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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

2
Jun

Iraq War: A ‘Momentous Victory’?

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

Wow. That was my reaction reading Walter Russell Mead’s Memorial Day blog post. Mead chooses to honor our American troops past and present by talking about what he calls their ‘momentous victory’ in Iraq. That’s right, Iraq. Not World War II or I, not the American Revolution or the Spanish-American war, but the George W. Bush-led war in Iraq. Mead, a top notch American historian, is one of the most sober, deep thinking social and political commentators our country has right now and this was one of his most memorable.

In the piece, Mead argues that the turning point in the wars, Iraq and War on Terror, occurred when Iraq’s Sunni population decided to choose the American side over Al Qaeda’s in 2006. Not only was a strategic victory for a future, democratic Iraq, but for Mead, it was the end of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s dreams of bringing their version of Islam to the masses. Basically, the Sunni’s of Iraq saw what both sides had to offer, neither perfect of course, and made a fateful decision to choose America’s path. Here is Mead’s description:

But on this Memorial Day it is not enough to remember, and give thanks, that Osama’s dream died before he did and that the terror movement has been gravely wounded at its heart.

Because the dream didn’t just die.

It was killed.

And it was killed by coalition forces.  They killed it by fighting harder and smarter than the enemy and they killed it by winning trust and building bridges better than the enemy.  They did it because they were better, more honorable warriors and better, more honorable partners for peace.  Mostly American and mostly Christian, the coalition forces were more compassionate, more just, more protective of the poor and more respectful of Arab women than the crazed thugs who thought setting off bombs in the market was fulfilling God’s will.

Though I am sympathetic to Mead’s core argument that the war in Iraq should be seen as a victory for the United States, I believe there is much more work to be done before the history books will really have a definitive answer. Concerning the War on Terror, Osama may be dead, but Al Qaeda isn’t. There are still far too many people still left, who follow a disturbed and dangerous form of Islam, that wish the United States and our allies harm. Sadly, I would not be surprised in the least if the United States homeland was targeted for a serious terrorist attack in the near future. Back to Iraq, there are still so many questions yet to answer: How will the country handle life without a large US military presence? How will the Iraqi government handle a full transfer of power from one political party or leader to another, a key sign of a functioning democracy? How will the country deal with a more forceful Sadr movement? Will Iran be able to fill a vacuum that may be created when the US forces finally depart? What must be noted, however, is how amazing it is that these questions can be stated in reference to what used to be a totalitarian nightmare. Iraq is one of the more stable, democratic, and liberal places in the Middle East. That means something and Mead is right to call it a ‘victory’.

Another key part of Mead’s post is his calling out, though not by name, of all those who abandoned the Iraq war when the fighting got tough. From war hawks to Moveon.org (Never forget General Be-Tray-Us), it is amazing how many, including most of the ‘elite’, gave up on the war effort. Times got tough and a lot of people threw in the towel, at times, myself included. Thankfully, the men and women of the US military and their Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush did not. I’ll let Mead finish off:

We must continue to honor and thank the Arab allies and tribal leaders who made the choice for America in a dark and a difficult time.  But especially on this Memorial Day we must honor and remember the American heroes who by their lives and by their deaths brought victory out of defeat, understanding out of hatred and gave both Muslims and non-Muslims a chance to get this whole thing right.

The story of America’s victory over terror in Mesopotamia needs to be told.  In justice to those who sacrificed so much, and for the sake of those who may have to face similar dangers in the future, somebody needs to tell the real story of how, against all odds and in the face of unremitting skepticism and defeatism at home, our armed forces built a foundation for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

Go ahead and read the whole thing.

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26
Mar

Libyan War: Know Your Friends

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

I have often argued on this blog that the United States needs to take their enemies seriously, know who they are, and what they stand for. This is why I get so frustrated when the Obama administration has gone out of the way to not use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Islamism’, and now, even ‘war’. It should also be noted that just as important as knowing your enemies is to know who your friends or allies are, both in times of peace and war. Who are the US allies in our current war in Libya?

From the outside, though the coalition is smaller than any major multilateral American operation since the end of the Cold War, it includes strong US allies like the UK, France, and now NATO as a whole, and also the Arab League (for the moment at least) and three other Arab states. But when one looks at America’s allies inside of Libya, some questions arise. During the drum up to war, I remember hearing a story that the areas where the Libyan rebels were based in the east of the country was also were a majority of foreign combatants fighting in the Iraq war originated from. So I did some searching and found these two charts from Time magazine:

Time got this data from West Point and it only covers August 2006-August 2007, a period of great violence in Iraq. As can be seen, on a per-capita basis, Libya was the mother of a large percentage of foreign fighters coming to attack American and Iraqi government forces. The next chart….

breaks down the exact location in Libya where the foreign fighters originated from. Yes, that’s right. Benghazi and and Darnah are both home to the rebel movement currently battling Qaddafi and receiving US/Allied support. It has also been reported that a rebel leader, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, fought against the US and NATO in Afghanistan.

Now this isn’t in itself a reason not to help these insurgents or to topple Qaddafi’s regime. Libya’s rebels also have a government in waiting that has strong French support and we should not judge a whole region or people for the actions of a small minority. This is just something that should be duly noted as we go forward in this still murky war effort. After all, what do we do if the rebels win?

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22
Mar

Comparing Wars: Libya and Iraq

   Posted by: FMFP    in Uncategorized   Print Print

By no means is Libya a simple issue, nor do these facts necessarily argue against the actions taken by the United States, but it is important to take this opportunity to put our last major military intervention in Iraq into perspective by considering just a few facts:

International Support
* Coalition partners Bush had for Iraq: 30
* Coalition partners Obama has for Libya: 17

Domestic Support (Pew Research Center)
* Decision to use military force in Iraq (March 2003): 72% support/22% oppose
* Decision to enforce no-fly zone in Libya (March 2011): 44% support/45% oppose
* Decision to bomb Libyan air defenses (March 2011): 16% support/77% oppose

Constitutional Considerations
* Candidate Obama (2007): “The President does not have power under Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military strike.”
* President Obama (2011): “Obama did not seek congressional authorization before joining allies, including Great Britain and  France, in taking military action against the regime of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi in order to establish a no-fly zone over that country. The action was approved by the United Nations Security Council but not by the U.S. Congress.” – CNS.com

Congressional Support
* Iraq war resolution passed House 297-133 and Senate 77-23.
* Libyan war resolution: does not exist

Objective
* US objective in Iraq War: Topple Saddam Hussein regime, replace with democratically-elected government, stop race to obtain and use WMDs and ultimately bring more stability to Middle East.
* US objective in Libya: Stop Qaddafi from murdering Libyan residents, ???

Public Demonstrations

* Iraq War: Major protests in San Francisco, New York, Portland
* Libya War: Crickets….

The Iraq war started in 2003 and the present one in Libya have numerous differences, but I thought the comparisons above were worth highlighting. GPP will have much more on the ongoing American/UK/French war efforts in Libya throughout the next few days.

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For a majority of President Obama’s 2nd State of the Union address foreign affairs were only brought up in relation to domestic economic or social issues. For instance, the US was ‘falling behind’ South Korea in education and Europe in infrastructure… The focus on domestic issues should not be a surprise as Obama has already stated that ‘the country he’s most interested in building is our own’ and the United States is still struggling economically and psychologically with many Americans seeing a bleak future for our coming generations. Alas, there are foreign monsters abroad that need to be addressed by our Commander and Chief and Obama curtly discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Al Qaeda, and even Tunisia. I’ll make a few observations of these topics with Afghanistan at the end: (The near entirety of the SOTU’s foreign affairs section is found at the bottom of the post)

  • Iran and North Korea: Here is the President’s statement on those two destabilizing forces in international security:

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.

Yes, that’s it. If you want to scroll lower to the entire foreign policy section you can see a paragraph on Sudan that is longer. So in a speech dominated by domestic policy, we see a nuclear state that in the past year twice militarily attacked its southern neighbor, strong US ally South Korea, and another state nestled in the volatile Middle East that just turned down yet another Western attempt to disclose its nuclear capabilities and desires, get two sentences. Words in a speech do not define effective policy, but if you were Iran or North Korea, wouldn’t this signal to you that you are not one of the United States’ main concerns?

  • Iraq: Though I’ve read some conservative pundits critique the President for washing his hands of the conflict or for taking credit for the Bush administration’s surge and SOFA policies, I thought Obama did a good enough job discussing a topic that he nor the country probably wanted to talk about. Though the word ‘civilian’ is inaccurate (we still have  a strong military presence in the country),  Obama made a necessary statement in regards to our logn term commitment to the future of Iraq; ‘our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people.’
  • Afghanistan: The Afghan war, where over 100,000 American troops are currently engaged, received twice the time as Iran and North Korea…that’s right not one short paragraph, but two! (Highlighted below) Nothing really new was said. President Obama did state that our main reason for the war was to keep the Taliban from gaining a ‘stronghold’ where they could assist Al Qaeda in launching attacks on the US. If one takes this to heart, it is hard to imagine the administration being too lenient on negotiations with members of the Taliban, but they have shown many other signs that this is likely to occur. In this vein, the President also said that we will start to bring troops home in July, bringing back the fading July 2011 drawdown date that we haven’t heard much of lately. Does this mean that tens of thousands of American troops will be coming home in July? I still don’t think so, but a more than token amount will.
  • China: The Middle Kingdom was mentioned twice, both times in reference to the American education/innovation/economy. The US was shown to be behind in both comparisons.

The Afghanistan and whole foreign policy section seemed to me like the President was checking boxes. It appears that those who predicted he would pivot to foreign affairs after the midterm defeat were wrong.

He’s a great interpretation of President Obama’s foreign affairs SOTU pronouncements by The Cable’s Josh Rogin:

Foreign Policy section the SOTU:

Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West; no one rival superpower is aligned against us.

And so we must defeat determined enemies wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom, justice, and dignity. And because we have begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end.

Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we are disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.

We have also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan Security Forces. Our purpose is clear – by preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking. And we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START Treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.

This is just a part of how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO, and increased our cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense. We have reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, and built new partnerships with nations like India. This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas. Around the globe, we are standing with those who take responsibility – helping farmers grow more food; supporting doctors who care for the sick; and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power – it must be the purpose behind it. In South Sudan – with our assistance – the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a battlefield for most of my life. Now we want to be free.”

We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

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26
May

Our Disappearing Wars

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

Below is a must-read article by the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt about the disappearance of debate and discussion about America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like I, he sees this as a detriment to our policy making process and a disservice to all our servicemen in harm’s way. Here is a portion of the article, but please read the whole thing:

You would hardly know, from following this year’s election campaign or the extensive coverage of last week’s primaries, that America is at war.

Those elected to Congress in November will face fateful decisions on the continued deployment, or not, of U.S. forces in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet those wars, and the wisdom of committing to or withdrawing from them, have hardly been mentioned in the hard-fought campaigns of the spring.

Look at some candidate Web sites. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, forced into a runoff in Arkansas’s Democratic primary, lists 10 categories of issues, none of which are defense or national security. Under “Veterans and National Guard,” she does mention the war in Iraq but not the war in Afghanistan. For her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, “National Security, Veterans and the Military” comes eighth on a list of nine issues and begins, “Arkansas is home to military bases that are critical to our nation’s security.” “Ensuring success in Iraq and Afghanistan” is the entirety of his platform on those conflicts.

In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, who rode a wave of opposition toward the Iraq war into Congress in 2006, includes defense (fifth out of five topics) on his site but writes mostly about properly equipping and caring for the force and accountability in weapons purchasing. For his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey, “National Security” comes 10th out of 10 (just after “Second Amendment”) with no mention, as far as I could see, of Iraq or Afghanistan.

In a time of joblessness and home foreclosures, it’s not surprising that politics would focus on the economy more than on national security. And maybe, in a time of toxic partisanship, we should be grateful for this inattention to the wars, taking the absence of debate as a sign of rare bipartisan consensus. Certainly few would miss the vitriol of the Iraq debate of a few years back.

Yet there’s something disquieting about the quiet. For one thing, it’s yet another reminder of American society’s separation from its professional military. As the November elections approach, candidates across the spectrum will ostentatiously wear their support for “our warriors” like body armor, which I suppose is better than the alternative. But as the troops become props, the real men and women who are sweating and taking fire and sleeping on hard ground 7,000 miles away are oddly missing from the conversation.

Why do you think American politicians and the populace at large has moved their attention elsewhere? Poor economy? Current state of the wars? President Obama’s rhetorical downplaying? Partisan consensus? War fatigue? Justin Bieber?

PS: Also check out this other WaPo news article stating that the US has no Plan B if the Kandahar offensive does not go as planned.

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27
Jul

Forgetfullness Can Be Dangerous

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

Those that have followed GPP throughout the months have probably heard my spiel about Iraq.  I have warned against ‘forgetting’ or ‘downplaying’ the conflict and countries importance for both American interests and international security.  Ever since Obama became president and emphasized the Afghan conflict, the ‘good war’, over the ‘wrong war’ in Iraq, the media has mainly followed suit, as Afghanistan now dominates the front pages and Iraqi President al-Maliki can visit Washington and barely anyone knows about it.  It is in this light that I was pleased to read this op-ed by new New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.  Douthat concludes his piece…

America’s most important interest remains a stable, unified
Republic of Iraq, even if takes longer than any domestic faction
wants. Afghanistan may be “the good war” to most Americans, but Iraq’s
size, location, history and resources mean that it’s still by far the
more important one.

And if the hard choices start again, it will require that the American
people pay attention, once more, to a war they’d just as soon forget.

This is not a popular topic anymore, but it is still tremendously important.  Let’s hope it doesn’t fall on deaf, apathetic ears.

This elephant would never forget how important getting Iraq right is. His ears are just too darn big for that to happen.

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16
May

Leadership: Failure, Strong, Needed

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

'I'm an embarrassment to my country, and that's the Truth!'
‘I’m an embarrassment to my country, and that’s the Truth!’

First off, I would like to voice my disappoint in the United States’ Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who by her recent actions regarding the torture issue, has shown she values politics over national security. It is sad to know that she is third in line for the presidency. This embarrassing fiasco she end in her resignation as Speaker.

While Pelosi has been squirming, President Obama has been leading. His presidency has been full hard decisions regarding the US position and strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of the most dramatic being his recent firing of Gen. McKiernan and promotion of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Obama clearly has a view of how he wants the Afghanistan conflict to be fought and he’s putting all his chips in, showcasing strong leadership that will hopefully be followed by good policy, well executed. It is important to note that Obama’s main domestic challenge in promoting and furthering his Afghan strategy will be from his own party. He has shown a willingness in this policy realm to push his agenda, but as the clock continues to tick, he will face greater rancor and upheaval over whether this fight is worth fighting from parts of his base. It is during these challenges, which will be coming sooner rather than later (and in some cases are already here), that Obama’s leadership on this issue will be put to a real test and he must be ready to spend political capital on the issue, just like Bush had to in regards to his Iraq policy.

While Obama has shown strong leadership on Afghanistan, his time and focus on Iraq has been somewhat wanting. Early in his term (it’s still early in his defense) he made his keynote speech on ending the war in Iraq and made a stopover in the country to praise our troops and push the Iraqi government towards reconciliation. But besides those moves, Obama has kept the strategic US and international security issue off the front pages and as a clear secondary issue compared to Afghanistan, showcased most dramatically by not getting an Ambassador (the experienced and talented Christoper Hill) into the precariously stable country until April 24.

CSIS scholar Anthony Cordesman has written an excellent piece calling for Obama, Congress, and the rest of us to not ‘forget’ this war. Cordesman states:

“Iraq has become both a perceived “victory” and a war that many Americans and members of Congress would like to forget. As a result, we may rush toward the “exit” without a strategy — and lose both the ongoing war and the peace that could follow.”

From this view point, Cordesman believes that the US should be extremely flexible in terms of removing US troops and personnel, especially if the Iraqi government wants them to stay. To Cordesman, the US should ‘make clear that we will be flexible about the speed and level of our withdrawal of U.S. forces if an elected Iraqi government needs a limited amount of added help to defeat al-Qaeda and establish national security.’ Cordesman also notes the crucial factors of making sure Iraq gets through their upcoming elections and low oil price-induced budget shortfalls in the next few years.

Obama’s Iraq policy and SOFA both left room for changes if the Iraqi government chose or conditions on the ground changed, but Obama’s emphasis on ‘ending’ the war will put him in a domestic political bind that will cost him political capital to get out of. I know that I have argued this before, but when I read the New York Times argue that the Afghan conflict is a ‘must win war’, I think, well what is Iraq then? A ‘maybe win war’? As I stated in GPP’s 2nd Podcast, if I had to choose, I would rather ‘win’ in Iraq than in Afghanistan. This is not downplaying the importance of Afghanistan by any means, but as Cordesman asserts, in ‘strategic terms, Vietnam was always expendable. Iraq and the Gulf are not.’ Contrary to what many say about US chances of stabilizing Afghanistan, Iraq has already proven to be a place where progress can be made and probably secured. Iraq is a key state of a key region. Its future will deeply impact America’s future and it deserves our FULL ATTENTION.

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Last night I attended a San Diego World Affairs Council talk by Professor Larry Diamond, where he discussed democratic growth and stagnation trends throughout the globe and then focused on Iraq’s prospects. Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy, author of many books including The Spirit of Democracy and Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq, and one-time adviser to the US State Department, USAID, World Bank, and United Nations, is considered an expert on democracy issues around the globe and definitely came across as one who believes that though it may take awhile, all states and peoples will be ruled democratically in the future.

In discussing the prospects for a democratically sustaining state of Iraq, Diamond was at times optimistic and pessimistic. In the positive light, he thought that Iraq did hold a populace that did identify as Iraqis, with an important caveat being the Kurds in the north, and that this was key to building a coherent and representative government. He also emphasized the fact that Iraq already had some democratic experience before the Baath Party takeover in 1958. Diamond voiced hope that a democratic culture and civil society were growing in Iraq and that the success Provincial elections of January were a welcome, and to him surprising, sign of progress.

However, Diamond, who spent about 4 months in Iraq in 2003-2004, tempered these optimistic assessments with many other troubling signs and hurdles for the Iraqis to work through before a strong, functioning democratic state could take hold. He stated that the country’s current constitution was ‘flawed’ and needed to be augmented to include the Sunni minority more fully. Diversifying the economy and making sure oil funds reached all parts of Iraqi society was also a major concern. Diamond emphasized the destructive elements of corruption within the state and how this eroded public support of local and central government institutions and politicians. Lastly, Diamond held a real fear that Iranian and Syrian motives would turn into actions that would undermine a democratic Iraq for their own geopolitical interests. This last point reemphasizes the importance of an active US presence in Iraq for years to come. In other words, the US needs to make sure the nascent Iraqi government and leaders cannot be pushed into a corner by other regional actors.

To conclude, Diamond gave Iraq 50/50 fighter’s chance on turning the proverbial democratic corner. He went on to state that if Iraq did become a truly representative, functioning state, it would ‘shock the Arab world.’ Diamond stated that a democratic Iraq would have ‘profound demonstration effects’ on other autocratic Arab leaders, who in recent years have used the chaos and violence of Iraq as an example to their populace as to the dangers of democratization. It is of course unknown how this would actually play out, but I would love to see this occur. All of a sudden the people of the Arab world would see a real democracy in their backyard and it would be a great symbol of what could be possible.

Diamond touched on a few other issues during the Q & A, here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • Diamond proposed a Helsinki Accord for the Middle East. The Helsinki Accords of 1975 brought a form of legitimacy to the Soviet Union and Russia’s hold on Eastern Europe, but it also required and put greater emphasis on human rights. The Accords are usually credited with undermining the Soviet system and helping to bring about the end of the Cold War. In terms of today, these Accords would mean a further legitimizing of the Arab dictators, (a little bit hard to do since they already have a fair amount of it) and would provide them security guarantees (something most already have, but definitely would like more of), but these would be tied to a greater commitment to openness and human rights on their end. This would of course require some form of oversight. Pie in the sky? Probably, but an interesting idea nonetheless.
  • Diamond was for opening up American politics and economics with Cuba, stating that the current regime in Havana was on its last legs and this would slice them off. Now what if he was wrong and the Castro-state continues in similar form for years to come, wouldn’t this just give them more legitimacy and possibly even extend their stay? I disagree with this premise actually and think it is time to open up Cuba to some degree, while at the same time chastising the regime for their HR violations and poor management. I would also do this in as low-key a way as possible and make sure this ‘opening’ only involves the state of Cuba and is not relevant to any other state or political actor. In other words, try to keep it tightly focused.
  • Lastly, in response to a question about Hamas as an elected political force in Palestine, Diamond made the provocative argument that political parties or groups that actively or verbally support violence, as Hamas does in their actions and charter, should not be allowed to run for government. He mentioned that the German government after WWII started this policy and has stuck by it. Sounds like a reasonable limitation to me.

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11
Apr

Obama Abroad Review: Part 2

   Posted by: FMFP    in Middle East   Print Print

Here’s some more of my observations of President Obama’s first overseas trip:

Obama stopped in Turkey where he apologized again for our country’s past misdeeds and declared that our country was not at war with Islam. Right on. That’s exactly right. My only thought is who ever said we were. When was that declaration? Our last president made a point numerous times to state this exact message (that we were at war with radical Islam terrorists not Islam) but apparently the message never got through. Hopefully everybody’s listening this time.

Perhaps the highlight of Obama’s trip was his stop in Iraq to see the soldiers. This certainly helps morale and is a good move as our Commander-in-Chief. I was particularly intrigued by the content of Obama’s speech to the soldiers. Obama praised America’s many achievements in Iraq: “From getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections – you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement.” Wow. I never believed all these things when George Bush said them but now that Barack Obama is saying them they must be true. Good for America and good for Obama for saying so.

Finally, on a little reported but odd event during the G-20 conference, Obama appeared to bow to the Saudi’s leader, King Abdullah. (picture below) Although the picture looks telling I might have it wrong. According to the White House, it was not a bow but rather Obama using both hands to shake the King’s hand. Judge for yourself.

That's Obama's Butt

If it is indeed a bow, this violates a centuries’ old American tradition of not deferring to royalty. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me that much if it was just a mistake. More bothersome, is the refusal of the White House to admit such. I thought a major criticism of Bush and rallying cry for Obama was his ability to acknowledge when he messed up. It worries me that Obama won’t admit simple errors like mistakenly bowing to royalty.

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7
Apr

Pleased

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

Obama Standing Tall in Iraq

Just days after in a criticism of Obama’s lack of attention and drive for success in Iraq, I claimed that it would be extremely disappointing if he did not visit the country in his first year, Mr. does just that, defying my negative expectations. President Obama landed in Baghdad earlier today to speak with US troops, military leaders, and the Iraqi government. Now I don’t know what will exactly transpire during these talks, but I think this is a wonderful move. The President’s presence alone shows that he is involved in the country’s future and supports the sacrifices made by US troops.

Here is a great line Obama spoke to US troops already today:

“You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement.”

Bravo, President Obama!

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