Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Libya: Up is Down, Left is Right, White is Black, War is Peace, Democrat is Republican... Twist it all around & what've you got?
There have to be objectives and a plan and an agreement that we're prepared to devote the military forces but also the money. It makes no sense in the front room, where in Congress we are debating seemingly every day the deficits, the debt ceiling situation coming up, the huge economic problems we have -- but in the back room we are spending money on a military situation in Libya.
Republican presidential hopefuls have been scrambling to figure out the right vocabulary for denouncing President Obama's decision to launch U.S. planes and ships into action against Libya's Moammar Gaddafi. Because Obama made the decision, they know they're against it. But it took most of them a day or two to settle on exactly why, in part because so many of them had called for intervention before Obama pulled the trigger.
If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness). It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day. The UN allies now rolling back Qaddafi are doing a good thing, whatever you think of some of their individual leaders.
Thousands of supporters of Ivory Coast’s President Laurent Gbagbo enlisted in his army last week, fueling fears of renewed chaos in West Africa. Gbagbo’s refusal to accept his electoral defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the country’s November presidential election triggered bloody clashes between loyalists and Ouattara supporters. Rapes and killings, reportedly by Gbagbo’s forces, have left more than 400 dead. Over 50 people were killed last week alone. Gbagbo officials are encouraging young activists to join the army and fight against “the terrorists,” or backers of Ouattara, whom the United States and the rest of the international community recognize as the legitimate leader. Ouattara called on the United Nations to use force to protect civilians.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
In the background of the ongoing Middle Eastern drama looms the shadow of a rising China. China is not a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system, as we proclaim it should be; it is a free rider. We are at war in Afghanistan to make it a safe place for China to extract minerals and metals. We have liberated Iraq so that Chinese firms can extract its oil. Now we are at war with Libya, which further diverts us from concentrating on the western Pacific—the center of the world's economic and naval activity—which the Chinese military seeks eventually to dominate.
Every time we intervene somewhere, it quickens the pace at which China, whose leaders relish obscurity in international affairs, closes the gap with us. China will have economic and political problems of its own ahead, no doubt, and these will interrupt its rise. But China is spending much less to acquire an overseas maritime empire than we are spending, with all our interventions, merely to maintain ours.
This time around, however, there is no need for historical references, because the hypocrisy is playing out in real time. When protests started in Tunisia in January, the French foreign minister offered the Tunisian police training to “restore calm.” The day before Libya was attacked, dozens of protesters were shot dead in Yemen. Less than a week before, Saudi forces invaded Bahrain, where many protesters have been killed. These are American allies.
So while the West clearly has the power to intervene, given its history of colonialism and imperialism, it has no more credibility to do so on humanitarian grounds in this region than Iran would to bomb Bahrain in defense of the Shiites who are currently being killed there.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I truly love this insane conversation (taken from the infamous Nixon Tapes) between President Richard Nixon and his Chief Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman and his White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. The conversation starts off focused on a made-for-TV movie, then quickly shifts to the hit early 1970s' TV show All in the Family. They spend a little bit of time discussing Archie Bunker and his relationship with his "hippie" son-in-law Michael "Meathead" Stivic. When Nixon becomes fixated on a gay character that appeared on the show, all hell breaks loose and the conversation goes spiralling off in all kinds of maniacal directions. These three White House chums can't stop talking about homosexuals. It turns into sheer lunacy as Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman end up saying the most over-the-top things, touching on history, gays in San Francisco, gay hair dressers, and so forth. Normally, as a supporter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and gay and lesbian rights, I'd find this kind of thing almost too repulsive to listen to. But in this case, it's so over the top and loony that you can't help but laugh in discomfort. No doubt if he were still alive today, Dick Nixon would be an ardent foe of political correctness.