Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Logic and political arguement
on: September 08, 2008, 05:56:42 PM
"What does this explain? , , , That most people focus less on thinking and emphasize other ways of interacting with the world than that."
"Sometimes I rely on my intuition or my feelings to make decisions."
Right. These functions have their purposes.
"When is this valid?"
When things turn out well.
" and when is it not?" "
When they don't
(Secret tip: Yes I know that additional points can be made with regards to what I just said. I'm just being silly.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli STrategy post Russia-GA
on: September 08, 2008, 05:23:23 PM
Another serious read from Stratfor:
ISRAELI STRATEGY AFTER THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR
By George Friedman
The Russo-Georgian war continues to resonate, and it is time to expand our view of
it. The primary players in Georgia, apart from the Georgians, were the Russians and
Americans. On the margins were the Europeans, providing advice and admonitions but
carrying little weight. Another player, carrying out a murkier role, was Israel.
Israeli advisers were present in Georgia alongside American advisers, and Israeli
businessmen were doing business there. The Israelis had a degree of influence but
were minor players compared to the Americans.
More interesting, perhaps, was the decision, publicly announced by the Israelis, to
end weapons sales to Georgia the week before the Georgians attacked South Ossetia.
Clearly the Israelis knew what was coming and wanted no part of it. Afterward,
unlike the Americans, the Israelis did everything they could to placate the
Russians, including having Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert travel to Moscow to
offer reassurances. Whatever the Israelis were doing in Georgia, they did not want a
confrontation with the Russians.
It is impossible to explain the Israeli reasoning for being in Georgia outside the
context of a careful review of Israeli strategy in general. From that, we can begin
to understand why the Israelis are involved in affairs far outside their immediate
area of responsibility, and why they responded the way they did in Georgia.
We need to divide Israeli strategic interests into four separate but interacting
The Palestinians living inside Israel's post-1967 borders.
The so-called "confrontation states" that border Israel, including Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan and especially Egypt.
The Muslim world beyond this region.
The great powers able to influence and project power into these first three regions.
The Palestinian Issue
The most important thing to understand about the first interest, the Palestinian
issue, is that the Palestinians do not represent a strategic threat to the Israelis.
Their ability to inflict casualties is an irritant to the Israelis (if a tragedy to
the victims and their families), but they cannot threaten the existence of the
Israeli state. The Palestinians can impose a level of irritation that can affect
Israeli morale, inducing the Israelis to make concessions based on the realistic
assessment that the Palestinians by themselves cannot in any conceivable time frame
threaten Israel's core interests, regardless of political arrangements. At the same
time, the argument goes, given that the Palestinians cannot threaten Israeli
interests, what is the value of making concessions that will not change the threat
of terrorist attacks? Given the structure of Israeli politics, this matter is both
substrategic and gridlocked.
The matter is compounded by the fact that the Palestinians are deeply divided among
themselves. For Israel, this is a benefit, as it creates a de facto civil war among
Palestinians and reduces the threat from them. But it also reduces pressure and
opportunities to negotiate. There is no one on the Palestinian side who speaks
authoritatively for all Palestinians. Any agreement reached with the Palestinians
would, from the Israeli point of view, have to include guarantees on the cessation
of terrorism. No one has ever been in a position to guarantee that -- and certainly
Fatah does not today speak for Hamas. Therefore, a settlement on a Palestinian state
remains gridlocked because it does not deliver any meaningful advantages to the
The Confrontation States
The second area involves the confrontation states. Israel has formal peace treaties
with Egypt and Jordan. It has had informal understandings with Damascus on things
like Lebanon, but Israel has no permanent understanding with Syria. The Lebanese are
too deeply divided to allow state-to-state understandings, but Israel has had
understandings with different Lebanese factions at different times (and particularly
close relations with some of the Christian factions).
Jordan is effectively an ally of Israel. It has been hostile to the Palestinians at
least since 1970, when the Palestine Liberation Organization attempted to overthrow
the Hashemite regime, and the Jordanians regard the Israelis and Americans as
guarantors of their national security. Israel's relationship with Egypt is publicly
cooler but quite cooperative. The only group that poses any serious challenge to the
Egyptian state is The Muslim Brotherhood, and hence Cairo views Hamas -- a
derivative of that organization -- as a potential threat. The Egyptians and Israelis
have maintained peaceful relations for more than 30 years, regardless of the state
of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Syrians by themselves cannot go to war with
Israel and survive. Their primary interest lies in Lebanon, and when they work
against Israel, they work with surrogates like Hezbollah. But their own view on an
independent Palestinian state is murky, since they claim all of Palestine as part of
a greater Syria -- a view not particularly relevant at the moment. Therefore,
Israel's only threat on its border comes from Syria via surrogates in Lebanon and
the possibility of Syria's acquiring weaponry that would threaten Israel, such as
chemical or nuclear weapons.
The Wider Muslim World
As to the third area, Israel's position in the Muslim world beyond the confrontation
states is much more secure than either it or its enemies would like to admit. Israel
has close, formal strategic relations with Turkey as well as with Morocco. Turkey
and Egypt are the giants of the region, and being aligned with them provides Israel
with the foundations of regional security. But Israel also has excellent relations
with countries where formal relations do not exist, particularly in the Arabian
The conservative monarchies of the region deeply distrust the Palestinians,
particularly Fatah. As part of the Nasserite Pan-Arab socialist movement, Fatah on
several occasions directly threatened these monarchies. Several times in the 1970s
and 1980s, Israeli intelligence provided these monarchies with information that
prevented assassinations or uprisings.
Saudi Arabia, for one, has never engaged in anti-Israeli activities beyond rhetoric.
In the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Saudi Arabia and Israel
forged close behind-the-scenes relations, especially because of an assertive Iran --
a common foe of both the Saudis and the Israelis. Saudi Arabia has close relations
with Hamas, but these have as much to do with maintaining a defensive position --
keeping Hamas and its Saudi backers off Riyadh's back -- as they do with government
policy. The Saudis are cautious regarding Hamas, and the other monarchies are even
More to the point, Israel does extensive business with these regimes, particularly
in the defense area. Israeli companies, working formally through American or
European subsidiaries, carry out extensive business throughout the Arabian
Peninsula. The nature of these subsidiaries is well-known on all sides, though no
one is eager to trumpet this. The governments of both Israel and the Arabian
Peninsula would have internal political problems if they publicized it, but a visit
to Dubai, the business capital of the region, would find many Israelis doing
extensive business under third-party passports. Add to this that the states of the
Arabian Peninsula are afraid of Iran, and the relationship becomes even more
important to all sides.
There is an interesting idea that if Israel were to withdraw from the occupied
territories and create an independent Palestinian state, then perceptions of Israel
in the Islamic world would shift. This is a commonplace view in Europe. The fact is
that we can divide the Muslim world into three groups.
First, there are those countries that already have formal ties to Israel. Second are
those that have close working relations with Israel and where formal ties would
complicate rather than deepen relations. Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, fit
into this class. Third are those that are absolutely hostile to Israel, such as
Iran. It is very difficult to identify a state that has no informal or formal
relations with Israel but would adopt these relations if there were a Palestinian
state. Those states that are hostile to Israel would remain hostile after a
withdrawal from the Palestinian territories, since their issue is with the existence
of Israel, not its borders.
The point of all this is that Israeli security is much better than it might appear
if one listened only to the rhetoric. The Palestinians are divided and at war with
each other. Under the best of circumstances, they cannot threaten Israel's survival.
The only bordering countries with which the Israelis have no formal agreements are
Syria and Lebanon, and neither can threaten Israel's security. Israel has close ties
to Turkey, the most powerful Muslim country in the region. It also has much closer
commercial and intelligence ties with the Arabian Peninsula than is generally
acknowledged, although the degree of cooperation is well-known in the region. From a
security standpoint, Israel is doing well.
The Broader World
Israel is also doing extremely well in the broader world, the fourth and final area.
Israel always has needed a foreign source of weapons and technology, since its
national security needs outstrip its domestic industrial capacity. Its first patron
was the Soviet Union, which hoped to gain a foothold in the Middle East. This was
quickly followed by France, which saw Israel as an ally in Algeria and against
Egypt. Finally, after 1967, the United States came to support Israel. Washington saw
Israel as a threat to Syria, which could threaten Turkey from the rear at a time
when the Soviets were threatening Turkey from the north. Turkey was the doorway to
the Mediterranean, and Syria was a threat to Turkey. Egypt was also aligned with the
Soviets from 1956 onward, long before the United States had developed a close
working relationship with Israel.
That relationship has declined in importance for the Israelis. Over the years the
amount of U.S. aid -- roughly $2.5 billion annually -- has remained relatively
constant. It was never adjusted upward for inflation, and so shrunk as a percentage
of Israeli gross domestic product from roughly 20 percent in 1974 to under 2 percent
today. Israel's dependence on the United States has plummeted. The dependence that
once existed has become a marginal convenience. Israel holds onto the aid less for
economic reasons than to maintain the concept in the United States of Israeli
dependence and U.S. responsibility for Israeli security. In other words, it is more
psychological and political from Israel's point of view than an economic or security
Israel therefore has no threats or serious dependencies, save two. The first is the
acquisition of nuclear weapons by a power that cannot be deterred -- in other words,
a nation prepared to commit suicide to destroy Israel. Given Iranian rhetoric, Iran
would appear at times to be such a nation. But given that the Iranians are far from
having a deliverable weapon, and that in the Middle East no one's rhetoric should be
taken all that seriously, the Iranian threat is not one the Israelis are compelled
to deal with right now.
The second threat would come from the emergence of a major power prepared to
intervene overtly or covertly in the region for its own interests, and in the course
of doing so, redefine the regional threat to Israel. The major candidate for this
role is Russia.
During the Cold War, the Soviets pursued a strategy to undermine American interests
in the region. In the course of this, the Soviets activated states and groups that
could directly threaten Israel. There is no significant conventional military threat
to Israel on its borders unless Egypt is willing and well-armed. Since the
mid-1970s, Egypt has been neither. Even if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were to
die and be replaced by a regime hostile to Israel, Cairo could do nothing unless it
had a patron capable of training and arming its military. The same is true of Syria
and Iran to a great extent. Without access to outside military technology, Iran is a
nation merely of frightening press conferences. With access, the entire regional
After the fall of the Soviet Union, no one was prepared to intervene in the Middle
East the way the Soviets had. The Chinese have absolutely no interest in struggling
with the United States in the Middle East, which accounts for a similar percentage
of Chinese and U.S. oil consumption. It is far cheaper to buy oil in the Middle East
than to engage in a geopolitical struggle with China's major trade partner, the
United States. Even if there was interest, no European powers can play this role
given their individual military weakness, and Europe as a whole is a geopolitical
myth. The only country that can threaten the balance of power in the Israeli
geopolitical firmament is Russia.
Israel fears that if Russia gets involved in a struggle with the United States,
Moscow will aid Middle Eastern regimes that are hostile to the United States as one
of its levers, beginning with Syria and Iran. Far more frightening to the Israelis
is the idea of the Russians once again playing a covert role in Egypt, toppling the
tired Mubarak regime, installing one friendlier to their own interests, and arming
it. Israel's fundamental fear is not Iran. It is a rearmed, motivated and hostile
Egypt backed by a great power.
The Russians are not after Israel, which is a sideshow for them. But in the course
of finding ways to threaten American interests in the Middle East -- seeking to
force the Americans out of their desired sphere of influence in the former Soviet
region -- the Russians could undermine what at the moment is a quite secure position
in the Middle East for the United States.
This brings us back to what the Israelis were doing in Georgia. They were not trying
to acquire airbases from which to bomb Iran. That would take thousands of Israeli
personnel in Georgia for maintenance, munitions management, air traffic control and
so on. And it would take Ankara allowing the use of Turkish airspace, which isn't
very likely. Plus, if that were the plan, then stopping the Georgians from attacking
South Ossetia would have been a logical move.
The Israelis were in Georgia in an attempt, in parallel with the United States, to
prevent Russia's re-emergence as a great power. The nuts and bolts of that effort
involves shoring up states in the former Soviet region that are hostile to Russia,
as well as supporting individuals in Russia who oppose Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin's direction. The Israeli presence in Georgia, like the American one, was
designed to block the re-emergence of Russia.
As soon as the Israelis got wind of a coming clash in South Ossetia, they -- unlike
the United States -- switched policies dramatically. Where the United States
increased its hostility toward Russia, the Israelis ended weapons sales to Georgia
before the war. After the war, the Israelis initiated diplomacy designed to calm
Russian fears. Indeed, at the moment the Israelis have a greater interest in keeping
the Russians from seeing Israel as an enemy than they have in keeping the Americans
happy. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney may be uttering vague threats to the
Russians. But Olmert was reassuring Moscow it has nothing to fear from Israel, and
therefore should not sell weapons to Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or anyone else hostile
Interestingly, the Americans have started pumping out information that the Russians
are selling weapons to Hezbollah and Syria. The Israelis have avoided that issue
carefully. They can live with some weapons in Hezbollah's hands a lot more easily
than they can live with a coup in Egypt followed by the introduction of Russian
military advisers. One is a nuisance; the other is an existential threat. Russia may
not be in a position to act yet, but the Israelis aren't waiting for the situation
to get out of hand.
Israel is in control of the Palestinian situation and relations with the countries
along its borders. Its position in the wider Muslim world is much better than it
might appear. Its only enemy there is Iran, and that threat is much less clear than
the Israelis say publicly. But the threat of Russia intervening in the Muslim world
-- particularly in Syria and Egypt -- is terrifying to the Israelis. It is a risk
they won't live with if they don't have to. So the Israelis switched their policy in
Georgia with lightning speed. This could create frictions with the United States,
but the Israeli-American relationship isn't what it used to be.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post
on: September 08, 2008, 02:28:19 PM
THE FOUNDATION: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
“Let us hear of the dignity of man’s nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God.” —John Adams
“This is hardly the first presidential campaign to pit an antiabortion Republican ticket against pro-choice Democrats. Never before, however, has the difference been so stark. Obama advocates abortion rights even more sweeping than those enacted under Roe v. Wade. ‘The first thing I’d do as president,’ he assured the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, ‘is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.’ The measure would not only codify Roe, it would eliminate even restrictions on abortion that the Supreme Court has allowed—the federal ban on government funding of abortion, for example, or the law prohibiting partial-birth abortion. During last month’s forum at the Saddleback Church, Obama was asked when ‘a baby gets human rights.’ He fudged: ‘Answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.’ But there is nothing hesitant about Obama’s abortion stance. As an Illinois lawmaker, he opposed a bill making it clear that premature babies born alive after surviving a failed abortion must be protected and cannot be killed or simply left to die. Even after virtually identical legislation—the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002—passed unanimously in the U.S. House and Senate, Obama continued to oppose the state version. On abortion, no presidential candidate has ever been so extreme. And when has a Republican ticket ever been so unabashedly antiabortion?” —Jeff Jacoby
“Let me say of myself and almost everyone I know in the press, all the chattering classes and political strategists and inside dopesters of the Amtrak Acela Line: We live in a bubble and have around us bubble people. We are Bubbleheads... And when you forget you’re a Bubblehead you get in trouble, you misjudge things. For one thing, you assume evangelical Christians will be appalled and left agitated by the circumstances of Mrs. Palin’s daughter. But modern American evangelicals are among the last people who’d judge her harshly. It is the left that is about to go crazy with Puritan judgments; it is the right that is about to show what mellow looks like. Religious conservatives know something’s wrong with us, that man’s a mess. They are not left dazed by the latest applications of this fact. ‘This just in—there’s a lot of sinning going on out there’ is not a headline they’d understand to be news. So the media’s going to wait for the Christian right to rise up and condemn Mrs. Palin, and they’re not going to do it because it’s not their way, and in any case her problems are their problems. Christians lived through the second half of the 20th century, and the first years of the 21st. They weren’t immune from the culture, they just eventually broke from it, or came to hold themselves in some ways apart from it. I think the media will explain the lack of condemnation as ‘Republican loyalty’ and ‘talking points.’ But that’s not what it will be. Another Bubblehead blind spot. I’m bumping into a lot of critics who do not buy the legitimacy of small town mayorship... and executive as opposed to legislative experience. But executives, even of small towns, run something. There are 262 cities in this country with a population of 100,000 or more. But there are close to a hundred thousand small towns with ten thousand people or less. ‘You do the math,’ the conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway told me. ‘We are a nation of Wasillas, not Chicagos’.” —Peggy Noonan
RE: THE LEFT
“[Sarah Palin is]... the object of the cultural disdain of a left that loves the working class in theory, but is mystified or offended by its lifestyle and conservative values in reality. If there’s ever been an exemplar of the rural America that, in Barack Obama’s telling, ‘bitterly’ clings to its guns and religion, it’s Sarah Palin. It’s her misfortune to be a pioneer with the wrong ideology. So much bile was directed at Clarence Thomas because he was the ‘wrong’ kind of black man. Pro-life, pro-gun and a down-the-line, if populist, conservative, Palin is a traitor to her gender and thus encounters the sort of fury always directed at apostates... A lot of Palin-hatred is couched in terms of her lack of experience. Fair enough, but there’s a tone of contemptuous dismissiveness about the experience that she does have—fueled no doubt by her career in ‘fly-over country’ so remote no one really flies over it. The Obama campaign is loath to admit that she’s governor of Alaska, pretending instead she’s still mayor of tiny Wasilla, and the outraged commentary in the press makes it sound like the vice presidency is an office of such import that it would be better if the newcomer were at the top of the ticket and the wizened pro at the bottom—just like the Democrats.” —Rich Lowry
FOR THE RECORD
“Unlike Barack Obama, who thought so highly of himself that he wrote two autobiographies before he accomplished anything, Mrs. Palin has raised a family, run a business, managed a city and governed a state. She took on corrupt members of her own party, toppled a sitting Republican governor and said ‘no’ to Alaska’s infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’ She is pro-life, pro-family, pro-Second Amendment and pro-free enterprise. She is the governor of America’s most natural resource-rich state and is an advocate of oil drilling in ANWR. (Perhaps she can talk some sense into McCain on that issue.) Oh, and she has an 80 percent approval rating among Alaskans.” —Doug Patton
“In our administration, our mission has been to appoint the best qualified people we could find, to fill substantial jobs with substantial individuals. And the result of this merit-based approach, not surprisingly, is that more women have served in top-level policy positions in our administration than in any previous one. And they’ve served with distinction, earning promotions and reappointments at a very high rate. We can be proud of what you and the other women have accomplished...I’m very happy about everything that American women are doing, yes, because it is good for women, but also because it’s good for America.” —Ronald Reagan
“Frankly, what the tank ride did for Michael Dukakis, the plywood Parthenon just might do for Obama. Then again, this entire event, seemingly a miscalculation of epic proportions, could have been an example of perfect political acumen. For example, before becoming transfixed by Temple Obama, I was reading up on Obama’s relationship with ex-Weather Underground member and unrepentant Capitol- and Pentagon-bomber William Ayers—news of which the Obama campaign has been eager to downplay if not squelch entirely. I was also trying to unravel the ties between Obama, Obama’s unsavory fundraiser Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko, and Rezko’s unsavory money source Iraqi-British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. (This is another story journalists are being pressured not to cover, as Andrew Walden at Accuracy in Media has shockingly and extensively documented, in this case by Auchi’s legal eagles.) And who knew Obama’s veep nominee Joe Biden had Rezko connections through a longtime associate named Joseph Cari Jr., who admitted involvement in a Rezko kickback scheme? And on it goes. But then, suddenly, Temple Obama went up, and with it, like incense in the fire, all patience for hard news.” —Diana West
“Currently, the United States has the second-highest corporate tax rate of all industrial societies, after economically anemic Japan. The U.S. federal rate of taxation is 35 percent, and when the average state and local corporate tax rates are added, American corporations pay, on average, a 39.27 percent tax on their incomes. China is at 25 percent; Mexico is at 28 percent; socialist Sweden is at 28 percent; and prosperous Ireland is at a mere 12.5 percent. If these comparative rates continue for much longer, the United States economy will mortally bleed jobs and prosperity to a world—both nominally socialist and free market—that has learned the low corporate tax lesson from Reagan’s America that current Washington has forgotten. Obama’s solution to the problem of jobs and industry going offshore is to lean toward protectionist policies (renegotiate NAFTA, oppose new free trade treaties, etc.). When one combines Obama’s plans to tighten international trade, create carbon trading regulations that will be the equivalent of a further $100 billion corporate tax, raise taxes generally on business, as well as his mind-numbingly counterproductive ‘windfall’ profit taxes on petroleum product companies (full disclosure: as a rational person, I support and provide professional advice to the petroleum industry), one has a formula for economic catastrophe not seen since Herbert Hoover’s similar Depression-inducing policy in 1929.” —Tony Blankley
“Beginning in the 1950s, conservatives forged a political philosophy and, over the next several decades, built an intellectual infrastructure to popularize their principles and apply them to policy problems. And they found political leaders who could implement those solutions. In short, conservatism advanced because conservatives refused to get in tune with the times. They possessed the moral vision and intellectual courage to compose a better tune. They offered leadership, and they accepted the responsibilities that go with it. But too many Republicans have spent the last several years demonstrating that they can’t be trusted to lead... If they want to regain power, Republicans would be wise to re-embrace conservative principles. Liberalism is a bankrupt philosophy that has been tried and found wanting in one major policy issue after another, from national defense to social welfare, from education to the national economic policy. That’s why candidates run away from liberal ideas when it’s time for a general election. Republicans must run toward conservative policies if they want the tides of history to sweep them back into power.” —Ed Feulner
SELECT READER COMMENTS
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: September 08, 2008, 01:42:44 PM
I must be getting to be a crotchety old fart, but I don't care for it at all when I see fighters continuing to pound on someone obviously already KTFO. I don't care that it is within the rules.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: La experiencia del Gathering
on: September 08, 2008, 01:34:18 PM
Hablando del tema de cuchillos escondidos:
Por unos anos he tratado de instalar en la cultura de nuestros Gatherings el concepto de usar y defender cuchillos escondidos-- y en el Gathering del Agosto 10 puedo decir que por la primera vez estoy contento.
Mi pensamiento es lo siguiente: Lo que se nos pasa en condicion de adrenalina, lo que sea, es algo que aprendemos en una manera muy, muy profunda-- !y una pelea Dog Brothers si' es una experiencia de adrenalina! Por lo cual me parece una tremenda oportunidad instalar no solo habilidades fisicas, sino tambien maneras de pensar.
Aunque nuestras peleas son del mundo "ritual" (?como se dice "ritual"?) en mi opinion queremos instalar el buen habito de averiguando la posibilidad de armas escondidas y experimentando con los retos (challenges) de usar nuestras armas escondidas por que en la calle la cosa puede ser asi'.
Espero que me puedan entender mi espanol.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 08, 2008, 01:22:48 PM
", , , for a long time I have belonged to an old social/business club (The California Club) here in LA; it's comfortable and quiet. Mostly Republican, but a few Democrats. All great people. It's fun to listen to Pete Wilson argue politics in the steam room, a CEO express his business opinion on the squash court, or Warren Christopher criticize Rice over lunch."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Big Three Bailout
on: September 08, 2008, 04:39:12 AM
Detroit's Blackmail Attempt
Is Beyond Shameless
By PAUL INGRASSIA
September 8, 2008; Page A19
It was only a matter of time, unfortunately. And now that Michigan is an election-year swing state and Detroit's auto makers are posting sales declines topping 20% each month, the time has arrived. The issue of a government bailout for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler is moving to center stage.
Barack Obama has said yes to this proposal early on, and last week John McCain climbed on board. So much for change and fighting pork-barrel spending. We're moving beyond moral hazard here, folks, and into a moral quagmire. At least the Chrysler bailout of 1980 was structured so that taxpayers could reap a reward for taking a financial risk on the company's future. That's not what's happening now.
Late last year, in its energy bill, Congress authorized $25 billion of low-interest loans to high-risk borrowers -- a strategy perfected by home-mortgage lenders in recent years. In this case the high-risk borrowers are the loss-plagued Detroit car companies. The loans are supposed to help them develop new, fuel-efficient cars, and retool their factories to produce them. Detroit, not being satisfied with this taxpayer largess, wants $50 billion.
This is bad public policy for reasons of philosophy, practicality and precedent. And by the way, this is a dumb idea for the car companies too, simply in terms of their own self-interest.
Philosophically, if the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae debacles teach us any lesson, it is that subsidizing private profits with public risk is a terrible idea. Implicit government backing has led the managements of these two companies to make reckless investments that have backfired badly. Now government backing has become explicit, and under the plan announced by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson yesterday, taxpayers likely will pay billions to keep Fannie and Freddie solvent -- with the exact amount uncertain.
The Detroit Three got into their current quandary by making decades of bad decisions, with some help from the United Auto Workers union. Yet despite the current crisis, General Motors is still paying dividends to shareholders, the car companies are paying bonuses to executives, and the private-equity billionaires at Cerberus who bought Chrysler are trying to reap enormous rewards from their risky investment. Meanwhile the UAW's Jobs Bank -- which pays laid-off workers for doing nothing -- remains in place.
Of course, we can all hope that shareholders do well, that executives reap handsome rewards for work well done, that the Cerberus billionaires make more billions on Chrysler, and that workers get paid on whatever terms the car companies agree. But we taxpayers shouldn't subsidize any of this.
The only reason we should bail out any private company is the risk that its demise would wreak havoc on the entire economy. Bear Stearns conceivably passed the test; its collapse could have threatened the U.S. financial system, and the government didn't make the mistake of bailing out shareholders or management.
But just what calamity are we trying to avoid by subsidizing loans to Detroit? That we'll all be sentenced to the indignities of driving Hondas, Mazdas or BMWs? Toyota and Honda, the current leaders in hybrids and alternative-fuel technology, did their research and development on their own dimes.
Even if Ford, GM and Chrysler were to go out of business -- and it's highly unlikely that all three will simply cease to exist -- there will be plenty of good cars for Americans to buy. And many will be made in America, even if they carry foreign nameplates. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and other foreign car companies have expanded greatly their U.S. manufacturing operations in recent years. They're doing so because Americans are buying their cars.
As a practical matter, Americans could choose to buy more Detroit cars. Frankly, they should -- considering such outstanding products as the Ford Focus, a fuel-efficient and comfortable compact, and the Chevrolet Malibu, a terrific new mid-sized sedan. But they're not. Americans are voting with their dollars, which is their right.
And what about the precedent the government would set? If we bail out Detroit, where do we stop? The newspaper industry is in financial trouble because more readers and advertisers are turning to the Internet. Newspapers are good for democracy -- Thomas Jefferson said he would choose newspapers over government, after all -- so shouldn't they get low-interest government loans to help them adjust to the Internet? Of course not, and ditto for Detroit.
If Detroit's auto makers would apply more than knee-jerk analysis to what's being proposed, they would reject it quickly. No matter what their spin, including the patently absurd claim that government-guaranteed, below-market loans aren't a bailout, loan subsidies will paint them in the public mind as corporate welfare recipients that can't compete on their own. That can't be good for sales.
More fundamentally, the last thing these companies need just now is more debt. They are leveraged to the hilt, and risk climbing into a financial hole from which they'll never recover. Better to raise money by selling more assets (e.g., Ford's recent sale of Jaguar and Land Rover) or raising more equity -- even if new investors would require management changes or other measures.
All this said, if Detroit's short-sightedness and political expediency make a bailout inevitable, let's make sure taxpayers stand to get rewarded for their risk. In 1980, the government didn't lend any money directly to Chrysler, instead guaranteeing loans to the company made by private lenders, mostly banks, in the amount of $1.2 billion (bailouts, like everything else, were cheaper back then). But in return, the government got warrants to buy Chrysler stock at a very low price. When Chrysler staged its spectacular recovery and paid off the bank loans seven years early, the warrants soared in value and the government earned some $400 million.
Then CEO Lee Iacocca tried to get the government to forego its profits -- he even got into a telephone shouting match with Treasury Secretary Donald Regan. But Regan, backed by President Reagan, stuck to his guns.
One other stipulation: any low-interest loans to develop fuel-efficient cars should be made available to all car companies, not just the Detroit Three. The law passed by Congress last year is framed to make this highly unlikely. But if developing fuel-efficient and alternative-energy cars is deemed worthy of taxpayer subsidies for public-policy purposes, it's just common sense not to put all our eggs in Detroit's basket.
Mr. Ingrassia, a former Detroit bureau chief for this newspaper, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his automotive coverage. He writes on automotive issues for The Journal, Condé Nast Portfolio and other publications.
Write to Paul Ingrassia at paul.ingrassia
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part three
on: September 08, 2008, 04:10:21 AM
Even now, after his "conversion," Dr. Fadl is no one's idea of a modern secular thinker. Rather, his manifesto rejects the inherent radicalism of jihadism in favor of more orthodox conservative values, a return to a kind of Islamic mean. More than that, it is a frank recognition of reality—namely, that the jihadist fervor of men like Zawahiri can only lead Muslims down one dead-end street after another.
How widespread is this recognition? That remains to be seen, as do its consequences. As Max Boot has noted in COMMENTARY,1 it takes neither a large organization nor particularly deep pockets to perpetrate devastating terrorist attacks, and terrorist groups have shown considerable resilience even in the face of the most devastating setbacks. Furthermore, although al Qaeda may have been gravely wounded in the past year, Hizballah has grown considerably stronger and more confident. The Bush administration kept its nerve in Iraq, and may finally have won the war. But it seems to have lost its nerve vis-à-vis Iran's quest to become a nuclear power. Israel defeated Yasir Arafat's second intifada, but it may soon be beset by a third one, this time planned and instigated by Hamas.
Still, al Qaeda's decline offers a kind of portrait-in-miniature of a civilization that seems perpetually to be collapsing in on itself. Here is a movement in which suicide—that is, self-destruction—is treated as the ultimate act of self-assertion. A movement that sees itself as an Islamic vanguard, leading the way toward a genuine Muslim umma, but is permanently at war with the Muslim communities it inhabits. A movement whose attacks beyond the Islamic world have mainly had the effect of accelerating the very forces by which it is sealing its own fate. To use an inexact astronomical analogy, this is a movement with the quality of a supernova: even as an envelope of superheated gas rapidly expands outward, its core is compressing and ultimately implodes.
A similar pattern played out with the pan-Arabist regimes of the 1950's and 60's. And the same forces are at work today in Iran, where the regime's outward-directed, "revolutionary" activities—from supporting Hamas to engineering Hizballah's de-facto takeover of Lebanon to developing nuclear weapons—seem almost purposely designed to counterbalance the weight of the regime's manifold domestic discontents.
As for how the United States and its allies should attempt to deal with this new reality, one temptation is simply to stay away, on the theory that no good can come from putting our hands in such a mess. This is roughly the view of the libertarian and paleoconservative Right, and perhaps a majority of the Left. But the view hardly bears discussion: all mention of Israel aside, access to Middle Eastern energy resources is a vital American interest and will almost certainly remain so for decades. The Muslim world is also inextricably a part of the Western one, particularly in Europe. Nor is the global terrorist threat likely to go away even if al Qaeda does. The possibility that a regime that sponsors or supports terrorists might be in a position to supply them with weapons of mass destruction is a direct threat to us.
A second option, associated with the so-called realist school, contends that with rare exceptions, the U.S. should deal with the Muslim world more or less as it is, without seeking to change it.2 This is a view that has much to recommend it—at least in the hands of a master diplomatic practitioner. But Metternichs are hard to come by, and in the hands of lesser statesmen, realism easily slides into passive acquiescence in an intolerable status quo—or into intolerable changes to it. Witness the readiness of Colin Powell, as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the first Bush administration, to accept Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a fait accompli.
A third view, shared to varying degrees by neoconservatives and liberal internationalists, is that the U.S. and the West have no choice but actively to seek domestic reforms in Muslim countries. Needless to say, such a course is fraught with risks and often prone to mishandling, overreaching, and failure. But some version of it is the only approach that can, if not heal the pathologies of the Muslim world, then at least ameliorate and contain them so that they do not end up arriving unbidden on our doorstep, as they did one morning in September 2001.
This is not the place to lay out precisely how the U.S. might go about pursuing such a course with greater success than it has achieved thus far. But a few points are worth noting in light of the experience detailed above:
First, while we should pursue democratic (and economic) openings wherever we realistically can do so, our overarching and primary aim is to make the Muslim world unsafe for radicalism—whether that radicalism is of the Islamist, pan-Arabist, or Baathist variety. This means a policy of unyielding opposition to groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and to the Iranian and Syrian regimes, despite growing calls to come to terms with all of them. But we must also come to terms with the limits of what intervention in Muslim politics can plausibly achieve. In particular, we need to be attentive to the fact that Western-style political or social prescriptions can often be counterproductive.3
Second, the experience of the so-called Anbar Awakening of tribal leaders against al Qaeda is an instructive reminder that the Muslim world does not, as was widely asserted in the wake of September 11, divide merely between a handful of extremists and a "vast majority" of moderates who can easily be rallied to our side. Instead, Muslim societies typically divide into at least three significant blocs: a "pre-modern" element, consisting mainly of tribesmen, peasants, nomads, and the like; a "modern" element, typically urban, educated, and, by the standards of their societies, middle-class; and an "anti-modern" element, consisting mostly of Islamists but also of members of the Baath party and other fascistic groups.
So far, many of our democracy-promotion efforts have been aimed at the middle group, the one most familiar to us. But this is not, in all cases, politically the most consequential element. What we have learned in Iraq is that it is possible, indeed necessary, to isolate anti-moderns by creating political alliances between the urban middle class and the tribes.
Third, we can seek ways to cultivate nationalist sentiment in the Muslim world, not least because jihadists detest, and fear, the notion of Arab and Muslim nationalism as yet another locus of loyalty that has nothing to do with Islam. In hindsight, Iraq's near-miraculous soccer victory in last year's Asian Cup was a significant moment in its evolution as a post-Baathist state, confirming that there really is such a thing as an Iraqi nationalism shared by Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds alike.
Finally, although the internal factors that ultimately did so much to cripple al Qaeda were, so to speak, written into its very DNA, they were not triggered until the United States proved itself capable of defeating the bin Laden gang militarily—first incompletely in Afghanistan, later decisively in Iraq. The importance of these confrontations lay not only in the actual killing or capture of al Qaeda's leadership and its foot soldiers but also in the demonstration to a watching Muslim world of the full extent of American power and the comparative weakness of al Qaeda. Its defeat finally pricked the Muslim myth that the jihadists were a military match for the U.S., just as Israel's victory in the Six-Day war of 1967 made a mockery of the martial pretensions of pan-Arabism and dealt Nasser a near-fatal blow.
Now the government of neighboring Iran has invested some $20 billion of scarce national treasure, and the weight of the regime's prestige, in its nuclear programs. Aside from the inherent case for getting rid of these programs for the threat they pose to core U.S. interests, it ought at least to be considered that their swift destruction might, far from rallying Iranians to their leaders' side, produce precisely the opposite effect.
These suggestions are only a sketch of a policy. But effective policy depends above all on a correct understanding of the people, places, and things toward which it is being applied. To speak of an Islamic civilization is to speak in error. Rather, there is a Muslim world. It is fractured, and fractious. At times, Muslim causes or conflicts spill over into the non-Islamic world, as they did in the 1990's. Today, thanks in no small part to our actions, they remain internal—expression not, or not merely, of a clash of civilizations, but of the convulsion of one. In this internal disunity lie our strength and our opportunity—and ultimately, perhaps, the reform of the Muslim world itself.
Bret Stephens is a member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and the author of the paper's "Global View," a weekly column.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: September 08, 2008, 04:09:38 AM
But the Soviet (and Yugoslav) collapse had another important consequence: it reshaped the map of the Muslim world by bringing newly independent post-Soviet states into its fold. Some independence movements, notably in Chechnya and Bosnia, took on an Islamic coloration. Elsewhere, a pan-Islamic consciousness, which had already gained considerable momentum with the 1979 Iranian revolution and the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, was spreading rapidly. It was aided immeasurably by advances in mass communication and by the worldwide establishment of thousands of Saudi-funded madrassas preaching an inflexible version of desert Islam. If, previously, the very idea of an "Islamic civilization" would have seemed at most a remote abstraction to most Muslims living within it, in the 90's it became at least possible to imagine this as an expression not only of common religious identity but also of shared political aspirations.
Most deeply invested in the concept were the Islamist radicals for whom the abolition of the caliphate represented not the passing of an outdated institution but a historical calamity. To them, the 90's presented its own set of opportunities. Unable to dislodge the "apostate regimes" of the Middle East through terrorist campaigns, they decided to focus on dislodging their patron—the United States—from the region.
The idea of killing large numbers of Westerners, particularly Americans, had the additional advantage of being both plausible and popular. Plausible, because the Reagan administration's precipitous withdrawal from Beirut after the 1983 bombings of our Marine barracks and embassy, followed a decade later by the Clinton administration's equally precipitous withdrawal from Somalia, suggested a superpower easily frightened. And popular because the U.S. really was broadly detested throughout the Muslim world, not least on account of its support for the selfsame apostate regimes that were detested by the radicals.
The strategy of an "escalating sequence" of terrorist attacks on American targets was explicitly laid out by the jihadist theoretician Abu Bakr Naji (the name is almost certainly a pseudonym) in a document, The Management of Savagery, published on the Internet in 2004. Predicated on the idea that everyone loves a winner, it was not, in its own terms, a bad strategy.
In the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration and other governments had been quick to brand Osama bin Laden as an outcast among Muslims. But the overwhelming weight of evidence suggested differently. There were large public demonstrations of support for bin Laden in the Philippines and Indonesia. In the Muslim areas of Thailand, the name "Osama" became suddenly popular among newborn boys and girls, according to an October 2001 report in the Hindustan Times. Portraits of bin Laden were hot-selling items from Bangladesh to Nigeria. A poll found that fully 42 percent of Kuwaitis, whose country the U.S. had liberated only a decade earlier, considered bin Laden a "freedom fighter." Among Palestinians, 9/11 made bin Laden "the most popular figure in the West Bank and Gaza, second only to Arafat," according to a Fatah leader in Nablus.
Al Qaeda's popularity would not soon fade. In 2004, the Pew Global Survey found 55 percent of Jordanians and 65 percent of Pakistanis holding a favorable view of bin Laden. Nor was al Qaeda slow to capitalize on its stardom. By 2002, European intelligence agencies were reporting a sharp uptick in the organization's recruitment efforts. More worrisomely, al Qaeda was able to transform itself from a group into a movement. Some jihadist outfits, like Abu Musab al Zarqawi's Tawhid wal-Jihad and the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, swore loyalty oaths directly to bin Laden. Others, including Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, began imitating al Qaeda's methods by attacking prominent Western targets. Cells sprang up in Gaza. Al-Qaeda "wannabes" murdered 52 people in the London bombings of July 2005 and plotted to murder the prime minister of Canada.
But it was the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that, as Naji wrote in The Management of Savagery, had the most galvanizing effect on would-be jihadists. Even before the U.S. toppled the Taliban, the radical televangelist Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi had decreed: "Islamic law says that if a Muslim country is attacked, the other Muslim countries must help it, with their souls and their money, until it is liberated." His call was widely heeded. By late 2006, al Qaeda could count on as many as 5,000 to 10,000 active members in Iraq, many of whom (including nearly all the senior leadership) had come from abroad. And while they were never the major part of the Sunni insurgency that gripped the country until last year, they accounted for an estimated 90 percent of all suicide bombings.
Late 2006 was also the moment when it became at least conceivable that Naji's strategy, which foresaw the creation of "liberated zones" under the dominion of al-Qaeda-like groups, might actually succeed on the ground. Al Qaeda in Iraq had largely "liberated" Anbar province through an unbridled campaign of terror against other Sunnis. It had also pursued a policy of deliberate carnage against Iraq's Shiites, with the intent, and effect, of creating all-but ungovernable chaos in the country. In the United States, the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, recommended that no more U.S. troops be committed to Iraq, while the Democratic party, which had largely supported the initial decision to invade Iraq, began issuing increasingly hectic calls for immediate withdrawal.
Had those calls become U.S. policy, Naji's strategy might have been vindicated. The "fall of prestige of America" that he prognosticated would have accelerated dramatically throughout the Muslim world. Precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would have been seen by jihadists and their fellow travelers in a similar light to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988—as proof that it was possible to defeat a superpower, and as a harbinger of their enemies' complete rout. Al Qaeda would have had every incentive to apply the Iraq model—the "management of savagery"—to other Muslim states, particularly weaker secular states like Jordan, deemed guilty of "apostasy." And al Qaeda's own prestige would have been hugely boosted, offering a large pool of new recruits to replenish those who had been lost.
That, however, is not how matters have turned out, at least so far. President Bush pushed ahead with his "surge" strategy, under a new commanding officer using tried and true counterinsurgency tactics. Its effects were soon felt. Al Qaeda's ranks were decimated, and the flow of foreign fighters dried up.
In late 2007, the U.S. military captured letters from two of al Qaeda's "emirs" in Iraq. One of them appraised his situation thus:
There were almost 600 fighters in our sector before the [Sunni] tribes changed course 360 [sic] degrees. . . . Many of our fighters quit and some of them joined the deserters. . . . As a result of that the number of fighters dropped down to 20 or less. We were mistreated, cheated, and betrayed by some of our brothers who used to be part of the jihadi movement, therefore we must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely.
The second emir offered similar testimony:
The Islamic State of Iraq [al Qaeda] is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar province. Al Qaeda's expulsion from Anbar created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear, and the unwillingness to fight.
Nor was it only in Iraq that al Qaeda found itself on the run. In summer 2007, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that the terrorist group was once again in a position to strike the U.S. Yet less than a year later, CIA Director Michael Hayden offered a strikingly different assessment to the Washington Post. "On balance, we're doing pretty well," he said. "Near-strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near-strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally . . . as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on [its] form of Islam." Polls found declining levels of support for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups in several places in the Muslim world; in Pakistan, Islamist parties were trounced in February's parliamentary elections. Key al-Qaeda leaders were also killed in Predator strikes in the Pakistani hinterland bordering Afghanistan.
In short, al Qaeda's star has dimmed considerably, and it is important to consider the reasons why. Though there can be little question that the surge accounts for a large part of the explanation, it is equally true that the surge would not have succeeded without the support of the very Sunnis who, until 2007, had provided sanctuary and support to men like Zarqawi and his minions. This switch is in turn explained by al Qaeda's barbaric treatment of ordinary Sunnis and their tribal leaders during the period of the "Anbar caliphate."
And that raises a question: why did al Qaeda put itself "in a state of war with the masses in the region" (in Naji's words) rather than using those masses as allies or pawns in their war against America and the so-called apostate governments? The answer, it turns out, is inscribed in the very nature of the jihadist movement.
"All existing so-called Muslim societies are also Jahili societies," wrote Sayyid Qutb, al Qaeda's intellectual godfather, in his 1964 book Milestones. By "Jahili societies," Qutb was referring to the pre-Islamic, pagan world of Arabia that lived in "ignorance of divine guidance." Put simply, Qutb, his fellow travelers, and his spiritual heirs were, and are, not merely at war with the modern world, as defined by liberal democratic government and Western social mores. They are also murderously inclined toward "heretical Muslims," particularly Shiites. They object violently to Muslim attempts to fashion a kind of compromise modernity between Western and Islamic norms. They seek to overthrow secular Muslim regimes like Indonesia and Jordan, and religious Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia that maintain relations with the West.
They are also—crucially—at war with the pre-modern world: traditional tribal societies in which authority is handed down from father to son and in which Islam is a religion and not a binding legal code or political ideology. Typically, Muslim regimes have been careful to accommodate their tribes, plying them with money, government jobs, small arms, and other tokens of honor, and above all by allowing them to govern their internal affairs. This was (generally) true even in Saddam's Iraq. To the jihadists, however, tribal structures represent a twofold political challenge: first, they instill a powerful sense of local identity as opposed to a strictly pan-Islamic one; second, their systems of patronage and charity get in the way of the jihadists' agenda of radical social change.
It was this anti-tribalist attitude, combined with the utter savagery with which the jihadists put it into practice, that proved to be al Qaeda's undoing in Iraq. And that was not the only manner of its undoing. Precisely because of the post-9/11 transformation from a group to a movement, al Qaeda's leadership lost control of what in the West would be called message discipline.
"I repeat the warning against separating from the masses, whatever the danger," wrote Ayman al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi in an intercepted 2005 letter, stressing the need to avoid killing other Muslims, including Shiites. Zarqawi ignored the advice. The mass killings of fellow Muslims reversed the popular support previously garnered through attacks on Western targets. Worse, al Qaeda picked fights with countries that might have otherwise looked the other way at its activities. As late as early 2002, for example, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, was flatly denying that al Qaeda even existed in his country. Four years later, after spectacular al-Qaeda attacks on the kingdom, the same prince was threatening to "cut off the tongues" of bin Laden and Zawahiri.
Most significantly, al Qaeda's failures and reversals began to sow deeper doubts about its basic purposes. The breakthrough came with the publication of The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World, a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, a/k/a "Dr. Fadl." The importance of this work derived from the standing of its author. Dr. Fadl was the first "emir" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the author of the 1988 Foundations for the Preparation of Holy War, a bible among jihadists.
There are various theories as to why Dr. Fadl—now imprisoned in Egypt—wrote the book; these range from a long and bitter personal feud with Zawahiri to coercion by the Egyptian government to a genuine ideological volte face. Whatever the case, its chief significance lies in its insistence that jihadist activities must be subordinate to ordinary moral considerations. The jihadi, Dr. Fadl writes, cannot steal for the sake of jihad, or murder Muslim civilians, religious minorities, or foreign tourists, or seek the overthrow of existing Muslim governments, or cavalierly decree the apostasy of others, or disobey his parents. ("We find parents," Dr. Fadl states severely, "who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspaper as a fatality or a prisoner.")
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to manage savagery
on: September 08, 2008, 04:08:41 AM
How to Manage Savagery
By BRET STEPHENS
September 5, 2008
"Islam has bloody borders." So wrote Samuel Huntington in "The Clash of Civilizations?," his 1993 Foreign Affairs article later expanded (minus the question mark) into a best-selling book. Huntington argued that, eclipsing past eras of national and ideological conflict, "the battle lines of the future" would be drawn along the "fault lines between civilizations." Here, according to Huntington, was where current and coming generations would define the all-important "us" versus "them."
At the time of its writing, "The Clash of Civilizations?" had, beyond the virtues of pithiness and historical sweep, something to recommend it on purely empirical grounds. It seemed especially plausible as applied to the "crescent-shaped Islamic bloc" from the Maghreb to the East Indies.
In the Balkans, for example, Orthodox Serbs were at the throats of Bosnian and later Kosovar Muslims. In Africa, Muslims were either skirmishing or at war with Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In the Caucasus, there was all-out war between Orthodox Russia and Muslim Chechnya, all-out war between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan, and violent skirmishes between Orthodox Ossetia and Muslim Ingushetia.
In the Middle East, some 500,000 U.S. troops had intervened to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Israel had just endured several years of the first Palestinian intifada, soon to be followed by a fraudulent peace process leading, in turn, to a second and far bloodier intifada. Further to the east, Pakistan and India were at perpetual daggers drawn over Kashmir. There were tensions—sometimes violent—between the Hindu majority and the large Muslim minority in India, just as there were between the Christian minority and the Muslim majority in Indonesia.
For Huntington, all this was of a piece with a pattern dating at least as far back as the battle of Poitiers in 732, when Charles Martel turned back the advancing Umayyads and saved Europe for Christianity. Nor was the pattern likely to end any time soon. "The centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline," he wrote. To the contrary: "It could become more virulent."
As predictions go, Huntington's landmark thesis seemed in many ways to have been borne out by subsequent events. Long before 9/11, and long before George W. Bush came to office, anti-American hostility within the Muslim—and, particularly, the Arab—world was plainly on the rise. So was terrorist activity directed at U.S. targets. Meanwhile, the advent of satellite TV brought channels like al-Jazeera and Hizballah's al-Manar to millions of Muslim homes and public places, offering their audience a robust diet of anti-American, anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic "news," propaganda, and Islamist indoctrination.
It should have come as no surprise, then, that Muslim reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 tended toward the euphoric—in striking confirmation, it would seem, of Huntington's bold thesis. And that thesis would seem to be no less firmly established today, when opinion polls show America's "favorability ratings" plummeting even in Muslim countries once relatively well-disposed toward us: in Turkey, for example, descending from 52 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2008, and in Indonesia from 75 percent to 37 percent in the same period (according to the Pew Global Survey). These findings are all the more depressing in light of the massive humanitarian assistance provided to Indonesia by the U.S. after the 2004 tsunami. The same might be said of Pakistan where, despite similarly critical U.S. assistance after the 2005 earthquake, already low opinions of the U.S. have sunk still further.
Nor is the phenomenon of "Muslim rage" directed against America alone. In Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and Germany—countries with widely varying foreign policies toward, and colonial histories in, the Muslim world—terrorist plots, terrorist attacks, spectacular murders, and mass rioting have made vivid the gulf that separates embittered and often radicalized Muslim minorities from the societies around them. Even in tiny, inoffensive Belgium, whose government was among the most vocal in opposing the war in Iraq and has bent over backward to respect the sensitivities of the Muslim community, the entire Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, according to the Flemish newspaper Het Volk, has been turned into a "breeding ground for thousands of jihad candidates."
And yet even as these trends unfolded, and continue to unfold, a second and almost opposite set of trends can be perceived today. Contrary to Huntington's forecast, much of world conflict is now overwhelmingly characterized by fighting and competition not between or among civilizations but within them. And nowhere is this truer than in the Muslim world.
Look again at the peripheries of the Islamic crescent where Huntington perceived a collision course between Islam and the West. In the Balkans, NATO intervention in Bosnia and later in Kosovo secured Muslim populations and ultimately ended the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. In Africa, U.S. diplomatic mediation helped to bring an end to the 22-year second Sudanese civil war and to initiate de-facto autonomy—with the ultimate goal of independence—for that country's largely Christian south. In Israel, the second intifada with its wave of suicide bombings was all but stopped cold by a combination of aggressive counterinsurgency operations and the building of a separation fence.
In the Caucasus, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended with a ceasefire that has held to this day, while Chechnya was brought to heel by a brutal military campaign directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Kashmir, there has been no direct fighting between India and Pakistan; the head of the main jihadist group lamented this past July that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had "murdered the Kashmir cause." Even as far afield as Mindanao in the Philippines, the radical Islamist Abu Sayyaf movement has been crippled by a combination of Filipino and American arms.
True, not all the wars of the Islamic periphery have ended: Hamas's Kassam rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel, and Hizballah, itself an Iranian proxy, has fully re-armed following the summer 2006 Lebanese war. In January 2007, Ethiopia invaded neighboring Somalia to depose a Taliban-like regime. Bombay was hit with a Madrid-style bombing attack on its commuter rails in 2006. Thailand's Muslim minority has been restive and violent.
Remarkably, however, the wars that chiefly roil the Islamic world today are no longer at its periphery. They are at the center, and they pit Muslims against other Muslims. The genocide in Darfur is being perpetrated by a regime that is every bit as Muslim—and black—as its victims. The Palestinians went from intifada to civil war: in 2006 and 2007, nearly as many Palestinians died violently at the hands of other Palestinians as at the hands of Israelis. In Lebanon, there have been bloody clashes this year among Shiites, Sunnis, and Druze. Last year, the Lebanese government had to send troops into Palestinian refugee camps to suppress an insurrectionary attempt by a Syrian-sponsored terrorist group.
It does not end there. Saudi Arabia has been under attack by al Qaeda since 2003. In November 2005, Jordan suffered devastating suicide bombings at three Amman hotels in which nearly all the victims were, like their murderers, Sunni Muslims. In Afghanistan, a Muslim government led by Hamid Karzai—a Pashtun—fights an Islamist rebellion by Taliban remnants and their allies, also mostly Pashtun. In Pakistan, the axis of conflict has shifted from the east to the west, where sizable areas are under the control of Islamist militants; in 2007 alone, some 1,500 Pakistanis were killed in terrorist attacks, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto notably among them.
Then there is Iraq. Though Americans naturally focus on the more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen killed so far since the country was liberated in April 2003, that figure pales in comparison with the number of Iraqis killed in inter- and intra-sectarian violence: Sunnis against Shiites and Kurds, Sunnis against Sunnis, Shiites against Sunnis, Shiites against Shiites. Cumulatively, the number of civilian deaths since early 2006, when sectarian fighting got under way in earnest, now stands at just over 100,000 (according to the Brookings Institution).
All this serves as a useful reminder of another significant fact. In the years immediately prior to 9/11, non-Muslims tended to be the likeliest targets of terrorism. In recent years, Muslims themselves have overwhelmingly been their co-religionists' primary victims. In 2007, of the nearly 8,000 deaths due to terrorism in the Middle East, only a handful were Israeli. Similarly, of the roughly 270 suicide bombings in 2007, some 240 took place in predominantly Muslim countries. Nearly 100 mosques were also the targets of terrorist attack, many at the hands of Muslims.
Taking the long view, one might note that intra-Islamic feuding is as old as the religion itself. Of Muhammad's immediate successors—the "righteous caliphs," according to Sunni tradition—the first, Abu Bakr, may have been poisoned; the next three are all known to have been assassinated, with the murder of the third caliph (Othman) resulting in the schism from which the Shiite branch of Islam emerged. The Abassid revolt destroyed the Umayyad caliphate in the 8th century; the early 9th century was marked by civil war between the sons of the fifth Abassid caliph, Haroun al-Rashid. Al Qaeda itself has ancient Islamic antecedents: the 8th-century Kharajites, for instance, were notorious for their extreme puritanism, frequent recourse to violence, and the belief that they could declare their Muslim opponents to be infidels and treat them accordingly.
To be sure, endless feuding is hardly unique to Islamic civilization: the history of the West is also one of intense competition, bitter conflict, and outbursts of religious fanaticism. On the whole, though, these conflicts have dissipated and evanesced as the West has almost universally adopted democratic forms of governance. By contrast, Islam's foundational patterns not only persist into the present day but in many ways have intensified.
There have been devastating civil wars in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, and an even more terrible war between Iran and Iraq. Even a partial list of prominent political assassinations in the Muslim world since World War II runs to over 100 names. It includes two prime ministers and a president of Egypt; two presidents and a prime minister of Bangladesh; three prime ministers and a president of Iran; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; two presidents, a president-elect, a prime minister, and a former prime minister of Lebanon; a president of Syria; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; a king and a former prime minister of Iraq; a president, a prime minister, and former prime minister of Pakistan; a king of Saudi Arabia. And these are just the successful attempts. The list of coups in the Muslim world is about as long. In Syria alone there have been no fewer than nine since 1949.
Several explanations have been offered for this history of violence. There is the absence of democracy, which forecloses opportunities for non-violent political change and pushes most forms of dissent into the mosque. There is the oil curse, which allows states like Saddam Hussein's Iraq to finance expensive wars, buy political support, sustain huge sclerotic bureaucracies, and prevent the diversification and modernization of their economies. There is the endemic tribalism of Muslim, and particularly Arab, societies, and the values that go with it: the claims of kinship, the premium on familial honor, the submission to established hierarchies, suspicion of those outside the clan. There is the moral abdication of the Muslim intellectual class, which, with some notable exceptions, fell prey to nearly every bad idea that came its way, from fascism to socialism to third-worldism. And there is the history of Islam itself, which has made a virtue of military conquest, dealt sharply with heretics, and, until the abolition of the caliphate in 1924 by Turkey's Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, typically combined political with religious authority.
There is also the fact that European colonial regimes overstayed their welcome in their Middle Eastern possessions, with the effect that more or less liberal movements like the Egyptian Wafd came to be seen as stooges of the West, incapable of achieving national goals through nonviolent means. Partly as a result of this failure, the Muslim world soured on liberalism before it ever really tasted it, and traditional liberal parties and policies were discredited in favor of more radical alternatives: the Muslim Brotherhood, the violent Arab nationalisms of the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq, Gamal Abdel Nasser and the "Free Officers" in Egypt, Algeria's National Liberation Front, and so on. Despite the manifest failings of these movements, and the triumph of liberal politics from Mexico City to Warsaw to Seoul, liberalism has never really recaptured its good name in the Muslim world beyond a handful of courageous individuals.
Exactly how to weigh the relative importance of these factors is hard to say; plainly they are mutually reinforcing. And while Muslim and especially Arab societies are not alone in suffering from them, they have come together in a unique way in those societies to produce a culture of perpetual failure and worsening crisis.
Should this have been more apparent to Huntington when he wrote "The Clash of Civilizations?" Perhaps. It may have been obscured, in part, by what later turned out to be the Muslim world's own version of a holiday from history. The Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in the following year seemed to cool Iran's revolutionary ardor. Civil wars in Lebanon and Yemen were brought to an end, leaving most existing Arab regimes as entrenched as ever. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the Middle East was no longer a cold-war battleground. Socialism lost favor, and some Middle Eastern regimes began expressing an interest in reforming their economies. From the outside, at least, one could almost begin imagining a "New Middle East," as Israel's Shimon Peres did with consummate naiveté in a 1993 book.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude
on: September 07, 2008, 12:22:34 PM
After the seminar today we did a bit together and he showed me his current understandings and movement. Deeply satisfying to see how he has grasped and evolved with the things we have worked together over the years, his understading of DBMA. His teaching here in Hawaii is deep and strong.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: September 07, 2008, 12:09:20 PM
Opositores a Morales saquean un avión militar cargado de material antidisturbios
¡Tanto que les maman gallo y vean los ....... que tienen! ¡UN GENERAL!
Éstos sí merecen nuestro Himno...
Enviado por un amigo:
Opositores a Evo saquean avión militar
Menos mal que no fue "nuestro" YV-1495
Yahoo News http://es.noticias.yahoo.com/efe/20080906/twl-opositores-a-morales-saquean-un-avio-e1e34ad.html
Noticiero Digital (05/09/08-9:55pm).- Este viernes centenares de opositores al gobierno de Evo Morales saquearon un avión militar cargado de material antidisturbios y gases lacrimógenos en Cobija, ciudad ubicada en el departamento de Pando. Los pilotos del avión, un general y dos capitanes, fueron liberados unas tres horas después.
Según Yahoo!News, unas "trescientas personas se encuentran en vigilia permanente en el aeródromo de Cobija.
Hasta donde hemos podido averiguar, el avión saqueado no es venezolano. En particular, no se trata del avión siglas YV-1495 de PDVSA que fue usado por Evo Morales en su reciente gira por Asia.
Foto: El Deber (Bolivia)
Lea la nota de Yahoo!News a continuación:
Opositores a Morales saquean un avión militar cargado de material antidisturbios
La Paz, 5 sep (EFE).- Centenares de opositores de la ciudad de Cobija, al norte de Bolivia, saquearon hoy un avión militar que había llegado al aeropuerto de esa localidad cargado de material antidisturbios y gases lacrimógenos, informó una fuente oficial.
Hugo Mopi, portavoz de la Prefectura de Pando, departamento cuya capital es Cobija, confirmó a Efe que miembros del Comité Cívico retuvieron a los tres militares que pilotaban la aeronave y trasladaron a sus oficinas todo el material antimotines que transportaban.
El funcionario de la gobernación pandina, controlada por la oposición, informó de que los tres militares, un general y dos capitanes, fueron liberados horas después de haber sido retenidos por "unas 300 personas" que se encontraban en "vigilia permanente" en el aeródromo de Cobija.
En la avioneta "encontraron 23 tambores con granadas de gases lacrimógenos y material antimotín", señaló el funcionario prefectural, quien agregó que los cívicos no van a devolverlo, según manifestó la presidenta de la entidad, Ana Melena.
Tanto los medios como Mopi confirmaron que las ruedas de la aeronave fueron pinchadas porque los tripulantes "querían escaparse", afirmó el funcionario.
Según la prensa local de Cobija, situada a unos 600 kilómetros al norte de La Paz, en la frontera con Brasil, los cívicos además tomaron cinco oficinas de instituciones estatales sin que la policía pudiera impedirlo.
En otras seis ciudades de mayoría opositora se ha desatado una ola de protestas, que incluyen bloqueos de carreteras e intentos de toma de oficinas estatales, desde que el Gobierno de Evo Morales aprobó por decreto la convocatoria de un referendo para someter a consulta popular la nueva Constitución.
El presidente Morales volvió a acusar hoy a los autores de las protestas de "golpistas" y de tener una motivación "netamente política". [¡No, pendejo!, es por razones deportivas... ¡Nomejodan...!]
Por su parte, la delegada de Morales en Pando, Nancy Texeira, en declaraciones a la Red Erbol, dijo que el asalto al avión militar fue obra de un "grupo de vándalos encabezado por el secretario general de la Prefectura".
Además, denunció que los militares fueron "agredidos, insultados y amenazados" y que un periodista fue brutalmente golpeado cuando desempeñaba su labor informativa en el aeropuerto.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus
on: September 07, 2008, 04:55:00 AM
US navy ship steams into port where Russian troops stationed
(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
The USS Mount Whitney, pictured here in the Bosphorus, today made a controversial landing at the port of Poti
James Hider in Tbilisi
A US navy flagship has steamed into a Georgian port where Russian troops are still stationed, stoking tensions once again in the tinderbox Caucasus region.
A previous trip by American warships was cancelled at the last minute a week ago amid fears that an armed stand off could erupt in the Black Sea port of Poti.
The arrival of the USS Mount Whitney came as Moscow accused Dick Cheney, the hawkish US vice-president, of stoking tensions during a visit to Tbilisi yesterday, in which he vowed to bring Georgia into the Nato alliance. Russia sees any such move as a blatant Western encroachment on its traditional sphere of influence.
Russia’s leadership has already questioned whether previous US warships that docked at the port of Batumi, to the south, were delivering weapons to rearm the smashed Georgian military, something Washington has denied.
Cheney delivers warning to Moscow
Georgia linked to Nato early warning system
Britain values unity in Nato over Georgia
While Russia again questioned the deployment of what it described as "the number one ship of its type in the US navy” on the Black Sea, it said it planned no military action in response. The Russian Army has kept a small number of soldiers in Poti, where local Georgian officials accuse them of looting port authority buildings.
“Naval ships of that class can hardly deliver a large amount of aid,” said Andrei Nesterenko, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman. “Such ships of course have a hold for keeping provisions for the crew and items needed for sailing. How many dozens of tonnes of aid can a ship of that type deliver?"
He said the presence of US warships could contravene international conventions governing shipping on the Black Sea, and - in particular - restricting the entry of naval ships from countries that do not share a Black Sea coastline.
Militarily, the small Russian garrison in Poti would pose almost no threat to a vessel like the Mount Whitney, but the proximity of two hostile forces in such a fraught setting set the political temperature rising again in the Caucasus, a month after Russia’s five day war with Georgia.
The American warship is too large to actually enter the port, where Russia sunk several Georgian navy vessels in its offensive last month. Instead, it is expected anchor offshore and unload its cargo of blankets, hygiene kits, baby food and infant care supplies on to smaller boats.
"I can confirm it has arrived in Poti. Anchoring procedures are still ongoing but it has arrived," said a US naval official.
Moscow, which followed up its crushing military defeat of Georgia by unilaterally recognising the independence of two of its breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, was fuming that Mr Cheney still insisted on Georgia’s entrance into the Atlantic alliance – something several key NATO members are wary of.
“The new promises to Tbilisi relating to the speedy membership of NATO simply strengthen the Saakashvili regime’s dangerous feeling of impunity and encourages its dangerous ambitions,” said Mr Nesterenko.
Washington has also pledged one billion dollars in aid to help Georgia rebuild after Russia pounded many of its military bases to dust and targeted important infrastructure.
The brief conflict has left thousands of Georgians homeless, including many driven from South Ossetia and the surrounding Russian buffer zone inside Georgia itself.
Georgian officials have accused the Russian-backed Ossetian militias of “ethnically cleansing” remote villages, while Moscow has charged Tbilisi with “genocide” for its heavy handed attack on the breakaway region last month.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 07, 2008, 03:28:47 AM
By KATTY KAY and CLAIRE SHIPMAN
September 6, 2008; Page A11
Gov. Sarah Palin's commando muscle-flex in St. Paul Wednesday night eviscerated the argument that she might not be capable of handling the vice presidency and five children at the same time. Indeed, we were left with the distinct impression that on a slow day, she could clean up America, balance our budget with a little help from eBay, and win the Iditarod -- all with 10 kids tied to her back.
What Sarah Palin did not do, however, is put an end to the latest national conversation about "trying to have it all." Because the question we're all asking isn't can she do it, but why is she doing it? Mrs. Palin, you see, happens to be bucking a new national trend. Even as most mothers across America chuckle appreciatively about pit bulls and lipstick and applaud her bravado, they are making choices that look very un-Palinesque.
This week we've heard our feminist foremothers argue that any sentence mixing the words woman, kids and work is inappropriate -- heretical even. "A man wouldn't face this sort of scrutiny," they grumble darkly.
But Mrs. Palin and her career aspirations are not falling victim to a secret cabal of men trying, once again, to impose an impossible standard on women. And this is not a redux of the old Mommy Wars -- that stale, red herring of a debate between "career" moms and their "stay at home" counterparts.
Mrs. Palin is actually putting a spotlight on a new women's movement we call "Womenomics." Thanks to women's fast-growing market value we can finally live and work in a way that wins us time and avoids that agonizing choice of career or kids. Today as never before women can define success on their own terms.
Fed up with 50- and 60-hour weeks and a career ladder we didn't build and don't want to climb, women are looking for jobs that demand fewer and freer hours. We want to work but we also want quantity time, as well as quality time, with our children. Most of us no longer buy the onwards-and-upwards drive to the corner office (or in Mrs. Palin's case, the West Wing) at the cost of a fragmented family life. More and more, women are choosing a tapestry of family and work in which we define our own success in reasonable terms -- even if we sacrifice some "prestige."
In 1992, 57% of women with degrees wanted more responsibility at work, but by 2002 that figure had plummeted to 36%, according to the Family and Work Institute. Four out of five women want more flexibility at work and call it a top priority; 60% of us want to work part-time. What we're saying is we'll trade responsibility, title -- even paycheck -- for more time and more control. And we have company. Increasingly men say they too want more flexibility at work. Gen X and Gen Y won't even talk about sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day.
What makes this revolution possible is that it's grounded in hard-core economics. Women are the hottest commodity in the hunt for talent.
We're 58% of college graduates, we get graduate degrees in greater numbers than men. Companies are waking up to the fact that women are more than a politically correct nod to diversity. We help the bottom line. A recent 19-year study of 215 Fortune 500 firms found that companies that have more women in executive positions make more money. Companies with more women in senior management get higher valuations on the American Stock Exchange.
Overwhelmingly, women are using this professional clout to redefine work, not chain themselves to it. And companies, eager to keep us and terrified of the cost of replacing us, are responding. They've discovered that offering work-life balance actually increases productivity. There are accountants who get home at 3 p.m. every day but remain on the fast track. Top New York Law firms have part-time partners who are still players. Can investment banks be far behind?
This isn't really about whether Mrs. Palin can do the job with five children. Will she do it all well? That depends on your yardstick, at least on the home front. How much time is "enough" with your children, or at work, is an extremely personal decision. The point is we now have reasonable options -- it's not all or nothing. Our mother's generation may bemoan the fact that there is still a dearth of female CEOs, but our generation knows a big part of the reason why isn't that we can't get there, but that most of us don't want to make the sacrifices necessary, as the jobs are now defined, to get there.
It's important to understand why, then, Mrs. Palin has hit a nerve. It's not because she's a woman with children trying to do a man's job. It's because she's actually pushing the combination of professional and personal ambitions beyond the sensibilities of this generation of working moms. As women, we may be awed by her, but she's not necessarily a role model for so many professional women who now say they want to do it differently, that they don't want to do 150% of everything all of the time.
So what you are hearing is less condemnation than a collective gasp of amazement -- and exhaustion -- at the thought of juggling five children, one of them an infant, and the most extreme example of a job with little or no flexibility. It would make supermom feel feeble. And we should celebrate the fact that all of this can now be discussed openly.
It is not sexist to have this conversation. It is sexist not to.
Ms. Kay is a BBC anchor and reporter. Ms. Shipman is an ABC News reporter. They are the authors of "Womenomics: The Workplace Revolution That Will Change Your Life," due out next spring by HarperCollins.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: September 07, 2008, 03:11:55 AM
That was an excellent read, thank you for taking the time to post.
Respects to the reporter for both courage and quality of reporting.
What do we make of the following? I continue to deepen in my concern that our strategy in Afg-Pak is conceptually clueless and unsound.
Pakistan closes Torkham border crossing, shuts down NATO's supply line
By Bill RoggioSeptember 6, 2008 12:04 AM
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.
Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing in the Khyber tribal agency. The road through the Khyber Pass is NATO's primary supply line into Afghanistan.
The government claimed Taliban threats and poor security on the strategic road into Afghanistan forced the closure. The road has been shut down exclusively for NATO traffic.
"All Afghanistan-bound supplies for the International Security Assistance Force have been stopped as the [Torkham] highway is vulnerable," the Khyber Agency’s political agent told Daily Times.
According to Dawn, the closure only applies to fuel trucks heading to Afghanistan. But trucks carrting supplies other than fuel have been held up at the border. "Over 20 heavily-loaded vehicles, including oil tankers, were stranded at the border town of Torkham following the government’s decision," the Pakistani newspaper reported.
An estimated 70 percent of NATO supplies move through Khyber to resupply troops fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The bulk of NATO's supplies arrive in the port city of Karachi, move north to Peshawar, and head west to the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan and the final destination in Kabul. The rest of the supplies pass through the Chaman border crossing point in Baluchistan or arrive via air.
The Taliban has increased attacks against trucks shipping NATO supplies. The group has issued death threats to Pakistani truckers hauling NATO goods into Afghanistan.
A response to US attacks in Pakistan
The closure of the Torkham crossing point to NATO traffic occurs just as the US has ramped up its cross-border strikes inside Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.
The Pakistani government denied the move to close the road in Khyber to NATO traffic was related to the recent US airstrikes and a ground assault in the Waziristan tribal agencies further south.
"This decision has nothing to do with the situation in Waziristan or the US attacks,' the political agent said.”This is purely a security issue and we want no untoward incident to take place as far as supplies for ISAF are concerned." No timeframe was given for the reopening of the road for NATO supply columns.
The move to close the border occurred the same day the Pakistani military said it could respond to US attacks inside Pakistani territory.
"Pakistan reserves the right to appropriately retaliate in future," General Tariq Majid, the Chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, told Germany defense minister.
The US has conducted an unprecedented air campaign over the past week in North and South Waziristan. The US has conducted five cross-border attacks inside Pakistan since Aug 31. Three of the strikes occurred in North Waziristan, and two in South Waziristan.
The US has stepped up its attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban's networks inside Pakistan over the past year. There have been 13 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year [see list below]. Five safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, six have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. Only 10 such cross-border strikes were recorded in 2006 and 2007 combined.
The most controversial strike involved special operations teams inserted by helicopters in a village in South Waziristan just one mile from the Afghan border on Sept. 3. This is the second recorded incident of the direct involvement of US ground troops in a raid inside Pakistan since 2006.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: September 07, 2008, 03:04:03 AM
September 5, 2008, 2:38 pm
Obama: ‘I’m Not Going to Take Your Guns Away’
Christopher Cooper reports from Duryea, Pa., on the presidential race.
The Obama campaign talks a lot about new ideas and expanding the political map, but in the swing state of Pennsylvania, which the campaign has focused on almost exclusively since the Democratic convention, old-school issues still rise to the fore.
The latest example came Friday during a small political event at SCHOTT North America Inc., a glass factory in Duryea, Pa., where even a hand-picked crowd threw Barack Obama a curve ball.
A woman in the crowd told Obama she had “heard a rumor” that he might be planning some sort of gun ban upon being elected president. Obama trotted out his standard policy stance, that he had a deep respect for the “traditions of gun ownership” but favored measures in big cities to keep guns out of the hands of “gang bangers and drug dealers’’ in big cities “who already have them and are shooting people.”
“If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’’ Obama said. But the Illinois senator could still see skeptics in the crowd, particularly on the faces of several men at the back of the room.
So he tried again. “Even if I want to take them away, I don’t have the votes in Congress,’’ he said. “This can’t be the reason not to vote for me. Can everyone hear me in the back? I see a couple of sportsmen back there. I’m not going to take away your guns.’’
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rachel, comments?
on: September 07, 2008, 03:01:55 AM
Pasted from the Obama thread:
Quote from: JDN on September 05, 2008, 10:19:28 PM
GM; It seems odd for me to be defending Islam and "criticizing Christianity since I am a practicing Christian, truly believe in God's power and attend Church on most Sundays.That said, I beg to differ with your conclusions/questions/comments.
To ignore God's (Christian God) Law and make your own is also not acceptable is classic Christian theology.
I am not a theologian, but I'll try to express my opinion. However, I think if your read the Bible, a theocratic state is thought to be ideal. Israel is a theocratic state; while perhaps not Christians,
**Israel is a parliamentary democracy, not a theocracy. Most Israelis are secular Jews.**
the Old Testament has a strong influence. The Catholic Church (I am not Catholic) at one time and I bet even today if asked privately would support a Christian theocratic state. Our founding fathers decided not to be a Christian Nation, but rather a nation for all religions; rather wise of them.
And "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them..." has nothing to do with feeding the poor, tending to the sick, etc.
albeit all good. It is very clear, MAKE DISCIPLES all nations, i.e. convert them to Christianity period. That is the sole objective of missionary work; feeding the poor, educating them, tending to the sick gives them the inside track to conversion, but their objective is to convert people. The rest is just a means to an end.
**I disagree. I've spoken to more than a few that have gone on missions and they tend to cite such things as:
"On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"**
Yes, Jesus resisted earthly power; he looked upon his power as absolute far greater than any earthly power. As for material things, they simply are not needed if you have the Lord in your heart and look forward to heaven; your final reward. Live a good life, fight for the Lord, make disciples of all nations and you will be rewarded in heaven; is that much different than Islam?
**Yes, Mohammed created a political-theological entity with the mandate to make all submit to islam.**
I am not an expert on the Qu'ran (I read it a long time ago and need to do again), but then again, the Bible, especially the Old Testament is full of versus and chapters telling how God punished the disbelieving. Actually, especially in the Old Testament, God is Love, but God is also a God of wrath; don't mess with him or oppose him or thousands will die and not a tear will be shed.
**The key difference being that in Christianity (at least modern christianity), humans are not tasked with being direct agents of god's wrath. If god chooses to unleash biblical plagues, christians aren't expected to brew up bioweapons to fulfill god's desires. Reading the qu'ran without reading the sunna and ahadith and commentaries doesn't lend to getting a good grasp of islamic theology.**
The Bible has become watered down. But if you simply read the Bible, it's a "you are with Me or against Me" story; period; it is very black and white. Those that are not with Me and don't believe in Me and/or have a false God are condemned to Hell. And no tears are to be shed for them. And if one city after another of non believers is destroyed, well, that's their fault for not believing and following God's word. And in the Bible a lot of cities of non believers were destroyed by the Lord.
**There is a big difference between the old testament and the new theologically. And again, modern christianity does not teach that christianity should be spread at swordpoint. Islam has been spread at swordpoint since it's inception and is being spread around the world by violence, as we speak.**
That being said, I am truly grateful for the wisdom of our founding fathers not to make the U.S. a Christian Nation, but rather a nation that welcomes and tolerates all faiths. I do not think any state should be a theocratic state, yet like Israel, I understand the attraction.
**Again, Israel is a secular parliamentary democracy, not a theocracy. A core element of christian theology that allows for freedom of religion is the concept of free will. God gives free will and thus humans are free to accept or reject him. Allah does not grant free will.**
Quote from: G M on September 05, 2008, 10:52:08 PM
**Israel is a parliamentary democracy, not a theocracy. Most Israelis are secular Jews.**
**I disagree. I've spoken to more than a few that have gone on missions and they tend to cite such things as:
"On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"**
I disagree: I think you misunderstood. While food is nice and so is water/wine, and that may help conversions, however, the Kingdom of heaven is for those who believe; period. How "nice" you are is just frosting on the cake, but "believe in me and you will be saved". And so you can do all the good works you want, but if you don't truly believe and follow the Lord, you are damned. It is very cut and dried; there is no grey. That being said, if you truly believe, then you will help the hungry and thirsty and those that are fed and given water may be more prone to believe. But the point is without belief, regardless of all your good works, you are going to hell. Nobody gets invited to heaven without belief regardless of what good works they did.
As for Israel, is it truly a parliamentary democracy"? hmmm I am a big fan of Israel, I only wish them well, but a true "democracy" it is not. If that was true, then the Palestinians should soon be in charge; one man one vote? Isn't that a democracy? And while "most Israelis are secular Jews" they are still Jews. It is a Jewish State. I think most Israelis would admit they are a Jewish State and be proud of it.
I've known more than a few Americans that were Jewish and supporters of Israel, but Jewish only in a secular manner with very little religious observance, if any.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Israel
Wikipedia isn't a great source, but it's quick.
I mentioned this article a month or two ago but no one seemed interested;
but it does make some good points about "democracy" in Israel. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20071206gd.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 07, 2008, 02:54:50 AM
Interesting thought piece. Some overlapping points with the book "Liberal Fascism" which I have not finished yet. It is an uneven, but interesting book.
And here's this humorous stroll down memory lane with the NY Times-- not the date:
From a New York Times editorial on July 3, 1984, on Geraldine Ferraro's nomination for vice president:
Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? . . . Or where is it written that mere representatives aren't qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? . . . Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? . . . Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. . . . What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. . . . Why shouldn't a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science
on: September 06, 2008, 12:41:27 PM
That was very interesting. I think I sensed the gist of it, but quite a bit of it went right over my head with nary a look back
Changing subjects abruptly, a couple of days ago I saw a seemingly serious piece about sun spots and their relation to temperatures here on earth. I would have posted it here, but I was on the road at a computer which wasn't mine and didn't have the time at the moment.
Anyway, I have been keeping an eye out for the sunspot hypothesis for a while now. I have seen articles which stated that Mars's temperatures have increased proportionately to earth's temperatures, which suggests a non-terrestrial cause of earth's variations i.e. the sun. The article the other day said that something very unusual had happened with the sun spots-- there were none for a certain amount of time and said that data seems to correlate this with prior cooling periods on the earth. Of all the people I know you are amongst the few likely to be aware of or able to track this down. If your readings bring it to your attention, would you be so kind as to bring it here and offer your comments?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 05, 2008, 10:40:43 AM
'A Servant's Heart'
September 5, 2008 11:24 a.m.
Sarah Palin killed. And more than killed.
Much has been said about her speech, but a few points. "The difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick" is pure American and goes straight into Bartlett's. This is the authentic sound of the American mama, of every mother you know at school who joins the board, reads the books, heads the committee, and gets the show on the road. These women make large portions of America work.
She has the power of the normal. Hillary Clinton is grim, stentorian, was born to politics and its connivances. Nancy Pelosi, another mother of five, often seems dazed and ad hoc. But this state governor and mother of a big family is a woman in a good mood. There is something so normal about her, so "You've met this person before and you like her," that she broke through in a new way, as a character vividly herself, and vividly genuine.
Her flaws accentuated her virtues. Now and then this happens in politics, but it's rare. An example: The very averageness of her voice, the not-wonderfulness of it, highlighted her normality: most people don't have great voices. That normality in turn highlighted the courage she showed in being there, on that stage for the first time in her life and under trying circumstances. Her averageness accentuated her specialness. Her commonality highlighted her uniqueness.
She seemed wholly different from, and in fact seemed a refutation to, all the men of Washington at their great desks who make rules others have to live by but they don't have to live by themselves, who mandate work rules from which they exempt Congress, for instance. They don't live by the rules they espouse. She has lived her expressed values. She said yes to a Down Syndrome child. This too is powerful.
What she did in terms of the campaign itself was important. No one has ever really laid a glove on Obama before, not in this campaign and maybe not in his life. But Palin really damaged him. She took him square on, fearlessly, by which I mean in part that she showed no awkwardness connected to race, or racial history. A small town mayor is kind of like a community organizer only you have actual responsibilities. He wrote two memoirs but never authored a major bill. They've hauled the Styrofoam pillars back to the Hollywood lot.
This was powerful coming from Baberaham Lincoln, as she's been called.
By the end, Democrats knew they had been dinged, and badly. After the speech they descended on cable news en masse with the dart-eyed, moist-browed look of the operative who doesn't believe his talking points. They seemed like they were thinking, "I've seen this movie before and it doesn't end well." Actually they haven't seen it before in that Palin is something new, but they have seen it before in terms of what she said.
Which gets me to the most important element of the speech, and that is the startlingness of the content. It was not modern conservatism, or split the difference Conservative-ish-ism. It was not a conservatism that assumes the America of 2008 is very different from the America of 1980.
It was the old-time conservatism. Government is too big, Obama will "grow it", Congress spends too much and he'll spend "more." It was for low taxes, for small business, for the private sector, for less regulation, for governing with "a servant's heart"; it was pro-small town values, and implicitly but strongly pro-life.
This was so old it seemed new, and startling. The speech was, in its way, a call so tender it made grown-ups weep on the floor. The things she spoke of were the beating heart of the old America. But as I watched I thought, I know where the people in that room are, I know their heart, for it is my heart. But this election is a wild card, because America is a wild card. It is not as it was in '80. I know where the Republican base is, but we do not know where this country that never stops changing is.
It all left me wondering if this campaign is about to take on a new shape, with the old time conservatism on one side, and a smoother, evolved form of the old style liberalism on the other.
It doesn't get more dramatic, or dramatically drawn, than that.
I don't like the new media war. I don't like what it has the potential to do to the election, and the country.
The media overstepped. The Republican party resented it. GOP strategists saw a unifying force rising: anger in the base. They too had seen this movie before. They slammed the media. The media shot back: "You're attacking us for doing our job!"
How did the media overstep? By offending people by going so immediately and so personally into issues surrounding Mrs. Palin's family. They did not overstep by digging, by deep reporting, by investigating Palin's professional record.
Campbell Brown of CNN did nothing wrong for instance in pressing a campaign spokesman on Palin's foreign policy credentials. She was unjustly criticized for following an appropriate and necessary line of inquiry. But endless front page stories connected to Mrs. Palin's 17-year-old daughter? Cable news shows that had people insinuating Palin, whom America had not yet even met, was a bad mother, and that used her daughter's circumstances to examine Republican views on abstinence education? That was ugly.
In the end it made Palin the underdog, and gave her the perfect platform for the perfect dive she made Wednesday night.
We have had these old press fights in the past – they were a source of constant tension when I was a child, when Barry Goldwater came forward as a conservative and the press scorned him as a flake, and later when Ronald Reagan came up and the press dismissed him as Bonzo.
But this latest fight commences on a new and wilder battlefield. The old combatants were old school gentlemen, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite; the new combatants are half-crazy cable anchors, the lower lurkers of the Internet, and the anonymous posters on the comment thread on the radical website.
This new war on new turf is not good, and carries the potential of great harm. Everyone really ought to stop, breathe deep, and think.
I am worried they won't. A friend IM'd the day after Palin's speech, and I told him of an inexplicable sense of foreboding. He surprised me by saying he shared it. "Calling all underworlds reporting for duty!," he wrote. "The bed is about to fly around the room, the puke is about to come out." He meant: this campaign is going to engage unseen powers and forces. He meant: this campaign, this beautiful golden thing with two admirable men at the top and two admirable vice presidential candidates, is going to turn dark.
It is starting to look to me like a nation-defining election. And in this it seems almost old-fashioned. 1992 for instance didn't seem or feel nation-defining, not as I remember it, nor did 2000. 1964 did, and '80 did, but they both ended in landslides. Landslide is not what I'm seeing here.
Where are the Democrats going to go? I suspect to foreign policy. In politics it used to be called Tolstoy: war and peace. McCain-Palin will mean more war, Obama-Biden will mean peace.
This campaign is about to become: epic.
John McCain also made a speech. It was flat.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: September 05, 2008, 09:00:17 AM
The use of Georgian airfields adds an interesting angle.
NATO guarantees that an attack against one member country is an attack against all are no longer what they used to be. Had Georgia been inside NATO, a number of European countries would no longer be willing to consider it an attack against their own soil.
For Russia, the geopolitical stars were in perfect alignment. The U.S. was badly overstretched and had no plausible way to talk tough without coming across as empty rhetoric. American resources have been drained by the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the war on terror. The European Union is still a military dwarf that swings no weight in the Kremlin. And the ineptitude of Georgia's leadership gave Russian leaders a huge new window of opportunity.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili evidently thought the U.S. would come to his side militarily if Russian troops pushed him back into Georgia after ordering an attack last Aug. 8 on the breakaway province of South Ossetia. And when his forces were mauled by Russia's counterattack, bitter disappointment turned to anger. Along with Abkhazia, Georgia lost two provinces.
Georgia also had a special relationship with Israel that was mostly under the radar. Georgia's Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili is a former Israeli who moved things along by facilitating Israeli arms sales with U.S. aid. "We are now in a fight against the great Russia," he was quoted as saying, "and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House because Georgia cannot survive on its own."
The Jerusalem Post on Aug. 12 reported, "Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the Haredi community's most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman. "I want him to pray for us and our state," he was quoted.
Israel began selling arms to Georgia seven years ago. U.S. grants facilitated these purchases. From Israel came former minister and former mayor of Tel Aviv Roni Milo, representing Elbit Systems, and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of Military Industries. Israeli UAV spy drones, made by Elbit Maarahot Systems, conducted recon flights over southern Russia, as well as into nearby Iran.
In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter bombers in the event of preemptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations. This would sharply reduce the distance Israeli fighter bombers would have to fly to hit targets in Iran. And to reach Georgian airstrips, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) would fly over Turkey.
At a Moscow news conference, Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia's deputy chief of staff, said the extent of Israeli aid to Georgia included, "eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for clearing minefields." Estimated numbers of Israeli trainers attached to the Georgian army range from 100 to 1,000. There were also 110 U.S. military personnel on training assignments in Georgia. Last July 2,000 U.S. troops were flown in for "Immediate Response 2008," a joint exercise with Georgian forces.
Details of Israel's involvement were largely ignored by Israeli media lest they be interpreted as another blow to Israel's legendary military prowess, which took a bad hit in the Lebanese war against Hezbollah two years ago. Georgia's top diplomat in Tel Aviv complained about Israel's "lackluster" response to his country's military predicament, and called for "diplomatic pressure on Moscow." According to the Jerusalem Post, the Georgian was told "the address for that type of pressure is Washington."
The daily Haaretz reported Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili - who is Jewish, the newspaper said - told Israeli Army radio that "Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers" because he explained rather implausibly, "a small group of our soldiers were able to wipe out an entire Russian military division, thanks to Israeli training."
The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis was agreed at the highest levels with the approval of the Bush administration. The official liaison between the two entities was Reserve Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, who commanded Israeli forces on the Lebanese border in July 2006. He resigned from the army after the Winograd commission flayed Israel's conduct of its Second Lebanon War.
That Russia assessed these Israeli training missions as U.S.-approved is a given. The U.S. was also handicapped by a shortage of spy-in-the-sky satellite capability, already overextended by the Iraq and Afghan wars. Neither U.S. nor Georgian intelligence knew Russian forces were ready with an immediate and massive response to the Georgian attack Moscow knew was coming. Russian double agents ostensibly working for Georgia most probably egged on the military fantasies of the impetuous President Saakashvili's "surprise attack" plans.
Mr. Saakashvili was convinced that by sending 2,000 of his soldiers to serve in Iraq (that were immediately flown home by the U.S. when Russia launched a massive counterattack into Georgia), he would be rewarded for his loyalty. He could not believe Mr. Bush, a personal friend, would leave him in the lurch. Georgia, as Mr. Saakashvili saw his country's role, was "Israel of the Caucasus."
The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis appears to have been cemented at the highest levels, according to YNet, the Israeli electronic daily. But whether the IAF can still count on those air bases to launch bombing missions against Iran's nuke facilities is now in doubt.
Iran comes out ahead in the wake of the Georgian crisis. Neither Russia nor China is willing to respond to a Western request for more and tougher sanctions against the mullahs. Iran's European trading partners are also loath to squeeze Iran. The Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt Iranian reactor in Bushehr is scheduled to go on line early next year.
A combination of Vladimir Putin and oil has put Russia back on the geopolitical map of the world. Moscow's oil and gas revenue this year is projected at $201 billion, a 13-fold increase since Mr. Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin eight years ago.
The Bush administration's global democracy crusade, as seen by the men in the Kremlin, and not an insignificant number of friends, is code for imperial hubris. The Putin-Medvedev tandem's response is a new five-point doctrine that told the U.S. to butt out of what was once the Soviet empire, not only former Soviet republics, but also former satellites and client states.
Only superannuated cold warriors saw a rebirth of the Cold War's Brezhnev Doctrine, or the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other "socialist states," e.g., the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. But it does mean the Russian bear cannot be baited with impunity - a la Georgia.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for The Washington Times and for United Press International.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AWACs
on: September 05, 2008, 08:50:09 AM
Originally posted by BBG in the China thread:
China to provide Pakistan four AWACS aircrafts
Updated at: 1510 PST, Friday, September 05, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Air Chief Marshall Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed on Friday said China would provide four AWACS aircrafts to Pakistan for the purpose of aerial surveillance, adding an agreement in this regard has been signed by the two countires.
Talking to Geo News, he said talks were also underway to purchase FC-20 aircrafts from China and added 30 to 40 planes would be provided to Pakistan under the agreement signed by China and Pakistan.
Air chief Marshall further said four such aircrafts were being also acquired from Sweden for aerial surveillance.http://www.thenews.com.pk/updates.asp?id=54260
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Thomas Paine
on: September 05, 2008, 08:43:34 AM
"Now is the seedtime of continental union, faith and honor.
The least fracture now, will be like a name engraved with the point
of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge
with the tree, and posterity read in it full grown characters."
-- Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)
Reference: Paine: Collected Writings, Foner ed., Library of America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Learning from Maggie Thatcher
on: September 05, 2008, 12:45:53 AM
What Mrs. Palin
From Mrs. T
By BARBARA AMIEL
September 5, 2008; Page A15
The glummest face Wednesday night might have been, if only we could have seen it, that of Hillary Clinton.
Margaret Thatcher was a 49-year-old mother of two when she became Conservative Party leader in 1974.
Imagine watching Sarah Palin, the gun-toting, lifelong member of the NRA, the PTA mom with teased hair and hips half the size of Hillary's, who went ... omigod ... to the University of Idaho and studied journalism. Mrs. Palin with her five kids and one of them still virtually suckling age, going wham through that cement ceiling put there exclusively for good-looking right-wing/populist conservative females by not-so-good-looking left-wing ones (Gloria Steinem excepting). There, pending some terrible goof or revelation, stood the woman most likely to get into the Oval Office as its official occupant rather than as an intern.
Imagine Hillary's fury. The gnashing of teeth after all the years of sacrifice and hard work—a life of it—and then the endless nuisance of stylists, makeovers and fittings for Oscar de la Renta gowns for Vogue covers. And surely that gimmicky holding of the baby papoose style by Todd Palin after his wife's acceptance speech is sacrosanct left-wing territory! If only Chelsea had been younger of course, Bill could have done it and then, well, who knows what might have been forgiven him?
American feminists have always had a tough sell to make. To the rest of the world, no females on earth have ever had it as easy as middle-class American women. Cosseted, surrounded by labor-saving devices, easily available contraception and supermarkets groaning with food, their complaints have always seemed to have no relationship to reality.
Education was there for the taking. Marriages were not arranged. Going against social mores had no serious consequences. Postwar American women (excluding those mired in poverty or the odious restrictions of race) have always had the choice of what they wanted to be. They simply didn't decide to exercise it until it became more fashionable to get out of the home than to run it.
Sarah Palin has put the flim-flam nature of America feminism sharply into focus, revealing the not-so-secret hypocrisy of its code and, whatever her future, this alone is an accomplishment. As she emerged into the nation's consciousness, a shudder went through the feminist left—a political movement not restricted to females. She is a mother refusing to stay at home (good) who had made a success out in the workplace (excellent) whose marriage nevertheless is a rip-roaring success and whose views are unspeakable—those of a red-blooded, right-wing principled pragmatist.
The metaphorical hair stood up on the back of every licensed member of the feminist movement who could immediately see she was a monster out of a nightmare landscape by Hieronymus Bosch. Pro-life. Pro-oil exploration in Alaska, home of the nation's polar bears for heaven's sake. Smaller government. Lower taxes. And that family of hers: Next to the Clintons with their dysfunctional marriage, her fertility and sexually robust life could only emphasize the shriveled nature of the one-child family of the former Queen Bee of political female accomplishment.
Mrs. Palin's emergence caused a spasm in American feminism. Caste and class have always been ammunition in the very Eastern seaboard women's movement, and now they were (so to speak) loading for bear. Sally Quinn felt a mother of five had no business being vice president. Andrea Mitchell remarked that "only the uneducated" would vote for Mrs. Palin. "Choose a woman but this woman?" wrote Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer, accusing Sen. McCain of using a Down's syndrome child as qualification for the VP spot.
The hypocrisy was breathtaking. Only nanoseconds before the choice of Mrs. Palin as VP put her a geriatric heartbeat away from the presidency, a woman's right to have a career and children was a shibboleth of feminism. One always knew that women with views that opposed those of official feminism were to be treated as nonwomen. To see it now out in the open was the real shocker.
The fact that this mom had been governor of a state was dismissed because it was a "small state," as was the city of which she had been mayor. Her acceptance speech, which knowledgeable left-wing critics feared would be effective, was dismissed before being delivered. She would be reading from a teleprompter. The speech would be good, no doubt, but written for her.
Had she been a man with similar political views, the left's opposition would have been strong but less personally vicious: It would have focused neither on a daughter's pregnancy, nor on the candidate's inability to be a good parent if the job was landed. In its panic, the left was indicating that to be a female running for office these days is no hindrance but an advantage, and admitting that there is indeed a difference between mothers and fathers that cannot necessarily be resolved by having daddy doing the diaper run.
All the shrapnel has so far been counterproductive. The mudslinging tabloid journalism—is Mrs. Palin the mother or grandmother of her Down's baby?—only raised her profile to a point where viewers who would never dream of watching a Republican vice-presidential acceptance speech tuned in.
Watching the frenzied reaction was déjà vu from my years as a political columnist in Margaret Thatcher's Britain. Modern history's titan of female political life suffered a similar hatred, fuelled to a large extent by her gender. Mrs. Thatcher overcame it magnificently, but in the end, the fact was that she was female and not one of "them"—a member of the old boys' club of the Tory establishment—played a significant role in bringing her down.
She was bound to be disliked vehemently by the left once she began to reveal her agenda of deregulation, sensible industrial relations, and tax reduction. Still among most of her enemies this had to do more with her ideas than her ovaries at the beginning. It was the aristocracy of her own Conservative Party that could not bear the notion of being led by "that woman." "Until she became leader," says Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph and authorized biographer of Mrs. Thatcher, "it was assumed she could not be it because of her sex."
Mrs. Thatcher was originally given the education portfolio by Prime Minister Edward Heath, though she wanted to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, the equivalent of the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Education was considered a woman's job, and regarded as far less important than it would be today. In the education portfolio she was excluded from higher counsels and out of the way. When she challenged Heath for the party leadership in February 1974, at age 49, she turned the tables and used her gender to appeal to the gallantry of disaffected Tory backbenchers. "She's a very brave girl," they would say.
Mrs. Thatcher, a good-looking woman, used her sexual attractiveness to its legitimate hilt. She was known to flirt both with caucus members and the opposition, her face tilted girlishly in conversation. She succeeded politically with those leaders with whom she could flirt—including Ronald Reagan, Francois Mitterrand and most unlikely of all, Mikhail Gorbachev. Her stylish, hint-of-Dr. Zhivago wardrobe for a 1987 visit to the Soviet Union became something of a national obsession.
Such attractiveness had the opposite effect on the Tory grandees. Books have been written on what it was that nurtured their contempt. After all, they were in the same political party, and their fortunes rested on her popularity.
No doubt part of the animosity arose from her origins as the daughter of a Grantham grocer, a woman whose home address was a street number rather than an estate with simply the house name. Lord Ian Gilmour of Craigmillar dismissed Mrs. Thatcher as "a Daily Telegraph woman"—code language for some ghastly suburban creature wearing a tasteless flowered hat. Winston Churchill's son-in-law, Christopher Soames, a man of much genuine intelligence, allegedly called her "Heath with tits"—an inaccurate and inelegant description, but one that captured exquisitely the contempt his class had for her. Both Gilmour and Soames were fired by Mrs. Thatcher in the housecleaning that took place during the late '70s and early '80s. But the core of High Tories remained active in the party waiting to bring her down.
The British feminist movement at that time was of little import. "I owe nothing to women's lib," Mrs. Thatcher remarked, thus assuring herself of a permanent place in their pantheon of evil. During her years in power, Mrs. Thatcher could and did use the rhetoric of home economics in a way a prudent male politician no longer dared do. Metaphors of kitchen and gender abounded in her speeches: "it is the cock that crows," she would say, "but the hen that lays the eggs."
Mrs. Thatcher would have recognized the guns aimed at Sarah Palin as the weapons of the left with feminist trigger-pullers. She also would have known that Mrs. Palin has less to fear from East-Coast intellectual snobs in egalitarian America than she had to fear from her own Tory base in class-prejudiced Britain. She would have told her to stand her ground and do her homework. Read your briefs, choose advisers with care, and, as she once said to me, my arm in her grip and her eyes fixed firmly on mine, "Just be yourself, don't ever give in and they can't harm you."
It wasn't quite true, of course. She did read her briefs, did stand her ground, and in the end they pulled her down, those grandees. But she made history. If a grocer's daughter can do it, a self-described hockey mom cannot be dismissed.
Ms. Amiel is a columnist for Macleans', the Canadian weekly newsmagazine, and a former senior political columnist for the Sunday Times of London.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: September 04, 2008, 12:45:10 PM
GOP to Media: Please, Please Attack Sarah Palin
MINNEAPOLIS -- Liberal reaction to Sarah Palin's roof-raising speech last night was somewhat subdued. And there was some surprising agreement from Hillary Clinton's camp that Mrs. Palin had been treated unfairly because of her gender.
Barack Obama's campaign issued a terse statement saying: "The speech that Gov. Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush's speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years."
Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's official attack dog, could muster only this as commentary on Mrs. Palin's performance: "People who like this sort of thing will find this . . . the sort of thing they like." His colleague Andrea Mitchell, who had effusively praised Barack Obama's acceptance speech last week, could only say glumly: "The war has begun."
War is exactly what some Hillary Clinton allies think has been waged on Governor Palin. Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen says some in the media have improperly questioned if Mrs. Palin can adequately take care of her family while she runs for vice president. "There's no way those questions would be asked of a male candidate," agrees Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton's spokesman during her presidential campaign.
Phil Singer, who helped Mr. Wolfson deal with media issues on the Clinton campaign, concurred with his colleague and told Politico.com: "The real indictment that needs to be prosecuted is about her views, not her personal life."
My view is that some liberal commentators have done a good job of enraging not just conservative Republicans but many Hillary supporters with their coverage of Mrs. Palin. I received e-mails last night from two moderate voters who had been leaning towards Barack Obama and are now firmly in the McCain-Palin camp. In the space of less than a week, Sarah Palin has become a part of the culture war and in a way that may catch Barack Obama in the crossfire.
-- John Fund
Advice to Dems: Stop Digging
ST. PAUL -- What did we learn about Gov. Sarah Palin last night? That Democrats aren't the only ones with a budding star political talent in this election. Following a harsh week for the McCain campaign's decision to put up this political newcomer, Mrs. Palin not only eased fears but gave conservative Republicans a reason to be excited this year. Equally important, she has given Democrats a reason to start worrying.
Which leaves the Obama campaign with an interesting choice. Does it continue the Palin discussion which has dominated the news cycle this past week -- and will dominate it going into the weekend -- or should Mr. Obama and his surrogates quickly try to change the subject?
Mrs. Palin still has much to prove on the campaign trail, but it's clear the McCain campaign wants its opponents to continue going after her. Just yesterday, Team McCain released an ad titled "Alaska Maverick," comparing Mrs. Palin's experience not to her counterpart Sen. Joe Biden but to Sen. Barack Obama. If not a first in modern presidential politics, this line of attack is certainly something we haven't seen in a while. And it displays a level of confidence the McCain campaign isn't supposed to be feeling, given the powerful political winds the Democrats have at their backs this year.
In its first attempt at criticizing Mrs. Palin, the Obama campaign sent mixed messages. A statement by spokesman Bill Burton attacking her experience was rejected by the candidate himself only hours later. The lesson? Stop getting into specifics with Mrs. Palin and go back to tying Sen. John McCain to President Bush. There's a reason Mr. Bush -- and his own vice president -- weren't mentioned once in Mrs. Palin's speech last night. Nor in Rudy Giuliani's. Nor in Mike Huckabee's. And just once by Mitt Romney. The strategy for Democrats: Attack what your opponent is trying to hide, not what he's trying to promote. Attack Bush-Cheney, not Mrs. Palin.
-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com
Sarah, Get Thee to Chapel Hill
Sarah Palin thrilled the GOP last night in St. Paul, reminding more than a few GOP veterans of how Elizabeth Dole wowed them at the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego. Too bad Mrs. Dole wasn't there to enjoy it. She skipped this week's festivities to focus on her reelection battle against state Senator Kay Hagan in what has become a must-watch race.
And for good reason: A new poll by a Democratic firm shows Mrs. Hagan with a five-point lead, echoing a host of recent polls that show a tight race getting tighter. Mrs. Dole is the biggest star on the North Carolina stage now that John Edwards is in disgrace. Chapel Hill-based venture capitalist Alston Gardner emailed us to explain why she's in trouble: "Much like John Edwards, she's just another pretty face that hasn't delivered for the citizens and leaders of North Carolina. Her focus has always been on a national audience and not doing the less glamorous, but politically necessary constituent services." Ouch.
On Wednesday Mrs. Dole launched her first attack ad against her opponent. The spot portrays Ms. Hagan as a yapping dog and calls her "Fibber Kay," and defends Mrs. Dole as "one of the 10 most admired women in the world" whose "clout works wonders for North Carolina." The campaign also turned up the heat over a scheduled fundraiser for Ms. Hagan in two weeks hosted by author Wendy Kaminer, whose real estate developer husband is a board member of the Secular Coalition for America. Says a Dole press release: "Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it."
Husband Bob Dole, who did make an appearance on the Xcel Center floor before Mrs. Palin's speech yesterday, told the Washington Post that he's been busy on the trail supporting his wife as well. "I'm spending three days a week down there helping out," he said. "I just work the side streets. I don't go down Main Street."
Partly to assist in North Carolina, the cash-strapped National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday pulled its ads from New Mexico, abandoning Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in his own fight with Rep. Tom Udall for the retiring Pete Domenici's seat. Bottom line: The Republican triage has begun and Election Day is still two months away.
-- Robert Costa
Quote of the Day
"He may have pulled off the impossible by finding someone who fires up independents and Reagan Democrats while not turning off social conservatives" -- Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, commenting on John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin.
How to Pick Out the Navy Enthusiasts at the RNC
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twin Cities are providing a hearty welcome to Republicans this week. Store windows carry welcome signs. Red, white and blue decorations abound. And the elephant, well, the elephant is everywhere. At a downtown Minneapolis hotel, a herd of topiary elephants, trunks raised, greet the guests. The leader of the pachyderms is an immense creature, almost life size, and visitors must pass beneath her trunk in order to reach the concierge's desk. I say "she" because the lady elephant sports red roses for toenails and more red roses bedeck her tail. A floral G-O-P is emblazoned on her saddle.
The elephant is everywhere at the convention too: on hats, tote bags, lapel pins and every form of jewelry. A delegate from Maine was spied wearing elephant earrings. But another popular accessory features no elephants -- rather, it's a pale blue tie or scarf sported by some Republicans featuring three of the international marine signal flags used by ships at sea. Strung together, the flags spell out the letters JSM, for John Sidney McCain.
-- Melanie Kirkpatrick
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: The Big Quiet
on: September 04, 2008, 12:44:00 PM
Washington has gone quiet on Iran in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia war. In essence, the Russian action was a declaration that Russia intends to dictate precisely what its near abroad looks like, and pro-American governments are simply not welcome in the mix. If the United States is going to challenge this, it must find a way to free up significant military resources as quickly as possible. Since the vast bulk of American land forces are involved in the Iraq conflict, that means winding that war down.
Which, in turn, cannot be done without Iranian cooperation. It is Iran via its proxies that has the ability to influence the pace and heat of the Iraqi conflict — it played a very real role in both the escalation of violence in 2006 and its marked decline in 2007-2008. So for the United States to have the capacity to counter Russia, it must first strike a deal with Iran.
Stratfor finds it very interesting that the normal noise out of Washington concerning all things Iranian has gone nearly silent. In the past two weeks, only U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has issued so much as a peep on the issue, and even that was oblique and in the context of Washington’s planned missile defense systems in Europe.
So Stratfor is watching the movements of the senior American and Iranian leadership very closely. Currently, Vice President Dick Cheney is in Georgia after having visited Azerbaijan. Tomorrow he flies to Italy for a four-day visit. Any of these locations would be excellent places for Cheney to meet with Iranian counterparts and hammer out the final stages of a deal (negotiations have been ongoing for months now).
Our focus is on the Italy trip right now. Publicly, Cheney will be meeting with senior European intelligence officials over the weekend, and we have picked up a rumor that some Iranian officials will be making a discreet appearance. We cannot emphasize enough that this rumor is unconfirmed, but it makes sense. Everything about this makes sense. The location, the format, the timing, and Russia’s rearranging of the geopolitical constellation.
That, of course, does not mean that it is true. But it makes perfect sense.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 04, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
The digs at BO were beautiful in their graceful brutality
And now the WSJ lays the groundwork for going after Biden:
Biden Was Wrong
On the Cold War
By PETER WEHNER
September 4, 2008
The choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has electrified many conservatives and strengthened John McCain's claim that his administration would be far more reform-minded than Barack Obama's. At the same time, it has triggered accusations that Gov. Palin is far too inexperienced to be vice president, and has little knowledge of national security issues.
Mrs. Palin's lack of mastery of national security issues is often contrasted with Mr. Obama's vice presidential pick, Joseph Biden Jr. Mr. Biden has served in the Senate since 1973, is currently chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and is often described as a "statesman."
In fact, decade after decade and on important issue after important issue, Mr. Biden's judgment has been deeply flawed.
In the 1970s, Mr. Biden opposed giving aid to the South Vietnamese government in its war against the North. Congress's cut-off of funds contributed to the fall of an American ally, helped communism advance, and led to mass death throughout the region. Mr. Biden also advocated defense cuts so massive that both Edmund Muskie and Walter Mondale, both leading liberal Democrats at the time, opposed them.
In the early 1980s, the U.S. was engaged in a debate over funding the Contras, a group of Nicaraguan freedom fighters attempting to overthrow the Communist regime of Daniel Ortega. Mr. Biden was a leading opponent of President Ronald Reagan's efforts to fund the Contras. He also opposed Reagan's efforts to send military assistance to the pro-American government in El Salvador, which at the time was battling the FMLN, a Soviet-supported Marxist group.
Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has consistently opposed modernization of our strategic nuclear forces. He was a fierce opponent of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Biden voted against funding SDI, saying, "The president's continued adherence to [SDI] constitutes one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft." Mr. Biden has remained a consistent critic of missile defense and even opposed the U.S. dropping out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty after the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was the co-signatory to the ABM Treaty) and the end of the Cold War.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and, we later learned, was much closer to attaining a nuclear weapon than we had believed. President George H.W. Bush sought war authorization from Congress. Mr. Biden voted against the first Gulf War, asking: "What vital interests of the United States justify sending Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?"
In 2006, after having voted three years earlier to authorize President George W. Bush's war to liberate Iraq, Mr. Biden argued for the partition of Iraq, which would have led to its crack-up. Then in 2007, Mr. Biden opposed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, calling it a "tragic mistake." It turned out to be quite the opposite. Without the surge, the Iraq war would have been lost, giving jihadists their most important victory ever.
On many of the most important and controversial issues of the last four decades, Mr. Biden has built a record based on bad assumptions, misguided analyses and flawed judgments. If he had his way, America would be significantly weaker, allies under siege would routinely be cut loose, and the enemies of the U.S. would be stronger.
There are few members of Congress whose record on national security matters can be judged, with the benefit of hindsight, to be as consistently bad as Joseph Biden's. It's true that Sarah Palin has precious little experience in national security affairs. But in this instance, no record beats a manifestly bad one.
Mr. Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter
on: September 04, 2008, 01:19:02 AM
The Best Man Turned Out To Be A Woman
John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his running mate finally gave Republicans a reason to vote for him -- a reason, that is, other than B. Hussein Obama.
The media are hopping mad about McCain's vice presidential selection, but they're really furious over at MSNBC. After drawing "Keith (plus) Obama" hearts on their denim notebooks, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews stayed up all night last Thursday, writing jokes about Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the presumed vice presidential pick. Now they can't use any of them.
So the media are taking it out on our brave Sarah and her 17-year-old daughter. They claimed Palin was chosen only because she's a woman. In fact, Palin was chosen because she's pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling and pro-tax cuts. She's fought both Republicans and Democrats on public corruption and does not have hair plugs like some other vice presidential candidate I could mention. In other words, she's a "Republican."
As a right-winger, Palin will appeal to the narrow 59 percent of Americans who voted for another former small-market sportscaster: Ronald Reagan. Our motto: Sarah Palin is only a heartbeat away!
If you're going to say Palin was chosen because she's a woman, you're going to have to demonstrate that the runners-up were more qualified. Gov. Tim Pawlenty seems like a terrific fellow and fine governor, but he is not obviously more qualified than Palin.
As for former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, the other also-rans, I can think of at least 40 million unborn reasons she's better than either of them.
Within the first few hours after Palin's name was announced, McCain raised $4 million in campaign donations online, reaching $10 million within the next two days. Which shortlist vice presidential pick could have beaten that?
The media hysterically denounced Palin as "inexperienced." But then people started to notice that she has more executive experience than B. Hussein Obama -- the guy at the top of the Democrats' ticket.
They tried to create a "Troopergate" for Palin, indignantly demanding to know why she wanted to get her ex-brother-in-law removed as a state trooper. Again, public corruption is not a good issue for someone like Obama, Chicago pol and noted friend of Syrian National/convicted felon Antoin Rezko.
For the cherry on top, then we found out Palin's ex-brother-in-law had Tasered his own 10-year-old stepson. Defend that, Democrats.
The bien-pensant criticized Palin, saying it's irresponsible for a woman with five children to run for vice president. Liberals' new talking point: Sarah Palin: Only five abortions away from the presidency.
They claimed her newborn wasn't her child, but the child of her 17-year-old daughter. That turned out to be a lie.
Then they attacked her daughter, who actually is pregnant now, for being unmarried. When liberals start acting like they're opposed to pre-marital sex and mothers having careers, you know McCain's vice presidential choice has knocked them back on their heels.
But at least liberal reporters had finally found someone their own size to pick on: a 17-year-old girl.
Speaking of Democrats with newborn children, the media weren't particularly concerned about John Edwards running for president despite his having a mistress with a newborn child.
While the difficult circumstances of Palin's pregnant daughter are being covered like a terrorist attack on the nation, with leering accounts of the 18-year-old father, the media remain resolutely uninterested in the parentage of Edwards' mistress's love child. Except, that is, the hardworking reporters at the National Enquirer, who say Edwards is the father.
As this goes to press, the latest media-invented scandal about Palin is that McCain didn't know her well before choosing her as his running mate. He knew her well enough, though admittedly, not as well as Obama knows William Ayers.
John F. Kennedy, who was -- from what the media tell me -- America's most beloved president, detested his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.
Until Clinton interviewed Al Gore one time before choosing him as his vice presidential candidate, he had met Gore only one other time: when Gore was running for president in 1988 and flew to Little Rock seeking Clinton's endorsement. Clinton turned him down.
To this day, there's no proof that Bill Clinton ever met one-on-one with his CIA director, James Woolsey, other than a brief chat after midnight the night before Woolsey's nomination was announced.
Barring some all-new, trivial and probably false story about Palin -- her former hairdresser got a parking ticket in 1978! -- the media apparently intend to keep being hysterical about McCain's alleged failure to "vet" Palin properly. The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that everyone is asking: "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?"
No one's saying that.
Attacks on McCain's "vetting" process require the media to keep claiming that Palin has a lot of problems. But she doesn't have any problems. Remember? Those were all blind alleys.
Unfortunately, for the ordinary TV viewer hearing nonstop hysteria about nonspecific "problems," it takes a lot of effort to figure out that every attack liberals have launched against Palin turned out to be a lie.
It's as if a basketball player made the winning shot in the last three seconds of the game and liberals demand that we have a week-long discussion about whether the player should have taken that shot. WHAT IF HE MISSED?
With Palin, McCain didn't miss.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe
on: September 04, 2008, 01:09:12 AM
Geopolitical Diary: More Ripples in the Post-Georgia Pond
September 4, 2008
There are two disparate and odd bits of news that together might add up to something of interest. First, according to the RIA Novosti press agency, two farms in Estonia have formed an independent “Soviet republic” and plan to ask for Russian recognition, according to a group of Estonian communists.
In itself this is not important, to say the least. It is interesting that RIA Novosti would decide to publicize it beyond its worth, but at this point, everyone is hypersensitive to anything that happens, and publicizing it under current circumstances makes some sense. What it does do is to point to real underlying tensions in the Baltics. The Baltic states have large Russian minorities. Many of these are Russian citizens. The Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians have bad memories of Russian occupation and view their countries’ Russian populations with a degree of unease. The Russians claim to be discriminated against. Between ethnic and some degree of ideological differences, there is tension.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recently said that Moscow is responsible for Russian citizens wherever they live. That statement implicitly targeted the Baltic states, essentially saying that Moscow speaks for the Russian minorities and that, therefore, Moscow has a role to play in the internal affairs of these countries. On the assumption that the local Bolsheviks who declared independence are Russian — a fair bet — the Russians could theoretically claim to be responsible for them in some way.
The Russians are not behind this stunt, although they clearly want to publicize it. But it points to a flash point that is truly dangerous. If the Russians were to challenge the legitimacy of the Baltic countries’ treatment of Russians, they would not have problems identifying substantial numbers of Russians who would claim grievances. The Baltics, unlike Georgia, are members of NATO and any political conflict there would inevitably involve NATO. We doubt that the Russians would have any interest in invading the Baltics, but we don’t doubt that under the current conditions they might be interested in stirring up problems in the Baltics. The Russians clearly enjoyed the Georgian crisis, and their appetite for confrontation might be growing. This is a stunt. But it is being reported by Russian media. It is not serious, but the underlying issue is.
Along the lines of straws in the wind, a second nation has recognized the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first was Russia. Now it is joined by Nicaragua. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was, for those old enough to remember, president of Nicaragua in the 1980s, when he led a Marxist government. He was elected again a few years ago, and no one seemed to care very much, including us, since being a Marxist and pro-Soviet didn’t really matter much. Nicaragua’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia does not, by itself, rise to significance, but it does make two points.
The first is that the Russians, should they choose to follow a confrontational course, have recourse to the old Soviet strategy of posing problems for the United States by supporting Soviet allies around the world, and particularly in Latin American where the United States was always sensitive. That strategy is alive because there are Latin American leaders looking for a major power prepared to support them. Nicaragua is one, but Venezuela and Cuba have also spoken in support of Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (stopping short of outright recognition). There are also rumors that Russia might consider putting military bases in Venezuela and Cuba — another chance for Moscow to push Washington’s buttons.
Second, there appears to be an expectation of support from Russia in return for recognition. We need to be very careful not to assume either that Russia will simply follow a Soviet-model foreign policy or that it has the resources to do so even if it wanted to. Ortega might simply be enjoying a nostalgic moment. Alternatively, Ortega might be fishing for something from the Russians. As with the Baltics, it will be interesting what the Russians do with this opening, or if they even see it as an opening. We are beginning to have opportunities to measure the distance between Russia’s new foreign policy and traditional Soviet policies and see the delta between the two. How the Kremlin deals with these potential openings could indicate just how far the new Russian foreign policy is willing to push.