Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 12, 2008, 10:51:39 PM
Excellent find Rachel!
" But then, maybe it was that allure of the mysterious other that kept Mars and Venus together so long on the savanna."
Flipping this around, perhaps the other side of the coin is when we seek to minimize differences we decrease reproduction (see e.g. Europe) and increase homosexuality?
Seriously though, good piece.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bolivia
on: September 12, 2008, 09:54:53 PM
EN BOLIVIA DISPARAN CIVILES CONTRA CIVILES
El conflicto andino alcanza una nueva dimensión con la expulsión mutua de embajadores de Estados Unidos y Venezuela
Evo Morales envía tropas y blindados al Oriente para reforzar a los militares que no reprimen a los manifestantes
La rebelión cívica y social de cinco provincias autonomistas del oriente de Bolivia ha alcanzado un punto álgido de violencia, destrucción y muerte, que podría desembocar en guerra civil. El conflicto interno del país andino alcanzó dimensión internacional con la expulsión por los gobiernos de La Paz y Caracas del embajador de Estados Unidos en esas capitales. Washington reaccionó en forma fulminante al ordenar en reciprocidad la salida de los representantes diplomáticos de Bolivia y Venezuela.
En forma enérgica, las Fuerzas Armadas bolivianas condenaron la afirmación de Hugo Chávez de que apoyará "cualquier movimiento armado" si Evo Morales es derrocado. En respuesta al presidente venezolano, los militares rechazaron "intromisiones externas de cualquier índole" en asuntos internos.
“Al presidente Chávez le decimos que las Fuerzas Armadas rechazan enfáticamente intromisiones externas de cualquier índole, vengan de donde vengan, y no permitirán que ningún militar o fuerza extranjera pise el territorio nacional", se afirma en un comunicado de la institución castrense. Esta posición representa también un fuerte revés para Evo Morales, quien ha promovido la presencia de militares venezolanos en Bolivia. Su guardia personal es de oficiales del país andino.
Una vez más, Bolivia se acerca al abismo. Tras los enfrentamientos a tiros en varias poblaciones del departamento de Pando, que causó diez muertos y decenas de heridos, el presidente Evo Morales ha enviado fuerzas militares a las regiones rebeldes para someter a los manifestantes opositores. Las provincias de Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando y Chuquisaca piden recuperar el impuesto a los hidrocarburos que les quitó el Gobierno y defienden el derecho a las autonomías regionales. El conflicto se recrudeció cuando Morales anunció un referéndum para ratificar una nueva Constitución de corte estatista e indigenista, que fue aprobada de noche en un cuartel sin presencia de la oposición.
Desde hace diez días, la violencia no cesa de aumentar. Los choques entre opositores y oficialistas, la ocupación de edificios del Estado y los saqueos en las regiones de la denominada media luna, marcan el fortalecimiento de una larga pugna política cargada de violencia social, de proporciones y consecuencias insospechadas.
Luego de tres semanas de enfrentamientos en calles y carreteras, la tragedia se desató en Porvenir, población del departamento de Pando, en donde el tiroteo entre afines al Gobierno y autonomistas causó al menos diez muertos. Hay mucha confusión sobre el origen de la matanza, ya que cada parte acusa a la contraria.
A diferencia de la violencia registrada en octubre del 2003 en el forzado final del mandato del presidente Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, cuando el enfrentamiento se dio entre el Ejército y la población, los actuales choques armados son entre grupos civiles, unos partidarios y otros detractores de Morales. Si en octubre del 2003 fueron los militares los que se dispararon a manifestantes en La Paz y el altiplano, hoy son grupos civiles contra grupos civiles los que disparan, tienden emboscadas, montan bloqueos y se preparan para nuevos choques.
En una peligrosa estrategia basada en el cálculo político, el Gobierno parece decidido a mandar al frente de batalla a los movimientos sociales; por su parte, los gobernadores opositores movilizan a enardecidos universitarios y a grupos cívicos para repartir golpes y balas. Esta situación sin precedentes hace que las consecuencias del conflicto sean imprevisibles.
Hasta ahora, militares y policías evitaron reprimir a los manifestantes que penetraron en los edificios públicos que custodiaban, como centros de telecomunicaciones, aeropuertos y oficinas fiscales. De hecho, los uniformados asistieron impasibles a la mayoría de las ocupaciones, sin actuar. Ante la pasividad de las tropas, Evo Morales envió por tierra varios regimientos con carros de combate para reforzar las guarniciones de las provincias autonomistas, desbloquear las carreteras y redoblar la seguridad de los yacimientos de gas, que ya fueron tomados por civiles. El cierre de válvulas obligó a suspender los envíos a Argentina y a reducir el suministro a Brasil. La llegada de los militares provocó nuevas protestas.
Lo que comenzó con una crisis interna de Bolivia, por la rebelión de las regiones autonomistas contra Evo Morales, tomó una nueva dimensión con la expulsión del embajador de Estados Unidos en La Paz y Caracas. Al final de una jornada llena de denuncias de magnicidios, golpes de Estado y el anuncio de un eventual apoyo militar a Evo Morales, el presidente Hugo Chávez ordenó la salida en un plazo de 72 horas del embajador norteamericano Patrick Duddy de 72 horas y ordenó el regreso del representante venezolano en Washington, "antes de que lo echen".
Aunque los insultos de Chávez contra Estados Unidos han sido elevados de tono, en medios diplomáticos sorprendió el fuerte lenguaje que utilizó al ordenar la expulsión del diplomático: "¡Yanquis de mierda, váyanse al carajo cien veces. Ya basta de tanta mierda de ustedes, yanquis de mierda".
Washington, que durante años ha aguantado sin chistar la interminable retahíla de duros improperios contra Estados Unidos y su presidente, en esta ocasión reaccionó en forma contundente. Como había hecho horas antes al expulsar al embajador boliviano, decretó la salida del representante venezolano.
VIA DE ESPERANZA
En Bolivia se abrió una vía de esperanza al conocerse que Mario Cossío, gobernador de Tarija –una de las regiones opositoras- aceptó una invitación del Gobierno para abrir un diálogo sin condiciones ni imposiciones. Consciente de que tal vez sea la última oportunidad para la reconciliación, Cossío debía reunirse anoche en La Paz con las altas autoridades del Estado, llevando la representación de las provincias autonomistas.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: September 12, 2008, 07:20:59 PM
Reliability of this site unknown to me. Any other sightings of the infomation herein?http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/4821
Obama Had Close Ties to Top Saudi Adviser at Early Age
By Online Thursday, September 4, 2008
New evidence has emerged that Democratic presidential candidateBarack Obama was closely associated as early as age 25 to a key adviser to a Saudi billionaire who had mentored the founding members of the Black Panthers.
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman WorthyNews.com 9-3-8
In a videotaped interview this year on New York’s all news cable channel NY1, a prominent African-American businessman and political figure made the curious disclosures about Obama. (See Video Clip Below)
Percy Sutton, the former borough president of Manhattan, off-handedly revealed the unusual circumstances about his first encounter with the young Obama.
“I was introduced to (Obama) by a friend who was raising money for him,” Sutton told NY1 city hall reporter Dominic Carter.
“The friend’s name is Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, from Texas,” Sutton said. “He is the principal adviser to one of the world’s richest men. He told me about Obama.”
Sutton, the founder of Inner City Broadcasting, said al-Mansour contacted him to ask a favor: Would Sutton write a letter in support of Obama’s application to Harvard Law School?
“He wrote to me about him,” Sutton recalled. “And his introduction was there is a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends up there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?”
Sutton said he acted on his friend al-Mansour’s advice.
“I wrote a letter of support of him to my friends at Harvard, saying to them I thought there was a genius that was going to be available and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly,” Sutton told NY1.
Sutton did not say why al-Mansour was helping Obama, how he discovered him, or from whom he was raising money on Obama’s behalf.
A Sutton aide told Newsmax that Sutton, 88, is ailing and is unlikely to do additional TV interviews in the near future. The aide could not provide additional comment for this story.
As it turned out, Obama did attend Harvard Law School after graduating from Columbia University inNew York and doing a stint as a community organizer in Chicago.
The New York Times described how transformative his Harvard experience became for the youngObama: “He arrived there as an unknown, Afro-wearing community organizer who had spent years searching for his identity; by the time he left, he had his first national news media exposure, a book contract and a shot of confidence from running the most powerful legal journal in the country.”
The details of Obama’s academic performance are well known: At Harvard, Obama rose to academic distinction becoming the editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduating magna cum laude.
Less known are the reasons al-Mansour, an activist African-American Muslim, would be a key backer for a young man from Hawaii seeking to attend the most Ivy of the Ivy League law schools.
Khalid al-Mansour a.k.a. Don Warden
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax from his home in San Antonio, Texas, al-Mansour said he would not comment specifically on the statement by Percy Sutton because he was afraid anything he said would get “distorted.”
“I was determined I was never going to be in that situation,” he said. “Bloggers are saying this is the new Rev. Wright — in drag! — and he is a nationalist, racist, and worse than Rev. Wright. So any statement that I made would only further this activity which is not in the interest of Barack.”
But in the lengthy interview, al-Mansour confirmed that he frequently spoke on university campuses, including Columbia, where Percy Sutton suggested he met Obama in the late 1980s, and confirmed his close relationship with Prince Alwaleed.
“I am not surprised to learn about this,” said Niger Innis, spokesman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). “It is clear that Barack Obama’s ties to the left are familial, generational, and have lasted for several years.”
Although many Americans have never heard of Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour (his full name), he is well known within the black community as a lawyer, an orthodox Muslim, a black nationalist, an author, an international deal-maker, an educator, and an outspoken enemy of Israel.
A graduate of Howard University with a law degree from the University of California, al-Mansour sits on numerous corporate boards, including the Saudi African Bank and Chicago-based LaGray Chemical Co. LaGray, which was formed to do business in Africa, counts former Nigerian President GeneralAbdusalam Abubakar on its advisory board.
He also sits on the board of the non-profit African Leadership Academy, along with top McCain for President adviser Carly Fiorina, and organized a tribute to the President of Ghana at the Clinton White House in 1995, along with pop star Michael Jackson.
But his writings and books are packed with anti-American rhetoric reminiscent of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s disgraced former pastor.
In a 1995 book, “The Lost Books of Africa Rediscovered,” he alleged that the United States was plotting genocide against black Americans.
The first “genocide against the black man began 300 years ago,” he told an audience in Harlem at a book-signing, while a second “genocide” was on the way “to remove 15 million Black people, considered disposable, of no relevance, value or benefit to the American society.”
In the 1960s, when he founded the African American Association in the San Francisco Bay area, he was known as Donald Warden.
According to the Social Activism Project at the University of California at Berkley, Warden, a.k.a.Khalid al-Mansour, was the mentor of Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton and his cohort, Bobby Seale.
Newton later had a falling out with Warden, who was described in a 1994 book as “the most articulate spokesperson for black nationalism” at the time.
The falling out wasn’t purely political, according to author Hugh Pearson.
“Sometimes Newton and the other members of (Warden’s) security detail got into fights with young whites who didn’t like what Warden had to say about whites. Rather than ‘throw down’ along with the security detail, Warden refused to fight,” Pearson wrote in “Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America.”
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California entered an official statement of appreciation of Warden and his Black Panther colleagues in the African-American Association in the Congressional Record on April 23, 2007.
“Among the founding members (of the Association) were community leaders such as Khalid Al-Mansour(known then as Don Warden); future Judges Henry Ramsey and Thelton Henderson; future Congressman and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and future Black Panthers Huey Newton and Bobby Seale,” the Democratic representative’s statement said.
Al-Mansour’s more recent videotaped speeches focus on Muslim themes, and abound with anti-Semitic theories and anti-Israel vitriol.
“Today, the Palestinians are being brutalized like savages,” he told an audience in South Africa. “If you protest you will go to jail, and you may be killed. And they say they are the only democratic country in the Middle East. ... They are lying on God.”
He accused the Jews of “stealing the land the same way the Christians stole the land from the Indians in America.”
The Saudi Connection
But al-Mansour’s sponsorship of Obama as a prospective Harvard law student is important for another reason beyond his Islamic and anti-American rhetoric and early Black Panther ties.
At the time Percy Sutton, a former lawyer for Malcolm X and a former business partner of al-Mansour, says he was raising money for Obama’s graduate school education, al-Mansour was representing top members of the Saudi Royal family seeking to do business and exert influence in the United States.
In 1989, for example — just one year after Obama entered Harvard Law School — The Los Angeles Times revealed that al-Mansour had been advising Saudi billionaires Abdul Aziz and Khalid al-Ibrahimin their secret effort to acquire a major stake in prime oceanfront property in Marina del Rey, Calif., through “an elaborate network of corporate shells in California, the Caribbean and Europe.”
At the same time, he was also advising Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in his U.S. investments, and sits on the board of his premier investment vehicle, Kingdom Holdings.
Prince Alwaleed, 53, is the nephew if King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia. Forbes magazine ranked him this year as the 19th richest person on the planet, with a fortune in excess of $23 billion. He owns large chunks of Citigroup and News Corp., the holding company that controls Fox News.
He is best known in the United States for his offer to donate $10 million to help rebuild downtownManhattan after the 9/11 attacks. But after the prince made a public comment suggesting that U.S.policies had contributed to causing the attacks, Mayor Rudy Giuliani handed back his check.
“I entirely reject that statement,” Giuliani said. “There is no moral equivalent for this (terrorist) act. There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people.”
Since then, Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Foundation has given millions of dollars to Muslim charities in the United States, including several whose leaders have been indicted on terrorism-related charges in federal courts.
He also has given tens of millions of dollars to Harvard and other major U.S. universities, to establish programs in Islamic studies.
The casual statement by Percy Sutton to NY1 is the first time anyone has hinted at a relationship between Obama and the Saudi royal family.
Although al-Mansour glosses over his ties to the Saudi mega-billionaire in some of his public talks, he has represented the Saudi’s interests in the United States, in Britain, and in Africa for more than a quarter century, according to public records.
He told Newsmax that he has personally introduced Prince Alwaleed to “51 of the 53 leaders of Africa,” traveling from country to country on the Saudi prince’s private jet.
He knows virtually every black leader in America, from the business community, to community activists, to the worlds of politics and entertainment.
When Michael Jackson was on the ropes in the mid-1990s following a series of lawsuits by the parents of children accusing him of sexual abuse, al-Mansour introduced him to Prince Alwaleed, whose Kingdom Entertainment signed a joint venture with Jackson in 1996.
“Jackson and Alwaleed became pals in 1994, when a mutual friend from Alwaleed’s college days inCalifornia arranged a lunch meeting aboard the prince’s yacht in Cannes,” Time magazine reported about the new partnership in 1997.
The mutual friend was al-Mansour.
“As a black American, I am exceedingly proud at the American people’s response to Barack Obama’scandidacy,” said CORE’s Niger Innis. “But to deny that he has long-standing ties to left-wing elements in our polity is to deny reality. If you want to be president of the United States, it is not racism if you ask these kind of questions, and he has to come up with an answer, hopefully the truth.”
Sutton gives no clues as to why al-Mansour would be raising money to help Obama go to law school.Obama has said during his campaign that he paid his way through Harvard with student loans.
For Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), these latest revelations about Obama’s ties to Saudi financiers were an important wake-up call.
“To me, this opened up more questions about Barack Obama and his relationship to the Muslim world,” Peterson told Newsmax.
“A lot of people are caught up with the emotional aspect of Barack Obama, the movie star aspect, the false promises that he’s going to take care of everyone and their Mama.”
But when the full story of Obama’s ties to radical preachers such as Wright and to black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan comes out, Peterson believes that Obama’s star power will fade.
“I think there’s more to this story and to Barack Obama than we realize,” Peterson said. “As all the truth comes out before the election, I don’t think he has a chance. I can’t see American’s taking that kind of risk.”
The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Percy Sutton Reveals Association Between Khalid al-Mansour and Obama at Age 25
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Just hold me
on: September 12, 2008, 06:40:59 PM
One evening last week, my girlfriend and I were getting into bed.
Well, the passion starts to heat up, and she eventually says, "I don`t feel
like it, I just want you to hold me."
I said, "WHAT??!! What was that?!"
So she says the words that every boyfriend on the planet dreads to
hear..."You`re just not in touch with my emotional needs as a woman enough
for me to satisfy your physical needs as a man."
She responded to my puzzled look by saying, "Can`t you just love me for who
I am and not what I do for you in the bedroom?"
Realizing that nothing was going to happen that night, I went to sleep.
The very next day I opted to take the day off of work to spend time with
her. We went out to a nice lunch and then went shopping at a big, big
unnamed department store. I walked around with her while she tried on
several different very expensive outfits. She couldn`t decide which one to
take, so I told her we`d just buy them all. She wanted new shoes to
compliment her new clothes, so I said, "Lets get a pair for each outfit."
We went on to the jewelry department where she picked out a pair of diamond
earrings. Let me tell you... she was so excited. She must have thought I was
one wave short of a shipwreck. I started to think she was testing me because
she asked for a tennis bracelet when she doesn`t even know how to play
I think I threw her for a loop when I said, "That`s fine, honey." She was
almost nearing sexual satisfaction from all of the excitement. Smiling with
excited anticipation, she finally said, "I think this is all dear, let`s go
to the cashier."
I could hardly contain myself when I blurted out, "No honey, I don`t feel
Her face just went completely blank as her jaw dropped with a baffled,
I then said, "Honey! I just want you to HOLD this stuff for a while. You`re
just not in touch with my financial needs as a man enough for me to satisfy
your shopping needs as a woman."
And just when she had this look like she was going to kill me, I added, "Why
can`t you just love me for who I am and not for the things I buy you?"
Apparently I`m not having sex tonight either....but at least she knows I`m
smarter than her.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Case Study: Bystanders doing nothing...
on: September 12, 2008, 06:27:09 PM
Perhaps it is as simple as shouting "Lets Go! Lets work together to take him down! Help me stop him!" TAKE CHARGE! e.g. "You in the red shirt distract him from in front! (unspoken "While I attack from behind") or "You, tackle low while I tackle high." Simple SPECIFIC COMMANDs e.g. "I have the weapon arm-- you in the blue shirt grab his other arm, you in the red shirt kick him in the balls"
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rules of Engagement
on: September 12, 2008, 06:20:05 PM
What is worth fighting for? What are our ROE? (Rules Of Engagement)
Last night (Wed 10 Sep), in a small pub near Durban, two groups of men were watching the 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifying game between England and Croatia. By the end of the evening, three men had been shot dead and two others critically wounded. The whole sorry argument started over the size of one man's dick.
The shooting took place at the Merseyside Restaurant and Bar at the Queensmead Mall in Durban's Umbilo suburb. According to online reports on News24 and iol.co.za a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "The white man went to the toilet and an Indian guy followed him. While in the urinal, the Indian man told the white man that his [the Indian guy's] penis was bigger than his. The white man left the urinal and told his friends about what had happened and this is when the argument started. At some stage, some of the men went outside and there was a scuffle. One group returned to the tavern to watch the game and the other group remained outside," the source said.
"The men outside then went to their cars, opened their boots and returned to the tavern where they opened fire on the five men." A police spokesperson said the armed men had entered the pub and picked out the five men they'd argued with in a "precision style".
The policeman also said the shooters casually exited the tavern, jumped into their vehicles and left. The three victims, aged between 30 and 55, died on the spot. Another two were rushed to a local hospital in a critical condition.
Comment: Whoever said "Size doesn't matter" was wrong.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela plot
on: September 12, 2008, 06:13:15 PM
The Venezuelan daily newspaper El Universal is reporting that a tape played on a Venezuelan state television show allegedly depicts the voice of a former Venezuelan admiral plotting to overthrow President Hugo Chavez. It is possible the allegations are true — the military has reasons to be worried about Chavez. In any case, the president will try to use the alleged plot to his benefit.
A possible plot to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been uncovered, El Universal reported Sept. 11. The alleged coup was revealed in a voice recording said to be that of former Venezuelan Vice Adm. Carlos Millán and played by Chavez ally Mario Silva on his television show the evening of Sept. 10. Whether or not the accusations are true, they serve to create a sense of embattlement for the Chavez government and will be used as a rallying cry for Venezuelan nationalism.
Citing an unnamed source, Silva played the tape on which a man’s voice said: “Here there is only one objective: We will take the Miraflores Palace…. The objective can only be one thing, that is to say, all of the forces must be where [Chavez] is. If he is in Miraflores, that is where all the forces will be.” In addition to Millán, Chavez has named former army Gen. Wilfredo Barroso Herrera and former air force Gen. Eduardo Báez Torrealba as co-conspirators. In response, Chavez supporters have issued a call to march Sept. 15 in protest of the conspiracy, and Chavez has announced that unnamed individuals have been detained. In addition, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of sponsoring the plan.
The accusation adds to the list of former military officials whom Chavez has accused of various misdeeds or who have spoken out against the president. One of the most prominent of the officials is former Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who is embroiled in a legal battle with the Venezuelan government, and recently survived a half-baked assassination attempt.
It is quite possible that the coup allegations are true. It would not be the first time the military has been involved in undermining Chavez — indeed, portions of the military became involved in a 2002 coup attempt that briefly removed Chavez from power.
At this point, given the deteriorating security situation in the country, skyrocketing inflation and the slow downward spiral of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, the military has a great number of reasons to be concerned about Chavez’s rule. Indeed, Baduel and other military leaders have been especially opposed to Chavez’s policies that have attempted to alter or challenge the structure of the military. This includes a controversial plan to create pro-Chavez civilian militias as a new branch of the military.
Regardless of whether the coup allegations are true, they serve an important purpose for Chavez by increasing the public’s sense that the government is embattled. With municipal and state-level elections approaching in November, Chavez has been fighting a domestic battle for support as he attempts to undermine the opposition and strengthen his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez, like former Cuban President Fidel Castro before him, holds power through constant brinksmanship behavior. (An excellent example of this phenomenon are the recent tensions with Colombia; Venezuela moved troops to the border and threatened war — despite the relative weakness of his military and Colombia’s refusal to engage.)
In fostering a sense of impending doom from the outside — be it from the United States or scheming oligarchs — Chavez (usually successfully) attempts to rile up nationalistic support for his sagging regime.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Southern Iraq and Iran
on: September 12, 2008, 06:10:29 PM
Iraqi forces will soon be taking control of the last of the two provinces in the Shiite south that remain under U.S. military control. The handover will mark a key development in the Iraqi Shia’s bid to consolidate their power base. In turn, this will facilitate Iranian national security policy regarding Iraq, where the Shiite south can act as a buffer between Iran and Iraq’s Sunni population.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader Jassim said Sept. 10 that Iraqi security forces would soon take control of Babil and Wasit — two key Shiite provinces — from the U.S. military.
Babil and Wasit are the only two provinces in Iraq’s Shiite south where security is still in the hands of U.S. forces. Iraqi security forces have already taken over security responsibility for the seven other provinces in the region — Maysin, Basra, Dhi Qar, Al Qadasiya, Al Muthanna, An Najaf and Karbala. Together, these nine provinces constitute the envisioned Shiite southern federal autonomous zone — a proposal being championed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite (and most pro-Iranian) party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).
While the notion of federalism is part of the Iraqi Constitution and is already manifested in the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north, several hurdles remain in the path toward this objective, especially intense intra-Shiite power struggles and disagreements over the idea. Whether or not an autonomous southern Shiite zone takes shape, the reality is that the handover of these two provinces will be a major step in the consolidation of Shiite power in the south. A key reason for this is that control over the security forces — police and army — in the south will be in Shiite hands through both the central government in Baghdad and the provincial authorities in each of the nine provinces.
Most of the governors in the Shiite south are affiliated with ISCI, including the governors of Babil and Wasit. Babil, which has a significant Sunni population, is a strategic province in that it is the only direct land link between Baghdad and the Shiite south. Together, the nine Shiite provinces in southern Iraq allow Tehran to keep its historic enemies — Iraq’s Sunnis — far from its borders.
(click map to enlarge)
The Zagros Mountains, which serve as a natural bulwark protecting Iran against an attack from the west, extend from the northern Kurdish areas down to Diyala, a province contested by each of the country’s three principal sectarian groups. Put differently, the Iranian-Iraqi border that runs south of Wasit all the way to Basra is more or less flat territory vulnerable to an attack and a gateway to Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is also home to ethnic Arabs opposed to Tehran. This is why the Iraqi Shiite south is of critical strategic importance to Iranian national security.
Iran would like to use the Shiite domination of Iraq as a launch pad for projecting power into the region, but there are significant obstacles — namely, the natural competition that characterizes the various Shiite factions — that will prevent that from happening in any meaningful way. But, at the bare minimum, the pro-Iranian Shia dominating southern Iraq and Baghdad should serve as sufficient assurance for Tehran that Iraq will not attack Iran, as many Persian regimes over the millennia have feared.
Of course, the Iraqi Shia do not want their dominion to become Western Persia, but they are new to the game of governance in their country and they want to ensure that the Sunnis (who have the backing of the region’s wealthy Arab states) do not pose a threat to their hold on power. This is why the Iraqi Shia are likely to remain closely aligned with Iran — the only state actor patron at their disposal — for the foreseeable future.
This alignment is the single most important reason behind the mostly backchannel dealings between the United States and Iran over the past several years, which have yet to culminate in the form of an understanding on the final makeup of Iraq. A U.S.-Iranian settlement has become all the more critical in the wake of last month’s Russian intervention in Georgia, because Washington is now desperate to free up its military capability to more directly confront and deter Moscow. But the situation remains complex, and a deal remains elusive.
Tehran, however, can take comfort from the fact that its plans for Iraq, for which it has been laying the groundwork for years, seem to be taking shape in the form of the consolidation of Shiite power in the south.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Pakistan: The crisis
on: September 12, 2008, 05:42:13 PM
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan continue to mount. Although the U.S. Special Operations Command clearly has been conducting operations in Pakistan for years, the White House chose to make it known that the United States was prepared to conduct such operations without Pakistani permission. The head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, responded by saying, “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside of Pakistan.” He said that he had told this directly to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. And, on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas took it a step further by saying that the army had been ordered to hit back in the face of any action by foreign forces on Pakistani territory.
The crisis with the United States comes at the worst time for the Pakistani military. The external crisis is unfolding amid a deteriorating political, economic and security situation. While Kayani and his generals appear to be willing to work with the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the crisis with Washington can lead to civil-military tensions because of potential disagreements between the military and the government over how to deal with overt unilateral U.S. military action on Pakistani soil. Already there is a perception that Zardari and his PPP are more flexible on the issue. However, since the United States’ violation of Pakistani sovereignty is a politically sensitive issue, Kayani has moved to take the hard-line position. But this response should not be dismissed as merely internal Pakistani politics. There is a serious crisis going on in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
The United States has long been suspicious of the commitment of the Pakistani military, and particularly its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), to the fight against al Qaeda. In fact, there were elements in the ISI who did not want to see former President Pervez Musharraf align with the Americans after 9/11. And there has long been suspicion among the Americans that not only wasn’t the Pakistani army doing all it could, but that some elements might be passing information about U.S. operations to al Qaeda, allowing the militants to escape.
When he spoke of unilateral action in Pakistan, U.S. President George W. Bush was saying that he was not comfortable with joint operations under these circumstances. From the point of view of the U.S. military, this has been a long time coming. Indeed, there undoubtedly have been operations in Pakistan against al Qaeda that were unilateral, but this is extending it from operations against al Qaeda to the Taliban.
The Taliban are a military organization, operating as guerrillas. They maintain base camps in Pakistan that are not detected and destroyed by the Pakistanis. In the past, their level of activity was insufficient to warrant destabilizing American relations with Pakistan. That is no longer the case. The Taliban have grown much stronger, and U.S. and NATO forces are under pressure from them. Reinforcements are being sent to them. But the base camps and the lines of supply that go into Pakistan are the center of gravity of the Taliban. The United States is no longer in a position to ignore this. The Taliban are too strong.
Therefore, the United States and Pakistan are on a collision course. The Taliban have roots in Pakistan and sympathizers in the military. Attacking the Taliban’s bases and cutting off the flow of supplies is difficult politically for Pakistan. The United States, on the other hand, is not doing well in Afghanistan. It needs the Taliban in Pakistan to be destroyed, and it is saying that if the Pakistanis don’t do it, the United States will have to — and this will take more than Special Operations forces to achieve.
This moment was bound to come. The United States could not manage Afghanistan so long as the Taliban had sanctuary in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were not going to fight a war in Pakistan to solve the American problem. So we are now down to the final crisis of the war that began seven years ago. Iraq is under control. Afghanistan is coming apart. The key to Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan is unable, by itself, to deal with the Taliban. The United States has little choice but to abandon Afghanistan or go into Pakistan.
Thus the crisis.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media
on: September 12, 2008, 12:10:13 PM
This from the reporter for the Reuters piece.
Just a quick updater on the story we did. Aside from China, a quick search shows it caem out in Brunei, Zaire, Ireland, New Zealand and, jus today, in a photo spread in El Universal in Mexico.
It was also picked up by ABC and the International Herald Tribune.
I don't think I can remember a story that go such attention, at least not in a long while.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 2 Franklin, 1 Madison
on: September 12, 2008, 10:50:43 AM
"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance
that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said
to be certain, except death and taxes."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 13 November
Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Begelow, ed., vol. 12
"Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire
Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their
conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce
which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only
honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed
thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by
the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life,
and virtuous Industry."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Positions to be Examined, 4 April 1769)
Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 645.
"In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can
readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be
said to reign as in a state of nature."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 52, 8 February 1788)
Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 52.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Case Study: Bystanders doing nothing...
on: September 12, 2008, 10:24:04 AM
"if I, or other people willing to get involved in a critical situation need to enlist the help of others, what's the best way to do it? Do any of the LEO or military guys have any insight?"
A very good question from Maija. Although LEOs and military may be much more likely to have such experience(s), ANYONE with any experience is encouraged to speak up.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: September 11, 2008, 10:25:42 AM
Full Header | View Printable Version | Download this as a file
September 10, 2008
In today's Political Diary:
- House of the Living
- See No Rangel, Hear No Rangel
- Reversal of Fortune (Quote of the Day I)
- Paglia in Love (Quote of the Day II)
- Juneau Soap Opera
Back From the Dead
Most political analysts still predict GOP House losses in November and a wider
Democratic majority in 2009, but gone is talk of landslide casualties. House
Republicans returned to Washington this week positively overjoyed that they've not
only caught up with Democrats in generic congressional polls, but pulled into the
lead. The latest USA Today poll has Republicans up by four points on the question:
Who do you support, the Republican or the Democrat for Congress in your district?
This is an amazing turnaround in the polls and even more pronounced turnaround in
the mood of Congressional Republicans. When House GOP members convened on Monday,
there was little talk of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout package, but lots of
celebration of the new poll numbers. "Not too long ago, the feeling in our caucus
was near suicidal," one House Republican tells me. "It was every man for himself.
And there was no campaign money to spread around."
Now, says Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, "Republicans actually think we can gain
seats in the House."
One reason the polls have shifted is that Democrats have become even more unpopular
than Republicans. Says Mr. Garrett: "Voters are finally aware that it's the
Democrats, not us, who control Congress." The public has begun directing its angst
and anger at Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than the
long-gone Tom DeLay.
Another coup for Republicans was the pro-drilling campaign launched by conservative
House GOPers while Democrats went home for summer vacation. Each day, House
Republicans held a vigil for a pro-exploration energy policy even though Democrats
turned out the House lights and shut off the microphones. Mike Pence of Indiana was
one of the ringleaders who gave the Pelosi Democrats heartburn. In his district, he
says, voters paid attention. Nancy Pelosi's decision to take what he called a
"five-week paid vacation" backfired because it "angered voters when gas prices are
Finally, Republicans in the House also are celebrating the Sarah Palin effect.
"She's helping big-time with fundraising," says one conservative House member. "We
saw the effect immediately after she was chosen by McCain." Earlier this year, GOP
money woes had given Democrats a multitude of GOP incumbents to shoot at without
fear of retaliation. Not any more.
"I actually think we can win back the majority in the house," says Rep. Garrett,
ever the optimist. "But I'm probably the only one who thinks that." Yes, well, in
1994 Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were the only ones who foresaw a GOP sweep in
-- Stephen Moore
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing by her chairman.
Charles Rangel, the embattled head of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked
for three separate House Ethics Committee investigations of himself in recent weeks.
That has led House Republicans to demand he step down as chairman until the issues
are resolved. Speaker Pelosi, who ran her 2006 campaign to take back the House from
"a culture of corruption," is having none of it.
"Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives," Ms.
Pelosi told Politico.com on Monday. "Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is
very well-respected by members on both sides of the aisle."
Still, it is embarrassing that Mr. Rangel has had to announce this week that he must
pay overdue state, local and city taxes on $75,0000 in unreported rental income from
a vacation property in the Dominican Republic. That follows a controversy over how
he was able to obtain several rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, one of which he
used improperly as a campaign office. Then there's the matter of his use of
Congressional stationery and influence to raise money for a public affairs institute
in New York that bears his name. "Since this is the man who writes the tax laws of
the United States, we need new leadership until we get all the facts," Rep. Eric
Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership, told me.
Of course, Republicans can't afford to parade around on too high a horse. Two of
their Appropriations Committee members, Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Don
Young of Alaska, have come under federal investigation over earmarks secured for
supporters. Neither Republican has been charged with wrongdoing, but the probes have
tarnished the ability of Republicans to carry on crusades against Mr. Rangel and
other errant Democrats.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"First [Barack Obama's] startling and lofty rhetoric grew stale from overuse. And
now his once engaging (for some) ideas are being overtaken by events. His call for
quick retreat from Iraq, overtaken by the surge and the smell of victory, has forced
him to reverse field and admit the surge has been an unexpected (by him) success.
Then the declining economy forced him this week to back away from his soak-the-rich
tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. Of course, the perils of
Pauline still may threaten Gov. Palin, and two months is time enough for many more
strange twists. But one week on from the Republican convention, it is fair to say
that never in modern history has a presidential ticket benefited so much from its
convention. And never have the hopes and energy of a moribund party risen so quickly
or so high" -- Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, on how Sarah Palin and the
reemergence of John McCain "maverick" persona have lifted the GOP.
Quote of the Day II
"Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises
that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the
night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I
would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of
Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never
heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. . . . This woman turned out to be a
tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor. . . . In terms of
redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the
biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of
high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats
of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment" -- feminist
critic Camille Paglia, writing at Salon.com.
Half the Washington press corps is now winging its way to Alaska to scour the record
for something embarrassing on Gov. Sarah Palin. Luring them is a seeming scandal
already called Troopergate that broke in July, when Mrs. Palin fired Department of
Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. In recent weeks the state legislature has
opened an investigation into the dismissal and hired an independent counsel to
determine if laws were broken.
Her critics accuse Mrs. Palin of firing Mr. Monegan because he had refused to fire
State Trooper Michael Wooten, who had gone through a messy divorce with the
governor's sister. If the charge is true, it would certainly hurt Mrs. Palin's
reformist credentials -- although her powers of office entitled her to fire
Commissioner Monegan for any reason or no reason at all.
Still, there is reason to suspect the scandal is little more than a political smear
attempt. The investigation is being run by a Democrat in the state Senate (the
Republican who would have been in charge recently stepped down to fight allegations
of his own corruption). Mr. Monegan is a disgruntled former employee who never told
anyone about the alleged pressure to fire Trooper Wooten before his own firing. And
Mr. Monegan broke his allegations on a blog run by an also-ran gubernatorial
candidate who was crushed by Mrs. Palin in the 2006 elections. What's more, Trooper
Wooten's record would hardly seem to make him ideal state trooper material. He's a
four-time divorcee whom Mrs. Palin says threatened to kill her father. He admitted
to using a Taser on his 11-year-old stepson and to killing a moose out of season.
He's also had to fight allegations of drunk driving and other infractions.
The scandal also seems trumped up in light of legitimate reasons Mrs. Palin had for
firing Commissioner Monegan. The two disagreed over cuts in the public safety
department's budget as well as her insistence that he focus state trooper attention
on rural drug use. Mr. Monegan had been forced out of his previous job running the
police force of Anchorage. The man who fired him then was Mayor Mark Begich, the
Democrat now running for U.S. Senate against embattled Republican Ted Stevens.
In Alaska, politics always seems a little inbred. Mrs. Palin has remained mum since
she was tapped to be John McCain's running mate nearly two weeks ago, but seven
members of her administration have declined requests by investigators to be
interviewed. The state legislature is now weighing whether to hand down subpoenas --
though it's unlikely that the governor herself would be subpoenaed. With so much
fodder, however, any reporter with an eye for detail will be able to come back from
an Alaska trip with attention-getting tidbits. You don't become a change agent by
making friends, so there will be plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle eager to
fill a reporter's notebook with their criticisms of Mrs. Palin. To beat this story,
the McCain/Palin campaign may need to start filling a few of those pages itself.
-- Brendan Miniter
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: September 11, 2008, 10:23:01 AM
"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,
entangling alliances with none."
-- Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)
Reference: Inauguration Addresses of the Presidents
"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely
prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the
preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?"
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 41, 1788)
Reference: The Federalist
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holland
on: September 11, 2008, 10:11:09 AM
his religion prohibited him from rising for other people
Amsterdam - All Dutch attorneys, including Muslims, should rise when a judge enters a court room, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told Dutch parliament on Tuesday. Hirsch Ballin said the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence felt that rising for a judge is "the common way to show respect for the court and legal authority."
The minister was responding to a question posed by legislator Henk Kamp (Liberals), who inquired about a news report which said a Rotterdam court had made an agreement with a Muslim attorney that he could remain seated when a judge enters the courtroom.
Mohammed Enait, who was sworn in as an attorney last month, said his religion prohibited him from rising for other people. Enait has remained seated as the judge entered.
Last week the Rotterdam court decided that although the : behavioral code requires attorneys to rise when a judge enters the court, exceptions could be made "in extraordinary situations" such as that of Enait.
Hirsch Ballin told parliament that the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence would inform all involved parties of its position that no exceptions could be made. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/s...-minister.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes removes article
on: September 11, 2008, 10:03:03 AM
NYT.com Removes Article Mentioning Obama's Muslim Roots
NYT.com Removes Article Mentioning Obama's Muslim Roots
By Noel Sheppard (Bio | Archive)
September 9, 2008 - 10:25 ET
UPDATE: Link to article in question now works as of 6:45PM.
On March 6, 2007, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof published an article entitled "Obama: Man of the World."
In it, Kristof addressed Barack Obama's upbringing, including his early life in Jakarta when he "got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school."
For some reason, the link to this piece doesn't work anymore. Does the New York Times no longer want folks to read the following paragraphs (h/t Gateway Pundit via NBer mitchflorida):
"I was a little Jakarta street kid," he said in a wide-ranging interview in his office (excerpts are on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground
). He once got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school, but a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics -- and more likely to be aware of their nationalism -- if he once studied the Koran with them.
Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it'll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
Moreover, Mr. Obama's own grandfather in Kenya was a Muslim. Mr. Obama never met his grandfather and says he isn't sure if his grandfather's two wives were simultaneous or consecutive, or even if he was Sunni or Shiite.
Further complicating the matter is that Kristof posted a link to this piece at his "On the Ground" blog the night before it appeared in print, and solicited opinions. That link doesn't work, either. Even more mysterious, Obama's official campaign website still has the article available. Makes one wonder what the Times is feeling so squeamish about. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sh...s-muslim-roots
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel asks for corredor to attack Iran
on: September 11, 2008, 10:01:44 AM
second article of the morning:
Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran
Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents Tags: U.S., bunker buster, Iran
The security aid package the United States has refused to give Israel for the past few months out of concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor to Iran, an advanced technological system and refueling planes.
Officials from both countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months. Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran, if such a decision is made.
About a month ago, Haaretz reported that the Bush administration had turned down an Israeli request for certain security items that could upgrade Israel's capability to attack Iran. The U.S. administration reportedly saw the request as a sign preparations were moving ahead for an Israeli attack on Iran.
Diplomatic and security sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of components Israel included:
Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs: In 2005, the U.S. said it was supplying these bombs to Israel. In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and was turned down.
Air-space authorization: An attack on Iran would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If you want, coordinate with him."
Refueling planes. An air attack on Iran would require refueling of fighter jets on the way back. According to a report on Channel 10 a few weeks ago, the U.S. rejected an Israeli request for more advanced refueling tankers, of the Boeing 767 model.
The refueling craft the Israel Air Force now uses are very outmoded, something that make it difficult to operate at long distances from Israel. Even if the Americans were to respond favorably to such a request, the process could take a few years.
The IDF recently reported that it is overhauling a Boeing 707 that previously served as the prime minister's plane to serve as a refueling aircraft.
Advanced technological systems. The Israeli sources declined to give any details on this point.
The Israeli requests were discussed during President George W. Bush's visit to Israel in May, as well as during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington in July. In a series of meetings at a very senior level, following Bush's visit, the Americans made clear to the Israelis that for now they are sticking to the diplomatic option to halt the Iranian nuclear project and that Jerusalem does not have a green light from Washington for an attack on Iran.
However, it appears that in compensation for turning down Israel's "offensive" requests, the U.S. has agreed to strengthen its defensive systems.
During the Barak visit, it was agreed that an advanced U.S. radar system would be stationed in the Negev, and the order to send it was made at that time. The system would double to 2,000 kilometers the range of identification of missiles launched from the direction of Iran, and would be connected to an American early warning system.
The system is to be operated by American civilians as well as two American soldiers. This would be the first permanent U.S. force on Israeli soil.
A senior security official said the Americans were preparing "with the greatest speed" to make good on their promise, and the systems could be installed within a month.
The Israeli security source said he believed Washington was moving ahead quickly on the request because it considered it very important to restrain Israel at this time.
At the beginning of the year, the Israeli leadership still considered it a reasonable possibility that Bush would decide to attack Iran before the end of his term.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in private discussions, even raised the possibility that the U.S. was considering an attack in the transition period between the election in November and the inauguration of the new president in January 2009.
However, Jerusalem now assumes that likelihood of this possibility is close to nil, and that Bush will use the rest of his time in office to strengthen what he defines as the Iraqi achievement, following the relative success of American efforts there over the past year and a half. http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1019989.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel-
on: September 11, 2008, 03:19:29 AM
Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: OLMERT’S CANCELED TRIP TO MOSCOW, THE BROADER PICTURE
The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert canceled
his trip to Moscow scheduled for Sept. 14. The trip was apparently canceled because
of a recommendation made Sept. 7 by the Israeli police to indict Olmert on bribery
charges. While the explanation seems plausible, it is unlikely. If Olmert was unable
to go because of political heat at home, a high-level Israeli official could have
gone in his place or the visit could been rescheduled.
Instead, the cancellation seems to indicate that Israel is switching its strategy on
how to handle a resurgent Russia, from a policy of accommodation to one of potential
The relationship between Russia and Israel has had its fair share of ups and downs,
beginning with a close alliance between the nascent Jewish state and the Soviet
Union in the late 1940s. This was followed by a period of Soviet patronage of
Israel's enemies, mainly Egypt and Syria, which was designed primarily to strike at
U.S. interests in the Middle East but which also threatened Israel as an ancillary
effect. But with the end of the Cold War, Moscow's influence receded from the Middle
Israel's biggest existential threat is not from its Arab neighbors but rather from a
global power seeking to establish its own interests in the Middle East. In other
words, Israel's neighbors only become a threat once they obtain outside patronage
making them bold, organized and armed enough to strike at Israel from all sides.
While Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan and is eyeing a similar
relationship with Syria, there is no guarantee that an emergent global power would
not offer alternatives to Israel's neighbors -- alternatives that have been lacking
in the post-Cold War world.
Russia is exactly such a power. A resurgent Russia once again looking for potential
allies in the Middle East (such as Iran, Syria or perhaps in a highly hypothetical
scenario even Egypt) that would challenge the United States has always been one of
Israel's main concerns. Therefore, Israel actively engaged in checking Russian power
by selling weapons to Georgia. The idea was to contain Moscow and force it to deal
with challenges on its periphery, thus keeping it from mucking about in the Middle
Israel got wind of Moscow's plans for Georgia before the Aug. 8 intervention and
decided that a confrontation with the Kremlin was not a wise strategy, precisely
because Israel understands the danger in Russian support of Syria and Iran. Hence, a
week before Russian tanks rolled into South Ossetia, Israel announced that it would
end all weapon sales to Georgia. This was followed by a general acquiescent attitude
toward Moscow after the Georgian intervention, to the obvious chagrin of the
Americans who were looking for a concerted effort against the Kremlin. The
subsequent Olmert visit on Sept. 14 was supposed to affirm an accommodating policy
toward Moscow and to secure guarantees from the Kremlin that Iran and Syria would
not be emboldened to threaten Israel.
However Russia has not fallen into line with Israel's overtures. This is not because
Moscow is hoping for open confrontation with Israel, but rather because Russia's
current priority is to keep Americans embroiled in the Middle East. To do that, from
the Kremlin perspective, Iran has to remain a threat and -- if possible -- Syria
ought to re-emerge as a threat. Russian actions, designed to allow Moscow room to
maneuver in the Caucasus and Europe, have therefore -- as an ancillary consequence
-- threatened Israel's national security.
Specifically, a resurgent Russia supporting Iran with nuclear technology and
advanced strategic air-defense systems, like the late-model variants of the S-300,
is a direct threat to Israel even though Moscow's actual intention is to embolden
Tehran against the United States. A particularly nightmarish scenario for Israel
would be a refocused and reorganized Syria (or a hypothetical post-coup Egypt) with
renewed Russian patronage.
This changes the strategic calculus that Israel has had since the end of the Cold
War. For the past 18 years Israel's biggest concern was not the strength of the Arab
states, but rather their weakness -- the fear that if there was a war with its
neighbors Israel's military superiority would be so catastrophic that it would
destroy the enemy to the point where the resulting chaos would usher in not another
secular state but an Islamist one that would sponsor waves of terror attacks against
Israel therefore found itself in the odd position of wanting (and often overtly
trying) to keep various Arab secular dictators in power in order to avoid having to
deal with a worse alternative. With Russia back in the game, a secular regime backed
by the Kremlin is much worse than an unaligned Islamist regime from Israel's
perspective. Therefore, Israel may still have a few cards to play should Russia jump
back into the sandbox, starting with destabilizing neighbors that choose to side
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: September 10, 2008, 03:35:36 AM
Se me informa que el articulo que hizo el servicio de noticias Reuters sobre nuestro "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" se ha publicado en el periodico "El Universal" de Mexico. Se lo agradeceria si alguien aqui pudiera localizarlo y "post" (?Como se dice "to post"?) lo aqui.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evan Tanner
on: September 10, 2008, 02:33:11 AM
“I believe there are people out there that just have a warrior spirit, whether it’s fighting or something, they’ve got to do it. It’s hard to identify with me; it’s just something I do.”
---Evan Tanner, 2005
"I will do nothing lightly. When I walk, I will walk heavily. When I fight, I will fight with conviction. When I speak, I will speak strongly. When I feel, I will feel everything. When I love, I will love with everything."
"And to think, there are still places in the world where man has not been, where he has left no footprints, where the mysteries stand secure, untouched by human eyes. I want to go to these places, the quiet, timeless, ageless places, and sit, letting silence and solitude be my teachers."
It is a shame that in this society we've been taught to judge a man's worth by what he owns instead of who he is. Everything is surface, and so few look beyond it. A man will sell his soul, he will lie, cheat and steal, for money. If he has it, he can buy respect. Wear the right clothes, drive the right car, have the right friends, that's all that matters. Our lives are consumed in a selfish, self absorbed quest for possessions, the latest and the best in a never-ending cycle until the day we die. We forget what it means to be truly human. We forget the things that really matter. We lose the magic of what life should be.
I won't live by rules that make no sense to me.
- Evan Tanner
"College dropout, adventurer, seeker, traveler, ditch digger, dishwasher, cable tech, concrete worker, steel worker, salad prep, busboy, ski resort security, ski resort rental shop technician. I've worked in a slaughter house. I've been a landscaper. I've done drywall, tile, countertops, wood flooring, roofing. I have been a plumber, worked as a bottle collector at a bar, a bouncer, a doorman, a head of a security team. I have been a basket room clerk, a carpenter, a framer building beach houses, a truss builder. I've lived on a farm. I've lived in the city. I've earned money mowing lawns, selling on ebay, and fighting. A teacher, a trainer, and a coach sometimes. There was a time when I was younger that I didn't know any better than to be a liar, a cheater, and a thief. I have since learned to despise those things. I have had great friendships. I have had great loves. I have been a lover, I have been a son, a brother, and a friend. And I was once a world champion."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: September 10, 2008, 02:26:13 AM
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: U.S. TROOP ALLOCATIONS AND FUTURE PRIORITIES
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday that he will withdraw up to 8,000
troops from Iraq before he leaves office. At the same time, he intends to increase
the number of troops in Afghanistan. The reduction in forces will begin in November.
A Marine battalion will be withdrawn and its replacement will be sent to Afghanistan
instead. Then an Army brigade plus support troops will be withdrawn and not
replaced, bringing the total withdrawn to about 8,000 troops. That means that the
number of troops in Iraq when Bush leaves office will be slightly higher than when
the surge began.
There are two reasons for the withdrawal. First, there is clearly the need for
additional troops in Afghanistan. The situation there is deteriorating because the
Taliban have gained strength over recent years and because the number of troops
there is insufficient to defeat them or even to guarantee that at some point the
Taliban won't be able to inflict substantial regional defeats on U.S. and NATO
forces. Reinforcements have to be sent, and the primary pool of available forces is
either in Iraq or scheduled to go there.
Secondly -- and this is an objective and not partisan observation -- there is an
election going on in the United States, and the president wants John McCain to win.
That means that he must reinforce McCain's assertion that the surge has worked by
withdrawing at least some forces. The argument that the surge has succeeded is not
compatible with the argument that force levels can't be reduced. So between
Afghanistan and the election, some reduction was necessary.
What is interesting is that only an 8,000-troop reduction is being proposed. Bush
is following the recommendation of Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces in
Iraq and who, as U.S. Central Command chief, is now responsible for both Iraq and
Afghanistan. Petraeus is clearly uncomfortable with the state of things in Iraq. He
has said as much. The tensions within the Iraqi government are substantial, and if
they are not resolved, some of the factions may choose to resume the civil war.
Relations with Iran remain unclear, and in spite of some assurances that the
Iranians no longer have the kind of clout they used to with Iraqi Shiite militias,
that is a hypothesis that might be true but no one wants to see tested. Iraq remains
a priority over Afghanistan; its status is improved but uncertain, and the bulk of
U.S. forces remain committed to Iraq.
The problem the next president will face is that the U.S. military will be dealing
with more than reinforcing Afghanistan while maintaining stability in Iraq. U.S.
forces are also facing the much larger question, as we have discussed, of how to
deal with Russia after Georgia. This administration continues to discuss including
Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. We do not think this will happen, as European members
will block it, but NATO has already included the Baltic countries at a time when
NATO couldn't imagine an assertive Russia. Now, the United States and others have
made military guarantees to defend the Baltics but have not allocated the forces
needed to deter hypothetical Russian moves. We do not know that the Russians will do
anything there, but the point of deploying forces is to deter such an action. Put
simply, the United States cannot put the forces on the ground in the Baltics to act
as that deterrent.
There is a broader issue, however. The Russians and the Venezuelans are talking
about naval maneuvers in the Caribbean while U.S. warships are in the Black Sea.
The Russo-Venezuelan exercises cannot be taken seriously militarily, and it is
unlikely that the United States will try to get aggressive in the closed waters of
the Black Sea. That said, it is unclear what Russian capabilities and intentions
will be in five to 10 years, and it takes at least that long to enhance naval power
for the United States. If there is to be a competition with the Russians at sea,
Washington will need to budget more money for anti-submarine warfare systems,
enhanced anti-missile systems on more vessels and so on. These are systems that the
United States has and is funding, but not with a sense of urgency.
It will be for the next administration to determine how serious the Russians are
going to be in a decade. But the U.S. Navy is certainly going to try to lay claim to
a greater budget share, while NATO and U.S. troops in Europe may no longer appear to
be an anachronism. Keeping substantial forces in Iraq, building up forces in
Afghanistan, reinforcing NATO and funding faster and deeper naval development are
not possible within the current Defense Department budget. Something has to give,
and that is either some of these commitments or the budget. President Obama or
President McCain will have an interesting opening act.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Spending Explosion
on: September 09, 2008, 11:43:28 PM
The Spending Explosion
September 10, 2008; Page A14
Here's a prediction: The media will report today that the federal budget deficit is big and getting bigger. What most of them won't report, alas, is that the cause of these deficits is an explosion in federal spending. The era of big government is back, bigger than ever.
The real news in yesterday's Congressional Budget Office semiannual report is that federal expenditures on everything from roads to homeland security to health care will on present trends reach 21.5% of GDP next year. That's a larger share of national output than at anytime since 1992. If the cost of the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prove to be large and are taken into account, next year federal outlays could be higher as a share of the economy than at anytime since World War II. In this decade alone, federal spending has increased by almost $1.2 trillion, or 57%.
The federal deficit is expected to hit $407 billion for fiscal 2008 (which ends at the end of this month) and $438 billion next year. Still, the deficit is expected to be only 3% of GDP, which is in line with the average of the last 30 years. We hope Congress and the Presidential candidates don't obsess over the deficit per se, because the real fiscal drag from government comes from how much it spends, not how much it borrows.
The Bush tax cuts also aren't the budget problem. Until this year federal tax collections have been surging. In the four years after the 2003 tax cuts become law, tax receipts exploded by $785 billion. This year revenues have declined by 0.8%, but a major reason is the $150 billion bipartisan tax rebate that has hit the Treasury without spurring the economy. Without these nonstimulating rebates, federal tax payments would have climbed another 2.5%, according to CBO. Revenue is expected to be a healthy 18.5% of GDP next year without any tax increase.
Another myth is that the war on terror has busted the budget. While operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are expensive, defense spending is $605 billion this year, or about 4.5% of GDP. That only seems large by comparison to the holiday from history of the 1990s, when defense fell to 3% of GDP. As recently as 1986, defense spending was 6.2% of GDP.
The real runaway train is what CBO calls a "substantial increase in spending" that is "on an unsustainable path." That's for sure. The nearby chart shows how much some federal accounts have expanded since 2001, and in inflation-adjusted dollars. This year alone, federal agencies have lifted their spending by 8.1%, with another 7% raise expected for 2009. There's certainly no recession in Washington. The CBO says that, merely in the two years that Democrats have run Congress, federal expenditures are up $429 billion -- to $3.158 trillion.
The fiscal blowouts have included a record farm bill, notwithstanding record farm income; an aid bill for distressed homeowners, extended unemployment benefits, and more generous veterans benefits. Next up: votes on $50 billion for Detroit auto firms, an $80 billion energy bill, as much as $50 billion for spending masked as a "second stimulus," plus $100 billion or more for the Fannie and Freddie rescue. Rather than sort through priorities, Congress is spending more on just about everything.
Meanwhile, remember that "pay as you go" spending promise that Speaker Nancy Pelosi made in 2006? We called it a ruse at the time, and the last two years have proved it. Senator Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) has tallied up at least $398 billion in "paygo" violations so far. Earmarks were also supposed to be cut in half by this Congress. In 2008 there were some 11,000 at a cost of $17 billion, the second most ever, and far more than half the peak of 14,000 in 2006.
The point to keep in mind is that this big spending blitz is coming even before a new President and Congress arrive next year with far more spending promises in tow. As they contemplate their choice for President, voters might want to consider which of the candidates is likely to be a check on Congressional appetites, rather than a facilitator.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Useful idiots at it again
on: September 09, 2008, 11:40:42 PM
September 10, 2008; Page A14
The Kremlin has been dusting off old Bolshevik intimidation techniques since the U.S. signed a missile defense partnership with Poland last month. The Russian foreign ministry promised that its response "would go beyond diplomacy," and a Russian general mused that this meant its nuclear missiles would have to target Poland. Who would have thought such talk would find an accommodating ear in the U.S. Congress?
That will be the question when Illinois Republican Representative Mark Kirk offers an amendment in the coming days to the Defense Appropriations bill to restore funding for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. The money was struck in May by Democrats who justified the cuts by claiming that the Iranian threat was not developing quickly and a deal with Poland hadn't been signed. Now Iran has tried to orbit its first satellite and a deal with Poland is in place, so we'll soon see if House Democrats and Barack Obama change with the new reality.
Even as Polish leaders were risking Russia's wrath by signing the U.S. deal, California Democrat Ellen Tauscher declared that the missile defense partnership was proceeding way too fast. Ms. Tauscher wrote on the left-wing Huffington Post last month that the U.S.-Polish pact would "build an ideologically-based system that is untested and certainly not ready, against a threat that has not yet emerged."
Ms. Tauscher chairs the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee and so can be a real obstacle to the Polish deal and other attempts to forge closer alliances with countries on the Russian periphery. Ditto for House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, who loves earmarks but can't see fit to help our Polish allies.
As distressing, these missile defense objections have been echoed by Barack Obama spokeswoman Wendy Morigi, who recently explained the Presidential candidate's position as "Congress will not and should not fund a system until testing has proven that it works, and that testing will not be completed until 2010 at the earliest."
The timing of these remarks couldn't have been worse. Polish leaders finally struck the missile deal, after months of national debate, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia. The agreement is largely symbolic, since the 10 interceptors couldn't possibly stop a Russian attack and are really aimed at Iran. But the symbolism is still useful as a message to Moscow that its Georgian imperialism won't cower everyone in Eastern Europe. It is also an expression of Poland's confidence in America as an ally. "We're determined this time around to have alliances backed by realities, backed by capabilities," says Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
On Monday, Mr. Sikorski met with Mr. Kirk and John McCain in Chicago to discuss missile defense in Poland. While some have questioned whether the deal signed in August will get through Poland's parliament, Mr. Sikorski tells us there will be no problem with ratification, most likely by the end of the year. On the other hand, U.S. failure to honor its new commitments to Poland would be disastrous to the country's faith in NATO. "We do feel that NATO should revive its role as a military organization," Mr. Sikorski notes.
The Tauscher-Obama objections will make Polish leaders wonder if their new agreement will be undercut by the next Administration, or in a Congress likely to be run by Democrats for years to come. And the comments will delight Vladimir Putin, who would like nothing better than to show Poles and Ukrainians that it's risky to trust the inconstant Americans.
The Pentagon has made significant progress in missile defenses this decade, and our allies are eager to participate in their development. Once sites are developed, either at home or abroad, they can be upgraded as the technology improves. The point of defenses is to deploy them before a threat is real, so we aren't caught by surprise. The Tauscher-Obama "ideologically-based" hostility to the Polish agreement helps to explain why a majority of Americans aren't sure they trust Democrats on matters of national security.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Next Target
on: September 09, 2008, 11:22:29 PM
Russia's Next Target
Could Be Ukraine
By LEON ARON
September 10, 2008; Page A15
Perhaps the most urgent question in the world affairs today is whether Russia's invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia was a singular event. Or was it the onset of a distinct, and profoundly disturbing, national security and foreign policy agenda?
Much as one would like to cling to the former theory, the evidence favors the latter. A European delegation led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy did manage this week to get assurances that Russian troops would withdraw from Georgia (excepting Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence Moscow says is "irrevocable"). But ultimately, this short war is likely to be remembered as the beginning of a decisive shift in Russia's national priorities. The most compelling of these new priorities today seems to be recovery of the assets lost in the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, which Vladimir Putin has called the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."
How does Russia achieve this goal? By dominating the domestic politics and, more importantly, economic- and foreign-policy orientation, of the former Soviet republics. Anything considered antithetical to Russia's interests, as interpreted by the current Kremlin leadership, must be discarded -- be it democratization, oil and gas exports that bypass Russia, and, especially, the membership in the Western organizations such as the European Union and NATO. And if, in the process, Russia must sacrifice most or even all of the fruits of the post-Soviet rapprochement with the West -- including membership in the G-8, entry to the World Trade Organization or ties to the EU -- so be it.
Russia's "targets of opportunity" include simmering border disputes (and virtually all Russia's borders with newly independent states could be disputed, since they are but the very badly demarcated internal borders of the Soviet Union), and the presence of the ethnic Russian or Russian-speaking minorities in neighboring countries.
Apart from Estonia and Latvia -- where ethnic Russians constitute over a quarter of the population, but where NATO membership raises the risk for the Kremlin -- by far the most likely target is Ukraine. Kiev has repeatedly defied and angered Russia by the domestic politics of democratization, a decidedly pro-Western orientation, and the eagerness of its leadership to join NATO. Nearly one in five Ukraine citizens are ethnically Russian (a total of almost eight million) and live mostly in the country's northeast, adjacent to the Russian border.
Mr. Putin has made his contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty clear, most notably at the NATO summit in Bucharest last April when, according to numerous reports in the Russian and Ukrainian press, he told President Bush that the Ukraine is "not even a real state," that much of its territory was "given away" by Russia, and that it would "cease to exist as a state" if it dared join NATO. Clearly, Vice President Cheney's trip to Ukraine this past weekend, where he expressed America's "deep commitment" to this "democratic nation" and its "right" to join NATO, was intended as a message to Moscow.
Still, there is no better place to cause a political crisis in Ukraine and force a change in the country's leadership, already locked in a bitter internecine struggle, than the Crimean peninsula. It was wrestled by Catherine the Great from the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 18th century. Less than a quarter of the Crimeans are ethnic Ukrainians, while Russians make up over half the inhabitants (the pro-Ukrainian Crimean Tatars, one-fifth).
Ever since the 1997 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, a solid majority of the Russian parliament has opposed the recognition of the Crimea as Ukrainian territory. Russian nationalists have been especially adamant about the city of Sevastopol, the base for Russia's Black Sea fleet and the site of some of the most spectacular feats of Russian military valor and sacrifice in World War II and the Crimean War of 1854-55.
Nationalist politicians, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, have repeatedly traveled to Crimea to show the flag and support the Russian irredentists -- many of them retired Russian military officers who periodically mount raucous demonstrations. In 2006, their protests forced the cancellation of the joint Ukraine-NATO Sea Breeze military exercises. Sevastopol was and should again be a Russian city," Mr. Luzhkov declared this past May, and the Moscow City Hall has appropriated $34 million for "the support of compatriots abroad" over the next three years. On Sept. 5, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko accused the Russian consulate in the Crimean capital of Simferopol of distributing Russian passports to the inhabitants of the peninsula.
With almost three-quarters of Sevastopol's 340,000 residents ethnically Russian, and 14,000 Russian Navy personnel already "on the inside" (they've been known to don civilian clothes and participate in demonstrations by Russian Crimean irredentists), an early morning operation in which the Ukrainian mayor and officials are deposed and arrested and the Russian flag hoisted over the city should not be especially hard to accomplish. Once established, Russian sovereignty over Sevastopol would be impossible to reverse without a large-scale war, which Ukraine will be most reluctant to initiate and its Western supporters would strongly discourage.
A potentially bolder (and likely bloodier) scenario might involve a provocation by the Moscow-funded, and perhaps armed, Russian nationalists (or the Russian special forces, spetznaz, posing as irredentists). They could declare Russian sovereignty over a smaller city (Alushta, Evpatoria, Anapa) or a stretch of inland territory. In response, Ukrainian armed forces based in the Crimea outside Sevastopol would likely counterattack. The ensuing bloodshed would provide Moscow with the interventionist excuse of protecting its compatriots -- this time, unlike in South Ossetia, ethnic Russians.
Whatever the operational specifics, the Russian political barometer seems to augur storms ahead.
Mr. Aron, director of Russian studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006" (AEI Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: September 09, 2008, 11:18:46 PM
The Foreign Policy Difference
By FOUAD AJAMI
September 10, 2008
The candidacy of Barack Obama seems to have lost some of its luster of late, and I suspect this has something to do with large questions many Americans still harbor about his view of the dangerous world around us. Those questions were not stilled by the choice of Joe Biden as his running mate.
To be sure, the Delaware senator is a man of unfailing decency and deep legislative experience; and his foreign policy preferences are reflective of the liberal internationalist outlook that once prevailed in the Democratic Party. To his honor and good name, Sen. Biden took a leading role in pushing for the use of American military power in the Balkans when the Muslims of Bosnia were faced with grave dangers a dozen years ago. Patriotism does not embarrass this man in the way it does so many in the liberal elite. But as Bob Woodward is the latest to remind us, it is presidents, not their understudies, who shape the destiny of nations.
So the Obama candidacy must be judged on its own merits, and it can be reckoned as the sharpest break yet with the national consensus over American foreign policy after World War II. This is not only a matter of Sen. Obama's own sensibility; the break with the consensus over American exceptionalism and America's claims and burdens abroad is the choice of the activists and elites of the Democratic Party who propelled Mr. Obama's rise.
Though the staging in Denver was the obligatory attempt to present the Obama Democrats as men and women of the political center, the Illinois senator and his devotees are disaffected with American power. In their view, we can make our way in the world without the encumbrance of "hard" power. We would offer other nations apologies for the way we carried ourselves in the aftermath of 9/11, and the foreign world would be glad for a reprieve from the time of American certitude.
The starkness of the choice now before the country is fully understood when compared to that other allegedly seminal election of 1960. But the legend of Camelot and of the New Frontier exaggerates the differences between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. A bare difference of four years separated the two men (Nixon had been born in 1913, Kennedy in 1917). Both men had seen service in the Navy in World War II. Both were avowed Cold Warriors. After all, Kennedy had campaigned on the missile gap -- in other words the challenger had promised a tougher stance against the Soviet Union. (Never mind the irony: There was a missile gap; the U.S. had 2,000 missiles, the Soviet Union a mere 67.)
The national consensus on America's role abroad, and on the great threats facing it, was firmly implanted. No great cultural gaps had opened in it, arugula was not on the menu, and the elites partook of the dominant culture of the land; the universities were then at one with the dominant national ethos. The "disuniting of America" was years away. American liberalism was still unabashedly tethered to American nationalism.
We are at a great remove from that time and place. Globalization worked its way through the land, postmodernism took hold of the country's intellectual life. The belief in America's "differentness" began to give way, and American liberalism set itself free from the call of nationalism. American identity itself began to mutate.
The celebrated political scientist Samuel Huntington, in "Who Are We?," a controversial book that took up this delicate question of American identity, put forth three big conceptions of America: national, imperial and cosmopolitan. In the first, America remains America. In the second, America remakes the world. In the third, the world remakes America. Back and forth, America oscillated between the nationalist and imperial callings. The standoff between these two ideas now yields to the strength and the claims of cosmopolitanism. It is out of this new conception of America that the Obama phenomenon emerges.
The "aloofness" of Mr. Obama that has become part of the commentary about him is born of this cultural matrix. Mr. Obama did not misspeak when he described union households and poorer Americans as people clinging to their guns and religion; he was overheard sharing these thoughts with a like-minded audience in San Francisco.
Nor was it an accident that, in a speech at Wesleyan University, he spoke of public service but excluded service in the military. The military does not figure prominently in his world and that of his peers. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention, as was the case on the campaign trail, he spoke of his maternal grandfather's service in Patton's army. But that experience had not been part of his own upbringing.
When we elect a president, we elect a commander in chief. This remains an imperial republic with military obligations and a military calling. That is why Eisenhower overwhelmed Stevenson, Reagan's swagger swept Carter out of office, Bush senior defeated Dukakis, etc.
The exception was Bill Clinton, with his twin victories over two veterans of World War II. We had taken a holiday from history -- but 9/11 awakened us to history's complications. Is it any wonder that Hillary Clinton feigned the posture of a muscular American warrior, and carried the working class with her?
The warrior's garb sits uneasily on Barack Obama's shoulders: Mr. Obama seeks to reassure Americans that he and his supporters are heirs of Roosevelt and Kennedy; that he, too, could order soldiers to war, stand up to autocracies and rogue regimes. But the widespread skepticism about his ability to do so is warranted.
The crowds in Berlin and Paris that took to him knew their man. He had once presented his willingness to negotiate with Iran as the mark of his diplomacy, the break with the Bush years and the Bush style. But he stepped back from that pledge, and in a blatant echo of President Bush's mantra on Iran, he was to say that "no options would be off the table" when dealing with Iran. The change came on a visit to Israel, the conversion transparent and not particularly convincing.
Mr. Obama truly believes that he can offer the world beyond America's shores his biography, his sympathies with strangers. In the great debate over anti-Americanism and its sources, the two candidates couldn't be more different. Mr. Obama proceeds from the notion of American guilt: We called up the furies, he believes. Our war on terror and our war in Iraq triggered more animus. He proposes to repair for that, and offers himself (again, the biography) as a bridge to the world.
Mr. McCain, well, he's not particularly articulate on this question. But he shares the widespread attitude of broad swaths of the country that are not consumed with worries about America's standing in foreign lands. Mr. McCain is not eager to be loved by foreigners. In November, the country will have a choice between a Republican candidate forged in the verities of the 1950s, and a Democratic rival who walks out of the 1990s.
For Mr. McCain, the race seems a matter of duty and obligation. He is a man taking up this quest after a life of military and public service, the presidency as a capstone of a long career. Mr. McCain could speak with more nuance about the great issues upon us. When it comes to the Islamic world, for example, it's not enough merely to evoke the threat of radical Islamism as the pre-eminent security challenge of our time. But his approach and demeanor have proven their electoral appeal before.
For Mr. Obama, the race is about the claims of modernism. There is "cool," and the confidence of the meritocracy in him. The Obama way is glib: It glides over the world without really taking it in. It has to it that fluency with political and economic matters that can be acquired in a hurry, an impatience with great moral and political complications. The lightning overseas trip, the quick briefing, and above all a breezy knowingness. Mr. Obama's way is the way of his peers among the liberal, professional elite.
Once every four years, ordinary Americans go out and choose the standard-bearer of their nationalism. Liberalism has run away with elite culture. Nationalism may be out of fashion in Silicon Valley. But the state -- and its citadel, the presidency -- is an altogether different calling.
Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University. He is also an adjunct research fellow of the Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon
on: September 09, 2008, 10:56:02 PM
September 10, 2008
One rap on Sarah Palin's qualifications to be Vice President is that she governs one of our least populated states, with a budget of "only" $12 billion and 16,000 full-time state employees. On the other hand, it turns out that the Governor's office in Alaska is one of the country's most powerful.
For more than two decades Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, has maintained an index of "institutional powers" in state offices. He rates governorships on potential length of service, budgetary and appointment authority, veto power and other factors. Mr. Beyle's findings for 2008 rate Alaska at 4.1 on a scale of 5. The national average is 3.5.
Only four other states -- Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia -- concentrate as much power in the Governor's office as Alaska does, and only one state (Massachusetts) concentrates more. California may be the nation's most populous state, but its Governor rates as below-average (3.2) in executive authority. This may account in part for Arnold Schwarzenegger's poor legislative track record. The lowest rating goes to Vermont (2.5), where the Governor (remember Howard Dean) is a figurehead compared to Mrs. Palin.
In Alaska, the Governor has line-item veto power over the budget and can only be overridden by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature. In 1992, the year Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, his state budget was $2 billion and among the smallest in the country. Compared to that, Sarah Palin is an executive giant.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan goes extra-territorrial
on: September 09, 2008, 09:53:27 PM
Criminalizing Criticism of Islam
By ELIZABETH SAMSON
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
September 10, 2008
There are strange happenings in the world of international jurisprudence that do not bode well for the future of free speech. In an unprecedented case, a Jordanian court is prosecuting 12 Europeans in an extraterritorial attempt to silence the debate on radical Islam.
The prosecutor general in Amman charged the 12 with blasphemy, demeaning Islam and Muslim feelings, and slandering and insulting the prophet Muhammad in violation of the Jordanian Penal Code. The charges are especially unusual because the alleged violations were not committed on Jordanian soil.
Among the defendants is the Danish cartoonist whose alleged crime was to draw in 2005 one of the Muhammad illustrations that instigators then used to spark Muslim riots around the world. His co-defendants include 10 editors of Danish newspapers that published the images. The 12th accused man is Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who supposedly broke Jordanian law by releasing on the Web his recent film, "Fitna," which tries to examine how the Quran inspires Islamic terrorism.
Jordan's attempt at criminalizing free speech beyond its own borders wouldn't be so serious if it were an isolated case. Unfortunately, it is part of a larger campaign to use the law and international forums to intimidate critics of militant Islam. For instance, in December the United Nations General Assembly passed the Resolution on Combating Defamation of Religions; the only religion mentioned by name was Islam. While such resolutions aren't legally binding, national governments sometimes cite them as justification for legislation or other actions.
More worrying, the U.N. Human Rights Council in June said it would refrain from condemning human-rights abuses related to "a particular religion." The ban applies to all religions, but it was prompted by Muslim countries that complained about linking Islamic law, Shariah, to such outrages as female genital mutilation and death by stoning for adulterers. This kind of self-censorship could prove dangerous for people suffering abuse, and it follows the council's March decision to have its expert on free speech investigate individuals and the media for negative comments about Islam.
Given this trend, it's worth taking a closer look at the Jordanian case.
The prosecutor is relying on a 2006 amendment to the Jordanian Justice Act that casts a worryingly wide net for such prosecution. Passed in response to the Danish cartoons incident, the law allows the prosecution of individuals whose actions affect the Jordanian people by "electronic means," such as the Internet. The 2006 amendment, in theory, means anyone who publishes on the Internet could be subject to prosecution in Jordan. If the case against the 12 defendants is allowed to go forward, they will be the first but probably not the last Westerners to be hit by Jordan's law.
Amman has already requested that Interpol apprehend Mr. Wilders and the Danes and bring them to stand before its court for an act that is not a crime in their home countries. To the contrary. Dutch prosecutors said in July that although some of Mr. Wilders's statements may be offensive, they are protected under Dutch free-speech legislation. Likewise, Danish law protects the rights of the Danish cartoonists and newspapers to express their views.
Neither Denmark nor the Netherlands will turn over its citizens to Interpol, as the premise of Jordan's extradition request is an affront to the very principles that define democracies. It is thus unlikely that any Western country would do so, either. But there is no guarantee for the defendants' protection if they travel to countries that are more sympathetic to the Jordanian court.
Unless democratic countries stand up to this challenge to free speech, other nations may be emboldened to follow the Jordanian example. Kangaroo courts across the globe will be ready to charge free people with obscure violations of other societies' norms and customs, and send Interpol to bring them to stand trial in frivolous litigation.
A new form of forum shopping would soon take root. Activists would be able to choose countries whose laws and policies are informed by their religious values to prosecute critical voices in other countries. The case before the Jordanian court is not just about Mr. Wilders and the Danes. It is about the subjugation of Western standards of free speech to fear and coercion by foreign courts.
Ms. Samson, an attorney specializing in international and constitutional law, will join the Hudson Institute this fall.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: September 09, 2008, 09:06:18 PM
" , , , while the medical staff are making sure he is ok you start prancing like a peacock and doing something that is appropraite for a gay strip club, that is a tad to demeaning in my view."
Oh. I only noticed the part where he did some Muay Thai Wai Kru looking sort of a thing. Sexual movements?
We're in complete agreement!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: September 09, 2008, 05:32:53 AM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
September 9, 2008; Page A24
The good news is that Barack Obama said on ABC Sunday that he might not go through with his plans to increase taxes.
The bad news is that the economy has to be mired in recession to avoid the largest tax increase in the nation's history.
Our check of the Dow Jones Factiva database suggests that other than viewers of ABC's "This Week," only three or four newspapers carried an account of Senator Obama's amended tax plan. While it's possible that the story of a deferred tax increase could shock the media into paralysis, we take it as an encouraging sign. The education of Barack Obama continues apace.
For the record, here is what he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
Mr. Stephanopoulos: "So even if we're in a recession next January, you come into office, you'll still go through with your tax increases?"
Senator Obama: "No, no, no, no, no. What I've said, George, is that even if we're still in a recession, I'm going to go through with my tax cuts. That's my priority."
Mr. Stephanopoulos: "But not the increases?"
Senator Obama: "I think we've got to take a look and see where the economy is. The economy is weak right now. The news with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, I think, along with the unemployment numbers indicates that we're fragile. I want to accelerate those tax cuts through a second stimulus package, get more money into the pockets of ordinary Americans, see if we can stabilize the housing market, and then we're going to have to reevaluate at the beginning of the year to see what kind of hole we're in."
* * *
Even individuals staring down the barrel of Mr. Obama's tax increases should not wish for an economic recession to give them a reprieve. The relevant point is that it was early last year, when the "Bush economy" was still humming, that Senator Obama first proposed pushing taxes sharply upward on "the wealthy," while giving what he calls "tax cuts" (actually they are credits, not rate reductions) to "the middle class."
At the time, Mr. Obama was the long shot in the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes, and it made some political sense to reassure the party's intensely liberal primary voters with class-war boilerplate on taxes.
Under ObamaTax 1.0, he would have repealed all the Bush tax cuts, lifted the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax, put the top marginal rate up to 39.8% and raised the rate on capital gains and dividends to at least 25% from 15% now. The official campaign line was that tax rates really don't matter to economic growth.
Summer arrived, the Clinton challenge was history and with the general election ahead came ObamaTax 2.0. It posited that the top rate on capital gains now would be 20%, described on this page August 14 by economic advisers Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee as "almost a third lower than the rate President Reagan set in 1986." This was progress.
Now with the big vote less than 60 days off and John McCain pounding him as a tax-raiser and pulling ahead in some polls, the Democratic nominee has decided to release ObamaTax 3.0, the most interesting upgrade so far. If the economy is still weak in January, a President Obama might defer all of the planned increases.
Several interpretations of this shift are possible, none of which reflect badly on Senator Obama's political learning curve.
At the bloodless level of simply wishing to win, the Obama camp may have concluded that in the sprint to November it is a losing strategy to be the election's only doctrinaire tax raiser. A tight race tends to focus political minds, and none forget Walter Mondale's catastrophic promise in his 1984 acceptance speech: "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
Beyond this lies the economic reality of jacking up income, investment and payroll taxes on "the wealthy" amid a flat or falling economy. In the standard narrative, these taxpayers exist as fat cats atop hedge funds, banks and megacorporations. Let's toss into the vat the top-tier managers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Beltway's own fat-cat sinecure.
The reality is that the creators of new jobs in the economy are more likely to be rising entrepreneurs or filers under Subchapter S, who typically pay taxes at individual rates. Hanging three or four tax millstones around their productive necks in January if the economy is weak will likely produce unimpressive growth and job numbers in the first year of the new Obama Presidency, and likely beyond. That in turn could drag down the Democrats in Congress who will get credit for voting these higher taxes into law.
Thus Mr. Obama's unambiguous answer Sunday to whether he'd insist on his tax increases if the economy is in an official recession: "No, no, no, no, no." It seems Mr. McCain is right that taxes do matter.
Mr. Obama's most ardent primary supporters may not like it, but we'll take the five "Nos" as evidence that Senator Obama may be learning the difference between liberal doctrine and sensible governance.
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.