Foreign Policy Archives

The Obstacle to Peace

Meryl Yourish lays it on the line.  Jimmy Carter and Hamas get together and talk about peace, but basically that’s it.  No actions, no changes, nothing. 

Here are the plain facts: Hamas offered nothing new. Hamas did not agree to recognize Israel in any way, shape or form. Hamas did not give any proof that Gilad Shalit is still alive. Hamas did not say they would agree to visitation for Shalit—which would be within keeping of international law, something that Carter never seems to notice—nor did Hamas make any concessions, changes, or teeny, tiny moves towards a middle ground with Israel. Hamas did not even bother to stop firing rockets while Carter was there, except during the time he was physically in Sderot. Doubtless they went by the schedule the Carter center reps sent ahead of time. Can’t be dropping rockets and having sniper fire hit the most visible tool Hamas has ever had the fortune to come across. And Hamas tried three times in the last week to invade Israel and murder and kidnap Israelis, the last time the day after Carter spoke with Hamas leaders.

Israel has forcibly removed its citizens from disputed regions and has never — never — targeted civilians.  So when sizing up the situation, Carter can, of course, come up with only one conclusion regarding who is at fault when it comes to keeping peace from breaking out in the Middle East.

Israel and the United States. And he says this even as Hamas launches more rockets, and threatens more attacks. Way to go, Jimmy. I think you need a new title. I think we’re going to call you America’s No. 1 Schmuck.

Hey, perhaps it’s Carter himself who is the biggest obstacle to peace.  If he would just take up residence in Sderot, imagine how much more peaceful it would be there.

When In Doubt, You Know Who To Blame

Trying again to deflect attention from the man behind the curtain, pulling lever and pressing buttons to make people believe he’s a wizard, Hugo Chavez continues the Blame Game.

Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez blamed the United States for violent protests in Tibet during the last two weeks that he said were aimed at trying to destabilize China.

In comments reported by his press office on Sunday, Chavez said the protests were an example of the U.S. "empire" "going against China" and trying to divide the Asian powerhouse.

Communist China has occupied Tibet, a Buddhist region previously ruled by monks, since a military invasion in 1950.

In other news, Chavez blames Bush for Vietnam, the Boxer Rebellion, and Adam and Eve’s disastrous choice of trees.  Honestly, protests about Tibet are nothing new, and there may just be a less paranoid explanation.

China has been widely criticized for a crackdown against the demonstrators ahead of August’s Olympic games to be held in Beijing.

Could those same Olympic games be the reason the monks thought this would be a good time to call attention to their situation?   Yes, but Chavez wasn’t done with the deflection.

Chavez is a relentless Washington critic who says he favors a multipolar world to balance U.S. dominance.

Yes, what the world needs now is another Evil Empire to balance things out.  Wonder if he’s bucking for that position.

He also refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent republic, saying the new European state is a U.S. imposition.

"Look over there!  And look over there!  Just please, don’t look over here, where the food lines are getting longer."

Engaging the Chinese Government

During the debate some years ago over whether or not to continue to grant China "Most Favored Nation" trading status, the pro side of the argument included the idea that if we isolate China, their actions against Christians, and the religious in general, would get worse.  They could do it outside of the view of the world and would be unhindered by their watching eyes.  Keeping trade open would allow external influences to affect the culture.

I personally wasn’t convinced, but it was a reasonable argument.  So how’s it going there these days?

The violent protests in Tibet that began last week and have since spread across (and beyond) China are frequently depicted as a secessionist threat to Beijing. But the regime’s deeper problem in the current crisis is neither ethnic nor territorial. It’s religious.

If there’s a template for Beijing’s policy on religion, it’s the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." In 1995, the regime effectively kidnapped Gendun Choekyi Nyima, a 6-year-old boy named by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, the second-highest ranking figure in Tibetan Buddhism. In Nyima’s place, Beijing designated its own "official" Panchen Lama, the slightly younger Gyaltsen Norbu. Nyima’s whereabouts, assuming he’s alive, are unknown. More recently, a new set of "implementation regulations" on Tibetan religious affairs has come into force, drastically curtailing the freedom of monks and nuns to travel within China, and introducing political themes into the qualification exams required of religious initiates. Of the roughly 100 Tibetan political prisoners, fully three-quarters are monks or nuns.

Much the same goes with China’s Christians. The regime has substituted its own Catholic hierarchy — the Catholic Patriotic Association — for Rome’s since 1957, leading to endless friction between the Pope and the Communist Party. Similarly, Chinese Protestantism officially operates under the so-called "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" (the three "selfs" being self-governance, self-support and self-propagation), which in turn is regulated by the party. "The purpose of [the regime’s] nominal degree of sympathy for Christianity is to indoctrinate and mobilize for Communist Party objectives," says journalist David Aikman, author of the 2003 book "Jesus in Beijing." "I’ve often joked that the most leftist people in China are members of the Three-Self Church."

I’m not really seeing how the world’s eyes have done much to curb government abuses in China.  Not even the arrival of the Olympics there has helped.  In fact, it’s possible that it’s causing more oppression so that the government puts it best facade forward. 

But there is good news…

Read the rest of this entry

Shire Network News #120

Shire Network News #120 has been released.

This week’s feature interview is with former Green Beret Lt Col Gordon Cucullu, who says there’s a growing cultural rift between the US military and civilian society, which is endangering preparedness to face unexpected challenges, such as the Venezuela/Colombia War of 2008.

What’s that? You hadn’t heard about that potential regional conflict which might drag the US in? Precisely the Colonel’s point.

Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to "Consider This!"

Barack Obama is campaigning to be the nominee from the Democratic Party for President of the United States.  A video was released on YouTube in which he enumerates the defense policies he would like to enact should he be elected President.  In the interest of the public service, I will be translating what he says into practical terms, so that all those listening can truly understand what he is saying and can make an informed decision, should he be on the ballot.  Here, then, is Senator Barack Obama.

I’m the only major candidate who opposed this war from the beginning, and as President I will end it. 

Translation: I’m the only major candidate who thought that liberating Iraqis, and cutting off the flow of funds to terrorists from Saddam Hussein, was a waste of time.  Shooting at our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones was no big deal.  As President, I vow to remove all troops from Iraq, where the enemy is, but keep them in countries in Europe where the enemy isn’t.

Second, I will cut tens of billions of dollars of wasteful spending. 

Translation: I will sound vaguely conservative.

I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems.  I will not weaponize space.  I will slow our development of future combat systems.

I will be fiscally "responsible" by shirking my duty to defend the country from new threats and new technology. 

And I will institute an independent Defense Priorities Board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used justify unnecessary spending.

I will create a new committee to make sure that the other committee’s report isn’t used to stay ahead of the bad guys.  If we drop our weapons, it stands to reason that they will drop theirs.

Third, I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. 

See previous translation.

To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons, I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material,…

Which, I am sure, Iran, North Korea and China will be more than happy to join me in.  I trust them implicitly.  Oh, and al Qaeda.  I will endeavor to bring my Swiss Army Knife to all gun battles.

…and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.

I trust Vladimir Putin, and his hand-picked successor, implicitly.  Thank you, and sleep tight.

This has been a public service by Shire Network News, and the McCain for President committee.  OK, McCain doesn’t know we’re doing this, but tell me with a straight face that he wouldn’t like it.  Consider that.

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Wrong Then, Wrong Now

Harry Reid has made his considered pronouncement about the situation in Iraq. Again.

“Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq,” said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

“The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago,” Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

“It is not getting better, it is getting worse,” he said.

This is the same guy who proclaimed that the Surge had failed 7 months ago, before it really got going. The actual facts were quite a bit different from that, and now he’s doing it again. Why should we believe him now?

(Hint: We shouldn’t.)

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Tipping Point in Iran

All that negotiation and all those harshly worded reports from the UN have brought us to this point.

Iran has installed 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium – enough to begin industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel and build a warhead within a year, the UN’s nuclear watchdog reported last night.

The report by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will intensify US and European pressure for tighter sanctions and increase speculation of a potential military conflict.

The installation of 3,000 fully-functioning centrifuges at Iran’s enrichment plant at Natanz is a “red line” drawn by the US across which Washington had said it would not let Iran pass. When spinning at full speed they are capable of producing sufficient weapons-grade uranium (enriched to over 90% purity) for a nuclear weapon within a year.

The IAEA says the uranium being produced is only fuel grade (enriched to 4%) but the confirmation that Iran has reached the 3,000 centrifuge benchmark brings closer a moment of truth for the Bush administration, when it will have to choose between taking military action or abandoning its red line, and accepting Iran’s technical mastery of uranium enrichment.

Those who wish to avoid war at any cost are seeing the fruits of their, er, labor. Given their behavior up to this point, why do we think they’ll change their minds after another resolution or IAEA report? If you want to complain that Bush is driving us to war, the reality of who is doing the driving may come as a surprise to you. Not that it should, but I’m sure it will.

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Ain’t No Pleasing Them

Sanctions — so the story goes with the anti-war Left — should’ve been allowed to work in Iraq, and the invasion should have been a last resort. OK, let’s put aside for the moment that the sanctions weren’t working, were instead enriching Hussein, and were being actively undermined by our “allies” France and Russia. Let’s just focus on sanctions in and of themselves. You’d think that installing sanctions on organizations that the US has labelled terror groups would meet with approval by this crowd.

You’d think wrong.

Several Democratic presidential candidates, though not front-runner Hillary Clinton, said they were worried the White House had begun a march to war.

“I am deeply concerned that once again the president is opting for military action as a first resort,” said Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a long-shot Democratic candidate.

How much of a long-shot do you have to be to require labelling sanctions “military action”? How desperate must you be to find something, anything, to complain about that you stoop to this level?

Perhaps as desperate as a Russian President.

It is the first time the United States has sought to take such punitive measures against another country’s military. Russia and some other U.S. allies believe dialogue rather than more punishment or military action is the way forward.

“Why should we make the situation worse, corner it, threatening new sanctions?” Putin said in Lisbon.

Sure, because dialogue has made things so much better already, with Iran utterly ignoring the sense of the international community. They know they’ll at least have France and Russia on their side, eh?

What military options there are must be considered, as a last resort, because to not consider them does two things. First, it catches us off guard if we turn out to need it and have not prepared for it. Second, it shows that, during such dialogue, we are serious about what we are saying. Any country not willing to back up its words with actions, and to prepare for those actions should they become necessary, will simply not be listened to by any rogue state. Instead, said rogue state will simply keep the international community at the “bargaining table” until such time as they’ve done what they wanted anyway.

Which is the course this is taking already. Iran has showed no signs whatsoever that diplomacy is working on them. Think it’ll be easier to bargain with an Iran backed by a nuclear bomb? But in the meantime, the anti-war Left is whining about sanctions being put in place. I’ll bet if this was a Democrat doing it, they’d be extolling the diplomatic process.

UPDATE: The Captain points to another article on the subject that finds more whining against sanctions.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said in a statement yesterday that Bush’s action “not only echoes the chest-pounding rhetoric which preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2002, but also raises the specter of an intensified effort to make the case for an invasion of Iran.”

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Putin’s Paranoia

I’m sorry, but even if you believe that Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were the one and only source of Iranian paranoia, or increased attacks on Israel, or whatever ills you want to attribute to it, this is simply pure paranoia.

President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons after accusing the United States of harbouring an “erotic” desire to invade Russia and steal its natural resources.

Delivering one of his most belligerent anti-Western tirades, Mr Putin also suggested that America and its allies had concocted a fake assassination plot to prevent him from visiting Iran this week.

Casting himself as a pugnacious but benign defender of national sovereignty, the president told his people during a live television phone-in that only Russia’s military prowess had prevented the country from suffering Iraq’s fate.

Puh-lease. This is simply over the top. Putin would have come up with any reason to bolster his military, whether or not the US was in Iraq. As evidence, he’s bipartisan in his paranoia.

The subject of Western plots was first raised by Alexander, a mechanic in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Was it right, Alexander wanted to know, that certain American politicians considered Russia’s refusal to share its natural resources “unfair” – claims he bizarrely attributed to Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state.

“I know that such ideas are brewing in the heads of some politicians,” Mr Putin replied. “I think it is a sort of political eroticism which maybe gives some pleasure but will hardly lead anywhere.

Of course, this was all carefully planned political theater. Nothing like a US Presidential press conference.

Not once was an unsettling or controversial question asked – a fact that drew scorn from the Kremlin’s dwindling band of critics. “It was unbearably boring and openly narcissistic,” said Yevgeny Kiselyov, a political commentator.

“It was all staged from beginning to end. If he is a president and not the Tsar, why don’t we hear the opinion of those who don’t vote for him?”

Russia’s already rapid rearmament would be stepped up even further, Mr Putin promised. Ambitious plans to bolster the country’s nuclear arsenal – as well as its conventional military hardware – were well underway.

They include new missile systems, modernised nuclear bombers and submarines. “We have plans that are not only great, but grandiose,” he boasted.

To drive home this message, the broadcast was interrupted to show a test launch of Russia’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The anti-western rhetoric is aimed at voters, philistines who like to believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies intent on keeping the country on its knees,” Mr Kiselyov said.

“For them, Putin is the only man who can defend us from these vicious enemies.”

Indeed, enemies that exist only in his own mind.

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Shire Network News #104

Shire Network News #104 has been released. The feature interview is with graphic novelist, Bosch Fawstin. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to “Consider This!” placed a full-page ad in the New York Times suggesting that General Petraeus might be called “General Betray Us”., who I assume supports the troops, just not their leaders, and who don’t question anyone’s patriotism, except when they do, says that “Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war.”

Now, by “unwinnable”, I imagine they mean that we can’t win, by stopping the fighting. And that’s certainly true, especially if you look at history. I mean, the British have been trying to stop Protestant and Catholic violence in Ireland for…. Oh, wait. They did manage to stop the violence. OK, well that’s a good thing, right?

The peace in Ireland came after 38 years of, shall we say, “occupation” by British forces. But is shocked — SHOCKED — that “American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years”. So perhaps peace after 38 years was not worth it? Talk about your short attention spans. Talk about your instant gratification culture. These guys must not keep their money in anything longer than a 6-month certificate of deposit. “The Cold War going to last how long? Ah, just give the Soviets what they want. A few innocent looking missiles in Cuba aren’t going to hurt anyone. Let’s just move on, and bring the troops home from Germany.”

(Oh, and we’d better not let them know that we still have American troops in Germany. I mean, can you imagine the reaction? I may be a mean-spirited wingnut, but I have my limits.)

And if there was any question — any at all — that and the allegedly objective New York Times were on the same, viciously partisan side, here’s some information that should clarify things. The Times gave a significantly cut rate on their “Betray Us” full page ad. The standard rate for that size an ad is $181,692, but got theirs for a mere $65,000. That’s a about 65% off! That’s either because September is a slow ad month for the Times, or because, as one Republican staffer put it, they must’ve gotten the “family discount”. Actually, this rate is called the “special advocacy” rate, but is this discount available for conservative causes? If you ask the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, or the National Right to Life Committee, you’ll soon realize that this “special advocacy” rate is applied in a rather lopsided fashion. Got to keep it all in the family, as it were.

In conjunction with this, the Times has put out a new, sliding scale rate for political ads. The new schedule is as follows:

All Republicans: 110% of list price
Generic Democrats: 75%
BDS Sufferers: 50%
Daily Kos writers: 40% but the ad must appear in the Entertainment section
Michael Moore: No upfront charge. Instead, 13% of gross profits from the next movie
William Shatner: Name your own price
And an additional 5% off for each clever pun on someone’s name (which must appear in at least 48 point type)

At least we know where the Times stands; side by side with an organization, like, that is willing to smear anyone for political gain. It runs in the family.

Back to you, Brian.

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Our Standing In The World

Democrats have bemoaned the (alleged) loss of standing with the world that the US has suffered supposedly due to the war in Iraq. I guess before that, everyone just loved us, and since then we’ve lost the support of our allies. Well, the good news is, those Democrats can stop their worrying; France likes us again.

Sometimes it’s not the message, but the messenger who delivers it. After spending much of this decade going head to head with the US over its invasion of Iraq due to nuclear weapons suspicions, France seems to be joining American bellicosity when it comes to those same suspicions about Iran. On French radio on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that it is time to “prepare ourselves for the worst” and indicated that he was talking about a possible war with Iran.

The remarks are simply the most recent indication that France under new President Nicolas Sarkozy is turning its back on the almost reflexive anti-US stance of his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

Democrats who have cited our “standing” as a reason to oppose Bush will now start supporting him, right? Well, no, of course it couldn’t be that easy.

On Monday, the UN’s head nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei blasted Kouchner, saying that diplomacy is still the best route and warned against “hyping” the issue.

“There are rules on how to use force,” ElBaradei said “and I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons.”

Of course, the UN is still jittery. Yes, there are rules on how to use force, which, incidentally, we followed, and still we “lost standing”. Sorry, I don’t exert too much worry on what others might think of us even if we follow the rules. I want diplomacy to work, make no mistake. But I also want enemies to know that there will be a price if they continue to threaten us and our allies. That’s all that Kouchner was saying; nothing’s off the table.

Kouchner also indicated that the European Union might begin looking into imposing its own sanctions against Iran, should the UN continue to be unable to strengthen those currently in place.

Because we all know how well UN sanctions worked on Iraq. Exhibit A is:

China and Russia — both of which wield vetoes on the UN Security Council — have been reluctant to take a harder line against Iran, which is widely suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Anyway, it looks like the world is starting to see things our way again, albeit slowly. Democrats should be sleeping better tonight.

Either that or the whole “standing” issue was just a smoke screen, as long as the “world” though the way they did. I’m kinda leaning that way.

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