Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sudan

Iranian Navy Thumbs Nose at America

Thanks to Mehrdad Moarefian for flagging, but an Iranian battle group earlier this week docked in Djibouti for a three-day port call. While previously the Iranian navy docked in Port Sudan, the move to Djibouti should be a wake-up call regarding America’s shrinking military and diplomatic standing. After all, Djibouti is the site of a hugely important U.S. facility and serves as an important hub and logistical base for American activities throughout the region. It’s one thing for Iran to work with a rejectionist, failing state like Sudan; it’s quite another to enjoy port calls on the doorstep of an American base and with a government which so closely partners with the United States.

In the Persian original, the story gets worse, however: The Iranian ships had also paid a port call in Salaleh, Oman’s second most important city. That port call highlights Oman’s slow turn away from the past few decades when it was a reliable U.S. and pro-Western ally; I had previously talked about Oman’s growing flirtation with the Islamic Republic of Iran here, including its discussions of basing rights for Iran in exchange for cheap gas.

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Thanks to Mehrdad Moarefian for flagging, but an Iranian battle group earlier this week docked in Djibouti for a three-day port call. While previously the Iranian navy docked in Port Sudan, the move to Djibouti should be a wake-up call regarding America’s shrinking military and diplomatic standing. After all, Djibouti is the site of a hugely important U.S. facility and serves as an important hub and logistical base for American activities throughout the region. It’s one thing for Iran to work with a rejectionist, failing state like Sudan; it’s quite another to enjoy port calls on the doorstep of an American base and with a government which so closely partners with the United States.

In the Persian original, the story gets worse, however: The Iranian ships had also paid a port call in Salaleh, Oman’s second most important city. That port call highlights Oman’s slow turn away from the past few decades when it was a reliable U.S. and pro-Western ally; I had previously talked about Oman’s growing flirtation with the Islamic Republic of Iran here, including its discussions of basing rights for Iran in exchange for cheap gas.

Lastly, the Persian article notes that the Iranian navy’s mission was to help secure the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). Given the IRISL’s involvement in proliferation, shipping of arms, and use of false flags and false documents to cover up cargo and operations–all of which it has been sanctioned for–that the Iranian Navy now expedites and facilitates the activities of this sanctioned entity certainly suggests that reform of behavior is not on the Iranian regime’s agenda, despite Obama administration claims that its strategy is working to bring Iran in from the cold.

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Can Israel Solve Africa’s Economic Woes?

One of the leading talking points of Israel-bashers these days is the treatment of African economic migrants who have illegally crossed into the Jewish state. Nearly 60,000 of these people who are for the most part from the Sudan or Eritrea and have no ties to the country or claim on its people have made their way to Israel in the last several years. In a nation of only seven million people living in a country the size of New Jersey, that’s the equivalent of about 2.7 million illegal immigrants showing up in the Garden State. As such, a group of this size arriving uninvited present a huge problem for any nation, even one whose entire identity is based on immigration, as is Israel’s.

But instead of sympathy or perhaps a helping hand from an international community that surely bears more responsibility for the plight of people from the Horn of Africa than Israel, its struggles to deal with this insoluble problem have become yet another club with which anti-Zionists seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. This is hypocrisy of the first order and the inordinate attention given these Africans by the Western media—such as the article published today by the New York Times—in a world where tens of millions of refugees and economic migrants are to be found, once again illustrates the double standard by which Israel is judged on any conceivable issue.

It is to be conceded that not everyone in Israel has behaved appropriately toward the migrants. Anger, insults, and threats from people in neighborhoods where illegals have concentrated, as well as from a few rabble-rousing politicians, hasn’t helped the country’s reputation. The plight of people stuck in limbo without legal status where they are and nowhere else to go should arouse the sympathy of any decent person. But the notion that it is somehow Israel’s responsibility to cope with the impact of economic distress in the Horn of Africa is not a defensible or reasonable position to take.

Were that many people to show up in virtually any country in the world, especially all the other countries of the Middle East which are ruled by various kinds of tyrants, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the kind of treatment they would get. But in democratic Israel where Jewish religious values about welcoming the stranger are part of the culture, these African newcomers have been spared the sort of abuse they would have gotten anywhere else in the region. Indeed that, and the fact that Israel has a booming First World economy, is the only reason why so many have tried to sneak into Israel to find work. Were they just a few, they might well have been allowed to stay. But once the number reached the tens of thousands, with many working illegally and with some committing crimes, that wasn’t an option. Since deportation back to their home countries would likely result in dire consequences for the migrants and no one else wants them, Israel is stuck with them until someone can come up with a solution.

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One of the leading talking points of Israel-bashers these days is the treatment of African economic migrants who have illegally crossed into the Jewish state. Nearly 60,000 of these people who are for the most part from the Sudan or Eritrea and have no ties to the country or claim on its people have made their way to Israel in the last several years. In a nation of only seven million people living in a country the size of New Jersey, that’s the equivalent of about 2.7 million illegal immigrants showing up in the Garden State. As such, a group of this size arriving uninvited present a huge problem for any nation, even one whose entire identity is based on immigration, as is Israel’s.

But instead of sympathy or perhaps a helping hand from an international community that surely bears more responsibility for the plight of people from the Horn of Africa than Israel, its struggles to deal with this insoluble problem have become yet another club with which anti-Zionists seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. This is hypocrisy of the first order and the inordinate attention given these Africans by the Western media—such as the article published today by the New York Times—in a world where tens of millions of refugees and economic migrants are to be found, once again illustrates the double standard by which Israel is judged on any conceivable issue.

It is to be conceded that not everyone in Israel has behaved appropriately toward the migrants. Anger, insults, and threats from people in neighborhoods where illegals have concentrated, as well as from a few rabble-rousing politicians, hasn’t helped the country’s reputation. The plight of people stuck in limbo without legal status where they are and nowhere else to go should arouse the sympathy of any decent person. But the notion that it is somehow Israel’s responsibility to cope with the impact of economic distress in the Horn of Africa is not a defensible or reasonable position to take.

Were that many people to show up in virtually any country in the world, especially all the other countries of the Middle East which are ruled by various kinds of tyrants, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the kind of treatment they would get. But in democratic Israel where Jewish religious values about welcoming the stranger are part of the culture, these African newcomers have been spared the sort of abuse they would have gotten anywhere else in the region. Indeed that, and the fact that Israel has a booming First World economy, is the only reason why so many have tried to sneak into Israel to find work. Were they just a few, they might well have been allowed to stay. But once the number reached the tens of thousands, with many working illegally and with some committing crimes, that wasn’t an option. Since deportation back to their home countries would likely result in dire consequences for the migrants and no one else wants them, Israel is stuck with them until someone can come up with a solution.

For Israel-haters, the scattered sentiments of some Israelis in South Tel Aviv neighborhoods that found themselves hosting thousands of desperate illegals and suffering the normal increase in crime as a result is proof that racism is normative behavior in the state. But anyone who knows anything about Israel’s history knows that this is bunk. Israel absorbed tens of thousands of black Jews from Ethiopia in the last 30 years. Though their absorption has not been seamless or without incident, they are now part of the fabric of the country, serve in the army, and even in the Knesset.

But under what distorted sense of morality is Israel held to be particularly at fault for treating people who cross its borders illegally as having committed a criminal act and therefore subject to detention? Even if you are deeply sympathetic to the migrants, as many Israelis are, is there a sovereign nation in the world that does not feel entitled to control its borders, especially when those frontiers also need to be defended against terrorists and hostile powers? Do those who protest Israel’s treatment of these people, in which many are kept in open detainment centers think that other democracies, such as the United States, would treat such people any better? Under those circumstances how can any reasonable person criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge to defend his country’s borders and to enforce its laws.

Many of the migrants claim they are seeking political asylum rather than just jobs, but this is patently untrue of most of them, as their behavior has suggested. If Westerners would like to help them, they are free to welcome them into their own countries. Failing that, Israel deserves either some constructive help, such as an international diplomatic initiative that would force Sudan and Eritrea to guarantee their safety upon their return home, or be allowed to deal with the situation as best they can. Until they do either of those things or come up with a solution that doesn’t involve Israel being forced to accept economic refugees as legal immigrants in a manner that no other nation on the planet would ever consider, Western critics should pipe down.

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Should Omar al-Bashir Be Arrested?

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal. That he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur and elsewhere is disputed by few besides Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and blogger Juan Cole. Regardless, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir and ordered his arrest.

Bashir will now put the White House’s embrace of the United Nations to the test. Sudan has announced that it is seeking a U.S. visa for Bashir to come to the United Nations General Assembly later this month. The question now arises: While it seems clear the United States should issue the visa as part of its role as host of the United Nations, many activists are also suggesting that Bashir should be arrested when he steps onto U.S. soil. The ICC has issued a statement “remind[ing] the United States of America of the two outstanding warrants of arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and the requests for arrest and surrender.”

What should the United States do?

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal. That he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur and elsewhere is disputed by few besides Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and blogger Juan Cole. Regardless, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir and ordered his arrest.

Bashir will now put the White House’s embrace of the United Nations to the test. Sudan has announced that it is seeking a U.S. visa for Bashir to come to the United Nations General Assembly later this month. The question now arises: While it seems clear the United States should issue the visa as part of its role as host of the United Nations, many activists are also suggesting that Bashir should be arrested when he steps onto U.S. soil. The ICC has issued a statement “remind[ing] the United States of America of the two outstanding warrants of arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and the requests for arrest and surrender.”

What should the United States do?

I tend to agree with Julian Ku—law professor, prolific blogger on issues relating to sovereignty, and a college classmate—in his opinion expressed at Opiniojuris:

If the U.S. arrests Bashir, they are violating at least one, and maybe two, important international legal obligations.  And, as the ICC chamber makes clear, the U.S. has no legal obligation to detain Bashir.  So from a purely legal point of view, this is a no-brainer: the U.S. should grant Bashir a visa, and let him come and go unmolested. In this light, we seem to be back to the “illegal but legitimate” conversation that we were having over a possible U.S. strike into Syria.  Kevin’s post on that comparison makes a similar point. But here is a difficult question for international lawyers.  Arresting Bashir would plainly be illegal, but it would almost certainly be legitimate to most people, like Mia Farrow… Still, is legitimacy enough to act illegally?  And if it is, why wasn’t that standard good enough to justify a US strike into Syria?

Regardless, the Bashir visit should provide the plainest test to those in Obama’s constituency that place the ICC, responsibility to protect, and the sense of the United Nations above other considerations. Bashir should be treated like a pariah and U.S. officials should not make him feel welcome, but neither should they molest him. That might be unfortunate, but so long as the UN remains in New York, it is fact. That Obama’s ICC-embracing constituency will see that their emperor has no clothes is the only silver lining to the situation.

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Who Cares if UN Visits Chemical Site?

There is much diplomatic hand-wringing about whether or not United Nations inspectors will be able to visit East Ghouta, the site of last week’s apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. Within the United Nations, different departments are debating whether the situation is safe enough for the inspectors to leave the Four Seasons Hotel in which they are staying. Some politicians and diplomats are seeking “definitive proof” before reacting, a call made more acute by Russian and Syrian regime suggestions that the opposition staged the chemical weapons attack.

I addressed the issue briefly in my Friday New York Daily News analysis, but diplomats seeking definitive proof are like politicians promising to consider: too often, both presage inaction. Definitive proof after the Halabja chemical weapons strike let Iraqi President Saddam Hussein off the hook for months if not years. It became too easy for the Iraqi regime to buy a few agents of influence to throw up enough doubt to provide anyone prone to equivocation with an excuse to equivocate. Earlier, diplomats and analysts deliberately twisted intelligence regarding Soviet violation of the Biological Weapons Convention in order to undercut any excuse for action.

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There is much diplomatic hand-wringing about whether or not United Nations inspectors will be able to visit East Ghouta, the site of last week’s apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. Within the United Nations, different departments are debating whether the situation is safe enough for the inspectors to leave the Four Seasons Hotel in which they are staying. Some politicians and diplomats are seeking “definitive proof” before reacting, a call made more acute by Russian and Syrian regime suggestions that the opposition staged the chemical weapons attack.

I addressed the issue briefly in my Friday New York Daily News analysis, but diplomats seeking definitive proof are like politicians promising to consider: too often, both presage inaction. Definitive proof after the Halabja chemical weapons strike let Iraqi President Saddam Hussein off the hook for months if not years. It became too easy for the Iraqi regime to buy a few agents of influence to throw up enough doubt to provide anyone prone to equivocation with an excuse to equivocate. Earlier, diplomats and analysts deliberately twisted intelligence regarding Soviet violation of the Biological Weapons Convention in order to undercut any excuse for action.

Iraq in 2003, of course, is the elephant in the room. But the notion that the Bush administration lied its way into war should be relegated to the same fringe as 9/11 “truthers” or wacky Obama birth certificate conspiracies. Intelligence was faulty, but that rested in Saddam’s lying to his own generals and the Iraqi regime’s refusal to allow unhampered inspections.

Bill Clinton’s 1998 cruise missile strike on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan also became subject for a lot of hand-wringing, with a number of officials second-guessing the intelligence that led Clinton to choose that target from the menu with which he was presented. He shouldn’t have lost sleep: Had Sudan not put itself in a position in which it would be reasonable to assume its guilt, and then it never would have been hit. Clinton never even considered hitting Luxembourg, Tunisia, Malawi, or Indonesia because none flirted with terror sponsorship.

The fact of the matter is that “definitive proof” is more a journalistic concept than a firm intelligence category. And the nature of intelligence is that it is never firm enough when policymakers need to make a decision. The preponderance of evidence seems to suggest the Syrian regime is behind the attack and that should be enough. Even if by some chance that’s not the case, Syria’s involvement with chemical weapons–a red line clearly articulated by President Obama–clearly shows that action is needed. Whether or not UN inspectors step outside the Four Seasons is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

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Will Iran Build a Base on the Red Sea?

Speculation is growing in both Iran and Sudan that Tehran and Khartoum are negotiating—or have negotiated—an agreement to provide Iran a base on the Red Sea. The move comes after Iranian warships have twice made port calls at the Sudanese Red Sea city of Port Sudan in recent weeks, and comes after the Iranian supreme leader—on Iran’s November 27 “Navy Day”—again declared that the Iranian navy would no longer be confined to the Persian Gulf. So much for containment.

Iranian leaders are full of bluster. In recent years, the Iranians have spoken about deploying ships into the Atlantic Ocean (they have no logistical capability to supply such ships); building aircraft carriers (they lack the technical capability); and developing their own nuclear submarines (simply declaring their desire to do this would justify uranium enrichment up to 96 percent, more than enough—not by coincidence—to build a nuclear bomb). Sometimes, however, their declarations are not bluster. Iran sees itself in a chess match with the United States and Israel. They are now making their move. Let us hope that President Obama’s response is not simply to draw down the Navy and pivot to Asia.

Speculation is growing in both Iran and Sudan that Tehran and Khartoum are negotiating—or have negotiated—an agreement to provide Iran a base on the Red Sea. The move comes after Iranian warships have twice made port calls at the Sudanese Red Sea city of Port Sudan in recent weeks, and comes after the Iranian supreme leader—on Iran’s November 27 “Navy Day”—again declared that the Iranian navy would no longer be confined to the Persian Gulf. So much for containment.

Iranian leaders are full of bluster. In recent years, the Iranians have spoken about deploying ships into the Atlantic Ocean (they have no logistical capability to supply such ships); building aircraft carriers (they lack the technical capability); and developing their own nuclear submarines (simply declaring their desire to do this would justify uranium enrichment up to 96 percent, more than enough—not by coincidence—to build a nuclear bomb). Sometimes, however, their declarations are not bluster. Iran sees itself in a chess match with the United States and Israel. They are now making their move. Let us hope that President Obama’s response is not simply to draw down the Navy and pivot to Asia.

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Obama Shouldn’t Abandon South Sudan

For a few years, the plight of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan captured the imagination of human rights activists in the United States when the depredations of the Islamist government of that country assumed a level of horror that many branded genocide. A series of peace initiatives including an agreement that allowed the southern region of the country to declare independence seemingly relieved well-meaning Americans of the responsibility for caring about what happens in the Horn of Africa. But the outbreak of what may well be a war that will bring a fresh round of atrocities ought to get the attention of not only the human rights crowd but President Obama.

Reuters reports that Sudan has bombed a market town in South Sudan as part of a border dispute over oil rich land and the complicated economic relationship between the two countries. Sudan’s leader, the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, has stated that he isn’t interested in negotiating with the South Sudanese government. And in what may not be a coincidence, a Muslim mob burned a church in Sudan that was frequented by South Sudanese, a reminder that the dispute between the Muslim north and the largely non-Muslim south has always had a religious aspect to it. But with Russia and China reportedly continuing to provide weapons and training to Khartoum, the onus now falls on President Obama to back up the speech he gave yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum about preventing atrocities.

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For a few years, the plight of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan captured the imagination of human rights activists in the United States when the depredations of the Islamist government of that country assumed a level of horror that many branded genocide. A series of peace initiatives including an agreement that allowed the southern region of the country to declare independence seemingly relieved well-meaning Americans of the responsibility for caring about what happens in the Horn of Africa. But the outbreak of what may well be a war that will bring a fresh round of atrocities ought to get the attention of not only the human rights crowd but President Obama.

Reuters reports that Sudan has bombed a market town in South Sudan as part of a border dispute over oil rich land and the complicated economic relationship between the two countries. Sudan’s leader, the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, has stated that he isn’t interested in negotiating with the South Sudanese government. And in what may not be a coincidence, a Muslim mob burned a church in Sudan that was frequented by South Sudanese, a reminder that the dispute between the Muslim north and the largely non-Muslim south has always had a religious aspect to it. But with Russia and China reportedly continuing to provide weapons and training to Khartoum, the onus now falls on President Obama to back up the speech he gave yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum about preventing atrocities.

U.S. influence was a major factor in the ability of the south to win its independence from Sudan. While it is possible that the policies of South Sudan’s belligerent President Salva Kiir may not be without fault in this dispute, there’s little question that Bashir, the man who was largely responsible for mass murder in Darfur, is itching to gain some revenge for losing the south. The question is, will the United States stand by idly while the forces of the north assail the pro-Western government of South Sudan?

It is understandable that the Obama administration is wary of diving into a nasty spat in a region that has been the venue for a long series of proxy wars in which Russian (and now Chinese) allies faced off against friends of the West. But the notion that South Sudan, which only gained its formal independence last July, should be allowed to be bombed by the government of an Islamist war criminal without a strong American response is unacceptable.

It shouldn’t be too hard for Americans to pick a side in this otherwise messy dispute. For decades, the non-Muslims of the south fought to resist domination by Muslims who wished to impose their own religious laws on the country. It was no accident that the people of South Sudan looked to America for help. The new government has also expressed its friendship for Israel, which it views as a nation similarly assailed by Muslims who cannot tolerate sovereignty exercised by those who do not share their faith.

As COMMENTARY contributor Ben Cohen wrote in a column for the JointMedia News Service, the peril of South Sudan ought to particularly engage American Jews who expended so much energy rallying to save the people of Darfur. For years, some leftists and sympathizers with Israel’s foes have claimed the effort to focus attention on Islamist genocide in Darfur was a Zionist plot. Now that the same government that perpetrated crimes against humanity in Darfur (and for which its leader was never brought to justice) is looking to attack South Sudan, the same activists who were prepared to treat human rights in the Horn of Africa as a Jewish priority must not lose interest in the country. President Obama has called for more negotiations,but Bashir’s bombing of the south shows just how much he cares about the opinion of the United States. The president, who has never made human rights a foreign policy priority but who wishes to be seen as caring about such issues, must not let the bombing of South Sudan go unanswered.

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Not a Parody: Head of Arab League Monitors in Syria Led Darfur Genocide

The notion that the Arab League was going to stand up for human rights in Syria was always somewhat farcical. This is, after all, a group that has numbered among its members some of the worst tyrants in the world and which has supported terrorist groups so long as their targets were Jews and not Arab oligarchs. Nevertheless the world applauded when the League turned on Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian regime and viewed its offer of placing monitors to ensure that the violence there ended. But in case anyone in the West is actually paying attention to the slaughter in Syria, the identity of the head of that peace mission ought to pour cold water on the idea that it will do much to help alleviate human rights abuses.

As David Kenner reports in Foreign Policy, the head of the mission is none other than Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. Al-Dabi just happens to be the man who created the murderous janjaweed militias that were the principal perpetrators in the Darfur genocide. So we should take his claims that the Assad government has so far been “very cooperative” and that all is going well in the country where thousands of have been slaughtered by the regime with a shovelful of South Sudanese salt.

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The notion that the Arab League was going to stand up for human rights in Syria was always somewhat farcical. This is, after all, a group that has numbered among its members some of the worst tyrants in the world and which has supported terrorist groups so long as their targets were Jews and not Arab oligarchs. Nevertheless the world applauded when the League turned on Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian regime and viewed its offer of placing monitors to ensure that the violence there ended. But in case anyone in the West is actually paying attention to the slaughter in Syria, the identity of the head of that peace mission ought to pour cold water on the idea that it will do much to help alleviate human rights abuses.

As David Kenner reports in Foreign Policy, the head of the mission is none other than Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. Al-Dabi just happens to be the man who created the murderous janjaweed militias that were the principal perpetrators in the Darfur genocide. So we should take his claims that the Assad government has so far been “very cooperative” and that all is going well in the country where thousands of have been slaughtered by the regime with a shovelful of South Sudanese salt.

His boss, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, for which al-Dabi also bears no small responsibility.  He founded the janjaweed during his service as the regime’s head of military operations from 1996-1999. Since then he has served al-Bashir loyally in a number of different job, including some diplomatic postings.

The irony of sending a war criminal to try and stop the commission of war crimes is lost on the Arab League. It is also lost on Syria’s dissidents who continue to be killed and harassed by the government with the so-called monitors doing nothing.

President Obama has done his best to ignore the ongoing massacre of protesters in Syria and, like many others in the West, seems content to let the Arabs sort out the mess there without much fuss from the United States. But al-Dabi’s role in this farce should serve as a reminder that Assad is counting on a quiescent Arab world and its Iranian ally to survive. If he does, along with the new Egypt, Syria will be more proof that the Arab Spring’s promise of democracy has turned out to be a sad delusion.

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More on the Freedom Agenda

I want to add several thought to John’s illuminating post on neoconservatism and democracy.

1. The most radical Islamic governments in the world — Iran, Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq under Saddam, Sudan, Syria, the PLO under Yasir Arafat, and others — did not come to power through elections. The Middle East, without democracy, is hardly a region characterized by tranquility and peace. And we have plenty of successful precedents of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes making a successful transition to democracy (in Central and Eastern Europe, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Iraq, and post–WWII Japan and Germany among them).

2. The fact that not every election goes as we might hope does not invalidate support for elections or the effort to promote liberty in other lands. Adolf Hitler came to power through elections in Germany in 1933. Should that election have undermined democracy as an idea?

3. Freedom has a remarkable historical track record, including in regions of the world once thought to be inimical to it. But it takes patience and commitment to see it through to success. The democratic evolution of Iraq, while certainly imperfect and fragile, is a source of encouragement. And among the best testimonies to how lethal liberty is to the aims of militant Islam is the energy and ruthlessness with which al-Qaeda and Iran tried to strangle freedom in Iraq.

4. If a healthy political culture is the sine qua non for self-government, then we are essentially telling every, or at least many, non-democratic societies that freedom is beyond their reach. It’s not. Still, strong liberal institutions will certainly assist freedom to take root. That’s why American policy should encourage democratic institution-building. Our influence in this area is often limited; but limited is not the same as nonexistent.

5. It’s not clear what the alternative is for the critics of democracy. The Egyptian revolution began in response to the oppression of the Mubarak regime, without American support. Given where we are, do critics of the freedom agenda believe we should support more repression in order to exert even greater control within Arab societies — repression that helped give rise to the resentments, violence, and toxic anti-Americanism that has characterized much of the Middle East?

In the Middle East, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of “stability.” But this merely bought time as ideologies of violence took hold. As the events in Egypt demonstrate, the sand has just about run out of the hourglass.

This doesn’t mean that our policy should be indiscriminate. The goal isn’t for America to act as a scythe that decapitates every autocratic regime in the world. And it doesn’t mean that democratic-led revolutions can’t be hijacked.

Still, there’s no way other than democracy to fundamentally reform the Arab Middle East. Self-government and the accompanying rise in free institutions is the only route to a better world — and because the work is difficult, doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

I want to add several thought to John’s illuminating post on neoconservatism and democracy.

1. The most radical Islamic governments in the world — Iran, Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq under Saddam, Sudan, Syria, the PLO under Yasir Arafat, and others — did not come to power through elections. The Middle East, without democracy, is hardly a region characterized by tranquility and peace. And we have plenty of successful precedents of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes making a successful transition to democracy (in Central and Eastern Europe, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Iraq, and post–WWII Japan and Germany among them).

2. The fact that not every election goes as we might hope does not invalidate support for elections or the effort to promote liberty in other lands. Adolf Hitler came to power through elections in Germany in 1933. Should that election have undermined democracy as an idea?

3. Freedom has a remarkable historical track record, including in regions of the world once thought to be inimical to it. But it takes patience and commitment to see it through to success. The democratic evolution of Iraq, while certainly imperfect and fragile, is a source of encouragement. And among the best testimonies to how lethal liberty is to the aims of militant Islam is the energy and ruthlessness with which al-Qaeda and Iran tried to strangle freedom in Iraq.

4. If a healthy political culture is the sine qua non for self-government, then we are essentially telling every, or at least many, non-democratic societies that freedom is beyond their reach. It’s not. Still, strong liberal institutions will certainly assist freedom to take root. That’s why American policy should encourage democratic institution-building. Our influence in this area is often limited; but limited is not the same as nonexistent.

5. It’s not clear what the alternative is for the critics of democracy. The Egyptian revolution began in response to the oppression of the Mubarak regime, without American support. Given where we are, do critics of the freedom agenda believe we should support more repression in order to exert even greater control within Arab societies — repression that helped give rise to the resentments, violence, and toxic anti-Americanism that has characterized much of the Middle East?

In the Middle East, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of “stability.” But this merely bought time as ideologies of violence took hold. As the events in Egypt demonstrate, the sand has just about run out of the hourglass.

This doesn’t mean that our policy should be indiscriminate. The goal isn’t for America to act as a scythe that decapitates every autocratic regime in the world. And it doesn’t mean that democratic-led revolutions can’t be hijacked.

Still, there’s no way other than democracy to fundamentally reform the Arab Middle East. Self-government and the accompanying rise in free institutions is the only route to a better world — and because the work is difficult, doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

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The Peepless SOTU Address

Judith Levy at Ricochet is surprised Obama said not a peep about the peace process (“I could have sworn it was a fairly high priority for the administration”). She understands the lack of a peep about Egypt (“Hey, it’s fresh; it’s complicated. Cut the guy some slack.”). But she is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot incredulous about the peepless issue of Lebanon:

How do you not mention Lebanon after what happened this week? A US-friendly prime minister — a guy you just hosted in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Mr. President; remember him? — was overthrown by an Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist organization that assassinated his pro-Western father and has handpicked his successor. Hello?

In last year’s SOTU address, Obama extolled America’s “engagement” around the world:

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.  But we also do it because it is right. … That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

Last night, the only peeps on this subject were his praise for the vote in south Sudan and “that same desire to be free in Tunisia.” At least Tunisia got the coveted let-me-be-clear moment, in a sentence that perhaps technically also covered Egypt and Lebanon:

And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. (Applause.)

Judith Levy at Ricochet is surprised Obama said not a peep about the peace process (“I could have sworn it was a fairly high priority for the administration”). She understands the lack of a peep about Egypt (“Hey, it’s fresh; it’s complicated. Cut the guy some slack.”). But she is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot incredulous about the peepless issue of Lebanon:

How do you not mention Lebanon after what happened this week? A US-friendly prime minister — a guy you just hosted in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Mr. President; remember him? — was overthrown by an Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist organization that assassinated his pro-Western father and has handpicked his successor. Hello?

In last year’s SOTU address, Obama extolled America’s “engagement” around the world:

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.  But we also do it because it is right. … That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

Last night, the only peeps on this subject were his praise for the vote in south Sudan and “that same desire to be free in Tunisia.” At least Tunisia got the coveted let-me-be-clear moment, in a sentence that perhaps technically also covered Egypt and Lebanon:

And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. (Applause.)

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Morning Commentary

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-’eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-’eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

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Outreach to Egypt?

The Obami, sensitive to accusations that they have been slothful on human rights, recently held a meeting with activists and foreign policy gurus on how they might promote democracy in Egypt. (Perhaps not giving the regime $1.5B free and clear would be a start.) But while the Obama team is having meetings, the Mubarak government is continuing its thuggish tactics:

Egypt’s parliamentary elections Sunday have been ushered in by one of the most sweeping campaigns to silence critics since President Hosni Mubarak came to power nearly 30 years ago, with the government seemingly determined to shut out its top rival, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign events by Brotherhood candidates – even attacking the movement’s top member in parliament in his car. More than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters have been arrested during the election campaign.

The measures have been so dramatic that a judge in an administrative court in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria late on Wednesday ordered elections to be halted in at least 10 out of 11 city districts because so many candidates, particularly from the Brotherhood, had been disqualified by authorities.

This, quite plainly, is yet another snub of Obama personally. Just as the North Koreans see no downside to attacking its neighbor, Mubarak expects no adverse consequences from snubbing the U.S. president. Eli Lake observes:

Cairo’s snubbing of Mr. Obama follows the U.S. president’s run of hard luck in general on Middle East diplomacy. This month, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected Mr. Obama’s personal request to relinquish the presidency. In 2009, the Iranian government rejected multiple offers from Mr. Obama to resume direct negotiations.

The mood from official Cairo was captured in a front-page editorial this week in the state-run and -funded newspaper, Al-Ahram, which often serves as a weather vane for the thinking inside the Mubarak regime.

“America and its experts should know and realize the Egyptian leadership role,” al-Ahram’s editor, Osama Saraya, said in the editorial. “Egypt has played and plays an important role in matters of regional peace and security … and is capable of bringing regional stability to all the areas that are regressing due to wrong U.S. policies in Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. … The United States is the one that ought to listen to Egypt, and not the other way around.”

In other words, the least-effective human rights policy in decades has contributed to the most egregious human right violations in decades and exposed our lack of influence in the region. We should not be surprised nor should we underestimate the degree to which Obama’s policy is both morally feckless and strategically flawed. Egypt is a tinderbox, increasingly polarized between an authoritarian government and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Egyptian democracy activists are disillusioned by the American administration.

We might try some real Muslim Outreach — a policy of increased support for democratizers, financial support for Egypt conditioned on progress on human rights, and forceful public rhetoric (rather than the mute routine Hillary put on during the foreign minister’s recent visit). The problem with Muslim Outreach is not that we are doing it but that we are doing it so badly. And in the process, we’re proving that America is declining in influence in the region.

The Obami, sensitive to accusations that they have been slothful on human rights, recently held a meeting with activists and foreign policy gurus on how they might promote democracy in Egypt. (Perhaps not giving the regime $1.5B free and clear would be a start.) But while the Obama team is having meetings, the Mubarak government is continuing its thuggish tactics:

Egypt’s parliamentary elections Sunday have been ushered in by one of the most sweeping campaigns to silence critics since President Hosni Mubarak came to power nearly 30 years ago, with the government seemingly determined to shut out its top rival, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign events by Brotherhood candidates – even attacking the movement’s top member in parliament in his car. More than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters have been arrested during the election campaign.

The measures have been so dramatic that a judge in an administrative court in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria late on Wednesday ordered elections to be halted in at least 10 out of 11 city districts because so many candidates, particularly from the Brotherhood, had been disqualified by authorities.

This, quite plainly, is yet another snub of Obama personally. Just as the North Koreans see no downside to attacking its neighbor, Mubarak expects no adverse consequences from snubbing the U.S. president. Eli Lake observes:

Cairo’s snubbing of Mr. Obama follows the U.S. president’s run of hard luck in general on Middle East diplomacy. This month, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected Mr. Obama’s personal request to relinquish the presidency. In 2009, the Iranian government rejected multiple offers from Mr. Obama to resume direct negotiations.

The mood from official Cairo was captured in a front-page editorial this week in the state-run and -funded newspaper, Al-Ahram, which often serves as a weather vane for the thinking inside the Mubarak regime.

“America and its experts should know and realize the Egyptian leadership role,” al-Ahram’s editor, Osama Saraya, said in the editorial. “Egypt has played and plays an important role in matters of regional peace and security … and is capable of bringing regional stability to all the areas that are regressing due to wrong U.S. policies in Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. … The United States is the one that ought to listen to Egypt, and not the other way around.”

In other words, the least-effective human rights policy in decades has contributed to the most egregious human right violations in decades and exposed our lack of influence in the region. We should not be surprised nor should we underestimate the degree to which Obama’s policy is both morally feckless and strategically flawed. Egypt is a tinderbox, increasingly polarized between an authoritarian government and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Egyptian democracy activists are disillusioned by the American administration.

We might try some real Muslim Outreach — a policy of increased support for democratizers, financial support for Egypt conditioned on progress on human rights, and forceful public rhetoric (rather than the mute routine Hillary put on during the foreign minister’s recent visit). The problem with Muslim Outreach is not that we are doing it but that we are doing it so badly. And in the process, we’re proving that America is declining in influence in the region.

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Human Rights Policy Gone Mad

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

Lost in the post-election coverage last week was the latest development concerning the Obama administration’s inexplicable decision to let four of the world’s worst human rights abusers off the hook for employing children as soldiers:

Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers. The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials.

Nor is this the only instance in which the administration’s occasionally more robust rhetoric on human rights departs from its actions. Recall that we joined the UN Human Rights Council (from which George W. Bush had properly extracted the U.S.) in order to have some impact on the world’s thugs and despots. But now we are under the microscope:

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, told the U.S. it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

This is what comes from empowering and taking seriously the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. And if all that were not enough, the State Department is taking all the criticism to heart:

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

There is no better example of the cul-de-sac of leftist anti-Americanism — that insatiable need to paint the U.S. as the source of evil in the world — than Obama’s human rights policy, which is, quite simply, obscene. The bipartisan revulsion at this policy is the regrettable but reassuring result. At least there remains a strong consensus rejecting the idea that cooling tensions with despots is more important than robustly defending our own values and the lives and rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

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Here’s How Congress Could Help

As I noted, the new Congress certainly can make its views known on foreign policy. Anne Bayefsky offers yet another instance of what the new Congress can help with. Durban III is being planned for New York City. As you will recall, the U.S. walked out of the last Durban anti-Israel bash-a-thon. She writes:

In the next three weeks, the Obama administration will have to vote on the General Assembly resolution containing the “modalities” for September’s Durban III in New York City. The administration should not only vote no, but must also respond clearly and unequivocally to the following question. Does President Obama plan to attend Durban III, and will his administration take immediate steps to prevent the U.N.’s use of New York City as a vehicle to encourage anti-Semitism under the pretense of combating racism?

Congress could certainly prevent funds from being used for this purpose and go on record opposing the conference. On this — as on Israel and Iran — I am certain there is a bipartisan consensus to be forged. Obama would do well to not only adjust his domestic policy but also to assess what domestic support there is for his current approach to the Middle East. An honest assessment would tell him that, outside the far left, there is very little backing for his brand of “smart” diplomacy. And even on the left, there is widespread discontent with his human-rights approach in Sudan, China, Burma, and elsewhere. In short, not-Obamaism may be the basis for a reasonable and broadly accepted foreign policy.

As I noted, the new Congress certainly can make its views known on foreign policy. Anne Bayefsky offers yet another instance of what the new Congress can help with. Durban III is being planned for New York City. As you will recall, the U.S. walked out of the last Durban anti-Israel bash-a-thon. She writes:

In the next three weeks, the Obama administration will have to vote on the General Assembly resolution containing the “modalities” for September’s Durban III in New York City. The administration should not only vote no, but must also respond clearly and unequivocally to the following question. Does President Obama plan to attend Durban III, and will his administration take immediate steps to prevent the U.N.’s use of New York City as a vehicle to encourage anti-Semitism under the pretense of combating racism?

Congress could certainly prevent funds from being used for this purpose and go on record opposing the conference. On this — as on Israel and Iran — I am certain there is a bipartisan consensus to be forged. Obama would do well to not only adjust his domestic policy but also to assess what domestic support there is for his current approach to the Middle East. An honest assessment would tell him that, outside the far left, there is very little backing for his brand of “smart” diplomacy. And even on the left, there is widespread discontent with his human-rights approach in Sudan, China, Burma, and elsewhere. In short, not-Obamaism may be the basis for a reasonable and broadly accepted foreign policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

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‘Engagement’ Is Broken

Everywhere “engagement” has been tried, it has failed. Iran is more repressive and less inclined to slow its nuclear program. Bashar al-Assad and  Hosni Mubarak are more repressive than ever, secure in the knowledge that there are no consequences for how they treat their own people. From Sudan to China, the despots are immune to the Obami’s charms. Burma is no exception, as the Washington Post editors explain:

The Nov. 7 poll will be Burma’s first in 20 years, and it might have provided an avenue toward a gradual easing of dictatorial control. But it has not worked out that way. There are a few opposition candidates, but even if all of them win, the junta is guaranteed control of the new parliament. It accomplished this certainty by blocking many parties from participating, including the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1990 election but was never permitted to take office; by setting fees so high that in many districts only government-backed candidates could register; by stipulating that the military may allot close to one-quarter of all seats after the election takes place; and by harassing and threatening opposition candidates who have tried, against all odds, to compete. No international observers will be permitted; no foreign journalists are being allowed in.

The editors correctly anticipate that the election will be followed by calls to relax sanctions. The editors urge the administration to rebuff the pleas and get its act together:

The Obama administration, which thus far has provided too little leadership on Burma, should be ready to parry these calls. It should appoint the special representative and policy coordinator mandated by Congress; refine its financial sanctions to target Burma’s leaders and their families; and put some muscle behind its claimed support for a U.N. inquiry into the regime’s crimes against humanity, namely the military’s depredations against ethnic minorities. The Voice of America should rethink its plan to cut back broadcasting hours to Burma the month after the election, while Congress should provide the VOA with enough funds to carry out its mission.

Unfortunately, the administration’s credibility is low these days with friends and foes. We’ve given breathing room to tyrannical regimes and left dissidents in the lurch. No wonder sham elections, “emergency law” extensions, and the like are all the rage. Perhaps after January, the new Congress can hold some hearings on the efficacy of engagement.

Everywhere “engagement” has been tried, it has failed. Iran is more repressive and less inclined to slow its nuclear program. Bashar al-Assad and  Hosni Mubarak are more repressive than ever, secure in the knowledge that there are no consequences for how they treat their own people. From Sudan to China, the despots are immune to the Obami’s charms. Burma is no exception, as the Washington Post editors explain:

The Nov. 7 poll will be Burma’s first in 20 years, and it might have provided an avenue toward a gradual easing of dictatorial control. But it has not worked out that way. There are a few opposition candidates, but even if all of them win, the junta is guaranteed control of the new parliament. It accomplished this certainty by blocking many parties from participating, including the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1990 election but was never permitted to take office; by setting fees so high that in many districts only government-backed candidates could register; by stipulating that the military may allot close to one-quarter of all seats after the election takes place; and by harassing and threatening opposition candidates who have tried, against all odds, to compete. No international observers will be permitted; no foreign journalists are being allowed in.

The editors correctly anticipate that the election will be followed by calls to relax sanctions. The editors urge the administration to rebuff the pleas and get its act together:

The Obama administration, which thus far has provided too little leadership on Burma, should be ready to parry these calls. It should appoint the special representative and policy coordinator mandated by Congress; refine its financial sanctions to target Burma’s leaders and their families; and put some muscle behind its claimed support for a U.N. inquiry into the regime’s crimes against humanity, namely the military’s depredations against ethnic minorities. The Voice of America should rethink its plan to cut back broadcasting hours to Burma the month after the election, while Congress should provide the VOA with enough funds to carry out its mission.

Unfortunately, the administration’s credibility is low these days with friends and foes. We’ve given breathing room to tyrannical regimes and left dissidents in the lurch. No wonder sham elections, “emergency law” extensions, and the like are all the rage. Perhaps after January, the new Congress can hold some hearings on the efficacy of engagement.

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Starstruck Clooney Misses the Point About Disastrous Sudan Policy

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

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The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

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Missing the Big Picture in Sudan

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

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Shilling for the UN Human Rights Council

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

Read Less




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