Posts Tagged 'foreign policy'

Picking the Right Fight

ISIS Ebola

The Prime Minister and Conservative Party are beating the war drums in Ottawa today, offering a motion on the floor of Parliament to have Canada supply warplanes in support of the US mission against ISIS. A vote on the resolution will pass sometime next week, enjoying the support of a broad majority of Canadians. It will commit more than 600 Canadian Forces, six CF-18 fighter-bombers, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft to a six-month “limited mission” of air combat. The cost of this war has not been estimated; but Canada’s seven-month air war in Libya, which involved similar force and equipment commitments (650 personnel and 7 fighter jets at the mission’s peak) cost Canada $347 million.

ISIS is hardly the only source of bad, scary news these days. The ebola epidemic is on-pace to kill more people than ISIS ever could and has the likelihood of a much broader global calamity.  By all accounts, the international response has been way too small and way to slow. Canada’s contribution to “humanitarian and security interventions” addressing the ebola outbreak total a mere $5 million, although Canada pledged last week to spend up to an additional $30 million. The United Nations and World Health Organization have estimated that it will cost nearly $1 billion over the next six months to fight the spread of the epidemic.

Here’s an idea for Canada: take all the economic and military resources we are so ready to spend in Iraq and Syria and deploy them against the ebola catastrophe. Canada could exercise real leadership in this fight, thereby re-establishing its moral credibility on the global stage and demonstrating that it chooses its international engagements thoughtfully. Continue reading ‘Picking the Right Fight’

Mishandling Russia

Vladimir Putin's Snake Eyes

Russia is, once again, a big goddamned problem for America and NATO.

The invasion of Georgia is just the latest and most unavoidable sign of trouble — and most overt headache — in an international relationship that never gelled, as perhaps it should have, at the end of the Cold War. The recklessness provocation of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gave Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his sock-monkey, President Dimitri Medvedev, all the pretense required to remind NATO who controls the neighborhood.

Continue reading ‘Mishandling Russia’

The Right Leader at the Right Time

Barack Obama

Will Barack Obama be a great president, or even a good one? This is very difficult to predict, and depends largely on the people with whom he surrounds himself, his political acumen, and his ability to balance principle and pragmatism. He is certainly very smart, making him a welcome change from the current leadership. But then, Jimmy Carter was a brilliant man and a horrible president. Ronald Reagan was an intellectual lightweight, but had a hugely successful (if also hugely repugnant) presidency.

Still, I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Obama is exactly the right person to lead this country at this time.

Continue reading ‘The Right Leader at the Right Time’

Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner

Beirut Gunman, May 2008
Photo: Associated Press

Beirut is once again in flames as Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias and Lebanese government forces clash in the worst outbreak of violence there since the end of the fifteen year civil war in 1990. The underlying political stalemate between the government and Hezbollah-led opposition parties, which has left the country without a president for nearly a year-and-a-half, is still unresolved. And, once again, America stands idly by and watches.

Continue reading ‘Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner’

Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Non-Violence

expelliarmus

A country should be defended not by arms, but by ethical behavior.
-Vinoba Bhave

Throughout the Harry Potter series, when Jo Rowling’s hero raises his wand in anger or defense against an evil witch or wizard, he habitually uses non-lethal curses and charms. Indeed, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the identity of a concealed Harry is immediately revealed to the Death Eaters when he slips a killing curse and de-wands his assailant, rather than returning deadly fire. Says Remus Lupin, “The Death Eaters seem to think it’s your signature move, and I urge you not to let it become so.”

Continue reading ‘Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Non-Violence’

Lebanon: Overlooked Centerfold of Neoconservative Wet Dreams

At the end of May, I posed this question: why would the neoconservative narcissists choose Iraq as domino-one in their design to remake the Islamic world, when Afghanistan was so much easier, available, appropriate, and economical a target?

A year before I posed the question about Afghanistan, in June of 2005, I commented on the astonishing non-response of the Bush Administration to the political assassinations that were decimating Lebanon’s fledgling democratic government. Syrian operatives had murdered both Prime Minister Rafique Hariri and influential anti-Syrian politician George Hawi, as well as a prominent anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir. Despite the administrations macho rhetoric toward Syria in those few heady days of the illusory “mission accomplished”, it seemed that they were missing an opportunity to control a situation that had spun well out of control. One of my points at the time was that Condoleza Rice — who must surely be the worst Secretary of State in the history of the institution — not only fucked up by pursuing policies that were wrong-headed; she also fucked up by failing to pursue the few administration policies that made good sense.

Allow me to tie these two threads together and suggest that Lebanon offered another perfect fixation for neoconservative wet dreams of secular – pluralistic, even! – democratization of the Islamic world.
Continue reading ‘Lebanon: Overlooked Centerfold of Neoconservative Wet Dreams’

Why Iraq?

Let’s try to take the neoconservatives at their word. The invasion of Iraq was never about oil. And it was never about “finishing the job” Bush pere left undone following the first Gulf war. It was not even about establishing a base of military operations in this critical region which would allow America to begin to distance itself from its problematic alliance with the Saudis.

It was solely about replacing a murderous, autocratic regime with a democracy, which would then embolden democratic reformers throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Iraq was to be the first domino in the democratization of the region.

Let’s leave aside the fact that metaphor was always a little careless. Dominoes topple a bit more easily than governments, systems of government, and the social values that have enabled or created those systems. Fallen dominoes dispossess no one, threaten no stakeholders, and force no radical realignment of interdomino relations. And they leave far less collateral damage.

Also try to ignore, as the neocons themselves did, that democracy in much of the Islamic world is likely to yield popularly elected theocracy. I personally have no problem with this notion; but I can’t help imagining it would have troubled the neocons, had it occurred to them.

One must still wonder: why Iraq?

Continue reading ‘Why Iraq?’

Reassessing the Pottery Barn Rule and the Way Forward in Iraq

Main Street, Cottage Grove Oregon

Before the Bush administration decided to go to war in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged caution in US policy, citing the apocryphal Pottery Barn Rule: you break it, you own it! Well, the mess has been made and, like it or not, America now owns it. But for how long?

The anti-war movement has become reenergized; and the hawks are only one step behind. The political debate in America is becoming familiarly polarized around the question of what to do next in Iraq. Everything is running true-to-form: liberals demand an instantaneous pull-out, conservatives spout dribble about “supporting the troops,” Republicans stay on-message to “stay the course,” and Democrats can’t decide what to think about anything.

The present situation in Iraq is terribly fluid. It is also terribly terrible. This latter aspect so captures our attention that we seem incapable of analyzing the dynamic complexities of the present – or of developing a strategy for the future. The cacophony of opinion does not impress me as helpful in framing the issues, much less in properly assessing how to move forward. Both the pro-war and anti-war factions need to reexamine their positions and, if they cannot constructively contribute to the formulation of policy, shut their pie-holes so that others can.

Continue reading ‘Reassessing the Pottery Barn Rule and the Way Forward in Iraq’

Knock It Off!

Yesterday, an assassin widely presumed to be a Syrian agent murdered yet another high-profile anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon. George Hawi’s killing follows the murders former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and prominent journalist Samir Kassir, both important anti-Syrian voices in a Lebanon that is trying to find its political footing.

Just so we are all clear about what’s happened here: the political will of a long-troubled country is being subverted by assassination. Real lives are being extinguished in cold-blooded murder.

Secretary of State Condoleza Rice gave Syria a piece of her government’s mind: “They need to knock it off.”

Knock it off!?!

Continue reading ‘Knock It Off!’

Colin Powell: Unlikely Avitar of a Failed and Shameful U.S. Foreign Policy

Powell & Bush 

The political obituaries for Colin Powell nicely illustrate the myopia and forgetfulness of what passes for media scrutiny in this country. Like a Greek chorus reading from the same script, all the press commentary intones that Secretary Powell has been out of the loop on every high-profile issue of foreign policy since the decision to go to war in Iraq. Only since then? Hell, he was never in the loop!

In his very first week in office, Secretary Powell declared that the Bush administration would build on the substantial negotiations commenced by the Clinton administration to bring North Korea into the community of nations. He was promptly bitch-slapped by Vice President Cheney and was not heard from again for nine months. The 10 September 2001 issue of Time magazine asked from its cover, “Where is Colin Powell?”

Continue reading ‘Colin Powell: Unlikely Avitar of a Failed and Shameful U.S. Foreign Policy’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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