Tag: United States
The election of Barack Obama promised a fresh start between Washington and Damascus — a necessary new beginning, after the deterioration of relations under the administration of George W. Bush.
The United States (US) recalled their ambassador in 2005 following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but after five years of tense hiatus this January, Syria welcomed the appointment of Robert Ford as the new US ambassador. The appointment had been planned for 2010, but congressional stalling led to an important plank of Barack Obama’s post-Bus Middle Eastern re-engagement policy being delayed. There are already a number of powerful critics of the decision, including new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,who immediately described the move as a ‘major concession to the Syrian regime’.
Yet, following the WikiLeaks fiasco, Obama’s administration needs proof that diplomatic efforts can bring more than embarrassment to the doors of Washington (continue reading…)
While the world watches the events in Egypt play out, we should recognize a disturbing reality. No matter what the results of the uprising, Egypt will be a volatile nation, no longer a country that the United States can count on to maintain a stable, peaceful Middle East. If President Mubarak manages to stop the demonstrations by use of force, it will only be a matter of time before they erupt again and again. Once the populace has tasted the freedom to assemble and demonstrate — even to react violently — they will resort to it again (continue reading…)
Egyptian actor Khaled Nabawy is one of the Arab world’s leading movie and television stars, and has been in American films from “Fair Game” to “Kingdom of Heaven.” Nabawy was among the protesters in the street on Friday, marching and chanting for change of the Egyptian regime. He spoke exclusively on Saturday to me about the protests and the “terrifying” state of insecurity in Egypt at the moment.
You were among the protesters?
Yes of course. The big day was yesterday and I was there with the people. I feel what they feel (continue reading…)
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – In a moving White House ceremony today, President Hu Jintao of China presented US President Barack Obama with a counterfeit DVD of the Hollywod blockbuster Toy Story 3.
Mr. Hu raised eyebrows at several points of his official speech, especially when he repeatedly addressed the American people as “my subjects.”
But the Chinese president ended his speech on an upbeat note about the relationship between the two countries: “In conclusion, America owes me the first month’s rent and the security deposit.”
Speaking to reporters, Mr.
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OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supplying over 40% of the world’s oil consumption) feels put upon. It’s Secretary General lashed out at the International Energy Agency for having categorized current oil prices as “alarming”, calling for OPEC to show more flexibility in boosting supplies (see CNBC “OPEC Says World Well Supplied, Criticizes IEA” 01.1811). OPEC’s Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri immediately countered that “At the moment there is more than enough oil on the market… Oil prices have been driven by technical means.. (continue reading…)
A potentially unprecedented change in venture capital and in the funding of the science sector is on the cards as a consequence of today’s economic climate and the austerity measures that are being introduced by many governments around the world, including the G7. Partly a consequence of the global financial crisis, this period of simultaneous change has additional consequences in the manner in which funding in the science sector and venture capital interact with, and affect, one another. These changes have created a perfect storm.
The science sector
The whole spectrum of sciences, including vitally important areas such as cleantech, life sciences and biotech, and engineering, is facing extreme upheaval, particularly related to the funding of scientific research. In an overall difficult economic situation, cuts by governments in the area of blue-skies research and less funding available from corporates have created an environment in which the funding of science that is not immediately of commercial value is seen as unnecessary, imprudent, and wasteful (continue reading…)
Facts and Perceptions in Tunisia Offering Legitimate Technical Assistance But Not to Put Down a Revolution
France’s Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, put her post-colonial foot in it when she proposed before the National Assembly on January 12 that France could offer its know-how to the Tunisian police in order to cope with the country’s fraught security situation.
To be fair, the seasoned cabinet member, who was formerly France’s Interior Minister, made her remarks before the “Jasmine Revolution” reached its paroxysm, on 14 January, when the dictator Ben Ali, more helpless and more hastily than the Shah, fled Tunisia in an airplane, which found a circuitous route to… Saudi Arabia.
What the French minister said, which caused one opposition figure to call for her resignation, was that, “The know-how of our security forces, which is recognized by the entire world, makes possible the handling of security situations of this type. This is the reason for which we in effect propose to the two countries [Algeria and Tunisia] to enable them, in the framework of our cooperation, to act in order that the right to demonstrate can take place at the same time that security is assured.” [Note: This is the author's personal translation from French]
What Mme. Alliot-Marie was presumably reacting to was the appalling use of live fire by the Tunisian police and security services, which resulted in dozens of deaths and which Ben Ali, in one of a series of desperate concessions on TV, promised to end.
There is a back story here, which the French minister referred to only obliquely, in the phrase, “in the framework of our cooperation.” The fact is that the French have been in bed with Ben Ali for a long time (continue reading…)
Welcome to Guntopia! So glad you decided to visit. Guntopia is a wonderful place for those who understand the need to own handguns, hunting rifles, sniper rifles, Uzis, Kalashnikovs and other assorted projectile weapons.
Here in Guntopia owning a gun it is a fundamental right. Criminal record – No problem! No identification – No problem! Mental instability – No problem! Illegal immigrant – No problem! Underage – Heck you’re never too young to learn how to defend yourself with a semi-automatic (continue reading…)
It’s not Sarah Palin’s fault that some guy went and shot some people in Tucson, any more than it’s Taxi Driver’s fault that some guy went and shot Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. For one, there are no accounts whatsoever of Sarah Palin’s whereabouts being in the vicinity of the shooting (even though her daughter Bristol did just move into her new Arizona home less than two hours away).
The responsibility of a gunman ultimately lies in their deciding to become what will invariably be described as a “gunman” — being the one operating a gun. Jared Lee Loughner is widely reported to be the shooter taken into custody, but it was also widely reported that Rep (continue reading…)
Once known as the Paris of West Africa with croissants flown in daily, the Ivory Coast has undergone a decade of turmoil. The latest deadlock threatens regional peace and could influence dozens of elections scheduled throughout the continent this year.
As the world’s largest cocoa producer, the Ivory Coast (legal name: Cote d’Ivoire) plays a crucial role in the commodities market and is one of the largest countries in West Africa with a population of 20 million.
In a rare display of international unity, West African leaders, the United Nations, France, and the United States, among others, have told Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president because he lost an election, according to the Independent Electoral Commission, and hand power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara. He maintains he won the election after a close ally on the country’s constitutional court agreed with him. Just last week, the United Nations accepted a new ambassador appointed by Ouattara. Youssoufou Bamba, a career diplomat, said he feared his country was on “the brink of genocide.”
ECOWAS, the West African regional group, has threatened military action but Nigeria would be needed for this and has its own unrest and its own elections in 2011. (“Don’t expect that if there’s a major crisis in a country that we just jump in,” its president, Goodluck Jonathan, said.) Power sharing, suggested by Gbagbo, was rejected by Ouattara and others, apprehensive that his control of the army would make a mockery of it a la President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
But ECOWAS leaders on Tuesday issued a communiqu saying Gbagbo agreed to lift a blockade around a hotel where his rival is staying, guarded by UN peacekeepers.
The statement appeared positive but it could lead to open-ended negotiations with no swift resolution and Gbagbo still in office. So far there was no easing of the blockage and instead Gbagbo’s security forces killed at least one person and arrested as many as 130 in an attack on headquarters of a party allied with Ouattara.
The United States and the European Union have imposed travel and financial sanctions on Gbagbo and his circle, despite his reported hiring of a prominent lobbyist in Washington. The World Bank and the West African central bank have cut off his access to financing. This could leave Gbagbo unable to pay the military and other civil servants later in the year. But no such sanctions are imposed by the UN Security Council, with diplomats saying Russia would oppose them.
Ouattara, however, is still hoping for military help, saying all that was necessary was to “remove Gbagbo from the presidential palace.”
At least 173 people have died in violence and scores of others have been tortured since the 28 November elections, the UN reported. Simon Munzu, a UN human rights official, says the list of abuses is long: killings, abduction, massive illegal arrests, physical injury, firing at civilians — and a suspected mass grave in a building that UN personnel are prohibited from entering.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy accused the state TV channel RTI of still pumping out lies and said it had helped instigate a machete attack on UN personnel last month. The United Nations has 9,500 peacekeepers and its agencies are getting ready for to ask for 1,000 to 2,000 more in its mission, known as UNOCI (UN Operation in Cte d’Ivoire.)
Some 21,000 Ivoirians have fled to impoverished neighboring Liberia where they were receiving food, shelter and clean water from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the World Food Program, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky reported in New York on Wednesday.
The pity of it all…
The current crisis is dismally familiar. Gbagbo, a Christian, came to power in 2000, ironically because the population rebelled against a manipulated election that sought to deprive him of the office.
Ouattara, a Muslim and an economist, had served as prime minister under Flix Houphout-Boigny, the legendary strongman who ruled for 33 years, since independence from France in 1960. He had attempted to run in 1995 but parliament adopted legislation on citizenship and nationality of parents to exclude him after which he joined the International Monetary Fund. (It was Gbagbo in 2007 who said Ouattara could run in presidential elections.)
Still the country was divided along ethnic and religious lines, with mercenaries, refugees and the homeless from neighboring countries involved in the conflict.
After a failed coup in September 2002, blamed on General Robert Guei, a civil war broke out, leaving the country divided into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south. France, ECOWAS and then the United Nations sent peacekeepers into a buffer zone between the two sides. The main issues — and ownership, the basis for nationality, and who could run for office — were never settled. Several peace agreements were negotiated but genuine disarmament never took place.
The fear is a repeat performance of the civil war with similar divisions and basic problems unresolved.
Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo
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It is disturbing to read about the continued tensions between North and South Korea. Tens of millions of people live near the DMZ. The center of South Korea, Seoul, is within range of North Korean artillery and military assets. The North would surely face overwhelming destruction should any full-scale engagement occur. At present, a dangerous cycle of stupid provocations by the North and placations by the South has entered a new phase. The Lee administration and South Korea, backed by the United States, have signaled that further provocations will be met with a direct and unmistakable response. The North speaks of a “sacred war,” and recent reports indicate that it has further fortified its military border.
What is going on, one might ask? The transition in leadership to Kim Jong-un, likely a weak choice and a vulnerable one after Kim Jong-il dies, might prompt adventurism on the part of the North. The North is a past master in the game of brinksmanship-for-concessions, an irrational long-term strategy, but one that its economically marginalized and ideologically hyperbolized state and elite seem to depend upon more and more. The leadership in the South is making continued strides among the alpha class of nations, recently hosting the G-20 summit and working toward greater autonomy in military control with its American partner. This juxtaposition cannot but embarrass the few who do not have their minds brainwashed in the North.
China has an especial role in remonstrating with Pyongyang. It appears to have activated this potential, somewhat late and to the disappointment of the national community. Nonetheless, the South’s live fire drill a few weeks ago did not result in a North Korean response. This summer saw China conduct its own military drills and engage in a series of diplomatic wrangles over disputed territories with Japan and Taiwan may have contributed to emboldening Pyongyang. China’s giving cover to North Korean adventurism through blocking and distancing itself from U.N. condemnations is not in keeping with the promises of peaceful regional and international leadership. We should all be calling on China to do more.
The situation is nothing if not serious. Where we are headed at present, and perhaps that is where we must head, is a world where Korea will become the next nuclear frontier. Anyone who has not learned from watching a host of historical examples, of which Iran and North Korea are only the latest examples, that any nation with sufficient resources and resolve will develop nuclear energy and nuclear weapons with or without international approval is stupid, full stop. The irrationality of nuclear powers thinking that they can forestall other nations from having the same power potentials, in particular if the nations are rising or declining powers, goes against the social science of the last century.
The current situation begins to remind me of the MAD era of bygone Soviet-American days — even though the world still exists under mutually-assured destruction, and the Obama administration has just concluded a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia. I mean, what is going to come of all of this? Does anyone really think that the North, paranoid and destitute as it might be, would go to war with the South? They could cause a lot of damage, and they themselves would be destroyed. There is no first-strike plan or intention on the part of the South or the United States. No one is planning to “take over” North Korea. The spectacle of a backwater state and nation, proudly propping up its weapons and military whilst languishing in pre-modern conditions and deifying its national leaders so as to maintain a totalitarian society is not just a joke. It’s eerily familiar. And that’s the point.
One grows weary of posturing by American leaders at the borders, at rostrums of regional meetings, at press conferences, and amongst friends. One equally grows tired of seeing special envoys trotted out and over to do the takeaways for momentary satisfaction. Of course, they should go, but such triage efforts only prop up the status quo. All the United States will accomplish is to institute what it claims to have transcended, a MAD world, in the Asian theater. All of our ability and power cannot undo the rot that the end of the Korean War froze in space and time. All of power will not prevent China from growing more powerful, and its ally retaining geostrategic protection. As we continue to live on and rely on a divided Korea, it will grow to cost the world in time, money, and danger of mass destruction. And just as Americans looked on while South Koreans fought to develop their democracy in the 1980s, as a kind of games-and-spectacle looking glass, we can pat ourselves on the back for being the new Rome again in this instance. That is unless we start to do things differently.
We are heading slowly to a time when North and South, plus all comers, will have to nuclearize and militarize further the DMZ, their nations, and the region. The game of build to deter will see a new instantiation. And in the end, the North will be disrupted, either out of its poverty or mendacity, but not without decades of wasted expense, wasted instability, and all that goes with it.
What is needed is a mature use of the technologies of peace. All interested parties should work to open up economic relations with Korea, so as to create economic markets that require the maintenance of peace. The game of isolating nations doesn’t really work to create peace. In time, American and South Korean leaders need to start their versions of nuclear arms negotiations. Many more people in the world need to study the occult society that is North Korea. It can become the next area studies program for the 21st century.
The dream of unification is being set back by decades with each grain of sand that drains out of the hourglass these days. Not to be cynical about it, but perhaps there is no other way. We’re heading to a new Cold War, if things remain the same. But I still see a day when the two Koreas will be one. It will occur without further warfare, and it will occur on democratic terms, but it won’t occur on anyone’s timetable in particular. And it won’t occur if the emphasis of the world’s “mature powers” amounts to mutual conduct of military exercises as the major events for regional relations each year. Here’s hoping 2011 sees major efforts by all nations concerned to bring the two Koreas to the path of peace.
The view of the mountains surrounding Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro was breathtaking and the horizon seemed full of promise. Hundreds of Brazil’s influentials had accepted the invitation of pertinent businessman and socialite Henrique Pinto to welcome 2011 at a fabulously lavish party at a stunning residence. Over the course of the evening, the host’s gracious hospitality and the abundant champagne let everyone relax and have a good time. One could be forgiven for losing focus and clear vision.
Earlier that day, December 31, 2010, a mere 90 flight minutes away, there was another festive celebration. But it was not a New Year’s Eve event. In the country’s capital Brasilia, the president of a Middle Eastern entity had traveled across the Atlantic to lay the cornerstone of the first Palestinian Embassy in the Americas. With the promise on the horizon being an independent Palestinian State, it was clear that by taking this step, focus and clear vision had been lost here as well.
Brazil, arguably Latin America’s most important country, joined a trend, namely the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the ceasefire lines of 1967. Three other South American countries, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, recently formally acknowledged a sovereign Palestinian state. Uruguay has said it would follow suit soon. Already several years ago, Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela had recognized Palestinian statehood.
The focus Brazil, those several Latin American countries, and the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s President Mahmoud Abbas, has lost is that a Palestinian state would come into being in a negotiated framework, through an Israeli-Palestinian final status peace agreement. The Palestinians themselves had agreed to this in a binding agreement, namely the Oslo Accords. Still, Abbas thanked Brazil “for its support in the construction of a Palestinian state.” This is therefore but the latest example of the PA’s pursuing an agenda of unilateralism by trying to obtain international recognition of a Palestinian state. It is to state the obvious that this behavior is an affront to Israel as well as the United States, which have being trying so hard to get the Palestinians back to the negotiation table.
The focus the PA has lost that by pursuing this agenda it undermines the negotiation framework with Israel. Not that Abbas is willing to negotiate right now. He certainly knows how to try to have his cake and eat it, too. The PA is hoping for a diplomatic domino effect that would seemingly give validity to their claim of statehood in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Recognition by the United Nations (UN) would complete the fait accompli.
The domino effect strategy which worked so swimmingly for the Palestinians in Latin America effect did not work when on December 13, the Council of the European Union (EU) rejected the Palestinian pressure to support a unilateral declaration of independence on the 1967 lines. Sensibly, the EU Foreign Ministers called “for all parties to refrain from provocative unilateral actions.” While the pressures against Israel are increasing the EU is obviously not ready (yet?) to break with the United States on such the sensitive issue of the Middle East Peace Process. With the EU being such a vital donor to the Palestinian cause the PA going nowhere with a unilateral declaration without European support. There is, thankfully, nothing inevitable about the Palestinians ultimately succeeding in their aims through unilateralism.
What should be clear by now is that by prematurely seeking recognition of a Palestinian state President Abbas is shooting his own proverbial foot. The damage to the bilateral political relationship between Israel and the PA and between those ‘recognizing’ Latin American states still needs to be assessed. This damage is real, lasting, and regrettable.
At the same time, the gains for the PA are anything but solid and it has been pointed out that recognition of a Palestinian state in 1967 borders carries no significance other than as a political expression of opinion. It is a terrible irony that these acts by Brazil and Argentina and others run counter to statements by, well, Brazil and Argentina in the UN Security Council in 1967, post Six-Day War, in favor of freely negotiated borders between the parties and an internationally sponsored peace negotiation process as set out in Resolution 242.
There is a whole set of specific UN resolutions that specify and regulate how to deal with the settlement of the Middle East conflict, such as Resolutions 242 and 338. These resolutions were witnessed, guaranteed and/or endorsed by key players of the international community. Additionally, the Palestinians have entered, voluntarily, into several still-valid agreements with Israel, such as the Oslo Accord and subsequent interim agreements.
By contravening the stipulations of UN Resolutions and bilateral agreements, President Abbas and the PA are causing damage that undermines any good faith between them and their Israeli counterparts but also between them and the American Government. This damage is real and regrettable.
It is tragic that important players of the international community, such as Brazil, not only contradict their own statements in support of a freely agreed upon and negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and Israel, but simultaneously undermine the chances of exactly such a settlement by letting Abbas score political points through an embassy groundbreaking ceremony.
Such actions and behavior do absolutely nothing to solve and maybe even perpetuate problems that stand in the way of progress. These problems include the fact that Mahmoud Abbas and the PA is in control of the West Bank but not of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas reigns. How can the international community want a half-state for the Palestinians? How can the ‘let’s try it unilaterally’ Palestinians build trust with the Israelis, trust they need to find solutions to the crucial issues of the supposed Right of Return, East Jerusalem, borders, and security?
The Palestinians need to realize that, as was the case in the past, the attempt to dictate a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside the internationally accepted and sponsored peace negotiation process, based in UN Resolutions, will simply never be a positive contribution to solving the issue. Looking at this Palestinian self-destructive behavior, from Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, or anywhere else in the world, it is difficult to be optimistic for the future in the Middle East in the year ahead. Happy New Year 2011?
The bubbly is gone. The confetti has been swept off the streets. Uncle Sam’s only reminder of last night’s celebration is a hangover and a list of New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution 1: America promises to improve by learning from inside and outside the United States. Too often, America avoids learning from others. We promise to see how other countries solve their issues in society rather than blindly assume that whatever we do in America is the best. We also promise to see which states are succeeding and encourage the spreading of these best practices.
Resolution 2: America promises to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There are countless ways for America to improve its democracy. We can make elections more democratic by reducing gerrymandering. We can simplify the election process using Election Day registration so more people vote. We can correct the fact the Washington DC residents don’t have a vote in Congress.
Resolution 3: America promises to stop being a tool for the elites. Countries where the benefits are targeted at the economic and political elites do not thrive for long. America, with the highest income inequality of any wealthy country, is letting today’s elites choke our grandchildren’s future. We can make this government more receptive to its millions of working class citizens and less of a tool for wealthy citizens, corporations and lobbyists by not lowering taxes for the wealthiest while raising tax rates for those in the low income brackets.
Resolution 4: America promises to plan for continued greatness 50 years into the future. We need to invest in education, but not blindly throwing money. We can extend the school year so children have more time to learn, just as they do in many leading countries. We can make quality higher education affordable. We can open the legal immigration doors even wider to the best talent from outside the United States inviting them to learn, build businesses and making it easier for them to stay.
Resolution 5: America promises to not be lazy or selfish. Short-term thinking creates long-term bad decisions. It will take significant effort to improve America’s health so that we no longer pay 2-5 times more than other wealthy countries – corporate handouts to the health industry are not the solution. It will take significant effort to wrest control of America’s economy from the finance industry. If we don’t do this soon financial bubbles will increase in frequency and size with the middle class paying for the sins of the financial elites. It will take significant effort to improve safety so America no longer has five times the rate of violent crimes and incarcerations than most other wealthy countries.
Today we are the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country. To remain great for future generations we need be humble enough to admit we aren’t always the best, to study what is being done well both inside and outside of America and to use these best practices to rebuild the foundations of our society that are crumbling.
Author’s note: To keep the article short, I wrote only a few resolutions for America – please add what you think are the top priorities to the comments.
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Israelis can smell elections like desert creatures smell rain. And in the midst of a severe drought and obscenely, mockingly glorious clear skies, the distinctive snap in the air is, lamentably, of the campaign kind.
But while political figures sound calls which may signal possible elections within the coming new year, with Tzipi Livni finding her voice as head of the opposition, and Labor, Shas and other coalition partners reaching new depths of disaffection, Benjamin Netanyahu is working overtime to turn his government into a settlement.
Keen to avoid elections at literally all costs, Netanyahu’s actions in recent weeks — letting Avigdor Lieberman and Arab-hating rabbis run wild, humiliating the United States in the settlement freeze fiasco while exacerbating tensions with the Muslim world — mean that his government now meets the five essential criteria of a settlement:
It exists in order to obstruct progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.
It insists that it has nothing to do with the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace.
It serves the aims of the Orthodox Jewish minority, often at the direct expense of the needs and hopes of the Israeli majority, and the future of Israeli democracy.
Its actions anger and alienate Israel’s allies and further inflame its enemies.
It will do anything – including at times of extreme risk to Israel, nothing – in order to avoid being dislodged.
The key to which path the government chooses or is forced to accept in 2011, whether it will be to go to elections, or to somehow hunker in the bunker, may well be the man whom Newsweek, in an intriguing stretch, is calling “Israel’s most popular politician right now,” Avigdor Lieberman.
In recent days, the foreign minister, a one-man flotilla, has drilled new holes directly into the hull of Netanyahu’s ship of state, effectively declaring the prime minister’s peace moves a fore-doomed failure and/or a sham, and Netanyahu’s overtures for a rapprochement with Turkey, an example of boot-licking, ghetto-Jew masochism.
Moreover, as the strike of state prosecutors further insulates Lieberman from the threat of indictment on a range of international money laundering allegations — a shadow that made staying in the current government a legal survival tactic for the foreign minister — the Corporal from Kishinev is in a position to decide whether elections would be good for him or not, and take the rest of the country with him.
Functioning as a kind of internal combustion opposition within the Netanyahu cabinet, Avigdor Lieberman may, in fact, be taking Ariel Sharon as his model.
In the late ’90s, rookie prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped Sharon – at the time, easily the most widely and deeply reviled Israeli among Arabs, the left, and Israel’s one close ally Washington — to represent the Jewish state as foreign minister.
Like Sharon, Lieberman has the mercurial, Darwinian genius of the perfectly adapted, perennially underrated outsider. Like Sharon, he is adept at harnessing the political might of the shuk, the open market, which has an ingrained weakness for the coarse of message and the rude of gesture.
Like Sharon, Lieberman has taken advantage of a situation in which the party of the sitting prime minister, Netanyahu, came in second in a campaign characterized by an atomized, traumatized electorate (post-Rabin assassination and suicide bombings in 1996; post-armed struggle intifada, post-Gaza withdrawal, post-Sharon coma, post-Lebanon war, post Gaza war in 2009).
Like Sharon, Lieberman has been able to take advantage of the essential weakness of a restive, brittle Likud, torn between relative moderates (Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan, Gidon Saar, perhaps Gilad Erdan) who would accept a Clinton-type two-state model, and bedrock hardliners (Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin, Danny Danon, Tzippi Hatoveli), who rule out all compromise with the Palestinians.
Like Sharon, Lieberman has been able to take advantage of a broken, toothless, disillusioned Israeli left. Like Sharon, he has been able to take shrewd advantage of the weaknesses of the Palestinian Authority and the strengths of Hamas.
Like Sharon, Lieberman is capable of absolutely anything.
Alone among prominent Israeli politicians, Lieberman has proposed territorial solutions which manage to puzzle and irk the entire spectrum, proposals so far afield that they are instantly discounted as infeasible, flatly impossible thought exercises. Like Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza.
No other figure on the far right has advocated ceding part of East Jerusalem to Palestinian control. Certainly no other leading settler has proposed trading his own settlement in a far-reaching land swap with the Palestinians.
Could Lieberman, at some point, do the doubly unthinkable — become prime minister and then make a dramatic move to end the Occupation?
The answer, oddly enough, is that if anyone can succeed by emulating Sharon, Lieberman is the one. He is the only contemporary Israeli politician scary enough, sly enough, inscrutable enough, ruthless enough, embittered enough, ideologically unfettered enough, and, perhaps most importantly, secular enough, to be able to bring it off.
In the end, the choice may not even be Israel’s to make. Thanks to Netanyahu’s bunker mentality, the anarchic workings of Israel’s self-dismantling democracy, as well as the quiescence of an Israel public which has fought too many battles to be able to bring itself to fight one more, the choice, in the end, may be Lieberman’s alone.
Originally published on haaretz.com
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli settlements, politics, world, Bradley Burston, Haaretz
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Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says Pakistan is hypnotically
obsessed with India but she and her bosses too are fixated on a
coveted prize, a permanent seat at the United Nations Security
Council. The mandarins of New Delhi must be pleased as punch to have
had over to visit leaders of all five permanent member countries in
quick succession. Inexorable appears the march but will India find the
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? And, if it does, what are the
implications for itself as well as for Pakistan?
First in was David Cameron of Britain, who arrived during the summer
and offered unstinting support, whetting local appetite for the main
American course. And, did he fail to disappoint? No sir, Barack Obama
set the cat amongst the pigeons by endorsing India for the seat, the
first time ever by the US. India rejoiced while Pakistan recoiled.
But a careful examination shows him adhering closely to what he told
Bob Woodward in the book, “Obama’s Wars.” In lieu of the seat, he
expects India to resolve Kashmir. At a press conference with Manmohan
Singh, Obama characterized Kashmir as a long-standing dispute making
the latter stutter that the K-word was not scary. Only then did Obama
hand over the endorsement in India’s Parliament but couched in such
diplomatese that countless local hair were split over when “the years
ahead” would dawn.
Next waltzed in Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The French, like the
British, have consistently seen merit in India’s case. Sarkozy though,
true to type, proved an enigma. He first tagged on the applications of
Africa, the Arabs and pretty much the rest of the world onto India’s,
befuddling his hosts, who are willing to concede as equal aspirants
only “self-appointed frontrunners” Germany, Japan and Brazil. Just as
they were about to give up on him, Sarkozy warmed the cockles of
India’s heart by throwing in 2011 as early as when it could make it.
But soon came the caveat. Sarkozy, just like Obama before him,
cautioned that with great power status came great responsibilities.
Whereas Obama wanted India to be more mindful of human rights
violations of countries such as Iran and Myanmar, Sarkozy wanted India
to send military forces to keep world peace. With India already being
one of the foremost contributors to UN peacekeeping missions
throughout the world, the mandarins of New Delhi must have been left
wondering what more was being asked of them.
No matter, three down, two to go. By now the state jets were landing
at Delhi airport almost on top of one another. Wen Jiabao, the leader
India was least looking forward to, came with the master key to entry.
Shortly before his visit, WikiLeaks revealed China’s opposition to any
council expansion. Indian hopes were up nevertheless but Wen remained
inscrutable, willing only to acknowledge an understanding of India’s
aspirations. No one in India knew quite what to make of him and since
Wen was off to Pakistan next, all the country could do was wait with
clenched teeth to hear what he would say there.
Rounding off the passage to India was Dmitry Medvedev. Relations
between Russia and India have frayed considerably since the heady days
of the cold war, so much so that Russia has waffled on India’s bid.
Medvedev signaled that the waffle still needed baking, voicing support
for India while reiterating that reforming the council was tough and
All the while Pakistan protested vociferously against what it deemed
an indulgence of Indian hegemonism. But what will India gain with a
permanent UN seat? Could it block Pakistani claims on Kashmir? True a
permanent member wielding veto power can stonewall but the veto seems
unattainable for seekers since they themselves have forsaken it. And,
while India sees red when the K-word is uttered in the UN by Pakistan,
no ascension to permanency can make it strangle the latter. Nor can it
efface any past security council resolutions.
So then, what is it? Nothing comes to mind but the obvious, the
acceptance that any arriviste craves. Even that appears a false
hankering because ever since its early years, Gandhi’s legacy and
Nehru’s charisma burnished the country with global influence
disproportionate to its economic and military capabilities. A bee once
in one’s bonnet is hard to get rid of though. And, as every journey
must have a fitting end, India has found a destination to its liking.
Flush with cash, New Delhi wants to beef up its military. All of the
recent visitors bar China are major suppliers of defence equipment to
India. As bees flock to honey, they arrived armed with catalogues of
the most terrifying stuff. Inherent was a delicate diplomatic
quid-pro-quo. The more arms you buy from us, the more we will push
your candidacy. As Islamabad keeps raising the bar for India’s seat,
so too will India have to up its arms binge.
Lost in Pakistan’s current rhetoric was its vote in October to put
India in the security council for two years beginning January 1, 2011.
Once on, we will never get off is the new mantra of India’s brave.
India seemingly returned the favour by taking in stride the sale of
Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Is there more afoot than meets
Every country is entitled to its obsession. Pakistan’s is obvious. By
continually thumbing its nose at a Nato mired in Afghanistan, it has
put the K-word in spotlight, albeit on the backstage. A deal has been
blessed by the powers that be. Both the seat and Srinagar are not far
The writer edits a website on India: http://www.scooptime.com/ . He can
be reached at email@example.com
Immortality is impeccable moral character.
To borrow from Pericles, to famous men and women all the earth is a sepulcher; and their virtues are testified to not only by their epitaphs but by an unwritten imprint of the mind, which more than any monument or obelisk remains with everyone forever.
Henry Kissinger is no immortal. He will fade into obscurity without leaving footprints in the sands of time. At key points in his ego-driven career, he was confronted with a choice between power and moral principle. He chose power, and became a moral dwarf.
Imagine Kissinger conversing with Shakespeare’s equally designing Lady Macbeth. To disarm Macbeth against dishonoring his pledge to murder King Duncan to ascend the Scottish throne, Lady Macbeth scolds, “I have given suck, and know How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from the boneless gums, And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.”
Kissinger would have cold-bloodedly comforted: “Dashing the baby’s brains out is not a Scottish concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
That Kissinger is devoid of moral scruple or noble character is confirmed by a recently released Oval Office tape recording his volunteered advice to then President Richard M. Nixon regarding the free emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel to escape persecution: “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” None of John Donne’s sentiment, “Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.”
Mr. Kissinger fled Nazi Germany for the United States on the brink of the Holocaust. If he and his family had been turned away like the hapless Jews on the St. Louis, Kissinger might have perished in a gas chamber. Amazing how quickly power corrupts the soul and dims memory.
President Nixon was notoriously anti-Semitic. He pontificated to his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman: “The Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards… [Washington] is full of Jews” and “most Jews are disloyal…But, Bob, generally speaking you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”
Kissinger had no quarrel with Nixon’s racism. In a 2005 interview on MSNBC, he denied his political benefactor was anti-Semitic, euphemistically characterizing the bigotry as “sort of standard phrases.” But the phrases were indistinguishable from the Blood Libel or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion routinely employed to justify pogroms or the Holocaust.
As President Nixon’s National Security Adviser, Kissinger was complicit in the illegal secret bombing of Cambodia. He insisted that the FBI continue the two-month wiretapping of suspected leakers of the illegal Cambodian misadventure to enable the targets to establish a “pattern of innocence.” Kissinger defended the United States intervention in Chile to overthrow President Salvador Allende with an arrogance more to be marveled at than imitated: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people….”
Mr. Kissinger never quarreled with President Nixon’s chilling creed, “If the President does it, it’s legal,” which probably caused Sir Thomas More to stir in his grave.
Kissinger’s moral emptiness and craving for power would have made him a poor candidate to support Socrates against the Athenian jury, the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, or the women’s franchise campaign launched at Seneca Falls in 1848. He was inaudible during the heroic Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He has sneered at Edmund Burke’s admonition: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Kissinger might insist that he is indispensable. But graveyards are filled with indispensable men and women.
True greatness extracts the better angels of our nature. George Washington scorned a crown coveted by Lady Macbeth in favor of a Republic. Abraham Lincoln counseled charity for all and malice towards none. Martin Luther King, Jr. died in advancing a color-blind society. Socrates chose the hemlock over intellectual or moral vassalage.
All Kissinger can muster over putative gas chambers for Jews in the Soviet Union is that the genocide might raise a humanitarian concern.
Kissinger’s has childishly sermonized, “Power is the great aphrodisiac,” more a projection of himself than a universal truth. Is that puerility a precept for raising children or inspiring adults?
There may be better ways to embolden the brutish reptiles of our nature, but if there are, they do not readily come to mind.
This Blogger’s Books from
American Empire Before the Fall
by Bruce Fein
Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy
by Bruce Fein
In 2008, at a time of financial peril, the world united to restructure the global banking system.
In 2009, as trade collapsed and unemployment rose dramatically, the world came together for the first time in the G-20 to prevent a great recession from spiraling into a great depression.
Now, facing a low-growth austerity decade with no national exits from long-term unemployment and diminished living standards, the world needs to come together in the first half of 2011 to agree on a financial and economic strategy for prosperity far bolder than the Marshall Plan of the 1940′s.
Time is running out on the West, because both Europe and America have yet to digest the fact that all the individual crises of the last few years — from the sub-prime crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers to Greek austerity and Ireland’s near-bankruptcy — are symptoms of a deeper problem: a world undergoing a far-reaching, irreversible, and, indeed, unprecedented restructuring of economic power.
Of course, we all know of Asia’s rise, and that China exports more than America and will soon manufacture and invest more as well. But we have not fully come to terms with the sweep of history. Western economic dominance — 10 percent of the world’s population producing a majority of the world’s exports and investment — is finished, never to return. After two centuries in which Europe and America monopolized global economic activity, the West is now being out-produced, out-manufactured, out-traded, and out-invested by the rest of the world.
Otto von Bismarck once described the patterns of world history. Transformations do not happen with “the even speed of a railway train,” he said. Once in motion they occur “with irresistible force.” If the West fails to understand that the real issue today is responding to the rise of Asian economic power by renewing its own, then it faces the grim prospect of steady decline, punctuated by brief moments of recovery — until the next financial crisis. Throughout it all, millions will be without jobs.
So why, despite this new reality, am I convinced that the twenty-first century can be one in which the United States, by reinventing the American dream for a new generation, remains a magnet for the greatest companies, and in which Europe can be home to a high-employment economy?
Because, fortunately for all of us, soon one billion and more new Asian producers will — first in their tens of millions, then in their hundreds of millions — become new middle-class consumers, too.
The growth of an Asian consumer revolution offers America a road to new greatness. Today Chinese consumer spending is just 3 percent of world economic activity, in contrast to Europe and America’s 36 percent share. Those two figures illustrate why the world economy is currently so unbalanced.
By 2020 or so, Asia and the emerging-market countries will bring double America’s consumer power to the world economy. Already, companies like GE, Intel, Proctor & Gamble, and Dow Jones have announced that the majority of their growth will come from Asia. Already, many Korean, Indian, and Asian multinationals have majority foreign (including US) shareholdings. This new driver of world economic growth opens up an opportunity for America to exploit its great innovative and entrepreneurial energy to create new, high-skilled jobs for US workers.
Asian consumer growth — and a rebalancing of the global economy — can be the exit strategy from our economic crisis. But the West will benefit only if it takes the right long-term decisions on the biggest economic questions – what to do about deficits, financial institutions, trade wars, and global cooperation?
First, deficit reduction must occur in a way that expands investment in science, technology, innovation, and education. Both public and private investment will be needed in order to deliver the best science and education in the world.
Second, new markets cannot be tapped if the West succumbs to protectionism. Banning cross-border takeovers, restricting trade, and living with currency wars will hurt the US more than any other country. In the last century, America’s own domestic market was so big and dominant that it need not worry much about trade rules. But, with Asia poised to be the biggest consumer market in history, US exporters – the greatest potential beneficiaries — will need open trade more than ever. America must become the champion of a new global trade deal.
A commitment to public investment and open trade are, however, necessary but insufficient conditions for sustained prosperity. All the global opportunities of the new decade could fade if countries withdraw into their own national shells.
In another age, Winston Churchill warned a world facing the gravest of challenges not to be resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, and all powerful for impotence. I believe that the world today does have leaders of Churchill’s stature. If they work together, drift need not happen.
America must now lead and ask the world to agree on a modern Marshall Plan that coordinates trade and macroeconomic policies to boost global growth. America should work with the new chair of the G-20, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to revive private lending by creating global certainty about the standards and rules expected of banks.
Agreement is also needed that each country’s multi-year deficit-reduction plan will be accompanied by acceleration of consumer spending in the East and of targeted investment in education and innovation in the West. Such a plan must encourage China and Asia to do what is in their and the world’s interest: reducing poverty and expanding the middle class. And
the West must speed up structural reforms to become more competitive while ensuring that fiscal consolidation does not destroy growth.
Through joint action, the G-20 economies can see not just a marginal change, but growth above 5 percent by 2014. Instead of a world deadlocked over currencies and trade and retreating into the illusory shelter of protectionism, we could see $3 trillion of growth converted into 25 million to 30 million new jobs, and 40 million or more people freed from poverty.
Gordon Brown is a former prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Read more exclusive content at Project Syndicate.
This post was written by Ethan S. Wilkes
We are Generation Wiki. We are interconnected collaborative creatures, and we like to share. We link and like, comment, post and poke. We Yelp when we’re hungry, Skype when we’re lonely and G-chat throughout the day. Our cell phone bills are light on minutes and long on data almost every month.
We are the first of our kind. A computer has sat comfortably in some nook of our home for as long as we can remember. We grew up trying to find Carmen Sandiego, and came of age to the beeps and cackles of a 14k modem connecting to America Online. Before we had our own car, before we had our own cash and before we had a fake ID, we had chat rooms, instant messages and inboxes. We had an entire World Wide Web of possibilities with which to explore beyond the confines of our bedroom walls. Our rebellion was data-driven, a battle cry of zeros and ones where power grew out of the results of a search engine.
We are broadcasters, mini-content creation machines and this is how we communicate. But while we may share more publicly, we are hardly the open books some claim us to be. Our online profiles reveal little more about our character, competence and intellect than our choice of clothing does because we know our boundaries, however unspoken. In fact, we are remarkably self-regulating and adept at maintaining privacy in a very public manner. What we share tends to be topical, trivial and rapidly replaced. The way we share it is marked by a unique etiquette. We don’t SMS the way we e-mail, we won’t send a message for what we can comment on and a chat window is not the same as a phone call. We don’t type the way we speak and we all understand that. Sometimes we chastise our parents for not getting it. “No Mom, text messages are not for conversations!” They are for clarification of questions, confirmation of meetings and the occasional witty witticisms between the sexes. “Don’t photo comment on Facebook asking if I ate dinner!” It’s simply not the place.
We are aware of these ambiguities of the digital age, and we are comfortable with them. They are the products of a networked world where information is in abundance and easily diffused; it is the only world that we have known. So imagine how confounding we find the reactions to this WikiLeaks debacle, many of which are so oddly out of date and knee-jerk. The e-mail sent by our Office of Career Services that made international headlines and the mailing lists of other policy schools, along with similar messages sent to the student bodies of Boston University School of Law and Michigan State University James Madison College, is evidence of this reality. To be sure, no, no one muzzled our right to free speech, and contrary to the Village Voice , description Columbia is not “fascist.” But the simple truth that someone, somewhere thought we would do best to keep a lid on it — to say nothing of the statements emanating from the House of Congress and the State Department — shows how remarkably misguided the thinking is on this issue.
What seems to be missing is an understanding of what Generation Wiki has known all along about information gone viral: we consume, comment and move on; the story dies when we are done with it. Trying to put the genie back in the bottle is no way to deal with an expos once it has gone online. Furthermore, WikiLeaks will not be a one-off. Whatever comes of the website, Julian Assange or Bradley Manning does not negate the fact that in the absence of a far more heavily restricted internet we live in a WikiLeak-able world. No matter how secure our servers, how rigorous our clearance processes or how thorough our legislation, we will never eradicate the human element from security or the technological platforms on which treasure troves of classified documents, corporate secrets or other private data can be obtained and blasted across the public domain.
The million-dollar question that nobody seems to be asking is: where do we go from here? The current strategy of trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted does not seem terribly effective for the digital age. As students of policy, as Generation Wiki, we’d do well to think of an answer, because those managing the current crisis do not appear to have a good one.
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Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga. WikiLeaks has given New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times 1,490 diplomatic cables from the United States’ Wellington Embassy. To date, only a few of those cables have been publicly released. However, they clearly indicate an increasingly close relationship between New Zealand and the U.S., as well as an increasing reliance by the U.S. on New Zealand when it comes to Pacific security issues.
While a closer relationship is desirable, given the growing importance of the Pacific in global affairs, primary reliance on New Zealand to guide the way in the Pacific is not sufficient and leaves the region vulnerable to outside influences and internal instability.
U.S.-New Zealand Security Relationship
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and U.S. President Barack Obama at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit.
The renewed engagement between the U.S. and New Zealand seems to have gained momentum about five years ago. Since the 1980s, due in large part to its anti-nuclear stance, NZ was not treated as a full security partner by the U.S. While still a member of ‘Five Eyes’ (a security grouping of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand), it had restricted access to intelligence.
That started to change around 2005. A 2007 cable written as a ‘scene-setter’ for then New Zealand PM Helen Clark’s visit to Washington reads: “Clark has since the 2005 election appointed to key positions a number of officials well disposed towards working with the United States.”
Officials named included Foreign Minister Winston Peters , Secretary of Defense John McKinnon, and Director of the NZ Security Intelligence Service Warren Tucker. The cable explains: “these officials have improved their agencies’ coordination on U.S. policy and instructed staff to be helpful to us wherever possible.”
The U.S.-New Zealand relationship was further improved with the election of current NZ PM John Key, described in another cable as having a “strongly personal pro-American outlook”.
The closer engagement coincided with increasing US security concerns about the Pacific, including concerns over China’s expansion in to the region.
New Zealand as a Security Force in the Pacific
New Zealand police units with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Photo by Michael Field.
New Zealand has seemingly successfully positioned itself as a reliable source of information and as an operational ally in Pacific countries such as Tonga. The 2007 cable reads: “We continue to cooperate closely on events in Fiji and have come to value the views of Kiwi officials regarding events in E.Timor, the Solomon Islands, and Tonga.”
The cooperation is tactical as well. According to the cables, US Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Randall Fort “commented that GNZ sigint had been critical to USG understanding of the 2006 coup.”
A 2010 scene-setter for Hilary Clinton’s January visit to New Zealand, features the header: “New Zealand’s Special Relationship with the Pacific Islands”.
New Zealand, otherwise a relatively small country on the geopolitical periphery, gains strategic importance if Washington feels it can ‘deliver’ in the Pacific. NZ benefits from highlighting security concerns in the Pacific and placing itself in the center of the solution. The rewards are valuable. The 2010 cable notes: “Our intelligence relationship was fully restored on August 29, 2009 (which should not be acknowledged in public).”
The cables also show that New Zealand presents itself as better equipped to manage the Pacific than Australia. A 2008 cable reports the opinion of Maaten Wevers, who oversees NZ’s intelligence committee: “Often there are significant differences with Australia, he added, as New Zealand is a more Pacific country than Australia and the latter is not always attuned to Pacific developments.”
This message was reinforced in the 2007 cable, which reports that Helen Clark: “also realized after the Fiji coup that New Zealand had become too reliant on Australian intelligence.”
(It is worth noting that, according to a WikiLeaks 2005 Canberra cable on North Korea, Australia had its own issues with NZ. The cable reports: “If U.S. officials wanted to hear the “bleeding hearts” view of “peace and love” with respect to North Korea, [Australian Foreign Minister Alexander] Downer joked, they only had to visit his colleagues in New Zealand.”).
What This Means for Regional Security
In a time when the Pacific is getting more attention from Washington, Wellington’s role in advising on the region is becoming more valued
This is potentially problematic in two ways.
First, NZ’s information and advice may not always be as reliable as thought. There are examples of failure to predict/manage critical situations. For example, mismanagement of the Fiji coup by NZ/Australia resulted in pushing Fiji closer towards the China camp.
Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama and Chinese Ambassador to Fiji Cai Jinbiao make a deal.
Similarly, in Tonga, New Zealand has been backing the ‘pro-democracy’ movement. That group triggered riots in 2006 that burned down much of the capital city. Following the riots, failure by NZ to substantially participate in the reconstruction resulted in Tonga having to take out a debilitating loan from China. The fact that a group supported by NZ as pro-democracy resulted in the country becoming indebted to an authoritarian country is a small indication of the something going wrong.
Coincidentally or not, in the 2008 cable, US Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, Randall Fort, notes that the larger Pacific region is more fragile today then it was ten years ago.
Another problem is the character of NZ’s engagement of the region (which can affect intelligence gathering, analysis, and operations).
There is a perception of a pervasive NZ ‘we know better’ attitude towards Pacific island nations. For example, NZ is proposing sending a team to train the new Tongan parliamentarians in governance, in spite of the fact that the Tongan system is fundamentally different than the NZ one.
Similarly, in the 2007 cable, NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary Caroline Forsyth offered that:
RAMSI troops in the Solomon Islands.
The sort of ‘engagement’ that results in one nation sure thinking it can, and should, make “long-lasting improvements” in another nation’s society does little to build mutual trust and respect.
Second, NZ’s interests are not necessarily US interests. NZ has its own range of national priorities and one would expect it to put those above the interests of partner states, no matter how close the relationship.
For example, the 2010 cable notes that: “There is also collaboration [between the US and NZ] on the Energy Development for Island Nations (EDIN) project, which aims to develop renewable energy resources for Pacific Islands and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.”
However, as is seen with the proposed Meridian deal, NZ is not above using tied aid to try to get Tonga to buy a solar power plant from a Government of NZ owned company. This could potentially tie Tongan consumers in to high energy costs and so undermining economic development, which can lead to instability, which can lead to greater gains by others, including China (as has happened in the past).
Towards a Secure Pacific
All in all, while a closer relationship between NZ and the US is desirable, it would benefit both nations, as well as the Pacific islands, if the responsibility for the region’s security was more embedded in the region itself.
Given the Pacific’s increasingly geopolitical importance, the US might want to consider opening more diplomatic missions of its own in the Pacific (perhaps even along with the UK and burgeoning partner India), as well as helping to facilitate the opening of reciprocal missions to Washington.
There is a lot of natural warmth towards the West in the Pacific, but the relationship with NZ has left some feeling burned. That can affect intelligence flows and operational capacities, creating vulnerabilities for all concerned. NZ should encourage more direct US engagement in the region, if only to buttress its own intelligence and security.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Navy, greets Tongan Honor Guard soldiers during a visit to the kingdom on Nov. 9, 2010. Mullen visited Tonga on the second stop of a Pacific tour to thank the Tongan people for their continuing dedication and support in sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy.
This Blogger’s Books from
Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises will Redraw the World Map
by Cleo Paskal
Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises will Redraw the World Map
by Cleo Paskal
The state of civil liberties and national security in the United States is alarming.
In the American Empire, the former are routinely crippled or lacerated in the false name of the latter. Trust in government plunges. Dangers are magnified manifold to wound constitutionally venerated freedoms. International terrorist suspects who have never attempted to kill an American are treated as existential threats to U.S sovereignty. Predator drones employed off the battlefield in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen are spawning more enemies than are killed. Habeas corpus is suspended. Military commissions denuded of due process and which combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch of government are substituted for independent civilian courts. Time-honored privacy rights are trampled. Torture or first cousin enhanced interrogation techniques are endorsed. Congressman Peter King (R. N.Y.), slated for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, insists that prosecutions of alleged international terrorists in civilian courts are intolerable because guilty verdicts are not guaranteed. The worst violations are dared by few, willed by more, but tolerated by virtually all.
The nation needs a new birth of freedom dedicated to the proposition that the life of a vassal or serf — even in absolute safety — is not worth living.
At present, procedural safeguards against injustice are jettisoned for the counter-constitutional dogma, “Better that many innocents suffer than that one culprit eludes punishment.” A craving for a risk-free and comfortable existence fuels the nation’s war on individual freedom. Acceptance of risk, however, is the lifeblood of a free society. Every human sports DNA capable of anti-social behavior — even the saintly. The United States is headed for the same ruination as Athens for the same reasons penned by historian Edward Gibbon: “In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom. When…the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.”
Contrary to longstanding orthodoxies, civil liberties and national security are more aligned than opposed. Scrupulous respect for freedom works hand-in-glove with national security by evoking unbegrudging loyalty among citizens eager to risk that last full measure of devotion to foil opponents and to maintain government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Patriotic soldiers are superior to mercenaries. Hessians were no match for the Minutemen in the American Revolutionary War. A military that fights more for love of country than fear or money will triumph. And love of country is elicited by the government’s securing unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Crushing civil liberties may enhance immediate safety, but future calamity is likely to ensue. The British believed that Writs of Assistance, denial of jury trial, quartering soldiers, and impressing American seaman to fight against American colonists would make them safer. And then came the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the end of the British Empire.
Prevailing legal doctrines and practices in the United States bear the earmarks of tyranny deplored by the Founding Fathers and hauntingly evocative of The Soviet Union or The People’s Republic of China.
The president is empowered to target American citizens off the battlefield for assassination abroad who have not engaged in hostilities against the United States on his say-so alone.
Citizens and non-citizens may be detained indefinitely without accusation or trial at Bagram prison in Afghanistan or in undisclosed locations abroad on the president’s say-so alone.
Predator drones kill civilians off the battlefield in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The protocols for targeting decisions are secret.
Military commissions are established for the trial of alleged war crimes that may be equally prosecuted in civilian courts, for example, material assistance to a foreign terrorist organization. Military commissions combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch — the very definition of tyranny according to the Founding Fathers.
State secrets are invoked by the president to prevent victims of constitutional wrongdoing, including torture or kidnapping, from judicial redress for their injuries.
Telephone calls and emails are intercepted by the government without probable cause to believe the target is connected to international terrorism.
Lawyers who defend alleged international terrorist organizations are vulnerable to prosecution under the material assistance law.
The Patriot Act authorizes the FBI to obtain business, bank, or other records by unilateral issuance of national security letters alleging a relationship to a terrorist investigation.
Extraordinary rendition is employed to dispatch detainees to countries notorious for torture.
Individuals or organizations are designated as “terrorists” and quarantined from human intercourse based on secret evidence.
Government crimes — including torture, illegal surveillance, obstruction of justice, and war crimes — go unprosecuted despite the President’s constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
The United States was founded on the idea that the individual was the center of the nation’s universe; and, that freedom was the rule and government restraints grudging exceptions. The right to be left alone was cherished above all others. The national purpose was not to build an Empire by projecting military force throughout the planet, but to revere due process and the blessings of liberty at home.
These ennobling ideas have been abandoned for the juvenile thrill of domination for the sake of domination and a quest for absolute safety that elevates vassalage to the summum bonum.
Where are the leaders to awaken America to its philosophical peril? Who has the courage to preach, “Better free than safe,” “As we would not be tyrannized, so we shall not be tyrants,” and, “due process is a higher life form than vigilante justice?”
If not us, who? If not now, when?
This Blogger’s Books from
American Empire Before the Fall
by Bruce Fein
Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy
by Bruce Fein
High Level Negotiations Kick Off
Cancn, Mexico – Yesterday, high levels ministers arrived to negotiate texts. Negotiations resumed this afternoon.
And today, heads of state started to arrive. They will discuss final draft texts on Thursday and Friday. About 20 to 25 heads of state are scheduled to arrive. Despite national emergencies in the homes countries, some nations – such as Colombia, which is currently hit by floods that have left 32 dead and 70,000 displaced – are managing to send their leaders. No G20 country, however, is sending a head of state.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arrived today, holding a larger forum meeting with other high level UN Agency leaders to discuss action on climate change this afternoon.
Reports of adverse climate change continue to gather apace. Yesterday, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) held a press conference, during which they presented the direct consequences of global warming on Latin America and the Caribbean, including melting glaciers,
Today, the UNEP released a report, delineating the affects of climate change on mountain glaciers. They would lead, one the one hand, to floods and, on the other hand, to droughts. The report delineated that rainfall would be at once more sporadic and intense. (Billl McKibben discusses this effect on the opening pages of Eaarth.) As the report reveals, these effects are already being felt now.
The Elephant in the Room
The U.S. continues to stall the talks, refusing to budge from the Copenhagen Accord and sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, which the overwhelming majority of the countries here support.
At the United States press conference yesterday afternoon, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman asked U.S. Climate Envoy to respond to revelations of the wikileaks that the United States pressured other countries, such as the Maldives, to sign on to the Copenhagen Accords by exerting financial pressure. (The wikileaks documents reveal communications between U.S. lead climate negotiator Todd Stern, Deputy Envoy Jonathan Pershing and Connie Hedegaard, host of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen in 2009, in which they discuss how to pressure countries to sign on to the Copenhagen Accord.) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-us-manipulated-climate-accord
To Goodman’s request for a response, Stern replied sternly: “Thanks very much. On the wiklileaks per se, I have no comment. And that’s a U.S. government position and we don’t comment on leaks of classified information.” Stern then recalled an anecdote about the negotiator from Norway, who was accused of bribery, who stood up and blasted the person who suggested that by saying: ‘You can’t on the one hand ask for and make a strong case, legitimately strong case, for the need for climate assistance and on the other hand accuse us of bribery. You want to eliminate. We can eliminate any cause for accusation for bribery by eliminating any money. Eric was powerful in that statement. I agreed with him 110% then and I do now.”
Yesterday, Bolivia’s lead climate negotiator Pablo Soln in a press conference told attendees that he was deeply disappointed with the initial draft text that was circulated this past weekend.
It left out many things that Bolivia called for, coming out the People’s World Conference on Climate Change, convened in Bolivia in April by Evo Morales.
In an agreement that come out of this People’s World Conference, Bolivia agreed upon the following items, which have been put forward for inclusion in the draft negotiating UNFCCC text:
1.a declaration on the rights of nature
2.and an inclusion of mention of human rights
3.and the rights of indigenous peoples;
4.a definition of forests that does not allow for plantations or for genetically modified trees;
5.and a rejection of market mechanisms
6.and of the UN program to Reduce Emissions through Deforestation and Forest
Degradation or REDD
7.a mention of the impact of war on greenhouse gas emissions
8.and the creation of a climate justice tribunal.
According to Soln, Bolivian President Evo Morales will attend the talks, due to arrive tonight.
BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, China and India)
Meanwhile, China continues to switch its position. Last week, it stated it would not sign on to Kyoto.
Then, on Saturday, China changed its tune, stating that it was prepared to making concessions on Kyoto. (Kyoto places the onus on developed nations, such as the U.S. to make emissions reductions but not on developed nations, such as China.)
China stated that it was willing to make commitments for emissions reductions, a position associated instead with the Copenhagen Accord.
China was quickly reined in by fellow BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, China and India. (These countries are not an official negotiating bloc within the UNFCCC process, however, they share certain economic positions and interests.)
In a joint press conference yesterday, BASIC stated that for it the following was non-negotiable:
1. there must be a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.
2. there must be an accelerated flow of funds from developed nations to developing nations, especially to Africa and to small island states.
3. And there needs to be agreement on the process for monitoring, reporting and verifying the agreed upon emissions reductions.
In this press conference, India came out swinging against the United States. India’s chief climate negotiator starkly criticized the paltry U.S. reduction offer of a 17% emissions reduction by 2020 based on 2005, which work out to a paltry 3-4%.
India also criticized the measly $1.7 billion allocated by the U.S. in 2010 in fast track funding, which does no justice to the U.S. historical responsibility for bringing about climate change.
A question was raised at the press conference why, if the United States is holding up the process, an agreement is not simply reached without it.
It is a question that has been raised repeatedly in various press conferences, with India, with Brazil, with Bolivia.
Today’s discussions kicked off with Mexico’s press conference at which President Caldern announced that he had requested countries work bilaterally or in small groups, in order to prevent the talks stalling out in gridlock.
It remains to be seen what emerges from the negotiations in the days to come.
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic, who has covered international climate change negotiations, most recently in Copenhagen and Bonn. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.
Israel Deputy Foreign Minister penned a heartfelt oped in the Jerusalem Post expressing thanks to various international players for their offered and provided relief in the terrible Carmel fire disaster in Israel.
To Ayalon’s credit, he thanks Turkey which sent two airplanes to support — along with other aircraft from Greece, Cyprus, Russia, France, Switzerland, the US, Spain and Germany. Danny Ayalon and Israel have had a rough time with Turkey of late — and the gesture from Turkey and the thanks from Ayalon and the Israeli government are important.
He also thanks Bulgaria, Italy and Azerbaijan for committed assistance of firefighters and other support.
And then he mentions that “immediate neighbors” have also “provided significant assistance.”
Perhaps this is code for the Palestinians. I’m not sure.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas had a rare phone call in which Abbas offered condolences on the victims of the Carmel fire and offered trucks and firefighters. Netanyahu expressed appreciation.
Danny Ayalon’s note is generally a good one. But this is the sort of disaster when somone of Ayalon’s stature and role should reflect magnanimity and inclusion.
A bit of unsolicited counsel to Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon and the Foreign Ministry: Express thanks to the Palestinian people for their support — by name — and not just as the “immediate neighbors.”
This won’t fix the bigger problems — but disasters are often opportunities for good will and human empathy to get some momentum and move those in conflict in a healthier direction.
– Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons
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The US-led occupation of Afghanistan now outlasts the Soviet presence in the country, with recent tactical changes providing worrying parallels
The revelations of Wikileaks diplomatic cables will absorb headlines and historians for some time; however there is a danger in our attention being too focused on US views of the past rather than the worrying direction of the Afghan conflict in the present.
The narrative of Obama’s Afghan strategy is being increasingly muddled by a gap between its rhetoric and its reality. The rhetoric was that a surge of troops combined with the effective use of the new counterinsurgency tactics would win hearts and minds and connect the Afghan state to its violent hinterland. The reality is that General McChrystal always struggled to turn the US military into an army of solider monks. Indeed this week a US Army medic pleaded guilty to being a member of a 12 man ‘kill team’ that killed Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. An inability to change the character of the occupying force has combined with the massive levels of corruption and an absence of real legitimacy within the government in Kabul, making it impossible to gain effective sovereignty over the country.
The 2014 deadline for leaving the country is likely to slip with Obama warning that “it is hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary to keep the American people safe as of 2014″. Despite NATO’s senior civilian representative Mark Sedwill claiming that Kabul was safer than London, in November the Pentagon announced that violence in the country was at an all time high, with the numbers of clashes having increased fourfold since 2007.
Greater rates of violence are the consequence of continued failure, and US adjustments to such violence are increasingly showing parallels to Soviet tactics. Interestingly a year ago NATO approached Russia for assistance in Afghanistan, an approach which has now developed into Russian support training the Afghan army and the possible provision of attack helicopters. The US originally avoided the use of tanks in Afghanistan precisely to avoid comparisons to the Soviet occupation, however last month it was announced that main battle tanks were being deployed to Helmand, although according to a US Colonel they won’t be used to ‘oppress’ the Afghans.
As the US passes the milestone of outlasting the Soviet occupation of the country their counterinsurgency strategy is at great peril of ignoring the failures of the Soviet experience. The return of the Russian helicopters and the introduction of US tanks is simply the latest reminder of the slippage in policy as Obama’s rhetoric has crashed against the immovable shores of the Afghan reality.
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I’m in Cairo covering today’s elections. I spent the day going from one polling station to another talking mostly to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters and campaign workers. I’m not sure what to say. I apologize if I gave some people the impression that these elections were elections, in any real sense of the word. They were not. And I think it’s worth underlining that point up front. As I wrote here yesterday, these elections are less important for what actually transpired, and more important for what they tell us about the critical players: the ruling National Democratic Party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United States.
Just two hours ago I talked to the MB representative responsible for a polling station in Medinat Nasr, where the country’s largest opposition group is running a female candidate. He ran me through all the violations, one by one. It’s the same story I heard over and over again all day today. In numerous districts, opposition representatives were not allowed in the voting room (only those with the NDP were). Which means that the ruling party could pretty much do as it willed. The world is watching, apparently, but not in the places that matter most. When the Ministry of Interior transports the ballot boxes in a couple hours, the world – let us be clear – will not be watching.
The Brotherhood, though, didn’t seem angry, even though hundreds of their members have been arrested the past couple months. Their representation in parliament will go down from a significant 20 percent to something considerably less. They were not angry; just resigned to the reality of rigged elections, something that they have to come to know rather intimately. At the same time, they came across as calm and composed. As Brotherhood leaders often say, “we are patient.” They lost this battle, and they will lose many, many more, but they seem to believe that history is on their side. So they’re okay with waiting. The real question, though, is whether Egypt can afford to wait, and wait.
The Brotherhood is interested, more than anything else, in survival. Today, they survived. And so it goes. No one winning; but no one really losing either.
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