Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for June, 2009

European political leader who believed in Iraqi WMD has sophisticated foreign policy opinions about Iran, too

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

Um, no one cares what Jose Maria Aznar thinks, but this is an especially useless effort. The comparisons between Iran and the Soviet Union are delivered with the stupidity that’s customary for the genre; it’s hard, for example, to know where to begin his claim that Western support for Soviet dissidents (a) made Soviet leaders fearful of treating them badly, and (b) eventually brought town the government itself. Whatever force “the Free World” was able to exert upon Soviet human rights was a direct result of the fact that the US and the Soviet Union had, from 1963 through the mid-1970s, established a reasonably successful record of negotiating on a variety of issues of mutual interest (e.g, nuclear testing and arms limitations, grain shipments, etc.) So far as dissidents were concerned, their treatment during this period was mild by the obviously unpleasant by historical standards — not because the government feared Johnson, Nixon or Ford (who were, it’s worth pointing out, not hollering conspicuously about Soviet dissidents) but because Soviet leadership saw little to be gained domestically from “ruthlessly [doing] away with them,” as Aznar insists they would have. After Khrushchev’s disclosures, a full revival of Stalinist brutality was probably an impossibility; whatever ill needs to be spoken of the post-Stalin era, it’s insane to claim their behavior was held in check simply out of fear of external punishment. The state viewed dissidents as enemies of the regime and suppressed them as best they could, but by the late 1970s and 1980s — when Aznar presumably believes US support for dissidents was most consequential — the Soviet leadership hardly required the aid of dissenters (or critiques by American leaders) to bring discredit to its own project.

That said, it’s hard to imagine what sort of guidance Aznar thinks his flawed history might provide for the Obama administration. This is of course a problem for anyone who’s been insisting that Obama Must Do SomethingTM, but Aznar captures the vagueness of the argument with impressive brevity:

This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.

President Obama has said he refuses to “meddle” in Iran’s internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past — in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.

See, I’d been under the mistaken impression that the US would be hard-pressed to find a constructive role to play with respect to the Iranian crisis. But I forgot that by simply not hesitating* and by facing the protesters squarely in solidarity**, we could actually set limits*** on the behavior of the Iranian state!

* Whatever the hell that means.
** Ibid.
*** Ibid.

Oddly Enough, We Play Better With 11 Men on the Pitch

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

USA v Brazil. 19:30 (BST), BBC 3. 14:30 (EDT), 11:30 (PDT).  And other times.  Google, kids, don’t miss this one.

Ignore the Italy and the Brazil match. Well, perhaps Brazil is relevant, but when you play a man down, as we seem to prefer doing, you sort of stack the deck against you. This side came into its own in the Egypt and the Spain matches. And it’s been a transition for a few years. 2002 was a long time ago, and we have been coasting since. 2006 was a disaster. Arena lost the plot. But it’s a transformed side now, and I think it’s come into its own. We still miss some cutting edge in the final third (or, as Arsenal fans might recall, the ‘fox in the box’) but I like the midfield, and really, really like the back four. DeMerit has impressed — no, that’s selling him short. He has got himself a ticket out of Watford.

We will miss Michael Bradley. While I know he has been impressing with his work rate for a year or so now, I don’t get to see the CONCACAF qualifiers out here in the UK much, but this tournament has convinced me — he is our best midfielder. (Setting Landon aside, of course, but he is a different kettle of fish, more a second striker than a midfielder). I don’t know who goes in for Bradley, but safe bet it isn’t Beasley. The best he has this summer is his SPL champion medal (Rangers had to win eventually, and hopefully this will be their one title for a decade or so), but did he even qualify for that? I think Bradley goes with Feilharber or Kljestan.

I’m going out on a limb here. I predict a USA victory. Brazil have not been all that of late, and they had as many if not more qualifiers than the US had in the run in to this tournament. And to further my exploitation of cliches, the USA seem to be gelling at the precise right time.

The Text as Art Form…

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

I find this website hopelessly entertaining. There’s probably something wrong with me. H/t Elise.

Murdering Journalists

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

This had slipped my mind, until I finally found it skulking in one of my Google Reader folders. Ralph Peters:

Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies.

As far as I can tell, Peters is calling for the murder of journalists he doesn’t like. David Axe has an appropriate set of responses:

  • Journalists are not a protected species: attacks on reporters in war zones have increased in recent years
  • If our nation’s causes are just, the establishment has nothing to hide, from the public, the press or anyone
  • Reporting does not kill U.S. soldiers, but the absence of a coherent, public strategy does
  • Openness, including press freedom, is one of the very “globalizing” forces America and her allies fight for
  • “We” doesn’t means what it used to: today the U.S. almost never acts truly unilaterally, for we are part of a vast, complex and shifting international system, that requires transparency in order to function
  • Peters is an angry, ignorant and paranoid old man — and no one should listen to a word he says

The last point is worth dwelling on for a moment; in Accidental Guerrilla, David Kilcullen makes a point of calling Peters out for, essentially, being an angry, paranoid old man who doesn’t know nearly as much about war as he’d like to believe. This made me deeply appreciative of David Kilcullen. Peters’ position, however, does have a certain internal coherence. In makes sense in the context of the heroic vision that contemporary warbloggers/wingnuts create for themselves; they really seem to believe that they are key cogs in the American warfighting machine. As such, anyone who disputes their expertise and contribution is, by definition, objectively pro-terrorist.

"A Marker Should Make Up for That"

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

See Gary on eugenics in North Carolina.

Sunday Book Review: Second World

[ 0 ] June 28, 2009 |

This is the fourth installment of a seven part series on the Patterson School’s Summer Reading List.

  1. World of Nations, William Keylor
  2. The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier
  3. Hide and Seek, Charles Duelfer
  4. Second World, Parag Khanna

If you like Tom Friedman, but think that his concepts are too concrete, that he doesn’t illustrate his points with enough random conversations with locals, that his conclusions aren’t sufficiently sweeping, that he spends way too much time defining key terms, that he doesn’t contradict himself enough, that he does too much research, that he could substitute stereotype for analysis a bit more often, that he doesn’t have enough contempt for existing work in the field, and that he’s insufficiently arrogant, then you’ll absolutely frakking love Parag Khanna. Second World is almost certainly the worst book that I’ve ever read on international politics.

That is all.

The Mao Zedong?

[ 0 ] June 27, 2009 |

Fascinating; the unscientific popular choice for the name of China’s first aircraft carrier is Mao Zedong:

But which was the runaway favorite in two polls conducted earlier this month? Mao Zedong.

He may have been a monster to you and me. The number of Chinese who died as a result of his policies runs into the tens of millions. But to many, if not most people here, Mao remains – for all his faults, even when they are admitted – the father of the nation; his memory is endowed with supernatural powers.

Indeed, his name alone “has deterrent force,” believe some of the respondents, according to the International Herald Leader, a daily paper owned by the official Xinhua news agency, which commissioned one of the polls.

But there could be a drawback. “Aircraft carriers are used in battle, and they could get damaged,” the Herald Leader points out. “If that happened to a carrier named Mao Zedong, it might hurt ordinary people’s feelings.”

In such a naming scheme, would Mao be followed by Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping? Then maybe Chen Yun and Yang Shangkun? Would an aircraft carrier serve as the ultimate redemption for Liu Shaoqi or (less likely) Lin Biao? Or is Mao singular enough that you could name the rest after cities or provinces? A note of caution to the Chinese; you start out by giving an aircraft carrier the name of a legendary leader, and you end up with the Carl Vinson and the John C. Stennis.

Via Galrahn.

Old School

[ 0 ] June 27, 2009 |

Mr. Trend has one of the nicer tributes to MJ that I’ve read.

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think it Means: GAZPROM Edition

[ 0 ] June 27, 2009 |

Ahem:

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has signed a $2.5bn (£1.53bn) deal with Nigeria’s state operated NNPC, to invest in a new joint venture.

The new firm, to be called Nigaz, is set to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations in Nigeria.

H/t Chet, via TPM.

…the gods of blogging would strike me down if I failed to include this:

Via Dan.

Now that’s What I Call a Punchline…

[ 0 ] June 26, 2009 |

Dan Barry, in the New York Times, on the contemporary John Birch Society:

The coordinator was Chris Nowak, 24, a substitute math teacher who said he joined after his father, a longtime Bircher, re-educated him about American history; for example, he now understood that the United Nations was founded by President Harry S. Truman “and other communists.”

With Mr. Nowak were Ray Tisch, 37, an electrical engineer, and Matthew Yamakaitis, 49, a warehouse worker, who said they had joined the John Birch Society within the last two years because they shared its concerns about the North American Union, the mainstream media and the conspiracy of elite insiders.

“At the highest levels there are controls in place,” Mr. Tisch said. Mr. Yamakaitis agreed, saying that if the insiders succeed in creating a new world order, “It basically means less power for us.”

“And more for the elite,” said Mr. Tisch.

“The Rockefellers, the Morgans, the Rothschilds,” said Mr. Nowak.

“Ssssssssss,” said the sausage cooking on a nearby grill.

Beware!

[ 0 ] June 26, 2009 |

For your weekend irritation:

Something worth noting: We often think of anti-gay bigotry as a pre-existing social fact that is, slowly but appreciably, slipping into history. But that’s not quite right. Homophobia is, to substantial effect, the product of campaigns of propaganda on the part of political and religious institutions. This is to say that beliefs about the ickiness of homosexuality exist, at least to a degree, because the state took it upon itself to insist that homosexuality was icky. People had to be taught that they found homosexuality repulsive. Read your Foucault, etc.

Via AFY_Joe.

Gambling in Casablanca

[ 0 ] June 26, 2009 |

The only surprising thing about this stuff is that none of these bigwigs (including a law school dean — apparently she never learned to think like a lawyer) can ever seem to remember that government emails are subject to FOIA requests.

In one e-mail exchange, University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman forced the law school to admit an unqualified applicant backed by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the governor’s go-between that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant, a relative of deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor Kerry Peck, appears to have been pushed by Trustee Lawrence Eppley, who often carried the governor’s admissions requests.

When Law School Dean Heidi Hurd balked on accepting the applicant in April 2006, Herman replied that the request came “Straight from the G. My apologies. Larry has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?”

Hurd replied: “Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar.”

Hurd’s e-mail suggests that students getting the jobs are to be those in the “bottom of the class.” Law school rankings depend in part on the job placement rate of graduates.

Page 2 of 131234510...Last »