say, "we should have stayed out of Iraq and focused on Afghanistan." Maybe they’re right, but they have no credibility saying it!

Actually, though, the former example is arguably worse than the latter one, because whereas a lefty who rallies ’round a war he opposed is making a self-contradicting statement of opinion, a hawk who rewrites the war’s history is making a self-contradicting statement of fact. And, as the saying goes, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but nobody’s entitled to their own facts.

That’s what makes this Iraq debate so frustrating for someone like me — someone who is by no means an expert on what’s happening in Iraq, but who wants to support the right course of action based on sound
reasoning and properly understood facts. Both sides are so committed to their ideological preconceptions that it’s seemingly impossible for them to agree on what the facts are. The Left will claim we’re losing, or are inevitably bound to lose, and must therefore get out, whether that’s factually true or not; and the Right will claim that we’re winning, and can succeed if only we keep at it for a little longer, and must therefore stay the course, whether that’s factually true or not.

For many on both sides, I think, it’s past the point of being dishonest: they’re so committed to their argument that they convince themselves to honestly believe their version of reality. One of the reasons I’m undecided between Obama and McCain is because I feel like I’m choosing between these two camps, both of which have ideological blinders on, which is not exactly an appealing choice — and meanwhile, I don’t have the requisite information to decide whose preconceptions are closer to the truth, largely because I don’t trust either side to present that information accurately! Nor do I trust the liberal media, or the conservative media, or the right-blogosphere, or the left-blogosphere. On this issue, it seems like everybody has an agenda.

What are the actual facts? Are we winning or losing? Is there a reasonable hope of genuine success in building a reasonably stable and at least somewhat democratic Iraq, or are we just wasting our time on a quixotic and unsustainable effort to do so, and suffering needless losses in the process? If we leave, will things get better or worse — and if worse, how much worse? The "facts on the ground" that would help answer these questions are absolutely essential pieces of information for any rational decision-maker, yet they get lost in the fog of war — and, perhaps more pertinently, of politics. Argh.

Bush lied!

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Or not.

McCain: Let’s go to Mars

Friday, June 6th, 2008

In an obvious and blatant attempt to shore up the crucial Space-Obsessed Law Professors With Highly Trafficked Blogs voting bloc, John McCain said yesterday he would like to put a man on Mars.

Sounds good to me, but what I want to know is, will we do the other things?

P.S. In other John McCain-related news, he’s apparently trying to fight off the "age issue" by making references that the youngsters of today will understand — like, for instance, comparing Obama to William Jennings Bryan.

The year was eighteen ninety-six, and John McCain was just sixteen…

:)

P.P.S. And yet more McCain-related news: he’s released his first general-election ad, in which he states: "Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war. … I hate war.
And I know how terrible its costs are."

TPM’s Greg Sargent says "McCain is using his bio to achieve separation from George W. Bush," suggesting that "even if he’s
continuing Bush’s war policies, he’s different from Dubya in that he understands the costs in a way that Bush never did." The subtext, Sargent writes, is: "Even if that reckless chicken-hawk took us to war,
someone who actually understands and has experienced the costs of war
— someone you can actually believe — is here to tell you that we must
continue it."

So, to review: John McCain hates war, yet he wants to send a man to Mars, a planet which is named after… war. :)

UPDATE: Glenn links here, and says of my above joke, "somehow the Obama backers manage to make everything about Iraq… Heh." Hey, now! What’s this about "Obama backers"? I know it might be hard to believe, given my blog’s recent focus, but I repeat:

I am undecided. In fact, if you put a gun to my head right now
and made me choose, I think — *think* — I’d vote for McCain. But it’s
really entirely up in the air how I’ll vote in November. I like and
admire Obama, but that doesn’t mean I think he’d make the best
president. The best Democratic nominee, yes, but that’s only because
his opponent is such a lying, conniving, deceitful [bad word]. Against
McCain, he doesn’t have such an obvious "character" advantage (both
candidates are, as best as I can tell, generally good, decent and
honest, though of course not pure or perfect), and I’m not at all sure
who I think is, on balance, better on policy.

If that confuses you, consider this: "The portion of my brain that views politics as a sport can’t help
‘rooting’ for Obama (he’s exciting! he’s inspiring! he’s shiny!), [but] the
rational part of my brain, which governs my actual vote, is totally undecided
between Obama and McCain." Obama is the scrappy mid-major going up against the staid, boring, established program; he’s Boise State against Oklahoma ("They said this day would never come: a WAC team in a BCS bowl! Yes, we can!"), he’s Appalachian State against Michigan, he’s Davidson against Kansas. Or, as McCain might prefer to say, he’s Hawaii against Georgia. :) The point is, he’s fun to root for, and that fact bleeds over into my blog coverage. (Also, my blog coverage has just been generally Dem-dominated because that contest has been much more exciting since late January.) Moreover, it’s fun to poke fun at John McCain because, you know, he’s old. (In fairness, I’ve also poked fun at Obama for being messianic and cultish. Whee, humor is fun!) But none of that necessarily means that I support Obama, because in the end, politics isn’t a sport, and voting isn’t about "rooting" or making jokes, it’s about deciding the future of the country. So yes, I’m undecided. Really.

P.P.P.S. Speaking of the Red Planet, Andrew Sullivan this morning posted a picture from 2005 of Sunset on Mars. He should have included it in his "The View From Your Window" series!

Diplomacy is not appeasement

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Since I keep referencing it, but I haven’t actually stated my position on it, I figured I should probably weigh in on yesterday’s controversial statement by President Bush at the Israeli Knesset:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals,
as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong
all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks
crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if
only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been
avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false
comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by
history.

Now, let me begin by pointing out that I myself have made the "appeasement" argument before. Specifically, in response to posters that were plastered around USC’s campus in the immediate wake of 9/11 by anti-war activists (against the Afghanistan war, mind you), which stated "WAR IS ALSO TERRORISM," I made some rebuttal signs that stated, "APPEASEMENT IS ALSO SURRENDER." When I chose those words, I was responding to the then-common far-left credo that our reaction to 9/11 should involve withdrawing from the Middle East, closing our bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, etc. — in other words, making specific, substantive concessions to Al Qaeda’s demands.

Similarly, in 2005, I wrote on the blog that we should not withdraw from Iraq simply because the terrorists want us to:

The Islamist radicals don’t just want us out of their backyards — they want to take over ours.
Just like we were foolish to ignore Hitler’s long-term goals for
“Greater Germany” and pretend that he would be satisfied with a few
incremental concessions here and there, we are foolish to ignore the
Islamists’ long-term goal of a worldwide Islamic state.

Withdrawing from Iraq for fear of further attacks would not stop
them — it would not even slow them down. On the contrary, it would
encourage them, because it would show them that they can convince us to
change our policies by terrorizing us. It would give them reason to
hope that, with a few more attacks and a few more surrenders, maybe
they really will be able to see the Islamic flag flying over the whole
world. We must not feed that fantasy.

That’s not to say the Iraq war is necessarily justified — that’s a separate debate, but the debate must be conducted on our terms, not theirs. Whatever else might be said about Iraq, the terrorists’ ire is NOT a valid reason to consider withdrawing. Appeasement is not the answer.

Again, in raising the specter of "appeasement" and World War II, I was addressing a specific substantive concession that I believed we should not make, at least not for the reason stated. Now, you can argue the merits of my point, but it is at least within the realm of rationality to claim that such an action would indeed be "appeasement."

President Bush’s comment, by contrast, is not within the realm of rationality. He is claiming that the mere act of sitting down and negotiating with an enemy is tantamount to "appeasement." That is absolutely absurd. Bush needs to look up a dictionary definition of the damn word he’s talking about. American Heritage defines "appeasement" as "the policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace." Concessions. Not negotiations. In no version of reality is the mere act of negotiating "appeasement."

Now, it’s perfectly fair to debate whether Obama’s stated willingness to meet with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions is a good idea. I’m not at all sure it is, and my uncertainty on that point is one reason (among many) that I’m undecided between Obama and McCain. The mere act of engaging in negotiations does have certain potential negative consequences, particularly when you’re the world’s unipolar power — it tends to bestow a certain veneer of legitimacy to the other side, it can be a propaganda coup, etc. These factors need to be considered, and weighed against the potential positive consequences. That is an important debate to have.

But regardless of where you come down in that debate, calling the simple act of negotiating "appeasement" is clearly incorrect. It’s not "appeasement" unless you concede something. Period.

If you want to argue that merely negotiating with one’s enemies is
itself inherently a "concession," then what do you make of the many times throughout
our history that U.S. presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, have
met with our enemies, sometimes with great success? Remember "only Nixon
can go to China"? How about Reagan’s meetings with Gorbachev, which helped end the Cold War? (Hat tip: David K.) Were
those revered Republican presidents "appeasing" China and Russia, merely by meeting with
them? Or does the substance of the negotiations determine whether they engaged in "appeasement"?

The answer is head-smackingly obvious, to the point that anyone who responds incorrectly is either an idiot or a liar. It is substantive concessions that matter. Thus, for instance, it is fair to argue — not necessarily correct, but plausibly arguable — that President Clinton "appeased" North Korea by essentially paying them off to halt (or pretend to halt) their nuclear ambitions. It is not, however, fair to argue that a President Obama would inherently be "appeasing" them merely by re-opening direct talks. You can’t make any kind of judgment on the issue of "appeasement" without getting into the substance of the potential talks.

The last time I checked, neither Barack Obama nor any other major Democratic figure is promising any specific substantive concessions to Iran, nor to any other "terrorists [or] radicals." Bush himself actually acknowledged this point, unintentionally no doubt, when he mockingly described the Dems’ position as a belief that "some ingenious argument will persuade [the terrorists and radicals] they have been wrong
all along." If that were really the Dems’ goal, as Bush asserts, then it would be foolish and naive, but it would not be "appeasement." Even if we credit Bush’s own straw-man version of the Democrats’ position, he’s still wrong. Trying to convince someone they’re wrong is not the same thing as "appeasing" them!

Of course, in reality, the goals of diplomacy are varied and complex, and again, we can and should debate what those goals should be, whether direct negotiation is worth the costs, etc. But dismissing the whole project as, by its very nature, "appeasement," is simply a lie.

Nor is this just some minor semantic debate. The word "appeasement" has a very specific and loaded historical meaning in geopolitical discourse, as Bush knows perfectly well. He made this explicit with his reference to Hitler, but he didn’t need to. Everybody knows, when you’re talking about "appeasement," that you’re referring to Neville Chamberlain and his decision to give Hitler the Sudetenland, in hopes of achieving "peace in our time." That foolish action was, of course, a textbook case of "granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace." That was appeasement.

But the mere fact that Chamberlain talked to Hitler wasn’t "appeasement"! What made it "appeasement" is what he did at those talks: he made a concession that he shouldn’t have made. Bush has offered no evidence, nor even an argument, that the Democrats would follow the same course as Chamberlain in that regard. He therefore has no business invoking Chamberlain and Hitler to make his point.

What’s really sad about this whole kerfuffle is that, as I said, there is actually a very serious and important issue that underlies all this bulls**t and malarkey. But now that’s all become obscured by Bush’s despicable rhetoric and the Democrats’ justifiably angry rebuttals. Basically, what’s now happening to our political discourse on the important issue of how we should approach diplomacy with our enemies is precisely what happens on the Internet whenever somebody breaks Godwin’s Law and inappropriately invokes Hitler. Our president yesterday became a glorified message-board troll.

One other point: I don’t personally get too riled up about the whole "politics stops at the water’s edge" thing. I’m not saying it isn’t a good principle, necessarily, but it’s just not something that personally makes my blood boil. However, it is something that Republicans and conservatives tend to get very worked up over. God forbid a liberal public figure should ever say anything critical of our foreign policy overseas! Any time they do so, even arguably, the right wing predictably erupts in a paroxysm of rage. For heaven’s sake, Natalie Manies of the Dixie Chicks was pilloried for the fact that she dared speak ill of President Bush in England, and she’s a freakin’ singer. And I know there are examples of even more righteous outrage when it’s an actual Democratic politician who does this, though I can’t remember details off hand. The point is, this is very much a sore spot on the Right.

So, against that backdrop, it is totally hypocritical for anyone who has ever invoked the "politics stops at the water’s edge" principle to in any way condone Bush’s remarks yesterday. He went before the legislature of a foreign nation and, acting in his capacity as head of state, made a clearly political argument designed to attack the other party and its presumptive nominee. (And don’t even start with the "he wasn’t referring to Obama" nonsense, or the "Obama doth protest too much" absurdity. Just don’t. That’s beyond Hillaryesque in its disregard for the truth. Of course he was talking about Obama, you nitwits. And acknowledging that obvious fact in no way acknowledges the truth of the criticism. Go back to third grade art class and rejoin the discussion when you have something meaningful to contribute.) As such, he has specifically validated the practice of taking our internal political debates overseas, in the most ostentatious way imaginable. If you’re okay with that, fine. But don’t you dare ever criticize any Democrat or liberal ever again for doing the same thing in reverse.

Invade Burma?

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Last weekend, there was an interesting discussion in comments here on the blog about the merits of forcably bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Burma/Myanmar, the junta be damned. Now the New Yorker‘s George Packer ponders the same question, asking, "Should Burma Be Saved from Itself?" He writes:

Forcing the regime to let the rest of the world save its people
would have a devastating effect on morale. Burma’s leaders are so
isolated and irrational that they actually believe their own propaganda
about being the only group that can hold the country together. It’s
possible that the junta would collapse out of sheer humiliation. It’s
also possible, though it seems unlikely to me, that Burmese military
units would be ordered to engage the foreigners. Shots might be fired,
people might be killed. No one knows what will happen if British
sailors and American airmen arrive on soggy Burmese soil. Hanging over
the question is, of course, Iraq. No one expects an intervention to go
smoothly anymore; now we expect it to go terribly wrong. I doubt the
American, British, French, Australian, and other governments, with or
without U.N. consent, will decide to invade Burma with boxes of oral
rehydration kits and high-energy biscuits. But if the fear of Baghdad
and Falluja is what keeps foreign powers from saving huge numbers of
Burmese from their own government’s callousness, that will be one more
tragic consequence of the Iraq war.

On the other hand, if it’s going to be done, it should be done
quickly. I know all the arguments why we shouldn’t. But there are at
least a million counterarguments why we should.

Andrew Sullivan links to Packer’s piece, and explicitly jumps on the bandwagon with the title, "Invade Burma, Please." He writes: "A brief, decisive international effort to reach the starving and sick
seems important to me. If it helps demystify this vile regime, great.
But in its demonstration of humanity, it is also a great way for the US
to enhance its soft power in the developing world."

Discuss.

P.S. Meanwhile, Dr. Jeff Masters notes that the seasonal monsoon rains are rapidly approaching the Irrawaddy Delta.

Mr. Nuance

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Barack Obama’s stated position on Israel is, I think, impressively, refreshingly nuanced, and entirely unobjectionable. Which doesn’t mean there won’t be objections from those who regard "nuance" as a dirty word, of course. But I’m pretty hawkish about Israel (and terrorism generally), and yet I honestly can’t find anything wrong with what he’s saying (at least what I’ve read of it).

Honest, non-demogogic conservatives/hawks/Likudniks: show me where I’m wrong. Like Ross Perot, I’m all ears.

Noonan on Wright

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Peggy Noonan compares Jeremiah Wright to the Wolfe Tones. A must-read.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

With “analysts” like these…

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

who needs P.R. hacks?

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found. …

[C]ollectively, the…several dozen…military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks. …

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

(Hat tip: copndor.)

U.K. church boycotts all weddings to protest ban on gay marriage ceremonies

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Here’s an interesting Newington story that has nothing to do with my hometown (though I did find it via my Google News Alert for "newington"). It’s from jolly old England:

Newington Green Unitarian Church, which the 18th century feminist Mary
Wollstonecraft once attended, has announced it will not hold marriages until it
is able to conduct civil partnerships for gay couples. …

At the moment, the law bans any religious service from taking place during a gay
civil partnership.

Minister Dr Andrew Pakula, who will only conduct services of blessing at
Newington Green until this is changed, said: "We will have no legal weddings
until we can conduct the same equal ceremonies for all couples – including
same-sex couples."

It’s pretty incredible to me that churches can be legally banned from doing as they please in this regard.  I, of course, completely agree with the council member who stated: "I wouldn’t advocate the law being changed to force churches to do gay marriages
but if they wanted to do it, then the law shouldn’t prevent it." Obviously. But I guess freedom of religion is "an American concept," too?

Vladimir Putin, Trojan?

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Okay, but I’m not sure we want him roaming the sidelines:

Then again, I’m not sure we ever wanted Snoop Dogg roaming the sidelines, either. Unfortunately, nobody listens to me about these things. :)

Éire PM Ahern to resign May 6

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

No more the Teflon Taoiseach: bid a long farewell to Bertie ~

April 2 (Bloomberg) — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will resign next month after presiding over the euro region’s fastest-growing economy for 10 years and helping broker peace in Northern Ireland. He quit under pressure from lawmakers over his failure to explain gifts and cash he got in the 1990s.

“I believe it’s in the best interests of the government, my party and the people of Ireland to set out a timetable for my departure,” Ahern, 56, told reporters in Dublin today.

A Dublin-based tribunal is investigating Ahern’s personal finances as part of a probe into illegal payments to politicians. The prime minister, leader of the Fianna Fail party, gave evidence for eight days at the tribunal and is scheduled to appear again next month.

…During Ahern’s time as premier, or taoiseach in Irish, the size of the economy more than doubled to $280 billion and the number of people with jobs increased 40 percent to a record 2.1 million. His government cut income, corporation and capital taxes and still ran budget surpluses in every year of his tenure except one.

…With then U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ahern helped bring about a Northern Ireland peace deal between unionists and republicans in the divided province. The climax came in May 2007, when Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley agreed to become first minister in a government with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, signaling the end of more than three decades of conflict.

Once known as the “Teflon Taoiseach,” Ahern had previously escaped the taint of corruption scandals of the sort that destroyed the reputations of a number of Irish politicians, winning a third term in May 2007.

…“There’s still a huge amount of people in Ireland who 100 percent support Bertie,” said Nial Ring, 48, a pub owner from the Ballybough area of north Dublin, who was standing outside government buildings holding a banner saying “Ballybough Loves Bertie.”

Ahern’s announcement of his timetable for leaving office means he will still be able to take up an invitation to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington on April 30…

Something tells me that the Congress’s applause will be a cheering rousing chorus of appreciation for yer man notwithstanding any possible peccadilloes, and a grand Sendoff.