The Night Beat: And Now, for a Slow Week?

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Good evening.


THE FIGHT GOES ON: A new offensive in Kunar, Afghanistan, involving 600 American and NATO troops, began Saturday.  

KAGAN: Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin for Elena Kagan. They are expected to be the opposite of nasty and brutish, and with the former senior senator from Delaware now occupying his time elsewhere, they will be short. (That is, of course, a kind-hearted jab.) Kagan's active participation in Clinton-era policy debates and the controversy over Harvard's military recruitment policy will no doubt be flashpoints, but they'll be of little consequence. Kagan's confirmation is virtually assured.

FIN-REG: Votes on financial regulation reform may be delayed because of Sen. Robert Byrd's latest illness, which his office is describing as "serious." He's been in the hospital since last week. Congress expects to pass the conference report by the end of the week.

CHENEY: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to be released from George Washington University hospital on Monday after spending the weekend in a private room in the fifth-floor ICU. He is not doing very well, although he is out of acute danger; he would rather recuperate at his home than spend time in the hospital. Whether Cheney returns to Wyoming is TBD. 

THE SWITCH: Gen. David Petraeus's confirmation hearings begin Tuesday. We are told that P4 (Gen. Petrareus) and M4 (Gen. Stanley McChrystal) share the same mission. That Petraeus is the architect of the COIN strategy that McChrystal employed in Afghanistan. That Petraeus is even better equipped to shift the surge strategy over from Iraq. The assumption that Petraeus will fight the war the same way McChrystal did, however, is curious. Petrareus's COIN strategy is premised on securing towns and populations and then relentlessly unleashing the hounds of war. McChrystal's COIN strategy involved, after the population-securing part, targeted direct action -- tip-of-the-spear stuff. Petraeus may go big in places McChrsytal went small. Might he even order a review of the ROE -- the rules of engagement -- particularly for air cover?

The Afghanistan war may change significantly. Senators speaking on the Sunday shows showed Gen. Petraeus so much deference that they treated the President's initial goal of beginning troop redeployment in July 2011 like a road marker of sorts, the type of thing you blow by without noticing. Alternatively, we could rapidly withdraw troops, keeping small special operations forces in key locations and devoting resources to Pakistan. Our military is betting on a loooong presence, as evidenced by the near-daily announcement of long-term security, transportation, and logistics contracts awarded for work in the region.

How will victory be defined in Afghanistan? Jack Reed, senator from Rhode Island and the man some believe might become the defense secretary when the President's road marker is achieved, if it ever is, had this to say: "People ask the question, 'Well, how do we know when we win?' Well, we'll know the same way we know in Iraq. That the burden of the battle is being borne by the local forces, not by American and NATO forces. That we'll be able to withdraw our forces." 

Reed's becoming SecDef is way, way down the road. But so is victory in Afghanistan. Obama himself said today that he was focused less on the timeline in Afghanistan than on success in Afghanistan ...

MULLEN IN ISRAEL
: With Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen in Israel this week, I was pointed to this curious passage from a ynetnews.com article about reported U.S. contacts with Hamas:

A senior Hamas figure said Friday that official and unofficial US sources have asked the Islamist group to refrain from making any statements regarding contacts with Washington, this following reports that a senior American official is due to arrive in an Arab country in the coming days to relay a telegram from the Obama Administration.

Note: the US denies secret talks, according to an updated version of the article.

KOREA TRADE: Not enough attention has been paid to the Republican response to the administration's decision to seek a resolution to the nascent trade treaty with South Korea by the next G-20 summit. Will they agree to work with the White House on an issue they would otherwise strongly support? Or will they try to obstruct the resolution to deny the President a victory? And how will the issue affect turnout of organized labor in November?

BRIEFLY:

-- CIA Director Leon Panetta said on This Week with Jake Tapper that the new sanctions against Iran would probably not deter Iran's efforts to deploy a nuclear weapon, in two years, if it so chooses.

-- The President meets with the King of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at the White House.

-- The Senate expects a cloture vote on the small business jobs bill tomorrow. Democrats expect to win the vote. 

-- The June jobs number comes out on Friday. The administration hopes to see private sector job growth.

-- Tomorrow is Justice John Paul Stevens's last day on the Supreme Court. The political world is waiting to hear what the Court decides to do with the Republican National Committee's challenge to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's soft money ban.

-- The G-20 nations agreed to cut their deficits in half by 2013. Obama participated in seven bilateral meetings, including one today with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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