Archive for August 2010
It’s important to remember how much good can get done, because we live in such strange times where bad behavior sucks up all the attention and press. And the people who really need the spotlight: the Haitians, the Sudanese, people in the Gulf Coast on the five year anniversary.. Pakistan, they can’t get any.
The truth is, when the disaster happens, everybody wants to help, everybody in this room wants to help, everybody at home wants to help. The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story. Honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts.
I fail at that.
So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment.
-George Clooney at the Emmys
Hopefully all are familiar with the flooding in Pakistan and its relevant political implications by now. DiploJournal provides the relevant facts and figures, Ghost Wars’ Steve Coll calls for Americans to recognize the “strategic as well as a humanitarian imperative” of helping the Pakistanis, and David Ignatius says, “Let’s embrace Pakistan in its hour of need”.
The floods have affected more than 20 million Pakistanis (more people than the Haiti earthquake and 2004 tsunami combined) so if you’re asking “What can I do?”, consider texting FLOOD to 27722 to make a $10 donation if you’re U.S.-based or going to the State Department’s website and finding the organization you want to donate to.
If you’re around a computer within the next two hours (the HD is never not at a computer), Steve Coll will be fielding questions at 3 P.M. E.T. today.
Greetings friends and colleagues, the HD is on the road in C-C-Canada so he’ll keep this short and savagerous. A few updates– one of the HD’s favorite bloggers and confidantes has surfaced from the abyss to resume blogging. In the coming days and weeks, look for his legendary analysis on all things IR and the Middle East where he has spent some time in Damascus, Syria.
The Wyclef Jean saga continues… after initially telling his followers to respect the court’s decision that disqualified from running for the President of Haiti, it appears that Mr. Jean will challenge the election ruling. The HD usually doesn’t endorse foreign candidacies, but it already appears Wyclef is already showing promising signs of a budding politician. The HD says go for it!
Every time I make a run
Girl you turn around and cry
I ask myself, why oh why?
See you must understand
I can’t work a nine to five
so I’ll be Gone…’Til November
This is already reminiscent of what the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said in the hit 1987 classic, The Running Man:
I’m not into politics. I’m into survival.
One of the Ulema of Kerbela made the following trite remark to Sir A. T. Wilson, the Civil Commissioner : ” When a man pulls down a public latrine because it smells too bad, it is a mistake to build the new one with the same bricks ! “
(Lyell, Thomas. The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia. London: A.M. Philpot, 1923. Print. page 107)
“Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.” -John Madden
After Robert Gibbs initially called it a local issue, the President finally speaks (REVERSE, REVERSE) and basically echos everything that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already said. With 54 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of independents against building the mosque (citation found), both the President and Mayor sure are heading into a political shit storm while knowing full well which way the wind is blowing. It’s tough to see how they come out of this smelling like roses. Maybe Nebraska native Ted Sorensen can ghostwrite an updated edition of Profiles in Courage to include this legendary test of constitutional rights, the honoring of private property, and keeping separate church and state in America’s history. Did the HD mention there might be a Muslim gay Allahu AkBAR close by? There’s also global petitions to build the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Gaza, the Daniel Pearl School of Journalism in Islamabad, and the Comfort Women Memorial in Tokyo! What a GREAT idea!
Matt Drudge weighs in.
It’s important to note that both President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg relied on religious history throughout their speeches. Mayor Bloomberg mentioned Jews being denied the right to build a synagogue in the mid-1650s, Quakers being thrown in jail in 1657, and Catholics getting arrested in the 1700s. The HD’s question is this: why should the Muslims get a free pass? If “this is America” as the President so eloquently stated in his speech, then surely Americans should be allowed to haze new religious minorities before accepting them into the great big American fraternity! THAT is the American way!
All seriousness aside, the real controversy is that, nine years later, Ground Zero is still a smoldering crater. It would be refreshing to see the Americans who are so devoted to stopping the mosque from being built work just as hard to see something (anything!) get built at Ground Zero.
Hello friends and colleagues, the HD is tucked away in his bunker writing a work, “not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.” What is the critical opening phrase of this work?
“Now this is a story all about how Mesopotamia got flipped-turned upside down and I’d liked to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how A.T. Wilson became the British civil commissioner.”
Should be a fun ride these next few weeks.
The HD has decided to surface briefly to discuss the controversy (have you ever heard a Britisher pronounce “controversy”? Don’t do it while you’re driving or you might drive your Lolvo into a Lolcano!) surrounding the proposed building of a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero in NYC.
In the battlosphere, Newt Skywalker and Sarah Palpatine have been markedly against buiding the mosque for a variety of emotional reasons. Indeed, the majority of the American public agrees with them (citation needed). NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has etched a legendary position based on his own person history and idea of private property and constitutional rights. Andrew Exum has also charted a similar position based on the Constitution’s First Amendment and history. The White House and State Department have been silent on the issue, but have posted Bloomberg’s speech (in Arabic, *GASP*) on their public diplomacy website. Today, Charles Krauthammer has written from the Susan Sarandon/Natalie Portman perspective that just as we don’t build a liquor store near a school, we shouldn’t build a mosque near Ground Zero. Well, Mr. Krauthammer isn’t going to win the HD with the liquor analogy. Alcohol shouldn’t be near school campuses; they should be on them!
And from a financial perspective, David Frum may have just predicted the future with no mosque being built due to lack of funding:
The more I read about Feisal Rauf, the more I see a very dangerous kind of man … no, not the Islamic extremist kind of dangerous … but rather the kind of guy who can convincingly say, “$100 million? That’s nothing! I have a cousin in Abu Dhabi who could write a check for $100 million himself! Don’t worry about anything, leave it to me, I’ll get the money, that’s the easy part. You get the zoning rights, we’ll buy you out, all cash, easiest money you ever made.” The streets of New York are littered with the carcasses of dead developers who met and believed the Feisal Raufs of this world ….
Uh oh, if that happens, cut to Daniel Plainview as he beats to death Eli Sunday!
To conclude and move closer to the HD’s true sentiments on the issue, Greg Gutfeld has proposed building a Muslim gay bar next to the mosque. Legendary, right? Wrong, says the Cordoba House (mmm, Qdoba), the proposed builders of the mosque, on their twitter account: “You’re free to open whatever you like. If you won’t consider the sensibilities of Muslims, you’re not going to build dialog”. Wow, that’s richer than the Abu Dhabi oil sheiks who aren’t going to fund the whole mosquedoggle!
The HD has already mentioned the First Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law”… no law. But who cares if the government attempts to “deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion”? Who cares if building the mosque offends the majority of Americans? This is America! Americans are in the business of giving offense abroad and getting offended at home. It’s not that we shouldn’t build a mosque; it’s that we should build a McDonald’s!
Ramadan Kareem to all the HD’s Muslim readers and financiers. May you look ravaged throughout the day, set your alarm for 2 a.m., and gorge yourself until sunrise!
Back in April, the HD wrote about the Washington Times’ criticism of the beloved Department of Having a Good Time.
Well, well, well. “The Washington Times owes the State Department more than $15,000 in long-overdue travel expenses.” That’s about as funny as the time the HD was flying in his ROTFLCOPTER with his Loller skates on, landed, and then drove his Lolvo into a Lolcano!
To loosely quote Cool Runnings:
Commentator One: And you’re not the only one to get excited about that. I think the fans here have an extreme case of hypocrisy fever.
Commentator Two: Al, so do I.
Commentator One: Oh no, no, no. So do we.
The Obama administration has been beefing up its ranks of officials focused on democratization and rule of law issues, democracy hands note. Sarah Mendelson, a human rights and post-conflict specialist most recently with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has recently joined USAID as the deputy assistant administrator overseeing its democracy center. Tamara Wittes, formerly of the Brookings Institution, who has written extensively on democracy and the Middle East, joined the State Department’s Near East Affairs bureau to head the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) late last year. And former Georgetown and University of Virginia law school professor and Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks, who early on joined Michele Flournoy’s policy shop, had her role elevated and formalized as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and Humanitarian Affairs in May. (Obama nominated Mercy Corps’s Nancy Lindborg to be assistant administrator for USAID’s democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance bureau this week.)
“We really do have a critical mass of democracy folks here now, across the interagency,” one official said.
On January 12, Freedom House released its findings from the latest edition of Freedom in the World, the annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. According to the survey’s findings, 2009 marked the fourth consecutive year in which global freedom suffered a decline—the longest consecutive period of setbacks for freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report. These declines were most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa, although they also occurred in most other regions of the world. Furthermore, the erosion in freedom took place during a year marked by intensified repression against human rights defenders and democracy activists by many of the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes, including Russia and China.
Maybe that explains why Thomas Melia is joining the State Department to become deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy issues. Reverse the trend.
—August 6th and 9th respectively—
For the first time a U.S. official (Ambassador to Japan John Roos) attended attended the annual ceremony in Hiroshima. But in light of the future casualties saved (both American soldiers and Japanese civilians), as well as President Truman sending Stalin a message after Potsdam, President Bartlet on possible future atomic confrontations:
“Hans Bethe wrote, ‘If we fight a war and win it with H-Bombs, what history will remember is not the ideals we were fighting for, but the methods used to accomplish them. These methods will be compared to the warfare of Genghis Khan who brutally killed every last inhabitant of Persia.’”
Ronald Reagan: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
Ronald Reagan: “Indeed, I support a zero option for all nuclear arms. As I’ve said before, my dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.”
“There is no point in apologizing now, after 65 years,” said Akihiro Takahashi, 79, the former head of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and a survivor of the bombing, who has spearheaded the effort to bring Mr. Obama by writing four letters of invitation. “We want President Obama to see with his own eyes what really happened here. This will give him stronger willpower to eliminate nuclear weapons.”
“Japan has its past, too, including Pearl Harbor,” said Akeo Fuji, 50, who came from Mie Prefecture. “This is not about hating the United States, but about hating nuclear war.”
Inatomi Takashi, 27, of Nagasaki, said “We became prosperous because of America, so we don’t see America darkly.”
Historians say such sentiments are widely if quietly shared in this nation, where the war remains a touchy, often taboo topic. They said the moral ambiguity was one reason for the almost total lack of hostility toward Americans in Hiroshima, now a pleasant city of trolley cars in the shadow of forested mountains.
On the HD’s first tour of Japan, he made sure not to tell any Japanese that the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, was built in the city that most people think he is from.
Readers will remember Juha for his analysis on the Marc Sageman’s lecture on political violence. Well, he’s back! This time he is explaining Iran’s foreign policy behavior. It’s a great post so take the time to read it. The HD only has two pedantic complaints: Juha using behaviour? LOLOUL! And by God(zilla), it’s time for a new mugshot! As you can see it is not the critic who counts, and Juha’s writings should propel him to the upper echelons of academia.
(Jump to Conclusions map from the Rand Corporation)
Further readings from the Rand Corporation on Iran: “Iran’s Political, Demographic, and Economic Vulnerabilities” (PDF here) and “Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads: An Exploration of Iranian Leadership Dynamics” (PDF here).
Hey Rand, pay Juha top dollar!
The HD has hollered before about a nuclear-free world but a close confidant has said, “Yes, that is ideal but it will never happen.” However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Without letting the perfect become the enemy of the good, Team Obama and Mother Russia are pushing more cuts in nuclear weapons (Rockhound: No nukes! No nukes!), but the Senate is stalling on ratification.
The treaty has been endorsed by six former secretaries of state and five former secretaries of defense from both parties, and nearly all former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces. French Ambassador Pierre Vimont said recently that after diplomats cabled home that the treaty could run into problems, “People ask us, ‘Have you been drinking?’ “
And when you get some free time this summer, read about and see the two latest non-proliferation movies, Countdown to Zero(a movie without an agenda!) and Nuclear Tipping Point (order the free DVD on their website!).
“Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.” -President John F. Kennedy
The HD has always advised policymakers that the ideal number of nuclear weapons is zero. When that happens, the HD will reveal his ONE coveted nuke and the Hybrid Diplomat will become *puts on sunglasses* the Hybrid Dictator… YEAH!!!!! In all seriousness though, we should keep at least one nuke in case of what The Bible calls “Armageddon” – the end of all things. In addition, the HD’s backchannels have been abuzz with information that North Korea has released a movie on called “Countdown to Kim” in which Kim Jong-il takes over the globe after everyone else unilaterally disarms!
Diplomacy is not simply “the art of remaining silent in several languages,” nor is it just the mastery of techniques and tactics of negotiation. Diplomacy must also be, at times, the art of brinkmanship. As Thomas Schelling remarked long ago:
“There can be times when a country wants to shake off the rules, to deny any assurance that its behavior is predictable, to shock the adversary, to catch an adversary off-balance, to display unreliability and to dare the opponent to respond in kind, to express hostility and to rupture the sense of diplomatic contact (…)This is still diplomacy: there are times to be rude, to break the rules, to do the unexpected, to shock, to dazzle, or to catch off guard, to display offense, whether in business diplomacy, military diplomacy, or other kinds of diplomacy.”
You have to be crazy, or at least let the other side think you are crazy, to succeed in foreign policy.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad announced Sunday that the United States would donate $10 million toward disaster relief efforts and would provide more money if requested. The United States, which is deeply unpopular in Pakistan, has also supplied helicopters, boats, prefabricated steel bridges and more than 100,000 meals.
It wouldn’t hurt to let the average Pakistani know that aid is coming from the good ole U.S.A. With suffering and frustration due to the Pakistani government’s inability to lead, Amerucca is in a unique position to gain some desperately needed good will. Ambassador Crocker reminds us:
Building confidence is a long process, but sometimes you can take great strides in a short time. In 2005 an earthquake killed more than 70,000 Pakistanis in two minutes. The United States responded immediately with what became the largest and longest airborne relief effort since the Berlin Airlift 60 years ago. Early on, some of us thought it would be a good idea to put big American flag decals on the Chinook helicopters that had been ordered out of Afghanistan into Pakistan to deliver aid. “Are you completely crazy?” said the commander of the helicopter contingent. He’d just come out of a war zone, after all. “Why don’t we just save time and paint a big bull’s-eye on them?”
“No, no. Trust us on this,” I said. “It’ll work.” And it did. The Chinooks became an emblem of the whole international relief effort. After a couple of months, little toy Chinooks even started appearing in stores with big American flags on the side. (Of course, they were made in China.)
There’s nothing we can do about natural disasters, but this is an opportunity the Americans shouldn’t miss. Drone attacks are effective in killing militant leaders, but it’s unknown how many civilians are killed in each attack as well as the amount of blowback each attack generates. Providing aid and letting Pakistanis know that it is coming from the Americans gives America the chance to help out those that are suffering while accomplishing vital strategic goals in the region.
Please listen to the five segments of “Diplomacy Under Fire”.
“When I worked in the state department, we made the decision to put diplomats into the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s an entirely different proposition than serving in Rome.”
- Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns
The cocktail parties and communiqués of traditional diplomacy are giving way to counterinsurgency and crisis management missions in places like Iraq and Colombia. American diplomats are now required to serve in both embassies and embeds. But the Foreign Service is short on folks with the language and technical skills to fill these modern posts. Add to that a bureaucratic State Department short on funds and slow to adapt and you end up with the 82nd Airborne as the face of American foreign policy to the world.
Big names, big issues!