Commentary Magazine


Topic: Zimbabwe

Leading from Behind…Zimbabwe?

Against the backdrop of continued massacres in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared, “The Assad regime’s brutality against its own people must and will end,” although neither she nor the White House has outlined a strategy to meet that goal.

President Obama prefers to work through allies. He has sought to bring Russian strongman Vladimir Putin around. If Putin does not care about human rights in Russia, however, it is doubtful he cares too much about ordinary Syrians, especially if it means undermining the regime which hosts Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. As in Libya, he also prefers to work from behind through other allies. How embarrassing it is for a superpower like the United States to take the backseat to the likes of Zimbabwe, which has announced it is training its troops in advance of a Syrian peacekeeping mission.

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Against the backdrop of continued massacres in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared, “The Assad regime’s brutality against its own people must and will end,” although neither she nor the White House has outlined a strategy to meet that goal.

President Obama prefers to work through allies. He has sought to bring Russian strongman Vladimir Putin around. If Putin does not care about human rights in Russia, however, it is doubtful he cares too much about ordinary Syrians, especially if it means undermining the regime which hosts Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. As in Libya, he also prefers to work from behind through other allies. How embarrassing it is for a superpower like the United States to take the backseat to the likes of Zimbabwe, which has announced it is training its troops in advance of a Syrian peacekeeping mission.

I’m sure the Syrian people, in desperate need of protection from a regime gone wild whose forces rape and pillage, will be grateful the United Nations is sending a force best known for its rape and pillage.

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Morning Commentary

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

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What the Assange Book Deal Supports

In a previous post, I expressed outrage that two supposedly reputable publishers–Random House and Canongate–were planning to fork over more than a million bucks to the odious Julian Assange to write his memoirs. I’d like to emphasize the sort of sleazy action they are subsidizing by drawing attention to this Guardian story, alluded to in today’s Afternoon Commentary:

Zimbabwe is to investigate bringing treason charges against the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and other individuals over confidential talks with US diplomats revealed by Wikileaks….. A cable dated 24 December 2009 suggested Tsvangirai privately insisted sanctions “must be kept in place”.

High treason in Zimbabwe can result in the death penalty.

This is typical of WikiLeaks’ impact. Far from showing any nefarious doings by the U.S. government, which Assange seems to hate so much, his stolen documents actually show U.S. diplomats simply doing their jobs by meeting with various people around the world–including people who would rather not see their dealings with America revealed to their enemies. Yet reveal them Assange does, not caring, apparently, about the impact of his revelations, whether they cause embarrassment or imprisonment or even death.

Perhaps with December 31 approaching Bertelesmann execs might make a New Year’s resolution: We resolve next year not to subsidize evil authors. That might even be easier to keep than the usual weight-loss resolutions.

In a previous post, I expressed outrage that two supposedly reputable publishers–Random House and Canongate–were planning to fork over more than a million bucks to the odious Julian Assange to write his memoirs. I’d like to emphasize the sort of sleazy action they are subsidizing by drawing attention to this Guardian story, alluded to in today’s Afternoon Commentary:

Zimbabwe is to investigate bringing treason charges against the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and other individuals over confidential talks with US diplomats revealed by Wikileaks….. A cable dated 24 December 2009 suggested Tsvangirai privately insisted sanctions “must be kept in place”.

High treason in Zimbabwe can result in the death penalty.

This is typical of WikiLeaks’ impact. Far from showing any nefarious doings by the U.S. government, which Assange seems to hate so much, his stolen documents actually show U.S. diplomats simply doing their jobs by meeting with various people around the world–including people who would rather not see their dealings with America revealed to their enemies. Yet reveal them Assange does, not caring, apparently, about the impact of his revelations, whether they cause embarrassment or imprisonment or even death.

Perhaps with December 31 approaching Bertelesmann execs might make a New Year’s resolution: We resolve next year not to subsidize evil authors. That might even be easier to keep than the usual weight-loss resolutions.

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Afternoon Commentary

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

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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.

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New Report on China Leaves Out the Good Stuff

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

There’s something missing from the Defense Department’s new report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments” relating to China — and it’s something big. The 83-page report, which focuses on the Chinese military and Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan, makes no reference to the global outreach that extends across Asia and Africa and across the Pacific to Latin America. This outreach combines general trade and investment with arms sales and political patronage, threads that can sometimes be difficult to separate. But arms and politics very often are intertwined with “peaceful” commerce; detecting the junctures at which they become “security developments” is what analysis is for. An entire facet of China’s grand strategy has simply been left out of this report.

Search the document, and you will find no reference to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of cultivating relationships — along with the potential for surveillance outposts and naval bases –across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Not a word is uttered about China’s much-remarked courtship with Latin America, which encompasses extensive military-to-military exchanges and arms sales along with the commercial operations of companies linked to the Chinese military. The ties in question include an ongoing effort to bolster military cooperation with Cuba, with which China has agreements to use signals-monitoring facilities against the United States. They also include a very unusual visit by Chinese warships to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador in late 2009.

The Mediterranean saw such visits for the first time this summer, conducted by Chinese warships departing their anti-piracy station near Somalia. China appears to be contemplating a naval base in Djibouti, but that’s the least of its inroads in Africa. Besides arming the homicidal rulers of Sudan and Zimbabwe (here and here), China is pursuing the same policy it has executed in Latin America of promoting arms sales and military-to-military exchanges. As this summary indicates, moreover, Africa’s unique characteristics make it a special proving ground for China’s dual-purpose (commercial and military) industries.

Ignoring this Chinese pattern when considering “security developments” is quite peculiar. In fact, the report’s principal thematic shortcoming is that it evaluates only one security issue — the status of Taiwan — in terms of its geostrategic features and implications. China’s other security issues are grouped abstractly as “flashpoints” and generic interests, creating the impression that North Korea is basically the same kind of problem for China as Pakistan, Iran, or the Spratly Islands.

But China, a nation facing long armed borders and disputed archipelagos in every direction, lacks the latitude Americans have to cast its problems in terms of political abstractions. China’s approach is based firmly on geography and power relationships. North Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan are all different types of security concerns for China, as are India, the waterways of the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regularly accuse the U.S., which they see as China’s chief rival in virtually every dimension, of “hegemonism and power politics.” This is not an abstraction for them; when they say this, they have in mind the pillars of U.S. security in the Eastern hemisphere: alliances, military presence, and declared interests, from one spot on the map to the next. China’s frame of reference for all its security calculations is U.S. military power, a fact that has more explanatory value for Beijing’s military build-up than any other.

If these factors go unacknowledged, we are in danger of supposing that China is arming itself to the teeth because of the Taiwan issue. Accept at face value China’s own statements about “threats” to its trade, throw in a public-spirited aspiration to support UN peacekeeping operations, and you get a DoD report in which the analysis comes off as strikingly fatuous. Having almost no reference to geography, the perceived rivalry with the U.S., or the political and security dimensions of China’s global outreach, it ends up being misleading as well.

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Is Silence Enough?

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

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Forget the Democracy, They Have a Planet to Save

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

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Obama’s Multilateral Infatuation

As aptly described by George Will, the upside of the Copenhagen “agreement” is that it is no agreement at all. It’s yet another example of the utter unworkability of “multilateralism” as an operating principle in international affairs – and the silliness that Obama displays in attempting to pretend otherwise. As Will observes:

The 1992 Rio climate summit begat Kyoto. It, like Copenhagen, which Kyoto begat, was “saved,” as Copenhagen was, by a last-minute American intervention (Vice President Al Gore’s) that midwifed an agreement that most signatories evaded for 12 years. The Clinton-Gore administration never submitted Kyoto’s accomplishment for ratification, the Senate having denounced its terms 95 to 0.

Copenhagen will beget Mexico City next November. Before then, Congress will give “the international community” other reasons to pout. Congress will refuse to burden the economy with cap-and-trade carbon-reduction requirements and will spurn calls for sending billions in “climate reparations” to China and other countries. Representatives of those nations, when they did not have their hands out in Copenhagen grasping for America’s wealth, clapped their hands in ovations for Hugo Chávez and other kleptocrats who denounced capitalism while clamoring for its fruits.

Obama’s motives for perpetuating this charade are unclear. He didn’t want to be humiliated in Copenhagen a second time, of course, so it was essential to mask the entire affair’s uselessness and Obama’s inability to bend others to his will. But that, I think, is not all that’s going on here. It was also essential for him to preserve some sense that this sort of confab is credible and important.

Obama seems actually to believe the we-are-the-world hooey, which assumes common values and goals among nations that share neither. And even the supposedly “better Obama” at Oslo evinced an ongoing aversion to unilateral action by the U.S. and a preference for acting in concert — or avoiding acting in concert — with the “international community.” (“America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace.”) So it wouldn’t do to have Copenhagen collapse spectacularly, thus demonstrating once again that getting China, India, and Zimbabwe on the same page with the U.S. is no easy feat.

But Obama clearly had another motive in Copenhagen — to use an international agreement to bludgeon Congress into doing what it had already indicated it was unwilling to do. Even Democrats spotted what he was up to and at least temporarily remembered their constitutional roles. James Webb wrote to Obama in early December:

I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming [conference]. … Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. … you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.

And had China, India, and all the rest been just a bit more amenable, that is what, one suspects, Obama was more than willing to do — box in the Congress with a unilateral commitment.

While we might breathe a sigh of relief that Copenhagen ended as it did, it is yet another unpleasant reminder that Obama’s reverence for the “international community” is virtually without limit. The constant failure of the “international community” to produce any agreement of consequence (whether it’s enforceable sanctions on rogue wannabe-nuclear states or anything else) and its unseemly habit of money-grubbing from developed nations have, at least so far, not cooled Obama’s ardor for multilateral confabs. But stay tuned: it’s less than a year before the next three-ring circus in Mexico City.

As aptly described by George Will, the upside of the Copenhagen “agreement” is that it is no agreement at all. It’s yet another example of the utter unworkability of “multilateralism” as an operating principle in international affairs – and the silliness that Obama displays in attempting to pretend otherwise. As Will observes:

The 1992 Rio climate summit begat Kyoto. It, like Copenhagen, which Kyoto begat, was “saved,” as Copenhagen was, by a last-minute American intervention (Vice President Al Gore’s) that midwifed an agreement that most signatories evaded for 12 years. The Clinton-Gore administration never submitted Kyoto’s accomplishment for ratification, the Senate having denounced its terms 95 to 0.

Copenhagen will beget Mexico City next November. Before then, Congress will give “the international community” other reasons to pout. Congress will refuse to burden the economy with cap-and-trade carbon-reduction requirements and will spurn calls for sending billions in “climate reparations” to China and other countries. Representatives of those nations, when they did not have their hands out in Copenhagen grasping for America’s wealth, clapped their hands in ovations for Hugo Chávez and other kleptocrats who denounced capitalism while clamoring for its fruits.

Obama’s motives for perpetuating this charade are unclear. He didn’t want to be humiliated in Copenhagen a second time, of course, so it was essential to mask the entire affair’s uselessness and Obama’s inability to bend others to his will. But that, I think, is not all that’s going on here. It was also essential for him to preserve some sense that this sort of confab is credible and important.

Obama seems actually to believe the we-are-the-world hooey, which assumes common values and goals among nations that share neither. And even the supposedly “better Obama” at Oslo evinced an ongoing aversion to unilateral action by the U.S. and a preference for acting in concert — or avoiding acting in concert — with the “international community.” (“America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace.”) So it wouldn’t do to have Copenhagen collapse spectacularly, thus demonstrating once again that getting China, India, and Zimbabwe on the same page with the U.S. is no easy feat.

But Obama clearly had another motive in Copenhagen — to use an international agreement to bludgeon Congress into doing what it had already indicated it was unwilling to do. Even Democrats spotted what he was up to and at least temporarily remembered their constitutional roles. James Webb wrote to Obama in early December:

I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming [conference]. … Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. … you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.

And had China, India, and all the rest been just a bit more amenable, that is what, one suspects, Obama was more than willing to do — box in the Congress with a unilateral commitment.

While we might breathe a sigh of relief that Copenhagen ended as it did, it is yet another unpleasant reminder that Obama’s reverence for the “international community” is virtually without limit. The constant failure of the “international community” to produce any agreement of consequence (whether it’s enforceable sanctions on rogue wannabe-nuclear states or anything else) and its unseemly habit of money-grubbing from developed nations have, at least so far, not cooled Obama’s ardor for multilateral confabs. But stay tuned: it’s less than a year before the next three-ring circus in Mexico City.

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Global-Warming Poetry

Al Gore has departed from fictional films … er … “documentaries” to write some truly atrocious poetry. A COMMENTARY reader who prefers to go nameless has an alternative offering:

I do not want the Earth to warm
I do not want to do it harm
I do not want the Earth to heat
I fear the flames will hurt my feet
The time has come for me to rhyme
To save the Earth, I’m just in time

To save the planet from this flame
Aloft I, in my private plane
Hysterically my warnings shriek
Sounding not unlike some goofy freak
Fake data backs my warming shtick
The temp curve is a hockey stick

I can help relieve your guilt
Because you see, my fortune’s built
On carbon offsets that I sell
Before the world turns to hell
You’d best send money, for a tree
That I will plant in Zimbabwe

Dr. Seuss, take that!

(If you think that you, too, are a budding Wallace Stevens of eco-disaster, I’m sure Mr. Gore would love to hear from you. Perhaps there’s an anthology in the works!)

Al Gore has departed from fictional films … er … “documentaries” to write some truly atrocious poetry. A COMMENTARY reader who prefers to go nameless has an alternative offering:

I do not want the Earth to warm
I do not want to do it harm
I do not want the Earth to heat
I fear the flames will hurt my feet
The time has come for me to rhyme
To save the Earth, I’m just in time

To save the planet from this flame
Aloft I, in my private plane
Hysterically my warnings shriek
Sounding not unlike some goofy freak
Fake data backs my warming shtick
The temp curve is a hockey stick

I can help relieve your guilt
Because you see, my fortune’s built
On carbon offsets that I sell
Before the world turns to hell
You’d best send money, for a tree
That I will plant in Zimbabwe

Dr. Seuss, take that!

(If you think that you, too, are a budding Wallace Stevens of eco-disaster, I’m sure Mr. Gore would love to hear from you. Perhaps there’s an anthology in the works!)

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

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Mbeki’s Mania

Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column last week contained a major scoop that hasn’t received nearly enough press attention. In a piece about South Africa’s woeful support for despots around the world, Gerson revealed:

In late April, about the time this e-mail was written, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa — Zimbabwe’s influential neighbor — addressed a four-page letter to President Bush. Rather than coordinating strategy to end Zimbabwe’s nightmare, Mbeki criticized the United States, in a text packed with exclamation points, for taking sides against President Robert Mugabe’s government and disrespecting the views of the Zimbabwean people. “He said it was not our business,” recalls one American official, and “to butt out, that Africa belongs to him.” Adds another official, “Mbeki lost it; it was outrageous.”

South Africa’s Sunday Times reports that while Mbeki’s office does not acknowledge the letter, the American embassy in Pretoria confirmed that President Bush did receive a letter from Mbeki.

That Mbeki would write a rambling, 4-page screed “packed with exclamation points” to the President of the States is yet further confirmation of his paranoid, conspiratorial world view, and complete unfitness for executive office. It is of a piece with his belief that HIV does not cause AIDS and that those who complain about South Africa’s rampant crime problem are all closet racists. Moreover, as Gerson notes, Mbeki is but symptomatic of the African National Congress’s broader attempt to position South Africa in an anti-Western, Third-Worldist posture on the international stage. Allowing Robert Mugabe to ruin his country is simply the price to be paid when the alternative is the election of a political party favored by the West.

Meanwhile, not long after Mbeki fired off his strange missive to President Bush, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sent his thoughts to the dictator-abetting South African president, who had been tasked by both Bush and regional leaders with mediating Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis. He does not mince words, informing Mbeki that if his style of “diplomacy” persists, “there will be no country left.” While Mbeki tells President Bush to “butt out” of African affairs (a strange request, considering the fact that the United States has been relatively passive about the chaos in Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe’s democrats wish the reverse: that the United States take a more proactive role while Mbeki exit the stage.

Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column last week contained a major scoop that hasn’t received nearly enough press attention. In a piece about South Africa’s woeful support for despots around the world, Gerson revealed:

In late April, about the time this e-mail was written, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa — Zimbabwe’s influential neighbor — addressed a four-page letter to President Bush. Rather than coordinating strategy to end Zimbabwe’s nightmare, Mbeki criticized the United States, in a text packed with exclamation points, for taking sides against President Robert Mugabe’s government and disrespecting the views of the Zimbabwean people. “He said it was not our business,” recalls one American official, and “to butt out, that Africa belongs to him.” Adds another official, “Mbeki lost it; it was outrageous.”

South Africa’s Sunday Times reports that while Mbeki’s office does not acknowledge the letter, the American embassy in Pretoria confirmed that President Bush did receive a letter from Mbeki.

That Mbeki would write a rambling, 4-page screed “packed with exclamation points” to the President of the States is yet further confirmation of his paranoid, conspiratorial world view, and complete unfitness for executive office. It is of a piece with his belief that HIV does not cause AIDS and that those who complain about South Africa’s rampant crime problem are all closet racists. Moreover, as Gerson notes, Mbeki is but symptomatic of the African National Congress’s broader attempt to position South Africa in an anti-Western, Third-Worldist posture on the international stage. Allowing Robert Mugabe to ruin his country is simply the price to be paid when the alternative is the election of a political party favored by the West.

Meanwhile, not long after Mbeki fired off his strange missive to President Bush, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sent his thoughts to the dictator-abetting South African president, who had been tasked by both Bush and regional leaders with mediating Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis. He does not mince words, informing Mbeki that if his style of “diplomacy” persists, “there will be no country left.” While Mbeki tells President Bush to “butt out” of African affairs (a strange request, considering the fact that the United States has been relatively passive about the chaos in Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe’s democrats wish the reverse: that the United States take a more proactive role while Mbeki exit the stage.

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Hillary, Apologize to the People of Zimbabwe

Here’s what Hillary Clinton said yesterday, speaking of the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to seat delegates elected in the rogue Florida and Michigan Democratic primaries:

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

Last time I checked, dozens of Clinton supporters had not been murdered, thousands had not been driven from their homes, and Clinton has neither survived three assassination attempts nor is she living in exile in fear of encountering another. Also, Obama (who reads as Robert Mugabe in this account) has not in any sense lost the Democratic nomination–he’s the presumed nominee, fair and square.

This really is a new low in Hillary Clinton’s public life. The failure of state and national party officers to to resolve a bureaucratic mishap, however stubborn these individuals may be, does not in any sense compare to the eight-year campaign of forced starvation, destruction, murder, and outright election theft that has transpired under the regime of Robert Mugabe, particularly in the last two months. Even Clinton’s most passionate defenders must feel dismayed at how utterly pathetic their candidate has become.

Here’s what Hillary Clinton said yesterday, speaking of the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to seat delegates elected in the rogue Florida and Michigan Democratic primaries:

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

Last time I checked, dozens of Clinton supporters had not been murdered, thousands had not been driven from their homes, and Clinton has neither survived three assassination attempts nor is she living in exile in fear of encountering another. Also, Obama (who reads as Robert Mugabe in this account) has not in any sense lost the Democratic nomination–he’s the presumed nominee, fair and square.

This really is a new low in Hillary Clinton’s public life. The failure of state and national party officers to to resolve a bureaucratic mishap, however stubborn these individuals may be, does not in any sense compare to the eight-year campaign of forced starvation, destruction, murder, and outright election theft that has transpired under the regime of Robert Mugabe, particularly in the last two months. Even Clinton’s most passionate defenders must feel dismayed at how utterly pathetic their candidate has become.

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Reaping the Whirlwind

The riots which swept Johannesburg yesterday were, according to the Guardian, “the worst violence to hit Johannesburg since the politically-driven killings of the final years of apartheid.” Judging by the photographs, one could be forgiven for thinking yesterday’s uproar actually were scenes from the 1980′s. The targets of these roving mobs–which rampaged through not only the poor, sprawling townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg but also ravaged the city’s downtown business district–were foreigners, most of whom are Zimbabwean. South Africa has an unofficial employment rate believed to be hovering around 40%, and the presence of outsiders willing to work cheaply has for many years been a source of embitterment for South Africa’s poor blacks. (And a glaring shortcoming of the African National Congress’s promise to redistribute the country’s wealth.)

This latest outburst, while reprehensible, was bound to happen. Over the past eight years, what started as a steady stream of migrants fleeing the tyranny of Robert Mugabe has turned into a flood. At least three million (and perhaps many, many more) Zimbabweans (a full quarter of the country’s native population) now reside illegally in South Africa. Some 3,000 people cross the border every week. Zimbabwe has become, as a South African economist told me in 2006, “South Africa’s Mexico.”

Yet the situation is far more dire than that of Mexico and America. The glaring deficiency with this analysis is that we don’t have a 40% unemployment rate. Moreover, you can be sure that were Mexico experiencing the tumult that Zimbabwe has over the past 8 years–a dictator stealing elections, killing his political opponents, and starving his people–America would do something about it, from enforcing stringent sanctions to carrying out regime change.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, meanwhile, has carried out a policy that has amounted to saying nothing about the human rights catastrophe next door while keeping the United Nations and Western countries at bay. South Africa is beginning to experience the chaos wrought by its negligence towards Mugabe. The only beneficial outcome of the growing refugee crisis within its borders is the possibility that it may change the government’s attitude towards the dictator.

The riots which swept Johannesburg yesterday were, according to the Guardian, “the worst violence to hit Johannesburg since the politically-driven killings of the final years of apartheid.” Judging by the photographs, one could be forgiven for thinking yesterday’s uproar actually were scenes from the 1980′s. The targets of these roving mobs–which rampaged through not only the poor, sprawling townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg but also ravaged the city’s downtown business district–were foreigners, most of whom are Zimbabwean. South Africa has an unofficial employment rate believed to be hovering around 40%, and the presence of outsiders willing to work cheaply has for many years been a source of embitterment for South Africa’s poor blacks. (And a glaring shortcoming of the African National Congress’s promise to redistribute the country’s wealth.)

This latest outburst, while reprehensible, was bound to happen. Over the past eight years, what started as a steady stream of migrants fleeing the tyranny of Robert Mugabe has turned into a flood. At least three million (and perhaps many, many more) Zimbabweans (a full quarter of the country’s native population) now reside illegally in South Africa. Some 3,000 people cross the border every week. Zimbabwe has become, as a South African economist told me in 2006, “South Africa’s Mexico.”

Yet the situation is far more dire than that of Mexico and America. The glaring deficiency with this analysis is that we don’t have a 40% unemployment rate. Moreover, you can be sure that were Mexico experiencing the tumult that Zimbabwe has over the past 8 years–a dictator stealing elections, killing his political opponents, and starving his people–America would do something about it, from enforcing stringent sanctions to carrying out regime change.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, meanwhile, has carried out a policy that has amounted to saying nothing about the human rights catastrophe next door while keeping the United Nations and Western countries at bay. South Africa is beginning to experience the chaos wrought by its negligence towards Mugabe. The only beneficial outcome of the growing refugee crisis within its borders is the possibility that it may change the government’s attitude towards the dictator.

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IOC: Stop Bothering China

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

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Learning from Longshoremen

On Friday, the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying arms bound for Zimbabwe, left the port of Durban. Earlier, a high court refused to allow the weapons to be transported across South African soil.

The decision capped a surprising turn of events. On Thursday, Themba Maseko, a spokesman for Pretoria, said that his country would not stop the shipment as long as formalities had been completed. Dockers of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, however, refused to unload the cargo, fearing that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe might use the weapons against his opponents, who are locked in a post-election standoff with him. Mugabe appears to have lost his post in the March 29 presidential election but is unwilling to step aside.

“This vessel must return to China with the arms on board,” the union said in a statement. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. The rust bucket is headed for Luanda, where the weapons will be unloaded for a long overland trek to Zimbabwe. So the workers have won only a symbolic victory.

Yet symbolism matters, especially to autocrats. South African workers apparently know that. “How positive it is that ordinary dockers have refused to allow that boat to go further,” said Mary Robinson, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Mary, you’re right, of course. But let’s not call these South Africans “ordinary.” They have done more to stop Chinese autocrats from aiding Mugabe than their own leader, Thabo Mbeki–and than the most powerful individual on earth, President George W. Bush.

As Robinson said, the Durban port workers tried to stop something they believed was wrong. Perhaps the American people should ask their leader to go to South Africa so he can learn a thing or two from the longshoremen in Durban.

On Friday, the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying arms bound for Zimbabwe, left the port of Durban. Earlier, a high court refused to allow the weapons to be transported across South African soil.

The decision capped a surprising turn of events. On Thursday, Themba Maseko, a spokesman for Pretoria, said that his country would not stop the shipment as long as formalities had been completed. Dockers of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, however, refused to unload the cargo, fearing that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe might use the weapons against his opponents, who are locked in a post-election standoff with him. Mugabe appears to have lost his post in the March 29 presidential election but is unwilling to step aside.

“This vessel must return to China with the arms on board,” the union said in a statement. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. The rust bucket is headed for Luanda, where the weapons will be unloaded for a long overland trek to Zimbabwe. So the workers have won only a symbolic victory.

Yet symbolism matters, especially to autocrats. South African workers apparently know that. “How positive it is that ordinary dockers have refused to allow that boat to go further,” said Mary Robinson, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Mary, you’re right, of course. But let’s not call these South Africans “ordinary.” They have done more to stop Chinese autocrats from aiding Mugabe than their own leader, Thabo Mbeki–and than the most powerful individual on earth, President George W. Bush.

As Robinson said, the Durban port workers tried to stop something they believed was wrong. Perhaps the American people should ask their leader to go to South Africa so he can learn a thing or two from the longshoremen in Durban.

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Some Things Never Change . . .

Death, taxes, and The Nation‘s desire to further the interests of Russian autocrats, to name but a few. The magazine’s lead editorial this week is a thing to behold. Entitled “Neocon NATO Delusions,” it purports to tell the story of how

many neoconservative and neoliberal hawks, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, see Bush’s globalized NATO as the forerunner of a concert of democracies that will replace the UN.

The Nation is purportedly a progressive magazine. Yet it stands opposed to an emergent “concert of democracies.” Why on earth? Because this “globalized NATO” threatens to “encircl[e] Russia and sidelin[e] the United Nations.”

Sound familiar? Russia’s argument against NATO expansion runs along the same lines. But this is hardly the first time the magazine has made Vladimir Putin’s case for him. In a recent essay, contributing editor Robert Dreyfuss complained about John McCain’s calls for an “expanded NATO that will bump up against Russian interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus.” Strange that such a stridently progressive magazine would sympathize with a government that kills journalists and imprisons dissidents. (Or a political figure like Putin, who has enjoyed for the most part unmixed support from George W. Bush.)

In an excellent essay in the current New Republic, Robert Kagan lays out how “autocracy is making a comeback.” Rather than working through international organizations like the United Nations, Russia (and China) are using them to delay international action on issues including the ongoing genocide in Darfur, the humanitarian catastrophe in Zimbabwe, the repression in Burma, and sanctioning Iran. And Putin has personally decried liberal groups (like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as “vulgar institutions.”

In an uncertain world, though, it’s nice to know that some things never change: The Nation is still a collection of useful idiots serving the cause of tyranny.

Death, taxes, and The Nation‘s desire to further the interests of Russian autocrats, to name but a few. The magazine’s lead editorial this week is a thing to behold. Entitled “Neocon NATO Delusions,” it purports to tell the story of how

many neoconservative and neoliberal hawks, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, see Bush’s globalized NATO as the forerunner of a concert of democracies that will replace the UN.

The Nation is purportedly a progressive magazine. Yet it stands opposed to an emergent “concert of democracies.” Why on earth? Because this “globalized NATO” threatens to “encircl[e] Russia and sidelin[e] the United Nations.”

Sound familiar? Russia’s argument against NATO expansion runs along the same lines. But this is hardly the first time the magazine has made Vladimir Putin’s case for him. In a recent essay, contributing editor Robert Dreyfuss complained about John McCain’s calls for an “expanded NATO that will bump up against Russian interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus.” Strange that such a stridently progressive magazine would sympathize with a government that kills journalists and imprisons dissidents. (Or a political figure like Putin, who has enjoyed for the most part unmixed support from George W. Bush.)

In an excellent essay in the current New Republic, Robert Kagan lays out how “autocracy is making a comeback.” Rather than working through international organizations like the United Nations, Russia (and China) are using them to delay international action on issues including the ongoing genocide in Darfur, the humanitarian catastrophe in Zimbabwe, the repression in Burma, and sanctioning Iran. And Putin has personally decried liberal groups (like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as “vulgar institutions.”

In an uncertain world, though, it’s nice to know that some things never change: The Nation is still a collection of useful idiots serving the cause of tyranny.

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Silence on Zimbabwe

For the past several days, the trouble in Zimbabwe has been a major international news story. This is not usually the case. Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is often relegated to page A17–that is, if it even makes it into the paper. Yet when a democratic election turns sour, and the dictator in charge succeeds in stealing it, and the threat of violence hangs in the air, people around the world start to notice. The post-election situation in Zimbabwe has remained on the homepage of The New York Times since Sunday, though that paper’s tenacious coverage of the election aftermath will certainly be affected now that its southern Africa correspondent was arrested late Thursday evening with a group of foreign journalists. Every major news outlet–even cable news!–has devoted some time to Zimbabwe these past few days.

Everyone except, that is, the publications and blogs of the American Left. Browse through the left-wing blogs and the major left-wing magazines like The Nation or The American Prospect, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much, if anything, on the crisis in Zimbabwe. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that many on the American Left were early supporters of Mugabe and did not really come around to condemning him until it became fashionable to do so, i.e. around 2000, when he began stealing privately-owned farms and the international media took a renewed interest in the dictator. A second reason is that America in general, and George W. Bush in particular, cannot be blamed for what’s going on in Zimbabwe. And so the very real theft of a democratic election isn’t worth writing about. Indeed, Mugabe’s rhetoric about the imperialist aggression of Tony Blair and George W. Bush must be appealing to certain segments of the left blogosphere. The rest, I guess, is silence.

For the past several days, the trouble in Zimbabwe has been a major international news story. This is not usually the case. Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is often relegated to page A17–that is, if it even makes it into the paper. Yet when a democratic election turns sour, and the dictator in charge succeeds in stealing it, and the threat of violence hangs in the air, people around the world start to notice. The post-election situation in Zimbabwe has remained on the homepage of The New York Times since Sunday, though that paper’s tenacious coverage of the election aftermath will certainly be affected now that its southern Africa correspondent was arrested late Thursday evening with a group of foreign journalists. Every major news outlet–even cable news!–has devoted some time to Zimbabwe these past few days.

Everyone except, that is, the publications and blogs of the American Left. Browse through the left-wing blogs and the major left-wing magazines like The Nation or The American Prospect, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much, if anything, on the crisis in Zimbabwe. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that many on the American Left were early supporters of Mugabe and did not really come around to condemning him until it became fashionable to do so, i.e. around 2000, when he began stealing privately-owned farms and the international media took a renewed interest in the dictator. A second reason is that America in general, and George W. Bush in particular, cannot be blamed for what’s going on in Zimbabwe. And so the very real theft of a democratic election isn’t worth writing about. Indeed, Mugabe’s rhetoric about the imperialist aggression of Tony Blair and George W. Bush must be appealing to certain segments of the left blogosphere. The rest, I guess, is silence.

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