Archive for the 'United Nations' Category
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There is quite a series of Republican politicians declaring that they would not invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now. JEB Bush is not the only one. Ted Cruz has made Talking Points Memo happy with a similar declaration.
Earlier in the week, Kelly asked Bush if he would have authorized the invasion, and he said he would have. On Tuesday, Bush told Sean Hannity that he hadn’t heard the question correctly and wasn’t sure what he would have done. Cruz, on the other hand, said he knows what he would have done.
“Of course not,” Cruz said in response to Kelly asking if he would have authorized an invasion. “I mean, the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and they might use them.
Of course, the “WMD” argument is a more recent addition to the story. Nobody talks anymore about why Bush was forced to invade in 2003. WMD were a small part of it. That is forgotten, of course.
Mr Speaker, thank you for recalling Parliament to debate the best way to deal with the issue of the present leadership of Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Today we published a 50 page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.
At the end of the Gulf War, the full extent of Saddam’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result, the UN passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.
The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …
– Neil Peart, Distant Early Warning
But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.
Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, China, Christianity, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Libertarianism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Space, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 31 Comments »
The popular (untrue) image of the ostrich as a bird that puts its head in the sand came to mind as a I read a recent NY Times article titled “Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost“. This article describes the usual culprits that plague dam construction:
1. Cost overruns
2. Dams take much longer to construct than originally planned
3. Dams displace local residents (many in impoverished third world countries) who rarely thrive in their new locations
4. Dams that are paid for with foreign loans (for many years the World Bank provided funding) often do poorly because the dam revenues come back in local currency and the loans are denominated in dollars; thus even if they hit their “nominal” returns, they don’t reach their “planned” returns when adjusted for currency depreciation
These are all true objections to dam construction. However, these same criteria can be applied to virtually any energy construction project, from coal plants to nuclear plants to major LNG efforts.
One key point that the article completely misses is that dams don’t require spending for “fuel” once they are up and running, and often it is fuel and distribution of fuel that bankrupt energy companies in the third world. The dam requires rain / water to generate power, and if this changes significantly, it can change the amount of power provided, but this is still generally better than “nothing”.
There simply would not be electricity in many areas of the third world without hydropower, and the choice really isn’t between other alternatives and dams, it is a choice between power and no power. Once a dam is built they often can be run with a few individuals and if there are major problems you can bring someone in to fix them. You don’t need to find coal or fuel oil (which moves in price and is denominated in dollars that the country often doesn’t have). On the other hand, complex machinery and distribution systems can’t be left in the hands of areas with revolutionary governments and broken economies because in short order they are often taken apart and destroyed.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 28th February 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The ongoing Ukraine crisis and the poor reporting of same have pretty much killed this week’s History Friday column for me, so I will yield to my muse and go with it in providing this background information to the Ukraine Crisis.
1. President Viktor Yanukovych was a tyrant in the pocket of President Putin of Russia. His election in 2010 saw Ukraine turn increasingly into a police state with on-going death squad actions against protestors. Political opponents like Yulia Tymoshenko have been imprisoned and beaten. American National Public Radio has reported for some months on the activities of these Yanukovych aligned death squads going into Ukrainian hospitals to “disappear” wounded protestors getting medical treatment. Tortured bodies of some of them are found days or weeks later. President Viktor Yanukovych utterly honked off the entire non-Russian speaking Ukrainian population through these actions.
2. The Euromaidan movement is not just a grass roots movement. It is a political coalition that is in part a tool of Ukrainian oligarchs that don’t want to go extinct like the Russian oligarchs did under Putin. This means they play rough. And by rough I mean they are forming road blocks and threatening anyone with high end autos on the theory they are Yanukovych supporters.
Likely a good part of the reason that Ukraine police melted away from Yanukovych involved threats to police families and property. There were not enough Eastern and Crimean Ukrainians in the Kiev police units supporting the Berkut to keep it all from melting away
3. The timing of this Euromaidan takeover was no accident. The key development in this crisis was the Ukrainian Military refusing to come out of its barracks to shoot protestors with heavy weapons a la Tiananmen Square. Without the ultimate force sanction of military heavy weapons, President Viktor Yanukovych could not win a forceful confrontation without outside Russian military action. He had to hold on through the Olympics to get it, but he and his inner circle of supporters suffered a classic case of elite collapse of will. Euromaidan and its outside supporters knew that from the get-go. Which brings us to…
4. Euromaidan had outside European help. That help was Polish. See this text and the link below it for the full article:
The Polish government has been funding civil society projects in ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, with much of the aid channeled through a fund controlled by Mr Sikorski’s ministry.
Recipients of Polish government money include opposition television stations operating in exile from Belarus, giving Poland influence in a country that, after Ukraine, could be the scene of the next confrontation between Russia and the West.
Such Polish activism arouses suspicion in Moscow, where centuries of rivalry between the two big Slavic powers, Roman Catholic Poland in the West and Orthodox Russia in the East, were marked by repeated wars and invasions in either direction.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th January 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Bill Kristol (corrected thanks to Joe) has an excellent column today on where Republicans could go in the next four years. I have little confidence that the House GOP can bend Obama to their will on the deficit or spending. He is riding high with the aid of the mainstream press and TV. The public does not understand the spending issue, or at least not enough of us do. The Republicans represent the “Eat your vegetables or there will be no dessert” philosophy and that is not popular right now. What do we do ? Here is one suggestion.
He quotes UN Ambassador Pat Moynihan in 1975.
The United States goes into opposition. This is our circumstance. We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it. So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity. We go about dazed that the world has changed. We toy with the idea of stopping it and getting off. We rebound with the thought that if only we are more reasonable perhaps “they” will be. . . . But “they” do not grow reasonable. Instead, we grow unreasonable. A sterile enterprise which awaits total redefinition.
I feel much the same way. I would have much preferred the GOP to have voted “present” when the “fiscal cliff” matter was before the House. I would like to see them do the same when the debt ceiling issue is voted on. Let Obama have his way but show that we do not agree.
Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter, the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.
Which alerts the spiders.
Posted in Academia, China, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »
In a previous post, I asked a question about leverages in terms of foreign policy:
A key–an essential–question on leverages at Abu Muqawama (Dr. Andrew Exum):
Where things get tricky is when one tries to decide what to do about that. The principle problem is one that has been in my head watching more violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Egypt: the very source of U.S. leverage against the regimes in Bahrain and Egypt is that which links the United States to the abuses of the regime in the first place. So if you want to take a “moral” stand against the abuses of the regime in Bahrain and remove the Fifth Fleet, congratulations! You can feel good about yourself for about 24 hours — or until the time you realize that you have just lost the ability to schedule a same-day meeting with the Crown Prince to press him on the behavior of Bahrain’s security forces. Your leverage, such as it was, has just evaporated. The same is true in Egypt. It would feel good, amidst these violent clashes between the Army and protesters, to cut aid to the Egyptian Army. But in doing so, you also reduce your own leverage over the behavior of the Army itself.
Okay, so we have leverage with an Army cracking down on its own people, an Army fattened on US military aid and training. I thought bilateral military training was supposed to mitigate the worst instincts of some armies? Isn’t that the theory? What does it mean to have leverage? To what end? To what purpose? I don’t know the answer and I don’t think anyone does, so Dr. Exum has a point. We have no strategy (link goes to Zen) within which to place “trade offs”. Well, if we do, I can’t see it.
Greg Scoblete at The Compass (RealClearWorld) asks the question in a much better fashion (I enjoy reading that blog, whether I agree or disagree with specific points):
But all of this begs an important question – leverage for what? The idea is that the U.S. invests in places like Bahrain and Egypt because it needs or wants something in return. During the Cold War, it was keeping these states out of the Soviet orbit. In the 1990s and beyond, it was ensuring these states remained friendly with Israel and accommodative to U.S. military power in the region. Today, what? What is it that U.S. policy requires from Egypt and Bahrain that necessitates supporting these regimes during these brutal crack downs?
How should we view American policy toward the Middle East? What is the larger strategic framework within which we ought to view the various relationships? What is the optimal posture for the United States? Folks, I don’t know. I’d love to know your opinions on the subject.
Posted in Blogging, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, Society, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »
Commenter Lynn Wheeler writes at zenpundit:
“….Boyd would comment in the 80s that the approach was having significant downside on American corporations as former WW2 officers climbed the corporate ladder, creating similar massive, rigid, top-down command&control infrastructures (along with little agility to adapt to changing conditions, US auto industry being one such poster child).”
Wheeler’s comment reminded me of the following post that I had meant to blog earlier:
One occasion in particular in the late 1970s brought this home to me. McNamara had come to one of our staff meetings in the Western Africa Region of the World Bank, where I was a young manager, and he had said he would be ready to answer any questions.
I felt fairly secure as an up-and-coming division chief and a risk-taking kind of guy. So I decided to ask McNamara the question that was on everyone’s lips in the corridors at the time, namely, whether he perceived any tension between his hard-driving policy of pushing out an ever-increasing volume of development loans and improving the quality of the projects that were being financed by the loans. In effect, was there a tension between quantity and quality?
When the time came for questions, I spoke first at the meeting and posed the question.
His reply to me was chilling.
He said that people who asked that kind of question didn’t understand our obligation to do both—we had to do more loans and we had to have higher quality—there was no tension. People who didn’t see that didn’t belong in the World Bank.
This too from a speech by Robert McNamara, “Security in the Contemporary World”:
The rub comes in this: We do not always grasp the meaning of the word “security” in this context. In a modernizing society, security means development.
Security is not military hardware, though it may include it. Security is not military force, though it may involve it. Security is not traditional military activity, though it may encompass it. Security is development. Without development, there can be no security. A developing nation that does not in fact develop simply cannot remain “secure.” It cannot remain secure for the intractable reason that its own citizenry cannot shed its human nature.
If security implies anything, it implies a minimal measure of order and stability. Without internal development of at least a minimal degree, order and stability are simply not possible. They are not possible because human nature cannot be frustrated beyond intrinsic limits. It reacts because it must.
Development means economic, social, and political progress. It means a reasonable standard of living, and the word “reasonable” in this context requires continual redefinition. What is “reasonable” in an earlier stage of development will become “unreasonable” in a later stage.
As development progresses, security progresses. And when the people of a nation have organized their own human and natural resources to provide themselves with what they need and expect out of life and have learned to compromise peacefully among competing demands in the larger national interest then their resistance to disorder and violence will be enormously increased.
Think about this in terms of the “armed nation building” of the past decade or so and in terms of successive Clinton, Bush, and Obama administration policies. Really not that much difference if you look at it in terms of securing stability through development – armed or otherwise. Not a novel observation in any way, but bears in mind repeating as the 2012 Presidential campaign continues its “running in place” trajectory….
Update:“Running in place” and “trajectory” don’t really go together, do they? Oh well. You all know what I mean….
Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Business, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Public Finance, Society, Speeches, Terrorism, United Nations, War and Peace | 24 Comments »
[Cross-posted from zenpundit.com]
[NEW! Incoming link from Outside the Beltway – see addendum below]
There has been much ado about Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s enunciation of “Responsibility to Protect” as a justification for the Obama administration’s unusually executed intervention (or assistance to primarily British and French intervention) in Libya in support of rebels seeking to oust their lunatic dictator, Colonel Moammar Gaddafi. In “R2P” the Obama administration, intentionally or not, has found its own Bush Doctrine, and unsurprisingly, the magnitude of such claims – essentially a declaration of jihad against what is left of the Westphalian state system by progressive elite intellectuals – are beginning to draw fire for implications that stretch far beyond Libya.
People in the strategic studies, IR and national security communities have a parlor game of wistfully reminiscing about the moral clarity of Containment and the wisdom of George Kennan. They have been issuing tendentiously self-important “Mr. Z” papers for so long that they failed to notice that if anyone has really written the 21st Century’s answer to Kennan’s X article, it was Anne-Marie Slaughter’s battle cry in the pages of The Atlantic.
Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Europe, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 12 Comments »
Ideas matter, and especially to intellectuals like President Obama. He is not a rigid ideologue and is capable of flexible maneuvering. But his interpretation of history, his attitude toward sovereignty, and his confidence in multilateral institutions have shaped his views of American power and of American leadership in ways that distinguish him from previous presidents. On Libya, his deference to the UN Security Council and refusal to serve as coalition leader show that he cares more about restraining America than about accomplishing any particular result in Libya. He views Libya and the whole Arab Spring as relatively small distractions from his broader strategy for breaking with the history of U.S. foreign policy as it developed in the last century. The critics who accuse Obama of being adrift in foreign policy are mistaken. He has clear ideas of where he wants to go. The problem for him is that, if his strategy is set forth plainly, most Americans will not want to follow him.
According to this news item, Republicans in the US House of Representatives are vowing to cut payments to the United Nations. Of greater interest to me is the promise of investigations into corruption.
There was a great deal of drama over the UN soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Humanitarian programs were seen as chances for graft and bribes, and resolutions against Iraq certainly did nothing to convince Saddam to abide by the peace agreement that ended Gulf War I. Why does the American taxpayer pony up more than 20% of the United Nation’s budget if the organization is nothing but a toothless waste of time that is run by a collection of criminals?
Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged “immodest.” (more here)
“Not surprising,” because this is the kind of thing that we have come to expect from the UN.
The very first episode of the “I Love Lucy” show established a template for all of the sitcoms to follow. The episode, titled, “Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying to Murder Her” has the archetypal sitcom plot:
Lucy is absorbed in her mystery/suspense novel…Later on, Lucy over hears a conversation Ricky is having with his agent and misunderstands the phone call, as she is only able to hear Ricky’s end of the line. She then comes to the mistaken conclusion that Ricky is going to kill her, based on the novel’s plot and Ethel’s card reading. [emp added]
Much wackiness ensues. The device is as old as comedy itself. See Shakespeare and the Greek comedies. Character A misunderstands something Character B did or said and then takes action based on that misunderstanding, with comedic consequences. Most importantly, the resolution of the plot occurs when the misunderstanding is cleared up by explicit and honest communication. Everyone hugs and all is forgiven.
A lot of observers are having trouble figuring out the philosophical underpinnings of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. How does the president see America’s place in the world? How will he use American power? How much does he care about such things?
I think Obama et al believe that all of life’s problems are ultimately just the result of miscommunications and misunderstandings like those that drive a sitcom plot. Obama views himself in the role of the wise character in the sitcom who puzzles out the misunderstanding and brings all of the characters together for hugs at the end.
Let’s call this the “Wacky Sitcom Mixup” school of foreign policy.
In this Reason Hit&Run post, the vile Patrick Buchanan takes a well deserved beating for his bizarre and ahistorical defense of Adolf Hitler in WWII. However, as loathsome, racist and stupid as he is, Buchanan is correct about one thing: Hitler did not intend to start a second world war that would drag in every industrialized country and leave 3/4 of the industrialized world in ruins.
Instead, Hitler planned on fighting a short, sharp war in Poland. Based on his experience at Munich, he expected that France and Britain would either merely raise a token protest or that they would would fight briefly, realize that they couldn’t recover Poland and then negotiate a peace. He never envisioned that he would fight a gotterdammerung war of global destruction.
Hitler miscalculated. In this he was far from alone. In the 20th Century every war that involved a liberal democracy resulted from the miscalculation of an autocratic leadership.
The headline reads “Global pressure builds for UN action to free Suu Kyi”.
Because, as we all know from past experience, the UN is just sooo effective at getting oppressive regimes to start making nice.
Zombie has extensive photo and video coverage of anti-Israel demonstrations around the world. Not pleasant viewing, but it’s important to understand how much of this stuff is going on and just how virulent it is.
Here’s a video about the inculcation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs in Palestinian children, and the use of these children as human shields by Hamas.
On a much more positive note, here’s coverage of a pro-Israel demonstration in Italy. Fiamma Nirenstein, a journalist and new member of the Italian Parliament, believes that the obvious thuggishness of Hamas is leading to a revulsion against the “progressive” justification and romanticization of terrorist violence. I hope she is right, but I’m less sanguine. Many of those who identify as “progressives” feel such rage against their own societies that they have no anger left for the terrorist enemies of civilization, and are indeed all too willing to make common cause with these enemies.
The headline reads “Armed killings cost nations billions of dollars”. survey from the United Nations Development Program and the
Okay, so there is an economic cost to violence. That is obvious just through the lifelong revenue lost when someone is murdered. But the first sentence of the news article wants to make a point.
“The United States leads the world in economic loss from deaths caused by armed crime, according to a global survey released Friday.”
The US leads the world when it comes to economic costs due to violence, but the author also points out that there are countries with higher levels of violence than the United States. No doubt the higher standard of living and GDP we enjoy here when compared to majority of the world has something to do with it, but the article makes no mention of that.
There is also no attempt made to define what is meant by the phrase “armed killings”. Do they mean any weapon, with rocks and sticks lumped in with machine guns and crossbows? Are improvised weapons included, such as normally innocent clotheslines used for hanging or water in bathtubs which is used to drown someone? How do they discount people who are killed by bare hands alone? Isn’t someone who is strangled or beaten to death just as dead, the economic costs just as high, as someone who is deliberately run over by a car?
And I wonder about suicides. Are they included as well? Suicide is illegal, so it would certainly fit the definition of “armed crime”. What about people who overdose instead of slitting their wrists or shoot themselves? Are prescription pills considered a weapon when deliberately used to end an innocent life?
All of these questions I am raising might seem frivolous, and they certainly are. But that is because I find the entire premise to be laughable. The people behind this study are obviously trying to advance an agenda of some kind, and the details they ignore say more about their motives than anything they claim to reveal. It is no surprise that the study was sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the Small Arms Survey.
These are the same people that like to argue that the 2nd Amendment is actually a violation of human rights. (PDF file here.) Looks like they are up to the same old tricks, using smoke and mirrors to try and make their case.
…good intentions rapidly degenerated into one-upmanship among victims and bloodlust directed at Israeli organisations and anyone else suspected of being Jewish. …
…Durban became an arena where people screamed and hurled insults at each other in a re-enactment of the comedy of damned, in the face of the white exploiter. “The pain and anger are still felt. The dead, through their descendants, cry out for justice”, Kofi Annan said on August 31 of the same year – an astounding choice of words for a UN secretary general and more a call for revenge than reconciliation. …
In a nutshell: Anti-racism in the UN has become the ideology of totalitarian regimes who use it in their own interests. Dictatorships or notorious half-dictatorships (Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Cuba etc.) co-opt democratic language and instrumentalise legal standards, to position themselves against democracies without ever putting turning the questions on themselves.
In the hands of [these] powerful and organised lobbies, the UN is becoming an instrument of retrogression in the world
Europe must take a firm stand against this buffoonery: boycott it, plain and simple. Just as Canada has done. Perhaps we should also think about dissolving the Human Rights Commission or only letting truly democratic countries in…
That is not likely to happen, for it would be called, well, racist, by all the usual suspects and European politicians are pretty sensitive when it comes to that kind of thing. Just for example, Robert Mugabe was invited to the the last big African-European summit despite the European Union’s travel ban, for many African politicians were threatening to boycott the summit if he were not allowed to attend. Few European governments can be expected to show more backbone over a something as, in their eyes, inconsequential as an UN conference. They’ll attend, sign the final declaration, leave and forget the whole thing.
Posted by Ginny on 13th July 2008 (All posts by Ginny)
So, we’re having coffee after lunch and tune in C-span. The speaker , General Michael Rose, is at Columbia’s Saltzman’s Institute of War and Peace Studies making the argument of his new book, Washington’s War: The American War of Independence to the Iraqi Insurgency. I thought the analogy had some rather major weaknesses and found his position a bit irritating. Still, it is somewhat bracing to hear a British military man discuss our earlier conflicts. His very British point of view defines his values and positioning; they of course differ somewhat from a Midwesterner’s vision. He admires Petraeus, although the book was clearly written and argument solidified before the Petraeus strategy had developed. He remains sure, however, that we are losing, that the government there is accomplishing nothing, and that we should declare it a lost war, leave, and move on. His analogy encourages later, perhaps more cheerful, parallels as well – in the aftermath for Iraq (America’s Constitution) and for America (Britain’s great Victorian age). He repeatedly argues decisions should not be made in terms of the worst scenario – though we should have foreseen the worst scenarios when entering Iraq. Considering a blood bath might follow an early retreat is not reasonable, since bad seldom (not as much as 1 out of 10 he says) follows such conflicts.
He is a fifth generation military man. C-Span gives some biographical context: “Gen. Michael Rose (ret.) commanded the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment from 1979 to 1982. He was later commander of the UN forces in Bosnia (1994-1995). ” He strongly defends in the C-span interview as well as in his interview with Charlie Rose, the UN’s actions in Bosnia and criticizes NATO. The force in both interviews of this discussion indicates it contains points he wants to make. (I thought of Hanson’s argument that Lew Wallace did book tours for Ben Hur as much to defend his Civil War record as to sell books.) Also, he believes Tony Blair should have been impeached.
So, I turn to Chicagoboyz and ask for information, intelligence and a sense of proportion. (I did do a search of him on our site, but may have entered the search poorly. If, as seems to be happening lately, my mind is wandering and someone has talked of him, please let me know.)
The former Yugoslavia is a mess. It has been so since before the Ottomans ruled that part of the world, and judging from recent events, it will continue to be so long into the future. My blog partner CW is fond on quoting from Dame West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon”, because the pre-war Balkan region she describes in that book is remarkably similar to the situation today.
In “What Went Wrong”, Bernard Lewis noted the stark cultural difference between Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world in the period from roughly 1880 to 1922. When confronted with the reality of European dominance and success, the Turks asked themselves “What did we do wrong?”. The Arabs asked themselves: “What did they just do to us?” Turkey flourished, relatively speaking, and the Middle East today would be right where it was in 1922 if it were not for oil. In fact, it is pretty much where it was in 1922, just with more automobiles and guns.
Generally, I avoid commenting on primarily political stories but this one merits an exception.
Former Vice-President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, in conjunction with UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Regardless of what one thinks about Mr. Gore as a politician or of his heavily propagandistic but Oscar award winning film, the Nobel Prize represents the capstone of one of the most remarkable political comebacks in American politics since Richard Nixon.
It is true that Al Gore did not self-destruct after his razor-thin defeat in 2000 (yes, give it up, he lost) quite the way Nixon did when he lost the California Governorship in 1962 back to back with the presidency in 1960 but neither did “the New Nixon” of 1968 reach such illustrious heights. Americans with Nobels are rare; Americans with Peace Prizes are the most exclusive circle of all. Many conservatives are quite upset at this development and are venting, some of their complaints have my sympathy but their sense of timing does not. They are spitting into the wind right now and to the extent that anyone outside the movement conservative choir is paying any attention, bitter anti-Gore jeremiads only serve to alienate moderates.
For once, I can say the Bush administration struck the right political note with a simple gesture of congratulation to a former adversary enjoying a moment in the sun, without getting too excited about it. If anything, given recent decisions by the Nobel Committee to honor Communist frauds and terrorist kleptocrats, we should be relieved that the Peace Prize this year went to Al Gore and not, say, Kim Jong Il or Robert Mugabe. I’m the first not to confuse Mr. Gore with Andrei Sakharov or Aung San Suu Kyi but even I must concede he is a qualitative moral improvement over Yasser Arafat by many orders of magnitude.
Much speculation (i.e. wishful thinking) exists as to whether Gore will now jump into the race for the Democratic nomination for president. That would be fun to watch but I doubt that will happen as it would require that Gore extricate himself from around $100 million dollars of VC enterprises that he is deeply involved in, so as to compete at a complete organizational and financial disadvantage with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why accept those headaches and fritter away his newfound political capital when as the Democratic Party’s star elder statesman and counterweight to the Clintons, Gore is a ” must-have” insider for a new Democratic administration? That’s a lot of clout to throw away on a last-minute vanity campaign.
Mr. Gore is enjoying his moment but in all probability, this episode represents his peak.
Cross-posted at Zenpundit
But in the U.S., the NRA says it sees a creeping attempt to limit civilian gun ownership within nations — even though the focus now is on setting standards for arms exports and imports.
The international issues “necessarily will come to involve at some point domestic laws and policies regarding firearms,” said former congressman Bob Barr, a leading NRA voice on the subject.
“That’s not what we’re looking at here,” countered Greg Puley, of the Control Arms coalition of pro-treaty advocacy groups. “The point is to control trade in weapons that contribute to conflict and atrocities.”
Contra Mr. Puley, US domestic restriction of private gun purchases is exactly the expected outcome here. How could it be otherwise?
Just as domestic restrictions on guns serve to keep weapons from law-abiding citizens without affecting the ability of criminals to obtain them, so international restrictions only make it more difficult for oppressed populations to defend themselves from “conflict and atrocities” perpetrated by their own governments. State supported Sudanese Islamist militias will not be impeded in the least while the defenseless people they kill in Darfur will be blockaded.
Of course the dictators’ club at the UN will support any effort to disarm free individuals. That’s how dictatorships behave. But why should democracies like the UK, Australia and Japan support such efforts? Bravo to the NRA for standing up to the dictators and foolish democrats.
Posted by Ginny on 12th May 2007 (All posts by Ginny)
Belmont Club & Samizdata are having a little fun with the appointment of Zimbabwe, now head of the Commission on Sustainable Development at the United Nations. Samizdat quotes an American spokesman: “We don’t think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of this body”. Belmont observes “The UN can do little harm as long as it is universally understood that it operates according to the principles of magical realism.” On the other hand, the first comment at Samizdat makes a sensible observation: “In terms of taking the world back to a bleak, pre-industrial existence (which is what many people in favour of “sustainable development” seemingly want) the government of Zimababwe is doing a good job of leading by example.” Of course, this wryness would be a good deal funnier if there weren’t real people with real needs ill served by a government that now is in a position to suggest others follow its disastrous policies.
The United Nations has once again criticized the United States for our treatment of enemy combatants held at Gitmo. They claim that we are violating their “fundamental human rights”.
Maybe we just don’t agree on what the word “violation” means.