In the News: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let’s start with the good: the Obama administration is considering removing all US troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 (rather than leaving a force of 6,000-15,000 behind).  As coverage in WaPo notes, this option “defies the Pentagon’s view that thousands of troops may be needed to contain al-Qaida and to strengthen Afghan forces.” If the Senate confirms Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, I would assume there would be an additional voice for complete withdrawal.

And now the bad: As of Tuesday, there have been six drone strikes so far this year. Total death toll: 35 and counting. As Spencer Ackerman (Wired) notes:

Obama has provided the CIA with authority to kill not only suspected militants, but unknown individuals it believes follow a pattern of militant activity, in what it terms “signature strikes.” The drone program has killed an undisclosed number of civilians. A recent study conducted by Center for Civilians in Conflict and Columbia Law School’s human-rights branch explored how they’ve torn the broader social fabric in tribal Pakistan, creating paranoia that neighbors are informing on each other and traumatizing those who live under the buzz of Predator and Reaper engines. Those traumas are raising alarm bells from some of the U.S.’ most experienced counterterrorists.

And the ugly: a crony capitalist may rise up against its political patron. AIG is contemplating joining a lawsuit against the US government. Now that it has repaid the $182 billion it owed, it may want to make a claim on some $22 billion in profits that were generated in the interim. As the NYT reports:

At issue is the possibility that [the] insurer may join a lawsuit filed by its former chief executive, Maurice R. Greenberg, claiming that the 2008 bailout shortchanged investors and violated their Fifth Amendment rights.

The alternative to the bailout would have been liquidation. A.I.G. embraced the bailout on the terms offered in 2008. It seems a bit odd to cry foul at this point in the game, particularly given that the collapse that A.I.G. helped create reduced the median net worth of American families by nearly 40 percent (from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010), according to the Fed.

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