Tag Archives: international relations

Monday Miscellany

17 Sep

1. So far, a viral campaign has so far collected 3,000 condolence letters from Muslims to the family of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens. That’s not to mention other forms of apology and grief expressed by the people of Libya who remain grateful to the United States for helping it to overthrow 40 years of dictatorship by a homicidal psychopath. 

Next time you hear some conservative mock Islam for not being “religion of peace-y” enough, or for pining for the good old days when Reagan had to drop bombs on Libya, point this out. 

2. Famed prude and anti-sex legislation enthusiast Rick Santorum gave an accurate speech to a crowd of like-minded vicious homophobes. 

3. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks he can berate the United States into doing his bidding. He’s been taking actions and saying words in the last few weeks in an effort to either influence our election here in favor of Romney, or to embarrass the current administration into supporting a strike against Iran. Evidently, having a military presence in Afghanistan isn’t difficult and costly enough, we’re also meant to support an invasion of a functioning, reasonably advanced nation-state. People criticize Obama for letting relations with Israel deteriorate, but that street runs two ways. It’s so bad that the leader of the Israeli opposition openly asked whether Netanyahu really wants regime change in Tehran or Washington

All of this is complicated by the fact that the Republican Party’s evangelist base is willing to do whatever Israel wants because Israel is proof to them of the imminent rapture, or something. I think it’s fantastic that wars, and our contemporary foreign policy are in part dictated by competing 2,000 year-old fairy tales. 

You should read this piece in Foreign Policy, wherein Bill Clinton explains how exactly Netanyahu completely obliterated – single-handedly – any chance for peace in the Middle East in the near future. 

“The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

“[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it,” Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.

But the Israeli government has drifted a long way from the Ehud Barak-led government that came so close to peace in 2000, Clinton said, and any new negotiations with the Netanyahu government are now on starkly different terms — terms that the Palestinians are unlikely to accept.

“For reasons that even after all these years I still don’t know for sure, Arafat turned down the deal I put together that Barak accepted,” he said. “But they also had an Israeli government that was willing to give them East Jerusalem as the capital of the new state of Palestine.”

Israel also wants a normalization of relations with its Arab neighbors to accompany a peace deal. Clinton said that the Saudi-inspired Arab Peace Initiative put forth in 2002 represented an answer to that Israeli demand.

“The King of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘if you work it out with the Palestinians … we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership,'” Clinton said. “This is huge…. It’s a heck of a deal.”

The Netanyahu government has received all of the assurances previous Israeli governments said they wanted but now won’t accept those terms to make peace, Clinton said.

“Now that they have those things, they don’t seem so important to this current Israeli government, partly because it’s a different country,” said Clinton. “In the interim, you’ve had all these immigrants coming in from the former Soviet Union, and they have no history in Israel proper, so the traditional claims of the Palestinians have less weight with them.”

Clinton then repeated his assertions made at last year’s conference that Israeli society can be divided into demographic groups that have various levels of enthusiasm for making peace.

“The most pro-peace Israelis are the Arabs; second the Sabras, the Jewish Israelis that were born there; third, the Ashkenazi of long-standing, the European Jews who came there around the time of Israel’s founding,” Clinton said. “The most anti-peace are the ultra-religious, who believe they’re supposed to keep Judea and Samaria, and the settler groups, and what you might call the territorialists, the people who just showed up lately and they’re not encumbered by the historical record.”

Netanyahu appeared on Meet the Press yesterday, but I haven’t watched that show since it’s been watered down into an unrecognizable piece of dreck by David Gregory. Gregory apparently referred to Netanyahu as “leader of the Jews”, which is as stupid as it is factually inaccurate. 

4. Someone ask Ralph Lorigo how his early support of Chuck Swanick has helped (a) Lorigo; (b) Swanick; (c) the anti-same-sex marriage cause. 

Buffalo, NY: International City

26 Jul

As I’ve written previously, I believe Buffalo has a mistaken view of its present by being stuck in the past. Instead of a white-collar city of professionals and service workers we see a post-Bethlehem Steel fading blue-collar town filled with unemployed American Axle laborers.

Our sight is limited in another area as well. For as much small-town thinking there is among our political class, we live in an International City. And I don’t mean a historically international city, because of our legacy of world-class architecture. I also don’t mean an inadvertent international city, because of our accidental place along the Canadian border. I mean a current, vibrant 21st Century International City right this minute, because of our people and business connections (there’s a sentence you don’t see written about Buffalo every day).

As relayed in today’s Buffalo News, 1000 international refuges move to Buffalo each year, one third of the NY state total. We have four resettlement agencies, including the International Institute, a classic example of the kind of outstanding institution that while rare in this country, is taken for granted in Buffalo. Adding to the flavor of the city, these refugees come from such varied places as Burma, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa. Stroll though some East Side or West Side neighborhoods, and you will hear a variety of languages you may not expect in Buffalo, and see churches respectfully converted into thriving mosques that invest in and develop their neighborhoods.

The international connections continue. Stroll through the Buffalo airport in the summer, and see the plane loads of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and German tourists coming into town to see (mostly) Niagara Falls. The University at Buffalo was ranked 11th, nationally, for foreign students in 2005, and their numbers have grown since. We may have flopped on the World University Games in 1993, but atleast we had them, and the World Junior Hockey Championships head downtown in 2011. Buffalo hosts not just many foreign companies, but the US HQ of foreign companies, Labatt only being the most famous. 6000 people work at Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp (that would be HSBC), and, very quietly, more people work for a Japanese pharma company on Grand Island than in the Ford Woodlawn Stamping Plant. We have a World Trade Center, are the port of entry for a third of our country’s trade with Canada, and host six foreign consulates – that’s more than Las Vegas, three times as many as Charlotte. And on any given day, you can attend a Catholic Mass in Spanish, Polish, Italian, or (until recently) Hungarian.

What’s my point. If we are to move ahead, as a community, with a plan (as Chris Smith suggests), first we need to know where we are. As the world gets flatter, if Buffalo wants to compete as a region, being more global, locally, will be more and more important. We need to realize we have a leg up on many, and need to use it to our advantage.

P.S. Want some additional proof to show how WNY’s political leadership stooges helped get us to the place we are? Check out these two vintage articles: Dennis Gorski volunteers Buffalo’s lack of confidence in being able to pull off the World University Games hours before they are scheduled to start, and Jimmy Griffin didn’ support them in the first place. Way to lead from the front, guys.

Cloud Cuckooland

26 Dec

It is quite possible that, if pulled over for speeding in Zimbabwe, the police officer who pulls you over will also pay your fine.

Madame Secretary

1 Dec

President-elect Obama unveils his national security team. New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be secretary of state. Gen. James L. Jones, former NATO commander, will be national security adviser. Robert Gates will stay on as SecDef.

A quote from an Obama aide via the New York Times’ story:

During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned. There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century.

Jones and Gates had been vocally critical of Bush policy and strategy in recent months:

A year ago, to studied silence from the Bush White House, Mr. Gates began giving a series of speeches about the limits of military power in wars in which no military victory is possible. He made popular the statistic, quoted by Mr. Obama, that the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers.

He also denounced “the gutting of America’s ability to engage, assist and communicate with other parts of the world — the ‘soft power’ which had been so important throughout the cold war.” He blamed both the Clinton and Bush administrations and said later in an interview that “it is almost like we forgot everything we learned in Vietnam.”

Mr. Obama’s choice for national security adviser, General Jones, took the critique a step further in a searing report this year on what he called the Bush administration’s failed strategy in Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama has vowed to intensify the fight as American troops depart from Iraq. When the report came out, General Jones was widely quoted as saying, “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” a comment that directly contradicted the White House.

But he went on to describe why the United States and its allies were not winning: After nearly seven years of fighting, they had failed to develop a strategy that could dependably bring reconstruction projects and other assistance into areas from which the Taliban had been routed — making each victory a temporary one, reversed as soon as the forces departed.

Here is an excerpt from Obama’s remarks this morning:

And so, in this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning – a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century, and to seize the opportunities embedded in those challenges. We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is relentless in defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests, and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world: democracy and justice; opportunity and unyielding hope – because American values are America’s greatest export to the world.

To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and the power of our moral example. The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that.

In their past service and plans for the future, these men and women represent all of those elements of American power, and the very best of the American example. They have served in uniform and as diplomats; they have worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.

I have known Hillary Clinton as a friend, a colleague, a source of counsel, and as a campaign opponent. She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and toughness, and a remarkable work ethic. I am proud that she will be our next Secretary of State. She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence; who knows many of the world’s leaders; who will command respect in every capitol; and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world.

Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances. There is much to do – from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea, to seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to strengthening international institutions. I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the right person to lead our State Department, and to work with me in tackling this ambitious foreign policy agenda.

Best of luck to Senator Clinton and the rest of the Obama national security team.

The Reign in Spain Causes Pain for McCain

18 Sep

In the midst of his presidential campaign, Zapatero’s reign escaped McCain’s brain.

McCain maintains that it was neither disdain nor legerdemain. When asked, rather than abstain, McCain’s camp opted to refrain from the mundane and explain that Zapatero’s friendship was not important to maintain or sustain.

Either way, from what I can ascertain, the whole affair doesn’t really entertain, but McCain’s numbers continue to wane.

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Si llego a la Casa Blanca…

18 Sep

John McCain flubbed one in a major way yesterday. While we are repeatedly told about his extraordinary grasp of foreign policy issues due to his many years on the Senate and its Foreign Relations Committee, the Senator from Arizona all but caused a minor international incident in response to a reporter for Spanish media.

“Si llego a la Casa Blanca hablaré con todos nuestros amigos y combatiré a nuestros enemigos”.

From (what many will call the subjective liberal hate site, so yeah, consider that line of commenting covered) Americablog, which listened to the original Spanish reporting of this interview, this:

When asked about Spain and Zapatero, by a Spanish reporter for a Spanish newspaper, McCain responded about Mexico and Latin America. A reader suggested something that Josh had already considered, that perhaps McCain thought the reporter was talking about the Zapatistas in Mexico, the guerilla group. But that’s not possible as the reporter clearly said she was talking about Spain and Spain’s leader, Zapatero. She told McCain this twice. Let me tell you exactly what she asked McCain (per the translation):

“Senator, finally, let’s talk about Spain. If you’re elected president, would you invite President Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?”

McCain then gives this odd answer about America’s friends and America’s enemies. He also, oddly, talks about Mexico (why Mexico? The question was about Spain) and how he’d invite friendly leaders to the White House. She then asks him again, would that invitation include President Zapatero? He says again that he’d have to review relations first, blah blah. She then says again, “so you’d have to wait to see, so would you meet with him in the White House?” He again repeats his weird statement about friends and enemies. McCain also throws in, oddly, to the Spanish reporter, when she’s asking him about meeting the Spanish president, a line about the importance of our relationship with Latin America (this is now the second time he answered a question about meeting the president of Spain with an answer about Latin America). She then says to McCain one last time:

“Okay, but I’m talking about Europe – the president of Spain, would you meet with him?”

This time, there was no room for confusion. McCain then gives this very bizarre answer:

“I will meet with any leader who has the same principles and philosophy as us in terms of human rights, democracy, and freedom and I will stand up to those who do not.”

What does concern about human rights, democracy and freedom have to do with a prerequisite for meeting the president of Spain? Especially when you told the same paper 5 months ago that you’d be happy to meet with him.

So far, in the English-speaking media, only some lefty blogs have picked this up, most notably Talking Points Memo. Their supposition is that McCain is “out of it” or that he deliberately was being belligerent towards Spain’s head of government. For the press in Spain, however, this is big, big news.

I think it might be something different – remember McCain’s horrific “interview” with Time Magazine a few weeks ago? I think it’s been instilled in him very, very deeply that the press is to be distrusted and only boilerplate answers are to be used whenever practicable. I think it wasn’t so much out-of-itness or belligerence towards Spain that led McCain to question Spain’s allegiance to democracy and western ideals, but his belligerence towards the media, for whom McCain had once been a darling, but has now pretty much just shut them out.

Bin Laden's Driver

8 Aug

I wonder if we’ve also caught bin Laden’s maid, personal chef, or publicist.

The guy got 5 1/2 years for “abetting terrorism”. It was the military jury that handed down that sentence, and it was the first time a Guantanamo “unlawful combatant” detainee has been tried in a court of law, which is one of those things on which the country we’re defending is founded.

He drove the warlord around between 1997 and 2001, earning about $200 per month. He never killed anyone.

But, naturally,

On time served Hamdan could be released in five months but the Pentagon has said he will still be retained as an “enemy combatant”.

The US has always argued it can detain such people indefinitely, as long as its so-called war on terror continues.

The Pentagon said Hamdan would serve his sentence and then be eligible for review…

… “He will serve out the rest of his sentence. At that time he will still be considered an enemy combatant.

“But he will be eligible for review by an Administrative Review Board.”

The boards decide annually on the threat posed by detainees and the possibility of their transfer or release.

Let me see if I have this straight. He’s been detained for over five years without charge or trial, has now been tried and convicted, has been essentially sentenced to time served. Yet the government still refuses to release him when he’s served out the sentence for which he was convicted and originally detained? I really fail to see the point.

Photo via HuffPo

Fry Day

1 Aug

Yesterday was a busy day away from a computer, and today promises to be somewhat similar. Nevertheless, here is a Fridayish post to prevent native restlessness:

1. Buffalo Locavore is a group blog that will talk about eating food grown and raised. Something tells me their going to be a bit behind the 8-ball when winter rolls around, but supporting local growers is a noble idea.

2. When I have a few free moments, I’m going to dive back into the archives of the Buffalo Evening News and Courier Express to try and find out from primary sources exactly who Margaret L. Wendt was, and what she wanted her well-funded foundation to support. If anyone’s done microfiche/film diving at the downtown library, drop me a line and let me know where to go, so I look like I know what I’m doing.

3. Jack Davis says that local produce goes unpicked, and that imports are not only dangerous, but foreign. Many farmers in the district complain that they’d sure love a legal guest worker program so they can hire migrant labor, but this falls on deaf ears as far as Davis is concerned. Davis also laments the fact that his money can’t buy him everything this election cycle:

Despite his name recognition and financial means, Davis acknowledges he’s not sure his save jobs-farms-industry message is getting across to district residents. Speeches are sparsely attended and the parades he’s been in get rained on, he said. His biggest people-drawing campaign event was an offer to make gas available at $1.50 a gallon at a Byron station one day last month and he can’t be sure his name stood out after the rush on cheap fuel.

“It’s hard to get people out and paying attention to the election; they seem somewhat apathetic,” Davis said. “There is a disadvantage in not having the (Democratic) endorsement, but I’m working my way around it.”

By paying off the IP, catchy jingles using antiquated music, and setting up websites designed to defraud the reader.

4. A great way to counter ridiculous negative campaigning isn’t necessarily to answer tit for tat, but to point at it and laugh. That’s what the Obama campaign is doing to McCain with this site.

5. The Empire Center for New York State Policy has set up a new website called “See Through NY“. You’re supposed to be able to search all kinds of databases to find out the cost of New York State government, but I’ve tried some searches about 3 times and found it to be non-functional for the time being.

6. Radovan Karadzic got a shave and a haircut in advance of his arraignment before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. The political and philosophical mastermind behind the 3+ year siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre will be appearing pro se, will drag out the trial, and will hopefully rot in Scheveningen penitentiary for the rest of his wretched, hateful life.

7. Sam Hoyt has proposed that the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission merge with the Peace Bridge Authority. Chalk up one more effort to merge redundant levels of government agency that will most certainly fail.

8. One thing anti-immigrant xenophobes need to be reminded of is the fact that immigrants bring awesome food ideas to their new countries.

Monday

21 Jul

Two events that seemed unthinkable on Friday, occurred on Monday.

1. Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF and opposition MDC executed a “memorandum of understanding” with an eye towards national unity and reconciliation. No word on whether Bass Pro is interested.

2. Radovan Karadži?, who is a truly bad guy, has been captured without incident in Serbia and will soon be on his way to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. You know when people arbitrarily throw around the Hitler comparatives with respect to any manner of politics with which they disagree? Karadži? and his military cohort, Ratko Mladi? targeted civilians, shelled and sniped Sarajevo for 43 months, set up concentration camps, and committed the Srebrenica massacre. Serbia has a brand-new government, and this is a bold move to help hasten Serbia’s re-integration to modern Europe. Alas, Mladi? remains at large.

Cuba

14 Jul

Probably the least effective way to advocate for the removal of the idiotic and counterproductive travel restrictions on Americans going to Cuba is to have a communist organization make a big splash about it every year.

Because then you get stuff like this:

“In the first 10 minutes, most of what you hear from the U.S. about Cuba is a lie,” Massey said.

Massey said that no one in this country hears about the education system or the free health care in Cuba. She also said a big misconception is the lack of an electoral process.

There is most certainly an electoral process. A single-party process with no competition or exchange of ideas.

A quick visit to the website of the Venceremos Brigade (that last word is a giveaway) reveals:

In 1969, a coalition of young people formed the Venceremos (“We Shall Overcome”) Brigade, as a means of showing solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working side by side with Cuban workers and challenging U.S. policies towards Cuba

Out of curiousity, why didn’t the Buffalo News report on this mention that the group is a communist one? And what about Cuba did they “learn” was a “lie”, and from whom?

As an aside, I occasionally enjoy reading Generacion Y, written by a young woman from Havana. (Link goes to Google translated version).