Thursday, March 31, 2005

Martin Peretz on the Mideast

The New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz has an important essay on President Bush and the Middle East. The following are what I found to be noteworthy excerpts:

"No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history."

On the revolution in Republican foreign policy:

"
The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home. The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades....This was the state of U.S.-Arab relations in 2001: The United States was actually more frightened of the Arabs than they were of us. The extraordinary report of the 9/11 Commission about the delinquent reactions to the decade-long lead-up to the catastrophe of September 11 only confirms this impression of official U.S. pusillanimity."

On the Clintonian approach to terror:

"
The Clinton administration seized on every possible excuse--from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, right through the atrocities in Kenya and Tanzania, to the attack on the USS Cole--not to respond meaningfully to Osama bin Laden....Clinton, it is true, resolved to eliminate bin Laden, but soon he eliminated his desire to eliminate him. The Clinton administration's true desire was to arrest bin Laden, to indict him, and to put him on trial--to "bring him to justice," as these men and women pompously exhorted each other."

How 9/11 helped crystallize what would become the Bush Doctrine (which equated state-sponsers of terrorists to actual terrorists):

"
What the Bush administration gradually came to realize was that fighting the Muslim terrorist international could not be done in a vacuum. If the Islamic and Arab orbits were to continue to revolve around sanguinary tyrannies, there would be no popular basis in civil society to rob the cult of suicidal murder of its prestige. So, rather than being a distraction from the struggle against the armed rage suffusing these at once taut and eruptive polities, confronting their governments was actually intrinsic to that struggle. The Bush administration recognized that removing the effect means removing the cause."

On "the acceleration of history" over the past two years in the Middle East:

"
There certainly was a basis in reality for skepticism about the Arabs' hospitability to the opening of their societies. Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area."

On the emerging democratic polity in Iraq:

"
The U.S. liberation-occupation has now tried to cobble together these diverging Iraqis into the beginnings of a democratic regime. Wonder of wonders, these estranged cousins have shown some talent in the art of compromise; and trying to make this polity work is hardly an effort undertaken without courage."

On the emerging democratic movements in the Greater Middle East:

"
The fine fruits of the Bush administration's indifference to international opinion may be seen now in Lebanon, too. What is happening there is the most concrete intra-Arab consequence of the Iraq war....Suddenly, the elections in Iraq, Bush's main achievement there, exhilarating and inspiring, sprung loose the psychological impediments that shackled the Lebanese to Syria.

"
But the mission is nonetheless real, and far along, and it is showing thrilling accomplishments. It is simply stupid, empirically and philosophically, to deny that all or any of this would have happened without the deeply unpopular but historically grand initiative of Bush."

On Bush's hugely consequential - and always overlooked - decision back in 2002 to make Yasser Arafat an irrelevant element of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process:

"
Had Bush made even a single accommodation to Arafat, Arafat's way in the world would have been enshrined in Palestinian lore for yet another generation as the only way."

Finally, Peretz, being the good liberal he is, has some advice for his fellow left-leaning bretheren:

"
One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony."

U.S. Troop Levels in Iraq and Sunni Politics

Belgravia Dispatch as an awesome and thorough discussion of the possibility of establishing timetables for American troop withdrawls and the political implications that has for Sunni involvement in the Iraqi political process. It's long, but well worth reading.

The Next JCS Chairman

In yesterday's WashPost, David Ignatius had an interesting column forecasting who might be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He believes current the current vice chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace is first in line when Air Force Gen. Richard Meyers' term ends this summer.

However, Tom Barnett, ever in the know in Pentagon circles, offers this insight:

"Not that I'd ever say anything bad about David Ignatius, but my sense of the dynamics in the Pentagon is not that a new Chairman needs to be able to stand up to Rumsfeld, but that Rumsfeld finally needs to get his own chairman.

"According to people I speak with, Ignatius is right about Pace (current Vice, USMC Gen.) and Giambastiani (JFCOM boss and USN Adm) being the front runners. Most likely scenarios are: 1) Pace moves up for 2 years, with G. as his Vice, then G. takes over for his four-year stint, or 2) G. goes straight to Chair and Pace remains his Vice for two more years. Many think Pace is in slight lead, but others tell me the service clock on Giambastiani's career means he either goes this summer to Chief or not at all. Something about his being trapped by 35-year-mark in Vice's job (a technicality that apparently doesn't apply in same way to Chief's spot). I'm not too clear on such details, but my guess is that Adm. G. is the man. He was Rumsfeld's mil aide and then the guy he trusted with Transformation's main command. I think this one's in the bank, and such an outcome would be good for the Pentagon and DoD as a whole, methinks."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Spring Break and Iraq updates

Jon and I have been on our spring break for the past ten days. It was great to get away from classes and what always ends up being the monotony of our everyday lives. I spent a couple days in beautiful San Sebastian, came back to Barcelona for two days, and then spent the rest of Holy Week in Rome with friends from home. Really a joy to experience Easter in Rome.

A couple of stories I noticed recently. First, on Iraq, from Rich Lowry in NRO's The Corner and the Washington Times.

Lowry (this was from 17 March, but because Blogger was awfully slow for awhile two weeks ago, I couldn't link to it) posts the heavily-circulated email from Army 1st Calvary Division Major Gen. Peter Chiarelli's report upon his return to the States from Iraq. A couple of points that stood out to me:

"6. Said that not tending to a dead body in the Muslim culture never happens. On election day, after suicide bombers blew themselves up trying to take out polling places, voters would step up to the body lying there, spit on it, and move up in the line to vote.

"
7. Pointed out that we all heard from the media about the 100 Iraqis killed as they were lined up to enlist in the police and security service. What the media didn't point out was that the next day there 300 lined up in the same place.

"8. Said bin Laden and Zarqawi made a HUGE mistake when bin laden went public with naming Zarqawi the 'prince' of al Qaeda in Iraq. Said that what the Iraqis saw and heard was a Saudi telling a Jordanian that his job was to kill Iraqis. HUGE mistake. It was one of the biggest factors in getting Iraqis who were on the 'fence' to jump off on the side of the coalition and the new gov't.

"9. Said the MSM was making a big, and wrong, deal out of the religious sects. Said Iraqis are incredibly nationalistic. They are Iraqis first and then say they are Muslim but the Shi'a - Sunni thing is just not that big a deal to them."

Be sure to read all of it.

Rowan Scarborough, echoing Gen. Chiarelli's assessment, reports:

"In the privacy of their E-ring offices, senior Pentagon officials have begun to entertain thoughts that were unimaginable a year ago: Iraq is turning the corner.

"Military officials and analysts say the clearing out of enemy-infested Fallujah in November, the Jan. 30 elections and the increasing willingness of Iraqis to fight and die for a democratic country are contributing to the momentum."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Wolfy Shocks Europe"

President Bush's decision to nominate Paul Wolfowitz as the next president of the World Bank has sent shockwaves throughout the world, as well as a lot of European's running for cover. To read up, check out the post over at The Belgravia Dispatch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Lebanese Babe Watch (continued)

As Chrenkoff admits, sure "...it's shallow, but it's fun." Just to keep you updated, here is the most recent crop of hot Lebanese female activists, brought to you by my favorite Arab street neoconservative, Jihad-Pundit.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A sign of the times maybe?

You know things are changing in the Middle East when the flag a group of Arabs burn isn't American, but another Arab country's (hat tip Instapundit).

International Ban on Stupidity

Alright, the Madrid conference on terrorism last week was not only a complete waste of time, but also a waste of European taxpayers' hard-earned euros. After three full days, comprised of conferences, discussion groups and seminars attended by 200 experts and academics from more than 50 countries, the final product is the brainchild now known as, “The Madrid Agenda.” What is it you may ask? The Americans are obviously incapable of combating terrorism, for it only “produces more terrorists than you can find,” according to Argentine entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky. What have the Europeans cooked up in their kitchen that only serves main courses of high-mindedness with a side a moral superiority? Let me tell you; a call for a comprehensive treaty banning terrorism… wow… sheer brilliance.

According to a National Public Radio broadcast by Jerome Socolovsky, highlighting the differences between Europe’s and the United States’ approach to terrorism, Spanish prosecutor Carlos Castrasana stated, “we have a lot of people arrested here, we have a lot of people indicted, mostly the group behind the terrorist attack has been dismantled. And in the case of the United States, even Osama Bin Laden himself has not been indicted after September 11th.” Hey Carlos, since when is this a competition about numbers? And if it is, you are losing. For the United States has in fact indicted far more terrorists than Spain. Not to mention the fact that there are nearly 2,700 detainees in Abu Ghraib alone. If Spain is so advanced and capable, you go out and get Osama. Or here’s an idea, maybe if some countries, which I will leave unmentioned, were willing to help participate in the international effort, he may have already been caught. Castrana’s statement was seen on behalf of Spain as a vindication of the idea that law enforcement not war is the key to combating terrorism.

Now give me a break, give me a break, give me a break off of that freakin’ Kit-Kat bar. If this is the type of material that Spain and Europe as a whole are capable of producing, I guess we really are in more trouble than I imagined. A five-year-old is capable of deciphering better plans from the random arrangement of letters in his Alphabets soup. So once again, let’s just leave everything to the criticism of the Europeans while they kick their feet up poolside drinking margaritas while others are out there getting their hands dirty.

*NOTE – The above sarcasm is only directed at certain European actors, you know who you are.

Eat it, Hezbollah, Boy Assad, et. al

Today in Beirut, from the AP:

"Beirut, Lebanon - Hundreds of thousands of opposition demonstrators chanted 'Freedom, sovereignty, independence" and unfurled a huge Lebanese flag in Beirut on Monday, the biggest protest yet in the opposition's duel of street rallies with supporters of the Damascus-backed government.

"Crowds of men, women and children flooded Martyrs Square, spilling over into nearby streets, while more from across the country packed the roads into Beirut - responding to an opposition call to demonstrate for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

American Students Attacked in Madrid

Recently, a group of eight American students on a study-abroad program were attacked in Madrid by five neo-Nazi skinheads following a soccer match. This incident is considered by police to be a hate crime, as three of the victims were black, and the assailants used racial insults during the attack. All of the Americans received bruises except for the three women who fled to find help. Luckily, only two of the students required medical attention for wounds that were not serious. Although such an attack is a rare occurrence in Spain, I believe that the increasing frequency of such events serves to demonstarate a dangerous subcurrent of racism and xenophobia that is residing just below the surface. One must not look further than the number of incidents in soccer matches where play has been forced to come to a hault due to racist chants and brawls.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Oil and Energy Policy, baby!

Larry Kudlow, the CNBC commentator and faithful supply-sider, has a great post over on his blog, Kudlow's Money Politics, explaining why oil is at $55 a barrel and the direction of U.S. energy policy, a topic that cannot be ignored when discussing U.S. national security.

On oil prices:

"Clearly today’s episode is demand-driven, quite unlike the supply shocks of twenty-five years ago. Then, OPEC was withholding oil because of their disagreement with the US policy tilt in favor of Israel.
...

"Today oil is flowing, but at much higher prices. To a certain extent, we owe this to a favorable development: the global spread of market capitalism in emerging economies such as China, India, and Eastern Europe. At the margin, their increasing oil demands have undoubtedly boosted the price.

...

"Fortunately, the US economy is much less susceptible nowadays to the tax hike impact of higher oil prices. Numerous studies have shown that greater efficiencies in oil and energy usage have lowered our vulnerability to energy shocks by roughly 50% in relation to twenty-five years ago. Rather than a bad dose of stagflation, today’s economy is quite healthy. Ultimately, the answer to high oil prices is a lot more production. Not just oil production, but gas, liquid gas, clean coal, and nuclear power are all substitutes for oil. At $55 a barrel oil, these substitutes become increasingly attractive." [my emphasis added]

I emphasize the development of "greater efficiencies in oil and energy usage" to make a simple point. The innovation of new technologies that help reduce the environmental costs that come with the huge levels of oil and energy consumption in the United States is directly corollated with our "lowered vulnerability to energy shocks" relative to 25 years ago. This is free market environmentalism. If you want to seriously cut back on pollution and unhealthy energy emissions, the effort should be directed toward developing and sharing better technologies. This is where the Kyoto Pact, which went into effect in the world over last month, is severely flawed. Instead of blaming "climate change" and other over-hyped environmental concerns on American production/consumption, take a better look at the levels of pollution coming from those emerging industrial powers, such as India, China, and Russia, and ask what they're doing to fix the problem.

As Dr. Robert Balling writes at TechCentralStation.com:

"With the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas concentrations will double this century. With no Kyoto, greenhouse gas concentrations will double this century, and the time of doubling has almost nothing to do with Kyoto and everything to do with economic development in China, India, Russia, and elsewhere."

This is a similar point Kudlow made above about the rising oil prices and increased demand in these countries.

So what direction is U.S. energy policy headed? Kudlow writes:

"Meanwhile, new Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, has been put in place to implement Bush policies for greater nuclear energy use (along with clean coal, a free trade national electricity grid, and foreign coordination of liquid natural gas). Mr. Bodman is a former chemical engineering scientist who taught at MIT. He was also a venture capitalist. Even more, he was the chief operating officer of the super-sized Fidelity mutual fund company. This is a guy who will quietly manage the US effort to break out of the current OPEC-reliant paradigm and shift to the development of a multiplicity of new energy sources. The Excelon utility company has just gotten an early site permit for nuclear power, and Duke Power has nearly completed its combined operating license permit, including a pre-approved reactor design."

Let's hope Sec. Bodman takes care of business.

Giuliana Sgrena update

Instapundit cites this:

"The AP reports that the Italian story of Giuliana Sgrena's release and later wounding at an American checkpoint, which also resulted in the death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, continues to fall apart. Two Italian newspapers now say that the general in charge of the Sgrena operation did not inform the US that Calipari's mission was to free Sgrena, and one of them reports that General Mario Maroli didn't even know it himself."

11-M, Lessons to be Learned

For the past several days, I have read numerous articles referring to the debate that is still going on in Spain as to the meaning of the March 11th attacks. However, some things still bother me tremendously as a result of viewing the Spaniards reactions firsthand.

Primarily, a large percentage of the citizens here still as feel as if another attack is very likely within the near future, which leads me to believe that many have not yet come to grips with the real meaning behind the attacks. Clearly, this is a misinterpretation of al-Qaeda's highly strategic goals.

So let me make this clear. Spain was a target because of their participation in the "Coalition of the Willing." The bombings occurred at a very selective time, three days before the election, in order to influence the voting. Now Spain, listen up. You need to realize, despite the fact that Aznar and the government withheld information, al-Qaeda succeeded in achieving its goal; Zapatero took power and yanked the troops. No matter how much you may try to convince me that you voted against the PP because they are a bunch of distrustful fascists, I don’t care… al-Qaeda won. Perhaps a revisiting of Israel’s policy on terrorism, established over sixty years ago, and eventually adopted by the majority of the democratic countries in the world would best do the trick, “Do not give into terrorist demands.” Immediately following the elections last March, I was shocked and terrified. Despite the massive war that the Coalition was fighting, Spain’s election signified a debilitating blow to democracy.

My second issue is with the blame itself. Some Spaniards point fingers at the United States for their lead in the Iraqi War, others at al-Qaeda itself (and rightfully so), but perhaps they have missed something. Spain has acted as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists for the past decade, with little or no surveillance whatsoever. Now I am able to understand that the face of Islamic terrorism was not the first priority for the Spanish government; however, after joining the US in its fight, they should have immediately become aware of the inherent dangers of such actions. Nevertheless, to cower away from danger instead of remaining in arms with the international alliance for support of democracy and the ideals of liberalism, is purely shameful.

Third, Zapatero’s recent announcements about hopeful developments on the war on terrorism are absurd, and now insanely illegitimate. It’s blows my mind as to how you can withdraw total support for the United States, already further deepening the transatlantic rift, and then come back a year later to change your mind. It’s not fair to escape to your own little private corner where you can clear your head for as long as you may like, and then when you feel like it is time for you, despite the inconvenience that you may be causing to the rest of the world, make your “triumphant return.” Thanks a lot “Shoemaker,” but your help is no longer needed. We can do without you, as has been proven within the last year. The tide appears to be turning in the Middle East, and nobody likes a bandwagon.

Finally, I sincerely believe that most Spaniards do not appreciate the fact that the Coalition has provided for them an incredibly safer country now than what existed nearly a year ago. The chances that another attack will take place has been significantly reduced, and not only because you have withdrawn your troops and made yourself less of a target, but due to the fact those courageous countries have continued to fight and defeat terrorism by means of significant efforts.

So I finish this post with envy. It must be wonderful to sit in a garden of paradise, constantly convincing yourself that your actions are always in the best interest of humanity and the pursuit of peace. But that’s okay, although I know that you will never be willing to publicly acknowledge it, somewhere deep down in the depths of your soul that you never wish to touch, you know that owe a hell of a lot more thanks than you have been prepared to give.

11-M

Our man here in Spain, Barcepundit, honors the victims of the 11-M attacks.

He also cites this report from the AP:

"In the year since 10 dynamite-filled backpacks exploded on Madrid commuter trains, Spaniards have shifted some blame away from the Iraq war and onto themselves.

"Immediately after the March 11 massacre, most Spaniards saw the attack as al-Qaida's revenge for sending Spanish troops to Iraq. Today there's a realization al-Qaida's footprint in Spain is much older and deeper: the country had long been a haven or transit point for Islamic militants."

Meanwhile, the New York Times examines the political infighting that has erupted between the socialists and the conservatives over Spain's proper response to Islamic terror. One thing I was not aware of was this:

"The most recent sign of the split is the refusal of the opposition to endorse a series of parliamentary findings about how the March 11 bombing happened and how to prevent future attacks. The parliamentary commission was to deliver its preliminary findings today but without that crucial endorsement.

"While the Sept. 11 commission in the United States was bipartisan, Spain's version was dominated by the Socialists and rapidly dissolved into a forum for political grandstanding and attacks." [my emphasis]

This is rather unfortunate. America's 9/11 commission was certainly not without its flaws but its findings and recommendations were welcomed by both parties and the entire public. Their report is a best-seller and a treasure-trove of information on al Qaeda terrorism, intelligence, and homeland security issues. In the case of Spain, it looks as if both sides are to blame for this unnecessary impasse. I'm sorry but this is pretty pathetic. A country's national security is at stake at the two parties cannot even agree on the government's terror report. What's even more worrying is the drivel coming out of the Madrid "anti-terror" conference. Weakness in the face of this threat is uncalled for.

There's a reason why U.S.-Spanish relations are reduced to: "Hola. ¿Qué tal, amigo?"

"Barcelona - City of Amazing Architecture"

Here is an article from Independent Travel highlighting some of the magnificent works produced by Antonio Gaudi (1852 - 1926) in Barcelona.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Arab and Western "Streets"

Nota bene:

Christopher Hitchens tries to figure out whatever happened to the infamous "Arab Street," while Amir Taheri laments the "Western Street's" silence in the face of the emerging democratic movements in the Mideast.

"Our New Guernica"

Timothy Garton Ash reflects on the one-year anniversary of the 11-M attacks. I quibble a bit with some of his "soft" language, however he gets the big picture:

"But this war to avoid a larger war will only be won if ordinary citizens across Europe are consciously engaged in it, through millions of commonplace interactions with people of different colour and faith. These are the experiences that determine whether the Muslim immigrants who already live among us in such large numbers will turn towards or away from Islamist extremism, and eventually terrorism. This is not the 'war on terror', in which the mighty armies and security apparatuses of powerful states are repeatedly outmanoeuvred by a few technically ingenious people who are prepared to sacrifice their own lives [But when have the Islamic terrorists, since 9/11, 'outmanoeuvred' that most powerful state, America, with her mighty army and security apparatus?]. It's a war to prevent such people wanting to become terrorists in the first place.

"A great French historian once said that a nation is 'a plebiscite on every day'. So is this peaceful war to prevent the emergence of terrorism in the alienated minds of ordinary men and women. It's a war of small things, of tiny, everyday acts."

I totally agree, but this "war on terror" Mr. Ash snidely refers to, needed a kick start after Afghanistan. It needed that grand idea, that grand strategy, that "Big Bang" (to steal Tom Barnett's language) to get the ball rolling in the Arab-Muslim world in order "to prevent such people [from] wanting to become terrorists in the first place." And that "Big Bang" was clearly the American intervention in Iraq and subsequent rehabilitation to foster the emergence of representative government. I agree that it's "a war of small things, of tiny, everyday acts," but it also comes a time when big things, of monumental proportions are just as necessary to win the wider war. Although based on what is coming out of the conference on terrorism in Madrid, it looks like, unfortunately, Spain does not want to face the new reality and "think big."

Giuliana Sgrena

Chrenkoff has a thorough round-up of the imbroglio surrounding the unfortunate incident in Iraq, including a translation of a news report from a Dutch colleague of Sgrena's.

The Afghan Warrior

Via Chrenkoff. It looks like we have the first Afghan blogger up and running. Waheed, the Afghan Warrior introduces himself:

"I would like to say hello to all bloggers. My name is Waheed. I am a 20 year old male from Afghanistan and I have been working with the US Army in Kabul, Afghanistan as an interpreter for the last 2 years. Our base is located inside the ANA (Afghan National Army) Central Corps and the US officers train the ANA. I would like to thank my friend Paul Edwards who persuaded me to start my blog and send the real news from Afghanistan. The situation in Afghanistan is getting better day by day. There are still some fights in the southern provinces and also near the Pakistan border. The ANA and US Army fight against them, but the enemy is weak and they just carry out guerilla attacks and then escape."

20 years old. He's the future of his country.

In a column I wrote for the Daily Collegian back in September, I drew the obvious parallel between the number of gold medals a country wins and its economic development. Check it out here. I concluded with this note:

"In Athens, Robina Muqimyar, one of two women who competed for Afghanistan, ran the 100 meter dash in 14.14 seconds. American Lauryn Williams clocked in at 10.96 seconds to win the silver medal. That difference is a gaping 3.18 seconds. That difference is symbolic of how far countries like Afghanistan have to go to catch up with everyone else.

"But Muqimyar isn't worried. 'I'm going to train harder and I hope to have the facilities in Afghanistan,' she told the Associated Press. 'I will really get ready for the 2008 Olympic Games. I hope I can win a medal, at least a bronze medal.'

"I hope she does, and that her country is as optimistic as she is."

It looks like we've got two Afghans who, despite their circumstances, are probably more optimistic and hopeful about their future than most Europeans, at least according to various public opinion polls.

Making sense of Lebanon

Tom Friedman, as usual, does what he does best, in his lastest column on the ever-dynamic situation we're watching unfold in Lebanon. The big news the past couple of days was Hezbollah's pro-Syrian, counter-protest led by their leader Nasrallah.

Money graphs:

"The fact that Hezbollah had to resort to a mass rally, just like the Lebanese democracy movement's, is itself a victory for the democrats. Hezbollah clearly felt that it must prove it is as popular a force as the democratic opposition. But something tells me that those Hezbollah demonstrators who were waving the picture of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, were uncomfortable. And this is Hezbollah's weak spot: deep down, it and its supporters know that when they raise the pictures of Syria's president, they are raising the question of whose interests they have at heart.

"If democracy in Lebanon is going to re-emerge in a reasonably stable way, Lebanese democratic forces have to constantly be inviting Hezbollah to join them. After all, Hezbollah represents an important and powerful trend among Lebanon's Shiites, most of whom are patriots eager to see Lebanon independent and united. At the same time, though, the Lebanese democrats need to constantly and loudly ask Hezbollah - and get the U.N. and the European Union to constantly and loudly ask Hezbollah - 'Why are you waving the picture of the Syrian president? Whose side are you on?'"

As the Instapundit says, read the whole thing.

The China paradox

Two interesting articles on China.

First is John Hughes, a former assistant SecState under Reagan, writing yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor. He summarizes the basic diplomatic/security concerns surrounding China today: the strengthening of its military, the resignation of Hong Kong's first post-colonial chief executive, its tightening hold on Taiwan with the probable passage of the "antisecession" law (which basically gives the Chinese the threat of military force against Taiwan if they attempt to formally separate from the mainland), and the U.S.-Japan security arrangement for the Taiwan Strait. His basic message is that, obviously, "skillful diplomacy" is needed to handle these various situations, especially "cross-Strait" relations. The flashpoint is clearly Taiwan and whether or not it will make its break for independence. It seems, however, China is doing its best to reel in Taipei, and I think the Taiwanese understand the dangerous implications of taking the drastic step of bolting from the mainland. This explains why, I believe, China is slowly trying to reintegrate Taiwan into its political system, which, at some point in the future, will leave Taiwan no other option but to accept its fate (I think for the better) and reunify (I'm sure with some degree of autonomy) with the mainland.

The other article, from Reuters, shows the "sunnier" side of U.S.-China relations, the side that China hawks should open their eyes to if they really wish to avoid some type of conflict in the future:

"SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - China's Lenovo Group Ltd. won clearance from a U.S. national security oversight committee to acquire IBM's personal computer business, the companies said on Wednesday, overcoming resistance from some U.S. lawmakers.

"An IBM executive said the high-level U.S. committee had given the deal its unanimous consent -- the final external approval needed -- putting the $1.25 billion PC sale on track to close in the second quarter as originally planned.

"'We were able to get unanimous agreement from the members of the committee," Stephen Ward, the general manager of IBM's Personal Systems Division, said in a telephone interview.

"Ward is to become chief executive of Lenovo, once the deal closes. Lenovo is headquartered in Beijing, but will move to an undisclosed site near IBM's headquarters in Armonk, New York.

"The merger of the IBM PC business with China's biggest PC maker -- the first combination ever of a major U.S. company and a top Chinese one -- will create the world's third largest PC maker with roughly $12 billion in revenue and one strongly positioned in several fast-growing markets." [my emphasis added]

This is the kind of substantial relationship we should be building with the Chinese. This is also the kind of military relationship we should be building with the Chinese, as Tom Barnett talks about, to deal with the real crisis in Asia: Kim Jong Il's nuclear-armed North Korea.

UPDATE:

Tom Barnett:

"Well, those non-too-subtle Chinese have done it alright: they've formalized the notion that they won't stand for Taiwan's independence and they would use military force to prevent it. Wow! Imagine the U.S. passes a resolution saying that if you attacked-I dunno-anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, we'd response with military force. It would be . . . like a doctrine or something. Hmm. U.S. has a Monroe Doctrine for entire Western Hemisphere and China has a Hu Doctrine for . . . all of . . . Taiwan. Man, who does those Chinese think they are? I mean, America gets to invade countries and topple regimes in the Middle East and China's talking about threatening a small island nation off its coast, to which the losing side in its civil war retreated several decades ago. Who do these people think they are? But China must not be too scary, otherwise why give them the keys to the 21st century? The ability to produce PCs on par with IBM, that leader in PC . . . uh . . . IBM makes PCs?"

Indeed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Spanish Abroad Programs Cancelled

Although I completely disagree with this decision, I thought that it was worth posting in relation to my current studies in Barcelona.

Tom Fuentes, a trustee for the South Orange County Community College Dstrict, unveiled his plan last week to cancel Saddleback College's program with Spain. Students have participated in this program for the past fifteen years. In front of a shocked audience, Fuentes noted that, "One hundred ninety-five years ago, in 1810, my family arrived on this continent from Spain, so I have an affection for that land..." However, his tone quickly changed when he simulataneously attacked the study abroad program as catering to "an elite," yet should be also considered a "death wish" given the al-Qaeda attacks in Madrid last March. He added, "Now, something more... Many of our students in this college, and of its sister college Saddleback and Irvine, past and future today, fight on the battlefield of Iraq under the flag that is behind us. Spain has abandoned our fighting men and women, withdrawing their support. I see no reason to send the students of our colleges to Spain at this moment in history."

Despite this extremely odd course of action, one must question the decision to terminate the program now, nearly a year after the Madrid bombings. Fuentes was also a former head of the Republican Party in Orange County, perhaps a sign that his decision was a result of Bush and Condi's refusals to visit Spain on their European trips, or Spain's decision to leave the "Coalition of the Willing." I am eager to see what may develop within the next several days.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

''Nothing worse than a pacifist that sells arms''

Tom Friedman has a solid column on the EU-to-China arms sales, with some tough love for our European friends.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Dean Will Isolate Democratic Jews

Although I have been arguing this for quite some now, it is now even more apparent that Democratic Jews will find less breathing room with the appointment of Howard Dean to the position of DNC chairman. Before the nomination occurred, Jay Footlik, John Kerry´s campaign liason to the Jewish community stated that if he was to be nominated,

´´a lot mainstream, middle of the road, centrist Jewish Democrats would be very turned off and concerned and would be left wondering whether they have a home in the Democratic Party.´´

Check out some disturbing characteristics of Dean here regarding his weak record of support for Israel.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

China: Friend or Foe?

The issue of China is essentially where Matt and I diverge in opinion. Matt sides with China, in that he believes increased economic integration will eventually lead to political integration. He further believes that Bejing will have no option, assumming that they desire to maintain the economic status that have achieved, but to further integrate considering the tremendous flows of foreign investment, technology, etc. that are entering the country. While I agree that this trend is obviously undeniable, I tend to take a more pro-Taiwan stance in line with common neocon principle and traditional conservative realism.

Despite the vast economic changes in China, we must still remain weary of what appears to me, to be an extremely unstable government (which I may add is still without a clear strategic objective). I consider China's history to be of vital importance, linked to their desire to once again grasp the sole superpower status of the Asian continent.

Undoubtedly, what frightens me the most, is that a country that Matt portrays as being, nothing but ready to be embraced by the economic international community, has demonstrated little reason to be trusted. China's recent military buildup is terrifying, not so much in numbers, but rather in motive. Why are they engaging in one of the most ambitious military buildups in the world to date? Who do they have to fear!? Nobody, they're ready for the offensive.

New intelligence reports claim that China's latest buildup include 23 new amphibious assault ships and 13 new attack submarines; vehicles which could theoretically be used to ferry supplies and soldiers in an attack on Taiwan. Even Director of Central Intelligence, Porter J. Goss, admitted to Congress that these measures could essentially, "tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait." This is the last thing we need, a shift in attention from our efforts in the Middle East.

Further included in China's growing submarine fleet are new nuclear and conventional powered vessels; can you say an attempt to patch their inability to control the Taiwan Straight? Now with an expanded fleet, Washington intervention during a crisis will be greatly reduced. Further recalculation and analysis will be required in order to adapt to new strategic possibilies.

While the Taiwan Straight is one issue, American security is another. Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency recently stated that, "In addition to key Taiwanese military and civilian facilities... Chinese missiles will be capable of targeting U.S. and allied military installations in the region to either deter outside intervention in a Taiwan crisis or attack those installations if deterrent efforts fail." Admiral Jacoby, in unclassified testimony, predicted that by 2015, the number of Chinese nuclear warheads "capable of targeting the continental United States will increase severalfold."

To further state that China is completely dependent on the United States and the rest of the world is also completely false. Although progress may be slower without such foreign investment, the modernization of its fleet of warships is already underway, and experts claim that by taking an increasing share of commercial shipbuilding contracts in Asia, China is practically financing its own expansion

No matter how idealistic you are about the prospects of international economic integration and the role of China, some of the above information must be at least somewhat unsettling. I aruge that we need to keep on eye on China, for as history has proven anything can happen. Even more so, attitudes and norms do not change quickly. The citizenry of China may not experience a perceptual revolution as rapidly as the economic developments appear to be occurring. Who is not to say that government support and approval will increase as long as China is becoming more militarily potent and economically successful? Either way, China isn't my buddy yet, I'm sticking with Taiwan.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"The point is the next few months"

Syrian Baathist President Bashar Assad tells Joe Klein of Time he's pulling his troops out of Lebanon in a matter of months:

"It's a technical issue, not political. I could not say we could do it in two months because I have not had the meeting with the army people. They may say it will take six months. You need to prepare when you bring your army back to your country. You need to prepare where you will put the troops.

"There are two factors. The first is security in Lebanon. The security in Lebanon is much better than before. They have an army, they have a state, they have institutions. The second thing, which is related to Syria, is that after withdrawing we have to protect our border. We need to talk about our borders, because when Israel invaded in 1982, they reached that point. It was very close to Damascus. So we will need [fortifications for the troops] along the border with Lebanon."

Assad is playing his cards correctly right now because he really has no other choice. The Lebanese people have told the Syrian puppet government and Syria to basically shove it, and with the Europeans, Americans and the UN all on the same page demanding Syria get out of Lebanon, it leaves "Boy Assad" little choice.

It is also quite remarkable we are hearing the following coming out of the Middle East:

"We will be here every day until the last Syrian soldier withdraws from our land," one activist said through a loudspeaker. The crowd, blowing whistles, chanted back: "Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence."

"They sang in rhyming Arabic: 'We are all, Muslims and Christians, against the Syrians.'"

We never thought, at least before 30 January, we'd be witnessing the dramatic changes taking place so fast. I believed change would come to the Arab-Muslim world eventually, but it is so heartening to see things developing at this rate.

The indispensable Mark Steyn writes in the London Telegraph today:

"Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old Spectators in the attic - I wrote: The stability junkies in the EU, UN and elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So, if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start not in the West Bank but in Baghdad.'

"I don't like to say I told you so. But, actually, I do like to say I told you so. What I don't like to do is the obligatory false self-deprecatory thing to mitigate against the insufferableness of my saying I told you so. But nevertheless I did.
...

"Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from 'more freedom and democracy'. The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a 'historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy'. After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.

He continues:

"Three years ago, those of us in favour of destabilising the Middle East didn't have to be far-sighted geniuses: it was a win/win proposition. As Sam Goldwyn said, I'm sick of the old clichés, bring me some new clichés. The old clichés - Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Islamism, Arafatism - brought us the sewer that led to September 11. The new clichés could hardly be worse. Even if the old thug-for-life had merely been replaced by a new thug-for-life, the latter would come to power in the wake of the cautionary tale of the former.

"But some of us - notably US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz - thought things would go a lot better than that. Wolfowitz was right, and so was Bush, and the Left, who were wrong about the Berlin Wall, were wrong again, the only difference being that this time they were joined in the dunce's corner of history by far too many British Tories. No surprise there. The EU's political establishment doesn't trust its own people, so why would they trust anybody else's? Bush trusts the American people, and he's happy to extend the same courtesy to the Iraqi people, the Syrian people, the Iranian people, etc.

"Prof Glenn Reynolds, America's Instapundit, observes that 'democratisation is a process, not an event'. Far too often, it's treated like an event: ship in the monitors, hold the election, get it approved by Jimmy Carter and the UN, and that's it. Doesn't work like that. What's happening in the Middle East is the start of a long-delayed process. Eight million Iraqis did more for the Arab world on January 30 than 7,000 years of Mubarak-pace marching."

Reality Check for Liberals

If General S. Patton could miraculously arise from the grave, he would undboutedly lay a smackdown on the liberals for their apparent "lack of courage to fight the enemy," at least according to Steve Darnell of Arab News. Check out this hilarious article regarding the increasing cyncism from the left regarding everything about the American use of military force and the war on terrorism... but bloggers beware, this guy takes no prisoners.

"If making a terrorist wear a pair of women’s panties on his head will help save one innocent life by gaining information on future terrorist acts, it is worth the effort. I think Victoria Secret and Fredrick’s of Hollywood should contribute panties to the war effort. Maybe we would get a few more confessions."