Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bulgaria

Hezbollah’s European Appeasers

Last summer, Hezbollah terrorists escalated their war on Israel by staging a terror attack in Europe. Along with a Bulgarian bus driver, five Israeli tourists were killed and 32 were injured when a bomb exploded on their bus in Burgas, a Black Sea resort. The conspirators were quickly revealed to be two Hezbollah members, and one unidentified person—almost certainly another Hezbollah operative or perhaps an accomplice—that apparently died while placing the explosive in the bus’s luggage rack. Europol, Bulgarian, Israeli and American intelligence all agreed that the Lebanon-based Islamist group that acts on Iran’s orders was not only responsible for the atrocity but also preparing to branch out across the globe instead of concentrating on terrorizing Lebanese or Israelis in the Middle East.

The event helped crystallize the shift by which European governments began to realize how dangerous their past neutrality toward Hezbollah had been. This led to a push led by Britain to add Hezbollah to the European Union’s list of terror groups, a measure that should have happened many years ago but which was put off by a desire by many EU countries not to be seen aligning themselves with Israel or opposing an Islamist group that fought the Jewish state. But that emerging consensus on Hezbollah is facing stiff resistance from those Europeans who are still uncomfortable about confronting the Iranian ally. That unfortunate trend will be strengthened today by the news that the new Bulgarian government, which is led by the country’s former Communist party, is now claiming they are no longer certain that Hezbollah was responsible for the Burgas attack.

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Last summer, Hezbollah terrorists escalated their war on Israel by staging a terror attack in Europe. Along with a Bulgarian bus driver, five Israeli tourists were killed and 32 were injured when a bomb exploded on their bus in Burgas, a Black Sea resort. The conspirators were quickly revealed to be two Hezbollah members, and one unidentified person—almost certainly another Hezbollah operative or perhaps an accomplice—that apparently died while placing the explosive in the bus’s luggage rack. Europol, Bulgarian, Israeli and American intelligence all agreed that the Lebanon-based Islamist group that acts on Iran’s orders was not only responsible for the atrocity but also preparing to branch out across the globe instead of concentrating on terrorizing Lebanese or Israelis in the Middle East.

The event helped crystallize the shift by which European governments began to realize how dangerous their past neutrality toward Hezbollah had been. This led to a push led by Britain to add Hezbollah to the European Union’s list of terror groups, a measure that should have happened many years ago but which was put off by a desire by many EU countries not to be seen aligning themselves with Israel or opposing an Islamist group that fought the Jewish state. But that emerging consensus on Hezbollah is facing stiff resistance from those Europeans who are still uncomfortable about confronting the Iranian ally. That unfortunate trend will be strengthened today by the news that the new Bulgarian government, which is led by the country’s former Communist party, is now claiming they are no longer certain that Hezbollah was responsible for the Burgas attack.

It should be noted that the Bulgarian switch is not the result of the emergence of new evidence about the attack or even a change of heart by Hezbollah, whose terrorist cadres are now fighting in Syria to try and save the faltering Bashar Assad regime, another Iranian ally. There is no more doubt today that Burgas was the work of Hezbollah than there was in the days after the attack when the identities of the terrorists were revealed. It is simply the result of a political party coming to power that is hostile to the United States and friendlier to Russia and therefore determined to undermine any effort to forge a united European response to Middle East-based Islamist terror.

It is to be hoped that Britain, aided by the diplomatic efforts of France and Germany, will ultimately prevail in the European Commission and Hezbollah will be listed as a terror group by the EU. But the Bulgarian announcement is a discouraging reminder of the fact that international unity on terrorism is illusory. The willingness of some Europeans, whether acting out of sympathy for the Islamists or antipathy for Israel and the Untied States, to treat Hezbollah terrorists as somehow belonging to a different, less awful category of criminal than those who might primarily target other Westerners is a victory for the Islamists as well as a crucial defeat for the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

After years of trying to appease Russia, the administration has discovered that all of the talk of rebooting relations from both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry achieved nothing. Moscow is actively seeking to thwart the West on the question of the survival of the Assad regime and also willing to have its friends elsewhere in Europe stick up for Hezbollah.

The effort to appease Hezbollah is not only a sign of Russian influence but also a signal to Iran that many in Europe are untroubled by its terrorist campaign against Israel. That alone is worrisome. But, as history teaches us, the costs of appeasement are far-reaching. Those who are untroubled by Hezbollah’s murders of Jews in Bulgaria or Cyprus may soon find that the vipers they seek to ignore will one day bite them too.

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Terror Gives the Lie to Iran’s Pose as Rational Actor

The terrorist attack on Israelis vacationing in Burgas, Bulgaria yesterday ought to change the nature of the conversation about Iran. If, as Israel is asserting, the bombing which took the lives of five Israelis and left 33 wounded, is the work of Iran’s ally Hezbollah, then those counseling further appeasement of the Islamist regime are going to have to explain why the West should believe more feckless diplomacy will restrain Tehran and its Lebanese auxiliaries from further outrages or persuade them they should give up their effort to get a nuclear weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear his country’s intelligence sees the long arm of Iran as being behind the slaughter.

There are those who will treat this incident as merely a tit-for-tat attack in which Iran was retaliating for the assassinations of its scientists and other Western and Israeli efforts to set back their nuclear program. But it should be remembered that Iran and its terrorist allies have a long record of targeting Jews. Tuesday was the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 persons were murdered. The role of Iran and Hezbollah in that atrocity has long been established, but both the Lebanese group and its Iranian sponsor have escaped international retribution for its crimes.

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The terrorist attack on Israelis vacationing in Burgas, Bulgaria yesterday ought to change the nature of the conversation about Iran. If, as Israel is asserting, the bombing which took the lives of five Israelis and left 33 wounded, is the work of Iran’s ally Hezbollah, then those counseling further appeasement of the Islamist regime are going to have to explain why the West should believe more feckless diplomacy will restrain Tehran and its Lebanese auxiliaries from further outrages or persuade them they should give up their effort to get a nuclear weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear his country’s intelligence sees the long arm of Iran as being behind the slaughter.

There are those who will treat this incident as merely a tit-for-tat attack in which Iran was retaliating for the assassinations of its scientists and other Western and Israeli efforts to set back their nuclear program. But it should be remembered that Iran and its terrorist allies have a long record of targeting Jews. Tuesday was the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 persons were murdered. The role of Iran and Hezbollah in that atrocity has long been established, but both the Lebanese group and its Iranian sponsor have escaped international retribution for its crimes.

The trouble with the discussion about the effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program is that foreign policy realists and many diplomats treat that issue as a separate matter from Tehran’s history as a state sponsor of terror when the two are intimately related. The worldview of Iran’s leadership is one that sees it locked in a long struggle with the West and Israel with terror just one tool in its arsenal. The vicious anti-Semitism at the core of the political culture of the Islamist regime makes it clear Iran needs no excuses to justify its efforts to kill Jews.

The Burgas attack ought to serve as a wake-up call for the West as it finds itself locked in meaningless dead-end nuclear negotiations with Iran. International terrorism didn’t die with Osama bin Laden. Nor can we pretend that the Iran that many imagine can be trusted to refine uranium for peaceful atomic purposes is not the same government that employs terrorist mercenaries to kill Jews all throughout the world. The idea that the same nation that slaughters Jewish civilians is a rational actor is one that cannot be sustained.

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Strange Herring

Iranian nuclear scientist defects to U.S. Will replace Kate Gosselin’s original partner on So You Think You Can Dance, who, ironically, defected to Iran.

The worst-kept secret in the history of subterfuge.

Don’t you dare call this woman a terrorist. She just wanted a perm.

Great — after I worked three jobs for nine years to pay off $35,000 for an associate’s degree in Adventure Recreation, the president goes all kumbaya on student loans.

Afraid that the government is everywhere these days? You’re right. (Under “Race,” I wrote “Daytona.” Under “Origin,” I wrote “scientific experiment gone crazily awry.”)

Lest I be accused of anti-government paranoia, your meds are talking about you behind your back too. I predicted all of this in my 1997 book, Your Meds Are Talking About You Behind Your Back Too. So kudos to me.

Glenn Beck has written a novel. Words fail.

Karzai blames dirty rotten foreigners for the widespread fraud in the Afghan election last year. He then demanded the chip be removed from the base of his skull lest the Mother Ship watch him while he does No. 1.

Rumor has it that the iPhone may be coming to a network that won’t employ such a cranky spokesman. Which is all I ask of my telephony. That and an app that will kill any chance of this happening.

Want to live forever? Start the day with a good old-fashioned English breakfast. And finish it off with chocolate. And a cold frosty mug of beer. Just don’t smoke – among other things, it makes you stupid. So it’s stupid to smoke. Repeat.

And pull up your pants. You look like an idiot.

American mathematician John Tate wins Abel prize for his theory of numbers, namely that they float when inflated. I swear, you live long enough and somebody’ll give you an award for just about anything.

Cretin alert: Do not take drugs for conditions you do not suffer from. Also, do not run with scissors, play in traffic, or eat less than one hour after swimming. (I may be mistaken about that last one.)

LL Cool J is not, repeat, NOT going to be on the new Sarah Palin show. And Toby Keith says his so-called interview is just recycled hype. Bobby Fischer will also not be appearing. (BTW: The show is called Real American Stories. Where oh where has that little hyphen gone?)

Obama’s Eternal Campaign hopes to cash in on words that are dirty. Republicans counter with Commemorative Stripper Polls. If I’m not mistaken, this is how Bulgaria lost its empire.

Scientists believe they now have a treatment for sleeping sickness. The cancellation of The Bill Engvall Show was certainly a good start …

Iranian nuclear scientist defects to U.S. Will replace Kate Gosselin’s original partner on So You Think You Can Dance, who, ironically, defected to Iran.

The worst-kept secret in the history of subterfuge.

Don’t you dare call this woman a terrorist. She just wanted a perm.

Great — after I worked three jobs for nine years to pay off $35,000 for an associate’s degree in Adventure Recreation, the president goes all kumbaya on student loans.

Afraid that the government is everywhere these days? You’re right. (Under “Race,” I wrote “Daytona.” Under “Origin,” I wrote “scientific experiment gone crazily awry.”)

Lest I be accused of anti-government paranoia, your meds are talking about you behind your back too. I predicted all of this in my 1997 book, Your Meds Are Talking About You Behind Your Back Too. So kudos to me.

Glenn Beck has written a novel. Words fail.

Karzai blames dirty rotten foreigners for the widespread fraud in the Afghan election last year. He then demanded the chip be removed from the base of his skull lest the Mother Ship watch him while he does No. 1.

Rumor has it that the iPhone may be coming to a network that won’t employ such a cranky spokesman. Which is all I ask of my telephony. That and an app that will kill any chance of this happening.

Want to live forever? Start the day with a good old-fashioned English breakfast. And finish it off with chocolate. And a cold frosty mug of beer. Just don’t smoke – among other things, it makes you stupid. So it’s stupid to smoke. Repeat.

And pull up your pants. You look like an idiot.

American mathematician John Tate wins Abel prize for his theory of numbers, namely that they float when inflated. I swear, you live long enough and somebody’ll give you an award for just about anything.

Cretin alert: Do not take drugs for conditions you do not suffer from. Also, do not run with scissors, play in traffic, or eat less than one hour after swimming. (I may be mistaken about that last one.)

LL Cool J is not, repeat, NOT going to be on the new Sarah Palin show. And Toby Keith says his so-called interview is just recycled hype. Bobby Fischer will also not be appearing. (BTW: The show is called Real American Stories. Where oh where has that little hyphen gone?)

Obama’s Eternal Campaign hopes to cash in on words that are dirty. Republicans counter with Commemorative Stripper Polls. If I’m not mistaken, this is how Bulgaria lost its empire.

Scientists believe they now have a treatment for sleeping sickness. The cancellation of The Bill Engvall Show was certainly a good start …

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The View from the Continent

Last week I was in London attending a Global Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, the Princeton Project on National Security, Newsweek International, and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The attendees–from both the United States and Europe–included academics, scholars, journalists, diplomatic advisers and others who inhabit the foreign policy world. The event was well-organized, the conversations wide-ranging, and there was a genuine effort to hear from a diversity of voices (hence my invitation). But there is no question that the dominant outlook of most of those in attendance was left-leaning, which itself made the trip illuminating.

I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one’s desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren’t so terribly dangerous.

There were the predictable assertions made about how the United States, under George W. Bush, was “unilateralist” and that, in the words of one former Clinton Administration official, “multilateralism was a dirty word” in the Bush Administration. This charge is simplistic and demonstrably untrue–and one could cite as evidence everything from the lead up to the Iraq war (in which the United States went to the UN not once but twice, and gained unanimous approval of Resolution 1441); the war itself (which included support from the governments of Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Norway, El Salvador and many other nations); the E3; the Quartet; the Six Party Talks; the Proliferation Security Initiative; a slew of free trade agreements; and more. In fact the Bush Administration was criticized by Democrats for being too multilateralist in their dealings with North Korea; it was said by John Kerry, among other liberals, that we should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea rather than rely on the Six Party Talks.

Another impression I had was that many (if not most) Europeans and American foreign policy experts are caught in a time warp, acting as if we are still in 2006. They simply want to wash their hands of Iraq. They hate the war, are seemingly impervious to the security and political progress we have seen in Iraq since last summer, and they want the next Administration to downplay Iraq as an issue, which they believe has “obsessed” the Bush presidency. What they don’t seem to understand is that ending U.S. involvement in the war won’t end the war. In fact, if Obama or Clinton follow up on their stated commitments, it is likely to trigger mass death and possibly genocide, revitalize al Qaeda, strengthen Iran, and further destabilize the region. The irony would be that the plans laid out by Democrats, if followed, would increase, not decrease, Iraq’s dominance of American foreign policy. An Iraq that is cracking up and caught in a death spiral is not something that even a President Obama or Clinton could ignore.

The third impression I came away with is the widespread view in Europe, as well as among some Americans, that the U.S. has suffered a huge, almost incalculable, loss of “moral authority” (its worth recalling that we heard much the same thing during the Reagan years). The evidence cited is always the same: Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret prisons, and waterboarding. They are invoked like an incantation. The effect of this is that you would think that the United States is among the leading violators of human rights in the world.

During one of the panel sessions I said it was fine to place on one side of the moral ledger waterboarding three leading al Qaeda figures, which I consider to be a morally complicated issue–but that it’s also worth putting on the other side of the moral ledger the fact that we liberated more than 50 million people from two of the most odious and repressive regimes in modern history. Liberation was not the only impulse that drove the two wars, but it was one of them, and a noble one at that. I borrowed a line from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic who, while a harsh critic of the execution of the Bush Administration, has written “I find it impossible to denounce a war that led to the removal of a genocidal dictator.” That is especially true now that we have the right strategy in place, that we’re seeing progress on almost every front, and that we have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq. The situation is still hugely challenging and success, if we achieve it, will be long in coming. But the collapse of will that I witnessed among some leading foreign policy voices on both sides of the Atlantic, while not surprising, was still discouraging. It is no wonder that world leaders who do not share that exhaustion are the objects of condemnation.

Last week I was in London attending a Global Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, the Princeton Project on National Security, Newsweek International, and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The attendees–from both the United States and Europe–included academics, scholars, journalists, diplomatic advisers and others who inhabit the foreign policy world. The event was well-organized, the conversations wide-ranging, and there was a genuine effort to hear from a diversity of voices (hence my invitation). But there is no question that the dominant outlook of most of those in attendance was left-leaning, which itself made the trip illuminating.

I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one’s desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren’t so terribly dangerous.

There were the predictable assertions made about how the United States, under George W. Bush, was “unilateralist” and that, in the words of one former Clinton Administration official, “multilateralism was a dirty word” in the Bush Administration. This charge is simplistic and demonstrably untrue–and one could cite as evidence everything from the lead up to the Iraq war (in which the United States went to the UN not once but twice, and gained unanimous approval of Resolution 1441); the war itself (which included support from the governments of Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Norway, El Salvador and many other nations); the E3; the Quartet; the Six Party Talks; the Proliferation Security Initiative; a slew of free trade agreements; and more. In fact the Bush Administration was criticized by Democrats for being too multilateralist in their dealings with North Korea; it was said by John Kerry, among other liberals, that we should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea rather than rely on the Six Party Talks.

Another impression I had was that many (if not most) Europeans and American foreign policy experts are caught in a time warp, acting as if we are still in 2006. They simply want to wash their hands of Iraq. They hate the war, are seemingly impervious to the security and political progress we have seen in Iraq since last summer, and they want the next Administration to downplay Iraq as an issue, which they believe has “obsessed” the Bush presidency. What they don’t seem to understand is that ending U.S. involvement in the war won’t end the war. In fact, if Obama or Clinton follow up on their stated commitments, it is likely to trigger mass death and possibly genocide, revitalize al Qaeda, strengthen Iran, and further destabilize the region. The irony would be that the plans laid out by Democrats, if followed, would increase, not decrease, Iraq’s dominance of American foreign policy. An Iraq that is cracking up and caught in a death spiral is not something that even a President Obama or Clinton could ignore.

The third impression I came away with is the widespread view in Europe, as well as among some Americans, that the U.S. has suffered a huge, almost incalculable, loss of “moral authority” (its worth recalling that we heard much the same thing during the Reagan years). The evidence cited is always the same: Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret prisons, and waterboarding. They are invoked like an incantation. The effect of this is that you would think that the United States is among the leading violators of human rights in the world.

During one of the panel sessions I said it was fine to place on one side of the moral ledger waterboarding three leading al Qaeda figures, which I consider to be a morally complicated issue–but that it’s also worth putting on the other side of the moral ledger the fact that we liberated more than 50 million people from two of the most odious and repressive regimes in modern history. Liberation was not the only impulse that drove the two wars, but it was one of them, and a noble one at that. I borrowed a line from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic who, while a harsh critic of the execution of the Bush Administration, has written “I find it impossible to denounce a war that led to the removal of a genocidal dictator.” That is especially true now that we have the right strategy in place, that we’re seeing progress on almost every front, and that we have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq. The situation is still hugely challenging and success, if we achieve it, will be long in coming. But the collapse of will that I witnessed among some leading foreign policy voices on both sides of the Atlantic, while not surprising, was still discouraging. It is no wonder that world leaders who do not share that exhaustion are the objects of condemnation.

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Chinese Espionage Techniques

The FBI has stepped up counterintelligence investigations of Chinese espionage in the U.S., reports the Washington Post this morning.

The paper reprises several recent cases, including, that of Chi Mak, convicted of stealing sensitive naval technology plans from a U.S defense contractor; Dongfan Chung, a Boeing engineer arrested in February, accused of funneling classified space shuttle and rocket documents to Chinese officials; Noshir Gowadia, indicted last fall for providing cruise-missile data to Chinese officials; and Gregg W. Bergersen, a Pentagon official who pleaded guilty this week to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales to China.

What does this flurry of cases mean? A couple of non-mutually exclusive possibilities suggest themselves. One is that the Chinese are stepping up their collection efforts in the U.S. Another is that the FBI, in stepping up its counterintelligence and its work is bearing fruit. A third — a combination of the first and second — is that Chinese intelligence is not ten-feet tall.

That last possibility is suggested by some of the amateurish spycraft displayed by the Chinese in the Bergersen case. In one sense, the operation was fairly sophisticated. Bergersen was induced to take part in a false-flag operation, that is, an operation in which he believed he was selling secrets to a U.S. ally, Taiwan, when in fact the “businessman” he was dealing with, Tai Shen Kuo, was actually a spy from the mainland.

But there was also some remarkably sloppy behavior by the Chinese in this case. An elementary task of spying is maintaining covert communications. Kuo was eager to do so and he acquired PGP Desktop Home 9.5 for Windows, a commercially available program for encrypting emails. That was smart. It was not smart, on the other hand, to discuss this encryption software on an open phone line with his taskmaster in China. The FBI was listening in on the call.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Bergersen contains many other arresting details. One high point occurs when Bergersen returns from a trip to Bulgaria and his wife finds a wad of espionage cash in his wallet. Bergersen told her it was gambling winnings. Her reaction: she insisted on taking half of it “as her share.” Bergersen related this to Kuo who offered to make up the amount that he had lost to his spouse. This generous offer was declined.

The FBI has stepped up counterintelligence investigations of Chinese espionage in the U.S., reports the Washington Post this morning.

The paper reprises several recent cases, including, that of Chi Mak, convicted of stealing sensitive naval technology plans from a U.S defense contractor; Dongfan Chung, a Boeing engineer arrested in February, accused of funneling classified space shuttle and rocket documents to Chinese officials; Noshir Gowadia, indicted last fall for providing cruise-missile data to Chinese officials; and Gregg W. Bergersen, a Pentagon official who pleaded guilty this week to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales to China.

What does this flurry of cases mean? A couple of non-mutually exclusive possibilities suggest themselves. One is that the Chinese are stepping up their collection efforts in the U.S. Another is that the FBI, in stepping up its counterintelligence and its work is bearing fruit. A third — a combination of the first and second — is that Chinese intelligence is not ten-feet tall.

That last possibility is suggested by some of the amateurish spycraft displayed by the Chinese in the Bergersen case. In one sense, the operation was fairly sophisticated. Bergersen was induced to take part in a false-flag operation, that is, an operation in which he believed he was selling secrets to a U.S. ally, Taiwan, when in fact the “businessman” he was dealing with, Tai Shen Kuo, was actually a spy from the mainland.

But there was also some remarkably sloppy behavior by the Chinese in this case. An elementary task of spying is maintaining covert communications. Kuo was eager to do so and he acquired PGP Desktop Home 9.5 for Windows, a commercially available program for encrypting emails. That was smart. It was not smart, on the other hand, to discuss this encryption software on an open phone line with his taskmaster in China. The FBI was listening in on the call.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Bergersen contains many other arresting details. One high point occurs when Bergersen returns from a trip to Bulgaria and his wife finds a wad of espionage cash in his wallet. Bergersen told her it was gambling winnings. Her reaction: she insisted on taking half of it “as her share.” Bergersen related this to Kuo who offered to make up the amount that he had lost to his spouse. This generous offer was declined.

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Big Moves in Malaysia

For the past several decades Malaysia, along with its neighbor, Singapore, one of the primary exhibits pointed to by those intent on extolling the virtues of benign authoritarianism. Ever since winning independence from Britain in 1957, the country has been ruled by the National Front, a political bloc dominated by the United Malays National Organization, representing the country’s ethnic Malay majority.

Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled from 1981 to 2003, the government pursued a policy of economic diversification. Formerly dependent on mineral mining and plantations, Malaysia turned into a high-tech manufacturing powerhouse. Its per capita GDP, at $14,400, is now higher than Thailand’s, Turkey’s, or Bulgaria’s. That wealth is instantly visible to anyone who visits Kuala Lumpur, which is full of high-rise office buildings, expensive malls, and ritzy restaurants.

But now the National Front’s control is cracking, and that is a good thing. The Wall Street Journal sums up the recent election results:

Although the National Front mustered just enough seats to form the next national government, it lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in almost 40 years.

Exceeding its most optimistic forecasts, an alliance of three opposition parties also secured control of five of Malaysia’s 13 state administrations. The opposition now controls the crucial states of Penang and Selangor, home to much of Malaysia’s industrial base and to billions of dollars in U.S. and other foreign investments.

“This is a major political earthquake,” said Ibrahim Suffian, executive director of polling firm Merdeka Center in Kuala Lumpur. “The monopoly of power has now been broken.”

Indeed it has. Along with another of its neighbors, Indonesia, Malaysia is now starting to show that “Islamic democracy” is not an oxymoron. This is a development to be applauded in the long run, though in the short run it will undoubtedly cause some dislocations, especially for a business class that has gotten cozy with the ruling party.

For the past several decades Malaysia, along with its neighbor, Singapore, one of the primary exhibits pointed to by those intent on extolling the virtues of benign authoritarianism. Ever since winning independence from Britain in 1957, the country has been ruled by the National Front, a political bloc dominated by the United Malays National Organization, representing the country’s ethnic Malay majority.

Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled from 1981 to 2003, the government pursued a policy of economic diversification. Formerly dependent on mineral mining and plantations, Malaysia turned into a high-tech manufacturing powerhouse. Its per capita GDP, at $14,400, is now higher than Thailand’s, Turkey’s, or Bulgaria’s. That wealth is instantly visible to anyone who visits Kuala Lumpur, which is full of high-rise office buildings, expensive malls, and ritzy restaurants.

But now the National Front’s control is cracking, and that is a good thing. The Wall Street Journal sums up the recent election results:

Although the National Front mustered just enough seats to form the next national government, it lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in almost 40 years.

Exceeding its most optimistic forecasts, an alliance of three opposition parties also secured control of five of Malaysia’s 13 state administrations. The opposition now controls the crucial states of Penang and Selangor, home to much of Malaysia’s industrial base and to billions of dollars in U.S. and other foreign investments.

“This is a major political earthquake,” said Ibrahim Suffian, executive director of polling firm Merdeka Center in Kuala Lumpur. “The monopoly of power has now been broken.”

Indeed it has. Along with another of its neighbors, Indonesia, Malaysia is now starting to show that “Islamic democracy” is not an oxymoron. This is a development to be applauded in the long run, though in the short run it will undoubtedly cause some dislocations, especially for a business class that has gotten cozy with the ruling party.

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Out of the CFE

Today, in a Soviet-era margin of 418-0, the Duma approved a law to end compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The legislation still has to go to the upper house. If passed there—which is most likely because the Russian political system is becoming more predictable by the day—the legislation will go to the desk of President Vladimir Putin for signature. The suspension is slated to take effect on December 12. In July, Putin gave the formal 150-day notice of the suspension.

The West considers the CFE, as the pact is known, the cornerstone of security on the continent. The 1990 agreement limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft between the Atlantic and the Urals. No one expects a large set-piece battle on the European plains, so Russia’s suspension is seen as a sign of unhappiness about the treaty and a gambit to gain an edge in negotiations to change its terms.

Each side has numerous complaints about the other’s fulfillment of CFE obligations. The West, for instance, is concerned about Moscow’s failure to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova. The Kremlin, for its part, is upset over the temporary basing of American troops in Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, each side has non-CFE complaints against the other involving security in Europe.

So it’s time for us to confront reality. Relations between the Atlantic partners and Russia are now approaching those of a failing marriage. Whether we blame the Russians or the West for the breakdown, we should recognize that broad partnership with Moscow is no longer possible (or at least not possible for the foreseeable future). We cannot continue living the one-world dream. In short, we need to begin building a new security architecture not based on cooperation with the Russians. As a first step, the first seven members of the G-8 should disinvite Moscow. After all, what is an angry mafia state doing in a group of free-market economies? Will Putin be upset? Undoubtedly. But what problems in the world is he helping to solve now?

Today, in a Soviet-era margin of 418-0, the Duma approved a law to end compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The legislation still has to go to the upper house. If passed there—which is most likely because the Russian political system is becoming more predictable by the day—the legislation will go to the desk of President Vladimir Putin for signature. The suspension is slated to take effect on December 12. In July, Putin gave the formal 150-day notice of the suspension.

The West considers the CFE, as the pact is known, the cornerstone of security on the continent. The 1990 agreement limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft between the Atlantic and the Urals. No one expects a large set-piece battle on the European plains, so Russia’s suspension is seen as a sign of unhappiness about the treaty and a gambit to gain an edge in negotiations to change its terms.

Each side has numerous complaints about the other’s fulfillment of CFE obligations. The West, for instance, is concerned about Moscow’s failure to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova. The Kremlin, for its part, is upset over the temporary basing of American troops in Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, each side has non-CFE complaints against the other involving security in Europe.

So it’s time for us to confront reality. Relations between the Atlantic partners and Russia are now approaching those of a failing marriage. Whether we blame the Russians or the West for the breakdown, we should recognize that broad partnership with Moscow is no longer possible (or at least not possible for the foreseeable future). We cannot continue living the one-world dream. In short, we need to begin building a new security architecture not based on cooperation with the Russians. As a first step, the first seven members of the G-8 should disinvite Moscow. After all, what is an angry mafia state doing in a group of free-market economies? Will Putin be upset? Undoubtedly. But what problems in the world is he helping to solve now?

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Why We Remember Jerry Hadley

My fellow blogger Terry Teachout has already posted an apt expression of poignant regret at the news of the suicide of the American tenor Jerry Hadley, who shot himself at age 55. A career in music can be cruelly difficult, and many performers are worn down by the stresses and frustrations inherent to the profession. Yet classical musicians who commit suicide do so for different reasons, rarely linked to their choice of career.

Listeners to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts will recall how, in 1988, the Bulgarian-born singer and vocal coach Bantcho Bantchevsky (1906-1988), in failing health, threw himself off the balcony of the Met’s auditorium during an intermission between the 2nd and 3rd Acts of Verdi’s Macbeth, ending both that day’s performance and his own life. In 1994, the Duo Crommelynck—two married pianists, Patrick Crommelynck (1947-1994) and Taeko Kuwata (1945-1994)—committed double suicide after an apparent crisis in their relationship. A gifted Australian-born pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), reportedly committed suicide after the death of his gay lover. The acclaimed Viennese-born conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999), honored with a posthumous series of CD reissues from Naxos, leapt off the balcony of his apartment after a lengthy battle with cancer. Another conductor, Austria’s Oswald Kabasta (1896-1946), whose performances have been reprinted by Music & Arts, killed himself after World War II, supposedly because, as a Hitler supporter, he feared the aftermath of the Nazi defeat . Meanwhile, the suicide of the modern German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) is ascribed to depression and eye problems , and the impoverished Czech-American composer Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967), whose opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is available on Naxos, ended his life after being afflicted with brain cancer.

Still, suicide is a human problem, not a peculiarly musical or artistic one. French Jewish sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), in his treatise On Suicide, now available in a new translation by Robin Buss, confirms this assertion. Reading Durkheim, we may conclude that it is not prudent to venture instant guesses about the motives of a suicide, whether the unfortunate subject is a singer in decline, or a disappointed Nazi conductor.

It is best to recall Jerry Hadley for his bright lyric tenor, featured in a 1992 Handel’s Messiah conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and available on Philips; or in a 1986 Schubert Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major conducted by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. Singing in English, Hadley was particularly forceful and self-assured in such CD’s as Weill’s Street Scene on Decca; Mendelssohn’s Elijah on Telarc; and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat on EMI. These CD’s furnish evidence of why we should remember Hadley’s life, instead of merely his tragic way of leaving it.

My fellow blogger Terry Teachout has already posted an apt expression of poignant regret at the news of the suicide of the American tenor Jerry Hadley, who shot himself at age 55. A career in music can be cruelly difficult, and many performers are worn down by the stresses and frustrations inherent to the profession. Yet classical musicians who commit suicide do so for different reasons, rarely linked to their choice of career.

Listeners to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts will recall how, in 1988, the Bulgarian-born singer and vocal coach Bantcho Bantchevsky (1906-1988), in failing health, threw himself off the balcony of the Met’s auditorium during an intermission between the 2nd and 3rd Acts of Verdi’s Macbeth, ending both that day’s performance and his own life. In 1994, the Duo Crommelynck—two married pianists, Patrick Crommelynck (1947-1994) and Taeko Kuwata (1945-1994)—committed double suicide after an apparent crisis in their relationship. A gifted Australian-born pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), reportedly committed suicide after the death of his gay lover. The acclaimed Viennese-born conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999), honored with a posthumous series of CD reissues from Naxos, leapt off the balcony of his apartment after a lengthy battle with cancer. Another conductor, Austria’s Oswald Kabasta (1896-1946), whose performances have been reprinted by Music & Arts, killed himself after World War II, supposedly because, as a Hitler supporter, he feared the aftermath of the Nazi defeat . Meanwhile, the suicide of the modern German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) is ascribed to depression and eye problems , and the impoverished Czech-American composer Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967), whose opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is available on Naxos, ended his life after being afflicted with brain cancer.

Still, suicide is a human problem, not a peculiarly musical or artistic one. French Jewish sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), in his treatise On Suicide, now available in a new translation by Robin Buss, confirms this assertion. Reading Durkheim, we may conclude that it is not prudent to venture instant guesses about the motives of a suicide, whether the unfortunate subject is a singer in decline, or a disappointed Nazi conductor.

It is best to recall Jerry Hadley for his bright lyric tenor, featured in a 1992 Handel’s Messiah conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and available on Philips; or in a 1986 Schubert Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major conducted by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. Singing in English, Hadley was particularly forceful and self-assured in such CD’s as Weill’s Street Scene on Decca; Mendelssohn’s Elijah on Telarc; and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat on EMI. These CD’s furnish evidence of why we should remember Hadley’s life, instead of merely his tragic way of leaving it.

Read Less




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